Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck
New York: Penguin, 2016
The unfairly neglected American modernist composer Carl Ruggles once scolded an audience member who was loudly expressing his disapproval during a performance of a piece of music by Charles Ives by standing up, turning to him, and telling him to “shut up and listen like a man.” While this anecdote might be apocryphal, it nonetheless expresses a feeling that many White Nationalists experience every day and will certainly mutter to themselves if they bother to read the recent book by Adam Cohen on eugenics during the American Progressive Era and, in particular, the famous 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell.
Mr. Cohen is a Jewish former New York Times editorial board member and current co-editor of the National Book Review. The author’s tribalist pearl-clutching comes through frequently: regular expressions of moral disgust reside side-by-side with historical fact and there is scant investigation into any of the basic claims made by eugenicists in support of their efforts. Additionally, as one would expect from a Jewish author, anti-white (especially anti-Southern white) bigotry abounds. The book is little more than a smear campaign against eugenicists generally and against the individuals involved in the Carrie Buck case specifically. While it seems clear that there were some irregularities involved and likely some instances of unethical behavior, Mr. Cohen’s hysterical take on the matter does little to further any intelligent, rational investigation into the larger issues at stake. But, of course, it isn’t supposed to.
The book is a work of popular history: it reads like a literary narrative and is aimed at an audience unfamiliar with the theoretical intricacies and nuances of Progressive thought. The language is sometimes baldly inaccurate, e.g. referring to Progressives as liberals when they demonstrate what the author believes to be “good thoughts” and as conservatives when they demonstrate “bad thoughts.” This is obviously an act of deception in order to suggest an unbroken continuum between Progressives and the very often radically divergent contemporary “progressive” movement. This is not a minor quibble. Indeed, it is a perfect example of Jewish culture-distortion and political propaganda disguised as history. The proper terminology could easily have been explained and used in order to provide clarity to the political dynamics under discussion but it was not. Critical readers would do well to keep such things in mind whenever reading anything, but especially works of popular history because these authors are often the very worst offenders. That having been said, the book is technically well-written, generally well-researched, and is certainly an intriguing story of one particular case study in the practice of eugenics in America.
As discussed in a previous piece for Counter-Currents here, the Progressive Era was a period in American history in which racial interests were of utmost importance. Concerns over race-suicide and race-degeneration undergirded most of the issues that Progressives advocated. As immigrants increasingly flooded onto American shores, Progressives became keenly aware of the damage they were doing to the American way of life. The importation of non-whites was seen as race-suicide, an obvious and preventable form of demographic death. The concept of race-degeneration was a bit more challenging to elucidate, fraught as it was with moral issues and the question of intraracial ethnic hierarchies, but generally encompassed anything seen as being detrimental to the genetic stock of white American citizens. For Progressives, these were very real problems that could be solved be the expert application of biological and social science through the utilization of the power of an administrative state. The idea to sterilize those considered “feeble-minded” was one such proposal to remedy the problems of race-degeneration. Efforts to legally codify sterilization and other eugenic measures became ideological and legal battlegrounds.
The influence of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, and a large cadre of German-educated American intellectuals, who viewed society as an “organism” in which the individual was less important than the collective (as opposed to the historically dominant strain of Anglo-American liberalism), helped create an intellectual climate in which concerns about the racial future of America were discussed openly and unapologetically. Many of the brightest minds in the country were very concerned about how race and intelligence would affect the future prospects of American civic life. In addition to vigorous anti-immigration efforts, voter restriction laws, and other methods of keeping America a majority white nation, the effect of genetic degeneration within the extant white population was seen as crucial. Numerous eugenic societies sprung up and many advocates for eugenics sought ways to enact their proposals. These efforts were often successful. A number of states passed sterilization laws, although they were frequently challenged in the courts. What eugenicists needed was a decisive legal win which would recognize the right of states to sterilize certain groups of people. That is to say, they needed an airtight case that would make it to the Supreme Court. They found one in Virginia in the person of Carrie Buck, an inmate of the state’s Colony of Epileptics and Feeble-Minded.
In his introduction, Mr. Cohen addresses some of the reasons behind the advocacy of sterilization mentioned above. However, he pathologizes these very real concerns in typical Jewish fashion: he describes the scientific and social concern with race among Americans as “mania,” as “panic,” and as “fear” (pp. 2-6). While the term “fear” is not inaccurate, it is used by the author in the sense of a phobia rather than a rational response to a demonstrably rapidly changing society. And, as would be expected, he is particularly concerned with efforts to limit Jewish immigration. He writes that eugenicists “offered what purported to be scientific evidence, including intelligence tests claiming that between 40 and 50 percent of Jewish immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were mentally defective” (p. 5). Mr. Cohen’s own fear of laws concerning race and racial health animates the entire book.
The author dissects the Carrie Buck case in order to convince his readers that they should be terrified of those people who understand that race is one of the primary forces of history and who believe that it should be treated as matter-of-factly as any other element of social life. He couches this distinctly Jewish anxiety in classical liberal language: “equal rights for all requires not only good government officials but also enlightened and fair-minded professional classes, nonprofit organization, and educational institutions” (p. 7). But who is good, enlightened, and fair-minded in Mr. Cohen’s view? Mostly only deracinated egalitarians. He makes this clear by connecting the Carrie Buck case to other Supreme Court cases spanning a long period of time with rulings that he views as insufficiently “enlightened”: Dred Scott, Homer Plessy, Fred Korematsu (a challenge to World War II-era Japanese internment), and Michael Hardwick (a challenge to Georgia’s anti-sodomy laws). And lest any reader remain unconvinced of the evils of white government, he feels duty-bound to write: “. . . at the Nuremberg trials that followed World War II, Nazis who had carried out 375,000 forced eugenic sterilizations cited Buck v. Bell in defense of their actions” (p. 11). His implicit message is that anyone who believes in race science and thinks that it is a justifiable concern of the state necessarily supports putting people in camps and telling homosexuals that they cannot have sex in their own homes. His purported thesis, however, is that the “ancient principle of justice teaches that the purpose of the law is to ensure that the strong do not harm the weak. The state of Virginia, and the eugenicists who were in league with it, insisted that the strong must harm the weak — and that it was the law’s duty to help” (pp. 13-14).
