October 8, 2012

The Unmentionable Ethnicity: English-American

From Reuters:
Romney's English Roots Surprise Cousins Left Behind 
By REUTERS 
BARROW-IN-FURNESS, England (Reuters) - Mitt Romney's fight to become America's next president has the backing of one enthusiastic group of supporters, although they don't actually have a vote: his relatives in England. 
Few associate the Republican candidate with Britain but it was in England's industrial northwest that his ancestors lived for generations and converted to Mormonism before leaving for the United States in 1841 in search of the promised land.

In English cultural history, there's one moderately famous Romney, a distant kinsman of the candidate who shares his father's name:
Dalton has plenty of Romney-related history. Its most famous son was George Romney, who went to London and became one of the most celebrated portrait painters of the 18th century. 
Two streets and a park are named after the artist, who is said to have had a secret affair with the mistress of Lord Nelson [right], the naval hero who defeated the French at Trafalgar. 
George was buried in the churchyard of St Mary's parish church - where Mitt Romney's great-great grandparents, Elizabeth and Miles, were baptized and married before converting to the Mormon faith in 1837 and moving to the United States.

I like the first George Romney's painting of Thomas Paine.

But being English-American -- in the tradition of Franklin, Washington, and Lincoln -- is not something to be boasted of:
When he came to Britain in July this year, Romney did not visit the area where his family have their roots - unusual since emphasizing a European heritage is often seen as an electoral plus in U.S. politics. 
Barack Obama, who faces Romney in the November 6 presidential election, went down well last year when he toured an Irish village where one of his forebears once lived [O'Bama? Baroque O'Blarney?]
Romney's campaign spokeswoman made no comment when asked how the Republican challenger felt about his English origins. 

45 comments:

eah said...

...unusual since emphasizing a European heritage is often seen as an electoral plus in U.S. politics.

Uhh, for some time now that has just not been the case.

The media is more idiotic and contemptible every day.

Anonymous said...

We live in strange, strange times.

elvisd said...

"We're Engish Americans. We have made all kinds of a achievements you might not have heard of, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. You might not know that the English and English Americans have made all kinds of contributions to our global family, such as calculus,modern physics, telecommunications, evolution, the works of Shakespeare, railroads, and advancements in atomic theory-little things like that. English people-get to know us."

Anonymous said...

RE:English-American,

It's also the most under-reported in surveys. People who are, say, 75% English and 25% German seem to prefer identifying as German.

The reason for this probably has to do with English being the default American identity-the norm against which ethnicity is identified. To be English-American is to simply be American. And, sadly, no one seems to want to be only an American these days.

Syon

hailtoyou said...

.
Mitt Romney's Ancestry
Mitt Romney: Ethnic Ancestry Summary
40.6% England — Mostly Northwest, partly W.Midlands
18.8% Scotland
26.6% Colonial-Yankee
12.5% North-German
1.5-3% French, Acadian and possible Huguenot

There are some pretty amazing stories to be read about Mitt's ancestors. (A sad comparison to Obama's recidivist drunk-driving father).

Marlowe said...

What a bizarre personal coincidence. I read last night two articles on The Occidental Observer about the invisibility of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants as an ethnic group - part 1 and part 2 - and it left me musing on the reductio ad absurdum prospect of narrowing one's ethnic group down to a very small size - the inverse of Richard Dawkin's criticism of the group selection position in evolutionary biology wherein he questioned how nature could draw the line on how big a group of organisms to include within the circle of altruism - why don't lions act kindly to all other mammals or even chordates? I thought to myself that at its narrowest the pursuit of a narrow ethnic identity could become a case of Barrow-and-Furness against the world. And now I read this piece about Romney's ancestry on your blog today.

Harry Baldwin said...

Two streets and a park are named after the artist, who is said to have had a secret affair with the mistress of Lord Nelson [right]

Nelson's mistress, Emma Hamilton, was the Kim Kardashian of her day. More Romney paintings of her at her wikipedia page.

Peter A said...

"English American" is still more acceptable than "German American".

Or "French American". There are a lot of Americans with some French ancestry and, other than Cajuns, I never hear anyone talk about it. My family was proud of their English ancestors, but didn't talk about the great-great grandfather who immigrated from Burgundy. French Americans (esp. Huguenots) have done pretty well too - Warren Buffet, Robert Duvall, the Du Ponts, Alexander Hamilton...

Junius said...

Steve, a story you may find interesting from England. John Terry, the (former) captain of the English national soccer team, has been found guilty after long legal proceedings of racially taunting an opponent while playing for his club, Chelsea. During the trial, they brought in a black teammate of Terry's, Ashley Cole, to defend his character ("See, I have black friends. How can I possibly be racist?"). Now Cole is getting in trouble for calling the arbitrators "twats" on Twitter.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/08/sport/football/football-terry-crime-and-punishment/index.html

peterike said...

