[Marxism] The Nation Magazine and Reconstruction

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 13 07:40:57 MST 2012

Hi, Ricky

I thought your research on the Nation Magazine's posture toward Radical 
Republicanism and Thaddeus Stevens was most useful. Four years ago I 
wrote an article on the magazine taking a close look at its politics 
from that period until the mid-20th century. In my view the magazine 
often took reactionary positions on race despite its tendency to be 
viewed as an anti-racist bastion.


Just one year after The Nation began publishing, Godkin admitted that he 
had veered so far from the original abolitionist intentions of the 
investors that he was "afraid to visit Boston this winter, lest the 
stockholders of The Nation should lynch me." Ironically, it was lynching 
in the South and other assaults against blacks that Godkin grew inured 
to. Just as President Andrew Johnson began to sabotage efforts at 
Reconstruction in the South against the objections of Radical 
Republicans and open the door to KKK lynch mobs, Godkin rushed to defend 
Johnson. When attempts to oust the racist President Johnson failed, 
Godkin pronounced this as a vindication of the law.

As the 1870s began, Godkin openly broke with the Radicals, assailed 
carpetbaggers, and called for the restoration of white power in the 
South. In an 1874 editorial he advised The Nation's readers that he 
found the average intelligence of blacks "so low that they are slightly 
above the level of animals." He longed for the return of southern 
conservatives to power in 1877 eagerly, writing Harvard professor 
Charles Eliot Norton and fellow adversary of democratic rule that "I do 
not see . . . . the negro is ever to be worked into a system of 
government for which you and I would have much respect." Suffice it to 
say that people such as E.L. Godkin, Charles Eliot Norton, and Allan 
Nevins were virtual symbols of American liberalism for over 100 years. 
The only reason that their polite (and not so polite) racism has become 
antiquated is that black people themselves would not tolerate it.

More information about the Marxism mailing list