Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of Wilmot Robertson (April 16, 1915–July 8, 2005), author of The Dispossessed Majority (originally published 1972; several revisions over the next two decades) and publisher/editor of Instauration magazine, a print-only monthly that flourished from 1975 to 2000. For many people now middle-aged or beyond, these were their first, or most eye-opening, introduction to intellectual racialism.
Robertson was not, and did not try to be, an innovative thinker. He was not a philosopher, a scientist, or a politician; he founded no schools of thought or activist cadres, nor did he seek to. Robertson was in fact famously discreet, to the point to being secretive. “Wilmot Robertson” was a pseudonym that he used for forty years. It shielded his privacy so well that during his lifetime only family and a handful of associates knew his real name, which was Humphrey Ireland.
Robertson/Ireland was essentially a popularizer. As one might expect of a former advertising executive, he had enormous ability when it came to coining phrases and disseminating ideas. He could take difficult, elusive concepts and encapsulate them into pithy phrases that endured. The best example is the book title itself, “The Dispossessed Majority,” which states both the problem and its root cause: white Americans of North European origin created a nation and had it gradually, cunningly taken from them by others. But there are other Robertson phrases still current today, such as “The Aesthetic Prop,” and “The White Ethno-State.”
Thanks to The Dispossessed Majority and Instauration, the legacy of Robertson is all around us today in the Internet Age. The two main strands of nationalist and Alt-Right expression we see in the blogosphere — serious racial and demographic discussion on the one hand (The Occidental Observer, American Renaissance, Vdare, and others); full-on aggressive mockery on the other (name your favorites here) — might be considered direct descendants, respectively, of The Dispossessed Majority and the blog-like, often satirical Instauration.
Even the our rather low-cult craze for “memes” finds antecedents in Robertson. For many issues in the 1980s, Robertson decorated pages 3 and 4 of Instauration with cartoons of a gloriously afro’d “ghetto” youth with a big boombox on his shoulder, and a smug, shifty-looking Jewish man in a cardigan. Willie and Marv, they were called. (For someone of Robertson’s vintage, the names were obvious takeoffs on Bill Mauldin’s WW2 dogfaces, Willie and Joe. This of course went over many readers’ heads.)
Months went by, years went by, afros went out of style, bell-bottoms and platform shoes went out of style (actually they were out of style before the series even began). But Willie and Marv never changed. Only the captions varied.
Finally Robertson retired Willie and Marv. Reportedly this was because they were thought to detract from the publication’s gravitas. But it might also be that former ad-man Robertson intuited that these faded, never-changing cartoons might be just a little too emblematic of Instauration’s letters column, where the cartoons appeared.
There was a lot of pent-up anger in Instauration readers, who had a lot to say and couldn’t announce it anywhere else. The mailbags were always full at Instauration. Repetitious, autistic whinging filled up much of the letters column. Month after month the readers bang-bang-banged away at the same old hobby-horses, taking obvious joy in scribbling slurs and invective. Many of them addressed the editor with a conniving familiarity, as though to say, “I hate the same people you do!” Knowing references were dropped about The Aesthetic Prop and Majority Renegades. Complaints about Jews. The Zionist Lobby. Sicilians. (Sure, why not?) Then, for good measure, something about the Irish. (The editor had Rileys and Bradys in his mother’s tree and made a running joke of printing inscrutable anti-Hibernian slurs from correspondents.) Robertson could have filled entire issues with Letters to the Editor, but usually kept this section to about three pages, sampling only a splenetic paragraph or two of the best ones.
He printed these extracts semi-anonymously, listing the first three digits of your ZIP Code in lieu of signature. This let canny readers know right away whether a correspondent was writing from a Den of Iniquity (100: NYC; 200: DC), or perhaps God’s Country (597, or something like that).
