A Warning From the Past: Lothrop Stoddard and The Rising Tide of Colour

American Renaissance 

by James P. Lubinskas

Modern liberals like to praise W. E. B. Du Bois for predicting that race would be the defining issue of the 20th century. But another man, writing at the same time, also made that prediction. Lothrop Stoddard (1883-1950) is not as well remembered as Du Bois and his name is usually paired with words like “racist” and “white supremacist,” but perhaps a better word would be prophet. His major work, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, was written in 1920 at a time when whites had colonized and ruled most of the world. Stoddard warned that supremacy was about to end and that whites had better prepare for the consequences.

Although he published 14 other books, The Rising Tide of Color remains his best known work. Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, it was not an obscure right-wing manifesto but a mainstream sensation by a Harvard-educated scholar. In it Stoddard pointed out that the number of non-whites was growing rapidly and that some, especially Asians, were mastering Western technology. Increasing numbers of non-whites were threatening white colonies in some areas but, most importantly, they threatened even traditional white homelands. How skillful and united whites were in handling the rising tide would in large part determine the future of their race.

The Asian Threat

The Rising Tide of Color begins with a description of the various non-white populations of the earth. Although his classifications are sometimes crude, Stoddard makes sharp distinctions between different races of non-whites. In his view, East Asians living in the “yellow man’s land” were the greatest threat to whites. He classified north Asians — as well the west Asians of the “brown man’s world” — as high races with histories of accomplishment that deserve respect. Indeed, he wrote that for a thousand years the East put constant pressure on the West and at one time threatened to conquer all of Europe. By the time of Charlemagne, the “white man’s world” had shrunk to only the lands west of the Elbe River. Charlemagne pushed the invaders out but whites never fully reconquered the lands that had once been theirs — a failure in which Stoddard saw much significance:

… [W]est-central Asia, which in the dawn of history was predominantly white man’s country, is today racially brown man’s land in which white blood survives only as vestigial traces of vanishing significance. If this portion of Asia, the former seat of mighty white empires and possibly the very homeland of the white race itself, should have so entirely changed its ethnic character, what assurance can the most impressive political panorama give us that the present world order may not swiftly and utterly pass away?”

“Future generations have a right to demand of us that they shall be born white in a white man’s land.”

Of all the threats to the West, Stoddard believed the Japanese were the most serious. He quotes early British envoys who described Japanese as “highly intelligent children” who could quickly acquire Western techniques. In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 these “highly intelligent children,” shocked the world by becoming the first non-white nation in modern times to defeat a white nation. Since white hegemony was maintained not by love but by respect and fear, Russia’s defeat by Japan was, in Stoddard’s view, “a body blow to white ascendancy.”

Japanese writers and government officials were not shy about drawing conclusions from their victory, and soon began turning western ideas of supremacy on their heads. At the outbreak of the First World War, Japanese writer Yone Noguchi wrote that the conflict meant the ruin of whites. “It means the saddest downfall of the so-called western civilization; our belief that it was builded upon higher and sounder footing than ours was at once knocked down and killed; we are sorry that we somehow overestimated its happy possibility and were deceived and cheated by its superficial glory.”

Stoddard quotes a Japanese imperialist pronouncement written in 1916:

As for America — that fatuous booby with much money and much sentiment, but no cohesion, no brains of government … Well did my friend speak the other day when he called her people a race of thieves with the hearts of rabbits…

North America alone will support a billion people; that billion will be Japanese with their slaves. Not arid Asia, nor worn-out Europe (which, with its peculiar and quaint relics and customs should in the interests of history and culture, be in any case preserved), nor yet tropical Africa is fit for our people. But North America, that continent so succulently green, fresh, and unsullied — except for the few chattering mongrel Yankees — should have been ours by right of discovery; it shall be ours by the higher, nobler right of conquest.

A Burmese journal called Buddhism, wrote that the “yellow peril” was nothing more than an expression of Darwinian superiority.

The West has justified — perhaps with some reason — every aggression on weaker races by the doctrine of Survival of the Fittest; on the ground that it is best for future humanity that the unfit should be eliminated and give place to the most able race. That doctrine applies equally well to any possible struggle between Aryan and Mongolian — whichever survives, should it ever come to a struggle between the two for world mastery, will, on their own doctrine, be the one most fit to do so, and if the survivor be the Mongolian, then is the Mongolian no “peril’ to humanity, but the better part of it.

Although it was partially controlled by Japan, China also was a threat to the West. With one fourth of the world’s population, an armed China would pose an even greater challenge than Japan. Stoddard reported that in 1905 Chinese school children were taught to chant the following lines:

I pray that the frontiers of my country become hard as bronze; that it surpass Europe and America; that it subjugate Japan; that its land and sea armies cover themselves with resplendent glory; that over the whole earth float the Dragon Standard; that the universal mastery of the empire extend and progress. May our empire, like a sleeping tiger suddenly awakened, spring roaring into the arena of combats.

