Conspiracy Theories

The Eastern Establishment 'Conspiracy'


Did Richard Nixon sell out to the liberal "Eastern Establishment" after his humiliating defeat at the hands of Pat Brown in the California gubernatorial contest of 1962, or was his career built on phony conservatism from the beginning? Was Nixon's spot on the Eisenhower ticket his reward for an appeal that confused many moderate conservatives during the crucial vote to expel the regular Texas delegation from the 1952 Republican Convention and cost Robert Taft the nomination for President?

Why is the Nixon foreign and domestic program exactly what conservatives were afraid Nelson Rockefeller would have dished out had he been nominated in 1968? Could it be that Rockefeller saved Nixon from political oblivion after 1962 by arranging the $200,000 a year job with John Mitchell's law firm, royally ending Nixon's previously persistent financial insecurity? Is John Mitchell, contrary to his tough reactionary image, really the personal lawyer (dare we say agent?) of the Rockefeller clan? Were the appallingly liberal appointees of the Nixon Administration dictated by the "Rockefeller Foreign Office," the "sinister" Council on Foreign Relations? Why did Nixon choose Henry Kissinger, the darling of the Council of Foreign Relations, as his top advisor? Why did Nixon choose to live in the same apartment building as Rockefeller during the sixties?


If you circulate in conservative social circles, you have no doubt been exposed by now to these as well as considerably more extravagant speculations. Nixon's abandonment of conservative principles has given the John Birch Society and its most prolific guru, Gary Allen, the opening wedge for their growing drive to revive the conspiratorial view of history and politics within the conservative movement.

You will remember that Robert Welch's not-so-subtle hints that Eisenhower was a communist were greeted with universal derision and contempt. Why is the conspiratorial view making more headway now than it did during Eisenhower's similar betrayal of conservative principle? Part of the answer is that the John Birch Society has totally abandoned its old conspiracy theory, which held that the liberal establishment is riddled with Soviet agents who are responsible for America's disastrous course of four decades. Their "new" theory holds that international communism was created by a small clique of international and "Wall Street" financiers for the purpose of stamping out free enterprise and creating a world-wide socialist state through the United Nations. No longer are liberal intellectuals accused of being either dupes or conscious agents of communism, but are accused of being either dupes or conscious agents of the super-rich in their drive to enslave the world! Since the Society has had an excellent record of supporting laissez-faire I would not want to accuse the Birchers of consciously pandering to popular resentments concerning the unequal distribution of riches under private enterprise; but it cannot be denied that the Birch Society is harnessing the envy and hatred for the rich which abounds in the "new populism."

But the re-popularization of conspiracy has more going for it than political circumstances. The Birchers have put together a slick line of paperback propaganda for their campaign. Leading the field is Gary Allen's NONE DARE CALL IT CONSPIRACY. The most impressive evidence Mr. Allen has found for his incredible "capitalist conspiracy" is an obscure, 1300-page history of the modern world written by liberal Caroll Quigley, Professor of History at Georgetown University: TRAGEDY AND HOPE.


Referring to the "right-wing myth," that blames communists and dupes in the Institute for Pacific Relations for the fall of China to Mao, Quigley reveals the interest his work holds for men of the Right:

This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the radical Right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960's, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies (notably to its belief that England was an Atlantic rather than a European Power and must be allied, or even federated, with the United States and must remain isolated from Europe), but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.[1]

Unfortunately, too few of Mr. Allen's conspiracy enthusiasts are taking the time to read and interpret for themselves Quigley's fascinating and revealing tome. Mr. Allen, in his interpretation of Quigley has injected, I am afraid, an only slightly up-dated version of the fallacy that William Buckley identified in 1963:

Mr. Welch's position is well known. Scrubbed down it is that one may reliably infer subjective motivation from objective result: e.g., if the West loses as much ground as demonstrably it has lost during the past fifteen years to the enemy, it can only be because those who made policy for the West were the enemy's agents.[2]

