I. History in the Making

For more than twenty years The University of Kansas has presented a lecture series on the Humanities. At first all of the lecturers were brought in from other institutions, but beginning in 1949 it has been the practice to invite one faculty member from The University of Kansas to participate. Such an invitation was extended to the writer in 1954. Of the sixty-three teacher-scholars who have appeared as lecturers almost precisely one-fourth have been from the field of history and exactly one-fourth of these have been from the staff of The University of Kansas. The writer attempted to prepare something that would approximate the high standards set by his colleagues from at home and abroad. In the process he began to organize some of his views on the nature of history. The result, imperfect though it was, did set the tone, provide the texts, and furnish some of the formulations for subsequent lectures. The address was delivered on January 11, 1955. John H. Nelson, Dean of the Graduate School, presided. The weather was cold and the streets icy, but the warmth of the small group of auditors provided some compensation. Clearly, the main thrust of the essay was not made clear to some, especially to the reporter for the campus newspaper whose published summary so traumatized the writer that he has consistently refused since that time to grant interviews on public or professional issues or to comment on contemporary developments.

Reflection upon the nature of history has produced some strange and contradictory statements. "History is only a confused heap of facts.... is a fable agreed upon.... is merely gossip.... is nothing more than the belief in falsehood...." Or put in the words of Byron,

History's pen its praise or blame supplies,
And lies like truth, and still most truly lies.

But others have said, "History is a pageant, not a philosophy.... it is the true poetry.... it is the essence of innumerable biographies.... it is philosophy learned from examples.... it is but the unrolled scroll of prophecy.... it is a tired old man with a long beard.... it is a cat dragged by the tail to places it rarely wants to go."

If we turn to reflections on the uses of history, the variety is just as chaotic. "All history proves." "The lesson of history is plain." "History shows... teaches... repeats itself." "The



verdict of history is clear." "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." Perhaps amidst all of this confusion it would be best to say with Carlyle, "Happy the people whose annals are blank in the history books." But some would be sure to reply with Cicero, "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child."

Is it any wonder that a thoroughly non-committal title should have been chosen for the lecture this evening? Almost anything is possible. At worst it could be just another example of the occupational disease of the teaching profession, the compulsive urge to speak for fifty minutes on any given subject. Intermediately it could be an attempt to interpret the current events of the day, "a-history-behind-the-headlines sort of thing." Actually, it is going to be a commentary on alternative ways of studying, writing, and teaching history, coupled with a plea that historians should put their house in order, and be content to dwell in the honored community that is the humanities. Thus history in the making has reference not to the sequence of actual events, but to the historian's attempt to construct the record of what has happened.

The distinction between history regarded as actuality and history as record brings us to the heart of the historian's problem. It has been described attractively by Sidney Mead of the University of Chicago. "History," he says, "is the attempt to understand and make meaningful the intricate pattern of the human past which is woven on the loom of destiny from the threads of time and space. Every historian is a weaver, and all the great historians have known that somehow they but fumblingly shadowed forth the workings of a greater weaver; that their most profound work of interpretation was but an interim report on what Herbert Butterfield has called `the ways of Providence in the affairs of men.'"1 Because many historians are not content to be mere weavers and aspire to become designers and planners as well, modem historiography is confronted with a conflict between those who believe that what's done is done, and those who believe that what's done can be shaped and sized in relation to some present problem or future plan. This conflict is not new in itself. In historiography as in life generally people have History as knowledge of the past


become accustomed to living from one crisis to the next. But the intellectual perceptiveness of historians has become so calloused by crises that principles fatal to the idea of history as a humanity are embraced with enthusiasm. Burr C. Brundage, who is familiar with the problems of historiography from the early Greek period to the present, has said, 2

Never before has the art of written history so nakedly faced the threat of being forced to become other than what it was designed to be, a moral tragedy. Former crises have been generally shifts in viewpoint. Today historiography faces the possibility of a thorough-going metamorphosis into forms not rich, but certainly strange; it trembles on a morass of relativism. Should it perish to itself, it will easily then take on whatever guise political or social pressure requires at the moment.

Twice in the decade just past historians have undertaken to define their calling and to formulate principles of methodology. In 1946 the Committee on Historiography of the Social Science Research Council published a booklet entitled, Theory and Practice of Historical Study, known variously as the Curti Report or Bulletin 54. In a sense this report fanned a smoldering controversy into open conflict. The principal engagements were fought on the printed page, but the skirmishes took place at the meetings of the historical associations. No program was complete without a session on historiography, playing to a "standing-room-only" crowd. Some of them assumed the character of scholarly scrimmages that would have delighted the most sated senior. Scarcely had the dust begun to settle when plans were set in motion for another attempt to solve the problems at issue. The new committee under the same sponsorship published its findings in the fall of 1954 in Bulletin 64 entitled, The Social Sciences in Historical Study. Unless most historians have become indifferent to the basic issues involved or have unconsciously accepted the major premises of the first report, the effect of the second will be to fan the cold war, characterized by the co-existence of diametrically opposed views, into a renewal of the conflict of attitudes and interpretations, of ideas and terms, of methods and purposes.