In chapter one, entitled “Carrie Buck,” Mr. Cohen provides detail on Carrie’s background. She was born in 1906 in Charlottesville, Virginia to a poor family. Her grandfather had been a property owner (including slaves), but had suffered economically and abandoned his wife and children. His son, Frank, was a struggling tinner when he married Emma Harlowe, a woman from another poor family. This union produced Carrie. Frank, like his father before him, abandoned his wife and left Emma alone with Carrie. She had two children out of wedlock in her years living on the streets, during which time she probably working as a prostitute (pp. 15-20). Her daughter, Carrie, came into contact at some point with John Dobbs, a policeman, who petitioned the courts to take charge of her. Soon Carrie was living with the Dobbs family and attending school. According to school records and anecdotal evidence, Carrie “performed well” (p. 21), a crucial piece of evidence upon which Mr. Cohen makes his case against her later sterilization.
When Carrie was 14, her mother was confined to the Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded after having been found guilty of breaking some law, possibly vagrancy or prostitution. Upon her arrival at the colony, she was found to be suffering from a variety of ailments, including syphilis and she showed indications that she had been an intravenous drug user. She was also given the Binet-Simon intelligence test, which was used to determine that her IQ was 50 — that of a “moron” (pp. 22-23). Four years later, the Dobbs family decided that Carrie, now pregnant, was showing signs of feeble-mindedness and requested that she be taken off their hands and placed in the same colony as her mother. This request was, in due course, granted by the state using the same criteria it had with Carrie’s mother.
Mr. Cohen spends the rest of the chapter arguing against the merits of the Binet-Simon test. He writes that it was not designed by its creators to measure intelligence but only to identify children that needed help in French classrooms (pp. 30-31). That may be so, but to suggest that a scientific innovation can only be used correctly if applied to the specific problem for which it was originally intended is remarkably absurd. The man who brought the test to America was Henry Goddard, the famous psychologist and eugenicist who wrote the The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness which was published in 1912. He also ran a school for feeble-minded children in New Jersey. It was there that he discovered that the Binet-Simon test accurately predicted intelligence in the students. Dr. Goddard concluded that intelligence was hereditary and applied this knowledge in studies of both native and immigrant populations. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Cohen then lists the routine (and easily refutable) objections to intelligence tests, using cherry-picked detractors in his defense and certain flawed experiments to indict the entire field of research.
In chapter two, entitled “Albert Priddy,” Mr. Cohen investigates the superintendent of Virginia’s Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded. Dr. Priddy was a committed eugenicist. He believed that eugenic sterilization could improve the gene pool by “quickly and permanently [cutting] off mental defect at its source” (p. 37). Having been a successful doctor as well as a politician, he became devoted to the improvement of public mental health programs. Virginia had always been on the forefront of mental health issues, starting in 1773 with the creation of the America’s first lunatic asylum and so the intellectual climate was conducive to his efforts (pp. 38-39). He worked in various institutions until his 1910 appointment to the colony at which Carrie Buck would become an inmate.
In addition to providing a biography of Dr. Priddy, Mr. Cohen examines in this chapter the cultural context of the Progressive-era eugenics movement. He starts by arguing that there was, beginning in the early 1900s, a certain panic surrounding the idea of epilepsy. Though this fear dates back in time, it became a particular concern among Americans at the turn of the century. He does not specifically say why this was so but, presumably, he sees it as related to the concept of intelligence hierarchies in general, which he goes on to discuss. He refers to Herbert Spencer, Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin, and Francis Galton as contributing to the widespread intellectual discourse surrounding intelligence and its effects on populations. He does not however address in this discussion the huge societal shifts wrought by immigration and a relatively recently freed black population, both of which contributed to the fears of cultural destabilization among white Americans. Nor does he quote any of the numerous contemporaneous or current sources that demonstrate very real correlations between intelligence and crime or any other social problems.
Mr. Cohen describes Americans’ concern with feeble-mindedness as a “mania” (p. 55). He argues that eugenicists (white, native-born, middle-class Protestants) were “trying to build a nation in [their] own image” (p. 55). The author does not say what image he has of America at the time of its founding but, according to him, the rapid importation of immigrants and urbanization could not be prevented, and so the eugenicists turned their anxieties inwards. Why this transformation could not have been stopped is a question the author does not ask. Nor does he offer an explanation as to how he can acknowledge that white Protestant America was being destroyed immediately after suggesting that white Protestants were trying to “build” a white Protestant America. Also overlooked is the possibility that, had this transformation not occurred, perhaps the eugenicists would not have had to turn their efforts towards their own race in an effort to do something to prevent white displacement and degeneration. If eugenics is “bad,” then certainly the conditions that precede it and play a role in its ascendancy are in large part to blame for whatever harm it might cause.
The author goes into further detail about the spread of the eugenics movement prior to dealing specifically with the topic of sterilization. There are examples of the forcible castration of criminals going back to the mid-19th century but, by and large, the public found these distasteful and they met with little support. Doctors at mental hospitals sometimes performed their own sterilizations, but these placed the doctors themselves in a legal gray area. Eugenicists reacted to these failures by pursuing simple measures like marriage restrictions. This was a successful strategy, but such restrictions were nowhere close to bringing about the rapid social change the eugenicists sought. Their next major project was advocacy for segregated colonies of feeble-minded individuals but this too had its problems: cost and effectiveness. There simply was not enough money to segregate all those who posed a genetic threat. What was needed was something cheap and effective — and legally sanctioned. Thus began the passionate effort for legal sterilization (pp. 62-77).