There was good reasons to take note of the Asians.

Brown Men

According to Stoddard, the brown man’s land was the Near and Middle East and stretched into northern Africa. Racially it was a jumble, including within its boundaries such groups as largely-white Persians and Turks, largely-black Yemenite Arabs, and Himalayan and Central Asian yellows. With the exception of India, he saw Islam as the great unifying force of this world. In 1920, the brown man’s world was completely controlled by whites, but this did not guarantee permanent white control in the face of rising brown solidarity fueled by what Stoddard called “the Mohammedan Revival.”

Ironically, this revival was aided by Western technology. Newspapers allowed Muslims to communicate with each other across their vast world. A Syrian Christian, Ameen Rihani, characterized that world in a May 1912 article in Forum magazine:

A nation of 250,000,000 souls, more than one-half under Christian rule, struggling to shake off its fetters … [A] nation with a glorious past, a living faith and language, an inspired Book, an undying hope, might be divided against itself by European diplomacy but can never be subjugated by European arms… What Islam is losing on the borders of Europe it is gaining in Africa and Central Asia through its modern propaganda, which is conducted according to Christian methods … Europe drills the Moslem to be a soldier who will ultimately turn his weapons against her …

Though Islam was a growing force, Stoddard did not think the brown threat comparable to the yellow peril. While Japanese talked openly of racial superiority and conquering white lands, the brown revolt against white rule was mainly defensive, showing few signs of expansion. Stoddard saw the brown man as having enough room for his growing population and thought any alliance among the browns would break up after white rule ended. He expected internal warfare among the browns to be constant, and thought a yellow-brown alliance unlikely. Stoddard’s main concern was that resurgent Islam might affect another sphere of white political control: black Africa.

The Dark Continent

Sub-Saharan Africa was the world of the black man. Four-fifths of the world’s 150,000,000 black people lived in Africa in 1920, with the rest scattered in the New World. Africans had suffered from a history of isolation: “Cut off from the Mediterranean by the desert which he had no means of crossing, and bounded elsewhere by oceans which he had no skill in navigating, the black man vegetated in savage obscurity, his habitat being well named the “Dark Continent.’” In stark language, Stoddard described blacks as never having developed a civilization and having no history: “Left to himself, he remained a savage, and in the past his only quickening has been where brown men have imposed their ideas and altered his blood. The originating powers of the European and the Asiatic are not in him.”

Though white contact with sub-Saharan Africa began four centuries earlier, only in the nineteenth century did Europe give the area its full attention. Within a generation Africa — both black and Arab — was partitioned by European powers, and only Liberia and present-day Ethiopia retained qualified independence.

Europeans took root in Africa — at both the northern and southern extremes — in a way they never did in Asia. Over a million Europeans — mostly French — settled in Algeria and Tunisia, and a million and a half Dutch and English in South Africa. With white control firmly established in these areas, the main question for Africa was whether whites could maintain their hold on the inner continent. This would depend on how well they contained the spread of Islam. According to Stoddard, the continent would fall either to white Christians or Islamic browns; Africans themselves would never be masters in their own house.

Stoddard believed the black man’s lack of originality and history made him particularly susceptible to outside ideas and people. Africans readily accepted the religions of both browns and whites, but since blacks were a naturally warlike people, they would be more inclined to accept Islam than Christianity. Islam had not yet penetrated below the equator and Stoddard praised the efforts of Christians to convert blacks:

In so far as he is Christianized, the negro’s savage instincts will be restrained and he will be predisposed to acquiesce in white tutelage. In so far as he is Islamized, the negro’s warlike propensities will be inflamed, and he will be used as the tool of Arab Pan-Islamism seeking to drive the white man from Africa and make the continent its very own.

Stoddard warned that “Pan-Islamism, once possessed of the Dark Continent and fired by militant zealots, might forge black Africa into a sword of wrath, the executor of sinister adventures.”

For Stoddard, the real value of Africa lay in its rich raw materials. He believed the European powers were well aware of the brown threat and was confident they could control the spread of Islam. Moreover, whites continued to settle in Africa, making more and more of it “white man’s country.” The real danger to white control lay in potential weakness and discord within the white world itself.

Red Men

By “red men” Stoddard meant the American Indians of Central and South America. In his view they accounted for about two-thirds of the population of this area with whites and “near-whites” comprising about ten percent. Stoddard contrasted the conquest of Latin America by the Spanish with the settling of North America by the British. The British undertook a genuine migration, bringing families who meant to stay, whereas Spanish men came alone to the New World for treasure and adventure and mated with Indian women. Their “mestizo” offspring were sometimes joined — primarily in Brazil — by the mulatto offspring of whites and black slaves. “Zambos” were the result of black-Indian mixing.

