One of the great benefits of living a long life is that one develops a deep understanding of history and how it shaped the present, as well as a humble appreciation of the people who helped make that history, both in the distant past and into the modern era. It is one of the latter, a “titan” of literature, and a dedicated American patriot, whose long life I want to explore with you. Her birth name was Janet Taylor, but we knew her better by her “pen name” that she used when writing: TAYLOR CALDWELL (1900-1985)
I’ve written many times here in The Times Examiner that my wife and I have been members of The John Birch Society since 1963, 59 years of associating with some of the finest Christians and patriots I’ve ever known. For many years, until her death, Taylor Caldwell was also aproud and dedicated member of The John Birch Society, and through her writing and in her sometimes hectic life she did what she could to help Americanists pursue the goal stated from the very beginning of the JBS by our Founder, Robert Welch: “Less government—more responsibility—and with God’s help, a better world”. Birchers still strive to accomplish Mr. Welch’s dream, and Taylor Caldwell did also.
I could do a lot of research about this prolific author and write my own article, but my fellow members at the headquarters of The John Birch Society in Appleton, Wisconsin have already written an excellent summary of the life events of Caldwell. It’s available at JBS.ORG under the heading: TAYLOR CALDWELL. To enter parts of this article into the annals of The Times Examiner, the newspaper (digital since 2018) that I’ve written for since 1999, I’m going to copy some of this JBS article so you can appreciate her accomplishments. I’ll use “italics” when I quote directly from the JBS article, and normal text when I use my own words. I don’t know who at JBS headquarters wrote this article or even when, but he/she did a great job. I trust you’ll agree.
“I have fought these enemies of liberty in every book I have written. But too few have listened to me, as too few have listened to others who have warned of these conspirators. The hour is late. Americans must soon listen and act—or endure the black night of slavery that is worse than death.”
So said Taylor Caldwell in an article titled: The Middle Class Must Not Fail, published May 29, 1974 in “The Review of the News”, then a publication of The John Birch Society. So just who was this patriot who warned her countrymen of approaching doom so long ago—doom that appears to be closer now than then to enveloping all of us? Let me reminisce a bit.
One of the delights of my late teenage years and thereafter was reading some of the novels written by Taylor Caldwell, many of them dramas based on famous historical characters. People from my (Silent) generation were well acquainted with her books because her first novel, Dynasty of Death, was published in 1938. I believe that the first Taylor Caldwell novel I read sometime around 1955 was titled, The Devil’s Advocate, published in 1952, which was a disturbing tale about a dystopian world of the near future when communist tyranny had overrun the United States, and it portrayed the brave struggles of patriots to regain their liberties (which they eventually did). It really upset my peaceful and innocent youth, but it was probably the first book to really start my life-long “eye opening” as to the dangers posed by Marxist collectivism/progressivism/socialism, all “peas” out of the same rotten Satanic “pod”. Caldwell wasn’t a “Bircher” then, but she was already a patriot trying to warn her fellow citizens of approaching calamity that she saw with clarity and concern, so her eventual association with the Birch Society was a “natural” fit.
Over the ensuing years of struggle and perseverance, Caldwell became one of the most famous and published authors of the 20th century, including a list of best sellers, many of them based on historical figures like The Earth Is The Lord’s (1941), a tale of Genghis Kahn; my all-time favorite, Dear and Glorious Physician (1959), which portrayed the life and adventures of the Apostle Luke; and equal to it in my esteem was Great Lion of God ((1970), which depicted the wondrous life of the Apostle Paul of Tarsus; A Pillar of Iron (1965), which was a semi-biography of the life and accomplishments of the great Roman statesman and philosopher, Cicero; Dialogues With The Devil (1967), which was “correspondence” between the Devil Lucifer, and the Archangel Michael. One of her most famous novels was The Captains and the Kings (1972), which was made into an eight-part TV mini-series back in 1976 (I remember watching this series). This book was “the story of a dynasty founded by an Irish immigrant, and was generally believed that the story’s principal character, Joseph Armagh, was loosely based on the real-life Joseph Kennedy”, Over her long writing career, which stretched from 1938 to 1981, she published 40 novels and became world-famous and eventually quite wealthy.
“One of Caldwell’s most fascinating works…was not a novel but an autobiographical collection of condensed articles originally appearing in American Opinion Magazine (the journal established by JBS Founder Robert Welch—(and now replaced by The New American magazine)—entitled ‘On Growing Up Tough’. ‘On Growing Up Tough’ is the story of the girl born in 1900 in Manchester, England, as Janet Taylor, the daughter of an austere English family of Scottish background. Reading through the pages of her collection of memoirs, the reader begins to understand how her quite unusual upbringing produced a woman of such extraordinary convictions. At the age of four her parents sent her to “an exclusive school for young ladies and gentlemen” with the warning that, should they hear of any misbehavior on her part, she would be ‘thoroughly thrashed’.
“She walked the mile to school each way in Manchester’s harsh weather; for an eight-hour day of strict academics. She recalls: ‘By the time I was seven I had had two years of Latin and one of French, and was reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets, not to mention minor poets, and had had a good grounding in history and geography.’ Recognizing her entry into ‘adulthood’, her parents gave her the task of tending the fireplaces in three rooms. Caldwell provides a long litany of the tasks she regularly performed on weekends at the age of seven: ‘Ironing, mending, darning, snow shoveling, grass cutting, glass polishing…and homework and Sunday school, and church twice a day. I was lucky to get eight hours sleep.’
