On March 19 national Panther chief of staff David Hilliard set the tone for the coming weeks in a speech to 2,000 students at the University of Connecticut. "Not only will we burn buildings," Hilliard vowed, "we will take lives." [. . .] Memos traveled from office to office within the FBI warning of violence-bent crazies descending on New Haven. "As many as half a million persons," said one FBI teletype. [. . .] On April 15, in Cambridge, 1,500 demonstrators showed up for a march at Harvard -- only to find the Harvard gates along their parade route locked shut. Incensed demonstrators smashed windows, threw rocks, lit fires. Some 214 people were hospitalized; $100,000 worth of property was destroyed. At the rally, Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman vowed that marchers would burn down Yale on May 1.The evidence suggests Brewster was acting out of "pragmatic" spinelessness in the face of violent agitation by radical Jews and blacks, rather than "white guilt".
The patricians entrusted with Yale University's future knew it was time to swing into action.
At Takimag, Paul Gottfried (proud father of one of Sonia Sotamayor's speechwriters) posts a rambling screed against "WASPs", the substance of which follows:
There is now a debate over on the unauthorized right between zealous critics of Jewish influence in Western countries and those who, like myself, believe that WASPdom has destroyed itself. To put my cards on the table: I’ve never heard American Jews or American blacks pour as much contempt on white Protestant America as I hear coming from white Protestant intellectuals and clergypersons.Seriously? Gottfried must not hear well, or must be very selective in what he chooses to remember.
One of my most vivid graduate school memories was listening to a speech given by Yale President Kingman Brewster expressing unqualified support for the Black Panthers. I recall being shocked to hear this direct linear descendant of two founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony [sic] behave like such a jerk. But Brewster was certainly not a more extreme anti-racist than his fellow-patrician and Yale chaplain, William Sloan Coffin. This Congregationalist chaplain had trouble even finishing a sentence without deploring the slave trade in which his ancestors had once been implicated.Whereas, presumably, Gottfried finds it perfectly natural and understandable for someone like David Horowitz to more than merely "express" support for the Black Panthers.
And if I think back hard enough, most of the WASP patricians whom I met at Yale as a graduate student were almost as whacky as Brewster and Coffin. Their pompous self-debasement had progressed so far then that they didn’t need Alan Dershowitz or Cornell West to come scourge them.Did Gottfried ever stop to ask himself if "WASP patricians" interested in befriending or talking politics with a Jewish dwarf were representative of "WASP patricians" generally?
The tirades against WASP nativism and close-mindedness, often produced by their tribe, have caused me to wonder by what ethereal standard these critics are judging their past. What other group in world history has been more “tolerant” or less hostile to outsiders than were white Protestants? Although some of their progenitors had engaged in the slave trade, so had the rest of the human race, and particularly blacks for a far longer time. And only WASPs feel guilty about social institutions that most other groups have taken for granted. Needless to say, these other groups are all too happy to browbeat masochistic Westerners about doing what everyone else has done.A Steve Sailer commenter recently mused:
I've oftened wondered why certain Jews seem to bear such overwhelming hostility for a country and its people that have been far more hospitable to them than any other place on Earth. It's almost as if they hold us in contempt for not hating them.Whether or not this observation holds true for the typical Jew, it seems to apply perfectly to Gottfried. No doubt "WASPs" were excessively tolerant (even during the era of "quotas", Jews remained overrepresented at elite colleges), but as a group, they were never the cartoonish masochists Gottfried paints them as. By the time Gottfried was in college, American society had already been radically transformed with plenty of help from Jews. I also find people like Brewster and Coffin contemptible, but to pretend they were the source of the wave of social change they were riding is highly disingenuous. While "patrician WASP" William Sloane Coffin, Jr., came to national prominence in connection with "freedom riders", "it is estimated that half of the white Freedom Riders were Jewish" (source), and Yale alumni took issue with Coffin's activism, many calling for his removal as chaplain. Coffin was, in fact, influenced by and surrounded with Jews. In Warren Goldstein's William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience, we learn:
Coffin quickly came to the attention of his elders. During his junior year he worked for the Yale Law School Professor Eugene V. Rostow [Jew] in a campaign on behalf of the Stratton Bill, an ultimately--though very modestly--successful proposal to allow greater numbers of European DPs, especially Jews, to enter the United States. Rostow, who had been Connecticut chairman of the effort, wrote a letter introducing Coffin to such foreign policy mandarins as Dean Acheson and Chester Bowles(In other words, Coffin's connections were not merely the result of his "patrician WASP" background.)
Coffin's adoption of neo-orthodox "Hebraism" had unforeseen consequences: an emphasis on "prophetic Christianity" (which he knew little about because he never studied the prophets in seminary) and his openness to ecumenism, particularly as regarded Jews. For the whole notion of a "Judeo-Christian" heritage and creed, according to the historian Mark Silk, was literally created and publicized in the face and wake of fascist anti-Semitism by Christian and Jewish neo-orthodox theologians ranging from Niebuhr and his Union colleague Paul Tillich to Jewish Theological seminary's Abrahama Joshua Heschel and the more popular Will Herberg.Coffin's first wife was half-Jewish, half-Catholic Eva Rubinstein (interesting spouse selection for a Protestant clergyman).
