Culture & Ethics Icon Culture & Ethics

Codevilla: “Darwinism corrupted Northern and Southern thinkers equally”

Angelo Codevilla’s new book The
Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It
has been stirring enviable attention since it first
appeared as an essay in
American Spectator
. “Magnificent,”
writes David
First Things. “I
felt like I had just plunged head-first into 50-degree water.”

New York Times
blogger Tom

Few articles have resonated with
conservatives this year as much as Angelo M. Codevilla’s essay…It says America
is divided between an elite, government-dependent “ruling class” — Republicans
and Democrats alike — and a majority “country class”: families, businesses and
institutions not dependent on subsidies and privileges.

Excerpt from the book:

Human equality made sense to our
Founding Fathers, because they believed that all men are made in the image and
likeness of God, because they were yearning for equal treatment under British
law, or because they had read John Locke.

It did not take long for their
paradigm to be challenged by interest and by “science.” By the 1820s,
as J. C. Calhoun was reading in the best London journals that different breeds
of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results, slave owners were
citing the Negroes’ deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves
indefinitely. Lots of others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach’s rendition of
Hegelian philosophy, according to which biblical injunctions reflect alienated
human beings’ best fantasies, or, in the young Karl Marx’s formulation, that
ethical thought is “superstructural” to material reality. By 1853,
when Senator John Pettit of Ohio called “all men are created equal”
“a self-evident lie,” much of America’s educated class had already
absorbed the “scientific” notion (which Darwin only popularized) that
man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest.
Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower
beings or try to improve them as they please. Hence, while it pleased the abolitionists
to believe in freeing Negroes and improving them, it also pleased them to
believe that Southerners had to be punished and reconstructed by force. In
short, Darwinism corrupted Northern and Southern thinkers equally. As the
nineteenth century ended, the educated class’ religious fervor turned to social
reform: they were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature,
man could be improved, and that they, the most highly evolved of all, were the

Thus began the Progressive Era….

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