Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Passing of The Great Race; or, The racial basis of European history

Madison Grant (November 19, 1865 – May 30, 1937) was an American lawyer, historian and physical anthropologist, known primarily for his work as a eugenicist and conservationist. As a eugenicist, Grant was responsible for one of the most famous works of scientific racism, and played an active role in crafting strong immigration restriction and anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.
As a conservationist, Grant was credited with the saving of many different species of animals, founding many different environmental and philanthropic organizations and developing much of the discipline of wildlife management.


Grant became a part of popular culture in 1920s America, especially in New York. Grant's conservationism and fascination with zoological natural history made him very influential among the New York elite who agreed with his cause, most notably Theodore Roosevelt. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald featured a reference to Grant in The Great Gatsby. Tom Buchanan, the husband of Daisy Buchanan, the novel's principal woman character, was reading a book called The Rise of the Colored Empires by "this man Goddard", a combination of Passing of the Great Race (Grant) and his colleague Lothrop Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (Stoddard; Grant wrote the introduction to Stoddard's book). "Everybody ought to read it", the character explained, "The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It's all scientific stuff; it's been proved." However, throughout the book Tom espouses Goddard's racial theories confusedly; the narrator calls Tom's focus on Goddard's ideas "pathetic."
Grant left no offspring when he died in 1937 of nephritis. Several hundred people attended Grant's funeral, and he was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York. He left a bequest of $25,000 to the New York Zoological Society to create "The Grant Endowment Fund for the Protection of Wild Life", left $5,000 to the American Museum of Natural History, and left another $5,000 to the Boone and Crockett Club.
Passing of the Great Race was said to be Adolf Hitler's favorite book, and Hitler even wrote a 'fan letter' to Grant applauding it, stating that the book was "his Bible". At the postwar Nuremberg Trials, Grant's Passing of the Great Race was introduced into evidence by the defense of Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician and head of the Nazi euthanasia program, in order to justify the population policies of the Third Reich or at least indicate that they were not ideologically unique to Nazi Germany.
Grant's works of "scientific racism" have been cited to demonstrate that many of the genocidal and eugenic ideas associated with the Third Reich did not arise specifically in Germany, and in fact that many of them had origins in other countries including the United States. As such, because of Grant's well-connectedness and influential friends, he is often used to contradict the idea that the U.S. lacked its own history of racism, eugenics, and Fascist ideals. Because of the strong associations his eugenics work had with the policies of Nazi Germany, his work as a conservationist has been somewhat ignored and obscured, as many organizations with which he was once associated do not generally want to overstress their connections with him.

Conservation efforts

Grant was a close friend of several U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, and also was an avid conservationist. He is credited with saving many natural species from extinction, and co-founded the Save-the-Redwoods League with Frederick Russell Burnham, John C. Merriam, and Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1918. He is also credited with helping develop the first deer hunting laws in New York state, legislation which spread to other states as well over time.
He was also the creator of wildlife management, helped to found the Bronx Zoo, build the Bronx River Parkway, save the American bison as an organizer of the American Bison Society, and helped to create Glacier National Park and Denali National Park. In 1906, as Secretary of the New York Zoological Society, he lobbied to put Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, on display alongside apes at the Bronx Zoo.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he served on the boards of many eugenic and philanthropic societies, including the board of trustees at the American Museum of Natural History, a director of the American Eugenics Society, vice president of the Immigration Restriction League, a founding member of the Galton Society, and one of the eight members of the International Committee of Eugenics. He was awarded the gold medal of the Society of Arts and Sciences in 1929. In 1931, the world's largest tree (in Dyerville, California) was dedicated to Grant, Merriam, and Osborn by the California State Board of Parks in recognition for their environmental efforts. A species of caribou was named after Grant as well (Rangifer tarandus granti, also known as Grant's Caribou). He was a member of the Boone and Crockett Club (a big game hunting organization) since 1893, where he was friends with president Theodore Roosevelt. He was head of the New York Zoological Society from 1925 until his death.
Historian Jonathan Spiro has argued that Grant's interests in conservationism and eugenics were not unrelated: both are hallmarks of the early 20th-century Progressive movement, and both assume the need for various types of stewardship over their charges. In Grant's mind, natural resources needed to be conserved for the Nordic Race, to the exclusion of other races. Grant viewed the Nordic race lovingly as he did any of his endangered species, and considered the modern industrial society as infringing just as much on its existence as it did on the redwoods. Like many eugenicists, Grant saw modern civilization as a violation of "survival of the fittest", whether it manifested itself in the over-logging of the forests, or the survival of the poor via welfare or charity