Mr. Allen has graduated from the simplistic view that Soviet agents are powerful everywhere, but has substituted a new example into the fallacious subjective motive from objective result inference. To Mr. Allen it now follows that if America's "Establishment" does not fear the communists and, in fact, promotes aid and trade with the communists, then it must mean that the communists are the agents of the "Establishment" in its power-hungry drive for world domination. To Mr. Allen it is inconceivable that America's "Establishment" has been merely misled in adopting immoral, foolish, or mistaken methods of protecting its wealth and advancing human welfare as conservatives and libertarians have long maintained. Mr. Allen dismisses the idea that the super-rich liberals feel sincerely guilty about their immense wealth or are convinced that foreign aid bribery, appeasement, and "turning the other cheek" are really the way to "moderate" communism.


Mr. Allen quotes Franklin Delano Roosevelt for support, "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." Mr. Allen continues, "When you think about it, there are really only two theories of history. Either things happen by accident, neither planned nor caused by anybody, or they happen because they are planned and somebody causes them to happen."[3] Clearly, Mr. Allen is arguing that result proves intent by creating a false dichotomy. Surely we can agree that all events are caused by people without believing history is primarily caused by a single set of conspirators, much less the super-rich of Europe and America. The pluralistic theory does not hold that events are accidental, but that events are the vector sum of the plans of many independent groups and individuals, none of whom may be able to predict, much less determine, the final outcome.

Mr. Buckley's acute criticism of Mr. Welch applies just as well to Mr. Allen. "It is not merely common sense that rejects this assumption but a familiarity with the intricate argumentation of almost the entire intellectual class."[4] Gary Allen, motivated by his aprioristic assumption that result proves intent, passes over the intricate liberal ideology that Professor Quigley claims to be the motivation for the policies of the American "Establishment" and insists that only ruthless power mania can explain the growing American statism and concommitant aid and trade with communism. Quigley describes the liberal "Eastern Establishment" and its ideology as follows:

[T]his Eastern Establishment was really above parties and was much more concerned with policies than with party victories. They had been the dominant element in both parties since 1900, and practiced the political techniques of William C. Whitney and J.P. Morgan. They were, as we have said, Anglophile, cosmopolitan, Ivy League, internationalist, astonishingly liberal, patrons of the arts, and relatively humanitarian[5]

. . . .

The American Establishment, which is so aristocratic and Anglophile in its foundation, came to accept the liberal ideology.[6]

. . . .

Because this is the tradition of the West, the West is liberal. Most historians see liberalism as a political outlook and practice found in the nineteenth century. But nineteenth-century liberalism was simply a temporary organizational manifestation of what has always been the underlying Western outlook. That organizational manifestation is now largely dead, killed as much by twentieth-century liberals as by conservatives or reactionaries. It was killed because liberals took applications of that manifestation of the Western outlook and made these applications rigid, ultimate, and inflexible goals. The liberal of 1880 was anticlerical, antimilitarist, and antistate because these were, to his immediate experience, authoritarian forces that sought to prevent the operation of the Western way. The same liberal was for freedom of assembly, of speech, and of the press because these were necessary to form the consensus that is so much a part of the Western process of operation.

But by 1900 or so, these dislikes and likes became ends in themselves. The liberal was prepared to force people to associate with those they could not bear, in the name of freedom of assembly, or he was, in the name of freedom of speech, prepared to force people to listen. His anticlericalism became an effort to prevent people from getting religion, and his antimilitarism took the form of opposing funds for legitimate defense. Most amazing, his earlier opposition to the use of private economic power to restrict individual freedoms took the form of an effort to increase the authority of the state against private economic power and wealth in themselves. Thus the liberal of 1880 and the liberal of 1940 had reversed themselves on the role and power of the state, the earlier seeking to curtail it, the latter seeking to increase it. In the process, the upholder of the former liberal idea that the power of the state should be curtailed came to be called a conservative. This simply added to the intellectual confusion of the mid-twentieth century, which arose from the Irrational Activist reluctance to define any terms, a disinclination that has now penetrated deeply into all intellectual and academic life.[7]


Are these the reflections of a wayward historian for an international "network" bent upon world-wide, socialist totalitarianism? I think not. Although Quigley contemplates authority much in excess of what laissez-faire libertarians such as myself would approve, many conservatives, especially followers of Russell Kirk, who do not rule out all social welfare programs and tradition-bound, submissive-dominant, or even coercive societal relationships, might feel perfectly at home with Quigley's brand of Western tradition worship.


