— Counter-Currents —

Madison Grant’s The Conquest of a Continent

Photo_of_Madison_Grant [1]3,112 words

Editor’s Note:

In honor of Banned Books Week, we are pleased to publish James Dunphy’s article on Madison Grant’s The Conquest of a Continent [2], a book targeted by the Anti-Defamation League to be stifled, lest it give white Americans “nativist” ideas.  

Most American History courses emphasize momentous events such as wars, treaties, technological advancements, and social changes. Apart from referencing the names of a few distinguished individuals, the people affected by these events are largely held as a constant, unchanging mass. In The Conquest of a Continent [2], Madison Grant examines the people who are overlooked in this view, i.e., the 99% whose names don’t make the textbooks. He examines them not as individuals but as members of racial groups.

According to Grant, the vast majority of pre-Civil War white immigrants came from England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. He traces their migrations across North America from two primary access points, New England and the Virginia Tidewater region. He often indicates which ethnic group serves as the majority founding population of a state. For instance, “compared with the Scotch Irish tone of Tennessee, Kentucky was overwhelmingly English” (146). He also details feeder populations from state to state. “Alabama is for the most part, the offspring of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee . . .” (184). Because he does this for every state, his descriptions become a bit tedious after a while. It seems modern video animations showing the trickle of this settlement on a map would demonstrate these movements more simply and efficiently.

In spite of the tedium, it’s interesting because the groups mentioned probably still form the baseline of white population in many of these areas. For instance, we may find proportionately more Scotch-Irish surnames in Tennessee than Kentucky. We may find French surnames among whites in Georgia who are partially descended from small groups of Huguenots who settled there prior to the Civil War. Modern white Americans are living testaments to the many European ethnic groups which traverse the North American continent in Grant’s book.

Grant identifies “land hunger” as the primary motivation for the trek westward. In England primogeniture, or the tradition of leaving one’s property to one’s eldest son, left many younger sons without an inheritance. Their best chance of acquiring land was to immigrate to America (303). American-born settlers continued to expand westward in part because “just as we speculate on stocks today . . . our ancestors speculated in lands on the frontier” (64).

Rapid population growth was the fuel behind this expansion. From 1790 to 1860 the American population is said to have grown from 3.25 million to 27.5 million, with 4.25 million immigrants arriving during said time (158). Despite substantial immigration, the majority of the increase was due to the founding stock’s high fertility rate. Early Americans married young. One colonist describes his twenty-year-old daughter as an “antique virgin” (136).

According to my calculations, the settlers’ birth rate must have been on par with sub-Saharan Africa’s birth rate over the past century, a time during which the population multiplied ten-fold. To think that there was a time when whites multiplied like Africans seems strange now given that nearly all white populations exhibit fertility rates below replacement level and sub-Saharan Africans continue to increase rapidly in number.

There’s nothing like subsistence farming to incentivize childbearing as more children means more farmhands. Prior to the Civil War the majority of Americans were farmers (80% in 1820). Sometimes they found themselves heavily in debt from having to borrow from banks to deal with fluctuating crop prices. The frontier offered a way for them to escape this burden. A heavily indebted farmer could sell his farm and effectively exchange it for a new one that he would clear with his own hand (168). He would have the potential to add value to the land on the frontier by clearing it and growing crops on it, whereas his ability to add value to his old farm was limited.[1] Thus the frontier served as a de facto debt-repudiating mechanism. Grant does not stipulate how common this phenomenon was, but he states the panic of 1819, which is regarded as the first American stock market crash, spurred it on.

As for the people losing end of this land redistribution, i.e., American Indians, Grant casts them as either impediments to white settlement or a danger to white lives. In other words, he simply takes the side of his race, citing many Indian tribes’ wildly sadistic torture practices[2] as evidence of their collective villainy. Still, he doesn’t view their living descendants at the time of the book’s publication in 1933 as problematic because of their low numbers (332,397) and infrequent miscegenation with the sort of upper-class whites Grant wishes to keep away from them. In any case, Grant holds American Indians in higher esteem than other nonwhite groups, and now that I think of it, American Indians received by far the most exuberant applause out of all minority groups at the Bernie Sanders rally I attended this spring.[3] Bernie fans have something in common with Madison Grant.

