Review: Empire of Liberty

A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

By Gordon S. Wood
Illustrated. 778 pp. Oxford University Press. $35.

I have always enjoyed the escapism of reading a good book about the White Republic. It is a relief to return on occasion to an earlier chapter of American history when the racial and cultural foundations of our national identity were unquestioned. White men once enjoyed the luxury of being able to engage in real politics. Back then our nation was not yet under the control of alien parasites.

Gordon S. Wood’s “Empire of Liberty” is a chronicle of America’s youthful innocence. It was a very different time from our own. From 1789 to 1815, the United States was unquestionably a “white man’s country.” The first several naturalization laws restricted citizenship to “free white persons.” Neither major political party considered women fit for the political responsibilities of republican citizenship. The Indians were not thought of as “Native Americans,” but as savages and foreigners allied with America’s enemies, Britain and Spain. Blacks were considered an inferior race best enslaved, dominated, or deported.

Racial attitudes hardened in this period. After 1800, Jefferson’s hereditarian account of racial differences overwhelmed Samuel Stanhope Smith’s naive environmentalism. In the North, several states passed anti-miscegenation laws, black codes, and restricted black voting rights. Southerners passed new laws against free blacks and placed new restrictions on black voting rights and civil liberties. Antislavery sentiment in the South waned and collapsed after the Haitian Revolution and Gabriel’s Rebellion.

In spite of the American government’s professed benevolent intentions toward the Indians, White settlers poured across the Appalachians into the Northwest and Southwest, violated Indian treaties, and soaked the frontier in low level warfare. The Indians suffered several major defeats against the U.S. Army at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794), Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), and the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814). By 1815, the various Indian tribes of Transappalachia had surrendered most of their land and philanthropists were advocating their resettlement on Western reservations.

I believe it was Leonard Zeskind who recently said that America has always had two hearts: one beating heart is White and Christian, the other heart is liberal and democratic. The two have often been at odds. Wood’s “Empire of Liberty” is more about the latter than the former. Although every major figure in this period was a White male, Wood doesn’t really draw attention to this. The irreducible whiteness of the Early Republic is taken for granted. It is assumed like the water in an aquarium.

The real story that Gordon Wood wants to tell is the division of Americans into Federalists and Republicans. The America of 1815 wasn’t envisioned by the Founders. They didn’t anticipate the rise of political parties or the partisan press. They created a republic, not a liberal democracy. When the Constitution was ratified, “democracy” was still held in disrepute. It was a discredited political theory. “Democrat” was a pejorative term.

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the Federalists began to have second thoughts about the popular forces they had unleashed. Their ideal was a strong European style nation-state with a formidable military and commercial economy. They looked forward to the day when America would mature into a class based society like England. The Federalists wanted a republic presided over by the better sort of men: the wise, learned, propertied, well born, cosmopolitan. They believed hierarchy was the foundation of civilization and moral virtue the bedrock of the social order.

Some Federalists wanted America to become a monarchy. They advised George Washington to imitate the British court throughout his presidency. John Adams was obsessed with titles and the trappings of aristocracy. Alexander Hamilton called democracy a “disease.” After American independence was secured and a strong national government was created, the Federalists wanted all the revolutionary jargon to go away. They often spoke about bringing “erroneous notions of liberty and equality” to heel.

The U.S. Constitution was designed to reverse the democratic excesses of the state legislatures. The Federalists were appalled by the Jacobinism and licentiousness they saw spreading through American society. Commoners were refusing to show their customary deference. Parvenus were everywhere aspiring to gentlemen status. “Aristocrat” was becoming an abusive term. It was a charge the Federalists were often slimed with.

The Republican social revolution that followed the ratification of the Constitution was a time of ferment and chaos more profound than the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. By the time it was over, the traditional social hierarchy of the eighteenth century was in shambles. Slavery fell in the Northern states. Patriarchy took a hit. Honor was on the way out. Divorce laws were liberalized. Primogeniture was abandoned. The prison system replaced the mutilation that prevailed in colonial times. Illegitimacy and alcoholism skyrocketed. The mainline Protestant churches were disestablished. Jews were extended rights they previously had not enjoyed.

The acid of liberty and equality systematically eroded every hierarchial institution. The Anglicans, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians lost their former dominance to Baptists and Methodists. America became the most commercialized society in the world. Wealth became the primary determinant of social status, not birth, blood, or education. After the triumph of the Democratic-Republicans, a wave of egalitarianism swept away the distinctions that had once existed between White men.

