CHAPTER 1 Fighting Quakers
Pdf file downloadable here (171 Kb)
Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche, Jr., was born on 8 September 1922 in Rochester, New Hampshire, to Lyndon, Sr., and Jessie Weir LaRouche. The family had two other children as well, daughters Lenore Ella and Caroline Shirley. The LaRouches traced their roots back to French Canada. LaRouche's great grandfather, Antoine, was born and raised in Quebec. His son Joseph was also born in Quebec but immigrated to France. He later returned to North America and settled in New England.
Joseph LaRouche reportedly worked both as a mechanic and pharmacist, and LaRouche describes him as being well-off financially. Joseph's wife was named Ella and they had two children, Lyndon Sr. and a daughter named Edith. Joseph LaRouche died in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1931. According to LaRouche, he passed away sometime in his sixties.
Lyndon LaRouche Senior as a technical consultant.
Here he was invited in 1952 by the Bata
shoe manufacturer in Bataville (Lorraine, France).
LaRouche's father, Lyndon, Sr., relocated his family to Lynn in 1932.1 LaRouche father worked in the shoe industry and that his father had been "a road man for United Shoe during part of his career" as well as an inventor and consultant for the shoe industry. From a 14 December 1985 New Solidarity (NS) obituary:
In a 16 July 1976 NS article on his childhood, LaRouche reports that Joseph and Ella LaRouche were Roman Catholics but that Lyndon, Sr., converted to Quakerism during his youth. He then married Jessie Weir. She reportedly came from a 160-year old line of Carolina and Ohio Quaker abolitionists on her mother's side of what LaRouche dubbed the "Quaker squirearchy."2
Jessie's father, the Reverend George Weir, however, was a Quaker. LaRouche describes him as a Scottish-American United Brethren minister, who had served as a skid-row missionary in Columbus, Ohio, during his youth.3 The Church of the United Brethren in Christ was an evangelical Protestant sect that, like the Quakers, opposed slavery while also being strongly committed to pacifism.4
LaRouche reports that he was raised by the evangelical – or "Orthodox" – wing of the Quakers and spent his youth preparing for the Quaker ministry.5 Yet the family frequently didn't often worship in a regular Quaker meeting hall. LaRouche reports that while he was "steeped in the evangelical tradition of that [Orthodox] current of the Society of Friends," most of his early religious experiences took place in Baptist and Congregationalist churches" – in particular in the basement of the Congregational Church located on Main Street in Rochester, New Hampshire, because the Orthodox Quakers had too few people to afford their own meeting hall.6 In his book The Power of Reason, LaRouche writes that "I knew little more about the Society of Friends until I was ten years old" or around the time the family relocated to Lynn.7
After the LaRouche family relocated to Lynn, Massachusetts, they attended services at the Lynn Quaker Meeting.8 As Orthodox Quakers, they bitterly opposed an important brand of Quakerism first promoted by Elias Hicks, a Long Island farmer who broke from the "Orthodox Quakers" in 1827.
