On the occasion of the July 4th holiday, Richard Spencer published a piece at Radix Journal strongly condemning Americanism. His attack was typical of the New Right/Alternative Right (a topic I have covered in the past). Spencer criticizes the very concept of republican government, claims that America was corrupt and doomed to failure from the very beginning, claims that the American and French revolutions were essentially the same, and offers a vague defense of ancien regime hereditary monarchy.
In countering Spencer's position, I would like to focus on a piece of evidence that Spencer cites as an argument in his favor, the famous Corner Stone speech of Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. In reference to the speech, Spencer says:
A century and a half ago, Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, was faced with the prospect of the victory or annihilation of his nation and fledgling state in what is now referred to as the American Civil War.
In his greatest address, “The Cornerstone of the Confederacy,” he did not speak (mendaciously) about "states rights" or any kind of Constitutional legality. He instead cut to the heart of the social order he was opposing. He stressed that the Confederacy was based on the conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was wrong; the "cornerstone" of the new state was the "physical, philosophical, and moral truth" of human inequality."
From this brief reference to Stephens, one might be led to think that Stephens was opposed to the American Constitution and favored an aristocratic or monarchical government. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we shall see by examining the Corner Stone speech in more detail.
First of all it is necessary to point out that Stephens did believe in states rights, and even talks about it in the very same speech:
That as the admission of States by Congress under the constitution was an act of legislation, and in the nature of a contract or compact between the States admitted and the others admitting, why should not this contract or compact be regarded as of like character with all other civil contracts liable to be rescinded by mutual agreement of both parties? The seceding States have rescinded it on their part, they have resumed their sovereignty. Why cannot the whole question be settled, if the north desire peace, simply by the Congress, in both branches, with the concurrence of the President, giving their consent to the separation, and a recognition of our independence?
This is the quintessential states rights argument: the liberated colonies were all sovereign states that voluntarily entered a union, and as such they have the right to peaceably leave the union if they desire to do so. It is hard to say if Spencer is being deliberately dishonest on this point, or if he simply did not read the entire speech.
Other passages from the speech reveal that Stephens was obviously an admirer of the original Constitution and of the tradition of Anglo-Saxon law from which it arose. Stephens took pains to convince his audience that all of the virtues of the original Constitution were preserved in the Confederate Constitution, while the latter possessed certain modifications making it superior to the former:
This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. In reference to it, I make this first general remark: it amply secures all our ancient rights, franchises, and liberties. All the great principles of Magna Charta are retained in it. No citizen is deprived of life, liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers under the laws of the land. The great principle of religious liberty, which was the honor and pride of the old constitution, is still maintained and secured. All the essentials of the old constitution, which have endeared it to the hearts of the American people, have been preserved and perpetuated. Some changes have been made. Some of these I should have preferred not to have seen made; but other important changes do meet my cordial approbation. They form great improvements upon the old constitution. So, taking the whole new constitution, I have no hesitancy in giving it as my judgment that it is decidedly better than the old.
In discussing the future prospects of the Confederacy, Stephens sounds exactly like the American
Without intelligence, virtue, integrity, and patriotism on the part of the people, no republic or representative government can be durable or stable. We have intelligence, and virtue, and patriotism. All that is required is to cultivate and perpetuate these. Intelligence will not do without virtue. France was a nation of philosophers. These philosophers become Jacobins. They lacked that virtue, that devotion to moral principle, and that patriotism which is essential to good government.
Having looked at all the ways in which Stephens agreed with the founding fathers, we now turn to his disagreement with them. In the Corner Stone speech, Stephens offers the following criticism:
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
In short, Stephens' basic criticism of the Declaration of Independence is that it should have read "all white men are created equal" (and to be fair to Jefferson, if one reads his more detailed writings on race, this is surely what he actually meant). While it is true that the founders largely thought that slavery would/should be done away with, they feared the ill effects of racial amalgamation, as these words from Jefferson demonstrate:
Among the Romans emancipation required but one effort. The slave, when made free, might mix with, without staining the blood of his master. But with us a second is necessary, unknown to history. When freed, he is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture.
Stephens undoubtedly had a clearer conception of racial inequality than Jefferson did, but it is not so obvious that Jefferson's proposal of emancipation and racial separation is in any way inferior. Especially today, with recent advances in automation, it is difficult to argue in favor of the presence of a servile non-white caste in a future white republic. The absolute separation advocated by Jefferson (and by many abolitionists who wished to resettled emancipated blacks in Africa or the Caribbean) seems to be the wiser choice.
It is also important to note that Stephens saw the Confederacy as the first government founded on a mature race realism. This of course implies that all former governments, monarchical and republican alike, missed the mark on this important principal. This is certainly due to the fact that mature race realism only emerged in the 19th century. As a new scientific principal, race realism would take time to be fully recognized, as Stephens points out:
As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced by Galileo it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws.
Stephens is explicit in distinguishing race realism from hereditary aristocracy, a system that Stephens believed to be in violation of the laws of nature. Thus the cornerstone of the white republic seems to have at least four facets: conformity with the laws of God, the legally recognized superiority of the white race, the legally recognized equality of all whites, and the rule of law as guaranteed by a written constitution. I strongly agree with all four if these principals, while Spencer apparently would only agree with the second of the four.
