The Miscegenation Hoax
Some persons say that "all is fair in politics." Without agreeing with
this doctrine, I nevertheless feel that the history of Ancient and
Modern Humbugs would not be complete without a record of the last and
one of the most successful of known literary hoaxes. This is the
pamphlet entitled "Miscegenation," which advocates the blending of the
white and black races upon this continent, as a result not only
the freeing of the negro, but desirable as a means of
creating a more perfect race of men than any now existing. This pamphlet
is a clever political quiz; and was written by three young gentlemen of
the "World" newspaper, namely. D. G. Croly, George Wakeman, and E. C.
The design of "Miscegenation" was exceedingly ambitious, and the
machinery employed was probably among the most ingenious and audacious
ever put into operation to procure the indorsement of absurd theories,
and give the subject the widest notoriety. The object was to so make use
of the prevailing ideas of the extremists of the Anti-Slavery party, as
to induce them to accept doctrines which would be obnoxious to the
great mass of the community, and which would, of course, be used in the
political canvass which was to ensue. It was equally important that the
"Democrats" should be made to believe that the pamphlet in question
emanated from a "Republican" source. The idea was suggested by a
discourse delivered by Mr. Theodore Tilton, at the Cooper Institute,
before the American Anti-Slavery Society, in May 1863, on the negro, in
which that distinguished orator argued, that in some future time the
blood of the negro would form one of the mingled bloods of the great
regenerated American nation. The scheme once conceived, it began
immediately to be put into execution. The first stumbling-block was the
name "amalgamation," by which this fraternizing of the races had been
always known. It was evident that a book advocating amalgamation would
fall still-born, and hence some new and novel word had to be discovered,
with the same meaning, but not so objectionable. Such a word was coined
by the combination of the Latin miscere, to mix, and genus, race:
from these, miscegenation--a mingling of the races. The word is as
euphonious as "amalgamation," and much more correct in meaning. It has
passed into the language, and no future dictionary will be complete
without it. Next, it was necessary to give the book an erudite
appearance, and arguments from ethnology must form no unimportant part
of this matter. Neither of the authors being versed in this science,
they were compelled to depend entirely on encyclopedias and books of
reference. This obstacle to a New York editor or reporter was not so
great as it might seem. The public are often favored in our journals
with dissertations upon various abstruse matters by men who are entirely
ignorant of what they are writing about. It was said of Cuvier that he
could restore the skeleton of an extinct animal if he were only given
one of its teeth, and so a competent editor or reporter of a city
journal can get up an article of any length on any given subject, if he
is only furnished one word or name to start with. There was but one
writer on ethnology distinctly known to the authors, which was Prichard;
but that being secured, all the rest came easily enough. The authors
went to the Astor Library and secured a volume of Prichard's works, the
perusal of which of course gave them the names of many other
authorities, which were also consulted; and thus a very respectable
array of scientific arguments in favor of Miscegenation were soon
compiled. The sentimental and argumentative portions were quickly
suggested from the knowledge of the authors of current politics, of the
vagaries of some of the more visionary reformers, and from their own
The book was at first written in a most cursory manner the chapters got
up without any order or reference to each other, and afterward arranged.
As the impression sought to be conveyed was a serious one, it would
clearly not do to commence with the extravagant and absurd theories to
which it was intended that the reader should gradually be led. The
scientific portion of the work was therefore given first, and was made
as grave and terse and unobjectionable as possible; and merely urged,
by arguments drawn from science and history, that the blending of the
different races of men resulted in a better progeny. As the work
progressed, they continued to "pile on the agony," until, at the close,
the very fact that the statue of the Goddess of Liberty on the Capitol,
is of a bronze tint, is looked upon as an omen of the color of the
"When the traveler approaches the City of Magnificent Distances,"
it says, "the seat of what is destined to be the greatest and most
beneficent power on earth, the first object that will strike his
eye will be the figure of Liberty surmounting the Capitol; not
white, symbolizing but one race, nor black, typifying another, but
a statue representing the composite race, whose sway will extend
from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, from the Equator to the
North Pole--the Miscegens of the Future."
The Book once written, plans were laid to obtain the indorsement of the
people who were to be humbugged. It was not only necessary to humbug the
members of the Reform and Progressive party, but to present--as I have
before said--such serious arguments that Democrats should be led to
believe it as a bona fide revelation of the "infernal" designs of
their antagonists. In both respects there was complete success.