They would probably also agree with Grant that as whites conquered North America

The forests were cut down and the wild life destroyed. The Indians were evicted . . . [T]he once fertile soil of the Southern States greatly depleted through the reckless growing of tobacco and cotton. Waste was the order of the day in America. All this was perhaps inevitable, but never since Caesar plundered Gaul has so large a territory been sacked in so short a time. Probably no more destructive human being has ever appeared on the world stage than the American pioneer with his axe and his rifle (221).

It may seem odd that Grant would bemoan the largely Anglo-Scotch settlement of the continent in one breath and extol it in another. However, in a way he’s being consistent. He likes both Anglo-Scotch people and North America’s natural landscapes. He thus celebrates Anglo-Scotch gains and mourns nature’s losses. He grieves for the greenery that is gone and wants to conserve that which remains. Similarly, he mourns the loss of high “Nordic” majority that prevailed before the Civil War and wants to preserve the slight Nordic majority that existed in his day.

Grant introduces Nordics as a race of blondes from the Eurasia which settled among darker autochthones of Europe, leaving their traits in varying degrees among European groups.[4] It seems to be a shifting definition though because he uses the term “Nordic” as a synonym for Northwest Europeans later in the text. To get an idea of the specific European groups he deems to be Nordic, consult Jackson,[5] but suffice it to say that for Grant, Nordic territory includes Germany and Northern France along with everything to the north and west of said nations. However, he excludes Palatine Germans and Bavarians, claiming they are Alpine rather than Nordic. Although he classifies North Italians as primarily Alpine he describes them as desirable countrymen. However, for him other Italians are undesirable along with other “Mediterraneans.” Eastern Europeans are said to be Alpines but unlike North Italians not welcome. He excludes the Irish from being sufficiently Nordic, taking great pains to explain that only a few thousand early Americans were Irish Catholic.

According to Jackson, the reason he stresses the difference between Irish and Scotch-Irish is that the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 set European immigration quotas to 2% of an ethnicity’s existing US population in 1890. By claiming Scotch-Irish as Irish, the latter could get a lot more of their co-ethnics in the nation. Conquest was partly Grant’s effort to rebut these attempts.[6]

New York City was the scene of intense rivalry between Irish immigrants and Protestant Nativists from 1840 to 1865. Grant’s Protestant parents undoubtedly experienced this, and it seems to me that this may have influenced him to oppose the Irish so strongly.

Grant’s account of the spread of post-Civil War immigration can be summed up as mourning for cities where Alpines and Mediterraneans have settled and celebrating states like Indiana where the old American stock remained in relatively high majority. Despite his bias it’s still interesting to discover where European groups settled.

Grant likes Nordic immigrants from North Germany and Scandinavia whom he lauds for gravitating agriculture:

This tendency to agricultural life and to prompt and whole-hearted Americanism has made the great body of Scandinavian immigrants one of the most valuable that America has received. (230)

However, this seems tendentious to me because in his first book, The Passing of the Great Race, he states that

[t]he Nordics are, all over the world, a race of soldiers, sailors, adventurers and explorers, but above all, of rulers, organizers and aristocrats in sharp contrast to the essentially peasant and democratic character of the Alpines.[7]

So in his mind agricultural life is valuable if Nordic Scandinavians do it and piteously peasant-like if Alpines do it. I suppose one could argue that the sort of 20th-century factory work many “Alpine” immigrants did is the equivalent of 19th-century peasant farming, but farming in Grant’s day farming was not exactly akin to being an explorer. Moreover, Spanish and Portuguese explorers colonized South and Middle America, and Grant would classify them as Mediterranean, so exploration is not patently Nordic.

Given the sorts of arguments between whites Conquest may instigate, one can see why Greg Johnson believes Nordicism and subracial chauvinism may cause division among whites living in former colonial societies and distract them from organizing along viable racial lines.[8] While on a personal level it’s natural to associate with to a greater extent with people who are in one’s subracial type, on a political level the only viable racial nationalism for whites in North America is white nationalism.

Grant is sort of a hybrid between a Nordic nationalist and white nationalist. He favors revoking the citizenship of blacks and keeping it from other nonwhites.