It is a fact of history that the states that most strongly and explicitly promoted white identity (such as the Confederacy and NS Germany) also strongly supported legal equality amongst all white citizens. This should not be viewed as an accident. The monarchical, Catholic Iberians who settled Central and South America showed very little concern for racial purity compared with the Protestant, republican colonists to the north. I suspect that this difference is due largely to the nature of aristocratic, feudal government. It an aristocracy, the vast majority of the population lack full rights as citizens. Because white nobles viewed white peasants as occupying such an inferior position, it was not of great concern to the nobles that their peasants and serfs remain racially pure. In a white republic, political rights are based on a simple in/out judgment: either someone was in the political community or outside of it. In a feudal aristocracy, on the other hand, there were already several gradations of citizenship, which made it easy to add non-whites and half breeds to the system. Furthermore, nobility was a quality that could be granted by a king and/or the Church, which meant that mixed race individuals could be ennobled. (Even in Tsarist Russia, a full-blooded Negro could become "noble" and marry a white aristocrat, something far beyond the reach of a white serf. In a monarchy, at the will of the king a Negro could be deemed a nobleman and fit to marry a white noblewoman, while in a white republic like one of the southern states, a Negro "nobleman" would not be deemed fit to marry the poorest, most unchaste white woman in the land.) All this led to the prolific growth of mixed race individuals in the Latin colonies. The aristocratic, pagan Aryans who conquered India suffered an identical fate.
Protestant colonies in North America (especially New England) had a very different political orientation, one that was much more conducive to the growth of white identity. In fact, one can argue that the understanding of race subscribed to by Spencer and other Alt-rightists is of purely Protestant origins, which should be a source of great embarrassment. More than an embarrassment, this is actually a contradiction at the heart of "radical traditionalist" nationalism. On the one hand, the radical traditionalist condemns every aspect of the post Reformation West, but on the other hand clings firmly to the post Reformation understanding of race that was developed in the 18th and 19th centuries. To be an ideologically consistent "radical traditionalist" would mean rejecting 19th century race realism.
These Protestant colonies possessed constitutions granting equal legal rights under the law to all white citizens. Whites were inside the political community, while Indians and Negroes were not. In the northern colonies/states this understanding was sometimes de facto rather than de jure (mainly because the small number of non-whites made firm legal distinctions less necessary). In the South, however, the principle of republican equality met with centuries of experience with large numbers of non-whites, leading to the clear racial understanding expressed by Stephens.
As for Stephens' prediction that race realism would eventually win wide recognition, he was in a sense correct. Following a decade of disastrous abolitionist "reconstruction" in Dixie, Southerners were wisely allowed to institute a firm system of segregation that would ensure racial purity. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it appeared that many Yankees were slowly being convinced of the Southern position, evidenced by the growing popularity of eugenics and racial hygiene in the North. In fact, had it not been for the sudden and absolute subversion of our academic institutions and entertainment industry by Jews in the 20th century, our age would undoubtedly be marked by its strong and clear race realism.
Before closing, I would like to address a few more of Spencer's points. First, it is necessary to ask why so many Alt-rightists find the constitutional arguments about states rights so "mendacious", to use Spencer's term. I suspect this might be due to the fact that so many "anti-racist" fake conservatives talk at length about states rights while simultaneously denying that race has any significance. I freely admit that today's fake conservatives speak mendaciously about states rights, but that does not invalidate constitutional questions. The confederates saw constitutional issues to be so important because white Christian civilization has always valued objective standards of law and justice. This is not an aspect of who we are that should be denigrated or abandoned. A white republic must be based on justice, and we should not aim for the thuggish "master morality" of a non-white gang which would make our own might the only moral law. Securing the physical survival of our race without securing our traditional sense of right and order would be pointless. Government based on a written constitution is not in opposition to racial nationalism. They are complimentary.
Second, I take issue with Spencer's view that a state should not have an ideological dimension. Spencer writes that:
..."the pursuit of happiness" . . . "inalienable rights . . . endowed by our Creator" . . . The great slogans and myths of 1776 and 1789 have a quaint ring to them today. They hail from an older phase of the Left, and thus have become, as it were, "conservative."
These platitudes function like dogma and form the unexamined basis of political action and speech. This is most obvious through a familiar political shorthand; the words of Congressman Paul Ryan, America is "more than just a place . . . America is an idea." (As geography is thrown out the window, so is race, people, culture, history, and more.) Ryan's meme is reiterated across the spectrum—from a rock star's urgings that Americans be "one" with the world, to the inaugural addresses of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Much of political discourse in America involves politicians accusing rivals of not believing in the American dogma hard enough."
Spencer seems to be saying that a state should be defined by an ethnos, not by an idea. Once again, we see a false contradiction. A state should be both an ethnos and an idea. Weimar Germany and National Socialist Germany had the same ethnos, but a different idea. If Spencer's own political vision came to pass, he too would see his triumph as a great leap of ideological progress, and in his dreamed of white republic, political rivals would certainly accuse each other of not believing in racialist dogma "hard enough". Arguing over ideas is an intrinsic aspect of politics, not something unique to anti-racialist proposition nations.
And finally, I point out the generally muddled and irrational nature of New Right anti-republicans. They present only vague arguments against deliberative and representative government without offering any practical vision of what a return to the ancien regime would look like. Are 90% of the citizens of the future white republic to be peasants without full legal rights? Will there be a hereditary monarch? Would the monarch be somewhat restrained by a parliament, or would that be too redolent of egalitarianism? It is inconsistent and dishonest to offer vague praise of monarchical systems without addressing these practical questions. Alt-rightists correctly see racial egalitarianism as a problem, but their reaction is to promote unquestioningly every type of political inequality that has existed in the past. They reason that because the races are unequal, therefore every type of political inequality is good. They would do well to learn from Stephens and come to understand that we should only seek to recognize inequality where it actually exists, as in the case of differences between the races of mankind. We know that Negroes will beget children that are inferior to whites. On the other hand, when it comes to peasants and nobility of the same racial stock, there is no reason to doubt that the child of the peasant might be superior in every ability to the child of the aristocrat, as history has shown over and over again. We must respect the racial inequality ordained by God, but not the man-made distinction of titled aristocracy.