He has English ancestors? Oh my.

So a vote for Romney is a vote for the whitest of dead white males. Didn't we run them out of the curriculum a few decades ago?

Let's hope that some of those ole English traits -- hyper-competence; explosive imagination; unconquerable bravery; a mania for justice but willing to use utter ruthlessness when required; a fierce disdain for the lesser races -- are still bubbling away somewhere inside of Mitt.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute: there were people in England converting to Mormonism and moving to the United States in 1837!!! That's pretty impressive, given that the church was only officially established in 1830. Joseph Smith apparently had more juice than I had realized.

Hugh said...

As a Brit I find this sad.

Romney caught some flak when he visited the UK by making some rather detailed criticisms of the preparations for the Olympics: but I rather agreed with him. I was also stunned to hear a candidate for high office getting into facts instead of just dealing out a few platitudes.

agnostic said...

"Gothic English-American" could catch on and make people more open to exploring their Anglo roots.

Celtic roots has intrinsic Romantic appeal throughout the Anglosphere. Still, English culture during certain times has been more rambunctious and spiritually inclined.

Like, today I doubt any of his English relatives would be painting striking portraits of 17 year-old beauties while they themselves were in their late 40s. But that wasn't so unusual at the beginning of the Romantic-Gothic period.

His ancestors who came here left just after that zeitgeist had begun to fizzle out in Europe, and sailed an ocean to take part in the American Gothic period, with a new religious sect no less.

For Europeans seeking greater meaning in life, and frankly more exciting experiences, the American Gothic would've been a welcome alternative to the settled and too-safe feel of the Victorian era.

Of course, most English-Americans don't have colorful family histories like that, but "Gothic English-American" would go a good ways toward opening up people's minds to their Romantic appeal.

Funcrusher said...

English-Americans were the first to remove the hyphen. Then they created the sacred realm of generic American whiteness and inhabited it as gods.

Beecher Asbury said...

I think it is a shame that English ethnicity is not celebrated. I think English Americans should be looked upon as a "first among equals" type of group.

I have an in-law who can trace his ancestry back to the Revolution. I asked him if he was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution or some other similar group. He was not.

I really can't believe this. Probably in every other country on Earth, being related to a nation's founders or famous revolutionaries carries some cachet. But not here.

Cail Corishev said...

"Nelson's mistress, Emma Hamilton, was the Kim Kardashian of her day."

Except that she had 10 kids. Back then, even the scandalous party girls spent much of their time married (or as a mistress) and pregnant.

stari_momak said...

Yahoo has the story under the headline as 'UK family shocked at Romney link'. [my emph.] I don't think they meant that in a good way.

stari_momak said...

"Wait a minute: there were people in England converting to Mormonism and moving to the United States in 1837!!"

Mormonism is Judaism for Anglo-Saxons.

Severn said...

"English-Americans" may not be celebrated, but the English are. Through books and television ranging from Wodehouse to JK Rowling and Shakespeare to Monty Python, England is the foreign country with the biggest hold on the America psyche.

That England of the American imagination does not exist any more, if it ever did. Modern England is one of the more fascistic states in the Anglosphere, and even in the world.

stari_momak said...

I was surprised to see the link to Northern England. The Romney salt marshes are in the Southeast. They are famous for sheep and lamb raised there.

Anonyia said...

"Or "French American". There are a lot of Americans with some French ancestry and, other than Cajuns, I never hear anyone talk about it. My family was proud of their English ancestors, but didn't talk about the great-great grandfather who immigrated from Burgundy. French Americans (esp. Huguenots) have done pretty well too - Warren Buffet, Robert Duvall, the Du Ponts, Alexander Hamilton..."

My grandmother's relatives also deny their French and Swiss Huguenot ancestry, despite it being geneaologically documented and their last name being clearly French in origin. They claim they are Scottish instead, which is partially true. People just pick and choose the most romantic parts of their ancestry.

Cail Corishev said...

My very Irish grandmother's maiden name is Petit (pronounced PET-it, with both T's). She's been to visit Ireland a few times, and sends out cards on St. Patrick's Day. We pointed out that the name is obviously French, but she's never had the slightest interest in tracing it back to whenever it came across the sea to Ireland, or what the French background is.

I'd guess Irish is the only European ancestry that a candidate could gain from emphasizing today, as Obama showed.

Cail Corishev said...

Oops, Lady Hamilton's daughter was the one who had 10 children; she herself only had two (one died soon after childbirth). My mistake. Still, for such a famous wild child, she spent most of her time on a small number of men. (Definite alphas, as I'm sure Whiskey would point out.)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I am terribly ashamed of my race.