As long as the colonies were held by Spain, Latin America had a system of white rule, and what Stoddard calls an “idle and vapid” white governing class at least formally forbade miscegenation. After the revolutions against Spain, which Stoddard called a white civil war, there was massive racial change. The white rulers were decimated by the revolutions, and their ranks were further depleted by the large number of loyalists who returned to Spain. Non-whites, many of whom had fought for the revolutionaries, wanted their share of power and the result was a long series of coups, revolutions, and wars that resulted in a worsening of conditions in most of Latin America.

Stoddard praised Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay as mostly-white nations that encouraged European immigration. He particularly singled out Chile for its social and political stability as well as its racial consciousness: “The country was settled by a squirearchy of an almost English type. This ruling gentry jealously guarded its racial integrity. In fact, it possessed not merely a white but a Nordic race-consciousness.” Stoddard was optimistic about these areas of South America since white immigration — mostly German — seemed to be strengthening their already strong white identities. The rest of Latin America seemed doomed to endless cycles of anarchy, tyranny and revolution.

While Stoddard saw little of value in the red man’s land, he did think it important to keep Asians out. He noted that the Japanese had targeted Latin America for expansion, and quotes a Japanese he identifies only as Count Osuma as saying, “South America, especially the northern part, will furnish ample room for our surplus.” In fact, during this period Japan was trying to strengthen relations with Mexico by posing as a counter-balance to the hated “gringo.”

Stoddard predicted the red man’s land, like Africa, would eventually be controlled by outsiders, white or Asian. The other races were out of contention because: “The Indian is patently unable to construct a progressive civilization. As for the negro, he has proved as incapable in the New World as in the Old.” Again, as in Africa, whites had the advantage over Asians. With strongholds to the north and south and with increased European immigration, white hegemony in Latin America was secure unless “internecine discord,” robbed whites of their vigor.

‘The Swarming of the Whites’

Like Madison Grant (see AR, December 1997), Stoddard divided whites into Nordics, Alpines, and Mediterraneans. While he considered them all sound stock, in his view, the Nordic had made the race great. He argued that traditionally it was Nordics who repelled Asiatic invasions of Europe after Alpines or Mediterraneans had been defeated.

Before the 16th century Europe had a civilization no better than Asia’s, but the years 1500 to 1900 marked the “white flood.” This period began with Columbus in 1492 and was established in 1497 with Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a route to India. Stoddard believed these discoveries not only opened new lands to Europeans, but had a profound psychological effect as well. The white man went from static “dead-end” to dynamic discovery:

… [H]is inherent racial aptitudes had been stimulated by his past. The hard conditions of medieval life had disciplined him to adversity and had weeded him by natural selection. The hammer of Asiatic invasion, clanging for a thousand years on the brown-yellow anvil, had tempered the iron of Europe into the finest steel. The white man could think, could create, could fight superlatively well. No wonder the redskins and negroes feared and adored him as a god, while the somnolent races of the Farther East, stunned by this strange apparition rising from the pathless ocean, offered no effective opposition.

Thus began the swarming of the whites, like bees from the hive, to the uttermost ends of the earth. And, in return, Europe was quickened to intenser vitality. Goods, tools, ideas, men: all were produced at an unprecedented rate. So, by action and reaction, white progress grew by leaps and bounds … For four hundred years the pace never slackened, and at the close of the nineteenth century the white man stood the indubitable master of the world.

The thought that this supremacy could end, “never entered the head of one white man in a thousand,” wrote Stoddard. Indeed, in 1920 whites were the most numerous race on earth. Comprising one-third of humanity, they occupied 40 percent of the globe, and controlled 90 percent. He called white expansion “the most prodigious phenomenon in all recorded history … Never before has a race acquired such combined preponderance of numbers and dominion.” Though most whites could not foresee it, Stoddard warned that hegemony was about to be challenged.

Only white solidarity could stop the rising tide of color, but the First World War destroyed this solidarity and showed the colored world that whites were vulnerable through internal discord. Just as the Peloponnesian War was the suicide of Greek civilization (“the saddest page in history,” writes Stoddard) the Great War threatened to mark the end of white supremacy.

“The war was nothing short of a headlong plunge into race suicide,” wrote Stoddard. He estimates it took 40,000,000 lives including civilians. Moreover, the conflict had a severe dysgenic effect, with the best young men of Europe dying without passing on their genes. The least fit — the cowardly and physically or mentally deficient — were left behind to propagate. Thus in 1920, at the time Stoddard wrote, the heart of the white world lay in ruins. Europe was financially and physically broken, it’s racial solidarity shattered, the flower of its youth dead on the battlefield — it stood at the same crossroads as the Greeks following their fratricidal war. The decisions made then would determine the fate of the white world.

