White Replacement Theory is Nothing New

By Alan Singer, PhD, Hofstra University
Reprinted with permission from author. Originally published in Daily KOS – Thursday June 30, 2022


Tucker Carlson and other champions of White Replacement Theory are probably unaware of it, but soon after European invaders launched a three hundred year long genocidal campaign against the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, different groups among the French, Spanish, Dutch and British invaders and their descendants began to worry that they could also be replaced. The people they feared would replace them, other European ethnic and religious groups, now make up a large part of the population of the United States.

During the colonial era, in Dutch New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, director-general of the New Netherland colony demanded that the Dutch West Indies company bar Jews from settling there. In Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin worried that German speaking immigrants would replace English speakers from the British Isles.

After independence, nativism and fear of replacement continued. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited naturalization to immigrants who were “free white persons” of “good moral character.” In 1798 another Naturalization Act increased the time needed for an immigrant to become a citizen to 14 years and the Alien Enemies Act of 1798 legalized deportation of undesirables.

In the 1840s, New York City nativists organized the Secret Order of the Star-Spangled Banner to fight against immigration by Roman Catholics, primarily from Ireland and Germany. In the 1850s, the American Party, more commonly known as the Know Nothing Party, campaigned for the exclusion of naturalized citizens from voting and from holding public office and for a 21-year residency requirement for citizenship. In 1856, former President Millard Fillmore was the American Party’s candidate for President of the United States. There was deadly nativists anti-Catholic violence in Philadelphia in 1844. In 1854, twenty people were killed in Know Nothing riots in Louisville, Kentucky and there were Know Nothing riots in Ohio in 1856 and Washington D.C. in 1857. A leading nativist in this period was the lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong of New York City whose diary proudly describes nativist violence in the city. Thomas Nast’s political cartoon’s for Harper’s Weekly are vehemently anti-Irish and anti-Roman Catholic.

During the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 11, which barred Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. “The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department . . . Within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order by Post Commanders, they will see that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.” In orders to his subordinates, Grant described Jews as an “intolerable nuisance that the department must be purged of them.”

On the West Coast, the fear was of the “Yellow Peril,” Asian immigrants and migrant workers, mostly from China, but also from Japan. In 1875, the Page Act prohibited immigrants considered “undesirable” including any individual from Asia who was coming to America to be a contract laborer, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country and in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned all Chinese immigration to the United States. It was not repealed until 1943, but Chinese immigration remained block by quotas until 1965. A 1902 petition to Congress by the State of California for the extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act argued, “The lapse of time has only confirmed your memorialists in their conviction, from their knowledge derived from actually coming in contact with the Chinese, that they are a nonassimilative race, and by every standard of American thought undesirable as citizens.” Many Californians viewed Japanese immigrants as a greater threat to the American way of life than did the Chinese. According to one newspaper “The sniveling Japanese, who swarms along the streets and cringingly offers his paltry services for a suit of clothes and a front seat in our public schools, is a far greater danger to the laboring portion of society than all the opium-soaked pigtails who have ever blotted the fair name of this beautiful city.” In 1900, the Mayor of San Francisco declared, “The Chinese and Japanese are not bona fide citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens can be made.” In 1907, the United States and Japan reached an informal Gentlemen’s Agreement that would prevent further Japanese emigration to the United States and American colonies.

On the East Coast, in the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, anti-immigrant campaigns tinged with racist rhetoric were led by both upper-class intellectuals concerned about “white replacement” and some elements of reform movements. A poem, Unguarded Gates (1895) by Thomas Aldrich, a former editor of The Atlantic Monthly, cautioned, “Wide open and unguarded stand our gates, And through them presses a wild motley throng.” Reverend Josiah Strong was a prominent Protestant clergyman. In an 1885 booklet, Our Country, Strong claimed “immigration not only furnishes the greater portion of our criminals, it is also seriously affecting the morals of the native population . . . by far the most effective instrumentality for debauching popular morals is the liquor traffic, and this is chiefly carried on by foreigners.” Strong also championed American imperialism. “Another marked characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon is what may be called an instinct or genius for colonizing. His unequaled energy, his indomitable perseverance, and his personal independence, made him a pioneer. He excels all others in pushing his way into new countries. It was those in whom this tendency was strongest that came to America, and this inherited tendency has been further developed by the westward sweep of successive generations across the continent.”