The law of 1790 providing that no one could become a citizen of the United States except free Whites was the law until the aftermath of the Civil War added the word “black” or “of African descent” to those who could be naturalized. This last provision should be repealed and the blacks with the South American and Central American Indians put on the same footing as the Orientals [who are ineligible for citizenship]. (349)

He supports segregation of blacks (287) and deporting noncitizens of whom there were 5 million, most of whom would be considered non-Nordic whites (350). However this would leave many non-Nordic white citizens still in the nation of about 120 million people. One cannot know whether Grant would let them stay if he had absolute power, but at least so far as we know he doesn’t favor outright deportation of non-Nordics and is thus a sort of Nordic-majority nationalist.

The United States is no longer 99 per cent Protestant, as it was in 1790; but it is still 80 per cent Protestant. Its white inhabitants are no longer 90 per cent Nordic, as after the Revolution; but they are still 70 per cent Nordic. Its future course must be guided in the light of a consideration of these facts (279).

His language is sort of open-ended, and one could interpret it to mean that he wants the percentage Nordic to go back to being 90%. He recommends eugenics measures which he suggests will fall more heavily on non-Nordic whites, but it seems doubtful that he thought eugenics laws would significantly impact those populations because they pertained only to a very small percentage of people. What is certain is that he wanted to allow non-Nordics to continue to live in America.

Near the end Grant provides an overview of racial conditions on the South American Continent along with Central America. Keeping with his thesis that “the character of a country depends on the racial character of the men and women who dominate it” he views nations populated predominantly by whites as having the greatest prospects for economic development. He calls Chile a “white man’s country filled with progressiveness and prosperity.” Argentina is “first rank” among South American nations, having an “ultra-modern civilization” and only 5% nonwhites. Uruguay is “a cosmopolitan nation nearly almost wholly of European origin.” If we fast forward to 2014, we see Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay are ranked first, second, and third respectively in GDP per capita according to the IMF. Modern genetic analysis shows they have the highest average European admixture of South American nations, being at 81%-61%, 79%, and 92%-65%, respectively.[9, 10, 11]

Although Grant states these nations are inhabited by predominantly “Alpine” and “Mediterranean” whites, he views them as far preferable to Mestizos, Amerindians, and Mulattos who constitute the majority in other Latin American nations. In my opinion the people who deserve the most credit for Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay being the whitest South American nations are the white women who left their homelands in Europe to establish new families abroad. In nations where fewer of them immigrated nonwhite admixture is higher and quality of life generally lower.

Of course, modern academics would attribute the correlation of income with whiteness to “white privilege” rather than hereditary traits such as character and intelligence. Admittedly, whites may have some business connections with Europe which give them a minor economic advantage, but hereditary factors must play some role in ability to generate wealth because Asian nations such as Japan and Korea have built themselves up partly by selling things to the west, and nonwhites in South America should be able to do likewise if the liberal’s assumption that they are equally intelligent holds true. Regardless of the correlation’s causes, Grant’s forecast of greater prosperity for the whitest South American nations has come true.

However, unfortunately we live in an age where thought police in the media and academia value political correctness above correctness, so they would condemn Grant for being “racist” rather than congratulate him for being right.

There was much less opposition when Grant published the book in 1933. He was able to use a mainstream publisher, Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Of course, the Anti-Defamation League’s Richard E. Gutstadt wrote to Jewish publications calling for a prohibition on discussing the book as the best way to “stifle” its sales.[12] It’s funny because Grant doesn’t really single out Jews and views them as being about the same as Eastern and Southern Europeans. In fact, he seems to like Sephardic Jews,[13] referring to them as “a superior group” (227). However, not championing a race-blind understanding of citizenship was something the ADL couldn’t tolerate. In the long run the ADL’s decision to try to suppress Conquest seems to have backfired, at least with respect to me, because it made me want to read the book.

Grant leaves us with a picture of a future contest between Nordics and East Asians who he believes are equally intelligent. “We see the Nordics again confronted across the Pacific by their immemorial rivals, the Mongols” (356). This statement illustrates Grant’s rawly racial worldview. Moreover, it almost seems like he predicts battles to take place in a decade between Japanese and largely White Americans. Kevin MacDonald has stated in a podcast that, despite the complaints of Lee Siegel that suggest a growing rivalry between Jews and Asians, the two groups gravitate to different occupations as Jews specialize in verbally demanding careers while Asians in spatial and mathematical, so there will not be staunch competition between them. He thinks Jews will continue to be a factor in American politics.