But how did the America's Establishment get mixed up in the twentieth century's perverted version of liberal and even radical left politics? TRAGEDY AND HOPE provides the answer to this question that has frustrated American conservatives for so long. Through Quigley's facts it becomes clear why advocates of private property who consider themselves the defenders of wealth are systematically ignored by America's wealthy. The key to the Eastern Establishment's docile "acquiescence" to more and more government control of business as well as its leap onto the "progressive" bandwagon was laid bare in the following passages from Professor Quigley:

More than fifty years ago the Morgan firm decided to infiltrate the left-wing political movements in the United States. This was relatively easy to do, since these groups were starved for funds and eager for a voice to reach the people. Wall Street supplied both. The purpose was not to destroy, dominate, or take over but was really threefold: (1) to keep informed about the thinking of left-wing or liberal groups; (2) to provide them with a mouthpiece so that they could "blow off steam"; and (3) to have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went "radical." There was nothing really new about this decision, since other financiers had talked about it and even attempted it earlier.[8]

. . . .

To Morgan all political parties were simply organizations to be used, and the firm always was careful to keep a foot in all camps. Morgan himself, Dwight Morrow, and other partners were allied with the Republicans; Russell C. Leffingwell was allied with the Democrats; Grayson Murphy was allied with the extreme Right; and Thomas W. Lamont was allied with the Left. Like the Morgan interest in libraries, museums, and art, its inability to distinguish between loyalty to the United States and loyalty to England, its recognition of the need for social work among the poor, the multipartisan political views of the Morgan firm in domestic politics went back to the original forerunner of the firm, George Peabody (1795-1869). To this same seminal figure may be attributed the use of tax-exempt foundations for controlling these activities, as may be observed in many parts of America to this day.…Unfortunately, we do not have space here for this great and untold story, but it must be remembered that what we do say is part of a much larger picture.[9]


In broad outline Quigley's facts are corroborated by Gabriel Kolko in his TRIUMPH OF CONSERVATISM (by which he means triumph of the vested interests), which is attracting increasing attention from advocates of laissez-faire capitalism. According to Kolko, the later part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were actually times of increasing competition rather than decreasing competition as the "progressive myth" would have us believe. In reaction, vested financial interests, epitomized by J.P. Morgan, retreated from the honorable paths of economic competition and under the veil of "progressivism," turned to the government to bludgeon their upstart Midwestern challengers. With the support of the unsuspecting leftists they had financed, the Wall Street clique was able to pass the legislation it needed to maintain and expand its financial control in the face of mounting competition. Thus—in the name of breaking Wall Street's death grip on finance and industry—anti-trust laws, the Federal Reserve Act, and progressive income tax were passed. By adept control of politicians, the vast government power thereby created was used selectively against newcomers to the benefit of the established, while the progressive income tax prevent the accumulation of new wealth, but let the old wealth hide in tax-exempt foundations.


Quigley presents a number of examples of how Wall Street, first under the domination of J.P. Morgan, and later under the domination of Rockefeller, used left-wing politics to their advantage. Perhaps the most intriguing revelations explain how Morgan partner Willard Straight founded and later Mike Straight used the NEW REPUBLIC to launch the Henry Wallace for President campaign in 1948. According to Quigley, the Henry Wallace campaign was designed by Straight to put third party pressure on the Truman Administration in order to resolve the violent struggle for overseas routes in the airline industry following World War II, in a manner favorable to the Straight-Whitney family's deep involvement in Pan Am, BOAC, and other airlines.