O'Bama

Londoner said...

I never cease to be amazed by the extent to which Englishness and even England is invisible in the US and elsewhere in the Anglosphere. There's almost an inverted one-drop rule - any hint of any other ethnicity, no matter how dilute, obliterates Englishness, though the latter might account for 99% of a person's ancestry. And those Anglos who don't have a vanishingly ancient Irish/Scottish/German/Italian/ANYTHING ancestor on which to hang their identity are simply American/Australian/Kiwi/Canadian.

The Australians may be the honourable exception. Many Aussies take an active pride in their Englishness and regard England as a home from home. Probably the mass infusion of ten-pound poms after WW2 has a lot to do with this.


I know Romney is widely disliked (to put it mildly) among rightists and conservatives, but he strikes me as a fundamentally sound man and in some ways a good candidate (by my reckoning the best Republican candidate for at least twenty years and maybe longer). And his instincts seem to right in some surprising ways:

1. His (staff's) reference to the USA's Anglo-Saxon heritage, and refusal to apologise for/disown it.

2. The 47% thing (which he has regrettably backed down from).

3. His reference to self-deportation being one of the answers to the immigration problem (and other anti- or at least not rabidly pro-immigration talk). He's since rowed back from any significant anti-immigration platform, but to have even "gone there" as far as he did was notable.

A pity he's chosen to bend the knee to the Zionists, but I don't know if any serious prospective Republican candidate has a choice on that point any more.

Lastly, "English-American" - doesn't that sound much better than "WASP"? Keep the latter for generic Protestant European-Americans if you wish, but for actual English-Americans, why not simply call them that? "WASP" is a hostile exonym and should be rigorously avoided IMO.

Anonymous said...

Severn:"That England of the American imagination does not exist any more, if it ever did. Modern England is one of the more fascistic states in the Anglosphere, and even in the world."

You must be very little travelled, dear boy; the number of states in the world that are more "fascistic" than the UK defy easy numeration.

Syon

Anonymous said...

Londoner:"Lastly, "English-American" - doesn't that sound much better than "WASP"? Keep the latter for generic Protestant European-Americans if you wish, but for actual English-Americans, why not simply call them that? "WASP" is a hostile exonym and should be rigorously avoided IMO."

English-Americans are just Americans. After all, they invented America; if they don't claim the title, who will?



Syon

Anonymous said...

That mistress was HOT!! That´s the first female from before the 1940´s that I have ever found attractive..

Anonymous said...

Why should an American be proud of being English when the English themselves aren't?

Last time I was in London it like being in a 3rd World city. At times, I was the only white person of English decent around.

But then selling out your country for short-term financial gain is VERY English.

Dr Van Nostrand said...

And those Anglos who don't have a vanishingly ancient Irish/Scottish/German/Italian/ANYTHING ancestor on which to hang their identity are simply American/Australian/Kiwi/Canadian."

According to most surveys, most white Americans claim German lineage( I dont think they differentiate between Prussian,Swiss and Austrian).
Followed by Irish and Italian(tied) and then English.

But there is a catch ,those who described their ethnicity as "American" were the largest group.Could these be the elusive English Americans which were curiously under represented in the aformentioned part of the survery. Or could they be Scots Irish(no not THAT Scots Irish) who like the English seem to underplay their heritage.




It's also the most under-reported in surveys. People who are, say, 75% English and 25% German seem to prefer identifying as German.

The reason for this probably has to do with English being the default American identity-the norm against which ethnicity is identified. To be English-American is to simply be American. And, sadly, no one seems to want to be only an American these days."

LOL ,German Americans havent been an assertive ethnic block since .....

ben tillman said...

But there is a catch ,those who described their ethnicity as "American" were the largest group.Could these be the elusive English Americans which were curiously under represented in the aformentioned part of the survery. Or could they be Scots Irish(no not THAT Scots Irish) who like the English seem to underplay their heritage.

They're either or both and/or Welsh.

Anonymous said...

My theory is that English Americans don't identify with being English, because so many of the original English Americans were released from debtors' prison to be shipped to America as indentured servants, and probably weren't feeling very dewy eyed about England from the start. Those who survived eventually built lives for themselves, had children, got caught up in the manic changes of the country, and became affiliated with the land they had a stake in.

Another factor contributing to the English becoming Americans was the fact that their language became the American language; they therefore didn't begin their lives here feeling the cultural separation that comes with speaking a foreign language in a new land.

irishman said...

