Kilroy Was Here
December 29, 2003
Michael Knox Beran claims that we are undergoing a cultural crisis because historians are now focusing on the slavery side of our Founding Fathers. Here's a representative excerpt:
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Each new book on the founding of our republic might as well contain the scholarly equivalent of the surgeon general’s warning affixed to our beer bottles. "Warning: Studying the Men Who Founded the United States May Be Dangerous to Your Moral Health."
Nothing short of the most drastic measures could put a stop to what (in the view of some of our media and scholarly big shots) is a highly unfortunate development. What has so exasperated the intellectual classes? This — the fact that during the last decade or so the Founding Fathers have begun to be treated by a number of historians in an uncharacteristic way: with respect. Even veneration, of the kind traditionally accorded to lawgivers who found great cities or republics.
For a certain kind of academic historian or debunking journalist nothing could be more insupportable than this notion of the Great Man, the Heroic Founder. What, the outraged professor or muckraking editorial writer wonders, has gone wrong? How, in so up-to-date an age as our own, could some very dead white males manage to be so...popular?
...Do not misunderstand me. The question of slavery in the early republic should be studied. But make no mistake about the motives of those who are instituting the new gag-rule designed to marginalize books that deal with other aspects of the foundation of the republic. These self-appointed censors are less interested in encouraging the pursuit of historical truth than they are in finding new ways to undermine the moral legitimacy of a country many of whose qualities they abhor.
American Historians hate the qualities of America? All this de-humanization of historians is very troubling.
I mean, isn't the following an interesting question? Why did men who founded what we think as one of the great ethical countries in all history hold slaves? How did the reconcile this behavior with their purported love of liberty that was espoused in the Declaration of Independence?
These types of interesting questions tend to go in waves through academic communities, and there examination is not necessarily motivated by some political agenda. It could just be motivated by interest.
But to play the Amazing Kreskin and delve deep into the minds of these historians to only find freedom-hating communists demonizes these men and women and borders on the paranoid.
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