“The Safety Valve,” Robertson titled this section. As with Willie and Marv, he was mildly surprised when he discovered that some readers didn’t catch the reference. So he nicely explained. A safety valve is where you let off steam pressure — you know, so the boiler doesn’t explode!
Thanks to the magic of the World Wide Web, the full quarter-century of Instauration is now online in several places, and you can scroll through acres of correspondents’ wit and snarls. You may find it all bears close comparison to your daily dose of social media. Something like Frog Twitter. Only more prolix. And no frogs.
“The Safety Valve” was Instauration‘s mudroom, where you scraped off the dreck and made yourself presentable. Once past it, you found high- and mid-cult writings on a vast range of subjects.
The poltroonishness of sell-out politicians (both Newt Gingrich and Lee Atwater were honored with covers as “Majority Renegade of the Year”). Deep dissections of Nietzsche and T. B. Macaulay. Appreciations of “majority” light composers (Percy Grainger, who was Australian; Cole Porter, a notoriously homosexual but high-class Yale man, who with walking-stick and white tie beat the boys of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway at their own game). A nod to at least one popular novelist (Tom Wolfe, whose Bonfire of the Vanities conjured up for the boondocks everything they ever imagined about corrupt, multiracial “Zoo City”).
There was even a mock “social column” to snort about the recent doings of Wall Street shylocks and Park Avenue swells, written by someone signing himself Cholly Bilderberger. Once again there was some explaining to do from the editorial office. Most readers didn’t know about the “Cholly Knickerbocker” column that ran in the New York Journal-American, back when society lad Humphrey Ireland was growing up in Garden City and Lake Placid, NY. Oh well . . .
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The Dispossessed Majority was of course a very different animal from Instauration. No cartoons, livid correspondence, music appreciation, or Cholly Bilderberger, but a thoroughly sober, readable brief of 600 pages on the decline of the American “Majority” and the major forces in its dispossession. There is no call-to-arms here, no proposed solution in a white ethno-state (that would come later, in Robertson’s 1992 book of that title).
There is very little in fact, about “where we’re going”: Robertson, depressingly, viewed the endgame as residing many decades in the future. TDM is a foundational book about where we’ve been and how we got here. Robertson constructs his stonework masterfully, discreetly. Some people balk at his vague term “majority,” but that choice is merely indicative of Robertson’s carefulness. As it happens, there is no other word. “White” will not do, and WASP can’t work for several obvious reasons (not least of which is its inherent offensiveness).
TDM was originally copyrighted 1972, but went through many printings and several substantive revisions over the next 15 or 20 years. (The version you can read online appears to be a late revision but bears no date.) Having consumed the first edition soon after publication, I’ve always found (or imagined I found) the revisions to be more diffuse, less hard-hitting than the original. Much of the revision work was merely to update political commentary, and this may be a key to why I found the later versions weaker.
The original was written in the 1960s and early 70s. The civic turmoil from the LBJ era had given it a polemical thrust that was difficult to emulate after the complacent glow of the Reagan years. During the 1980s the main political gripes on the Right were about national-security issues, particularly the metastasizing influence of the Israel Lobby and its subversion of American nationalism through the suddenly ubiquitous “neo-conservative” pundits and policy-makers. These problems, as grave as they were insidious (they permeate Instauration from the 1980s onward) could not, or at least did not, have the concrete immediacy of race riots and forced integration. As for issues of illegal aliens and nonwhite immigration, they were on the table, but not widely regarded as a national crisis. Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation would not be published till 1995.
Many of the revisions to TDM‘s political critique, therefore, are merely updates to the original’s Nixon-era references. But there are some pleasant exceptions. In the original TDM, Eugene McCarthy is called “the eccentric Irish-Scandinavian Senator from Minnesota” (to distinguish him from Wisconsin’s Joe). Twenty years later, that “eccentric” becomes “erudite.” For Eugene McCarthy had become an outspoken opponent of nonwhite immigration, denouncing the very 1965 Act he had helped to pass. Sen. McCarthy not only produced a book decrying the effects of the 1965 Act (A Colony of the World, 1992), he later provided the foreword to Brimelow’s aforementioned Alien Nation.The national discourse was shifting, however reluctantly; and Wilmot Robertson surely deserved some small share of the credit.