Chapter three is also entitled, “Albert Priddy.” In it the author returns to Dr. Priddy’s biography, detailing his efforts to enact sterilization legislation. He teamed up with a group of other doctors to lobby for “a combination of segregation and sterilization, which he called the ‘clearing house’ model” (p. 79). The goal was to bring young women deemed to have hereditary defects into a segregated colony in which they would receive education and training before being sterilized and released back into the public. One of his partners in this was a Dr. William Drewry who, having run the state hospital for black patients, saw feeble-minded blacks as a particularly dangerous threat to the population of Virginia (p. 80). Dr. Priddy and his partners enlisted the services of a Virginia state senator named Aubrey Strode to draft sterilization legislation and to act as lawyer for the colony. The law was passed and took effect in 1916. Soon after, it met with a challenge from an inmate who accused Dr. Priddy of sterilizing her without her consent. Based on the evidence presented by Mr. Cohen, it does seem likely that he had actually done so. Even before the law was passed, Dr. Priddy had performed sterilizations under the guise of medical necessity in order to avoid legal trouble. Though he won the case, the judge forbade him from performing further sterilizations until the then current, ambiguously-worded law could be changed (pp. 81-83). The Virginian eugenicists had to go back to the drawing board.
Here the author questions the eugenicist credentials of Aubrey Strode. Some evidence points to the possibility that he attempted to surreptitiously sabotage the efforts of Dr. Priddy et al. He initially urged his clients not to even bother drafting the legislation because, in other states, these laws were rejected by both legislatures and the public. He also noted that when these laws were passed they were usually struck down by the courts (p. 85). But, against his advice, his clients pushed forward. Mr. Strode accommodated them and began to read literature written by Harry Laughlin, a prominent evangelist for eugenics. He based his legal draft on Dr. Laughlin’s “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law,” although he greatly reduced the number of categories of people eligible for sterilization, leaving just the insane, the feeble-minded, and epileptics (pp. 86-87).
That Mr. Strode rejected numerous categories of people that Dr. Laughlin argued should be sterilized might indicate that he was trying to temper possible excess on the part of eugenicists. His law also added a condition that any sterilization procedure had to be in the best interest of the patient. This was the only time a sterilization proposal contained such language (p. 87). Additionally, Mr. Strode’s draft limited sterilization to inmates of state hospitals only, something that Dr. Laughlin had argued against for rather obvious reasons: if the goal was to improve the genetic stock of America as soon as possible, why restrict its application in such a way? The author also notes that Mr. Strode was absent from the legislature on the day of the vote — “hardly the act of a man who thought the state desperately needed eugenic sterilization to save itself from ruin” (p.89). Regardless, the law passed. Sterilizations, however, were intentionally not performed until Dr. Priddy and his supporters could create a test case that they could take to the Supreme Court.
Carrie Buck seemed the perfect candidate: she came from a bad family, was an unwed mother, had been diagnosed as feeble-minded, and was young enough to be able to have children for many years to come. The first step was to have a hearing with the colony’s Special Board of Directors. Robert Shelton had been appointed by the court to act as Carrie’s guardian throughout the hearing. Mr. Cohen argues that he was possibly known to Dr. Priddy and thus hardly fitting as a guardian, which seems likely based on evidence presented in the book. But this appears to be merely one of a number of minor and major deceptions put forth in order to sterilize Carrie.
Dr. Priddy lied to the board about not knowing who Carrie’s father was, lied about evidence that Carrie’s newborn child was feeble-minded, and possibly lied about Carrie being feeble-minded herself. School records indicate that she did averagely well, and had made it to the sixth grade (pp. 94-95). According to Mr. Cohen, Carrie was never informed as to what the case was even about although, having sat through it all without offering an opinion either way when asked by the judge about her “operation,” it certainly doesn’t seem as if Carrie was particularly bright (p. 96). Dr. Priddy won the decision and Mr. Shelton immediately filed an appeal, which was exactly what was desired by the eugenicists. The appeal trial was scheduled for November 18, 1924. Mr. Shelton hired Irving Whitehead to act as Carrie’s lawyer, a man who had close social associations with Dr. Priddy and the others involved with the attempt to sterilize Carrie. He had even served on the colony’s board when it named Dr. Priddy as superintendent (p. 98). With a lawyer and a date in place, what the eugenicists needed was the testimony of an expert in the field to argue for their cause. The perfect man for the job was Harry Laughlin.
In chapter four, entitled “Harry Laughlin,” the author examines the biography of Dr. Laughlin, the spread of eugenics arguments, and immigration restrictionism. Dr. Laughlin was the superintendent of the highly influential Eugenics Records Office, “a gathering place for eugenics scientists and a training ground for eugenics field researchers” as well as a “clearinghouse for public educational materials and . . . a repository for eugenics records” (p. 103). He had also been a special adviser to Congress during the period before the enactment of the Immigration Act of 1924, which used eugenic arguments to bar certain groups of people from being admitted to the United States. Following this legal victory, he returned to his true passion: spreading the idea of sterilization to Americans and “affirming the constitutionality of eugenics sterilization” (p. 104).
Dr. Laughlin, born in 1880, came from the small town of Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was the son of a professor and his wife, a religious woman known for her advocacy of women’s suffrage and prohibition. After graduating from college, Dr. Laughlin acted as a teacher, principal, and school superintendent at various places before becoming head (and only member) of the Department of Agriculture, Botany, and Nature Study at his alma mater, Truman State University, in Missouri (pp. 105-106). It was here that he acquired a special interest in breeding, which led to correspondence and friendship with the biologist and eugenicist Dr. Charles Davenport, a highly successful academic who abandoned his university career to become the director of the Station for the Experimental Study of Evolution located in Cold Springs Harbor, Long Island in 1904 and who would then found the Eugenics Records Office in 1910.