In a general way reflection upon the contents of these reports is responsible for the character of this lecture. Those who may be bracing themselves for a detailed summary of two weighty documents may relax. If some wish to plumb their meaning they can do no better than to study carefully the essays on historiography of James C. Malin whose book On the Nature of History appeared after this lecture was virtually in final form.3 In history as in every discipline no one should be satisfied with the thoughts of a novice when those of a sage are available. All that will be attempted here is an identification of the parties to the contest, a contrast on three points, an analysis of a product of functional history writing, and a final plea that history be studied for its own sake.

Although the authors and advocates of the views expressed in the latest bulletin use the phrase "Social Science History" to describe the discipline which they wish to bring into existence, it will focus the issue more sharply to call their objective functional history. Albeit some room is left for non-conformists, they obviously desire that all historians should join them under their new tent. Those who do not wish to do this, but wish to preserve history as a subject matter discipline with its own unique contribution to make to the humanities in particular, and in broader terms to a liberal education, will be referred to as humanistic historians. These terms are used for the sake of convenience and brevity. No invidious connotations are intended. And it should be stated that although I am not a humanist within one of the usual meanings of the word, I hope that I may be considered a humanistic historian.

Many of you may be tempted to write off the whole matter as just an ideological squabble among historians and conclude that the simple remedy of a divorce, granted on the grounds of intellectual incompatibility, should be given to one or the other of the parties. But there are larger issues involved which bear upon broad educational problems. The most important and the immediate one is the survival of history among the humanities. In recent years historians have tended to become a tribe of fence straddlers carrying water on both shoulders, or intellectual chameleons who try to History as knowledge of the past


work the functional as well as the humanistic side of the academic street. This discourse is an argument that historians should decide what they wish their discipline to be. It is not intended to include the disciplines that are thought of as social sciences. They have their able interpreters and advocates and a varied array of techniques and procedures which historians may employ to their profit. Most of us understand that no one knows history who only history knows. This is entirely a matter of rattling the skeletons in Clio's closet; of publicly laundering the soiled linen of the historical profession that has been accumulating since the day of James Harvey Robinson and the New History; of trying to puncture the hopes of the would-be functionalist mid-wives so that history might continue to occupy a place among the humanities; and of suggesting that the death of history as a discipline is a real possibility.

Because it is highly unlikely that anyone ever really enjoys going to funerals or reading obituary notices I do not wish to create the impression that you are participating in the last sad rites of a dead subject matter field. However, if this were true, there are historians who would feel that the atmosphere of a wake should be replaced with that of a christening for pure joy that their discipline has given birth to a form of functional history that may grow to maturity. These people should temper their exuberance by considering the probability that the newly-born infant, like its older sisters, will desert the house that is history and the community that is the humanities and go to dwell among the sciences, vocational subjects, and technical fields of study. There in the congenial company of planners, probers and pathologists this newest offspring of history will seek to work its way to academic respectability.

Or a second possibility is much more likely to become a reality. The offspring will turn upon its parent and devour it, leaving a cavernous void in higher education to match the empty chair that was history on the secondary school level. The disciples of Clio who are ardently seeking to double as academic obstetricians seem quite reconciled to the fact that the mother discipline will not survive the ordeal. If they win the conflict history will cease to float in a state of ambiguity


half-way between a humanity and a technical-vocational subject. History as a record of unique fact will be replaced by a history whose content is determined by the shifting tides of educational whimsy and the changing hues of the political horizon. Subject matter will be selected not because of its intrinsic importance, but on the basis of its relation to a present problem. Thus history may be one thing today and quite a different thing tomorrow. This type of functional history will doubtless acquire a jargon as well as a nomenclature; stress techniques and interpretations over knowledge and subject matter; develop laws, curves, and classifications, and in the end be devoted to converting both past and future into a never ending present.

In the past the procreative powers of history as a discipline have been revealed in its ability to give birth to new disciplines and to nourish the older social sciences with historical data to test their hypotheses. If in a final act of reproduction history is itself transmuted into its latest offspring it will become an academic eunuch, unable either to nourish or to procreate. Another metaphorical setting will serve to emphasize the shift from potency to sterility. Humanistic history is like a great tree in its natural setting with roots running back through the soil of time and live foliage to delight and inspire many generations; functional history is like a Christmas tree cut down and set up in the city square. It is bright with lights and baubles, but lasts only a short season and then is thrown away. The axe of functionalism makes the difference.

Before contrasting the adversaries in more definite terms a brief look at the battlefield will be taken. The subject matter of history is as broad and as rich as life itself, and it is as deep as the span of recorded existence. It is as varied and as complex as the subject matter of any field of study, because in a sense it includes every field of study. Thus the problem for the historian of simply knowing his subject matter is overwhelming. Millions of people through centuries of time, scattered over the entire earth, each one different, living under all sorts of conditions in all sorts of places; doing all sorts of things: worshipping and working, planning and producing; writing and painting; governing and being History as knowledge of the past


governed; learning and teaching; fighting and loving all this and much more is grist for the historian's mill. Rightly understood and rightly pursued the study of history is far more complex than many fields of study that are ordinarily thought to be the most intricate. If there were such a thing as an omni-competent historian he would have to know something of every branch of study that is included in the offerings of a university before he could begin to locate, accumulate, and organize his data, much less interpret it meaningfully. The notion that anyone can teach history a view that finds expression all too frequently in secondary schools in the assignment of what remains of history courses to the athletic coaches is one of the least excusable of the educational practices of the present day.

