A Review Of The Traitor By Thomas Dixon Jr.

March 15, 2008

A Contribution To The ERB Library Project

A Review of

THE TRAITOR

by

Thomas F. Dixon Jr.

Thomas F. Dixon, Jr.

Review by R.E. Prindle

Of Thomas Dixon’s Reconstruction Trilogy- The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman and The Traitor- only the last is found in ERB’s library. It would seem reasonably sure that he read the other two also. As The Traitor was published in 1907 it seems certain that the trilogy was read before ERB put pen to paper so that Dixon was influential on the whole of ERB’s career.

This is no small influence as the Civil War and Reconstruction are central to ERB’s works. Once again, one is amazed at how ERB could absorb so many influences and keep each nearly discrete. Further on I will postulate the possible influence of Alexandre Dumas’ French Revolution series.

Of interest to ERB’s reading habits Bill Hillman recently posted a list of books in ERBzine of ERB’s post WWII reading list that Burroughs described as a few of the books he’d read. As the list was substantial the complete list must have been enormous. The list mainly consisted of books in the areas of crime and other topics which certain minds share. As I happen to be one of those minds based on the internal evidence of the novels and shared intellectual direction I feel a fair amount of confidence in my speculations concerning his reading although I leave room for error.

I am also of the opinion now that he could have read from 500 to 750 books from, say, fifteen to thirty-five when he began writing. His consumption from 1911 to 1940 must have been enormous. Fortunately we can get a pretty good fix on the type of books he preferred from his library.

Thomas Dixon Jr. lived from 1864 to 1946. Reconstruction was in effect from 1865 to 1877 when the last occupation troops were withdrawn. Dixon grew up in Shelby, North Carolina where his father was an important figure in the first Ku Klux Klan. The Traitor is apparently based on his father’s career. It is said that because of corruption in the Klan his father was instrumental in disbanding it.

Dixon although young would then have had first hand experience with both Reconstruction and the Clan.

Dixon believed, and I second him, that Reconstruction was one of the most brutal crimes in history. It certainly ranks in the same category as the French Revolution’s criminal acts in The Vendee and Hitler and Stalin’s actions from 1925 to 1945. One should not underestimate the horrors of Reconstruction. Liberals, for their own reasons, have attempted to excise the period from US history while sanitizing what little is taught. One is certain than an inquiring mind like Burroughs sought out the true and whole story.

Liberals have blackened Dixon’s name as they have that of Dixon’s fellow Southerner, D.W. Griffith, who produced the Dixon trilogy as the most amazing movie of its time- The Birth Of A Nation. In 1915.

While both Griffith and Dixon have been defamed as racists in today’s multi-cultural society they must no longer be seen as racists merely as representatives of an anti-Liberal segment of White culture.

Dixon was one of the most popular American writers of the period to at least until the aftermath of the Russian Revolution when he and writers like him, including Burroughs, came under attack from the Communists. With the exception of Burroughs all have been defamed into oblivion today.

As we know Burroughs’ father, George T., served in the Union Army during the Civil War. His father’s more admirable attributes seem to have gone into the character of John Carter, the hero of the first three Martian stories. He seems to have been combined with a Confederate Officer of Virginia stock as well as a character of the nature of Count Caliogstro of the pre-French Revolution period.

Here the problem of Alexandre Dumas and his Revolutionary romances enters. John Carter’s tomb in Connecticut is probably based on Graham’s tomb in The Traitor. The similarity is striking. Carter’s longevity may be based in part on Dumas’ description of the charlatanry of Cagliostro who claimed to be as old as the Great Historical Bum while rationalizing his ability to survive much as the thousand year old Martians did.

The Great Alexandre Dumas

The Martians were in fact deathless as was Cagliostro’s claim unless they were killed by some sort of physical accident. Dumas’ Caliogstro describes his situation in these exact terms. The novels in Dumas’ roman a fleuve are the Memoirs Of A Physician, Joseph Balsamo, The Queen’s Necklace, Ange Pitou, The Countess Of Charny, The Chevalier Of The Maison Rouge and The Blue And The White. I can recommend them highly. We know that Burroughs read The Three Musketeers and probably The Count Of Monte Cristo. He may have read one, two or more of the Revolution series also.