Dr. Davenport had very influential connections and was able to secure sizeable donations for his project. He was in contact with Francis Galton as well as leading American scholars, and was an influential member of the American Breeders’ Association, which enabled him to gather a high-powered team of support. When Dr. Davenport approached Dr. Laughlin to act as superintendent of the Eugenics Records Office, the latter eagerly accepted. Both men shared a passion for eugenics and had similar views on race, generally of a Nordicist variety. Here Mr. Cohen cannot help himself but to compare the Eugenics Records Office with the German Society for Racial Hygiene. Though the comparison is indeed apt, the only reason one would choose to mention it in a book about an American eugenics case is in an attempt to slander American eugenicists with guilt by association. If an author wants to create an aura of evil around something anywhere in the world, the easiest thing to do is find something analogous in Germany prior to the mid-20th century. It is tiresome, unoriginal, and unscholarly but effective.
The Eugenics Records Office trained researchers, conducted research, published reports, provided manuals for grassroots eugenics activists, advised on genealogical research, and participated in the screening process at Ellis Island (pp. 115-16). Between his work with the Eugenics Records Office and the American Breeders’ Association, Dr. Laughlin was at the forefront of the eugenics crusade. In 1914, he was invited by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the brother of the founder of the Kellogg Company) to address the First National Conference on Race Betterment in Battle Creek, Michigan, a highly-attended and influential eugenics conference. Numerous ideas of interest to eugenicists were addressed: criticism of laissez-faire, home cleanliness, sterilization, euthanasia (which was rejected as morally reprehensible), alcoholism, criminality, and, of course, feeble-mindedness (pp. 117-21).
After this conference, Dr. Laughlin took a few years off and received his master’s degree and, finally, a doctorate in science from Princeton University in 1918. He then returned to the Eugenics Records Office and continued his work with as much gusto as before. He made connections with even more eugenicists, including a close friendship with Madison Grant, author of the famous work The Passing of the Great Race. Here again Mr. Cohen takes time compare Drs. Grant and Laughlin to Nazis. Interestingly, however, the author mentions that their opposition to Jewish immigration and negative opinions of Jews, freely expressed in private correspondence, were generally kept under wraps publicly because the “Eugenics Records Office relied on financing from organizations and individuals who might not want to be associated with virulent racism and anti-Semitism” (p. 124). Describing one letter between the two men, the author writes that it had been written “shortly before the Nazis took power in Germany” (p. 125). Apparently, private correspondence written in America merely around the time of the rise of National Socialism in Germany is a stain on the character of its authors — a potentially monumental innovation in the field of history!
Mr. Cohen spends some time discussing anti-immigration efforts during this era, spending a disproportionate amount of time on Jews. The author deliberately and falsely labels anti-immigrationists as “conservative.” He quotes, for example, Albert Johnson, a Republican from Tacoma, Washington, who chaired the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, as having said that he wanted “a heavy reduction of immigration by any means possible” (p. 130). Though Mr. Cohen carefully notes that Mr. Johnson had blond hair and blue eyes, he fails to note that Republicans from that era were ideologically very different from contemporary Republicans. He also fails to address the high prevalence of anti-immigration sentiment on the Left, instead focusing only on upper class academics and “WASPs.” But Mr. Cohen, as to be expected, has a personal and tribal interest in half-truths and deception.
In this part of the book he also shows, without explicitly saying so, that much of the resistance to anti-immigration efforts came from Jews. He notes that the Jewish anthropologist Franz Boas resigned from the American Breeders’ Association over their advocacy of eugenics-based immigration restrictions. He also quotes Samuel Dickstein, a Jewish congressman from New York as having said that Congress was “infected with the germ of the Nordic superior race theory” (p. 133). Towards the end of this chapter, Mr. Cohen bemoans the fact that Jewish immigration to the United States “fell from 190,000 in 1920 to 43,000 in 1921, and just 7,000 in 1926” (p. 135). But in the final paragraph of the chapter, he brings his message home: the immigration restrictions advocated by eugenicists kept “victims of Nazism” out of the United States, including one Otto Frank, his wife Edith, and his daughters, Margot and — Anne (p. 135).
Continuing his odd pattern of using the same titles for different chapters, chapter five is also entitled “Harry Laughlin.” In it, the author continues his biography of Dr. Laughlin and finally addresses his role in the Carrie Buck trial. The biographical aspect of the chapter is essentially just a continuation of that which has been discussed above. The author discusses Dr. Laughlin in relation to the Progressive Era concepts of race suicide and race degeneration (although he does not use the term “Progressive”). The only new information of real interest presented here is the fact that Dr. Laughlin himself was an epileptic, a category of people many eugenicists, including Dr. Laughlin, believed should be sterilized. It is important to note that Dr. Laughlin and his wife never had children, which, while never addressed by Dr. Laughlin, seems almost certainly to have been a demonstration of his personal commitment to the ideas he advocated.
In September 1924, Aubrey Strode wrote to Dr. Laughlin in order to ask him to be an expert witness for Dr. Priddy and his team. Considering that his life’s mission was to make sterilization of defectives legal and socially acceptable, Dr. Laughlin was excited for this opportunity. Soon he was corresponding with Mr. Strode and Dr. Priddy in order to gather information on the Buck family, the legal case itself, and to exchange ideas on eugenics generally. Both men had much on common. Unfortunately, Dr. Laughlin was provided with the same somewhat flimsy and disingenuous family history that Dr. Priddy presented at the earlier hearing in front of the colony board. He also never got the chance to meet Carrie or her mother in person. The author uses this in his attempt to smear Dr. Laughlin but it is clear that he did the best he could with the information provided. Whatever incorrect information or distortions of fact that were contained in Dr. Laughlin’s written testimony resulted from errors on the part of Dr. Priddy, who clearly seemed more concerned with winning his case for sterilization than with providing “justice” to Carrie. Because Dr. Laughlin could not make it to the trial in person, he suggested to Mr. Strode that his colleague, Arthur Estabrook, another prominent eugenicist, would be willing to make the trip. This trial was crucial. If appealed, the evidence presented in it would be used in the Supreme Court case. which was the ultimate goal (pp. 152-59).
