What Others Have Said about Willis Carto
The brilliant conservative writer Revilo Oliver wrote this letter to Colonel Dall, son-in-law of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man who was once connected with Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby. Although Oliver himself stamped this correspondence “CONFIDENTIAL,” he distributed it to others besides Colonel Dall. Both men have since passed away.
It is interesting to note that Carto in July 1999 somehow convinced Dall’s widow, Katherine Dall, to front for Liberty Lobby, and for yet another Carto group, the new Friends of Liberty Lobby. Mrs. Dall also gave Carto $300,000! It will be interesting to see if any of this money is ever seen or heard of again.
The original of this document is said to be held in the Special Collections section of the Knight Library, at the University of Oregon.
Note especially the highlighted portions.
Revilo Pendleton Oliver
701 Ohio Street
17 December 1970
Dear Colonel Dall:
As I told you in the course of our recent conversation by telephone, I have no interest whatsoever in coming to Washington to participate in a conference about the conduct of Willis Carto. My regard for you, however, is such that I shall take time that I can ill afford to state as concisely and objectively as I can the extent to which I have been involved in the activities of that individual.
This letter is for your information. I shall give it no circulation, except that I shall send copies marked “confidential” to the other members of the Advisory Board of the National Youth Alliance for their information, since they are nearly concerned in the transactions I shall summarize.
I first encountered Carto, as I remember, in 1956 or early in 1957 at some patriotic meeting at which he appeared as an associate, at least behind the scenes, of, William Stevenson, the editor of a well-written but short lived periodical called The Virginian. There was something about Carto’s personality and manners that I found distasteful and even repellent, but I am, of course, aware that no political effort can be based on personal likes and dislikes, and that patriotic activity necessarily involves cooperation with many persons whom one would not wish to have as personal friends. I therefore showed Carto every courtesy, discussed matters of common interest with him when occasion offered, and gave him the best advice that I could whenever he asked for it. I found, furthermore, that he enjoyed the confidence of men whom I respected highly, and that he was receiving personally financial support from men of means whose patriotic purposes I could not doubt.
I accordingly observed Carto’s various operations sympathetically, but avoided any direct association with him or his undertakings until after the national elections in 1968. (I must add that when the late Admiral Freeman asked me to participate in an organization to be called Americans for National Security, I was not aware that it was going to become just another of Carto’s devices for collecting money.)
In November 1968 Carto’s record included much to his credit, notably:
(1) He had published a small periodical, Right, that had been a distinct contribution to the American cause, and had founded Western Destiny, a periodical that had a great potentiality and could, I believe, have exerted a wide influence had it not been prematurely abandoned, presumably because it was operating at a deficit.
(2) He had procured (with the help of a critique that I wrote for that purpose) a subvention for a handsomely printed edition of a very rare and important historical study, Imperium. (I neglected, unfortunately, to ascertain whether Carto realized a substantial profit on that transaction.)
(3) I shall advert to the defects of Imperium later, but Carto in conversations with me had from the first insisted that the general approach represented by Imperium. represented not only his own deepest convictions, but also the only means of rallying support for a successful American effort. He had maintained this at a time when I believed that there were still alternatives, so that I had to credit him with superior foresight.
(4) He had gone to Belmont on a quite handsome salary to plan a “youth movement” that would be a Birch subsidiary and as a potential successor to titular headship of the Birch business, and he had left that post in circumstances which suggest that he may have penetrated the secret objectives of Robert the Welcher long before I had any suspicion of the cunning little man’s duplicity.
(5) He was violently and viciously denounced by the Jews, both openly and through various mouthpieces, such as the New York Times, Morris Bealle, and Robert the Welcher. (I need not remark that this datum is of merely provisional value, for, as everyone has known since the days of Sinon, the best way to accredit a secret agent to the enemy whom he is to betray is to denounce him and appear bent on his destruction.)
(6) He had, on my recommendation, salvaged the American Mercury, and he had founded the Washington Observer, which utilizes the talents and contacts of one of the last and best newsmen in the country. These publications are so useful to our cause that no American would wish to see them disappear, however despicable the character of the publisher.
(7) He founded, on the basis of mailing lists stolen from Robert the Welcher, Liberty Lobby, which performs a very useful service, although the purposes professed when it was founded have now become clearly unrealizable. Quite aside from my regard for the Lobby when you became associated with it, I do not want to see it collapse.