Plugging the Dikes

In his plan to hold back the tide, Stoddard divided the world into “dikes.” The outer dikes were areas where whites had political control but had not settled. Examples were India and Egypt. Inner dikes were areas where whites firmly established, as they were in North America and Australia. Between these two lay a category he called enclaves, where whites had settled but had not displaced the native populations. Examples were Algeria and South Africa.

Though Stoddard did not advocate outright abandonment of the outer dikes, he did not consider them necessary for white survival. The question of retention would turn on economic, political, and strategic considerations. In the case of Asia, he urged whites to face the inevitable: “White men must get out of their heads the idea that the Asiatics are “inferior.”… Men worthy of independence will sooner or later get it … Let us not exhaust ourselves by stubborn resistance in Asia which in the end must prove futile.”

The inner dikes were the frontiers of the white world marked not by boundary stones but flesh and blood: “They are the true bulwarks of the race, the patrimony of future generations who have a right to demand of us that they shall be born white in a white man’s land. Ill will it fare if ever our race should close its ears to this most elemental call of the blood.”

The inner dikes could be breached by war, trade, or immigration. Japan showed in the Russo-Japanese War that it was a military power. Also, it and other Asian nations were in the process of industrializing and could potentially threaten the West through trade. As they prospered they would look for new areas for their surplus population, including Australia and the United States. The only thing to stop this immigration was the will of whites. If this will ever faltered or was weakened by internal discord, the inner dikes would be flooded by people seeking the better living conditions offered by the West. This is why Stoddard saw the First World War as such a bad omen (he also noted that each side used colored troops from the colonies to fight fellow whites).

Though he feared that whites were “ill-prepared” to stop the rising tide of color, he still hoped they would rediscover that race is destiny. It was due to their unique genetic heritage that whites could rule the world and create a great civilization, and it was impossible to have the civilization without the race.

For white civilization is today conterminous with the white race… It will be swamped by the triumphant colored races, who will obliterate the white man by elimination or absorption. What has taken place in Central Asia, once a white and now a brown or yellow land, will take place in Australasia, Europe and America. Not today, not tomorrow; perhaps not for generations; but surely in the end. If the present drift be not changed, we whites are all ultimately doomed.

Warnings, Heeded and Ignored

Lothrop Stoddard was not alone in warning the West. The early 20th century saw the publication of several major books on the importance of race. Among these were: Mankind at the Crossroads by E. G. Conklin (1914), The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant (1916) and Race and National Solidarity by Charles Josey (1923) (reviewed in AR, August 1992). The May 7, 1921 Saturday Evening Post carried an editorial on immigration that said, “Two books in particular that every American should read if he wishes to understand the full gravity of our present immigration problem: Mr. Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race and Dr. Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color … These books should do a vast amount of good if they fall into the hands of readers who can face without wincing the impact of new and disturbing ideas.”

Initially some leaders were ready to heed the warnings. Congress passed the Johnson Act of 1924, which effectively ended non-white immigration. Stoddard testified at the congressional hearings. Also, the new science of eugenics was becoming well accepted. Stoddard was in charge of publicity for the Second Eugenics Congress of 1921, which was chaired by Madison Grant and held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (see AR, February 1997, for an account of the respectability and broad popularity of the early eugenics movement).

Despite these early successes, subsequent leaders ignored Lothrop Stoddard’s warnings. Twenty years after The Rising Tide of Color was published, Europe again erupted into civil war. Nazi Germany allied with the dreaded Japanese, who made good on their threat to attack the United States. Eugenics was soon linked to Adolf Hitler and concentration camps. Europe gave up her Asian colonies and soon all of Africa was freed. The supposedly permanent white colonies in Algeria and Tunisia were betrayed in the 1960s and Rhodesia and South Africa collapsed soon after. Australia abandoned her “whites-only” immigration policy in the 1970s and the United States and Canada put in motion immigration policies which, if not reformed, will make whites a minority by mid-century. Even Europe, the heart of the white world, faces massive Third-World immigration and high fertility rates combined with below-replacement white birth rates.

Just as Stoddard feared, the rising tide of color is swamping the West. Ironically, it is not the “yellows” who are displacing whites so much as the “reds,” “browns”and blacks, from whom Stoddard expected no real challenge. But just as he predicted, white disunity and loss of will are the culprits, not the inherent dynamism of non-whites. We still have time to rebuild the inner dikes — but only if we rekindle the will to do so