Chapter six, entitled “Aubrey Strode,” provides more biographical detail on the lawyer at the center of the Carrie Buck case and moves into a discussion of the trial. Born into an old Virginian family in 1873, he was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1899 after less than six months of law school. He found quick success by taking all sorts of cases, refusing to limit himself to one particular specialty. He quickly gained the reputation of being one of the state’s best lawyers. Soon he became interested in politics. In 1905, he ran for state senate as a “Progressive Democrat” (p. 166). He was, in fact, a typical Progressive: he supported public education, argued for a tax increase on the wealthy, and the improvement in the state’s infrastructure (pp. 166-67). In his description of Mr. Strode’s political beliefs, the author once again tries to make the facts fit his own narrative: “Strode presented himself . . . as a progressive on every major issue except one: race” (p. 167). For Progressives, race was a fundamental concern. It affected their thinking on every major issue the country faced. But Mr. Cohen simply cannot let the reader know this, and so Mr. Strode’s support for Jim Crow and other very common Progressive issues, such as voter restrictions, is presented as having resulted from Mr. Strode’s “Southern-ness” rather than his “Progressive-ness.” It is interesting to note that one of the reasons Mr. Strode wanted to reduce the number of black votes in Virginia is because blacks were used as tools by corrupt politicians. He argued that when blacks voted heavily, corruption was rampant (pp. 167-68). Mr. Strode won the election and added politician to his list of accomplishments.
After having served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps during World War I, and after having lost two elections for political office, Mr. Strode decided to return to law full time. His timing could not have been better. Dr. Priddy, with whom he had worked in aid of the colony while in the state senate, utilized him to draft the state’s first sterilization law, which was passed in 1924. Mr. Strode, despite having a hand in its success, advised Dr. Priddy and the other state hospitals, however, not to perform any sterilizations before assembling a test case.
In chapter seven, also entitled “Aubrey Strode,” the author begins the story of the Virginia trial. The eugenicists had a strong case: they had multiple doctors from the colony asserting that Carrie was worthy of sterilization, as well as the expert testimony of Dr. Laughlin and Dr. Estabrook, who was to appear in person. Dr. Estabrook was able to examine Carrie’s daughter, Vivian, whom he had determined was also feeble-minded. A witness list was also compiled containing “schoolteachers, social workers, and neighbors who knew Carrie and her family — on both her mother’s and her father’s sides” (p. 181). On November 18, 1924, the case of Buck v. Priddy began.
Mr. Strode began with the witnesses, each of whom recounted examples of the low character of Carrie’s entire family. Mr. Cohen argues that Carrie’s lawyer, Irving Whitehead, missed numerous chances to ask pertinent questions of the witnesses, including whether they believed environment played a factor in the behavior and character of the Buck family. Mr. Cohen points out numerous problems with various witnesses’ testimonies, including answers to questions that differed from those given at the colony board hearing. The answers given at trial worked in favor of Dr. Priddy. A large portion of the trial also involved the discussion of heredity generally and the ramifications of sterilization on populations. Mr. Cohen details various responses from Dr. Estabrook and others and gives his opinion as to how Mr. Whitehead should have responded had he been truly on Carrie’s side — most of which amounts to questions concerning environment and intelligence versus genetics and intelligence. At one point, when questioned about Dr. Estabrook’s determination that Carrie’s half-brother was feeble-minded despite never having examined him personally, his response was that he had “gathered information” (p. 193). The gathering of information by an expert in eugenics is insufficient for Mr. Cohen who returns to a quote he used earlier in the book by the Jewish anti-eugenicist Abraham Myerson calling one of Dr. Estabrook’s books “absurd and useless” (p. 193). Mr. Cohen, like so many Jews and Judaized intellectuals, rejects (perhaps only outwardly) the notion that pattern determination and data collection are valid ways of discerning truths about human populations.
On the day that it began, the trial was over. The core arguments were: that Carrie Buck was feeble-minded; that the feeble-minded were a threat to society; that feeble-mindedness was hereditary; that Carrie should be sterilized for her own benefit (it would enable her to leave the colony and be a productive member of society; and, most importantly, that sterilization would bring about dramatically positive social change. Mr. Cohen argues that Mr. Whitehead could have at the very least brought up Carrie’s school records, which demonstrated that she performed adequately, in her defense. This is doubtless true. He could have and, from a strictly liberal ethical point of view, probably should have. But what the author either is unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge is that, for Progressives — which these men most certainly were — the individual mattered far less than the society. If Carrie herself had to be sacrificed for the greater good, there would have been no conflict in these men’s minds.
On January 13, 1925, Dr. Priddy died from Hodgkin’s disease. Just a few weeks later, the verdict was announced: Dr. Priddy had won his case. Mr. Shelton once again appealed, with Mr. Whitehead again acting as Carrie’s lawyer. Dr. Priddy’s successor at the colony was Dr. John Bell, another sterilization advocate, who agreed to sign on to the case (p. 202). Buck v. Bell was born. Mr. Cohen again argues that Mr. Whitehead deliberately failed to provide an adequate defense of Carrie while Mr. Strode had compiled a formidable case. New to this particular trial was Mr. Strode’s assertion that sterilization was a question of judicial restraint, i.e., it should be a decision for legislatures alone. He wrote: “A large discretion is vested in the legislature to determine what the interests of the people require” (p. 206). This too is typical of Progressive thinking but Mr. Cohen fails to explain that. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision on November 12, 1925.