In 1947, coinciding with Mike Straight's abandonment of Henry Wallace and the subsequent exposure of the communist elements Straight had let into the NEW REPUBLIC-led campaign, C.V. Whiteney was made, by presidential interim appointment, Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Air Force. After Truman's election Whitney was made Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, the most important post concerned with civil aviation in any Federal department. Quigley is less sure that the destruction of the "popular front" coalition between communists and progressive liberals dating from the 1930's, which resulted from the communist support for Henry Wallace, was also planned by Mike Straight. Quigley remarked, "If Mike Straight planned to do what he did do to the Communists in 1946-1948, that is, to get them out of progressive movements and unions, he pulled off the most skillful political coup in twentieth century American politics."[10]


The mentality of wealth through politics, with its firm underpinning of progressive liberal and collectivist rationalizations, did not hesitate to finance groups ultimately bent on abolishing the private ownership of property as long as it was thought the political influence thereby created could be manipulated to gain juicy government favors. But it would be a mistake to ignore the role of ideology and attribute the accelerating demise of our free economy to the unprincipled, grasping tactics of the rich alone. The real force behind the sustained attack on economic freedom and steady slide into welfare statism at home and appeasement abroad was a certain set of ideas Quigley traces back to John Ruskin and his ardent admirer, the British imperialist, Cecil Rhodes. According to Kenneth Clark, Ruskin derived most of his inspiration "directly from the source book of all dictatorships, Plato's REPUBLIC. He read Plato almost every day.…"[11] "No doubt Ruskin underrated the corruptibility of man and the coarseness inherent in all forms of government. He would have been horrified by the exploits of Hitler and Stalin. But I doubt if he would have shrunk from the results of his doctrine as much as one would suppose. In spite of its materialist philosophy, he would, I think, have approved of Communism; the peasant communes in China, in particular, are exactly on his model. He would not have thought the cure worse than the disease because he could not imagine a worse disease than the capitalist society of the nineteenth century."[12]

According to Professor Quigley:

Ruskin spoke to the Oxford undergraduates as members of the privileged, ruling class. He told them that they were the possessors of a magnificent tradition of education, beauty, rule of law, freedom, decency, and self-discipline but that this tradition could not be saved and did not deserve to be saved, unless it could be extended to the lower classes in England itself and to the non-English masses throughout the world. If this precious tradition were not extended to these two great majorities, the minority of upper-class Englishmen would ultimately be submerged by these majorities and the tradition lost. To prevent this, the tradition must be extended to the masses and to the empire.

Ruskin's message had a sensational impact. His inaugural lecture was copied out in longhand by one undergraduate, Cecil Rhodes, who kept it with him for thirty years. Rhodes (1853-1902) feverishly exploited the diamond and gold fields of South Africa.…Rhodes inspired devoted support for his goals from others in South Africa and in England. With financial support from Lord Rothschild and Alfred Beit, he was able to monopolize the diamond mines of South Africa as DeBeers Consolidated Mines and to build up a great gold mining enterprise as Consolidated Gold Fields. In the middle of the 1890's Rhodes had a personal income of at least a million pounds sterling a year (then about five million dollars) which was spent so freely for his mysterious purposes that he was usually overdrawn on his account.

These purposes centered on his desire to federate the English-speaking peoples and to bring all the habitable portions of the world under their control [sic]. For this purpose Rhodes left part of his great fortune to found the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford in order to spread the English ruling class tradition throughout the English-speaking world as Ruskin had wanted.[13]


However, the Rhodes Scholarships, designed to recruit intellectuals' support, were only the tip of the iceberg of political intrigue launched by Cecil Rhodes. According to Quigley, Rhodes organized a secret society with an inner "Circle of Initiates" and an outer circle known as the "Association of Helpers." The inner circle included such well placed men as Sir Alfred Milner and Lord Rothschild. It wasn't until after Rhodes' death that Lord Milner organized the "outer circle," under the name of Round Table Groups in British dependencies and the United States. In an interlocking relationship with the Round Table Groups, Institutes for International Affairs were established, including the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States, and the Institute for Pacific Relations in countries holding territory in the Pacific area. It was through the Council on Foreign Relations and its satellite organizations that the American Establishment was won over to the Anglophile, elitist socialism of John Ruskin, the inspiration of the Round Tablers.

