Was the founding generation of America full of white nationalists? This is a claim popular with some white nationalists. They argue that North America was settled by white people who set out to create a new society for white people and once they achieved independence from England, they created a white society. They will point to statements and actions that suggest that early Americans consciously and deliberately planned a society exclusively for white people.
Oddly, this is the exact same claim made by anti-whites in support of the demands for reparations and what they call “restorative justice.” The starting point for understanding the anti-white argument is their take on the social contract. They claim that because civilization was created by white men, it must have been created to serve the interest of white men, which must have come at the expense of non-whites. In other words, they agree with the white nationalists on this point.
Putting aside the claims by the anti-whites, which are all ex post facto arguments to support their current thirst for vengeance, are the white nationalist correct when they claim the Framers as their own? There is no disputing the fact that the European people of the 17th and 18th century had little interest in other races. They certainly did not think the races should mingle. They thought it perfectly normal to own human beings, so their views on equality were, at best, narrow and rhetorical.
The best argument in favor of the white nationalist claim about the intention of the Framers is the preamble to the constitution. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The word “posterity” is critical. Then as now, this word means future generations of the current people and the people who chose that word were white. They chose to capitalize it, which in that age was a form of emphasis. They were making clear to the people of the states that the point of the new government was to protect and promote the people and their descendants. The Naturalization Act of 1790, one of the first acts passed by the new government, drives home this point.
The problem here is that Congress repealed this five years later in favor of the Naturalization Act of 1795. They kept much of the original bill, but then three years later they modified it again with the Naturalization Act of 1798. More changes followed as Congress wrestled with how best to solve the main problem, which was the lack of human capital to exploit the country’s natural resources. 18th century America was rich in natural resources, but short of people.
In other words, the point of these acts was not to protect white people or keep out non-whites, but to manage the problem of how to bring in new settlers – and that is what was needed – but to do so without undermining the current population. Race and ethnicity were not the primary reason for these acts. In fact, the people of this age could not image what we think of as a multi-racial society. Such a thing not only did not exist, but at the time it could not exist. It was simply not a consideration.
That brings us to the main problem with this line of reasoning. The people of this time had different conceptions of race. This is not to say race is a social construct, but that the meaning of words change over time. For 18th century man, words like “white”, and “race” were used differently from today. For the Framers, white often meant English, while race meant ethnicity. Our modern idea of “white”, meaning broadly European, would have seemed strange to Thomas Jefferson.
Further, the concept of white nationalism would have puzzled the people of this age because it is a solution to a problem they could not imagine. If you went back in time and told them that millions of non-whites would be flowing into the country every year, they would have thought you were insane. The movement of millions of people, regardless of race, was inconceivable. There were only four million people in America when the Constitution was being debated.
Now, the white nationalist would no doubt argue that if the Framers could understand the problems that modern Americans face, they would certainly embrace the concept of white nationalism as a solution. There is no way to prove or disprove it, so it is merely a gratuitous assertion. It is fair to assume that the Framers assumed and expected, therefore would have wanted, the country to look like them in terms of race and religion, long after they were gone. They wanted this for their posterity.
There is a deeper issue at work here. Like the anti-whites who claim original sin as justification for their present behavior, the white nationalists pointing to the Framers are looking for a moral authority. They think that the Framers are unassailable, in moral terms, so if the Framers were white nationalists, then it follows that white nationalism is a moral good. What are you going to do? Take down the statues of the Framers and strike their names from the history books?
That aside, the mistake is to assume a person can be a moral authority. The Framers were not gods or God’s representatives. They were just men sorting through the challenges of their age with the knowledge of their age. They were not moral authorities then and they cannot be moral authorities now. The challenges of this age will need to be sorted by the men of this age. Their moral authority is simply their collective will to create a safe and prosperous society for their posterity.
Maybe white nationalism, however it is defined, is the right answer. Pinning white nationalist down on what the term means is not always easy, but maybe in there is the right answer for the plight of white people in North America. That will be determined as all such things are determined. Can it actually meet the challenge and are the trade-offs acceptable to the people adopting it? This is not a question for the dead, but for the white people living in the here and now.
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