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 The Empire Crumbles In retrospect, we can see that 1924 was the high point of scientific racism in the United States. That was the year that Congress passed the Immigration Restriction Act andthestateofVirginiaenactedboththeRacialIntegrity Act to prevent miscegenation and the Sterilization Law, which was later sanctified by Buck v. Bell. Numerous Grantians published important books in 1924, including Henry Pratt Fairchild, Ellsworth Huntington, Vernon Kellogg, Edward A. Ross, Lothrop Stoddard, and A. E. Wiggam. The meetings of the Galton Society and the Half-Moon Club were well attended, and their in- fluential members listened attentively as the leading scientists of the day fervently presented the latest findings about heredity and human nature. American families were eagerly flocking to eugenic lectures, entering Fitter Families contests, and enrolling in courses on eugenics at high schools and colleges throughout the country. The American Museum of Natural History created dioramas to educate the public about the OsbornGrant view of race and evolution. The Eugenics Record Office, the Eugenics Research Association, and the ECUSA (soon to incorporate as the American Eugenics Society) were active, optimistic, and well connected to other scientific organizations, philanthropic foundations , educational institutions, and government agencies such as the National Research Council. They had also joined with the Immigration Restriction League and the American Defense Society to comprise an interlocking directorate that successfully lobbied for the causes important to Madison Grant. And yet within ten years of 1924, scientific racism was a discredited doctrine in the United States, and the Grantians were being pushed down the path toward irrelevance . One of the reasons, of course, was the prodiIn dealing with science we must constantly be prepared to readjust our theories to fit new facts. Madison Grant gious influence of Franz Boas and the cultural anthropologists. But in addition to Boas, ten other factors contributed to the demise of scientific racism. This chapter will briefly identify those ten factors and then show that the 1930s proved to be a disastrous decade for eugenics in the United States, during which a movement that had once been suffused with reforming zeal and millennial hopes meekly and ignominiously petered out.1 The Decline of Scientific Racism Too Successful One of the reasons for the decline of scientific racism was that Madison Grant had been too successful for his own good. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 had done such a thorough job of shutting out the Alpines and Mediterraneans that most Americans assumed that the threat posed by the inferior breeds had been adequately dealt with, and they now felt free to switch their attention to other issues. Consequently, all further appeals by the Grantians to safeguard the nation’s germ plasm fell on ears that wanted to listen only to newly purchased Victrolas and the feverish clicking of ticker tapes. The ending of immigration, and the onset of prosperity, dropped xenophobia from the national agenda, leading a member of the Immigration Restriction League to admit that “the country is somewhat fed up on high brow Nordic superiority stuff.”2 In 1928, Grant and Charles Stewart Davison jointly edited The Founders of the Republic on Immigration, Naturalization and Aliens, a slim volume of excerpts from the writings and speeches of the Founding Fathers. In the foreword, Grant and Davison expressed their fear that owing to the recent “influx of alien races” that were congenitally unfit to uphold American traditions and institutions, the United States would soon degenerate into a “tyranny of the mob, called a Democracy— . . . and, thereupon, will follow chaos.” This warning was followed by sixty-nine selectively chosen, out-of-context quotations from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and the like, all showing that those wise gentlemen had possessed the foresight to advocate the restriction of immigration and the deportation of dangerous aliens. (Neither Grant nor Davison addressed the inconsistency inherent in the nature of the book, which is that the eighteenth-century immigrants that the Founding Fathers warned about—the Germans, the Irish, the French—were Nordics.)3 The NewYorkTimes was surprisingly complimentary toward the book. Admitting that it had been previously unaware that the Founding Fathers opposed immigration, the Times stated that “Messrs. Davison and Grant have performed a real public service in bringing into prominence . . . some of the most vigorous and convincing arguments against unlimited immigration that have ever been The Empire Crumbles 329 penned.” Despite the favorable review by the Times, Scribner’s knew that the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781584658108
Related ISBN
9781584657156
MARC Record
OCLC
667076920
Pages
508
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-31
Language
English
Open Access
No
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