What is the American Empire’s cultural identity?

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Here at Middle Earth Magazine, we enjoy researching and analyzing the Masonic underpinnings of the United States and its history. This essay will serve as an introduction to help our readers understand the foundations of American thought and identity. The question of America’s core cultural identity as a nation has been the subject of debate for quite some time. In an era of Globalism where nations have been reduced to mere economic zones, it is difficult to determine what constitutes a nation. An article by The Week echoes a similar analysis:

The United States is not what the New Oxford American Dictionary defines as “a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.” We have no language of our own, though it is mostly thanks to our power and influence that English has become a lingua franca. We have no national literature that compares to that of France or England but rather a succession of regional literatures that have all been displaced first by Hollywood, then by the internet. We have invented various art forms — popular music, the cinema — that have transcended our borders. We have no national cuisine, no folk art, no customs that transcend racial and regional divisions that in some date beyond 1776. Practically the only worthwhile things that were and have remained more or less uniquely and indubitably American are jazz and college football.

America is an Empire, not a nation, The Week

Based on this definition, could it be said that everyone living in the United States shares the same language, culture, and history? Of course not. At least not for the last 200 years or so. However, since it begs the question, why is the modern United States the cosmopolitan liberal melting pot it is today? Was the United States ever meant to be a united “group of peoples” that share the same language, culture, and history?

Whether the United States commenced out as a Masonic commercial enterprise experiment gone totally wrong or if we’re just a nation that had the right ingredients and accelerated itself into an Empire, we must go back to the colonial history of America. Only this will help us understand the main driving forces that “willed” our nation into existence.

Willed by Mercantilism

As the British naval command strengthened itself in the 17th century, Mercantilism as the chief colonial policy was imposed by Britain on its colonies in the late 1600s. This policy, based on capital and not cultural and religious ideals, partnered merchants with the government to accumulate wealth both privately and for the crown. This encouraged economically-motivated European settlers over time to make the leap across the pond to the colonies. Not all of these settlers came looking for money; some came to escape religious persecution. But none of the religious settlements would have survived without the support of the merchant class, which was subsidized by the Crown. Soon people of European ethnicities emigrated to the colonies, including the Dutch of New Netherland, the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden, the English Quakers of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English Puritans of New England, the English settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, the English Catholics and Protestant non-conformists of the Province of Maryland, the “worthy poor” of the Province of Georgia, the Germans who settled the mid-Atlantic colonies, and the Ulster-Scots of the Appalachian Mountains.

Seaport at sunrise, a French seaport painted by Claude Lorrain in 1639, at the height of mercantilism

There are many in secular, right-wing circles that entertain the idea that the United States was founded as a European-only haven for the persecuted or otherwise economically motivated European immigrants. While it is undeniable that these groups all became part of the genetic and cultural fabric of the newly-independent United States, the main intent of the early colonization efforts was the creation of captive markets for British industry with the ultimate goal of enriching the Crown. These markets were extremely lucrative to merchants that had an insatiable appetite for capital, influencing the British Navy to seize other European Colonial ports like New Amsterdam (New York). The attempt to duct-tape the unique European immigrant groups together in some sort of a cohesive socio-cultural European Identity is a reductionist account of the actual political and religious roots of this country. The main motivations for settlement were by and large driven by capital gain first and religious isolationism from the European mainland second.

The Puritan early cultural success

The Puritans are a great example of early cultural success in early Colonial America. They fled England and the Netherlands and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in an attempt to create a “nation of saints” or a “City upon a Hill” in America. This community was intended to be an intensely religious and thoroughly righteous community and to provide an example for all of Europe. In contrast to the groups of European men seeking economic success in the other colonies, the Puritan ships were laden with “ordinary” people, old and young, families as well as individuals. Economically, they were also incredibly successful with their homestead model of self-sufficiency. This social dominance showed itself politically in 17th-century Maryland, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the Connecticut Colony where suffrage was restricted to members of the established Puritan church only.

The Puritan cultural prosperity can perhaps be attributed somewhat to Max Weber‘s famous claim on the link between the Masonic Protestant work ethic and the capitalist economy, suggesting that they were one of the first ethnic-religious groups in the colonies to flourish under that framework. This economic success and political power granted them protection. Protection against the absorption into the WASP melting pot and the growing merchant class.

This is in sharp contrast with what happened to English Catholics. Catholics always remained a small minority in colonial times. The exact opposite of the cultural success of Puritans can be observed when Maryland was founded as a sanctuary for English Catholics. It didn’t endure because unlike the other colonies, it didn’t ban non-Protestant immigrants. Maryland allowed non-Catholics to immigrate, who promptly took over the colony demographically. Maryland was different because it practiced religious tolerance. The Puritans who moved to Maryland repaid this by launching an uprising during the 1650s, brutally murdering Catholics and burning their churches.

