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

inevitable fro
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

native wit.

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

future American!

"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

abusing it."

* * * * *

"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.