Political 'History'

On Tuesday, LewRockwell.com posted an article by Patrick J. Buchanan entitled, “Political correctness at Little Round Top.” In this article Buchanan discloses the National Park Service’s plans to use the Gettysburg battlefield site to “tell the story of slavery” and he states, “visitors to Gettysburg are to be indoctrinated in the politically correct history of the war.”

As I followed the unfolding of this plan to debase Civil War sites, I continually hoped that Congress would eventually reject it. And I made my Representative in Washington aware of my opposition. The fact that it wasn’t rejected tells us a lot about our Congress. And a review of how it developed demonstrates the modus operandi of government agencies and their accomplices.

In 1999, Jesse Jackson, Jr., U.S. Representative from Illinois, inserted language in the Department of Interior’s appropriations bill for 2000 that included this statement. “The Secretary of the Interior is directed to encourage the National Park Service managers of Civil War battle sites to recognize and include in all of their public displays and multimedia educational presentations, the unique role that the institution of slavery played in causing the Civil War and its role, if any, at the individual battle sites. The Secretary is further directed to prepare a report to Congress on Dr. King’s birthday, January 15, 2000, on the status of the educational information currently included at Civil War sites that are consistent with and reflect this concern.”

Apparently none of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and none of the 100 members of the Senate objected to this directive, nor did they inquire about the cost to the taxpayers for its implementation. The men and women in Congress, who were elected to represent their constituents and prudently spend their tax dollars, blissfully enacted this bill into law without any qualms.

In May of 2000, a two-day conference was held at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, a national historic site preserving the location where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The symposium was entitled; “Rallying on the High Ground: Strengthening Interpretation of the Civil War Era.” Speakers included Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D. Ill), Eric Foner, of Columbia University and James McPherson, of Princeton University, as well as other establishment “authorities” on the Civil War.

Eric Foner, James McPherson and the other Marxist historians were carefully chosen as speakers because government officials know that these professors will give them the opinions they want to hear. Speaking for this school of historians, Foner said: “In the course of the past twenty years, American history has been remade. Inspired initially by the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s — which shattered the u2018consensus’ vision that had dominated historical writing — and influenced by new methods borrowed from other disciplines, American historians redefined the very nature of historical study.”

News releases explained that the symposium “will explore new historical currents in linking the battlefield experience to such issues as the historical, social, economic, legal, cultural, and political forces and events that led to the Civil War” and “Sessions will focus on the institution of slavery.”

Translation: A Civil Rights activist and Marxist historians will justify the need to reorient interpretations of Civil War battlefield sites away from military data to the “horrors of slavery.”

These “experts” will insist that, like other government-funded agencies, the National Park Service must also be politicized and pressed into service to advance one of the Left’s current social agendas.

After the symposium, a book was issued, “Rally on the High Ground," with each speaker contributing a chapter. In the chapter written by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D. Ill), we find this interesting comment regarding the mandating of a standard interpretation of the cause of the Civil War: “From the African Americans’ perspective, it would be perceived and considered a down payment on reparations.”

In preparation for refashioning the interpretation of the cause of the Civil War to conform to current political trends, a questionnaire was sent to all National Park Service battlefield sites. Two questions were asked concerning the park’s exhibits, waysides, film and Web media, publications, and personal services:

To what extent do the park’s (exhibits, etc.) address the overall causes of the Civil War and the broader social, economic, cultural and political context of your site’s military story?

To what extent do the park’s (exhibits, etc.) address slavery as a cause of the Civil War?

Results of the survey convinced the National Park Service that, of the 28 battlefield sites it operates, only nine “adequately” addressed slavery in their exhibits, etc. So, in order to comply with the government’s mandate, the exhibits, etc. at all battlefield sites had to be revised.

As Buchanan stated in his column, it will cost the taxpayers $ 95 million dollars to make the Gettysburg site politically correct. The conversion of each of the other 27 battlefield sites might cost less than Gettysburg but I think we can safely assume that the total cost to the taxpayers will be between three hundred million and five hundred million dollars. Quite a substantial down payment on reparations.

Next, the National Park Service turned its attention to the Reconstruction Era. In December of 2000, the Secretary of Interior, members of the National Park Service, state leaders and, of course, Professor Eric Foner, traveled to the Beaufort area of South Carolina to find examples of the achievements of the Reconstruction Era that could be converted into historic sites. Senator Fritz Hollings (D. SC) sponsored a bill requesting $ 150,000 for a study to determine the best way to commemorate Reconstruction activity in the Beaufort area.

Hollings told members of the press; “While often recognized as a painful, divisive and controversial period in our nation’s history, the Reconstruction Era was, in my mind, the foundation of unification, not only the unification of North and South, but the unification of black and white, and the vision for equality, unity and hope.” A similar claim was made by Brenda Barrett, the NPS’s Coordinator for Heritage Areas: “The term “Reconstruction” reflects both the literal rebuilding of the war-ravaged South and the more metaphorical rebuilding of the Union following the divisive and destructive conflict.”

The opinions of Hollings and Barrett accord with those of the Marxist historians, opinions which are best exemplified in Eric Foner’s book, “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution.” The word “unfinished” provides a clue to Foner’s political views; i.e., Reconstruction efforts were beneficial to the nation and should never have been ended.

We know that the new Beaufort area project will be just the beginning. The NPS will next develop long-range plans to commemorate Reconstruction sites throughout the entire South. This endeavor will involve discovering and renovating sites, constructing visitor centers and museums, printing exhibits and pamphlets, and providing full-time staffing for each site. At this point, it would be impossible to guess either the magnitude or the ultimate cost to the taxpayers. But an estimate of several hundred million dollars seems reasonable.

The taxpayers know that these costly renovations and revisions have nothing to do with history. They are purely political. Requiring that slavery be designated as the cause of the Civil War enhances the government’s current Civil Rights initiative. Likewise, portraying the Reconstruction Era as beneficial to the nation promotes the idea that central planners in Washington are better qualified to manage the social and economic activity of local communities.

Gail Jarvis Archives