Nineteenth century professor of political and social science at Yale University
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  • William Graham Sumner

    William Graham Sumner (30 October 1840 – 12 April 1910) was a classical liberal American social scientist. He taught social sciences at Yale, where he held the nation's first professorship in sociology. He was one of the most influential teachers at Yale or any other major school. Sumner wrote widely within the social sciences, with numerous books and essays on American history, economic history, political theory, sociology and anthropology. He supported laissez-faire economics, free markets and the gold standard. He adopted the term "ethnocentrism" to identify the roots of imperialism, which he strongly opposed. He was a spokesman against imperialism and in favor of the "forgotten man" of the middle class, a term he coined. He had a long-term influence on conservatism in the United States.


    Sumner, William Graham (1840-1910), by Robert Bannister, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "William Graham Sumner was an economist, a sociologist, and a leading defender of individualism and the free market. He opposed most of the reforms that coalesced in the progressivist program after 1900, and he also denounced American imperialism. ... In 'The Conquest of the United States by Spain' (1899), a speech delivered in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, Sumner denounced American expansionism. The war began in political struggles in Washington and was fueled by reports of Cuba 'we now know to be false.' In annexing the Philippines, the United States was adopting the values for which it criticized Spain."


    30 Oct 1840, in Paterson, New Jersey


    12 Apr 1910, in Englewood, New Jersey


    Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism, by Alan Fairgate, Feb 1976
    Examines writings of critics of imperialism that are not based on Marxist analysis
    "William Graham Sumner's essay 'The Conquest of the United States by Spain' ... provides an excellent introduction to the main elements of the anti-imperialist critique of American foreign policy. ... Sumner went on to develop the theme that republic and empire are antithetical concepts and that interventionism abroad would require the abandonment of America's traditional isolationist policies as well as her anticolonial heritage. Moreover, he argued, annexing overseas territories is morally wrong, violating such fundamental principles as liberty, democracy, equality, and self-government."
    Peace and Pacifism, by Robert Higgs, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Reviews what prominent classical liberals and libertarians had to say on the subject of peace and war, as well as the history of United States wars from the War of 1812 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the efforts of those who opposed them
    "In 1899, Sumner wrote a tract called 'The Conquest of the United States by Spain' to show how the U.S. embrace of imperialism undermined the nation's best traditions as a limited-government republic and presaged higher taxes, bigger armed forces, conscription, and conquest. As if to demonstrate the accuracy of Sumner's warning, the government immediately undertook to defeat the Filipinos who sought self-rule, savagely suppressing their insurgency during the Philippine-American War (1899–1902)."
    The Roots of Modern Libertarian Ideas, by Brian Doherty, Cato Policy Report, Mar 2007
    Survey of the history of libertarian ideas, from ancient China and Greece to 20th century writers
    "Another 19th-century American libertarian thinker, of great public renown in his time, was the Episcopal priest and Yale University sociologist William Graham Sumner. Sumner was a great anti-imperialist as well as an advocate of laissez faire and a celebrator of the spirit of enterprise who saw that the market order is so brain-bustingly complex that government attempts to manipulate it are apt to lead to unpredictable and very likely negative results. Sumner celebrated 'the forgotten man,' the independent middle-class producer who gets torn between the plutocrats ... and the paupers who receive benefits from government reformers ..."

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "William Graham Sumner" as of 31 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.