By 1815, America had evolved from an aristocratic republic to the liberal capitalist democracy that it remains to this day. Corporations were sprouting up everywhere. In the North, a middling commercialized society of religious fundamentalists had emerged. In the South, the invention of the cotton gin was creating the Cotton Kingdom of the Antebellum era. Slaveowners had lost their previous enthusiasm for revolutionary liberalism. In Congress, the familar sort of politicians (ex. Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren) were being elected to public office.

Much of “Empire of Liberty” is given over to what you would expect: the presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the XYZ Affair, the Quasi War with France, the Crisis of 1798/1799, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Louisiana Purchase, the Marshall Court and judicial review, the Louis and Clark expedition, the Burr conspiracy, Jefferson’s embargo on Britain, and the War of 1812. I found it to be an excellent introduction to all of these topics.

The seeds of America’s racial decline were sown in the earliest years of the White Republic. In these years, the Republicans began the practice of celebrating the Declaration of Independence. Centuries later, Americanism would be redefined by their successors as the ideological principles of liberty and equality. The degenerate society that our generation inherited evolved out of the flaws inherent in that document. “Empire of Liberty” is a useful resource in understanding how that ball was set into motion.

About Hunter Wallace 12380 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. Okay, and my pardon if this is a dumb question, but then why have the monarchies fared even more poorly in all these questions? If the real problem with America is we dissed our social betters then Britain should be outclassing us in every measure.

    Is anyone arguing that is the case?

  2. The Man,

    I think the answer to your question is the fact that the United States became the number-one nation after the World Wars. During this time we exported our culture to Western Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet threat in the East. That’s why Europe is disintegrating at the same pace as America.

    “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” -Plato, The Republic

  3. Fascinating article. I don’t have time to read a whole book, but I got time to read an interesting snippet like that.

    It’s interesting to read that there was another period in history where there was a sudden breakdown in the culture. I think what happened that kept America “great” was the ability to range across the West and get away from the cosmopolitans. But of course the cosmopolitans followed us close behind.

    There’s a lot of settlers across the country that will be ready to keep control of this piece of real estate between the Atlantic and Pacific. It seems like the modern left wants to make us re-fight the Indians wars, hoping for a more politically correct outcome.

    I have seen “antis” in real life several times. Their wet dream is to recruit and lead hordes of coloreds to kill Whites. They are all about Nat Turner and John Brown. But they go around with hankies over their snouts, it’s kind of funny.

    If you read into the lines of Tim Wise and his ilk, it’s his dream to lead “colored people rising up” against us. LOL. They don’t realize that if they succeed in picking this fight, they will realize it was the worst decision they ever made.

  4. “United States became the number-one nation after the World Wars. During this time we exported our culture to Western Europe ”

    In the case of England, Disraeli exercised considerable pernicious influence without American assistance.

  5. Britain was the source of the Whig liberalism and capitalism that infected America. The same trends were at work there. They metastasized earlier in America because it was a colonial society without an entrenched aristocracy.

  6. That “The seeds of America’s racial decline were sown in the earliest years of the White Republic,” may be the truth, and that is the logical result of introducing black slaves into the population in the first place.

    The idea that the time that followed the “ratification of the Constitution was a time of chaos more profound than the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s” however, is demonstrably false.

    So is the notion that “The acid of liberty and equality systematically eroded every hierarchal institution.”

    If this was the truth how could you possibly explain the miracle of public infrastructure, electricity, or the telephone? Advancement in technology remained in tact, and progressed in leaps and bounds. If everything was eroding as you claim, why were cities being built and not turning into the violent slums they are today? Power lines, sewers and rail roads were being constructed not rotting. What do we have almost forty years after the sixties? Cell phones and plasma TV’s? Granite counter tops? This is not progress or entirely new invention, there is no new invention, just improvements on what already has been done. What we have today is decadence in technology. We have cities turning into third world ghettos. We are nowhere near seeing the inventions that took place after the ratification of the Constitution.

    America also still had an organic Christian culture of preachers, hymn writers and singers. America still gave rise to gifted poets and writers. The complete breakdown in continuity did not break down until after WWII and exploded in the sixties into an unrecognizable America. This is demonstrably true.

  7. Excellent review. The forces of democracy and capitalism are indeed the enemies that have done us in. Unrestrained capitalism means the rich make the rules, undermining White freedoms through “democracy”. The Chinese today, and Germans prior to WW2, have it correct: the aim of economic development is national strength, not merely individual enrichment (especially of the banking-class parasites).

