The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970

By Seymour Martin Lipset; Earl Raab | Go to book overview

which was, and has remained, uniquely American. For them, the question was all moral; it must be contemplated in terms untouched by expediency, . . . uncorrupted even by society itself. It was a problem of conscience which by mid-century would fasten itself in one form or another, and in varying degrees, upon men's feelings everywhere. 125

The strong moral fervor of evangelical Protestantism exhibited in the anti- slavery and temperance movements--designed to eliminate those aspects of American life which contravened their sense of rectitude--frightened those Americans who did not belong. The Jews, although presumably sensitized by their history and values to sympathize with the cause of Negro freedom, abstained from any strong identification with the abolitionist cause. Many, like Isaac Mayer Wise, a leading rabbi, "distrusted the religious fanaticism that inspired the anti-slavery extremists, and feared that its next victim after the South had been crushed would be the Jews." 126 The Catholic attitude resembled that of the Jews. Although Catholic councils issued statements in support of gradual emancipation, few Catholics were active in the abolitionist movement. "One factor in this widespread Catholic attitude was a tendency to associate the anti-slavery forces with anti-Catholicism. It was noted that many Protestant abolitionists were extremely antagonistic toward the Roman Catholic Church." 127 These non- Protestant instincts were correct and had already been informed by the events of the preceding half-century. It was this brand of Protestant moralism which helped bind together the elites and masses, helped charge the conspiracy theories and bigotries, all of which shaped the monistic impulse in America for the next three-quarters of a century.


Notes
1.
Robert R. Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution: The Struggle ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), pp. 429-430, 453; Anonymous , "The Illuminati," Horizon, VI (Spring 1947), 16-38.
2.
Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics ( New York: Knopf, 1965), p. 12, see pp. 10-15; Jacques Droz, "La légende du complot illuministe et les origines du romantisme politique en Allemagne," Révue Historique, CCXXVI ( 1961), 313-338; Norman Cohn , Warrant for Genocide ( New York: Harper & Row, 1967), pp. 25-31.
3.
Ibid., pp. 25-26.
4.
Lorman A. Ratner, Antimasonry in New York State: A Study in PreCivil War Reform (M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 1958), p. 13.
5.
James K. Morse, Jedidiah Morse, a Champion of New England Orthodoxy ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1939), pp. 55-58.
6.
Palmer, op. cit., pp. 542-543.
7.
Hofstadter, op. cit., p. 13.
8.
Ibid.

-67-

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