The split inside the Society of Friends between the minority Hicksite and Orthodox Quaker majority triggered a real crisis in the denomination. Hicks first created a scandal when he rejected the literal authority of the Scriptures and claimed that Jesus was "no more than a man."9 Hicks' followers also opposed the Orthodox attempt to identify Friends' teachings with traditional Protestant ideas. They claimed that the Orthodox wished to weaken the "Inner Light" doctrine in order to make Quaker doctrine more "mainstream." For this reason, Hicks and his followers also opposed any Orthodox involvement in the various evangelical Bible and missionary societies that were being created throughout 19th century America. Hicks claimed that "these Bible Societies, and Missionary Societies and Associations, set up in the wisdom of man must all fall to the ground; they must be broken to pieces." Friends must not have any contact with such "works of darkness" since these groups "are more pernicious to the real spread of the true gospel of Christ, and more oppressive, than all the gambling and horse racing in the country." By the early 1900s, the American Society of Friends was divided among the small but influential Hicks grouping; the majority Orthodox Quakers; and another branch of Conservative Quakers known as the Wilburites.10
In World War I, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was established. The AFSC became a personal bete noire for LaRouche's parents apparently because the AFSC was seen both as a secular social work organization operating under religious guise and also because it had worked with the Wilson administration during the war. Many of its members were also from the strongly liberal wing of the wealthy Quaker elite. In The Power of Reason, LaRouche writes of the AFSC:
The crisis for the LaRouches was particularly acute precisely because at this time there was a drive by all factions inside the Society of Friends to reach some kind of reconciliation and finally end the bitter disputes that had plagued the organization for a century and which had led by the 1920s to a rapid decline in general membership (with the Hicks group being the worst affected). The LaRouches, however, opposed any attempt at theological compromise even as they railed against the AFSC.12
LaRouche's father first begins his polemical attack against the AFSC in the early 1920s. He even accused the group of trying to develop a pro-Bolshevik faction inside the Society of Friends.13 Some of the background to the family fight with the AFSC also seeps out in an interview in the November 1986 issue of San Francisco Focus. Asked, "So you had a liberal Quaker upbringing?" LaRouche replied,
Yet at its root, the conflict between the LaRouches' and the "liberal Quakers" in the AFSC involved money. From the Labor Committee published book, The New Dark Ages Conspiracy:
This dispute with the AFSC involved the "Austin Grossman Trust Fund," which had been set by a wealthy uncle of LaRouche's mother who had been a prosperous shoe-box manufacturer. LaRouche's parents claimed that the money from the fund "disappeared" in 1928-32. They also said that they had some rights to the money that Grossman and another Quaker had given to the Society of Friends for "religious education."15 Instead, the "AFSC faction within the Silsbee Street Meeting" used the money presumably to finance their own social work activities.16
In The Power of Reason, LaRouche tries to justify his father's views about the AFSC this way:
(Presumably the "irrationalist libertarian" Quakers were the Hicksites.)
"PRESENT DAY QUAKERISM IN NEW ENGLAND"
The acrimonious conflict also helped inspired LaRouche's father, Lyndon, Sr, to write a pamphlet entitled Present Day Quakerism in New England under the pen name "Hezekiah Micajah Jones." The 1937 pamphlet begins:
"Jones" then continues,
With these preliminary niceties out of the way, the pamphlet begins with a jab at the now seemingly pro-Communist Hicksites:
In attacking social work activism as "Communism," LaRouche, Sr., was defending what he calls one of the "great central teachings of Orthodox Quakerism." This was the notion that in order to achieve salvation all that was needed was "for man to admit his sinfulness and hopeless estate, and that he can be redeemed only through acceptance of Him [Jesus]."18
"Jones" next turns to the AFSC:
LaRouche's father next alludes to the Austin Grossman fund that had supposedly "disappeared":
LaRouche, Sr., next warns about purges inside the New England Quaker community:
Yet there is no possibility of compromising with the Hicksites; instead, they should be purged from the commuity:
The pamphlet even includes a somewhat oblique attack on the Jews. Referring to a Quaker peace conference held in Philadelphia, "Jones" writes:
"Jones" concludes his 10-page philippic:
(Ironically, as we shall see, the only Quaker "purged" from the Lynn pulpit was Lyndon LaRouche, Sr.)
As interesting as the "Jones" pamphlet is, what may perhaps be most fascinating of all is that on the last page of the pamphlet there are stamped the words,
Bracketing the name The Independent on both sides are two tiny fleur de lys, symbol of France. It appears that Lyndon, Sr. – either alone or with others – may have run a right-wing publication called The Independent out of Manchester. From 1932 to 1937, LaRouche's father regularly commuted between Lynn and Manchester, where his father reportedly owned some businesses. In fact for those years, his father mostly lived in New Hampshire and only spent the weekends with his family in Lynn.21 The family also earlier helped sponsor an anti-Communist evangelical preacher in the 1920s.
