For the disclaimer here folks, I am not much of an original thinker. By that I mean I am not a philosopher unless said philosophy has a factual basis. I am an historian. By definition it is my job to interpret history. That is done by gathering facts from the primary, secondary and tertiary sources. It also involves reviewing the opinions of other historians with regard to whatever subject is in play.
The historian has one overriding obligation – to FACTUALLY and ACCURATELY portray events in the proper time line and context. Historical revisionism is the antithesis of the historian’s tenets, so when I hear one get all revisionist, I do tend to get a tad indignant about their efforts. To me that’s sorta like the layman whose entire knowledge of electricity extends to plugging something into a socket and then the brilliant philosopher tells the professional electrician what they are doing is wrong.
Let’s take the Civil War for example. It is very unpopular and often seen as racist to be factually accurate when I maintain the Civil War was as much about state’s rights and economics as it was the institution of slavery, vile though it was. Yes, slavery is a horrible institution. But was it seen as such when it was practiced in the US? Clearly by some it was. Eventually most everyone came to realize it was an untenable position, but therein lay the problem.
How does the breadbasket of a nation – the South – whose entire economy was agrarian, do that considering the vast areas to be cultivated and the lack of modern farming resources? Again, NOT justifying slavery at all but asking the questions. When we review the actual events that brought on the War we see a 40 year effort, beginning with the Missouri Compromise, by anti-slavery factions as doing all they could to limit it’s practice, and that’s all well and good, but whatcha think the average Southerner thought of that?
Gee, how are people reacting to events in the US today whereby those leading our government seem to be doing everything exactly opposite of what government should do for vibrant economies? What about the clear and continual circumventing of the law and Constitution to justify certain acts, all based on the emotion “we have to do something!?” And slavery isn’t involved in the current fight, so put a little thought into it for a second.
Imagine a 40 year effort to end your livelihood and your entire way of life. Again, NOT arguing for slavery in any way, but for the dissenter who just thinks they are taking the moral highground, how do they justify their position? Merely taking the moral highground is not a position at all – it is an easy to hold conclusion. Considering they’ve had 145 years of history to base that position upon, I find a generic settling on the moral highground displays little real thought but instead merely the easy route to self-satisfying arrogance.
It does not take a big thinker to say “Slavery was wrong.” I mean, ya think? Duh! See how easy it is to do? No thought of any factual context whatsoever. The difference between myself and the moral highgrounder is I used thought and study to reach my conclusions. I didn’t just decide on the popular opinion and parrot it.
Of course slavery was wrong, vile and ignorant, but was it so in the mind of men who instituted the practice in the US? BY the way, does the reader know most European nations that had territories in the New World ascribed to the practice of slavery for at least some period of time? England had slaves all over the islands. Slavery was an institution INHERITED by the fledgling United States.
How many will man up and acknowledge that this nation would have never been what it became in 1791 with the ratification of the Constitution if slavery had been outlawed in it? No southern state would have signed on. Considering all the chatter about “bipartisanship” the left forwards as the only way to be, how do they justify the fact that bipartisan negotiation is why slavery was accepted and adopted? It was done to reach a bipartisan settlement so we could forge a nation. Again, NOT justifying it but merely making the dolts see the facts.
Yet to win their parliamentary little points the dissenter just ignores all the how’s and why’s and stands proudly on the result. Oh, well that’s just so damned brave of them. I mean it was, for the record, a practice used by Muslims, Christians, and Hindu’s too. Slavery wasn’t officially ended in China until 1910 and according to Wikipedia, it is still practiced illegally there today. Not justifying; merely pointing out facts.
How about the facts that slave traders were Black folks too? Slavery was an ancient practice everywhere – Africa too ya know. Wars were fought to capture slaves to serve the winners or to be sold into slavery to other people, yes, many of them White Europeans. Contrary to populist opinion, slavery was economic every bit if not more than racial. Prior to African slavery most slaves and slave owners were White people, or Hindu’s or Chinese or some other non-Black society.
Can the reader see how there is so much more to the issue than just “slavery was wrong?” It is my job to look into all the disparate elements that make up the issue before I reach a conclusion based strictly on facts and none whatsoever in what I want something to be. That is the historian’s burden. We are not afforded the luxury of just manning a position and looking out over the hoi palloi that may disagree. We have to maintain a position that is factually, historically, and contextually accurate, as well as one that can be defended upon those criteria.
Lastly, to defend an historical situation for it’s historical accuracy IS NOT a forwarding or defending of the practice. No one can morally justify slavery at all, but to then take the clear lack of moral justification in today’s terms and apply that to the sensibilities of men who had a different knowledge and experience is very wrong, very unlearned and very shallow. It is historical revisionism in it’s most vile form.
To use such to defame folks who examine and acknowledge the facts, good ones and bad ones, is easy. It displays zero intelligent thought and consideration.I can only hope my use of slavery as the example to make my points will be taken in the light intended. Like what I say or not, I do not assume a position because it sounds good or it’s popular. The historian’s path is strewn with boulders – facts & context. Ya know – those unsightly things that demagogues & populists needn’t bother with?