To understand the basic problem of the historian as he tries to produce an accurate and meaningful account of what happened one hundred years ago, try to imagine what the task will be of those who in the year 2055 attempt to describe our day and generation. The most learned man alive today, with all the benefits of science in communications, in computing machines, and in mobilizing data cannot do it, even though he is living amidst the events that are transpiring. In a sense the historian of the future will be expected to do what the contemporary of today cannot do. It is true that the factor of perspective makes the task of the historian easier in some ways than that of the contemporary, but even so, trying to produce a faithful picture of the past is task enough for any field of study. Here it is that the historian must labor, always seeking the truth and always knowing that he will never know the whole truth. It is no wonder that skillful and even brilliant men who want desperately to know enough about the past so that they can control the present and plan the future become disappointed and frustrated. "Falling victim of a human tendency to blame their plight on a fault in method rather than admit to inevitable human limitations"4 they propose new methods, and in their frustration and confusion seem quite willing to throw the baby out with the bath they are willing to discard the past because they cannot know it fully, or to select only such parts of it as suit their purposes. Yet in the tradition of the humanities the


role of history is to add its bit of knowledge, incomplete though it may be, to the intellectual storehouse. Knowledge of expression of thoughts in literature, of formulations of values in philosophy and religion, of creative achievements in all of the arts, of the deeds of engineers and scientists, of politicians and statesmen; knowledge of all of this and much more needs to be passed on from generation to generation, so that what has been, becomes a part of what is and what is to come simply because people know that it happened.

In his book 1984 the troubled but perceptive George Orwell delineates powerfully and convincingly the fundamental importance of knowing what has happened. There is an iron curtain of time as well as of space which only know- ledge can dissolve. The premise upon which I am resting my entire argument and the principal point around which the conflict in historiography is raging is that knowledge as such is intrinsically worthwhile; that knowledge for knowledge's sake is sufficient justification for any research project or subject matter discipline. It is denied that value resides in methods or techniques; that knowledge must be embellished or adorned with postulates, assumptions, hypotheses, or with functional objectives in order to be worthy of the time and energy of man. The functional historians in most instances wish to use history for specific purposes: to solve problems; to discover cause and effect relationships; to promote democracy or good citizenship. They deny that knowledge as such has value. Thus the issue is joined and contrasts on specific points may be made.

The historians who wish to remain in the tradition of the humanities believe that each event in the whole vast congery of events is unique. The functional historians minimize the quality of uniqueness, seek to identify similarities, and attempt to formulate laws, principles or patterns, not chiefly for the purpose of describing what has happened, but more especially to control what is happening and predict what is to happen. The humanistic historian looking at the rich and seamless tapestry that is the past knows that every thread whether of the warp or the woof is different from the one next to it. He knows that after he has followed patiently and carefully many of the unique threads, that there will be History as knowledge of the past


numerous tears and jagged holes in the fabric that represents his best effort to reproduce the tapestry. Even so he will not be tempted to say that the answer to his problem lies in the assumption that because superficially all the threads seem to be the same, that they are in fact the same. Instead of counting the threads of different colors and the stitches of different sizes in the lower left hand corner of the tapestry and assuming that the entire cloth is of the same pattern, he will study all that he can see of it as carefully and completely as possible and report what the cloth looks like. The creativity of the historian does not derive from his ability to demonstrate an assumption that was the fruit of his imagination, but in being able to see the whole scene after he has looked carefully at the separate, unique components. He does only what he is able to do. He knows full well that those who come after him will have access to data that were not his, and to procedures that were unknown to him. He knows that his word will not be the last word on the subject; not that an event that has occurred will in some fashion occur again and not because some shift in the contemporary scene will change the event or its intrinsic meaning, but because he will never know enough about the unique event to describe it completely.

Because the distinction between those who believe in uniqueness rather than sameness, in rich and intricate complexity rather than in monotonous uniformity, is so fundamental, some additional observations will be made concerning it. The first is that no one can repeat under exactly the same circumstances in exactly the same way any act, no matter how simple. There is no "Big Play-Back" in history. A word once spoken cannot be recalled nor can the impact upon the heart of the hearer be altered. A blow once struck cannot be undone nor the bruised spot wiped away.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.


All of these seemingly trivial observations are relevant to the problem of history. Each event that has occurred is engraved in the granite of remorseless time and circumstance. Because it is unique it possesses intrinsic meaning and no person can separate the meaning from the context in which the event occurred. Secondly, there can logically be no such thing as rewriting the historical record in the sense of altering or changing the sequence or intrinsic character of events. They cannot be studied from the present backward; they must be studied in the order in which they occurred. History as the written record is rewritten rightly only as a result of increased knowledge. The idea that every generation must write its own history viewed from the premise of the granitic record of unique events is as illogical as the idea that every generation must select the genes and chromosomes of its ancestors. All that any generation of historians can do is to add to the storehouse of knowledge by utilizing new materials and procedures.