LaRouche relates this incident in a NS piece about his childhood, where he described his parents as "good, average, God-fearing evangelical Christians." He relates that his parents once sponsored the talk of an unnamed evangelical Christian woman who specialized in anti-communism diatribes. She spoke in the basement of the Congregational Church in Manchester. LaRouche describes her as being in the "Gerald Winrod" tradition. The Kansas-based Winrod (dubbed the "Jayhawk Nazi" in the 1930s in the press) was a well-known leading Protestant fundamentalist. He was also a fierce anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist who attacked the Illuminati as part of a Jewish-Satanic conspiracy against Jesus.22
THE VILLAGE STREET SOCIETY OF FRIENDS
In 1941 Lyndon LaRouche, Sr, was expelled from the Lynn Friends Meeting, an incident first reported by Vin McLellan in the 29 January 1974 issue of the Boston Phoenix.23 McLellan states that
An amateur historian of Quakerism named Austin Meredith years later examined a box of records from the Lynn meeting stored at the New England Historical Society and found reports from the Quaker Board of Overseers. One of them states:
Although Meredith seems to incorrectly assume that the LaRouche in question was the son and not the father, the Lynn complaint is clearly directed at Lyndon, Sr. In protest, the rest of the LaRouche family also quit the meeting although they were not formally expelled.
The LaRouches continued to reject any idea of reconciliation with the broader Quaker community. After the war, the LaRouches seem to have formally broken with the rest of the Orthodox Quakers, who had accepted a compromise that allowed both Orthodox and Hicksite Quakers to worship together in the same meeting house by putting doctrinal differences aside. Instead, the LaRouches founded their own church, a Boston skid-row ministry where they preached to the down-and-out much as Jessie Weir's father, the Reverend George Weir, had preached to skid row sinners many years ago in 19th century Ohio.
From The Boston Phoenix:
LaRouche's parents, in short, created their own religious sect to promulgate their views much as their son would create his own secular sect years later to preach his own doctrines!
Lyndon LaRouche, Sr., also continued to churn out attacks on the Friends from his new position as head of the Village Society. In a pamphlet entitled Pacifism or Christ by "Cadbury Furnas (Lyndon LaRouche, Sr.). It was published by the "Village Street Society of Friends, 48 Dwight Street, Boston, Mass. USA" (with "additional copies at 75 cents a dozen" also available from the same address).
In it, we learn this about pacifism:
"Cadbury Furnas" concludes,
When not attacking his religious foes, LaRouche, Sr, occupied at least part of his time suing his own sister! The roots of this conflict seem to stem from the fact that both Joseph LaRouche and his wife Ella remained Catholics, even as their son became a fanatical Quaker. Although Joseph died in 1931, his wife lived till 1957. In her will she clearly disinherited her only son.
At the core of the conflict seems to be a deep hatred between LaRouche's hyper-religious mother Jessie and her mother-in-law Ella that rapidly grew worse after Joseph LaRouche died. From The Power of Reason:
The feud even had a theological dimension since Ella LaRouche remained a staunch Catholic. Even after her death, it continued.
The Lexis cite Lyndon, Sr.'s, suit against his sister reads as follows:
In short, Lyndon LaRouche, Sr, had not only been summarily expelled from the Lynn Quaker Meeting but he also had been disinherited by mother in a family dispute that raged on for decades.
ROOTS OF A MARXIST MESSIAH?
When Boston Phoenix reporter Vin McLellan went to visit the Village Friends Meeting in 1974, he spoke with LaRouche's then 81-year-old mother, Jessie. (She would die 4 years later.) Jessie still visited Boston twice a week to teach Bible class at Village Friends. True to the Orthodox Quaker belief in the validity of the Bible, she told McLellan, "You'd enjoy studying the Bible. It's the one book that never makes a mistake."
When asked about her son, Jessie replied:
McLellan then mentions LaRouche's repeated attack on "mothers" in his Beyond Psychoanalysis series of writings before concluding
In the course of the 1970s, as we shall see, LaRouche would become less and less Marxist and more and more Messiah. As he did, the seed turned tree would bear strange fruit.
1 Lyndon LaRouche, The Power of Reason A Kind of an Autobiography (New York: New Benjamin Franklin Publishing House, 1979), 41.