[. . .] Coffin was bored. He was also offended by the discrimination against Jews that he saw on Campus and in the fraternity system. His own casual anti-Semitism had been challenged in Europe, where he had visited Buchenwald after the war. "What the Germans did to the Jews was to me so appalling and so shocking," he recalled, "that we should fight a war condemning the Nazis for the horrors they perpetrated, particularly against the Jews, and then come back and have country clubs that didn't take Jews. It was absolutely outrageous to me."
[. . .] Coffin attacked the fraternities on a variety of grounds but mainly because they discriminated, either explicitly or implicitly, against Jews and blacks as well as against those outside a "narrow range of associates."
[. . .] Coffin soon got a chance to have a significant effect on the matter of Jewish students at Yale. Yale's new Hillel director, Rabbi Richard Israel, who arrived a year after Coffin, had been trying to find out if a quota limited Jewish admissions at Yale. While the number was not public knowledge, the percentage of Jews had hovered int he range of 10 to 15 percent for quite a long time, while at both Harvard and Cornell Jews made up nearly 25 percent of the undergraduate student body. Prodded by Israel, Coffin went to see Griswold and eventually got the information. He had been convinced that Yale's numbers fell substantially below Princeton's and Williams's, but the facts showed otherwise: Yale's Class of 1963 (which had entered in 1959) had roughly 11.5 percent Jews, about the same as the Class of 1964 at Princeton and a little higher than that at Williams. [. . .] But neither Coffin nor Israel let the matter drop. Coffin discussed the question of Jewish admissions with a number of administration officials. His notes on meeting with Dean William DeVane and Provost Buck indicated the persistence of stereotypes at the highest levels: "However bright not all Jewish applicants are 'beauties.' "Twerps,' said Buck. Personalities not always attractive, self-serving, aggressive. Lack of breadth of view."
[. . .] Moreover, while never abandoning his own Christianity, Coffin preached to Jews as well as gentiles at Yale and elsewhere. Profoundly influenced by the Ecumenical spirit of American religious activism in the early 1960s, Coffin lived in an ecumenical world, relied on ecumenical audiences, and worked on political issues in an ecumenical manner. While it shocked some Riverside Church members when Coffin hired a Jew to run the Disarmament Program, he himself gave the question no thought at all. Deeply affected by Heschel (and later by the Rabbi Marshall Meyer), and drawn above all to the Old Testament prophets (and Paul in the New Testament), Coffin preached a more open theology [. . .]
Incidentally, Coffin's great-grandfather was a Scottish immigrant. I don't find this fact hugely important, but I mention it for the benefit the handful of ignorant "Celtic"-identified types who fancy that American history is best conceived of as a battle between radical leftist pure-English northeastern Puritan "WASPs" and wholesome, conservative Scotch-Irish, Irish Catholics, friendly Jews, and the like.
German-identified types eager to rant about "WASPs" should note that the strongest non-Jewish influences on Coffin included a German immigrant (Paul Tillich) and the son of a German immigrant (Reinhold Niebuhr).
Some context on Kingman Brewster, from The guardians: Kingman Brewster, his circle, and the rise of the liberal establishment by Geoffrey Kabaservice:
At this moment in American history, some leaders were aware that the nature of authority was changing. Brewster had moved Yale away from its deeply conservative New England roots, transforming it into a modern international institution. The university's culture, reflected in its policies in administration, faculty hiring, and undergraduate admissions, had long stressed the superiority of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant leadership. Brewster reshaped Yale to emphasize merit rather than background. He redefined leadership to include individuals from nonprivileged circumstances, minorities, and women. Yet he did not turn his back on Yale's heritage, its hallowed tradition of community, or its distinctive reputation for producing leaders and achievers. He sought a middle course through the Sturm and Drang of the era--a difficult balancing act--and found himself pressed between impatient students and angry conservative alumni.I don't accept the premise that "the establishment leaders of Brewster's generation were mostly liberals". (I'd like to see some stats and definitions of "establishment" and "leader". On the general question of the politics of rich "WASPs", see The Myth of Old Money Liberalism.) But the broader points, that (1) Brewster was responding to larger trends and (2) Brewster was not the most radical of leftists, are correct.
Kingman Brewster's story exemplified the experiences of the leadership class of "the greatest generation." Brewster and most of his friends and associates traced their ancestry to the New England colonists, and they shared backgrounds of at least modest privilege. Educated at a handful of private schools and colleges, they were brought together from an early age and throughout their lives. And they achieved leadership positions in careers and in institutions that historically had been tilted in favor of their class. [. . .]
Yet the establishment was not a monolith of ideas shared by a group of identically minded individuls. The dominant strain undoubtedly was the rock-ribbed Republicanism for which New England had been known. Men who inclined toward this view--including most of the leaders of Brewster's father's generation--generally tried to preserve the social and political privileges that their class enjoyed. This is to be expected; ruling classes typically attempt to reproduced themselves.
