Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times

By David Strauss | Go to book overview

chapter 3
Anglo-Saxons Versus Latins

Let us have no illusions; the first reflex of the Methodist or Baptist preacher is to condemn French immorality.

-- André Siegfried, 1927

"Among the truest and most indestructible facts," declared Paul Bourget, "the most fundamental is that of race." Bourget's conviction of the centrality of race was not only shared by his compatriots, but it became for him and others a device for organizing their observations on American life. All travelers were deeply aware of America's Anglo-Saxon origins and of the recent influx of immigrants from other countries. This multiplicity of racial stocks, they agreed, was likely to pose serious problems for the United States. As Bourget noted, "On one point, my visit to the United States has not modified my ideas: I am speaking of the concept which I brought with me of the irreconcilable antagonism of the races."1

The problem of race, as travelers recognized, was not confined to the United States. Racial conflict in Europe, however, usually took the form of a confrontation between nations, while in the United States, where different nationalities lived within the same community, conflict between races was a daily matter. In Bourget's view, the absence of serious class conflict in the United States was related to the virulence of the race problem. Europeans suffered from the threat of a revolt by the poor against the rich, whereas, in America, the poor were divided along racial lines. Native American workers

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