Such were, in my estimation, Carto’s credentials when, after the election in 1968, he proposed a plan to salvage the membership of the Youth for Wallace group, which he claimed to have subsidized to the extent of $50,000 in cash in a few months, and to found a national youth movement of the kind that I had long regarded as an indispensable part of any effective effort to preserve our nation, and had come to regard as the only remaining means of recapturing the United States. I therefore listened to Carto, but refused, as politely as I could, to have anything to do with the first organization of the National Youth Alliance, because I was not convinced of his bona fides, in spite of the record I have summarized above.
Later, however, and primarily because of my confidence in Mr. Louis Byers, I did consent to endorse the National Youth Alliance on three explicitly stated conditions, viz.:
1. The complete elimination of Carto’s unsavory and scabrous playmates, particularly Acord, Paulson, and Baker.
2. Placing Mr. Byers in complete charge of the organization, with absolute authority over all operations and transactions.
3. The supply by Carto of a subsidy of at least $50,000 per year, over and above all income that the N.Y.A. might derive from members and sponsors, for a minimum of two years. (No one in his right mind and with any experience in such matters could have imagined that a national organization could conceivably be founded with a smaller investment, and it was obvious that an estimate of $50,000 per year was extremely optimistic.)
In deciding to accept Carto’s pledge of support, I believed that I could trust, if not the man himself, at least his sense of self-interest. Quite apart from the fact that the National Youth Alliance was to be the realization of a project that Carto had for a decade consistently described as nearest to his heart, I reasoned that
Obviously, I was wrong about at least one of these two premises.
It was on the basis of this miscalculation that I decided to support the National Youth Alliance, which I then believed to be, and now believe to have been, potentially the American people’s last chance to regain possession of the United States. Soon after I committed myself, there were various small indications that Carto was playing a double game, but, disturbing as they were, I could not abandon what I believed to be our last hope or Mr. Byers, who had committed himself to the undertaking in part, at least, on the strength of my promised support.
Mr. Byers was placed in a very difficult position. Believing Carto to be what he pretended to be, Mr. Byers felt loyalty to him as sponsor of the N.Y.A. and respect for his presumably great expertise in patriotic activity. I am grateful to him for having twice refused to forge my name to public letters, as Carto urged and demanded.
As we all know, Carto not only welched on his pledge to provide the minimum financial support, but reiterated to Mr. Byers his promises to provide it, giving various highly imaginative, although decreasingly plausible, explanations of the delay; he thus deliberately and maliciously encouraged Mr. Byers to continue some office operations on credit and to assume obligations that Carto knew could not be met, because he, Carto, was going to renege when the organization had become hopelessly insolvent.
Since Carto is not an imbecile mentally, it is obvious that he intentionally and malevolently forced the National Youth Alliance, which was unique among organizations on our side in that it was formed in time to take advantage of coming events, to miss the socially and psychologically golden opportunity in anticipation of which it had been founded and which did in fact come with the outbreaks in numerous colleges during the academic year that began in September 1969.
Let me emphasize that point: the N.Y.A. was unique among patriotic organizations because it was designed to meet coming events rather than deplore what had already happened and make futile talk about undoing events that by their very nature are irreversible.
The N.Y.A. was unique, also, because it could offer something new and therefore credible instead of sterile reiterations of sentiments and principles that, however delectable to those who still believed in them, had been effectively discredited by failure.
As I stated in print years ago, I am aware that Imperium, which was to be the basic doctrine of the N.Y.A., was not a perfect work because (1) it contained errors of historical fact that made it vulnerable to criticism, although the errors were merely incidental and did not affect its major thesis; (2) contained serious biological errors because Yockey relied on Spengler, who, in turn, relied partly on forged data so concocted by our enemies as to appear scientific, and partly on obsolete theories; (3) was written from a European, rather than an American, point of view; and (4) contained frequent references to, and projections from, a situation that was contemporary when Yockey wrote but was already more than two decades in the past. But despite these defects, Imperium was by far the best doctrine that was available. It was basically sound, and some of the shortcomings had been corrected in the preface that Carto wrote on the basis of my critique and suggestions. It was not perfect, but rational men use the weapons that are available now. Armies today are equipped with carbines, which, as everyone knows, are far inferior to the laser-guns that somebody really ought to have invented.
The N.Y.A., therefore, was our side’s first — and may prove to have been our side’s last opportunity to recruit support outside the relatively small and closed circle of aging patriots, most of them left from the 1930s — a group that is being constantly diminished by death and despair.
Carto’s current and strange agitation about mailing-lists is significant. I know that such talk, coming from a person who has in the past boasted of his dexterity in filching other people’s mailing-lists, and who, according to what I have been told by other patriotic leaders whose word I have no reason to doubt, is now trying to rent his “prime list” and others secretly for cash in advance — such talk, I say, seems to be mere buffoonery. But it is more than a tirade by Pantalone: it is a confession — a most indiscreet confession — of the bankruptcy of the “conservative” movement.