    I think our job as The Vanguard is to prepare our people to understand that, especially as a racial minority among other minorities, our brainwashing about democracy needs to be left behind.

  8. Lena,

    How so? There was an across the board liberalization in American culture. I pointed to several examples above: penal reform, the decline of patriarchy, the disestablishment of the churches, the adoption of titles (ex. “Mr.” and “Mrs.”) by commoners, the decline of gentleman status, aristocrat and democrat trading places as a perjorative term, the decline of the Federalist Party, etc.

    Hierarchial institutions were eroded. The Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians lost tons of members to the more egalitarian Baptists and Methodists. Men lost legal control over their wives. Fathers lost control over who their children could marry. New laws were passed that restricted the authority of slaveowners over slaves.

    In the political realm, mass membership parties were replacing the personal/patronage type politics of the eighteenth century. Universal white manhood suffrage was becoming the norm. The social hierarchy between White men was collapsing due to the spread of egalitarian republican ideology.

    The list goes on and on. The great exception was race. Slavery became more profitable after the invention of the cotton gin. Otherwise, there was a great leveling going on in American culture from 1789 to 1815.

  9. “the aim of economic development is national strength”

    This is where America has always had it wrong to some extent; economies exist to serve man, we do not exist to serve them. The plutocrats don’t understand this because the only thing which motivates them is greed. The life of our people doesn’t factor into their calculations. In any case in some theoretical future white state I imagine the economy will be quite robust minus the out-of-control parasitic behavior from the non-white underclass and the superrich plutocracy.

  10. “Wealth became the primary determinant of social status, not birth, blood, or education.”

    Yup. A powerful idea, this notion that one’s lot in life should be determined upon something besides accident of birth. One that I bet lots of people here would strongly insist upon in their imaginary “jew free White ethnostate.” Hitler, after all, was anti-elitist, anti-aristocratic himself. (Listen to his speech in Triumph of the Will.) That “acid of liberty and equality” comports with a notion of JUSTICE that many whites find compelling.

    One problem with aristocracies is that they too can become corrupt and rotten. And there is little reason for people to make super-efforts in life, if one’s lot has largely been determined upon birth.

  11. Hitler, after all, was anti-elitist, anti-aristocratic himself. (Listen to his speech in Triumph of the Will.)

    That’s a mischaracterization. He wanted to unite the German people, of all social classes, not have them opposed to each other as the Jews advocate. He was not an egalitarian, rather a complementarian.

  12. Wallace-

    First of all “Anglican” is not an American religion, it is the state sanctioned religion of England. Why would Americans want to remain Anglican or even the American version “Episcopalian”? It is stupid to claim that Americans should have remained under the yoke of the church of England. Did England erode when it became Protestant? Sure it did, the Reformation and did the most to disestablish Christianity….but I digress.

    Secondly, you are intentionally ignoring the progress that took place in leaps and bounds not long after these events only to make your point. You labor under the illusion that all these events that took place can somehow be attributed to the ills of today, without even looking into the time between. It is false, today we have no contact with this past. There was continuity in Western Culture (culture – arts literature, architecture…) and American continuity until the twentieth century and the World Wars.

  13. I enjoyed this piece but have one minor nit to pick: you should use “e.g.” instead of “ex.”

    Aside from that, I think we need to realize that both aristocracy and egalitarianism have their failings and search for a golden mean between the two.

  14. You must be careful when revealing these truths if you don’t want to rouse the “constitutionalist” rabble.

  15. Blacks were considered an inferior race best enslaved, dominated, or deported.

    As the Jungle Bunny has his counterpart in the Free-Range White Man, who is considered best enslaved, dominated, or manipulated.

  16. Good review. If I come across it and if it’s cheap I’ll get it. I’ve seen it around bookstores costing quite a bit, and since it’s a subject I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to study I’m not willing to spend a lot on it. From the review it sounds like a great book.

    Also, “The prison system replaced the mutilation that prevailed in colonial times.” How Foucauldian of you! I haven’t been all too impressed with Foucault, his ‘discourse is the alpha and omega’ argument hasn’t convinced me. Plus, his interpretations of Nietzsche and others e.g. Dumézil [see ‘On the Ways of Writing History,’ in The Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, vols.2 Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology, ed. James D. Faubion, trans. Robert Hurley et al, (New York: New Press, 1998)] are hilariously incorrect.

