Vox Day’s No Good Very Bad Proposal

I hate to mention this, because of course there are great problems afoot in the world, and the alt-right people like Vox Day are in many cases fighting all sorts of bad stuff. I may disagree deeply with the way they go about it (and I do), but at least they recognize the problems that need fixing.

Unfortunately, Vox Day’s blog recently advocated that immigrants to the United States and their descendants should not be allowed to vote or hold office, unto the fourth generation. (The fifth generation would be okay.)

This is a stupid thing to say. Indeed, it is even a dumb thing to say, because it eliminates the ability to say that most people in America are Americans. For example, any guy who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or was stationed outside the US, and who brought home a local bride, would have disenfranchised his descendants for the next 120 years or so (if you take the traditional 30 years = 1 generation). Or maybe only 70-80 years, if you believe in child brides.

(Wow, what a great way to give American men an incentive to refuse to serve overseas or join any military force! Disenfranchising soldiers and their kids managed to kill ancient Rome, so let’s copy them! Maybe we should automatically draft all soldiers’ sons for twenty years of service, too!)

More seriously, none of the Founding Fathers (as far as memory and some quick research go) could have held office or voted by these rules. And indeed, I don’t think many then-living Americans in the Thirteen Colonies could have managed it, except for full-blooded members of the various Indian tribes. Possibly it could have been done in Quebec or Spanish Florida; but the original settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, didn’t have many descendants that didn’t marry outside the community, and I don’t know that people would have wanted to be ruled by those natives of Plymouth, Massachusetts who only married their own.

(I guess we could still have Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who were descended from John Alden, except that John Adams was only a fourth-generation descendant of the immigrant Thomas Boylston, on his mom’s side. And John Adams’ wife Abigail was only a second-generation American, which makes John Quincy Adams only a third-generation American. Bad, bad immigrant presidents!)

But let’s say there would have been an oligarchic core of maybe 1000-2000 white Colonists, and maybe 10,000-20,000 Native Americans living inside the Colonies. Of course non-landowners like most Indians would have been unable to vote, and in most colonies women and children would have been straight out. So your oligarchic core of fourth-generation natives becomes awfully small.

But fine. Let’s take it the way Vox Day was taking it, with his fine quote from Alexander Hamilton (the St. Kitts and Nevis-born child of a mother who was half-English, half-French and a father who was an immigrant Scotsman; after they died, he then took the further step of immigrating to New York City). Let’s pretend that the only real Americans were those Colonial men who had been calling themselves Englishmen until after the Stamp Act. Then you still have to get rid of all those American colonists and patriots who on the side called themselves Irish, Scots, Germans, French (bye-bye, Paul Revere), Dutch (bye-bye, Schuylers of New York), Portuguese, Poles, and so forth. Because early America was a country of ports, and a country of immigrants.

(And Alexander Hamilton married a Schuyler! Horrors! Good thing their son didn’t live long enough to be unfit on both sides to vote or hold office!)

As for those presidents having Irish or Scots-Irish ancestry… well, that’s pretty much everyone after the War of 1812 was settled.

But yup, it would be an interesting project to see how few American politicians would be left in our history, if only fifth-generation Americans were permitted to hold office. I don’t think even the Cabots and the Lodges would make it, though I could be wrong.

As it happens, if you read the whole article quoted by Vox Day (The Examination, Number VIII: January 12, 1802), Hamilton was only warning against having huge numbers of immigrants instantly dropped into the US without any thought. He was totally okay with himself coming to America, and he didn’t feel that his French Huguenot ancestry was too weird to be incorporated into the US. I’m sure he felt the same way about his wife being descended from Dutch patroons. His point was against “the too unqualified admission of foreigners,” not against all immigration or all foreign blood.

In point of fact, Alexander Hamilton argues for a relaxation of the residency requirements for naturalization, to reduce them from a period of “fourteen years,” which is “the very long residence which is now a prerequisite to naturalization, and which of itself, goes far towards a denial of that privilege” to only “five years.” He remarks that

“there is a wide difference between closing the door altogether and throwing it entirely open; between a postponement of fourteen years and an immediate admission to all the rights of citizenship. Some reasonable term ought to be allowed to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of at least a probability of their feeling a real interest in our affairs.”

He then proposes that even during the reduced five-year residency period, some of the privileges of citizenship should be extended to those who are working toward naturalization:

“those [rights] peculiar to the conducting of business and the acquisition of property, might with propriety be at once conferred, upon receiving proof, by certain prescribed solemnities, of their intention to become citizens; postponing all political privileges to the ultimate term.”

In fact, the whole article was written only against an instant naturalization and citizenship that was being proposed by the ultra-liberal Mr. Jefferson:

“To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens, the moment they put foot in our country, as recommended in the “Message,”* would be nothing less, than to admit the Grecian Horse into the Citadel of our Liberty and Sovereignty.”

* President Jefferson’s first annual message to Congress, December 8, 1801. A sort of early State of the Union speech.

So presumably this is a humorous proposal on Vox Day’s part, because I’m sure he would never misrepresent Mr. Hamilton’s views on a subject so nearly touching his own political rights and those of his Schuyler relations, or propose to disenfranchise pretty much everybody.

(Including me, as I am only fourth generation from immigration, although my last immigrant ancestors immigrated from their various countries at the end of the 1800’s. We’re a long-lived family who marry late. But apparently service by the family in all the American wars since the Revolutionary War, and coming over on the Mayflower, doesn’t make most of us worthy to be American citizens! What a joke!)

As for his comments about the Irish and the Jews ruining America, that really goes too far to be a joke. The last time anybody said something like that to somebody in my family was when the Klan had their biggest rally ever, in Greenville, Ohio. That was when my O’Brien relation who was a florist put on the Civil War O’Brien’s brass knuckles, and kept them off his property with his own two fists. (And of course I have Jewish family too, although they mostly seem to have become Huguenots before they came here. I have a little bit of everything in me, including Native Americans and Pilgrims, Protestants and Catholics, and I have relatives who have even more exotic heritages. I’m proud of all of them, and they’ve all been good citizens who have done their civic duty. And since the Civil War O’Brien, we’ve mostly been Republicans. Perhaps stereotypes don’t cover everyone, huh?)

It would make a great deal more sense to argue that big city political machines have ruined America. The specific ethnic origin of the people feeding the machines doesn’t really matter, which is one of the reasons they tend to persist. Anybody native to the country will fit, and anybody new to the country will do.

But since the proposal is so absurd in so many different ways, I have to conclude that the whole thing is some peculiar absurdism. It’s not a joke in good taste, but maybe I’m missing the bits that make it funny.

1 Comment

Filed under History

One response to “Vox Day’s No Good Very Bad Proposal

  1. iolanthe95

    I hope this person was joking in some way. If not, it wouldn’t be the first time my dear Alexander H’s prose was taken out of context, but still oofda!

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