What makes the mailing-lists such business assets is the fact, admitted by implication, that the computers of the mail-order houses in Washington now have on their tapes the names and addresses of at least 90% of all the people in American society
who are potential customers for patriotic pep-talks and jeremiads. These customers are the “old faithfuls,” and experience has shown, I am sure, that they respond as well to the cynically contrived rhetoric of the professional swindlers (most of whom, it is interesting to note, are or perhaps were Carto’s dearest playmates) as to the most earnest solicitations from you and from others who do have a serious purpose. But these persons form a virtually closed market. My guess is that whenever Carto manages to get his hands on a competitor’s list, he finds that more than half of the names on it merely duplicate names on lists that he has already acquired. I imagine that every time he sets up a front for another hit-and-run operation with his sucker-list, he hopes not only to give the cows an extra milking but to acquire some new ones with a new twist in the rhetoric (e.g., as in the suddenly resurrected American Colonization Society, which as suddenly returned to its century-hallowed tomb after the pitch was made); and I also imagine that the yield of fresh prospects was very small.
The market is not only limited, but it is rapidly diminishing, as the “old faithful” die, retire on decreased incomes, become weary of giving futilely, or reasonably conclude from the number of exposed pseudo-patriotic swindles that all patriotic organizations are merely confidence-games. (They have no psychic powers, you know, that would enable them to discriminate between mere confidence-men and men who were sincerely confident that they could accomplish the impossible.) The dwindling herd that will give milk to restore what is past and gone is, furthermore, developing sore udders from too frequent milking, as is obvious from the diminishing net yield of each new solicitation. And, what is more, I suspect that the highest yield is always obtained by the frauds, because the writing of pitch-letters is a technique closely akin to propaganda, and, as everyone who knows anything of that field regards as axiomatic, first-class propaganda can be produced only by technicians who believe no word of it.
I know that there still is in the nation a considerable number of persons, not yet impoverished, who sincerely and ardently want to avert the disaster that is imminent. Now it so happens that I can write a good Ciceronian Latin, but if I proposed to those persons to write a syntactically and rhetorically perfect exposition of their beliefs in Latin, they would certainly dismiss the project as chimerical for the obvious reason that it could not influence any considerable part of the public that we need to reach, and they would not change their minds, even if I convinced them that Latin is a beautiful language, that it is in many ways superior to English, that everyone ought to read it with ease, that not long ago all educated men did read it with ease, and that (as I could prove from good sources) so few now read it with ease because of the success of what the North American Review a century ago rightly called “the insane conspiracy against the learned languages.” But the very persons who can see at once that exhortations in Latin are not now feasible seem incapable of perceiving the futility of exhortations in terms that are equally obsolete and with arguments that would have been cogent a century ago but are now unintelligible to most Americans. It is undoubtedly. deplorable, lamentable, horrible that public schools were permitted to function in the United States as the instruments of our enemies for the past fifty years and more, and with ever increasing efficiency, but it is an unalterable and irreversible fact that the public schools have functioned and have done their work very
well. That is a fact that anyone can verify in five minutes by glancing at a newspaper or watching the shadows in a boob-tube — or by inducing almost any American business or professional man under sixty to express a candid opinion. But the earnest patriots with pathetic nostalgia go on exhorting in a dead language remembered from their now remote youth. Theirs are beautiful sentiments: natura autem generis humani tardiora quam mala semper sunt remedia, et ut corpora nostra lente augescunt, cito extinguuntur, sic ingenia studiaque oppresseris facilius quam revocaris. No one can deny that: it is self-evident.
I have every sympathy and respect for the antiquarian societies that justly praise and admire the Republic of 1850 or 1810, and I certainly do not begrudge their members the inspiration they derive from their Jacobite loyalties, which are in every way admirable. I sincerely honor the gentlemen who wear a white rose in their buttonhole on the thirtieth of January, for such loyalty to romantic ideals is a characteristic innate in our race.
If the members of patriotic societies seriously intend to deflect the course of events and to have a country that they can leave to their progeny, they must by this time have learned that they cannot do it by talking to themselves and crying “amen!” at prayer meetings: they will have to act intelligently. And, so far as anyone can now foresee, the time in which any action will be possible is very short.
