May 19, 1996

Historical revisionists impugn founders out of context

By Steve Scroggins


Iíve grown quite weary of historical revisionist attempts to cast America as a country founded on bigotry. Letís review a few examples.

A favorite approach is to characterize the American founders as sexists and racists----the "angry white men" of the 18th century. Let's have a reality check. Slavery was an accepted reality of the time--- and it was wrong, terribly wrong---but it was an accepted reality then. Accepted world-views held women in a different light as well. Women didnít conduct the affairs of politics and commerce; it was the purview of males to provide for their families. That's how it was.

Because the Constitution's framers were not a "diverse group" including all races, genders and sexual orientations, does that nullify their ideals and precepts or their government blueprint? Does that make the United States a nation founded on hate and bigotry? Because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves (note: he later freed them all), does that mean he cannot be recognized as a champion of liberty and self-government? I think not. It's ironic that those who deem Jefferson an evil man, unworthy of a place of honor in American history, are free to do so and to express their skewed ideas thanks to the courage, brilliance and yes, enlightened self-interest, of Jefferson and men like him.

Historical myopia is evident. Black racists like Louis Farrakhan and Carl Rowan see the world through a colored prism. To them, everything revolves around race and the evil lurking within white men. They conveniently forget that Africans enslave their brethren today in untold numbers. Present-day African savages (Rwanda et al) commit atrocities upon one another as heinous as any committed in Europe or Asia.

The point here is that evil exists everywhere and everyone carries within themselves the capacity for evil and the weaknesses of humanity. Fortunately, most people exercise control over their behavior and conform to the accepted cultural standards of their time.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who asked America to stand true to its creed that all men are created equal (in terms of rights and responsibilities). The idea was there all along, we merely needed to raise our consciousness to include all people when we deliver "justice for all."

Back to standards. In 15th century England and Europe it was accepted practice for males to carry a sword. In 19th century England, "civilized" men didnít carry weapons of any sort. Meanwhile, in 19th century America, it was accepted standard that any responsible adult could carry a weapon, and most did when doing so made sense. There were many wild critters, hostile Indians, and the occasional bandit to consider.

As we began to think of America as civilized----it was much more so in the 1930 to 1960 timeframe-----we often dispensed with carrying weapons.

In "modern" America, there is a new breed of savage roaming the land. Thereís more reason to carry a gun today than there was fifty years ago. Appropriately, many states are clarifying their laws to accommodate the law-abiding citizenís ability to carry one. As the savages learn that more and more people can and will defend themselves, they will move on to safer and less violent means of making a living.

In terms of public safety and the Second Amendment, there was once this quaint idea called "personal responsibility." It was understood that irresponsible behavior resulting in wrongful injury to others resulted in consequences. That understood, irresponsible behavior was deterred. The founders assumed that "we the people" would maintain standards of personal responsibility. As insightful as they were, they never imagined the modern "relative morality."

Whatís missing when trying to compare people and ideas from past and present and from culture to culture is historical context. Beheading, stocks, floggings, many punishments previously thought effective came to be viewed as cruel. In fact, the founders saw fit to prohibit "cruel and unusual punishments" in the Eighth Amendment. Now some learned judges view TV deprivation for prison inmates as "cruel." Cultures and standards change.

The Framers were pragmatists schooled in history and human nature and they set out to form a "more perfect" government---a limited government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed. History continues to prove the wisdom of their vision and their fears again and again.

Revisionists want to re-write history texts to include women and minorities while excluding some of the most important "white men", in essence, applying gender and race quotas to history. History is what happened, regardless of whether we like it.


Copyright 1996 Steve Scroggins - All rights reserved.

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