Religious tolerance was created so the Puritans and other Protestant sects would stop exterminating each other. This, as a result, laid the groundwork for the idea of “freedom of religion” which would eventually evolve into the bedrock principle of modern U.S. political thought: separation of church and state. The Puritan cultural identity lasted until it was eventually absorbed by the dominant WASP national culture of the Eastern Seaboard in the mid-1750s. Still, the Puritan paranoia of persecution and religious intolerance would become deeply woven into the Colonial consciousness, from which America would later inherit.

Rise of the WASP Identity

The Colonial elites soon embraced rationalism and encouraged a spirit of skepticism and practicality in social and political thought—this energy guided the Revolutionaries in their thinking and eventual formulation of a new nation based on Liberal principles. Understanding the mercantilist system, the Colonial elites soon turned the newly founded nation into a commercial enterprise to fund its military. This Mason-inspired thinking to this day is still embedded deeply in the American political identity and is described by David Hackett Fischer as “stubbornly democratic in its politics, capitalist in its economy, libertarian in its laws and individualist in its society and pluralistic in its culture”. All these descriptions remain true to this day, particularly the last one. This process of cultural homogenization among the WASPs had already begun in the pre-independence period. This period of homogenization was later bolstered by the attempt to build a national identity soon after the War of Independence but would be short lived.

Nevertheless, from the Independence Period and the following decades, the cultural imprint on the United States was still distinctively Anglo and genetically mostly British. The vast majority of the colonial population (except for the African slaves) and Founding Fathers of the United States were all of mixed British extraction. Most of them were of English descent, with smaller numbers of those of Scottish, Irish or Scots-Irish, and Welsh ancestry. By the time of the Revolution, most of the children and grandchildren of earlier Dutch, French, German, and Swedish immigrants in the colonies spoke English and were otherwise indistinguishable from the children and grandchildren of English settlers. According to Fischer, there were indeed some cultural contributions on behalf of the Dutch, German, and French Huguenots, but none contributed as substantially to the United States as the British immigrants.

John Gast, American Progress, 1872

According to Lawrence Fuchs, at its inception, the United States had a population that was remarkably homogeneous in terms of both ethnicity and religion [Protestant]. The claims that the nation was founded by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are reasonably accurate, in his view. The acronym “WASP” comes from the 19th century describing all White, Protestant peoples of the Anglosphere, usually only for those of ancestral connection to England. In this core “Old Stock” group, we can find the true root of a possible American cultural identity, however, we’ll soon come to see that this root was salted early on by the forces of immigration, capitalism, and liberalism.

A Cultural Identity, stillborn

However, in the post-Independence period, the WASP population suddenly started to decline. This decline was mainly due to the restriction on immigration from the newly severed ties to the British mainland. Soon, the rapid growth of African slavery and the influx of hundreds of thousands of non-English immigrants in the late-18th century started to significantly change the nature of the colonial population. The nation established on Liberal egalitarian ideas became an instant magnet for immigrants of all kinds from Europe. This new Nation attracted many people to its individualistic, success-oriented society, regardless of the dominating WASP culture. Because of this, the early nation and its identity were already subverted. They were subverted by the forces of the market and liberalism. This was a precursor to what was to come in the next centuries. The problem was that its unique Anglo-American identity had no permanent block to which to hold itself. The only thing keeping it in command was its temporal economic and demographic power. The Masonic Liberal ideas had allowed cultural pluralism to flourish instead of assimilating, as immigrants had done in the pre-independence period.

The economic and Masonic elites of the United States had other ideas. In a way, it matched their plan to commence a universal Masonic government based on the secular Masonic “civil religion,” which focused on freedom, free enterprise, and a limited role for the state. In Europe, the Masons had been known for plotting against royal governments. In America, they became known for promoting Republican virtues of self-government, inspiring the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Masons took great pride in ensuring that their order and political agenda stayed private and was not known to the outside world. 

The initial immigration from new Irish, German, and Italian immigrants were initially met with great opposition from the majority WASP population.

Thousands of Germans and Irish from the southern regions of their countries started to immigrate to the United States during the early 19th century. Initially, they were met with strong opposition from the majority WASP and temperance movement minded Old Stock, who were anti-immigration and anti-Catholic. However, wave after wave of Irish and German immigration in the 1800s would soon overcome the nativist sentiments. Initially, inter-marriages between Catholics and Protestants were very uncommon, primarily due to the fact that Catholic wills only remained effective if one stayed in the faith. The sentiments were relaxed a bit as the 19th century came to an end, but the WASP culture and genetic dominance from the post-independence period of the United States had now decayed and America was going to step into the shoes of an Empire rather than of a nation.