The author ends the chapter by expressing his special contempt for Mr. Strode, who Mr. Cohen argues was not a true believer in eugenics and could have spoken out against his clients at any point and quite possibly have had the entire process shut down. Instead he urged his clients to continue to refrain from sterilizations until the case could make it to the Supreme Court, which it did in the spring of 1927. The case was to be of great significance and involve one of America’s most respected men, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Unsurprisingly, chapter eight is entitled “Oliver Wendell Holmes.” In it Mr. Cohen provides a biography of the man in which he seeks to deconstruct his legacy as well as explain his role in shaping the result of Buck v. Bell. Typical Jewish antipathy towards old stock Americans (read whites) is on full display in this chapter, as is the language of “darkness” which permeates discussions about issues that run counter to Jewish interests.
Born in 1841 into a “Boston Brahmin” family, Mr. Holmes grew up not wealthy but “well born” (p. 216). He attended Harvard College, fought in the Civil War (in which he was spent three years and was shot three times), and in 1864 enrolled in Harvard Law School (p. 222). He worked as a lawyer, as a part-time lecturer at Harvard, and co-edited the American Law Review. He eventually began to write about law and, in his writings, demonstrated more of his worldview than he had previously. His thinking had Social Darwinist tendencies. Like Herbert Spencer, Mr. Holmes claimed that human existence was a selfish “struggle for life” (p. 226). He believed that the notion of preferring the greater good to the interests of intellectual elites was absurd. The interests of the elites were, most likely, the interests of the greater good anyway. As his thoughts drifted in this direction, his interest in Social Darwinism shifted towards eugenics — what Mr. Cohen describes as his “dark vision” (p. 226). It is important to note that, although often equated in the popular imagination, Social Darwinism and eugenics are not the same thing. Social Darwinism is an attempt to explain nature, while eugenics is an attempt to change nature. Eugenicists were often at odds with Social Darwinists, who tended to be laissez-faire capitalists who believed simply that the strong should rule the weak, while eugenicists were statists who believed that the state should help the weak by speeding up the process of natural selection in order to improve social conditions for the greater good. It is unclear whether the author understands the distinction, but if so he deliberately chooses to ignore it and conflate the two.
In dealing with Mr. Holmes’s career on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Mr. Cohen resorts again to describing his various positions as either conservative or liberal. Yet the author himself acknowledges that Mr. Holmes’s interest was primarily in judicial restraint, which is decidedly apolitical. He rejected the idea that judges should serve as legislators or concern themselves with what might be best for society (p. 230). According to Mr. Cohen, his time on the Supreme Judicial Court was an unhappy one. He was bored by the cases he had to hear and longed to become a Supreme Court Justice. The opportunity came when Theodore Roosevelt nominated him, having been influenced by his connections with the “Boston Brahmins,” according to the author. His confirmation was unanimous and he began work on December 8, 1902 (pp. 231-33).
Some of Mr. Holmes’s opinions are troubling to the author. When Alabama tried to disenfranchise blacks, Mr. Holmes sided with the state. When the Supreme Court struck down Alabama’s debt-peonage law, he dissented, explaining that contracts should not be broken even if involving labor. He also voted with the majority when the Supreme Court upheld racial segregation at universities in Kentucky. When a Chinese woman who had lived in the United States for a long time as an American citizen was denied re-entry based on the Chinese exclusion acts, Mr. Holmes sided with the majority in saying that this was legal. Though the author frames these decisions as having resulted from racism on the part of Mr. Holmes. Though he surely thought in racial terms (as did most everyone at the time), the overriding picture is one of a prioritization of the legislature over the judiciary — a legal philosophy that is not contingent upon race or “racism” at all (pp. 233-37).
Mr. Holmes’s interest in eugenics began long before it became a popular subject among intellectuals. It was a subject hinted at in his writings as early as 1873 (p. 240). At various times and places, he indicated a belief that criminality was hereditary, that he was a devotee of Thomas Malthus, and that his problem with war was not that it killed men, but that it killed the wrong men (p. 241). He wrote with approval of “legislation that aims . . . to improve the quality rather than the quantity of the population” (p. 242). As the author notes, Mr. Holmes was famously uninterested in “causes” and “reforms,” but with eugenics he made an exception, which suggests the degree to which he believed in its tenets.
One particularly interesting thing about Mr. Holmes’s judicial opinions is an early tendency to rule for restrictions on free speech. He is the man who famously said that freedom of speech does not entail the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. However, when a Jewish anarchist from Russia was charged for distributing anti-war leaflets under the Espionage Act, Mr. Holmes did an abrupt about-face. He dissented in favor of the Jew. He also dissented when another Jew, Benjamin Gitlow, was charged with criminal anarchy for publishing a socialist newspaper (pp. 243-44). This would not be the first time that someone of note in American public life who had had a consistent ideological track record inexplicably changed course when Jewish interests were directly involved. Even Mr. Cohen acknowledges that one commonly held theory for this abrupt change is pressure from a group of his friends. Though he mentions their names he fails to add that included in this group were Felix Frankfurter and Harold Laski who were both Jews (p. 45). In a later dissent, Mr. Holmes argued that German schoolteachers in Nebraska could not teach their students in any language other than English. One cannot help but wonder whether Jewish influence played a part even in this opinion. Mr. Holmes’s judicial philosophy was famously one of moral neutrality. He tended to believe that legislatures, as the supposed will of the people, should be free to do as they wished. It is odd that this was not true in one major case that placed restrictions of ethnic Germans and two major cases involving Jews. However, Carrie Buck, unfortunately for her, was not a Jew. In the spring of 1927, her case headed to the Supreme Court.
In chapter nine, predictably entitled “Oliver Wendell Holmes,” the author discusses the Supreme Court case that Dr. Priddy and his associates had begun seeking years earlier. By 1927, eugenics had lost a bit of steam. Some of the original eugenicists were backtracking a bit, and some scientists were speaking out against it. The Jew Walter Lippmann, whom the author refers to as “arguably the nation’s leading public intellectual,” wrote a series of articles for the New Republic “eviscerating intelligence testing” (p. 253). The liberal lawyer Clarence Darrow (famous for the Scopes trial but forgotten for his defense of the Jewish thrill killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb) also spoke out against eugenics and even took a swipe at the “good old Mayflower stock” who supported it (p. 253). Nevertheless, Buck v. Bell had made it to the Supreme Court.