Of course we also know that Asians such as overseas Chinese tend to keep a much lower social profile while Jews have shown an amazing ability to influence large numbers of goyim. Just one or two of them seem to go very far in inculcating hundreds of white gentiles with various attitudes and opinions. However, Grant’s prediction of a Caucasian vs. Asian struggle seems likely to be the story in the distant future because the number of Jews in the world is small and decreasing. What’s more their seemingly magical verbal spells can only last so long in the public consciousness before their glaring double standards become too strong to ignore. However, there are a billion more people in China, and we haven’t yet run through the total cream of their potential immigrant crop and won’t for a while, if ever, so indeed a sort of rematch between Mongoloids and Caucasians resonant of conflicts that took place on the steppes of Eurasia may reoccur on the fruited plains of America in proverbial Westerns of the future.


1.  Of course, an indebted farmer could try to take up another occupation, but because the technological capacity of the early 19th century necessitated a much higher density of farmers per capita these opportunities were comparatively limited. For example, 80% of Americans during the Panic of 1819 were farmers whereas only 2.6% are farmers today. It’s easier to be part of 97.4% than 20% of Americans. Use the second graph in the link as a reference. I know it links to the American Enterprise Institute. Don’t take it as an endorsement of anything other than their description of basic economic data. https://www.aei.org/publication/a-lesson-about-manufacturing-jobs-from-farming/ [3]

2. Michael Polignano, “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Counter-Currents, October 11, 2004. Posted October 13, 2014. https://counter-currents.com/2014/10/columbus-day-specialindigenous-peoples-day/ [3] One can read about some of the Iroquois’ torture methods in Polignano’s article.

3. James Dunphy, “A White Nationalist Attends a Bernie Sanders Rally,” Counter-Currents, April 25, 2016. https://counter-currents.com/2016/04/a-white-nationalist-attends-a-bernie-sanders-rally/ [3]

4. Haak et al., “Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe,” Nature, June 11, 2015. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v522/n7555/abs/nature14317.html [4] Grant claims that 8,000 years ago Nordics came from Eurasia and spread throughout Europe. He’s close but not exactly right because he seems to conflate Early European Farmers with Yamnaya. For the most up to date account of Neolithic and Bronze Age European migrations I would recommend the above study.

5. Thomas Jackson, “Nordic Man Comes to the New World,” American Renaissance, December 29, 2011. http://www.amren.com/features/2011/12/nordic-man-comes-to-the-new-world/ [5]

6. George McDaniel, “Madison Grant and the Racialist Movement,” American Renaissance, December 1997. Posted July 16, 2010. http://www.amren.com/news/2010/07/madison_grant_a/ [6]

7. Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race 4th Revised Edition, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936. Page 228. Accessed on September 25, 2016. https://archive.org/details/passingofgreatra00granuoft [7]

8. Greg Johnson, “Who are We? Nordics, Aryans, and Whites,” Counter-Currents, March 8, 2016. https://counter-currents.com/2016/03/nordics-aryans-and-whites/ [8]

9. R. Cruz-Coke and R. S. Moreno, “Genetic Epidimeiology of Single Gene Effects in Chile” Journal of Medical Genetics, 1994 Sep; 31(9): Page 704. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1050080/pdf/jmedgene00 [9]288-0042.pdf

10. Corach et al., “Inferring Continental Ancestry of Argentineans from Autosomal, Y-Chromosomal and Mitochondrial DNA Argentina,” Annals of Human Genetics, 2010 Jan;74(1) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-1809.2009.00556.x/pdf [5]

11. Sans et al., “Historical genetics in Uruguay: estimates of biological origins and their problems” Human Biology, 1997 Apr;69(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9057342 [5]

12. George McDaniel, ibid.

13. Grant claims that unlike Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazim are descended from Khazars, a Turkic group which converted to Judaism in medieval times. Modern genetic analysis has put to rest the Khazar theory by showing that Ashkenazim are at least 50% Semitic with the rest being European admixture, most of which from southern Europe during Roman times with a minority of it being from Eastern Europe, and probably most if not all of the Eastern European admixture isn’t from Khazars.