Thirdly, the uniqueness of each event does not necessarily mean that all of the past is pure chaos; that events happening in time are like grains of sand in a shifting dune, or drops of water in a limitless sea. Nor does it call for some extrinsic formulation that will seem to give meaning to history for a day and then like words written on the beach be obliterated by the next wave of mood or whim. It simply means that the historian as man is simply man and not God, and that even when as man he sits on a throne of Univac computers he still cannot discern finally and certainly the pattern of historical events.

Fourthly, the uniqueness of historical events has its counterpart in the uniqueness of the individual human being. Created in the image of God the individual whether of 1789, 1829 or 1954 cannot rightly be reduced to a mere statistic or viewed as a bit of protoplasm with built-in plumbing facilities. Sufficient historical research has been done to provide support for the view that one of the significant developments of western civilization with its roots embedded deep in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the recognition of the worth of the individual. The humanities are concerned with the creative activities of man as an individual. Humanistic history


recognizes that individuals have helped to shape the past as well as being shaped by it. The humanistic answer to the functionalist charge that history which stresses the personal is unscientific is to say that history which omits the personal is inhuman.5 If each event and each individual is of unique and intrinsic importance they cannot be fitted arbitrarily into some pattern without doing violence to someone or something.

Lastly, if the premise of uniqueness is conceded there can be no justification for deterministic interpretations of history. Neither the materialistic and mechanistic determinism of Marx and his disciples, nor the geographic determinism of Haushofer, MacKinder and Turner, nor the climatic determinism of Huntington, nor the organismic determinism of Spengler, and not even the cyclic challenge and response determinism of Toynbee can explain the past. Almost everyone will concede that each of these approaches has produced new insights. The danger lies in the acceptance of a closed, monistic system into which all historical events must be compressed. But this is precisely what the functional historian must do if he is to attain his objective. He must over-simplify in order to bring the past to bear upon a present objective. He must assume some deterministic position so that he can break into the sequence of events at some point. He must break in, or how else can he plot both the course and direction of historical developments? If the past is to be made the agent for controlling the present and planning the future; if a curve must be plotted which can be extrapolated through the present into the future, then some form of monistic determinism must be assumed. This of course does violence to the idea that each event is unique, that it cannot be recaptured or reenacted, that it cannot be stretched and trimmed to fit some Procrustean bed, and that it must be studied in its entirety in order to be understood.

A second major difference between the humanistic historian and the functional historian is that the former, while living physically in the present, dwells intellectually in the past, while the latter lives unashamedly and completely in the present. The former is past-minded; the latter is presentminded. The former seeks to equip himself with the mental


furniture of the period that he is studying so that he can look at what has happened through the eyes of the people who were on the scene; the latter seeks competence in the use of the most sophisticated techniques of the present, so that he can lift a piece of the past out of its context and place it in the midst of a present problem. While the past-minded, humanistic historian does not accept the idea that the dead hand of the past should reach out to control the present, the present-minded, functional historian is willing that the grasping tentacles of the present should reach back into the past and remake it in the image of some contemporary situation.

It is possible that humanistic historians are likely to dwell in the marbled halls of the past; but the functional historian takes pride in being a victim of the provincialism of the present, a willing prisoner of his own day. Moreover, the humanistic historian, because he looks at the past through the eyes of the past is not vulnerable to the most deadly of the anti-intellectual moods of our day, the philosophy of relativism. He is interested, not in passing judgment upon the values of the past, but in making them known. On the other hand the functional historian is almost inevitably a relativist. He begins by denying the value of the past and asserts that its meaning changes with the changing seasons. He declares that the meaning of the past is not the same in 1944 as it was in 1927 and postulates that the meaning of the past in 1956 will not be the same as it was in 1944. According to time and circumstance he uses one part of the past today and a different part of it tomorrow. This is a manifest absurdity and in the end the functional-relativist must become a nihilist and deny that the past has any value at all. For it is true in history as it is in philosophy that there is only one short step from relativism to nihilism.

If we shift to the simple principle of fair play, is not every generation entitled to its day in the court of history on its own merits? We claim it for our day. Should not the same consideration be extended to every generation that has preceded us? If a historian wishes to mirror the past faithfully through the eyes of those who saw the events he is describing, will he not see human beings living without knowledge of the future just as we are doing today; going about their History as knowledge of the past


dally tasks with only their store of knowledge, not ours, at their disposal; making their decisions on what they had within their grasp? We utterly reject ex post facto legislation in the field of law. Can the historian be ex post facto in his thinking and be fair to his subject? Can he maintain his integrity and common honesty if he insists upon moving people out of chronological context and compelling them to answer questions that had not been asked when they were alive or plead to charges that were not crimes when the acts were committed? Just because Alexander Hamilton cannot plead the Fifth Amendment should he be judged guilty of having perpetrated all of the ills of industrialization there was no such thing as Big Business in his day nor for half a century after he was in his grave. Historians are not justified in putting words in the mouths of men or ideas in their heads simply because they cannot be heard in rebuttal; nor is the blighting of character any the less reprehensible because it takes place in a book rather than in a committee room. It is possible that the present-minded, functional historian will become a victim of his own premise. If the tomorrows do not take him at his own evaluation he may be relegated to the limbo of an unknown and unimportant past.

