The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘A Herd of Savages’

Posted on | May 19, 2018 | Comments Off on ‘A Herd of Savages’

MS-13 ‘animals’ in custody after being captured in El Salvador.

This past week, President Trump inflamed liberal fury when, in a White House discussion of California’s “sanctuary state” laws, he made a remark about the MS-13 gang: “These aren’t people. They’re animals.” Because the media deceptively portrayed this as an insult aimed at all immigrants, there were hours of tut-tutting by cable TV talking heads that continued even after it was made clear that Trump’s remark was in response to a comment by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, complaining about how California’s law makes it more difficult to fight the vicious Salvadoran gang: “There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.” When we consider the unspeakable atrocities committed by MS-13, to call them “animals” is certainly appropriate. However, this incident provided Democrats an opportunity to say ignorant and foolish things.


This remark by Sen. Schumer expresses the “nation of immigrants” mythology, beloved by advocates of open borders. In this telling, all Americans are descended from Ellis Island immigrants, as if there were no Americans here before the great wave of immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe that began in the 1880s and continued into the mid-1920s. This mythology, which involves frequent appeals to the 1883 poem of Emma Lazarus (“your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . the wretched refuse of your teeming shore”), relies upon a bogus guilt-trip morality. Because we are “a nation of immigrants,” it is suggested, Americans have no right to enforce our own laws regulating immigration.

Sen. Schumer invokes “our great-great-grandparents [who] came to America” as if everyone’s fourth-generation ancestors were among the “wretched refuse” who went through Ellis Island back in the day. This might be true of many, if not most, of the senator’s New York constituents, but it is not true of Americans like me.

All of my ancestors as far back as 150 years are buried in a couple of cemeteries in Randolph County, Alabama, and having done quite a bit of genealogical research, I can trace my ancestors back as far as the first census (1790) in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. My ancestors came to this country when the future American nation consisted of a few scattered frontier settlements on the edge of a vast wilderness, threatened by rival powers — principally the Spanish and the French — as well as by hostile natives. My pioneer ancestors didn’t come here in steamships; there were no factory jobs awaiting them; nor was there a Statue of Liberty lifting her lamp “beside the golden door.” More than 200 years before Emma Lazarus wrote her poem — and before Sen. Schumer’s great-great-grandparents arrived — my ancestors were Americans.

Those of us descended from old colonial stock are never supposed to mention this, of course, because to do so is interpreted by some people as casting aspersions on their more recently arrived ancestors. We are compelled to listen to this “nation of immigrants” nonsense babbled endlessly by politicians and media commentators, and never permitted to mention those who built the nation to which later immigrants came. Somebody had to build that “golden door” and light the beckoning torch of Liberty, and yet these earlier Americans are rhetorically erased, so to speak, when an eminent fool like Sen. Schumer implies that there was nobody here before his great-great-grandparents arrived.

One of my great-great-grandfathers, Benjamin Berryman Bolt (b. 1806, in Laurens County, S.C.) was the father of five sons who served in the Confederate army. The younger two, including my great-grandfather Winston Wood Bolt (b. 1839) and his brother Robert, served in the 13th Alabama Infantry, while three of their older brothers (John, James and William), who had moved to Texas a decade before the war, served in the 9th Texas Cavalry in the brigade of the famed Lawrence Sullivan Ross.

My ancestors were mostly farmers, and my great-grandfather, who was captured at Gettysburg, was so illiterate he signed his name with an “X.” By contrast, my blogger friend and podcast colleague John Hoge can trace his lineage to much more prestigious forebears in the Old Dominion, including William Hoge, who was born in Scotland in 1660 and was a pioneer settler of what is now Frederick County, Virginia. The Hoge family tree includes eminent Presbyterian clergymen, planters, publishers, and lawyers, so that I suppose I must doff my cap and tug the forelock in respect to my friend, a scion of the Virginia gentry.

A true aristocrat, of course, does not habitually boast of his illustrious heritage, as this would be a breach of courtesy, and I would not have raised the subject, had it not been for Sen. Schumer’s absurd and insulting insinuation of the “nation of immigrants” mythology in the context of President Trump’s MS-13 comments. Trump’s ancestors were German, a reminder that New York once had a very large and proud community of German immigrants. Because we fought two world wars against Germany in the 20th century, this German-American community suffered a terrible opprobrium, despite the fact that the Allied commander in World War II (and subsequently, a popular Republican president) was Dwight Eisenhower, himself of German ancestry.

The Germans historically have been a warlike people, going back to ancient times when tribes of fierce barbarians menaced the Roman legions that guarded the frontiers of the empire. It so happens that I have been lately re-reading Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and in Chapter IX, he describes the ancient Germans:

The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany; and in the rude institutions of those barbarians we may still distinguish the original principles of our present laws and manners. . . .
The Germans, in the age of Tacitus, were unacquainted with the use of letters; and the use of letters is the principal circumstance that distinguishes a civilized people from a herd of savages incapable of knowledge or reflection. . . .
The religious system of the Germans (if the wild opinions of savages can deserve that name) was dictated by their wants, their fears, and their ignorance. They adored the great visible objects and agents of nature, the Sun and the Moon, the Fire and the Earth; together with those imaginary deities, who were supposed to preside over the most important occupations of human life. They were persuaded, that, by some ridiculous arts of divination, they could discover the will of the superior beings, and that human sacrifices were the most precious and acceptable offering to their altars. . . .
The same ignorance, which renders barbarians incapable of conceiving or embracing the useful restraints of laws, exposes them naked and unarmed to the blind terrors of superstition. . . .
Such was the situation, and such were the manners of the ancient Germans.

These barbarians — an ignorant “herd of savages” who practiced human sacrifice — ultimately overran the Roman empire and it required the passage of more than a thousand years to rebuild the civilization of Europe, from whence the colonial settlers of America arrived here.

My own ancestors, of course, were from the British isles, which have their own barbaric past. Not long after Christ was crucified by the Romans under the prefect Pontius Pilate, a Roman army commanded by Aulus Plautius invaded Britain (44 A.D.), and by 122 A.D., the Emperor Hadrian built a wall from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth, marking the northern limit of the Roman Empire. Twenty years after that, the Romans pushed their frontier about 100 miles further north, where they built the Antonine Wall from Old Kilpatrick to Carriden. Yet the Romans never did succeed in taming the wild barbarians of present-day Scotland, and not only were the Roman legions unable to maintain the line of the Antonine Wall, but by 180, the savage hordes sweeping down from the north broke through Hadrian’s wall and killed the Roman governor of Britain. And I proudly claim those ferocious savages as my ancestors.

Is it possible that, a thousand years from now, the descendants of today’s Mara Salvatrucha “animals” could become civilized humans? History suggests it is possible, but if we don’t want to see our nation descend into utmost barbarism — overrun and sacked like ancient Rome — in the meantime, we must enforce our laws and protect our borders.




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