“While it is not surprising that such a challenging childhood made Caldwell a rugged individualist, she also described why she distained liberalism: ‘As a peaceful person, I am willing to live and let live. But the Liberal will not, if he can help it, let you live in peace, or, coming down to the matter, let you live at all.’ Caldwell was a trendsetter of sorts in adopting a philosophy that combined social and economic conservatism with a decidedly anti-war stance, in an era when most conservatives tended to support the military establishment’s status quo. Her first published novel, “Dynasty of Death” (1938), written in collaboration with her husband, Marcus Reback, about two families in Pennsylvania who controlled a vast armaments empire, condemned what later became known as the ‘military industrial complex’….”
One very interesting essay that Caldwell wrote in 1957 was titled: HONORIA. It was first published December 23, 1957 by the late, great patriot, Dan Smoot (1913-2003), in his Dan Smoot Report (that I used to read regularly). Smoot was a former F.B.I. agent and a great friend of the John Birch Society in his later years. Caldwell’s “Honoria” chronicled the rise and fall of a fictitious country, but was really an “allegorical representation” of the “rise and fall” of the U.S. I’ve written two articles in The Times Examiner (timesexaminer.com) over the years about Caldwell’s ‘Honoria’, the last one titled, Honoria Revisited”, and published February 15, 2021. Go the website of The Times Examiner and click on my name under LOCAL COLUMNISTS, then scroll down to the bottom of the archived articles until you come to it.
If you’ve read Caldwell’s “Honoria” in the past, you’ll recall that it focused on the powerful forces that seem to impel the usually violent ends of all great republics, from Rome to (possibly) America. In “Honoria”, Caldwell cautioned:
“’The middle class (of Honoria), the hard working, the self-reliant, slowly smothered from despair. Who cared? The mob had a full belly today and government promised to fill it again tomorrow. The monstrous state, the top-heavy bureaucracy, was happy. The cynical laughed among themselves. Freedom? Why, the people didn’t want freedom. They wanted free entertainment, free bread, free housing. A degenerate nation deserved no freedom, no consideration…. An evil old man (The Emperor) crippled and malformed, led the nation into more wars and foreign entanglements—he was the ruler of Honoria. Patriots were considered scoundrels. The (government) rulers of Honoria were tools not only of the mobs, but of foreigners.’”
“Caldwell ended her essay with a warning and a call to action. ‘IT IS A STERN FACT OF HISTORY THAT NO NATION THAT RUSHED TO THE ABYSS EVER TURNED BACK. NOT EVER, IN THE LONG HISTORY OF THE WORLD! WE ARE NOW ON THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS. CAN WE, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, TURN BACK? IT IS UP TO YOU.’ (Emphasis mine—whl). Those stark words have given me sleepless nights and much self-recrimination since I first read them several years ago.
“Her combination of staunch self-reliance, disdain for the socialist welfare state, and recognition that a cabal of rich, powerful elitists secretly controlled the world (a theme apparent in <two of her books> Captains and the Kings and Ceremony of the Innocent) made Caldwell a natural fit for membership in the John Birch Society. For many years she contributed outstanding essays to American Opinion, and The Review of the News, the forerunners of The New American (magazine).
“There are too few members of the John Birch Society, too few American patriots, and what there are of us are too frightened…. I’ve begged them to forget minor differences, to move as one to save America,” (she lamented). Caldwell, by nature, was somewhat pessimistic about the prospects for good Americans to save our nation. Yet, she seemed favorably impressed with the JBS Founder’s positive outlook. She noted: ‘The illogic comes in when some men persist in believing that the majority of men will fight for their country and their God, their honor and their freedom. They have done so only very few times in history, and those few times are little inspiration to us in these days. It happened so seldom. Will it happen again? Mr. Robert Welch believes it is quite possible, for America.’
“Caldwell said that ‘only time—now running out—will prove who was right and who was wrong. I hope to God that Bob Welch is right.’”
The Land of Honoria that Taylor Caldwell wrote about, as I’m sure you realize, was ancient Rome. Or was it? Many unbiased historians have claimed, over the years, that there is a troubling and disturbing similarity between ancient Rome and the U.S.A. in both its founding and its progress from individual freedom and responsibility into a gradual serf-like dependence on a huge and “benevolent” government. Whether or not the similarities are prophetic remains to be seen, but the parallels between the two nations—so distant from each other in time but so similar in many other respects—troubles me greatly, for the educated among us know that Rome permitted a slow erosion of her constitution, known as The Twelve Tables of Law, and her once strong morality, just as we Americans have been doing since the end of the War For Southern Independence in 1865.
I hope and pray earnestly that American patriots can save our foundering Constitutional Republic, because while Caldwell warned back in 1957 that we were “on the edge of the abyss”, it’s quite obvious to me that we as a nation have already gone over the edge of the abyss and are on our way into the depths of unimaginable chaos and tyranny if we can’t soon pull ourselves back up, a feat she claimed had never been accomplished since history began. For the sake of my grandkids and great grandkids—and yours-- I hope we can—and will. For the sake of all of our posterity I pray that the American patriots of today can turn the tide of despotism that is threatening to engulf us. If we can’t, or won’t, return our nation back to its founding constitutional principles, then it is US—it is our generations alive today—who will suffer the figurative “scorn” of our Founders for allowing their dreams of a free society to founder, and it is US who will be condemned by our posterity for having sentenced them to live under forms of tyrannical and repressive governments that should long ago have been relegated to the garbage dumps of Hell. What kind of a world my descendants—and yours—will have to endure bothers me greatly. Much more than you know. And it should bother you also! If it doesn’t bother you, then I suggest you look “inward”, and ask yourself “why”?