Opinion

Trump Wants to Revise History in His '1776 Report.' Historians Tore It to Shreds

Actual historians tore it to shreds.
IMAGE Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com
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The last really big fish in a really small barrel presented for our amusement and mockery by the folks down at Camp Runamuck came on Monday when the so-called 1776 Commission released its "definitive chronicle of the American founding."

The "definitive chronicle" consists of 20 pages of text and another 26 pages of Appendixes. It contains no footnotes, endnotes, or recognizable English grammar.

BUT it contains a staggering blizzard of cockamamie conservative talking points and right-wing conjuring words. (You will be enlightened to learn that the execrably racist John C. Calhoun "was the leading forerunner of identity politics.")

Identity politics! Critical Race Theory! Common Core! Abracadabra!

There's no evidence that the members of the commission have any idea what any of these things are really all about. There's an appendix about American education that reads like the Wikipedia entry for the John Birch Society, and it may well be just that.

(There's already one analysis demonstrating that the report borrowed heavily from Wiki and other sources.)

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Outside of Kris Kobach's farcical "election security" task force, it's hard to come up with as big a waste of taxpayer money in an attempt to tickle wingnut fancies.

Actual historians have already eviscerated all over Twitter what one smart person called, "Stephen Miller's seventh-grade term paper." But the truly scarifying thing is that this is meant to be sent out as guidance to America's primary and secondary schools.

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As one HuffPost report indicates, Christian schools already have white-nationalist problems of their own. This report could be a gateway drug in the secular schools. Which means that our kids would be taught according to this astonishing passage about chattel slavery.

Consider the subject of slavery. At the time the Declaration was written, between 15 and 20 percent of the American people were held as slaves. This brutal humiliating fact so contradicted the principles of equality and liberty announced in 1776 that many people now make the mistake of denouncing equality and liberty.

(Ed. Note: I know nobody who denounces equality and liberty. But, then again, I didn't work at Camp Runamuck.)

Yet as we condemn slavery now, we learn from the founders public statements and private letters that they condemned it then. One great reason they published the Declaration's bold words was to show that slavery is a wrong according to nature and according to God. With this Declaration, they started the new nation on a path that would lead to the end of slavery.

The Declaration was a lot of things, most of them good, but if you'd stood up at the Second Continental Congress and announced that it was the beginning of a push to outlaw slavery, they'd have laughed you out onto Chestnut Street.

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Mainly, what the Declaration did was give British Tories and a number of other people in other countries a glaring hypocrisy through which they could dismiss everything else in the document. Samuel Johnson famously observed, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

And Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell wasn't fooled, either. "Liberty in America means the power to flog slaves," O'Connell said, "and to work them for nothing."

I got that last quote from a real historian—Liam Hogan, an independent scholar of slavery from Limerick in Ireland. There's more truth in that one sentence than in the whole of this spurious mess produced on our dime.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.comMinor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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About The Author
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P. Pierce, lead for Esquire Politics US, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
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