First off, the title of this book is a bit misleading, and thus, the book is not exactly what I expected. Judging by the title, I was expecting to read about the Americans of English heritage that hold most of the political and economic power in the US. It turns out that this is a history of a British secret society and their utopian plans for "spreading the British way of life." The only way it even relates to America is that the members were intent on gaining the US as a main ally in their endeavor, which at the time of the books publication in 1949, they were apparently yet to do. Despite the confusion, I found the book to be fascinating, although very tedious at times.
In the late 19th century, Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Milner and several of their cohorts started a secret society which sought to preserve and spread their beloved British culture around the world. According to Quigley, who admits his sympathy for their cause if not their methods, the group set out with nothing but the best intentions and sincerely believed that the world would be the better for it. Their first goal was to organize Britain's colonies into a group of federated states with equal status, or a Commonwealth of Nations as they called it. After that, they sought to gradually include more and more nations until the world was eventually united into one loosely knit federation. These men were utopians, says Quigley, and the book challenges the notion that British imperialism was simply about economic exploitation, but instead an attempt to bring what they saw as the pinnacle of human culture to the uncivilized masses. The following is a quote from an unnamed member of the group which seems to sum up their beliefs:
"The development of the British Empire teaches how moral convictions and devotion to duty have inspired the building of the structure. Opponents of Imperialism are wont to suggest that the story will not bear inspection, that it is largely a record of self-aggrandizment and greed. Such a charge betrays ignorance of its history....The end of the State is to make men, and its strength is measured not in terms of defensive armaments or economic prosperity but by the moral personality of its individual members that they shall not merely live but live well. Social reformers are prone to insist too strongly on an ideal of material comfort for the people...A life of satisfaction depends not on higher wages or lower prices or on leisure for recreation, but on work that calls into play the higher capacities of man's nature....The cry of the masses should not be for wages or comforts or even liberty, but for opportunities for enterprise and responsibility. A policy for closer union in the Empire is full of significance in relation to this demand. There is but one way of promise. It is that the peoples of the Empire shall realize their national unity and draw from that ideal an inspiration to common endeavour in the fulfillment of the moral obligations which their membership of the Empire entails. The recognition of common Imperial interests is bound to broaden both their basis of public action and their whole view of life. Public life is ennobled by great causes and by these alone...."
Besides Rhodes and Milner, some of the named members are; Lionel Curtis, Lord Halifax, Arthur Balfour, Nathan Rothschild, Waldorf and Nancy Astor, Arnold Toynbee and a host of others. Rather than just a single group though, there seems to have been a complicated network that included an inner core, an outer core and a sort of blurry peripheral with a number of indviduals who were not actually members but either sympathized with the group, or unwittingly furthered their goals. The group was heavily involved in the League of Nations and seems to have had a major influence on British foreign policy, especially in the years between and during WWI and WWII.
In the conclusion, WW2 had only recently ended and the group's future is uncertain. Quigley states that the group was already falling apart at this time so one wonders if it still exists today. I should note that the Council on Foreign Relations, which is still very active today, is listed as an offshoot of the British group Royal Institute of International Affairs, the latter being one of the main arms of the group. This book could be considered conspiracy theory territory but I didn't think any of it was particularly far-fetched, and it would seem that much of the information within is widely known to be true. All in all, a tedious but very interesting read.