Another facet of the present-minded, functional historian is brought out by contrasting him with the millenarians who believe that the world is going to come to an end on a certain day tomorrow, for example. In one sense the millenarian concerned for the safety of human souls, reading his scriptures, and interpreting the signs of the times, has his counterpart in the historian who denies that facts speak for themselves, minimizes reliance upon documents, and depends upon insights gained from hypotheses. Both the millenarian and the functionalist assume that all the past is merely prelude, that events have marched through the centuries so that an apocalyptic occasion might be unveiled to the chosen generation of the here and now. Both look forward to a bright new future, the one in the world to come under the sovereignty of God, the other in this world in accordance with a master plan of man's devising. Finally, both assume that the events of history have happened according to some basic table of operations that may be discovered and utilized


by men of superior attaInments, the one through revelation, the other through postulation. In contrast, the humanistic historian rejects mechanical determinism in any form and labors to make the past part of what is and what is to come through the direct but infinitely complex route of knowledge.

In method as well as in fundamental premises the humanistic and functional historians differ on almost every step. For the former it is enough that he should wish to know more about a specific segment of the past. He can, as Herbert Butterfield points out, state his problem and begin his inquiry. In a sense his is the attitude of the person engaged in pure research. No practical applications are envisioned. No solutions to problems are contemplated. And certainly no startling changes in governmental policies are expected.

On the other hand, the functional historian must by definition be both practical and utilitarian in his approach. At the least he must contribute directly to good citizenship or effective democratic living. A contemporary situation will likely provide the point of departure for the statement of his problem. He will feel that he must be committed to a cause or dedicated to a goal in order to understand what it is that he proposes to do. The justification for his research will not be the knowledge that results, but the direct uses to which the knowledge can be put.

Following the statement of his problem the humanistic historian can proceed immediately to the accumulation of his data, but the functional historian cannot do this. He must stop to formulate hypotheses or even go so far as to advance tentative interpretations of the data before he has gathered it. To wait until he has mobilized a considerable quantity of facts would be disastrous, because he says, facts cannot speak for themselves, they can only be used to verify hypotheses. They can speak only in response to questions that are asked of them and no proper questions can be asked unless they grow out of an hypothesis. The humanistic historian feels that you cannot explain something until you know what it is you are trying to explain, so his first concern is to know. He will work patiently with the documents, extracting all of the data that there are, following leads to new sources, constant-


ly taking his bearings as he goes along, and finally having done all that he is able to do, he attempts a meaningful account of what he has learned. While superficially it might seem that the functional historian has much the more difficult task, actually the reverse is true. He has greatly simplified the problem of historical research because he need only concern himself with the material that bears upon his hypothesis, all too frequently only with the material that supports it. He will be looking for cause and effect relationships, for patterns of change, for general characteristics. In the end he too must present his material in tangible form, but it is the impact of what he has done upon some current policy or program that will be prized as the capstone of his project.

The sequence of objective, hypothesis, selection of data, asking questions of the data, and formulation of conclusions, which is the general pattern of functional history writing will be tested in a brief analysis of a well-known book in American History. The publication in 1945 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., at that time a young man in his twenties, of the Age of Jackson was an important event in American historiography.6 The volume became a best seller, received a Pulitzer prize award, and was accorded extravagant praise in more than twenty major book reviews. Veteran historians nearly exhausted their store of superlatives in praise of the book. Literary quality to match that of Parkman, careful scrutiny of the sources in the best tradition of the German school of von Ranke; imaginative projection of ideas; tender word sketches; mature treatment of difficult intellectual and philosophical problems; the final word on the Age of Jackson these are some of the encomiums that were showered upon the youthful author and his book. At long last a historian had hit the jackpot; he had scaled the walls of literary, scholarly, and functional respectability.

There can be no doubt that as history Schlesinger's Age of Jackson is everything that a functional historian could desire and nearly everything that a historian of the humanistic tradition would reject. The author did not consider the party battles of the Jacksonian Period to be unique, but viewed them as one aspect of the continuing class struggle in


America, In spite of long immersion in some of the literature of the period, the age of Jackson was not viewed through the eyes of the 1830's but rather through the eyes of the New Deal and the war years of the 1940's. No attempt was made to deal fairly with those who were opposed to Jackson. The method of procedure seems to have been to state the problem: how may a period, the Jackson administrations, be lifted out of the past and used to glorify and undergird a contemporary personality and program. The hypothesis suggests an answer: all of American history may be interpreted in terms of continuing class conflict, of constant tension between social and economic groups, of liberal leaders always being in opposition to the business community. The method guaranteed the result: to mobilize evidence on one side of the hypothesis and exclude everything that might dilute the case. The hoped-for product was a lesson in how class conflict in America may be resolved short of violent revolution; a tool to use against fascism, it was not fashionable to forge weapons against all forms of totalitarianism in 1945; and a moral for all to accept, namely that one party to the class conflict has a monopoly on the purest forms of Americanism.7