If the “conservatives” really have the money to buy at once all the newspapers and television networks in the country and to hire a corps of trained propagandists to operate them-- or if they can bribe a majority in Congress and keep them bribed for four or five years or if they can muster and equip at least three divisions of paratroopers for a coup d'etat -- I am delighted to hear it and I remind them that they must act at once — tomorrow may be too late. If, however, they cannot afford these obvious expedients, they had better inquire what measures are still within their power and they had better stop daydreaming long enough to look at present realities and to learn at least a few of the most elementary facts about the nature and formation of what is called “public opinion.”
The National Youth Alliance was a means of action within the power of the little circle of Americans who are so busy professing alarm. It was a way in which they could, for the first time, mobilize new recruits and set in motion forces that would have endangered the enemy’s position. How successful it would have been in the long run, only the future could have told, but the N.Y.A. was at least a rational plan.
I have not rehearsed these obvious considerations to explain why I took a chance in relying on Carto’s self-interest, but to make specific what Carto knew and professed to believe at that time. It is, in short, what he knowingly betrayed.
On 1 March 1970, when I still thought that there might be some spark of decency or prudence in Carto, I wrote him a letter in which I indicated, as politely as I could, that the whole responsibility for the failure would rest on him, and I asked, in a way that gave him a way to save face if he belatedly repented, whether he had made in good faith the pledges of financial support of the N.Y.A. that had
induced me to participate in the organization. Carto, of course, made no reply.
It is now clear to me, naturally, that Carto saw in the N.Y.A. only an opportunity for another hit-and-run operation on his sucker list, in which he could use me as his cat's-paw and make Mr. Byers his accomplice. With the good names and unblemished reputations of the members of the Advisory Board as a screen behind which he could work, and my writing as a fresh piece of sucker-bait, he would have had no difficulty in giving his cows several good milkings rich in cream, for the only expense, of course, would have been rent of the office for a few months and printing and postage for fraudulent solicitations, and then (as I finally discovered he had arranged at the very first) the N.Y.A. would disappear in bankruptcy, with the further profit that it would have been used to defraud his creditors of some $30,000+ of accounts that he transferred to the N.Y.A., and its name would have been used for fake entries to cover up shortages of at least $100,000 on the books of his various operations.
One can understand how irate and enraged Carto must have been when he discovered that, for reasons that may have been incomprehensible to him, Mr. Byers was unwilling to cooperate in forgery and theft.
On 1 July 1970, the Advisory Board of the National Youth Alliance met and unanimously advised Mr. Byers to refuse a sheaf of fake notes falsely acknowledging receipt of some $26,000+ from a mysterious “Emergency Committee” of which no one had ever heard and of other large sums from other subsidiaries and fronts in Carto’s tangled web of promotions — all notes that Carto claimed he needed in order to deceive his bookkeepers. In making this recommendation, however, we did not reckon with foresight and cunning beyond that of most confidence men.
Carto’s contribution to N.Y.A. had been the services of the staff of Liberty Lobby to keep the books and handle the bank accounts, including both deposits and cheques — and, I remark incidentally, it will be very interesting to see what will be shown by the audit that is now probably inevitable. This arrangement, at least, made it possible for Carto to set a trap for Mr. Byers by issuing fake withholding certificates for the N.Y.A.’s small payroll and secretly failed to make the indicated payments to the Federal government. Since Mr. Byers was officially the director of the N.Y.A. and therefore legally responsible, Carto thus cleverly and secretly made Mr. Byres legally liable to fine and imprisonment. Thus Carto, by disclosing his own dishonesty and threatening to have Mr.Byers denounced to the Federal authorities and punished for Carto’s defalcations, was able to blackmail Mr. Byers into signing the fraudulent notes to cover up, at least from the perfunctory glances of a routine accountant, the disappearance of large sums of money for which he was unable or unwilling to account.
Passing over other tricks which are trivial in comparison, I note, as evidence of Carto’s remarkable abilities, that after the successful blackmail. operation he cleverly paid only a part of what was due the Federal government, and finally, as part of a settlement at which you were present, gave Mr. Byers the money needed to pay the remaining arrears to the
Federal government, thus inducing the unsuspecting Mr. Byers to sign a release which, as Carto well knew but Mr. Byers did not, would leave him personally liable for the large fine that would be assessed as a penalty for Carto’s delinquency.
