Nope, Patrick Henry didn’t say that

April 8, 2013

More misquoting of “the Founders”:

For America misquotes Patrick Henry

For America’s poster featuring a quote falsely claimed to be from Patrick Henry.  The racial right wingers won’t tell you, but the painting is a portrait by George Bagby Matthews c. 1891, after an original by Thomas Sully.

It’s baseball season.  I love a pitch into the wheelhouse.

The radical right-wing political group For America — a sort of latter-day Redneck Panther group — invented this one, and pasted it up on their Facebook site this morning.

You know where this is going, of course.  Patrick Henry didn’t say that.  The poster is a hoax.

Your Hemingway [Excrement] Detector probably clanged as soon as you pulled the poster up.  Patrick Henry was a powerful opponent to the Constitution.

Opposed to the Constitution?  Oh, yes.  It helps to know a bit of history.

Henry was at best suspicious of the drive to get a working, central government after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. While George Washington needed an interstate authority, at least to resolve disputes between the states, in order to create a commercial entity to build a path into the Ohio Valley, Henry was opposed.  To be sure, Washington was scheming a bit, with his dreaming:  Washington held title to more than 15,000 acres of land in the Ohio Valley, his fee for having surveyed the land for Lord Fairfax many years earlier.  Washington stood to get wealthy from the sale of the land — if a path into and out of the Ohio could be devised.  Washington struggled for years to get a canal through — seen today in the remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from Washington, D.C., up along the Potomac River.

Henry was so opposed to the states’ working together that he refused to notify Virginia’s commissioners appointed to a commission to settle the fishing and title dispute to the Chesapeake Bay, between Maryland and Virginia especially, and including Delaware.  When Maryland’s commissioners showed up in Fairfax for the first round of negotiations, they could not find the Virginia commissioners at all.  So they called on Gen. Washington at his Mt. Vernon estate (as about a thousand people a year did in those years).  Washington recognized immediately how this collaboration could aid getting a path through Maryland to the Ohio.

Perplexed at the abject failure of Virginia’s government, Washington dispatched messages to the Virginia commissioners, including a young man Washington did not know, James Madison.  Washington was shocked and disappointed to learn the Virginians did not know they had been appointed.  He suggested the Marylanders return home, and immediately began working with Madison to make the commission work.  When this group settled the Chesapeake Bay boundaries and fishing issues, and Washington’s war aide Alexander Hamilton was entangled in a separate but similar dispute between New York and New Jersey over New York Harbor, Washington introduced Hamilton and Madison to each other, and suggested they broaden their work.  Ultimately this effort produced the Annapolis Convention among five colonies, which called for a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation.  The Second Continental Congress agreed to the proposal.

When the delegates met at Philadelphia, they determined the Articles of Confederation irreparably flawed.  Instead, they wrote what we now know as the Constitution.

Patrick Henry opposed each step.  Appointed delegate to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, he refused to serve.  Instead, he was elected Governor of Virginia, and proceeded to organize opposition to ratification of the Constitution.  Madison’s unique ratification process, sending the Constitution to conventions of the people in each state, instead of to the state legislatures, was designed to get around Henry’s having locked up opposition to ratification in the Virginia Assembly.

Henry led opposition to ratification at the Virginia convention.  Outflanked by Madison, Henry was enraged by Virginia’s ratification.  Virginia had called for the addition of a bill of rights to the document, and the ratification campaign was carried partly on Madison’s promise that he would propose a bill of rights as amendments, as soon as the new federal government got up and running.  Henry sought to thwart Madison, blocking Madison’s appointment as U.S. senator, in the state legislature.  When Madison fell back to run for the House of Representatives, Henry found the best candidate to oppose Madison in the Tidewater area and threw all his support behind that candidate. (James Monroe was that candidate; in one of the more fitting ironies of history, during the campaign Monroe was persuaded to Madison’s side; Madison won the election, and the lifelong friendship and help of Monroe.)

When the new federal government organized, Henry refused George Washington’s invitation to join it in any capacity.  Henry continued to oppose the Constitution and its government to his death.

Consequently, it is extremely unlikely Henry would have ever suggested that the Constitution was a useful tool in any way, especially as a defense of freedom; Henry saw the Constitution as a threat to freedom.

There are good records of some of the things Henry really did say about the Constitution.  Henry regarded the Constitution as tyranny, and said exactly that in his speech against the Constitution on June 5, 1788:

It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

In the same speech, Henry challenged the right of the people even to consider creating  a Constitution:

The assent of the people, in their collective capacity, is not necessary to the formation of a federal government. The people have no right to enter into leagues, alliances, or confederations; they are not the proper agents for this purpose. States and foreign powers are the only proper agents for this kind of government.