There is an interesting passage in the Physician in which an ignorant country boy teaches himself to write both printed and cursive letters after a very rudimentary instruction in reading. The passage bears comparison to Tarzan’s teaching himself to read and write. The point being that Burrough’s imagination was probably fired by this series.

Now, we know that Burroughs was always opposed to the Revolution. Dumas would have introduced him to conspiracy theory. I would guess that ERB read Dumas before 1900 but that is just a guess. Also bear in mind what we consider ‘classical’ literature was current in Burroughs’ youth. All these books would have been new and therefore doubly exiting. As David Adams noted to me concerning Baum’s Oz series the books would have been equivalent to a new Beatles record in the sixties when people rushed to stores at the earliest possible moment to get their copy. Knowing this stuff would have made one a very hep cat.

We also know that prior to 1911 Burroughs associated with several knowing people among which were Sweetser and Dr. Stace. These buys are always into conspiracy theory as, indeed, am I . As I have said as Burroughs and I share the same reading tastes I think it less than pure speculation that Burroughs also knew something about the Revolutionary conspiracy. Difficult to tell what.

It doesn’t appear that ERB was ever a Freemason. The Revolution was attributed to the Masons. The lodges then would have been thought Communist then by their opponents. Communist and Illuminated. The Illuminati are, of course, central to any conspiracy theory.

In theory and certainly in fact the lodges were instrumental in the overthrow of the French monarchy. I have even read that Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans were involved with the Rosicrucians, hence the Freemasons and hence the Masonic revolution against thrones. While I don’t find the idea improbable I haven’t got enough evidence to speculate one way or the other. I find it interesting though to see that John Adams was thought to be Illuminated. It is certain that Revolutionary cadres in the form of Libertines were active in England during the seventeenth century and were certainly instrumental in the destruction of London’s Newgate Prison some few years before the destruction of the Bastille.

It is also certain that Adam Weishaupt’s Illuminati infiltrated the French Freemasons some few years before 1789 and that the Jacobins arose from them. It is also clear that the Illuminatti infiltrated American Freemasons at least by 1799. There are those who believe with good evidence that Thomas Jefferson was Illuminated. Indeed, the Communists of the twenties called Jefferson one of their own. It seemed ridiculous until one looks a little further. Whether Lincoln was one of the Communists’ own along with Jefferson as they claim seems preposterous on the surface of it.

However an illuminated Mason by the name of Morgan was about to publish a book exposing the Masonic plot in 1843 when he was abducted and murdered. A symbol of the Illuminatti was the Phrygian Cap. The Union enlisted cap is nothing less than the Phrygian Cap with the front knob truncated and replaced by a flat board. So, shall we say that the Illuminatti took a prominent but disguised role in the Civil War.

If this Jacobin-Illuminatti attitude was in the Northern attitude then it must have been represented in the Abolitionist attitude. Their hatred always directed against authority was the directed against the Southern Whites and in favor of the Negroes. And in fact it was attempted to make Whites slaves to the Negroes. Just as in France the hatred was directed against not only Aristocracy but against peasants or anyone who resisted the Jacobin or Liberal will. In the Vendee of France which remained loyalist genocide was carried out on the Vendeans. I have no doubt out and out genocide would have been committed against Southerners if it had been possible. In that respect perhaps Sherman’s antecedents should be examined to determine unrecognized motives for the march from Atlanta to the sea.

There is no question that a great many of the post-Civil War immigrants were Communists or socialists and that they refused to accept a non-socialist America. Many if not most of the 48ers who fled Europe after the failure of the Revolution of 1848 were socialist while there is no reason to suppose that a large number of those were Jacobins or Illuminated.

Burroughs first contact with these people was as a child or teenager when he saw them parading through Chicago under the Red banner. It seems very unlikely that he wouldn’t have picked up a lot of anti-Socialist information. At any rate his hatred of German and things German began at that time developing into a near mania during the Great War and a firmest attitude by WWII.

