“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”?
For years, I felt i was the only one that was never able to pin down the source of this quote, though "everyone" said it was Sinclair Lewis. I've spewed my doubts around the blogoshere for years, and finally, others started delving into it, and finally, Wikiquote (and soon Wikipedia, we hope) is calling it a "misattribution."
There are may articles about this topic, some of them quite exhaustively compiled (like this one), but all of them inconclusive or otherwise flawed in some way or another. So, being pretty anal about actual facts, and not alleged facts, I felt I would try to clear it up by going to a scholar who might actually know a little something about Sinclair Lewis and his work.
What follows that scholar's letter to me. I think this is fairly dispositive that the words were not penned by Sinclair Lewis. Following it are some related references with fairly convincing evidence that it was actually a misquotation of a Harrison Salisbury remark about Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here." I won't swear to that until I've next checked into that claim. It sure sounds right, though.
This quote sounds like something Sinclair Lewis might have said or written, but the Sinclair Lewis Society has never been able to find this exact quote although we've been asked a number of times.
Here are passages from two books Lewis wrote that at least hint at the quote attributed to him.
From It Can't Happen Here: "But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word 'Fascism' and preached enslavement to capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty."
From Gideon Planish: "I just wish people wouldn't quote Lincoln or the Bible, or hang out the flag or the cross, to cover up something that belongs more to the bank-book and the three golden balls."
There was also a play called Strangers in the late 1970s which had a similar quote, but no one, including one of Lewis’s biographers, Richard Lingeman, has ever been able to locate the quote.
Hope that helps. Many thanks for writing. And thank you for passing the information on to Wikipedia.
Sally E. Parry, Ph.D.
Sinclair Lewis Society
College of Arts and Sciences
Campus Box 4100
Illinois State University
Normal, IL 61790-4100
"I am convinced that everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit…" Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here
We'll Always Have the Movies: American Cinema during World War II by Robert L. McLaughlin and Sally E. Parry www.kentuckypress.com
Please direct people to this site. As wonderful a quote as it is, and probably a total truism, it should be properly attributed to who actually said it :)
- Who really said “When fascism comes to America.."
- Sinclair lewis never said it
- The Sinclair Lewis Society