    I think the constitutionalist rabble deserve to know the truth, Roland. It’s a good way of separating the wheat from the chaff. I have no doubt that most of them are chaff; most adult Americans seem to be completely under the spell of liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness. Well, the young are bombarded constantly with such hochkultur destroying ideas but at that age the brainwashing is reversible. I’d be interested to hear how long it took for the authors of the site to break from Enlightenment philosophies. Were you reluctant at first to turn your back on your countries ‘traditions’ [I hesitate to use the word tradition in describing Enlightenment ideas for obvious reasons!]?

  17. You must be careful when revealing these truths if you don’t want to rouse the “constitutionalist” rabble.

    The only “truths” are that alternative systems are possible and have their own set of strengths (and weaknesses). Of course, you have to be careful when you reveal that fact to Traditionalist rabble — you don’t want to douse the flames of their eagerness to enslave themselves.

  18. Lena,

    1.) The fate of the Anglicans was shared by the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The older, traditional, more hierarchial churches splintered into all sorts of factions in the Second Great Awakening and lost tons of members to the more egalitarian Baptists and Methodists. This was symptomatic of the broader anti-authoritarian movement in American culture.

    2.) I was only concerned with the 1789-1815 time period in that review. I’m writing a new review on What Hath God Wrought, the successor volume in the Oxford History of the United States, which will cover the years 1815-1848.

    3.) In the next review, I will show that 1815-1848 was also a time of cultural turbulence, especially in the North. The origins of feminism, abolitionism, and anti-racism can be traced back to Jacksonian America.

    4.) Eventually, I plan to work my way up to the Civil Rights Movement and Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s. We will also be taking a look at Colonial America and the American Revolution.

  19. Of course, you have to be careful when you reveal that fact to Traditionalist rabble — you don’t want to douse the flames of their eagerness to enslave themselves.

    Isn’t your normal line of critique that the traditionalist rabble have the fantastic notion of being the ones doin’ the enslavin’?

  20. A few remarks:

    1. The Federalists were all for the notion of a strong national government. Was this not the very idea that the opportunist Lincoln used in justifying the War Between the States?
    2. Has not the much less centralized nation of Switzerland resisted the left-wing sickness that is plaguing Europe today better than other European nations?

  21. I tend to like Randolf of Roanoke. He was one of the first to say that the Declaration of Independence was a flawed document. One of his quotes states, “I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality.”

  22. The Democratic-Republicans under Madison and Monroe came around to supporting a national bank, internal improvements, and protective tariffs. The Federalists became obsolete because the Democratic-Republicans absorbed their ideas.

    Lincoln was a nationalist republican. He came from a humble background. He wasn’t a Federalist in any real sense of the word.

  23. ‘That “The seeds of America’s racial decline were sown in the earliest years of the White Republic,” may be the truth,’

    Consider John Bagot Glubb’s notion that empires last 250 years.


    His comments on the decadent phase being marked by frivolity, materialism, a welfare state, and an influx of foreigners, seem to indicate that the USA has been decadent since about 1964.

  24. Isn’t your normal line of critique that the traditionalist rabble have the fantastic notion of being the ones doin’ the enslavin’?

    That’s what they think. But they can’t all be royalty.

  25. Mind you, I’ve never wasted time “critiquing” them; I just think they’re full of it — or of themselves.

    I think you’re being grossly unfair. Some are just not as bright as you. I think you should extend to them the same graces you are always so willing to extend to the great and unwashed mass of racial others. You seem to have two different metrics when it comes to racial criticism, one for our own kind and another for all the others. This is obviously acceptable but these criticisms of yours, when directed to usward, sometimes seems combined with malice which tends to blunt and dull the force of your objections to objectionable White Nationalist behavior.

    You’re a nice guy, but you play a tough guy sometimes.

    Thanks very much for the Avax link. Shit is dope son.

  26. Saturday, January 16, 2010
    While America Drowns, Obama and the Elites Party
    There is, yet again, something very Romanesque about the state of the Americans, their empire and their collapse. As the US continues to sink in its co-UK created economic armageddon, the ruling regime enjoys the fruits of its labour of looting and swindling. This is the great “Democracy” they sell us, overseas.