Some of the comments of those who reacted favorably to the book are illuminating. Merle Curti, immediate past dent of the American Historical Association, said of it, "It succeeds, as few books rarely do, in making a major contribution to history as a social science and in exemplifying the best canons of history as a branch of literature.... Mr. Schlesinger has produced a book which American liberals should welcome for the light it throws on the past, present, and future of democracy.... He in a greater measure than is common among historians, writes with an eye on our time and on tomorrow.... His underlying assumptions are those of the relativist.... Liberals should find their faith in democracy as an instrument for action today renewed, deepened, and extended."8 Another reviewer described it as "a brilliant justification for the New Deal disguised as a history of the Age of Jackson."9 Another remarked that the author "was frankly striving for an interpretation which will make the History as knowledge of the past


American democratic tradition of immediate use." Mr. Schlesinger says of his book, "It may help perhaps in building up a conception of the peaceful revolution by which our democracy has, save for one tragic exception, thus far avoided the terror of violent revolution.... History can contribute nothing in the way of panaceas. But it can assist in the formation of that sense of what is democratic, of what is in line with our republican traditions, which alone can save us."

Surely here is functional history in full bloom. A significant period is transposed an entire century so that it may speak in tones of urgency to a present situation. The method is clear. The book is readable. Purposes are openly avowed and sharply focused. The ultimate end in view is to contribute directly to the salvation of the nation. Here certainly is a fair basis for evaluating functional history as history. The dice are loaded on the side of those who wish to lure history away from the humanities and into the promised land of functionalism. The only thing wrong with Schlesinger's book is that while pretending to be history, it is not history at all. It is a wonderfully successful example of political pamphleteering; it is a well conceived and well executed polemic, but not the kind of history that fits into a humanities program.

To test this general statement, four aspects of the book will be called into question. Schlesinger's most widely recognized conclusion is that it was eastern workingmen who supported Jackson and were largely responsible for his election. Of course railroads were still in diapers and industry was hardly old enough for knee pants, but nevertheless the East is described as a "crucible of radicalism," the only possible source of Jacksonian political strength. Since eighteen of the twenty-one newspapers that were used in one key chapter were eastern newspapers it is not difficult to see how the author reached this particular conclusion.12 Moreover, two young scholars, after analyzing the election returns in specific wards, have published separate articles in the Political Science Quarterly which demolish the Schlesinger thesis so far as Boston and Philadelphia are concerned. One of these states flatly, "Andrew Jackson himself was not supported at the polls by the workingmen, and it was not


until.... the very end of his second term that his party was able to win small majorities in any of the working class wards."13 And Professor Joseph Dorfman of Columbia University, author of a multi-volume work on the Economic Mind in American Civilization, rejects the Schlesinger thesis. Thus the principal premise of the book has been undermined.

A second major conclusion is that Jacksonian democracy was a carefully thought out, mature, political program. It is trivial, but relevant to point out that in one place the author refers to it as an "Agitation." Of more importance is the fact that there is no weighing of the divergent and frequently opposed views held by Jackson himself. The almost arrogant condemnation of nullification when South Carolina tried it is discussed, but Jackson's overt encouragement of nullification when Georgia actually did it, is ignored. Jackson's public denunciation of banks while privately seeking to secure a plan for a bank from Felix Grundy is omitted.14 The fact that Jackson actually signed a bill recognizing the constitutional authority of Congress to charter a bank after vetoing the bank re-charter bill on constitutional grounds is not mentioned.15 The encouragement given to the exploitation of the public lands during the Jackson administrations escapes notice. The conflict between western and eastern Jacksonians on the money question does not bother Schlesinger. Finally, the measured judgments of an able historian who has devoted years to the study of the Jacksonian period are dismissed with something approaching contempt. No direct answer is given to Thomas Abernethy's summation, "Not only was Jackson not a consistent politician, he was not even a real leader of democracy.... He always believed in making the public serve the ends of the politicians.... No historian has ever accused Jackson, the Great Democrat, of having had a political philosophy. It is hard to see that he even had any political principles."'6 Any fair verdict on the thesis that Jacksonian democracy was a consistent program would have to be, "Not Proved."

Because of its initial point of departure (1829) the book rests upon a major premise that it is unnecessary to study the pre-presidential Jackson in order to understand President Jackson. This view is neither tenable nor is it followed con-


sistently throughout the book. If detailed knowledge of the Andrew Jackson who was a land speculator, a merchant, and a close associate of the Schlesinger untouchables, bankers and business men, is not necessary to an understanding of Andrew Jackson the president, then what possible relevance can knowledge of Jacksonian democracy have to the world battle against fascism a hundred years later? We are becoming accustomed to a good bit of relativism in history, but this places much too heavy a strain on philosophical elasticity. Either the past is important or it is not. Mr. Schlesinger cannot have it both ways. On a lesser level Daniel Webster, the Federalist of 1820, is made to testify against Daniel Webster, the Whig of 1840. If Schlesinger wants to plead the Fifth Amendment on behalf of Andy Jackson, he should in simple justice give old Daniel Webster the benefit of some kind of a historical statute of limitations.

