Ignatius Donnelly, Caesar's Column, Chapters XI & XII



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Ignatius Donnelly, Caesar's Column, Chapters XI & XII


In 1889, Donnelly wrote Caeser's Column, a utopian science fiction novel. The book is a cautionary tale set one hundred years in the future (1988). In Chapter XI, the protagonist learns that unbridled capitalism ruined the political and economic systems of the world. Donnelly also predicts globalization in this chapter. In Chapter XII, he outlines an economic system that he believes would result in a utopia.

NOTE: Ignatius Donnelly's Caesar's Column contains ethnic prejudice, but we include it here because:

John Ryan was powerfully influenced by Donnelly, a United States Congressmen, populist and author who lived in a town near Ryan's own in Minnesota. Late nineteenth-century populism, as historian Richard Hofstadter showed in his classic work, The Age of Reform, sometimes contained elements of anti-Semitism, aligning Jews with elite monetary power. Ignatius Donnelly's populism contained strains of anti-Semitism, and the excerpt from Caesar's Column included on this website, in attributing the impoverishment and exploitation of Europe to "Israelites" and to individuals with allegedly "Semitic blood," exhibit this prejudice. The passage also contains anti-Asian sentiment, very common in American society during this period. We have included the excerpt here because Donnelly's ideas (Ryan mentions the impact of Caesar's Column by name in his autobiography) heavily influenced Ryan's, and these passages clearly illustrate Donnelly's populist views.

There is, however, no evidence that John Ryan himself was anti-Semitic. To the contrary, Ryan famously denounced the anti-Semitism of Father Charles Coughlin in a 1938 Commonweal, piece titled “Anti-Semitism in the Air,” which was reprinted as a 1939 article titled "Catholics and Anti-Semitism" in Current History. He denounced anti-Semitism generally in a 1939 pamphlet titled "American Democracy vs. Racism, Communism." He was also a member of the Committee of Catholics to Fight Anti-Semitism.


“Ignatius Donnelly, Caesar's Column, Chapters XI & XII,” American Catholic History Classroom, accessed June 22, 2024, https://cuomeka.wrlc.org/items/show/714.

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