Probably diving into hyperbole, Henry portrayed the Constitution itself as a threat to liberty, not a protection from government:

When I thus profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people, I shall be told I am a designing man, that I am to be a great man, that I am to be a demagogue; and many similar illiberal insinuations will be thrown out: but, sir, conscious rectitude outweighs those things with me.

I see great jeopardy in this new government. I see none from our present one. I hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, in full array, those dangers, if there be any, that we may see and touch them.

Anyone familiar with the history, with the story of Patrick Henry and the conflicting, often perpendicular story of the creation of the Constitution, would be alarmed at a quote in which Henry appears to claim the Constitution a protector of rights of citizens — it’s absolutely contrary to almost everything he ever said.

Perhaps most ironic, for our right-wing friends:  The quote on the poster above was invented as a defense against abuses of the Constitution by the right.  Wikiquote tracked it back to its invention:

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.

  • As quoted in The Best Liberal Quotes Ever : Why the Left is Right (2004) by William P. Martin. Though widely attributed to Henry, this statement has not been sourced to any document before the 1990s and appears to be at odds with his beliefs as a strong opponent of the adoption of the US Constitution.

“History?” For America might say. “We don’t got no history. We don’t NEED NO STINKIN’ HISTORY!”

And so they trip merrily down the path to authoritarian dictatorship, denying their direction every step of the way to their ultimate end.

The rest of us can study history, and discover the truth.

More:


One more time: “Do we really know who Donald Trump is, or where he came from?”

October 26, 2012

Donald Trump is at it again.  His $5 million offer to get Obama’s grades mystifies me, and irritates me (why doesn’t he just call Harvard, and see what GPA was required to graduate with the honors on Obama’s diploma?).  It’s clear Trump has not bothered to see whether information is available on Obama, but is instead attempting a political smear.

Should we be concerned at all?  David Letterman savaged Trump on his show October 24, but then invited Trump to appear on October 25, and let Trump get away without challenging most of his big whoppers.  Letterman seemed to sense he was not witnessing a political exposé, but instead was witness to the dying throes of a man whose talent and time seem to be restricted to hair design, these days.

Heh.  Why should we believe Donald Trump?  In addition to the manifold reasons you may have already accumulated to dismiss the guy as a crank and a crackpot, consider that we don’t have a clue about his bona fides.

Who is Donald Trump, really?  I posted this originally in February 2011 — and since then, Trump has failed to release any whiff of evidence to clear up his murky background.  He’s not released his birth certificate (except a forgery), he’s not been able to establish that he ever attended a college in America.   In short, he’s vulnerable exactly to the type of unfair and churlish attack he’s making on President Obama.

Here’s how it unfolds:

Donald Trump demonstrated his ability to spread hoax information at the CPAC Conference recently — a group who love to hear hoaxes and spread them, as much as fourth-grade boys love to hear and spread jokes about flatulence.

But can he take it?  [Note the hoax insinuations below are underlined.]  Could Donald Trump withstand the kind of attack* he made on President Obama?

I mean, he claims President Obama may not have attended Columbia because Trump hasn’t personally interviewed anyone who knew him there — despite years of stories in alumni magazines, major media interviews with the people who knew Obama there, etc., etc.

Donald Trump and unidentified woman

Gratuitous picture that makes trump look funny or evil, with gratuitously misleading caption: “Donald Trump wants people to stop asking why no one, in America, can remember his high school and college days.” Alternative caption: “Donald Trump, two of his closest friends and an unnamed woman discuss politics and government policy.”

Does Trump have room to talk?  His Wikipedia bio claims he attended Fordham University for a brief period (got kicked out, maybe?), but didn’t graduate.  It claims he got an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

A search found no one from Wharton who remembers Donald Trump as a student there.  Jon Huntsman, the founder of Huntsman Container and Huntsman Chemical, the guy who invented the “clamshell box” for McDonalds, is one of the most famous and wealthy Wharton grads (and also the father of Jon Huntsman, Jr., the recently resigned Obama Ambassador to China).  He never saw Trump on campus at Wharton.  James DePriest, the outstanding conductor now with the Oregon Symphony (and fun to watch, trust me) — he never ran into Trump on campus when he attended Wharton.  There’s no record of Trump having had a roommate there. Alan Rachins, the famous actor who graduated from Wharton — not only never took a class with Trump, but said he never heard of Trump attending classes at the time.