Clearly, the greatest triumph of the Rhodes initiated intrigue was wooing America away from its isolationism to rescue British interests during the First and Second World Wars. However, Quigley does not view the Round Table Groups as an omnipotent force in modern history, bent on world-wide totalitarianism, as do the conspiracy buffs of the John Birch Society. In describing the ideas of the Round Tablers in general and Lionel Curtis in particular, Quigley says:

He had a fanatical conviction that with the proper spirit and the proper organization (local self-government and federalism), the Kingdom of God could be established on earth. He was sure that if people were trusted just a bit beyond what they deserve they would respond by proving worthy of such trust. As he wrote in The Problem of Commonwealth (1916), "if political power is granted to groups before they are fit they will tend to rise to the need." This was the spirit which Milner's group tried to use toward the Boers in 1902-1910, toward India in 1910-1947, and, unfortunately, toward Hitler in 1933-1939. This point of view was reflected in Curtis' three volumes on world history, published as CIVITAS DEI in 1938. In the case of Hitler, at least, these high ideas led to disaster; this seems also to be the case in South Africa; whether this group succeeded in transforming the British Empire into a Commonwealth of Nations or merely succeeded in destroying the British Empire is not yet clear, but one seems as likely as the other.[14]

Or again: "If their failures now loom larger than their successes, this should not be allowed to conceal the high motives with which they attempted both."[15]

Quigley obviously believes that the Rhodes Round Table Groups were and are important in providing the intellectual and political direction for the English-speaking world. There is, however, no hint in TRAGEDY AND HOPE that the Round Tablers were the "paymasters" for the Bolshevik Revolution as charged by Mr. Allen in NONE DARE CALL IT CONSPIRACY, citing CZARISM AND THE REVOLUTION by the White Russian General, Arsene de Goulevitch. Even if the Round Tablers were active in supporting the Bolsheviks, it is likely that they did so in the misguided hope that they could influence the Communists toward the anglophile ideals of World Federation and lived to rue the day.


The important lesson to be learned from TRAGEDY AND HOPE by those who support the libertarian ideals of the American Revolution, which are under such withering attack today, is not that victory lies in the exposure of conspiracy as the Birchers would have us believe, but that a better understanding of the subtle relation between intellectual trends and political-economic power in the course of history is crucial to our cause. Both libertarians and conservatives have held the view that since ideas determine the course of history, all that is necessary for victory is that the correct views be enunciated. Unfortunately, the currency of the "free market place of ideas" is not rationality and logic, but money, as it is in all market places. Instead of simply arguing rationally for the logic of laissez-faire economics and limited government we must begin to seriously contemplate how such a program can gain the support of people with the means and motives to spread and implement such ideas.

Everyone who opposes today's drift toward welfare statism should contemplate this statement by Quigley:

It was this group of people, whose wealth and influence so exceeded their experience and understanding, who provided much of the framework of influence which the Communist sympathizers and fellow travelers took over in the United States in the 1930's. It must be recognized that the power that these energetic left-wingers exercise was never their own power or communist power but was ultimately the power of the international financial coterie.…[16]

Whether or not the "international financial coterie" is somewhat bumbling, as Professor Quigley pictures them, or evil wizards as the John Birch Society sees them, it appears that the radical leftists, who conservatives are so worried about, are no serious threat to this Establishment. Apparently, the left is not seen as a serious threat by the Establishment which rests confident that radicals are either safely under the sway of its internationalist socialist line or held in check by the power of the purse. This should really come as no surprise to conservatives who have complained for years that liberal authorities are soft on leftists.