I can’t guarantee that he read Dumas’ Revolutionary novels but there are enough seeming contact points in the novels to indicate that he may have. Thus John Carter’s longevity may be based on Dumas’ portrayal of Cagliostro. This input Burroughs combined then combined with his readings of The Virginian and the positive aspects of his father to create John Carter. It is probably significant that Carter was the main character in only the first three Martian novels before ERB’s father died. When George T. died John Carter ceased being the dominant character being replaced by his son Carthoris in the next novel, Thuvia, Maid Of Mars. Burroughs may not have been able to divide his own alter-ego between Carthoris and Tarzan as the former disappears being replaced by a number of different personae.

However ERB understood the Civil War and Reconstruction the two events were a significant part of his mental makeup.

Pioneering Filmmaker, D.W. Griffith

The three Dixon novels were formative before he began to wirte while the Dixon scripted The Birth Of A Nation filmed by D.W. Griffith and released in 1915 had a terrific impact on Burroughs as well as the Nation.

The movie would have revived all his emotions on the two topics. I have read the novels of the subsequent years with this thought in mind but echoes may be there.

Over the following decades Liberals have succeeded in characterizing Birth Of A Nation as ‘racist’ which it is not. The story may be culturally centered on the White side of the story rather than the Black but this fact doesn’t make the movie any more racist than if it had been culturally centered on the Black aspect. The issue of race simply cannot be avoided.

The movie misunderstands the breach between the two White viewpoints of the North and the South. While the movie is plea for Whites to never do this again and to reunite as one people, the bigots of the North wished only for the destruction of Southern Whites. As the Jewish historian Eric Foner writes, Reconstruction is the unfinished Revolution that is still going on today and will culminate in the election of Barry Dunham-Obama and its sequel.

Eric Foner

Eric Foner is part of the Foner dynasty of Communist historians. His uncle Phil Foner wrote distorted labor chronicles while his Pappy Jack was dismissed from his academic position in the ‘50s as a Communist.

The movie was the most successful of its time providing the funds for the MGM empire. Louis B. Mayer who was a theatre operator at the time made enough from the movie to go to Hollywood and establish the Mayer studios which Loews later combined into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when they crushed William Fox of Fox Studios which then was combined with Twentieth Century to become Twentieth-Century Fox.

The movie certainly was not considered racist at the time except by the Jacobin faction who were not as influential then as they have become today. The Democratic president of the time, Woodrow Wilson, thought it a superb movie.

Interestingly both Wilson (1856-1924) and Dixon were together at Johns Hopkins University with Dixon being a champion of Wilson. D.W. Griffith, from the South as was Wilson, was Burroughs nearly exact contemporary. Griffith was born in Louisville, Kentucky also in 1875 dying in 1948 two years before Burroughs. Griffith was another who was marginalized by the Communists.

Thus the essential Edgar Rice Burroughs was taking its final form in the years from 1900-1911. I would like to organize those years as part of his early married years. This is not easy. As we are aware when he and Emma returned to Chicago from Idaho and Salt Lake City in 1904 ERB was suffering from the excruciating headaches that lasted half a day incurred from his beating in Toronto.

His sojourn in Salt Lake must also be included as part of his education as with his innate anthropological curiosity he would have investigated the absurdities of that religion. Once again he was much closer to the origins of the religion as it had only about sixty years of history to deal with rather than one hundred and sixty.

Even on the train trip back to Chicago ERB would have traveled through an entirely different landscape along approximately the Mormon Trail than today. The geographic changes have been enormous. The earlier geography would have influenced Mormon memories and stories that he would have heard. As an example of a feature that has been completely destroyed is a description from a book titled: The Mormon Trail: Voyage Of Discovery, The Story Behind The Scenery by Stanley B. and Violet Kimball. Page 35:

Weary teamsters and tired oxen struggled onward despite the difficult, rocky terrain. Many journals commented on the hordes of grasshoppers that had helped deplete the area of grass. Still, the optimism remained high in camp for they knew the Sweetwater River was just around the bend. The ground here proved to be miry, “smelled bad”, was swampy and many oxen got “buried in the mud.” Mosquitoes and “Gad flies” were numerous, and both oxen and humans were plagued for miles. The water along this route was so bad that even the cattle refused to drink. Most of the time they had to use sage for firewood here because buffalo chips were scarce and so was wood.Among the several landmarks along this part of the Trail were the Avenue Of Rocks and The Devil’s Backbone. Today the quarter-mile-long Avenue Of Rocks is gone, a victim of road widening.