Who is Donald Trump?  Where did he come from?  How come no one remembers him?

But the fog gets inkier.

Trump was not only a football standout in high school, he was a social standout, winning awards for his community involvement (although, no one at the high school in his hometown remembers his attending classes there).

But during the time he claims to have attended Fordham, no one remembers him.  No social standout.  No football hero.  Was he ever really at Fordham?

And what about his odd religious beliefs?  There are jokes about his worship of money — but what sort of religion would lead a man to claim that the 2008 economic collapse was “an Act of God?”  Yes, he really believes that.  His “god” appears to have a grudge against the United States and its economy.  Even in his greatest economic ventures, he pays homage to Hindu religious landmarksWhat is his secret agenda on religion?

Where did Donald Trump come from?  Why does no one in his hometown high school remember him?  Why did he drop out of sight at the time he claims to have attended Fordham University?  Did he buy his way into a listing as an alumnus of Wharton, after so many Wharton grads don’t remember seeing him there?   Who can trust a guy who worships (if he does worship at all) a “god” who strikes down the U.S. economy?

Who is Donald Trump?  Why did no one at CPAC check his questionable credentials before giving Trump a national platform?  Why is CPAC mum about this entire affair?  Why did Fox News conspire to obscure the message and candidacy of Ron Paul, with their new darling, Donald Trump?

Worse for Trump, most of the things in this screed are factually accurate.  Those who live by the inaccurate spin can die by it, too.

Scarier:  Which conservative sites will have the guts to question** Trump’s secret credentials?

Read more here, at Oh, For Goodness Sake (and here at “Donald Trump Pants On Fire”), and here, at PolitiFact.

_____________________________

*   That is, “completely hoaxed up.”

**  Oh, yeah — that should have read, “gullibility to fall for.”  When will the blog owner correct that glaring error?***

*** Not until Trump apologizes to President Obama.

More:


One more time: Recognizing bogus history

May 14, 2012

2012 is an election year, a time when we make history together as a nation.  Potential turning points in history often get tarred with false interpretations of history to sway an election, or worse, a completely false recounting of history.  Especially in campaigns, we need to beware false claims of history, lest we be like the ignorants George Santayana warned about, doomed to repeat errors of history they do not know or understand.  How to tell that a purported piece of history is bogus?  This is mostly a repeat of a post that first appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub six years ago.

Recognizing bogus history, 1

Robert Park provides a short e-mail newsletter every Friday, covering news in the world of physics. It’s called “What’s New.” Park makes an art of smoking out bogus science and frauds people try to perpetrate in the name of science, or for money. He wrote an opinion column for the Chronicle of Higher Education [now from Quack Watch; CHE put it behind a paywall] published January 31, 2003, in which he listed the “7 warning signs of bogus science.”

Please go read Park’s entire essay, it’s good.

And it got me thinking about whether there are similar warning signs for bogus history? Are there clues that a biography of Howard Hughes is false that should pop out at any disinterested observer? Are there clues that the claimed quote from James Madison saying the U.S. government is founded on the Ten Commandments is pure buncombe? Should Oliver Stone have been able to to more readily separate fact from fantasy about the Kennedy assassination (assuming he wasn’t just going for the dramatic elements)? Can we generalize for such hoaxes, to inoculate ourselves and our history texts against error?

Bogus science section of Thinkquest logo

Perhaps some of the detection methods Park suggests would work for history. He wrote his opinion piece after the Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in which the Court laid out some rules lower courts should use to smoke out and eliminate false science. As Park described it, “The case involved Bendectin, the only morning-sickness medication ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It had been used by millions of women, and more than 30 published studies had found no evidence that it caused birth defects. Yet eight so-called experts were willing to testify, in exchange for a fee from the Daubert family, that Bendectin might indeed cause birth defects.” The Court said lower courts must act as gatekeepers against science buncombe — a difficult task for some judges who, in their training as attorneys, often spent little time studying science.

Some of the Daubert reasoning surfaced in another case recently, the opinion in Pennsylvania district federal court in which Federal District Judge John Jones struck down a school board’s order that intelligent design be introduced to high school biology students, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Can we generalize to history, too? I’m going to try, below the fold.

Here are Park’s seven warning signs, boiled down:

Park wrote:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer encouraged trial judges to appoint independent experts to help them. He noted that courts can turn to scientific organizations, like the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to identify neutral experts who could preview questionable scientific testimony and advise a judge on whether a jury should be exposed to it. Judges are still concerned about meeting their responsibilities under the Daubert decision, and a group of them asked me how to recognize questionable scientific claims. What are the warning signs?

