Posted on February 16, 2005

In Memoriam Samuel T. Francis

Jerry Woodruff, Middle American News, February 15, 2005

Dr. Samuel T. Francis, Middle American News columnist, author, and friend passed away February 15 at the age of 57.

While the death of a close friend tears a hole in a man’s life, the death of a man like Sam Francis tears a hole in an entire movement. In both cases, it’s a wound that won’t heal easily or soon.

I first met Sam in 1979 at his desk at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a policy analyst on security and terrorism. I could never have dreamed that one day, after some 26 years of friendship, I would have the dreadful task to write an obituary for him in Middle American News — a paper whose founding was inspired, at least in part, by Sam’s own writings on politics.

Sam had been influenced by sociologist Donald Warren’s studies of Middle American Radicals — or “MARs,” in Warren’s coinage — who provided the constituency for the anti-establishment political insurgency of candidates like George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Patrick Buchanan, and who were the reservoir from which the “Reagan Democrats” emerged, giving the GOP its landslide presidential victories in 1980 and 1984.

In his introduction to Revolution From the Middle, Sam described the “long march of the MARs”:

Middle American Radicals are essentially middle-income, white, often ethnic voters who see themselves as an exploited and dispossessed group, excluded from meaningful political participation, threatened by the tax and trade policies of the government, victimized by its tolerance of crime, immigration and social deviance, and ignored or ridiculed by the major cultural institutions of the media and education.

Sam came to regard the MARs as the representatives, if not in fact the vanguard, of the core population group providing America its essential history, culture, and identity. By integrating Warren’s MARs analysis into the theory of elites as formulated by James Burnham, Vilfredo Pareto and others of the “Machiavellian” school of political thinkers, Sam created a potent new intellectual framework for understanding, and responding to, contemporary political events. (Sam’s first book, Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham, is essential reading to understand the totality of Sam’s political thinking.)

Armed with a Burnhamite analysis of elite behavior, Sam advocated that traditional conservatism must adopt a posture of political insurgency, rather than one of defense. In “Winning the Culture War,” one of the more important essays in Revolution From the Middle, Sam explained that the dominant social and political elites in the U.S. today “not only do nothing to conserve what most of us regard as our traditional way of life, but actually seek its destruction, or are indifferent to its survival. If our culture is going to be conserved, we need to dethrone the dominant authorities that threaten it.”

Through his understanding of elite behavior and his advocacy of the just interests of his own people and culture, Sam was able to reveal the political and historical meaning behind the surface of political events. That is one reason why his columns, essays and speeches enjoyed such immense popularity. He provided unique insights unavailable elsewhere, and gave the fight over race, immigration, and multiculturalism a political dimension others often missed. Sam did not argue the pros and cons about issues, preferring instead to show readers the real — usually anti-white — political and financial motivations behind the elites and interest groups manipulating those issues. He knew, for example, that the drive for “diversity” is simply the abstract rationalization used by America’s corporate elites to cloak their appetite for cheap labor from non-Western countries.

Sam’s knowledge and understanding of history and politics was encyclopedic. A voracious reader, Sam’s intellectual curiosity was insatiable, and, as all his dinner partners know, he could discuss a vast array of subjects knowledgeably and comfortably. Those who knew him were impressed by an erudition Sam himself never flaunted. When he wrote or spoke, he did so not to impress, but to exchange information, to arrive at truth and understanding.

Although his enemies routinely denounced him with the usual cuss words, from “white supremacist” and “white racist” to “bigot,” Sam was steadfast in the storm, even when the going got rough and his neoconservative enemies engineered his firing from the Washington Times.

He survived the blow, and found other means to distribute his column. He never betrayed his principles for a job, never apologized for telling the truth, and never for a moment congratulated himself for his virtues.

Sam was devotedly loyal to his friends, a quality some of them did not share. After Sam had been denounced in the press as “racist,” the frightened editors of the formerly courageous New American of the John Birch Society quietly dropped Sam’s name from the masthead where he had been listed as a contributor.

At the time of his death, he had begun work on a new book, very tentatively titled, “Conservatism and Race,” which he described to friends as the first attempt to weld conservative political theory with an understanding of the role of race in the development of culture. It would have been an important and immensely valuable contribution to political theory; but, alas, it was not to be.

His passing leaves a terrible, black void, one that to his friends feels like an abyss. But we can take some solace knowing Sam lived his political life richly, as he wanted, fighting courageously for the cause and people he deeply believed in, no matter what the risks were to his otherwise promising career in mainstream conservatism.