Throughout the book, Mr. Cohen repeats the same criticisms of Mr. Whitehead, Carrie’s lawyer. He makes it abundantly clear that Mr. Whitehead was not particularly concerned with providing a good defense for Carrie. This time in his brief for the Supreme Court, Mr. Whitehead even added a section on the history of eugenics in which he quoted from classical sources supporting the concept and arguing that “the idea of selective breeding is as old as recorded history” (p. 255). He did not challenge any of the misleading or false evidence that Dr. Priddy had given throughout the process. Mr. Strode, in turn, argued in the same way he had in the lower courts. Sterilization “fell squarely within the state’s ‘police power,’” and he offered the compulsory vaccination case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, as proof (p. 257). On April 27, the Supreme Court set the case down for oral arguments with William Howard Taft presiding (p. 258).
In the next section of the book, Mr. Cohen provides brief biographies of each Supreme Court justice. It is unnecessary to delve deeply into these here, but a few things need to be pointed out. Mr. Cohen, as to be expected, discusses the controversy surrounding the Woodrow Wilson appointment of the Jew Louis Brandeis. He also notes that James Clark McReynolds was “virulently anti-Semitic,” would leave the room when Mr. Brandeis was present, and refused to pose for the official court portrait due to Mr. Brandeis’s presence (p. 262). He describes the only Catholic on the court, Pierce Butler, as an anti-Semite and “a bigot, though a less foul-tempered one [than Reynolds]” (p. 264). He mentions that Willis Van Devanter had asked President Wilson at one point not to “afflict the court with another Jew” (p. 277). What the various justices’ views on Jews have to do with this case is anyone’s guess but, based on observable patterns within (Jewish) human populations — which the author decries — it is most likely an attempt to force the reader to associate American “conservatives” with Hitler.
Carrie Buck lost the trial and the right of states to sterilize the feeble-minded was guaranteed by the highest court in the land. The decision caused heated controversy across the country, as one would expect. Mr. Cohen discusses the verdict in the same manner as he did Mr. Whitehead’s legal defense strategy, or lack thereof. That is to say, he plays both armchair lawyer and psychoanalyst. He accuses Mr. Holmes of hypocrisy insofar as his judicial history had been one of skepticism towards reformist measures but, in this case, he supported the reformist eugenicists (no mention is made of whether hypocrisy played a role in the two cases mentioned earlier that involved Jewish interests). Mr. Cohen believes that this lack of concern for Carrie was the result of Mr. Holmes’s indifference to the common man: “He had learned from his father that they were part of a special caste whose refined physiognomy set them apart, and whose elevated intellect was ‘congenital and hereditary’” (p. 277).
As for the other justices, only one dissented: Pierce Butler, who did not write an opinion for some reason, but whose dissent is widely believed to have had something to do with his Catholic faith. Mr. Cohen argues that the other justices were either sympathetic to eugenics or held Social Darwinist beliefs. But what to make of Mr. Brandeis’s decision in favor of sterilization? He may have been sympathetic to eugenics “in the way many progressives of the era were — seeing it as a movement dedicated to using scientific advances and government policy to create a better world” (p. 278). Notice that here the word “progressive” rather than “conservative” is used to describe the Jewish justice. Also notice that the wording suggests that, for this justice, eugenics might have been seen as an attempt to “create a better world.” The sting of eugenics sympathy has been linguistically tempered by the author. No longer is eugenics the pure evil that it has been for nearly 300 pages. The implication is that, for the non-Jews involved, the creation of a better world was not what they sought. He also argues that Mr. Brandeis might have simply been trying to act as peacemaker and not rustle any feathers on the court. The Jewish justice who voted for sterilization might have only been trying benevolently to make everyone get along, while the others did it for purely for malevolently illiberal and “dark” reasons.
Chapter ten, entitled “Carrie Buck,” details the aftermath of the case. Carrie was indeed sterilized and was eventually freed from the colony’s control to live entirely independently. She managed to lead a relatively decent and productive life. She remained poor but worked, was married, and was described as a “kind, nice person” who “knew what she was doing” and had “nothing wrong with [her] mind” according to one employer (p. 294). When interest in her whereabouts and life story surfaced towards the end of her life, those who met her described her in similar fashion. While this all might be true, it could just as easily demonstrate that the “clearing house model” that Drs. Priddy and Laughlin believed in actually worked very well.
In his conclusion, Mr. Cohen describes the success of other sterilization measures around the country following the Buck v. Bell ruling. He discusses nationwide resistance among Catholics, who met with some success in certain locations. He also argues that sterilization laws affected poor women most frequently, which he attributes to class bias rather than any relationship between intelligence and financial success or intelligence and mental illness (p. 301). Then he returns to Nazi Germany in a predictable discussion of their race laws and eugenics efforts. Amazingly, he concludes his discussion of Nazis with a mention of the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg: “The Nazi lawyer then states triumphantly that [the words used in his defense] were those of ‘that great American jurist, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’” (p. 303). Though the author does mention that Otto Hoffmann, head of the SS Race and Settlement Office, did indeed cite Buck v. Bell in his defense, it was nowhere near as theatrical as the scene in the film (p. 303). But Mr. Cohen would rather end this section with a dramatic flourish — a simple quote from a real trial, however corrupt that trial may have been, would not suffice.
