4 The Bigoted Twenties
The decade following the end of World War I seemingly witnessed the triumph of the moralistic Protestant crusades of the previous century. In fact, it was a backlash triumph in a backlash decade, the last desperate protest of a nineteenth-century Protestantism in the course of eclipse. And it was during this period that the pattern of right-wing extremism took on some of its particular twentieth-century characteristics, partly as a result of America's new involvement in the world and the changing nature of that world.
The quickening of the monistic impulse during the 1920's was made manifest by the general climate of repression. In 1921 an immigration law was passed which not only put a drastic ceiling on total immigration but imposed an even more drastic national-origins quota system excluding all but a trickle of immigrants from other than the Protestant countries of northern Europe. Legislation to outlaw the teaching of evolution in the public schools was introduced into the legislatures of half the country and was actually enacted into law in a few. The Prohibition Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified by forty-six states. On federal, state, and local levels, strong official actions were taken to limit the rights of political dissenters through explicit legislation, threatening investigations, and administrative fiat. Official action was matched by repressive private action, which included tarring and feathering and, in some instances, lynching political offenders.
As John P. Roche put it, one gets