There is, it seems to me, a racial cosmopolitanism which is quite as morbid as the provincialism of the mob, and quite as dangerous (were it ever given its full institutional expression) to the peace of states and the deeper interest of civilization.
-Edgar Gardner Murphy, in the Preface
Perhaps the most enlightening aspect for contemporary readers of Murphy's The Basis of Ascendancy is in its inadvertent illustration of how much more egalitarian the concept of "liberalism" is today. When the author, in his day a respected theologian of race relations, published, in 1909, this cry for respect and support of "the Negro race," it was considered quite progressive. Today, we can scarcely help but wonder at its assumption of white supremacy, even as it affirmed the value of each race, and its rejection of racial equality and universal suffrage.
Murphy strove tirelessly to improve race relations and reform child labor and education, but the impression he leaves us with here is that his primary concern is that whites justify their assumed superiority with benevolence. An illuminating look at one moment in the history of American society, and a refreshing reminder at how far we have progressed, this is a vital volume for students of the era and vigilant culture mavens alike.
EDGAR GARDNER MURPHY (1869-1913) was an American Episcopal priest and social activist. His other works include Problems of the Present South and Larger Life: Sermons and an Essay.