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As noted up top, Robertson was quite close-mouthed and cagey about his background and private life. The cover blurb for TDM offers only the vaguest sort of personal description — a native Pennsylvanian of Colonial stock. I have found no photographs of him, other than a smudgy copy of a passport photo taken in 1922 when he was a towhead of seven, traveling to Europe with mother and brother.
It is easily established that Humphrey Ireland grew up in Main Line Philadelphia and Long Island, that he attended the Northwood School in Lake Placid (class of 1932) where he was a top student; after which he entered Yale College (class of 1936) but did not graduate, instead going to Europe for a while.
There are records of his sailings in the 20s and 30s, and advertisements and directory listings that show him working as an advertising account executive in Boston and New York in the 30s and 40s. Other than that, he pretty much disappears from publicly searchable records.
Wilmot Robertson finally emerged in the mid-1960s, as a contributor to Willis Carto’s new periodical, Western Destiny (1964-66). For the rest of his life, the years of The Dispossessed Majority, Instauration, and his other writings, stayed mostly in the remote fastness of western North Carolina, hard by the Great Smoky Mountains.
Wilmot Robertson/Humphrey Ireland chose his hard-earned obscurity, and he had his reasons. Young Humphrey grew up in a highly visible family of means, the sort of people whose sailings and dinner-dances were were regularly noted in the society columns. A brief description makes them sound like the raw material for the 1930s “madcap heiress” film comedies.
It was front-page news in 1914 when his parents — Mr. G. Sumner Ireland (aviator and heir) and Miss Dorothy Humphrey (daughter of a society doyenne) — eloped. A few years later Dorothy’s high-spirited younger sister Adele did the same, running off with a dashing one-armed diplomat and former officer of the “Roumanian” army, Gen. Teiusanu (said to have led a bayonet charge after losing both his arm and his ammunition at the Battle of Jiu in 1916). The thrilling story of their whirlwind romance was chronicled at length in the society pages of the Washington Times, 1918-1919. (Young Humphrey visited the Teiusanus in Bucharest during his 1922 trip to Europe.)
Adele died young, but not before producing a daughter who became an actress under the name Cavada Humphrey. Cavada toured international with her husband in Private Lives, had a supporting role in the film Thoroughly Modern Millie, and was a recurring character in the 1960s horror-soap, Dark Shadows.
Humphrey’s father, George Sumner Ireland, was perhaps the most interesting and dynamic member of the family. A adman-turned-airplane-designer, during the 1920s he developed several lines of small aircraft (the Ireland Comet, the Ireland Meteor, the Ireland Neptune, etc.).
His crowning achievement was a compact seaplane, the 2-to-5-seat Ireland Amphibion(™), widely promoted in motorboat and aviation magazines as an economical craft for commuter routes and business use.
Other companies were developing similar lines at the time, during the late-1920s boom in private aviation, including Curtiss, Cessna, and Sikorsky. Those firms survive today in one form or another, but the dream of the personal “flying boat” took a nosedive in the Depression and never recovered.
Neither did Ireland Aircraft. G. Sumner Ireland prospered again, but as a fixed-base-operator at private airfields, not as a manufacturer.
Humphrey had a younger brother, George Sumner Ireland, Jr., and evidently envied him his name. Humphrey’s own first name at birth had been John, but he ditched that and for a while styled himself as Sumner Humphrey Ireland. This enthusiasm soon faded, around the time the Ireland Amphibion passed from view. At prep school and university he was simply Humphrey Ireland.
As for the source of the name Wilmot Robertson, that is a mystery. There are no Wilmots or Robertsons in the Humphrey or Ireland family trees.