2 NS 4/29/85. In The Power of Reason, LaRouche writes that his first known ancestor to arrive in North America came to Pennsylvania abound 1670 and that his great-great grandfather had organized against slavery in the Carolinas. (34) These ancestors would have been from the Jessie Weir-Quaker branch of the family.
3 NS 7/16/76.
4 It was the "Bible-thumping" Reverend Weir who first supposedly encouraged LaRouche to become interested in "Mesopotamian civilizations."
5 NS 1/15/85. The leading Orthodox Quakers in America had long ties with their English cohorts and one of the most famous Quaker visitors to America, Joseph John Gurney, was a British banker, moderate Whig, and a leading anti-slavery advocate. See James A. Rawley, "Joseph John Gurney's Mission to America, 1837-1840," in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 49 (4), March 1963. If I had to guess, I would say that Jessie Weir's roots (on her mother's side) were in the majority Gurney-wing of the Quakers.
6 NS 7/16/76.
7 Power of Reason, 35-36. Given how much energy his family devoted to Quaker squabbles, LaRouche's comment is rather surprising.
8 According to LaRouche, the East Lynn Friends Meeting also merged with the older Silsbee Street Meeting.
9 For my brief survey of the divisions inside the Quakers, I draw primarily on Bruce Dorsey, "Friends Becoming Enemies: Philadelphia Benevolence and the Neglected Era of American Quaker History," in the Journal of the Early Republic, 18 (3), Autumn 1998.
10 In 1918, the Orthodox Quakers claimed some 97,000 members; the Hicksites approximately 18,000; and the Wilburites around 3,700. See Alan C. Thomas, "Present Tendencies in the Society of Friends in America," The Journal of Religion 1 (1), Jan. 1921, 31.
11 Power of Reason, 49.
12 One family foe was the Quaker thinker Rufus Jones. After visiting England, Jones had returned to the U.S. intent on moving the Society of Friends away from pietism towards more towards social-work-oriented activism. Jones and his co-thinkers then helped found the AFSC.
13 NS 7/16/76.
14 The New Dark Age Conspiracy, 352.
15 NS 7/16/76.
16 The Power of Reason, 48.
18 His father's argument caused problems for his son. When asked by the San Francisco Focus as to when he stopped being a Quaker, LaRouche replied,
As I shall show, LaRouche's parents clearly worked with right-wing political/religious groups. Yet it is also not hard to see in the classic religious notion of someone who admits their "sinfulness and hopeless estate" and who can only be saved "through acceptance of him" a precursor version of the seemingly "secular" Beyond Psychoanalysis doctrine with LaRouche serving as Logos' representative on earth.
19 As the Spanish Civil War was in full force in 1936, presumably this reference relates to Franco's Spain, Mussolini's Italy, or Hitler's Germany.
20 Kahil Totah was a Palestinian Quaker who ran the Arab College in Jerusalem in the late 1920s and later directed Quaker educational establishments in Palestine.
21 The Power of Reason, 42.
22 NS, 7/16/76. Whether Lyndon LaRouche, Sr.'s The Independent was merely his own quirky mouthpiece or had other contributors as well, however, remains unknown.
23 Chuck Fager, a left-wing Quaker, researched much of the piece.
24 It seems that "The Good Samaritan" may not have been Quaker to begin with but part of some other Protestant fundamentalist sect, possibly United Brethren or Congregationalist.
25 For some reason LaRouche's father particularly hated Wells' book Mr. Britling Sees it Through. In The Power of Reason. LaRouche recalls that "before I was nine," his father "warned me, quite soundly, against the specific immorality of H.G. Wells' Mr. Britling Sees It Through." (39).
26 Given LaRouche, Sr's predilection for print polemics, I suspect there may be more "Cadbury Furness" pamphlets although I only have read this one.
27 "August" was August 1973 and LaRouche either penned it from Germany (during the "Konstantine George affair") or the United States, where he was just getting under way the "Beyond Psychoanalysis" sessions centered on the "witch" image of the mother.
More on LaRouche's genealogy: The Ancestors of Lyndon LaRouche compiled by William Addams Reitwiesner
Pdf file downloadable here (171 Kb)