Lastly, a major theme of the book is that the destruction of the second United States Bank was in the public interest and reflected constructive thinking in the realm of banking and finance. The war on the bank permeates the book, but it is never brought into focus. The basic difficulty is that Schlesinger takes much too myopic a view of banking. As might be expected Nicholas Biddle is painted as a villain, an enemy of the country, a subverter of the common good, and a proto-fascist. To reach these conclusions the contemporary testimony of Gallatin, a Jacksonian, is used selectively, and the historical work of Dewey, Catterall, and Dunbar, all distinguished scholars, is largely ignored. An outstanding student of banking history, Fritz Redlich, writing since the publication of the Age of Jackson regards Nicholas Biddle as one of the really creative thinkers in the development of banking in this country. He is content to say that he disagrees with Schlesinger, but it would be more accurate to say that he refutes him entirely.17 The comments of Bray Hammond, the leading authority on early nineteenth century banking history, will be used as a concluding estimate of the book as a whole, and of the treatment of banking in particular. After praising some features of the book and pointing out a great many errors in fact, he says, "But his book is marred by two faults. One is a Manichean naivete with respect to the nobil-


ity of all things Jacksonian and the sordidness of all things opposed. The other is a fumbling treatment of economic matters and particularly of the Bank of the United States.... It will be widely read; and because its documentation is profuse it will be considered authoritative by most of its readers. I do not think it should be so considered. It represents the age of Jackson as one of triumphant liberalism when it was as much or more an age of triumphant exploitation; it fosters a simplistic notion of continuing problems of human welfare; and it thickens the myths around a political leader who had more capacity for action than for accomplishment."18

I would risk the conclusion at this point that fumbling, simplistic and myth-thickening history has no place among the humanities. I would go further and reiterate that unless the functionalist-relativist premises are accepted it is not history at all. No one will deny that Mr. Schlesinger was free to write his book in any way that he saw fit, from any point of view that he chose to assume, for any purpose that he wished to reach, but he was not free to describe it as a history of the Jacksonian period. Nor are those who chose to second his motion by writing laudatory reviews absolved from responsibility. Nor is it an adequate recognition of responsibility to say that those who wish to obtain a balanced view should search out and read Abernethy, Catterall, Redlich, Pessen, Sullivan, Dorfmann, Hammond, Govan and Saveth. Even the text book writers will not do that. It is much easier to rely on a one-volume pseudo-synthesis. And so myth passes easily into the textbooks, undergoing a sort of embalming process en route and emerges as something taught to students as the real truth. It takes years for corrective articles to catch up with an error-filled volume. Historians do not discharge their responsibility to any segment of the reading public, let alone to their colleagues on faculties, and students in their classes, when they deliberately strive for a unilateral and incomplete presentation of a subject. They make enough mistakes when they are straining every resource at their command to be fair, honest, and objective. Nor does confession of a bias exonerate an author of responsibility, or purify contents, or prevent mis-


use of a book. It is good for the soul, but it does not lessen the impact of a distorted presentation.

The historians who have rushed forward to trade a priceless heritage for a mess of utilitarianism have been a reasonably homogeneous group. They are happy to be known as liberals and they avow objectives that strike a responsive chord in all who desire to see qualitative improvements in our civilization. But what are these people going to say when other historians use their philosophy of functionalism to achieve objectives that are not usually thought of as liberal. Of course they will have no grounds to complain, but that is likely to make the development all the more unpalatable. And such a movement is well under way. Its purpose is to reverse the current trend and to present business, its leaders and its organizations, as the great creative and dynamic force in American life. Allan Nevins, the spearhead of the movement, has said, "The chief ... reason why history must be written is the need of every generation for a reinterpretation to suit its own preconceptions, ideas, and outlook. Every era has its own climate of opinion."19 This should be sweet music in the ears of functional historians, but they should weigh carefully the words of a student of Professor Nevins, "The efforts of historians to revise distorted treatment, of business and to uncover the past record of business advancement constitute significant contributions toward the creation of that conservative synthesis which is needed to challenge Fair Deal influences in historical writing, and at the polls as well."20 Apply that way of thinking to the Age of Jackson and Nicholas Biddle will emerge as a great hero and Jackson will be viewed as a bumbling, bureaucratic busy-body who slowed up business enterprise so much that the United States was not adequately prepared for World War I. Some of the best known historians in this country are involved in this attempt to interpret our history in terms of the growth of material strength through business rather than the purification of democracy through class conflict. No amount of relativistic thinking can obscure the fact that both groups operate from the same premise, that history must be made functional. Of course the one will glorify government that was played by ear, while the other will praise the government


that is being run by the book, but in the end they are historiographical bedfellows. Consider the state of the historians when they, like the Supreme Court, must follow the election returns. Operation Rewrite will be a normal part of their career. Trimming his sails to every change in the political breezes the historian will run the risk of being caught with the wrong set of notes for a lecture or the wrong book in press.