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts made this statement in an 1896 speech to the Senate about the danger immigration posed to American “mental and moral qualities.” “They are exposed to but a single danger, and that is by changing the quality of our race and citizenship through the wholesale infusion of races whose traditions and inheritances, whose thoughts and whose beliefs are wholly alien to ours . . . There lies the peril at the portals of our land; there is pressing in the tide of unrestricted immigration. The time has certainly come, if not to stop, at least to check, to sift, and to restrict those immigrants.”

In the 1890s, many leaders of the Populist Party targeted Jews and used anti-Semitic tropes in their speeches and writings. In the novel A Tale of Two Nations, by Populist thinker “Coin” Harvey, the villain is a “wealthy London banker, Baron Rothe, who engineers a plot to keep the United States from ever using a silver as currency.” Rothe, who is a stand-in for the European bank Rothschild House, sends a Jewish agent to the United States to bribe elected officials and sexually violate innocent Protestant girls. In her standard stump speech, Populist Mary E. Lease frequently used anti-Semitic innuendo. In a speech to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Lease claimed “the government, at the bid of Wall Street, repudiated its contracts with the people . . . in the interest of Shylock,” the stereotypical Jewish villain in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. On other occasions, Lease described the Rothschilds as the “hook-nose harpies of the House of Heber” and accused President Cleveland, “Grover the First,” of being “the agent of Jewish bankers.” William Jennings Bryan, who later was nominated for President three times by the Democratic Party, also warned audiences about the supposed influence of the Rothschild, demanding that the United States Treasury “shall be administered on behalf of the American people and not on behalf of the Rothschilds and other foreign bankers.” https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/178319

Madison Grant, a New York City blue-blood championed White Replacement Theory in the early decades of the 20th century. Grant’s 1916 book “The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History” warned of the decline of what he called “Nordic” peoples because of immigration to the United States. Grant’s work influenced the Immigration Act of 1924 and was praised by Adolf Hitler as his “Bible.” The forward to Grant’s book was written by Henry Fairfield Osborn, head of the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History. Osborn claimed that “conservation of that race which has given us the true spirit of Americanism is not a matter either of racial pride or of racial prejudice; it is a matter of love of country.”

According to the 1920 federal census, 13.2% of the population was immigrants, a similar percentage as today. To restrict immigration, in 1917, the United States introduced a reading test for all immigrants over 14 years of age; in 1921 an Emergency Quota Act restricted annual immigration from countries to 3% of the number of people from that country living in the U.S. in 1910; and in 1924 the Johnson–Reed Act limited the annual number of immigrants from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890. This law virtually stopped immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. Immigrants were also targeted during the post-World War 1 Red Scare.

During debate over the Johnson–Reed Act, Senator James Heflin [Democrat -Alabama] argued the law would “guard out shores against the undesirable populations of foreign countries” who “despise our form of government, who hate our institutions, and who spread the poison of their dangerous propaganda.” Congressman Lucian Parrish [Democrat – Texas] described Southern and Eastern European immigrants, largely Italians and Jews, as part of a “criminal class that is causing so much concern throughout the entire United States” and “unlikely under present conditions ever to be assimilable.”

White Replacement Theory is nothing new. In the past it raised fear about German, Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, and Southern and Eastern European immigrants and influence. Today it just targets different immigrant groups its proponents believe will never become true Americans.

Follow Alan Singer on twitter at https://twitter.com/AlanJSinger1