The author describes Dr. Laughlin’s admiration of Germany’s Sterilization Act of 1933 and other measures designed to protect the German racial stock. Mr. Cohen again returns to the private correspondence between Madison Grant and Dr. Laughlin. The latter wrote that he would like for there to be no Jews in the United States but that it was impossible. The next best option would be to keep the population already present from growing larger (p. 311). Dr. Laughlin was also opposed to allowing Jewish refugees from Germany into the country. He wrote that immigrants should only be welcomed if they are “desirable seed-stock of future American citizens . . . not because of persecution” (p.311). Dr. Laughlin’s views on Jews were known, despite efforts on his part to conceal them and caused problems for his financial backers. The Eugenics Records Office was effectively shut down and many eugenicists disavowed Nazi “atrocities.” Mr. Cohen seems to take delight in Dr. Laughlin’s fall from grace, ending this section by quoting from a term paper he had written as a young college student: “eventually the world will be inhabited by an enlightened race, Caucasian in blood, Christian in religion, and free in government” (p. 315). Dr. Laughlin died in 1943 – “a little more than a year after his country formally declared war on the German regime he admired so much” (p. 315). Mr. Cohen does not go into as much detail about the post-trial lives of the others involved in the case but they all seemed to have lived relatively uneventful lives until their deaths in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the last few pages of the book, Mr. Cohen warns that the pendulum might swing back in favor of eugenics. He mentions that the vice chairman of the Arizona Republican Party was “forced to resign after he publicly called for the sterilization of women on public assistance” (p. 320). He is also very concerned about the Human Genome Project: “it is already providing vast new amounts of data and insights about hereditary traits” (p. 320). We have already learned that the author believes that information about human populations is something that cannot — or, more accurately, should not — be discerned from data and observation, so any scientific information gathered about heredity is, for him, inherently dangerous. But lest the reader accuse Mr. Cohen of being as “anti-science” as “conservatives,” he ends the book with a reference to Charles Darwin: “We must allow the weak to ‘surviv[e] and propagat[e their kind,’ Darwin insisted. Doing anything less, he said, would mean abandoning not only the weak and the helpless but ‘the noblest part of our nature’” (p. 323).
However one feels about eugenics, it is hard not to see how anti-white ideology and Jewish manipulation is intimately connected to the debate. Facing a wave of dissimilar populations arriving on American shores and feeling that their country was being lost, white Americans turned at least some of their anxiety towards members of their own race. Had the country not been flooded with immigrants, sterilization of the “feeble-minded” might never have taken hold of the American imagination. The well-documented diminishment of social trust that accompanies racial diversity surely played a part in the turn towards radical methods of population control. Had the white nation that Dr. Laughlin sought been a reality, it is quite possible that Carrie Buck would not have been targeted for sterilization. Progressive reforms, including eugenics, were ultimately based on the belief that the preservation of white racial health and white demographics were worthy causes. Whatever degree of excess might have occurred in an effort to ensure a white American future was directly related to the changing demography of the country. If one feels that eugenics is immoral, as does the author, one should be vehemently opposed to its social preconditions so that it does not become a valid option again. But to oppose these preconditions is to oppose multiculturalism, something that benefits Jews, and so Mr. Cohen simply cannot do it.
As a Jew, Mr. Cohen finds no inconsistency in blaming whites for eugenics and for the conditions that brought it about. The bottom line is that whites are to blame for every action taken that conflicts with Jewish tribal interests. In the Jewish mind, whites are always on the wrong side of history and Jews are always on the right side — even when the “wrong side” is rooted in sound empirical evidence and rationality. And when a Jew somehow finds himself on the “wrong side,” as did Mr. Brandeis, it is overlooked or excused. This book is much more than an analysis of a particular legal case or one particular subject. It is a case study in how Jews manipulate data and language in order to make white racial interests seem evil and Jews seem like the ultimate arbiters of morality. As such, White Nationalists are morally obligated not to buy this book for any other reason than to condemn it on pro-white websites.
1. That Carl Ruggles was anti-Semitic might have something to do with his neglect — or perhaps it is merely a coincidence.
2. In a particularly amusing line, the author argues that social scientists had, since the late 18th century, begun “reframing the history — and future — of humanity in biological terms” (p. 45). One wonders if nautical or botanical terms would have been more appropriate. This is quintessential academic-style writing: it sounds vaguely intelligent but, ultimately, means next to nothing.
3. Dr. Laughlin’s hypothetical law also included the blind, the deaf, the deformed, criminals, the diseased, drunks, drug addicts, the homeless, and the poor, among others (p. 87).
4. The American Breeders’ Association is now known as the American Genetic Association and is still active. See their website: http://www.theaga.org/index.htm (accessed July, 26, 2016).
5. Mr. Cohen also scornfully recounts a comedic play put on for the members of the Eugenics Records Office and the surrounding community: “By the play’s end, the young women have learned, among other things, that Felix Rosenfeld, a money-hungry Jewish peddler, is not an appropriate eugenic choice” (p. 116).
6. See the full report on the conference, published in 1914, here: https://archive.org/details/proceedingsoffir14nati (accessed July 26, 2016).
7. Arthur Estabrook co-authored with Charles Davenport the book The Nam Family: A Study in Cacogenics and wrote a book called Mongrel Virginians: The Win Tribe, both studies based on the results of eugenics fieldwork. The latter was specifically devoted to studying the effects of race-mixing on a particular group of Virginians. Mr. Cohen quotes the Jewish anti-eugenicist and neurology professor at Tufts University, Abraham Myerson, as having said that the book was “really absurd and useless” (p. 157).
8. Compare and contrast “Progressives” with “progressives” of today. Is it any surprise that a Jewish author would resort to word games in order to confuse the issue?
The Fountainhead: 80 Years Later
The Stolen Land Narrative
Neema Parvini’s Prophets of Doom: Cyclical History as Alternative to Liberal Progressivism
The Matter with Concrete, Part 2
Paper Boy: The Life and Times of an Ink-Stained Wretch
Richard Hanania’s The Origins of Woke
The Matter with Concrete, Part 1
Plastic Patriotism: Propaganda and the Establishment’s Crusade Against Germany and German-Americans During the First World War