That’s how little Americans care for their environment. Possibly the Avenue of Rocks was used by Fennimore Cooper as a locale in his novel The Prairie that Burroughs was certain to have read.

The Mormons would have made the trip a scant thirty or so years before so Burroughs would have been regaled with stories by those who had made the trip, probably before Buffalo Bill cleared the prairie of buffalo. Certainly before the tremendous network of reservoirs that now cover the area.

Having returned to Chicago Burroughs had to get down to some serious living; something he wasn’t good at. One would imagine that his father with a long history in business in Chicago could have gotten him a decent job to start but for some reason of which we are not informed he seemed to be in disrepute. ERB literally started at the bottom taking jobs for which there were few applicants.

Burroughs ran through an odd assortment of jobs over the next seven or nine years. After all it was only seven years from 1904 to 1911. Short enough in the telling but the equivalent of several lifetimes in the living. I won’t do a recital of the jobs as I’ve done it before while everyone is familiar with the story.

Intellectually these were stimulating times for Burroughs. L. Frank Baum’s Oz books began at the turn of the century, Baum trying to end the series in 1910. The Oz stories had a great influence on ERB. Jack London began publishing whose hobo experiences probably rekindled Burroughs interest in that life find expression in the trilogy of novel involving Billy Byrne that began in 1913 shortly after ERB began writing.

Owen Wister published The Virginian that would be so influential on Burroughs’ writing going into the character of John Carter. The Graustark novels of George Barr McCutcheon also began appearing the memory of which ERB would cherish to his dying day.

And of course ERB had his relationship with Dr. Stace. Now, Porges gives us very little information on this period in ERB’s life. However John Dos Passos in his USA trilogy includes a character who closely resembles Burroughs. This is in the third volume, The Big Money. Dos Passos was a vicious little man. At the time he was an open Red. Somewhat later in life he supposedly became a ‘conservative.’ As Reds go becoming ‘conservative’ in my opinion merely means getting old. I don’t see how anyone who has based their life on Communist principles can ever embrace opposite principles but many people can, or at least, they allow themselves to think they can.

It would be absurd to think that there would be no stories circulating about one of the most successful writers in the world. Dos Passos was actually from Chicago although absent most of his life, still he undoubtedly picked up some stories on Burroughs who would have been thought of, at the very least, as a colorful character. Thus writing in the thirties Dos Passos may very well have picked up stories from people like Frank Martin himself. Can’t be sure at this time of course…but if you look…

John Dos Passos

Dos Passos carefully describes the type of businessman ERB was. There apparently was a type of scrabbler who while not being able to afford an office of their own would rent space for a desk in someone else’s office so they could have an address. Sort of like the mail box addresses existing today. As an independent businessman Burroughs was of this type. In this capacity Dos Passos has his character turn up with a patent medicine type who go through Michigan trying to sell their wares. Dos Passos details of the foray are unimportant and probably highly imaginative but definitely derogatory. But then his whole corpus is of a mocking nature.

The point is Porges describes about this time, 1907 or so, that Burroughs sent Emma a note from South Bend, Indiana lauding the town saying that he would be back home soon. Porges doesn’t say what he was doing in South Bend. We are left to guess.

I would imagine it was something along the lines that Dos Passos describes. Or perhaps this was about the time the Feds cracked down on the Patent Medicine business and Burroughs and Stace may have found it convenient to absent themselves from the Windy City. I haven’t been able to find a reference to such a trip in the corpus as yet.

More to follow.

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