    As the year ended, America suffered one of its worst months for employment. Sure, reading the official Ministry of Propaganda (so called free press) reports showed only a mere another 85,000 Americans as loosing jobs, or rather the work force shrinking by that amount, so it takes the UK Telegraph (America slides deeper into depression as Wall Street revels ) to report the real situation, that 650,000 unemployed were moved into a category named “No Longer Searching For Jobs”. This is how the American regimes “honestly” tell the population that the unemployment rate is not going up and the lie they tell the rest of us, fortunate not to live under this deceit. This is the category that DC uses to dump the unwanted, unneeded and unemployable waste, its workers who no longer get government unemployment help and can go starve for all the elites care. After all, judging by the head lines out of DC, for the Haitians there is money, for their own unemployed, shelters and bread lines. This category has been growing by nearly half a million every month for the last year.

    The hits kept on coming, too, for the former partiers of the American economic “miracle” of debt. Like a crippled Hercules, trying to lift a mountain of debt, or rather trying to keep it above their heads and from crushing them, the American populace continues to strain and tire and suffer, even as they deny reality while their legs sink deeper under their burden.

    News came that inflation was really low in 2009, under 2%. Of course, the fact that salaries sank was not counted into that “fixed” model of inflation, otherwise the picture would not be so pretty. Outsourcing of jobs also accelerated, with predictions that up to 20% of the remaining jobs would still be outsourced, within the next few years. All hail the Marxist Free Trade. At the same time, news arrived that 1.4 million Americans went into bankruptcy last year, over a 30% jump from 2008. Food Stamps use, a form of government subsidy for food, was being given to over 10% of the population, with one third of the country’s children living in the abject poverty it takes to qualify for the handout.

    At the same time, a massive new wave of mortgage defaults in the resettling of exotic mortgages, continued loss of jobs and thus regular mortgages and a collapsing business/commercial real-estate market is just starting to break over the Americans and promises to be worse than the first wave.

    To all this, the American military has increased its budget by some $100 BILLION from 2009’s already mammoth $600 BILLION budget, more than every nation combined. And the people are continued to be led down the trail of slavery by their noses, in fear of being “invaded” or “attacked” while their sons sit in some 100 nations around the world, enforcing the Empire. Yet despite this giant spend on the military, families of US soldiers continue to have to buy body armour and other equipments and send them to their sons, since there are no funds for that armour and equipments, not after the elites and their companies get done pilfering the giant sum. Remember too, this does not include another $40 or so BILLION for the wars!

    Equally, the evils of Wall Street, the pack of hyenas, the cabal of witches who brought us the lovely Soviet Revolution, the Great Depression, the Nazi take over, the rape of post Soviet Russia, the Asian Flu, (The Six Evils of Wall Street and the Suffering of Humanity) are now paying themselves $146 BILLION in bonuses, 8% more than the 2007 record, after stealing $700 BILLION from the American tax serfs, through bought and paid for farce of their so called “Democracy”. That is some 20,000 people will be splitting $146 BILLION, or an average of $7.3 million each, for the people who are still laughing at all the Luciferien death and misery they caused by starting the lovely Great Depression II.

    But best of all, it has now been brought out that the Obama Regime, much like Nero or Caligula, has been partying hard, with over 170 parties, receptions and big dinners, entertaining over 50,000 guests, flying in specialty chefs from around the world, all in this one year of power. That is, one party every two days. And the American serfs? They just bare it, grumble and pay their taxes, it si what they have been trained for. Oh sure, a bunch will get together here and there and wave signs and scream slogans for a few hours and then go home, feeling good that they did “something” and pat themselves on the backs for their “accomplishments” while promising to vote out the present elites and replace them with an exact same set from a different branch of the One Party Two Branch system. Someone famously called this: rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. And their so called conservative leaders on TV will tell them what great deeds they have done and how great they are, even as nothing changes and these so called leaders hustle books and t-shirts and caps to the impoverished but good feeling tax serfs. In other words, the bleeding continues.

    So Yanks, you can take your so called Democracy, nothing more than pilfering of the people, and your Free Trade Marxism and go pound your heads into the wall. We do not want it, we do not need it and we will not have it. We will take our so called “pseudo” authoritarianism, mercantilism, and government that actually cares about us and we will grow, ignoring your “advice”, kicking out your so called NGOs who promote nothing but this “Democracy” and vassalage to your empire and destruction of our Christian Orthodox faith and we will be on our separate way. Now if we could only get our Monarchy back too.
    Posted by Stanislav at 12:53 PM 4 comments Labels: depression, economics, usa

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