"Cail Corishev said...
My very Irish grandmother's maiden name is Petit (pronounced PET-it, with both T's). She's been to visit Ireland a few times, and sends out cards on St. Patrick's Day. We pointed out that the name is obviously French, but she's never had the slightest interest in tracing it back to whenever it came across the sea to Ireland, or what the French background is.

I'd guess Irish is the only European ancestry that a candidate could gain from emphasizing today, as Obama showed.

10/8/12 3:16 PM"

It's Huguenot. It she is likely from the South East of Ireland where I happen to live, they came here a few hundred years ago. Names like Parle, Lambert, Devoreaux(the x is pronounced in Ireland) and Petit or Petitte abound. Petitte's are a supermarket chain here. They are seamlessly assimilated and have thoroughly interbred with us Irish and seem to have lost their protestant religion somewhere along the way so even if your granny has a French name she may still be Irish.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


But then selling out your country for short-term financial gain is VERY English."

You dont how right you - lets examine the 1st ever Anglo Dutch merger-no not Shell

http://www.economist.com/node/3651687

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorious_Revolution

One of the officers who faciliated this Dutch invasion and ouster of the native British king was one Lord Churchill whose more famous descendent would go on to make the fantastic claim that no foreign had lit a camp fire on Britains shores for the last 1000 years or something to do that effect.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


Lastly, "English-American" - doesn't that sound much better than "WASP"? Keep the latter for generic Protestant European-Americans if you wish, but for actual English-Americans, why not simply call them that? "WASP" is a hostile exonym and should be rigorously avoided IMO."

Also there are quite a few non WASPS who are referred to as WASP such as Eisenhower(German),Roosevelt(Dutch) and Martin Van Buren(Dutch).Apparently one need not be Anglo Saxon to be considered WASP.
Isnt WASP considered a catch all term for pretty much any upper class person of Northern European Protestant descent?
Culture too is key ,George HW Bush was WASP to the core- Connecticut,Tennis,Yale,Skull and Bones,Senator,UN Ambassador-the works

But his son ditched the Episopelian faith and breeding and went in for the more rustic Scots Irish culture.
GWB is a WASP by blood but a self conscious a non WASP by his evangelical faith,fondness for Israel and philo Hispanism.
Is he still then considered a WASP?

Dr Van Nostrand said...


As to why English ancestry is under reported is quite simple:vanilla is everyone's 2nd favorite

Funnily this had a parallel in past Republican primary where the voters tried all different flavors before settling for the inevitable

Michele Bachman(German)
Rick Perry(Scots Irish)
Herman Cain(Black)
Newt Gingrich(Scottish?)
Rick Santorum(Italian Catholic)
and then
Willard Mitt Romney(Anglo Saxon)

oh ok,we'll go with the English guy!

hailtoyou said...

"Michele Bachman(German)"

Incorrect. Every single one of her great-great-grandparents was born in Norway.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


Incorrect. Every single one of her great-great-grandparents was born in Norway."

Ah ok ,well she represents Minnesota so there was that likelihood!

Still cant blame for mistaking that for a German name!

as said...

That's a great self-portrait.

irishman said...

"Dr Van Nostrand said...

Incorrect. Every single one of her great-great-grandparents was born in Norway."

Ah ok ,well she represents Minnesota so there was that likelihood!

Still cant blame for mistaking that for a German name!

10/9/12 7:14 AM"

Her husband is Swiss German.

"Rick Perry(Scots Irish)"
"his son ditched the Episopelian faith and breeding and went in for the more rustic Scots Irish culture.
GWB is a WASP by blood but a self conscious a non WASP by his evangelical faith,fondness for Israel and philo Hispanism.
Is he still then considered a WASP?"
I think there is a difference between The Anglo Planter culture of the deep south and the Scot Irish culture of appalachia. The first one is colonial and amoral. The second is proletarian and patriotic. For this reason I wouldn't consider Bush or Perry Scots-Irish.

Dutch Boy said...

Perhaps English-Americans lost their hankering for such an identity during the long years that Great Britain was our chronic rival and occasional enemy (basically until they decided we were handy for retrieving chestnuts from fires).

Dutch Boy said...

Speaking of Norwegians, I once asked a Mormon about the frequency of Scandinavian-sounding names among Mormons (fearing they were Norwegian). To my relief, he explained that a number of Danes had converted in the 19th century and headed for Utah.

ShitHeadgene Liberals said...

"Romney's campaign spokeswoman made no comment when asked how the Republican challenger felt about his English origins."

What's more disgraceful in a politician than drug use, violence, lying? Being of Northern European Heritage! How dare he have successful ancestors who contributed to the world?

hailtoyou said...

Dutch Boy wrote:
"To my relief"

Huh?

Dutch Boy said...

hailtoyou: I am part Norwegian, thus my relief.