Immigration restriction

Grant advocated restricted immigration to the United States through limiting immigration from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as well as the complete end of immigration from East Asia. He also advocated efforts to purify the American population through selective breeding. He served as the vice president of the Immigration Restriction League from 1922 to his death. Acting as an expert on world racial data, Grant also provided statistics for the Immigration Act of 1924 to set the quotas on immigrants from certain European countries. Even after passing the statute, Grant continued to be irked that even a smattering of non-Nordics were allowed to immigrate to the country each year. He also assisted in the passing and prosecution of several anti-miscegenation laws, notably the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in the state of Virginia, where he sought to codify his particular version of the "one-drop rule" into law.
Though Grant was extremely influential in legislating his view of racial theory, he began to fall out of favor in the United States in the 1930s. The declining interest in his work has been attributed both to the effects of the Great Depression, which resulted in a general backlash against Social Darwinism and related philosophies, as well as the changing dynamics of racial issues in the United States during the interwar period. Rather than subdivide Europe into separate racial groups, the bi-racial (black vs. white) theory of Grant's protege Lothrop Stoddard became more dominant in the aftermath of the Great Migration of African-Americans from Southern States to Northern and Western ones (Guterl 2001). The rise of the Nazis in Germany also contributed to Grant's intellectual falling out of favor, as the similarity of their overtly racist theories to Grant's would become a liability even before they were officially an enemy at war against the United States.

The Passing of the Great Race

The Passing of The Great Race; or, The racial basis of European history was an influential book of scientific racism written by the American eugenicist, lawyer, and amateur anthropologist Madison Grant in 1916. The book was very influential in United States during the interwar period, going through many reprintings and selling 1,600,000 copies in the United States alone by 1937. The book put forward Grant's theory of "Nordic superiority" and argued for a strong eugenics program in order to save the waning "Nordics" from inundation of other race types. Grant's propositions to create a strong eugenics program and for the "Nordic" population to be masters of the other races were controversial at the time and now considered extremely unethical and dangerous


Grant organized the book into two sections. The first section dealt with the basis of race as well as Grant's own stances on political issues of the day. These centered around the growing problem of immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, areas that were underdeveloped and a source of racial stocks unqualified for the Nordic political structure erected in the US. Grant was also interested in the impact of the expansion of America's Black population into the urban areas of the North.
Grant outlined his claim that the upper, middle and lower classes of contemporary American Protestant society who could trace their ancestry back to Colonial times whether poor or rich, were being out-bred by immigrant and inferior racial stocks. Grant reasoned that America has always been a Nordic country, consisting of Nordic immigrants from England, Scotland, and the Netherlands in Colonial times and of Nordic immigrants from Ireland and Germany in later times.
Following his research, surveys, and social behavioral scientific analysis, Grant reasoned that the new immigrants were of different races and were creating separate societies within America including ethnic lobby groups, criminal syndicates, and political machines which were undermining the socio-political structure of the country and in turn the traditional Anglo-Saxon colonial stocks, as well as all Nordic stocks. His careful construction of population studies, economic utility factors, labor supply, etc. purported to show that the consequence of this subversion was evident in the decreasing quality of life, lower birth-rates, and corruption of the contemporary American society. He reasoned that the Nordic races would become extinct and America as it was known would cease to exist being replaced by a fragmented country or a corrupt caricature of itself.
The second part of the book dealt with the history of the three European races: Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean, as well as their physical and mental characteristics. This history was a broad survey of the historical rise and fall, expansion and retraction, and spread of the European races from their homelands. This aspect of the book tied together strands of thinking regarding Aryan migration theory, ethnology, anthropology, and history into a holistic fabric which melded the history of America with that of Europe, especially its Nordic nations.

This book was quoted by both Sen. Bilbo in Take Your Choice: Seperation or Mongrelization and by Earnest Cox in White America. While some of Grant's material has been amended and updated in the years since 1916, it still serves as an important work in the study of racial origins.

    Part I - Race, Language, And Nationality Introduction
  1. Race And Democracy
  2. The Physical Basis Of Race
  3. Race And Habitat
  4. The Competition Of Races
  5. Race, Language, And Nationality
  6. Race And Language
  7. The European Races In Colonies
    Part II - European Races In History
  1. Eolithic Man
  2. Paleolithic Man
  3. The Neolithic And Bronze Ages
  4. The Alpine Race
  5. The Mediterranean Race
  6. The Nordic Race
  7. Teutonic Europe
  8. The Expansion Of The Nordics
  9. The Nordic Fatherland
  10. Nordic Race Outside Of Europe
  11. The Racial Aptitudes
  12. Arya
  13. The Origin Of The Aryan Languages
  14. The Aryan Language In Asia
  15. Bibliography

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