The immigration trends of the United States through the 20th century would see an increase of more German, Italian, Polish, Jewish, and later a majority of Mexican & Hispanic immigrants. The America of the 20th century had now come into existence as a cosmopolitan Empire, running on the fumes of global capitalism and a new military authority. The hyper-growth of the American economy and its leader’s failure to enact more regulative immigration policies didn’t allow the organic homogenization needed between the WASPs and the 18th-century German and Irish immigrants. This mistake had left the door wide open for the rest of the world in the 19th-century. It’s hard to tell whether this great American social and commercial experiment was planned by its elites for usurious gain or not. It may be that it ushered in a great, powerful empire by accident but at the cost of nationhood and distinct WASP cultural identity.

An Empire, not a nation

Today, it might be more accurate to say that the United States is a multiethnic continental nation with a global empire. The United States is an economic zone with its sails controlled only by those who have the demographic, cultural, and economic temporal power. Is there a “United States” nation in the same sense as Spain, Italy, Germany, or France? No, there is no such thing, nor will there ever be one. It seems like our country was planned from the beginning to be an empire. Because of this, there is no identifiable spirit that animates American patriotism other than the civic nationalism based on a temporal interpretation of the constitution.

Mulberry Street, along which Manhattan’s Little Italy is centered. Lower East Side, circa 1900.

The Wignat ideal trys to glue together a national belief around the idea of White identity, regardless of cultural preferences and worldview. They try to duct-tape an identity out of the American plurality of European ethnic groups. This is done to displace the vacuum the WASP legacy left behind. I don’t believe that it is enough to constitute a unique identity amongst whites in the United States. There hasn’t been enough time to fully homogenize all the European groups together due to the waves of immigration in each century. I don’t deny that the “woke” media and globalists still see anyone of European heritage as white and lumps them all together anyways. The idea of a White race exists genetically, not culturally in my opinion. In the segregation era of the United States, it just became much easier to lump in everyone in two checkboxes, Black & White. Without forethought, that labeling is now being weaponized against every one of European ancestry in the United States. The modern-day notion of “White” is the enemy’s “made up” ethnic labeling and forced grouping of many European-American ethnic groups. Presently, those WASPs of the early American stock now only constitute 7.1% of the total U.S. population. While I’m not advocating for open-borders allowing the economic immigrants of the third world in, the true genetic stock of the American empire is already a minority in their own nation.

Likewise, it is no use arguing that those immigrants whom we do welcome to this country are under any obligation to “assimilate”, whatever that might mean in an American context, other than adhering to the civic values of the constitution and the cultural trends of the age. At the time being, there is no core ruling cohesive thought in the United States other than modernism in culture and liberalism in politics. Secularism and global capitalism have cleared much of what was left of tradition from the past century and replaced it with consumerism.

Now, there is no denying that there still exist certain pockets of unique regional culture in parts of the American Empire and that it is not useless to try and slow the demise and death of our home. However, Americans are by, definition, cosmopolitans, citizens of the world much like Alexander the Great:

[Alexander] did not, as Aristotle advised him, rule the Grecians like a moderate prince and insult over the barbarians like an absolute tyrant; nor did he take particular care of the first as his friends and domestics, and scorn the latter as mere brutes and vegetables; which would have filled his empire with fugitive incendiaries and perfidious tumults. But believing himself sent from Heaven as the common moderator and arbiter of all nations, and subduing those by force whom he could not associate to himself by fair offers, he labored thus, that he might bring all regions, far and near, under the same dominion. And then, as in a festival goblet, mixing lives, manners, customs, wedlock, all together, he ordained that every one should take the whole habitable world for his country, of which his camp and army should be the chief metropolis and garrison; that his friends and kindred should be the good and virtuous, and that the vicious only should be accounted foreigners.

This is the mantle we have inherited in our time. What’s the next step? Is it forming and creating resilient new cultures through secession, or accepting our fate as rootless Citizens of the world, or is it Integralism by riding out a future collapse of the Empire? I prefer the first, although I am unsure in what context as the political, cultural, and economic power is concentrated in the cities. However, being aware that we live in an Empire is the first step as we move closer to the post-Liberal world.

Western Man is the founder of MiddleEarth Magazine. He is a Catholic Reactionary, Integralist, and a prospecting Monarchist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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