Although, of course, the mass of the Republican leaders entirely ignored
the book, yet a considerable number of Anti-Slavery men, with more
transcendental ideas, were decidedly "sold." The machinery employed was
exceedingly ingenious. Before the book was published, proof-copies were
furnished to every prominent abolitionist in the country, and also to
prominent spiritual mediums, to ladies known to wear Bloomers, and to
all that portion of our population who are supposed to be a little
"soft" on the subject of reform. A circular was also enclosed,
requesting them, before the publication of the book, to give the author
the benefit of their opinions as to the value of the arguments
presented, and the desirability of the immediate publication of the
work; to be inclosed to the American News Company, 121 Nassau street,
New York--the agents for the publishers. The bait took. Letters came
pouring in from all sides, and among the names of prominent persons who
gave their indorsements were Albert Brisbane, Parker Pillsbury, Lucretia
Mott, Sarah M. Grimke, Angelina G. Weld, Dr. J. McCune Smith, Wm. Wells
Brown. Mr. Pillsbury was quite excited over the book, saying; "Your work
has cheered and gladdened a winter-morning, which I began in cloud and
sorrow. You are on the right track. Pursue it, and the good God speed
you." Mr. Theodore Tilton, upon receiving the pamphlet, wrote a note
promising to read it, and to write the author a long and candid letter
as soon as he had time; and saying, that the subject was one to which he
had given much thought. The promised letter, I believe, however, was
never received; probably because, on a careful perusal of the book, Mr.
Tilton "smelt a rat." He might also have been influenced by an ironical
paragraph relating to himself, and arguing that, as he was a "pure
specimen of the blonde," and "when a young man was noted for his angelic
type of feature," his sympathy for the colored race was accounted for by
the natural love of opposites. Says the author with much gravity:
"The sympathy Mr. Greeley, Mr. Phillips and Mr. Tilton feel for the
negro is the love which the blonde bears for the black; it is the
love of race, a sympathy stronger to them than the love they bear
to woman. It is founded upon natural law. We love our opposites. It
is the nature of things that we should do so, and where Nature has
free course, men like those we have indicated, whether Anti-Slavery
or Pro-Slavery, Conservative or Radical, Democrat or Republican,
will marry and be given in marriage to the most perfect specimens
of the colored race."
So far, things worked favorably; and, having thus bagged a goodly number
of prominent reformers, the next effort was to get the ear of the
public. Here, new machinery was brought into play. A statement was
published in the "Philadelphia Inquirer" (a paper which, ever since the
war commenced, has been notorious for its "sensation" news,) that a
charming and accomplished young mulatto girl was about to publish a book
on the subject of the blending of the races, in which she took the
affirmative view. Of course, so piquant a paragraph was immediately
copied by almost every paper in the country. Various other stories,
equally ingenious and equally groundless, were set afloat, and public
expectation was riveted on the forthcoming work.
Some time in February last, the book was published. Copies, of course,
were sent to all the leading journals. The "Anglo-African," the organ of
the colored population of New York, warmly, and at great length,
indorsed the doctrine. The "Anti-Slavery Standard," edited by Mr. Oliver
Johnson, gave over a column of serious argument and endorsement to the
work. Mr. Tilton, of the "Independent," was not to be caught napping.
In that journal, under date of February 25, 1864, he devoted a
two-column leader to the subject of Miscegenation and the little
pamphlet in question. Mr. Tilton was the first to announce a belief that
the book was a hoax. I quote from his article:
"Remaining a while on our table unread, our attention was specially
called to it by noticing how savagely certain newspapers were
* * * * *
"The authorship of the pamphlet is a well-kept secret; at least it
is unknown to us. Nor, after a somewhat careful reading, are we
convinced that the writer is in earnest. Our first impression was,
and remains, that the work was meant as a piece of pleasantry--a
burlesque upon what are popularly called the extreme and fanatical
notions of certain radical men named therein. Certainly, the essay
is not such a one as any of these gentlemen would have written on
the subject, though some of their speeches are conspicuously quoted
and commended in it."
* * * * *
"If written in earnest, the work is not thorough enough to be
satisfactory; if in jest, we prefer Sydney Smith--or McClellan's
Report. Still, to be frank, we agree with a large portion of these
pages, but disagree heartily with another portion."
* * * * *
"The idea of scientifically undertaking to intermingle existing
populations according to a predetermined plan for reconstructing
the human race--for flattening out its present varieties into one
final unvarious dead-level of humanity--is so absurd, that we are
more than ever convinced such a statement was not written in
Mr. Tilton, however, hints that the colored race is finally in some
degree to form a component part of the future American; and that, in
time, "the negro of the South, growing paler with every generation, will
at last completely hide his face under the snow."
