Origins of American Anglo-Saxonism
This article discusses how American Anglo-Saxonistic superiority began in the United States, and how Americans have consistently rejected other nationalities’ superiority. The author’s intent is to show how American ideas of superiority began, what fostered them, and how they have affected the country ever since. Obviously, the country’s relationships with “inferior” races from “inferior” countries have long been tainted by our view of ethnic superiority. The section on Anglo-Saxons and Mexicans clearly illustrates how our feelings of cultural and racial superiority have clouded our relationships with Mexico for centuries. As the author notes, “The use of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in a racial sense, somewhat rare in the political arguments of the early 1830s, increased rapidly later in the decade and became commonplace by the mid-1840s” (Horsman 209). Thus, as Americans became more comfortable with their own democracy and way of life, they urgently wanted to perpetrate their successes on those “lesser” individuals like the Mexicans who populated the West and Southwestern areas of the growing United States. Americans did not question their own superiority, and they did not question the idea that other “inferior” races were destined to give way to American superiority in return for the protection of clearly superior guardians.
There are several main points in the article that the author uses to back up his allegations. First, he maintains American superiority in the 19th century was based on European thought at the time, and was consistent with Anglo-Saxon superiority as viewed in Europe and other English speaking countries at the time. This view was also based on “God’s choice” that Americans were a “chosen” people, and thereby superior to other races around the globe. While American racial thought was primarily based on English thought, the “rapid territorial growth” of the country, and the existing Native Americans and Blacks who lived in the area also influenced it. The author also notes the term “Anglo-Saxon” has often been misused, and it has long been interpreted to mean whites, especially whites living in England or the United States, as opposed to other races. As the author notes, “Americans had long believed they were a chosen people, but by the mid-nineteenth century they also believed they were a chosen people with an impeccable ancestry” (Horsman 5). This pattern of perceived superiority continued throughout the 19th century in America, and was often used to make immigrants conform to their newfound society. These beliefs helped foster how America dealt with foreign powers, and how they viewed other “inferior” races in the context of American democracy and republicanism, too. The author uses the relationships between Anglo-Saxons and Mexicans as an example of his thoughts and ideas discussed in the article. The term Manifest Destiny first came into being as a criticism of other nations who interfered with American politics, but the term came to stand for America’s grim determination to shake off the criticism of other nations, while heading forward into a growing sea of superiority and subjugation.
Unfortunately, there are still many Americans who consciously, or unconsciously, still believe in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race. While most Americans are ashamed of the way our ancestors treated Black Americans and Hispanics, along with other races, many still firmly follow the ideas of our ancestors and encourage racial unrest by their unfeeling actions and sentiments. The author shows how the idea of Anglo-Saxon superiority developed in America, and the article’s main points all back up his ideas and allegations. However, it is quite disturbing that many of these ideas have not been completely extinguished in our society, and there are still many who ultimately believe in the superiority of the white race, at a heavy cost to immigrants to the United States. The article is an interesting and yet disturbing look at our history of racial relations with the world, and how our own prejudices can form the basis for long-lasting and destructive decisions, both nationally and globally.
Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.
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