The US Is Not “One Nation” — And it Never Was, by Ryan McMaken

Conservative writers especially like to harken back to a unified, monocultural America that never was. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:

Patrick Buchanan is an informative and interesting writer. On foreign policy, especially, he’s long been one of the most reasonable voices among high-level American pundits.

When it comes to cultural matters, however, Buchanan has long held to a peculiar and empirically questionable version of American history in which the United States was once a mono-culture in which everyone was once happily united by “a common religion,” a “common language,” and a “common culture.”

Now, he’s at it again with his most recent column in which he correctly points out that the United States is culturally fractured, and speculates as to whether or not Thomas Jefferson’s call to “dissolve political bands” in the Declaration of Independence might be sound advice today.

Buchanan is correct in noting that the US is culturally divided today.

But, he appears to have a selective view of history when he contends there was a time when this was not so. If there ever was such a period, it’s unclear as to when exactly it was. 

Buchanan can’t be referring to the mid-19th century when Northern states and Southern states were becoming increasingly hostile toward each other. Many of these differences flared up over slavery, but larger cultural differences were there too, exemplified by a divide between agrarian and industrialized culture, and the hierarchical South versus the more populist North. The result was a civil war that killed more than 2 percent of the population. It was a literal bloodbath.

Was that version of the United States culturally united?

Nor can Buchanan possibly be referring to the US of the so-called Gilded Age. After all, during this period, the US was flooded with immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds, 

Historian Jon Grinspan notes:

American life transformed more radically during the 19th century than it ever had before. Between the 1830s and 1900, America’s population quintupled … at least 18 million immigrants arrived from Europe, more people than had lived in all of America in 1830.

This hardly led to a period of religious or linguistic unity.

To continue reading: The US Is Not “One Nation” — And it Never Was

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One response to “The US Is Not “One Nation” — And it Never Was, by Ryan McMaken

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