Peggy Noonan on Losing History

I like Peggy Noonan. I am a wordsmith. She is a tremendous speech writer. I appreciate her abilities.

Recently, she wrote a response in The Wall Street Journal to the Netflix series The Crown and Steven Spielberg’s movie on The Washington Post, appropriately called The Post. She pointed out historical inaccuracies in both dramas. In both cases, these inaccuracies had to do with politics. She is an expert on politics. Here’s how she ended her column:

Why does all this matter? Because we are losing history. It is not the fault of Hollywood, as they used to call it, but Hollywood is a contributor to it.When people care enough about history to study and read it, it’s a small sin to lie and mislead in dramas. But when people get their history through entertainment, when they absorb the story of their times only through screens, then the tendency to fabricate is more damaging.

Those who make movies and television dramas should start caring about this.

It is wrong in an age of lies to add to their sum total. It’s not right. It will do harm.

Why should people who make movies and television start caring about all this at this late date? They never have before.

The main problem is not the people who make television series and movies. The main problem is the history professors who write textbooks for public high schools and the mostly tax-funded universities. The liberal mindset that has dominated Hollywood since 1960 has dominated American academia since at least 1900.

When it comes to historical accuracy, there isn’t much of it when it comes to a discussion of civil government. Those who write today’s textbooks have been trained in institutions that have been funded by the state. Even in the institutions that have not been funded by the state, they are licensed and regulated by the state, especially in the area of accreditation. Keynesianism and the foreign-policy of the Council on Foreign Relations have dominated academia for as long as they have dominated policy-making in Washington.

Yet even this is understating the case. The victors write the textbooks. American books on the American Revolution began to be written in 1789. The textbooks written on the Constitutional Convention began to be written around 1800. Readers were not given the facts regarding either the American Revolution or the Constitutional Convention. They still are not. Textbooks continue to repeat the party line of the victors.

If you look at the textbooks’ accounts of every American war since 1775, you will find few discussions of the following: (1) how a small minority of political organizers favoring a war did their work to pull the American people into the war; (2) financing the war, especially by fractional reserve banks; (3) the aftermath of the war in which the level of both taxation and government debt increased dramatically, leading to the next war. We need a minimum of a 350-page monograph, divided into three parts, for every American war since 1775. We do not have even one such volume.

We need detailed discussions of why the United States, and Massachusetts as early as 1690, invaded Canada. Why did America keep going to war against Canada? This topic is rarely discussed in monographs, let alone textbooks.

We live in a world in which Alexander Hamilton, the bastard from Nevis, gained favor with George Washington by becoming a Freemason, as did every senior commander under Washington’s generalship. We need a discussion of the appalling economic policies that Hamilton implemented as Secretary of the Treasury under Washington. Here is a man who is lauded in a wildly popular hip-hop Broadway musical, yet he was one of the most successful scoundrels in the history of American politics. He was worse than Jefferson said he was, and Jefferson thought he was corrupt. He suffered the most rapid fall from political grace in American history in 1801 because he undermined the presidential candidacy of John Adams in 1800, and then he helped swing the tie vote in the House of Representatives from his old enemy Aaron Burr to his old enemy Thomas Jefferson. The Federalist Party never forgave him. He did more to destroy it than any other politician in his day.

Hamilton has been the beneficiary of a reconstruction of his reputation in 1801. Statists love him. He was the founder of the pro-central bank, pro-tariff, pro-federal debt mercantilist tradition that extended through Senator Henry Clay to Clay’s disciple Abraham Lincoln, and to the Republican Party that Lincoln’s election empowered after 1860.

I do not blame the script writer of a hip-hop Broadway musical for the veneration awarded to Hamilton. I blame the authors of the history textbooks that have praised Hamilton for well over a century.

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