It may be that I am assuming too much in thinking that those who speak for the humanities are still interested primarily in "discerning, describing, and understanding values" for their own sake, rather than in prescribing them for someone. I must confess that I was chilled by portions of D. H. Stevens' The Changing Humanities. Functional history would be right at home in the humanities as he wishes them to be. At various places he says, "Histories for the humanities are fabricated by individuals, not by time.... History is not story in time. It is meaning made out of reality that has been seized upon and reconstructed in the mold of a powerful imagination."21 If that is true all of us should commit televicide and admit that knowledge is useless save as it is used to control people and events. But there are those who believe that the humanities are "mirrors of genius in which we may see ourselves" and declare that "It is the service of the humanities to keep man alive; not as medicine keeps him alive; not as a strong weapon keeps him alive by merely frightening off an attack, but as purpose, love, hope, aspiration, and creation keep him from returning to the non-human wilderness from which he has emerged and which will still claim him if he lapses too far."22 It is to the community of scholars dedicated to such a purpose that the humanistic historian would belong.

The picture of what may happen to the American segment of what was once an honored member if not the core of the humanities is, in my opinion, a sorry one. If the functional historians win the day, history will come with carefully selected conclusions rather than contributing the priceless dimension of time. It will have some partial truths to offer in place of a full cargo containing the story of the failures and achievements of individual men and women. History as knowledge of the past


There will be much methodolatry, but little concern with knowledge. There will be some glittering generalities, but there will be no yardstick against which young men and women can measure their own hopes, desires, and aspirations. There will be some cut-flowers, but no great flowering tree to bear witness to the creativity of man in literature, in music, in the arts, in philosophy, and in religion. There will be nothing to remind students that man is something more than man because he was created in the image of God.

While the historians converted to functionalism speed madly down the super-highways, rushing to save the world from destruction, the humanistic historian will be plodding patiently down the pathway in the sure confidence that knowledge contains its own sanction and is its own justification. Rejecting the pernicious and obviously false premise that two distorted accounts make a correct one, he will strive for accuracy of information and fairness of interpretation. Shunning the temptation to treat his discipline as a short-cut to better citizenship and international understanding, he will rest confidently on the premise that the more the student knows of the rich and varied heritage of the past, whether of the Americas, of Europe, or of Asia, the better citizen he will become. I do not know the chemistry of how in the soul of man knowledge is transmuted into understanding, but I am very sure that somehow it is, and that as an integral part of the process a sense of the basic values of life is developed. This is the faith of at least one humanistic historian.


1 Sidney E. Mead, "The American People: Their Space, Time, and Religion," The Journal of Religion, 34 (October, 1954), 244.

2. Burr C. Brundage, "The crisis of Modern Historiography." The Christian Scholar, 37 (September, 1954), 385.

3. Published by the author in late 1954.

4. Brundage, op. cit., 385.

5. John A, Garraty, "Preserved Smith, Ralph Volney Harlow and Psychology," Journal of the History of Ideas, 15 (January, 1954), 465.

6. Little Brown and Co., (Boston, 1946).

7. For more details see Newsweek 26 (September 24, 1945), 106; Allan Nevins in the New York Times, Book Reviews (September 16, 1945), 1; and Culver H. Smith in the Journal of Southern History. 12 (February, 1946), 123.


8. Nation, 161 (October 20, 1945), 406,

9. Time, 46 (October 22, 1945), 103.

10. George J. Fleming, Jr., in Catholic Historical Review, 32 (April, 1946), 103-104.

11. Schlesinger, op. cit. x.

12. W. Stull Holt, "An Evaluation of the Report on Theory and Practice in Historical Study," typescript copy, 7,

13, William A. Sullivan, "Did Labor Support Andrew Jackson," Political Science Quarterly. 62 (December, 1947), 569-580; Edward Pessen, "Did Labor Support Jackson: the Boston Story," Ibid., 64 (June, 1949), 262-274.

14. Felix Grundy to Jackson from Nashville, May 22, 1829. Jackson Papers, vol. 73.

15. For a brief discussion of this point see George L, Anderson, "Some Phases of Currency and Banking in Territorial Kansas," in Territorial Kansas, (Lawrence, 1954), 124-125.

16. See for example "Andrew Jackson and the Rise of Southwestern Democracy," American Historical Review, 33 (October, 1927), 64-77, especially 76, and From Frontier to Plantation in Tennessee.

17. The Molding of American Banking: Men and Ideas. Hafner Publishing Company, New York, 1947. See especially Part Ill of Chapter VI entitled "Nicholas Biddle and the Heyday of American Central Banking," 110-162, and specifically footnote 383 on pp. 281-282.

18. "Public Policy and National Banks," Journal of Economic History, 3 (May, 1946), 79, 83-84.

19. "Should American History Be Rewritten? Yes," Saturday Review of Literature, 37 (February 6, 1954), 7-9.

20. Edward M, Saveth, "What Historians Teach About Business," Fortune, 45-2 (April, 1952), 118ff., especially 174.

21. Harper Bros., (New York, 1953), 76, 104, 105.

22. Neal W. Klausner, "The Humanities: Mirrors of Genius." The American Scholar, 24 (Winter, 1954-55), 81-87, especially 86.



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