Yet, surprisingly, the establishment leaders of Brewster's generation were mostly liberals, who in different ways set out to reform the institutions and the society that had given them their advantages. In matters of appearance and custom, they were much like the older generations. [. . .] But they sensed and responded to the new generation's desire for a more just social order, what Brewster in his inaugural address called the yearning of the young "to be involve in something more meaningful than inherited patterns of success."
When the members of this new, liberal establishment came to positions of responsibility in the 1960s, their background conditioned their responses to the urban and racial crises, the trauma of the Vietnam War, and the alienation of the younger generation. None of them could have kept aloof from the problems of the 1960s even if they had wanted to. The disruption provoked by the era kept bubbling up into their spheres of politics, education, administration, diplomacy, philanthropy, and religion. Their responses followed similar patterns, for reasons that had to do with background and temperament, and the interactions among the elites.(The bit about "ingrained upper-class traits" and "the aura of natural superiority" infuriating "even some of the people they helped" I suspect helps explain much of Gottfried's continued compulsion to trash Yale "WASPs" 40+ years after he left.)
Most important, perhaps, was the fact that Brewster and his friends though of themselves as society's guardians: modern leaders of the country's institutions, who had national responsibilities and tried to take a national perspective. As their conception of the national interest changed during the 1960s, they responded in ways that many other leaders, and people who shared their background, did not. At their best, these men held out the promise that they could overcome the flaws and prejudices of their fathers' generation while retaining the positive attributes of that old WASP elite. Their supporters praised them as pragmatic idealists, while their enemies damned them as oppressors or as traitors to their class.
[. . .] Subsequent years have not been kind to the reputations of the members of Brewster's establishment. When they are remembered at all, it is largely by their enemies, who recall them either as villains who promoted the Vietnam War or as social engineering elitists. Despite their best intentions, Brewster and his circle were divisive figures. They infuriated even some of the people they helped simply because of who they were, with their funny names, ingrained upper-class traits, polished intellects, high-minded liberalism, and the aura of natural superiority that derived, ironically, from the tradition of WASP leadership they helped undermine. "Vote for Elliot Richardson," read a bumper sticker printed by the Bostonian's electoral opponents, "he's better than you." Guardianship is an alien concept to most Americans, and the members of the establishment provoked a fierce resentment of liberals, intellectuals, and the like that continues to drive current poltiics.
Who shaped these men's "conception of the national interest [. . .] during the 1960s"? For that matter, where did they pick up their liberalism in the first place? In Brewster's case, at least, it certainly wasn't from his father:
Brewster [Sr.], described by one acquaintance as "a crustacean McKinleyite Republican," entertained many members of Congress at his Catoctin retreat. [. . .] Brewster's politics, however, were too extreme to be openly expressed in the mainstream GOP. His anti-Communism was so rabid and sweeping that his son remembered that "if I were considerate enough to visit him in Washington with a friend whose parents were somehow associated with the Roosevelt administration, it was natural that he should refer quite regularly to my 'Communist friends.'" [. . .] Brewster's political opinions and his business contacts with Germany led the FBI to start a file on him. While various information testified that he admired the Nazi system and claimed to have met personally with Hitler on visits to Germany, the FBI's investigation revealed little aside from the fact that "BREWSTER possessed a great hatred for Jews and regarded them with suspicion at all times.""WASPs" indeed were not monolithic in political opinion (whereas Jews were quite monolithic in their desire to tear down America as a "WASP" country).
Brewster's views on race and religion were perhaps most fully expressed in the works of his good friend the eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard, who believed that Anglo-Saxon civilization and America's ancestral purity were under threat from inferior races. Stoddard was, like Brewster, a Harvard Law School graduate and sometime resident of Brookline, Massachusetts. (Brookline was, not coincidentally, the location of the nation's first country club.) Stoddard's works included evocative titles such as The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy and The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-Man.
American society, according to Brewster and Stoddard, was a racial aristocracy under threat [. . .] Many upper-class East Coast gentlemen shared the view that snobbery and racial exclusion were necessary to preserve their elite culture, even if they stopped short of Stoddard's conclusion that "race cleansing is the obvious starting-point for race betterment." Although Brewster's virulent racial opinions were welcome in polite society, most of his peers expressed themselves in more decorous terms. [. . .]
Brewster Sr. was a strikingly handsome man, with a magnetic appeal to women. He was married five times, although the legality of several of those unions was questionable. [. . .] Kingman Jr. recalled that at his father's funeral, it was his role to keep the wives apart; they were all still fond of him.
Kingman Jr. once told an interviewer that he had been "terrified" of the father who had given him "a stepmother in every port." [. . .] The son detested his father's fascism and ultraconservatism, and so kept some distance. [. . .]
Kingman Sr.s paranoid racism, extreme anticommunism, and unbridled hatred of Franklin Roosevelt reflected an entire class's inability to cope with drastic change.
Some members of Kingman Jr.'s generation adopted the reactionary outlook of their fathers. Others turned against their class and toward communism and other radical philosophies. But Brewster and his cohorts in the liberal establishment would seek to change in order to preserve, in FDR's well-known formulation.