One of the editorial writers for the "Tribune" was so impressed with the
book that he wrote an article on the subject, arguing about it with
apparent seriousness, and in a manner with some readers supposed to be
rather favorable than otherwise to the doctrine. Mr. Greeley and the
publishers, it is understood, were displeased at the publication of the
article. The next morning nearly all the city journals had editorial
articles upon the subject.
The next point was, to get the miscegenation controversy into Congress.
The book, with its indorsements, was brought to the notice of Mr. Cox,
of Ohio (commonly called "Sunset Cox;") and he made an earnest speech on
the subject. Mr. Washburne replied wittily, reading and commenting on
extracts from a work by Cox, in which the latter deplored the existence
of the prejudice against the Africans. A few days after, Mr. Kelly, of
Pennsylvania, replied very elaborately to Mr. Cox, bringing all his
learning and historical research to bear on the topic. It was the
subject of a deal of talk in Washington afterward. Mr. Cox was charged
by some of the more shrewd members of Congress with writing it. It was
said that Mr. Sumner, on reading it, immediately pronounced it a hoax.
Through the influence of the authors, a person visited James Gordon
Bennett, of the "Herald," and spoke to him about "Miscegenation." Mr.
Bennett thought the idea too monstrous and absurd to waste an article
"But," said the gentleman, "the Democratic papers are all noticing it."
"The Democratic editors are asses," said Bennett.
"Senator Cox has just made a speech in Congress on it."
"Cox is an ass," responded Bennett.
"Greeley had an article about it the other day."
"Well, Greeley's a donkey."
"The 'Independent' yesterday had a leader of a column and a half about
"Well, Beecher is no better," said Bennett. "They're all asses. But what
did he say about it?"
"Oh, he rather indorsed it."
"Well, I'll read the article," said Bennett. "And perhaps I'll have an
article written ridiculing Beecher."
"It will make a very good handle against the radicals," said the other.
"Oh, I don't know," said Bennett. "Let them marry together, if they want
to, with all my heart."
For some days, the "Herald" said nothing about it, but the occasion of
the departure of a colored regiment from New York City having called
forth a flattering address to them from the ladies of the "Loyal
League," the "Herald," saw a chance to make a point against Mr. Charles
King and others; and the next day it contained a terrific article,
introducing miscegenation in the most violent and offensive manner, and
saying that the ladies of the "Loyal League" had offered to marry the
colored soldiers on their return! After that, the "Herald" kept up a
regular fusillade against the supposed miscegenic proclivities of the
Republicans. And thus, after all, Bennett swallowed the "critter"
horns, hoofs, tail, and all.
The authors even had the impudence to attempt to entrap Mr. Lincoln into
an indorsement of the work, and asked permission to dedicate a new work,
on a kindred subject, "Melaleukation," to him. Honest Old Abe however,
who can see a joke, was not to be taken in so easily.
About the time the book was first published, Miss Anne E. Dickinson
happened to lecture in New York. The authors here exhibited a great
degree of acuteness and tact, as well as sublime impudence, in seizing
the opportunity to have some small hand bills, with the endorsement of
the book, printed and distributed by boys among the audience. Before
Miss Dickinson appeared, therefore, the audience were gravely reading
the miscegenation handbill; and the reporters, noticing it, coupled the
facts in their reports. From this, it went forth, and was widely
circulated, that Miss Dickinson was the author!
Dr. Mackay, the correspondent of the "London Times," in New York, was
very decidedly sold, and hurled all manner of big words against the
doctrine in his letters to "The Thunderer;" and thus "the leading paper
of Europe" was, for the hundredth time during the American Rebellion,
decidedly taken in and done for.
The "Saturday Review"--perhaps the cleverest and certainly the sauciest
of the English hebdomadals--also berated the book and its authors in the
most pompous language at its command. Indeed, the "Westminster Review"
seriously refers to the arguments of the book in connection with Dr.
Broca's pamphlet on Human Hybridity, a most profound work.
"Miscegenation" was republished in England by Truebner & Co.; and very
extensive translations from it are still passing the rounds of the
French and German papers.
Thus passes into history one of the most impudent as well as ingenious
literary hoaxes of the present day. There is probably not a newspaper in
the country but has printed much about it; and enough of extracts might
be collected from various journals upon the subject to fill my
It is needless to say that the book passed through several editions. Of
course, the mass of the intelligent American people rejected the
doctrines of the work, and looked upon it either as a political dodge,
or as the ravings of some crazy man; but the authors have the
satisfaction of knowing that it achieved a notoriety which has hardly
been equalled by any mere pamphlet ever published in this country.