In his office, Sam displayed a framed print of his favorite quotation from Nietzsche, which I had given him. It’s from The Gay Science, section 283 of book four, which might provide a fitting epitaph. It reads, in part:

I welcome all signs that a more virile, warlike age is about to begin, which will restore honor to courage above all. For this age shall prepare the way for one yet higher, and it shall gather the strength that this higher age will require one day — the age that will carry heroism into the search for knowledge and that will wage wars for the sake of ideas and their consequences. To this end we now need many preparatory courageous human beings . . . — human beings who know how to be silent, lonely, resolute, and content and constant in invisible activities; . . . human beings distinguished as much by cheerfulness, patience, unpretentiousness, and contempt for all great vanities as by magnanimity in victory and forbearance regarding the small vanities of the vanquished; . . . human beings . . . accustomed to command with assurance but instantly ready to obey when that is called for — equally proud, equally serving their own cause in both cases, more endangered human beings, more fruitful human beings, happier beings! For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is — to live dangerously!

In Memoriam Sam Francis (April 29, 1947 — February 15, 2005)

Peter Brimelow, VDARE, February 16, 2005

The sudden death on Tuesday night of Sam Francis, whom we had believed was recovering from aneurysm-related heart surgery, is a sad moment particularly for us.

Sam played a quiet but effective role in putting together the principals of VDARE.COM and the Center For American Unity. Later, we were happy to reciprocate by giving his syndicated column a web home when it was dropped without explanation by — part of the Beltway Right’s steady migration towards politically correct respectability.

Sam came from a long tradition of scholarly southerners that is now often forgotten. His fate cruelly paralleled that of the conservative movement to which he gave his life: long years of obscure labor, bravely borne, followed by dispossession at the moment of victory.

By the time the Republican Party for which he had worked so long had won Congress and the White House, he was effectively in exile, utterly alienated from the peculiar invade-the-world invite-the-world heresy that had suddenly and unexpectedly seized control of it. Sam’s firing from the Washington Times in 1995 was, in retrospect, a harbinger of this coup. As in the Trent Lott lynching, it was to be especially hard on southerners, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact they provided the GOP with the votes for victory.

Sam’s great value to VDARE.COM was his unflinching disregard of contemporary taboos. He was always prepared to say the unsayable.

With the end of the Cold War, he emerged as a type of white nationalist, defending the interests of the community upon which the historic United States was, as a matter of fact, built. This position, of course, is as legitimate as Black nationalism, Hispanic nationalism, or Zionism. It is, indeed, the inevitable result of multiculturalism that is being imported through public policy.

Although VDARE.COM is not a white nationalist site, we regarded him as an important part of the VDARE.COM coalition. And we will miss him very badly.

The Establishment, left and right, wasn’t ready to listen to Sam. The logic of their own policies, however, means that eventually they will be forced to.

Like many older bachelors, Sam Francis became set in his ways. He could be gruff and even irascible. I suspect he was lonely, although no-one could have been surrounded by more loyal and devoted friends in his final days.

I have always been puzzled at the visceral animosity this reclusive and retiring figure provoked from the likes of John J. Miller and David Brock. Both launched campaigns to drive him out of public life. But for the internet, they might have succeeded. Sam was more hurt by these campaigns than he should have been — heartrendingly, you could always see in him the shy and sensitive little boy. I believe, however, that there will be a reckoning for these campaigns — as in the parallel case of Sam’s friend Pat Buchanan — in the future.

Also through the miracle of the internet, word of Sam’s passing has already spread around the world. A reader from Spain writes:

I have just noticed the news of Sam Francis’s death. I have only been a few months reading but I’m going to miss his columns very much.

His heart has stopped and the mine has filled with sorrow. Regards for all, [NAME WITHHELD]

An American reader writes:

I am so shocked and saddened to learn of Sam Francis’s death. His was a mind nonpareil and his absence will be a setback for our movement. I must confess that when calling up VDARE.COM I first would look for the most recent Sam Francis article and then, time permitting, would venture through VDARE.COM’s other offerings.

From his attendance at the American Renaissance conferences, I recall his quiet yet precise and cutting wit, his boyish face and encyclopedic mind. The room would hush when he spoke, none wanting to miss a syllable of his keen wisdom. If I’d only known his time was so limited I would have better used my opportunities to know and learn from him. This is a sad day for all of us. [NAME WITH HELD]

I don’t know these people, and I don’t think Sam did.

But, although he always expressed to me an unwavering religious skepticism (Chronicles’ Tom Fleming, linked above, says he has reason to believe Sam changed in his last hours), it is because of readers like these that Sam Francis might say, like the Roman, non omnis moriar — I shall not all die.

We hope to expand our Sam Francis page into a permanent repository for his work.