By contrast, Professor Quigley, in his analysis of the Goldwater campaign, paid the conservative movement, by implication, a glowing compliment. He states, "At issue here was the whole future face of America."[17] The real threat to the liberal Establishment, according to Professor Quigley, is America's conservative or, as he prefers to call it, neoisolationist or unilateralist movement. He sees the Goldwater campaign as the political climax of the "self-financing" new wealth that sprang up mostly in the West during and after the Second World War in the technology associated industries. Unfortunately, Professor Quigley brushes Goldwaterism off as motivated by petty bourgeois envies and fears and does not even pause to analyze the conservative movement's claim to be the true representatives of the American Revolution and the best in Western Civilization.


Since TRAGEDY AND HOPE was published in 1966 we must rely on our own speculations concerning the current intrigues of the liberal Establishment. If Professor Quigley and the conservative movement are right on the importance of the 1964 presidential contest, it seems reasonable to suspect that the liberal Eastern Establishment has been struggling desperately ever since to bring the "new wealth" under its political guidance. The best way to bring a rival into your politcal camp is to create a common enemy. Could this be the explanation for the spectacular rise of the New Left in the late 1960's? Can anyone doubt that the traumas to conservative consciousness caused by the radical anti-war movement, racial riots, campus rebellions, and the radicalization of youth, all encouraged by Establishment Liberalism, produced the docile acquiescence to the "new" Nixon consensus by all but intellectual conservatives and libertarians even though the "new" Nixon is 20 degrees to the left of the "old" Lyndon Johnson? Whether or not the Establishment, through its control of Foundation and Government money, could and did purposely push Blacks, the young, and liberal intellectuals to the far left so that, by comparison, the liberal Establishment would look moderate to the unruly conservative elements in the business community, the effect is the same: conservatives are left out in the cold.


How can conservatives and libertarians elbow their way back into the fray? The first step is that we must stop playing the Establishment's game as much as possible. We must cease indulging in unqualified support of the Establishment in the naive belief that it is the harried defender of free-enterprise in an increasingly hostile, left-wing culture. It is now clear that the dominant Eastern faction in American business created today's virulent left-wing atmosphere, whether by weak-kneed, guilt ridden appeasement, as we have always believed, or by an elitist left-liberalism of British origins that was made to dovetail with their vested financial interests.

This does not mean that we must "go radical" and work toward violent overthrow of the corporate-liberal power structure as some radical libertarian anarchists have suggested. Rather we must seek to re-polarize the American business elite into laissez-faire and statist factions. The up-and-coming entrepreneurs are not looking for government assistance, but simply to be left alone so they can grow. They are our potential allies. Only our energy and their money save them from being regulated out of business. With the political power inherent in the increasingly regulated American economy in the hands of the liberal Eastern Establishment, it will be difficult indeed to induce vulnerable businessmen to struggle with us for freedom. We must assume that enough freedom is left to justify the effort.

Peter E. McAlpine is a 1968 engineering graduate of the University of Michigan. He is currently working as an automotive engineer for Ford Motor Company, and is a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Wayne State University. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Economic Studies which sponsors college seminars on laissez-faire in Michigan.


[1] Caroll Quigley, TRAGEDY AND HOPE (New York: 1966), p. 950.
[2] William Buckley, "Notes Toward an Empirical Definition of Conservatism," INSIGHT AND OUTLOOK, Volume V, No. 5, May 1963.
[3] Gary Allen, NONE DARE CALL IT CONSPIRACY (Rossmoor, California: 1971), p. 8.
[4] Buckley, supra note 2.
[5] Quigley, p. 1244.
[6] IBID., p. 1271.
[7] Ibid., p. 1231
[8] Ibid., p. 938.
[9] Ibid., P. 945.
[10] Ibid., P. 944.
[11] Kenneth Clark, RUSKIN TODAY (New York: 1964), p. 269.
[12] Ibid., p. 267.
[13] Quigley, pp. 130-131.
[14] Ibid., p. 146.
[15] Ibid., p. 954.
[16] Ibid., p. 954.
[17] Ibid., p. 1246.