Sinclair Lewis? Huey Long? Eugene V. Debs? Lonnie Jackson? A. L. Sachar? James Waterman Wise? Robert H. Jackson? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The impulses of nationalism and authoritarianism sometimes combine to produce devastating results. The following saying has been attributed to the prominent writer Sinclair Lewis and the populist politician Huey Long:
When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag.
The phrase “and carrying a cross” is often added to this saying. I have not found any solid citations for Lewis or Long. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: QI has located no substantive evidence ascribing this remark to Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long. In addition, the “Sinclair Lewis Society” was unable to find this quotation in the Lewis’s oeuvre. A thematically germane Lewis quotation from 1935 is presented further below. QI has also examined a different, but related, quotation ascribed to Huey Long:
Sure, we’ll have fascism in this country, and we’ll call it anti-fascism
That entry is available here.
In 1917 “The Muncie Sunday Star” of Indiana printed an announcement for a speech that prominent labor activist Eugene V. Debs was planning to deliver. The announcement presented a quotation from Debs which partially matched the saying under examination:
Every robber or oppressor in history has wrapped himself in a cloak of patriotism or religion, or both. I am not a patriot as defined in the lexicon of the house of Morgan. I’d not murder my fellow men of my own accord, and why should I do it at the behest of the master class?
During a speech delivered in 1918 Debs made a similar statement:
No wonder Jackson said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” He had the Wall Street gentry in mind or their prototypes, at least; for in every age it has been the tyrant, who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both. (Shouts of “Good, good” from the crowd) (applause).
In 1922 a partially matching statement printed in a North Carolina newspaper was applied to the Ku Klux Klan. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
Governor Allen has made a fine epigram on the K. K. K.—Race prejudice wrapped in the flag and sold for $10.
In 1923 Lonnie Jackson, mayor of Central City, Kentucky and president of District No. 23 of the United Mine Workers of America described the Ku Klux Klan using a matching phrase:
“The Ku Klux Klan comes wrapped in the American flag, as it were, advocating the American principles openly, with a Bible in its hand, and the very next day they are passing their neighbors with a mask over their faces. My conception of the fundamental principles of Americanism is that a man should have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading When Fascism Comes To America, It Will Be Wrapped in the Flag