10 March 2015

The Modern Moral Critics & Reformers - Devoid Of Magnanimity

I recently came across this passage from historian Gary Gallagher's Lee and His Generals in War and Memory:
Just after Jackson's death, the pro-Republican Washington Daily Morning Chronicle paid him a strong tribute: "While we are only too glad to be rid, in any way, of so terrible a foe, our sense of relief is not unmingled with emotions of sorrow and sympathy at the death of so brave a man. Every man who possesses the slightest particle of magnanimity must admire the qualities for which Stonewall Jackson was celebrated--his heroism, his bravery, his sublime devotion, his purity of character. He is not the first instance of a good man devoting himself to a bad cause." Upon reading this piece, Lincoln wrote the Daily Morning Chronicle's editor: "I wish to lose no time in thanking you for the exellent and manly article in the Chronicle on 'Stonewall Jackson.' "
Juxtapose this against the recent decision in Charlottesville, Virginia to discontinue acknowledging Lee-Jackson Day here in Virginia (and note the celebration that followed.)

Such is the mindset of the modern "activist historian" and moral critic and reformer (playing historian)- lacking magnanimity, self-righteous and rather unmanly (using Lincoln's characterization); even very church lady like. I often get the sense that some of these critics have motives more self-serving than righteous indignation and am reminded of the words of Will Durant: "To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves; let us be above such transparent egotism."

Using history to, in the words of Professor Gordon S. Wood, condemn "the past for not being more like the present" is often little more than an intellectual self-righteous selfie--a narcissistic , "Look at me, I'm so much better than those imperfect heroes of our past." 

Yeah, sure you are church lady.


Eddie said...

High praise for Jackson, especially considering the vitriol in the remainder of the article --


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yep, that's it. Thanks!