I note further that Carto, after solemnly pledging himself and his associates not to defame Mr. Byers, almost immediately had published an infamous libel, which he had prepared in advance of signing the pledge, in the malodorous pseudo-American sheet, Statecraft, established and operated by the scurvy crew that he tried to introduce into the National Youth Alliance at the beginning, doubtless as collaborators. I know the adage that politics make strange bed-fellows, but I am not sure that that is an entirely adequate explanation of an attachment so persistent, despite real or simulated spats, that it almost presupposes the kind of intimate accord that comes only from common tastes and a common morality. At all events, Carto is known to have financed Statecraft in the past, secretly and probably with money extracted from his sucker-lists by means of artfully frantic pleas for help to save the nation, and it is only too likely that he used money from the same source to pay for the printing and distribution of the defamatory sheet, and for the creation of a counterfeit “N.Y.A.,” for which he cleverly created a pretext at the very time that, to obtain my sponsorship, he had to separate Acord & Co. from the operation. That is evidence of great foresight, and one must credit Carto with a certain kind of talent amounting almost to genius.
I do not presume to divine Carto’s motives. He appears to be pursuing Mr. Byers with a kind of vindictive hysteria that seems odd in a person presumably not equipped with an uterus, but that may be part of some design too subtle and devious to be discerned at present by less ophidian intellects. So far as I can see, the most favorable interpretation of Carto’s career suggests that a year or two hence there will appear in Switzerland a yet young individual, perhaps calling himself Wilifred Carter or something like that, who will settle down to living comfortably on his hard-earned Swiss bank accounts, and will chuckle as he, from a safe distance, watches the American suckers get what is coming to them. On any other explanation that I can think of, he is a fool as well as a knave. [emphasis added]
It is a waste of time to argue over spilled milk. The present situation is that Carto has, in all probability,
(1) destroyed the National Youth Alliance. Although I do not wish to discourage those who are making a desperate effort to carry on, it is likely that Carto’s counterfeit will create such utter confusion as will make all efforts futile; at best, the N.Y.A. will probably survive only as a small and struggling organization with no opportunity to realize its original potential unless some fresh opportunity should be provided by events that cannot now be foreseen.
(2) prematurely destroyed Liberty Lobby. If the Federal government is really pressing the claim for income tax described in your recent letter, it seems to me a virtual certainty that nothing that can now be done to the books of the Lobby and the holding companies could successfully conceal the fake entries concerning the N.Y.A., and there may be similar entries involving some of the many other fronts. Even so relatively in-
nocuous a ploy as the great “mortgage crisis,” which, I was told, brought in considerably more than enough money to enable Carto to buy the building from himself and then lease it to Liberty Lobby at a greatly increased rental, must have left a spoor on the books, and that one detail alone, if made public at a trial or otherwise, would mean the end of Liberty Lobby — and probably the end of all patriotic solicitations by mail.
(I do not mean to sound alarmist, but the claim described in the current appeal letter must mean that the Infernal Revenue Service has some evidence by which it hopes to show that the proprietor of Liberty Lobby realized in 1966 and 1967 together a net profit of $258,010.00 (less adjustment for surtax), and that means that even if there were no political animus involved, they will put their shrewdest auditors to work on the accounts, and such men are unlikely to overlook any lead. I add, for what it may be worth, that an acquaintance of mine who was recently in Washington picked up in Congressional circles a rumor that one of Carto’s bookkeepers has been “singing” (if I may quote the Washingtonian argot) to the F.B.I. and I.R.S. Of course, there is no way of knowing how much weight, if any, one should attach to such rumors.)
I have written this letter to state the situation as I see it for your information and for whatever help it may be to you. I need not say that it implies no criticism of you, for whom I have only the kindest feelings. And, obviously, I do not presume to advise you.
I have no desire to take any kind of vengeance on Carto or to hasten the retribution that he has probably brought inescapably on himself. What he has done cannot be undone. I naturally resent his effort to use me as a patsy in his scheme, and I feel a certain shudder of loathing whenever I remember how hard he tried to induce me to become the “President” or the “Chairman” of the N.Y.A. as he intended it to be, but that is all. There are many bigger swamp-adders in the mephitic slough by the Potomac, and while Carto may take pride in thinking himself the most venomous of his size, my own concern is to avoid further contact with a species that I do not have the stomach to contemplate without nausea. [emphasis added]
Let me repeat that I do not wish to see Carto exposed. The American Mercury, the Washington Observer, and Liberty Lobby, so far as I can see, all make distinct and valuable contributions to the American cause, which may not be entirely hopeless, and so, in my estimation, every additional month that they continue to exist is a gain for us. That is why I am asking my fellow members of the Advisory Board of the National Youth Alliance to regard as strictly confidential the copies of this letter that I must send them for their own information.
That I have taken the time now, when I am desperately pressed for time to discharge long-standing commitments in my own work, to write this long letter to you should be sufficient proof of my personal regard for you.
Please remember us cordially to Mrs. Dall.
With best wishes,
/s/ Revilo P. Oliver