I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs — even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate. [I have cut out the explanations. — E.D.]

  1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
  3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
  5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
  6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
  7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Voodoo history

Here, with thanks to Robert Park, is what I propose for the warning signs for bogus history, for voodoo history:

  1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, sometimes for pay.
  2. The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.  Bogus history relies more on invective than investigation; anyone with an opposing view is an “idiot,” or evil.
  3. The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure, or unavailable; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.
  4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.
  5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.
  6. The author has worked in isolation, and fails to incorporate or explain other, mainstream versions of the history of the incident, and especially the author fails to explain why they are in error.
  7. The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation.

Any history account that shows one or more of those warning signs should be viewed skeptically.

In another post, I’ll flesh out the reasoning behind why they are warning signs.


How to start a hoax about Donald Trump: “Do we really know who Donald Trump is, or where he came from?”

February 19, 2011

Donald Trump demonstrated his ability to spread hoax information at the CPAC Conference recently — a group who love to hear hoaxes and spread them, as much as fourth-grade boys love to hear and spread jokes about flatulence.

But can he take it?  [Note the hoax insinuations below are underlined.]  Could Donald Trump withstand the kind of attack* he made on President Obama?

I mean, he claims President Obama may not have attended Columbia because Trump hasn’t personally interviewed anyone who knew him there — despite years of stories in alumni magazines, major media interviews with the people who knew Obama there, etc., etc.

Donald Trump and unidentified woman

Gratuitous picture that makes trump look funny or evil, with gratuitously misleading caption: "Donald Trump wants people to stop asking why no one, in America, can remember his high school and college days." Alternative caption: "Donald Trump, two of his closest friends and an unnamed woman discuss politics and government policy."

Does Trump have room to talk?  His Wikipedia bio claims he attended Fordham University for a brief period (got kicked out, maybe?), but didn’t graduate.  It claims he got an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

A search found no one from Wharton who remembers Donald Trump as a student there.  Jon Huntsman, the founder of Huntsman Container and Huntsman Chemical, the guy who invented the “clamshell box” for McDonalds, is one of the most famous and wealthy Wharton grads (and also the father of Jon Huntsman, Jr., the recently resigned Obama Ambassador to China).  He never saw Trump on campus at Wharton.  James DePriest, the outstanding conductor now with the Oregon Symphony (and fun to watch, trust me) — he never ran into Trump on campus when he attended Wharton.  There’s no record of Trump having had a roommate there. Alan Rachins, the famous actor who graduated from Wharton — not only never took a class with Trump, but said he never heard of Trump attending classes at the time.

Who is Donald Trump?  Where did he come from?  How come no one remembers him?

But the fog gets inkier.

Trump was not only a football standout in high school, he was a social standout, winning awards for his community involvement (although, no one at the high school in his hometown remembers his attending classes there).

But during the time he claims to have attended Fordham, no one remembers him.  No social standout.  No football hero.  Was he ever really at Fordham?

And what about his odd religious beliefs?  There are jokes about his worship of money — but what sort of religion would lead a man to claim that the 2008 economic collapse was “an Act of God?”  Yes, he really believes that.  His “god” appears to have a grudge against the United States and its economy.  Even in his greatest economic ventures, he pays homage to Hindu religious landmarksWhat is his secret agenda on religion?

Where did Donald Trump come from?  Why does no one in his hometown high school remember him?  Why did he drop out of sight at the time he claims to have attended Fordham University?  Did he buy his way into a listing as an alumnus of Wharton, after so many Wharton grads don’t remember seeing him there?   Who can trust a guy who worships (if he does worship at all) a “god” who strikes down the U.S. economy?

Who is Donald Trump?  Why did no one at CPAC check his questionable credentials before giving Trump a national platform?  Why is CPAC mum about this entire affair?  Why did Fox News conspire to obscure the message and candidacy of Ron Paul, with their new darling, Donald Trump?

Worse for Trump, most of the things in this screed are factually accurate.  Those who live by the inaccurate spin can die by it, too.

Scarier:  Which conservative sites will have the guts to question** Trump’s secret credentials?

Read more here, at Oh, For Goodness Sake (and here at “Donald Trump Pants On Fire”), and here, at PolitiFact.

_____________________________

*   That is, “completely hoaxed up.”

**  Oh, yeah — that should have read, “gullibility to fall for.”  When will the blog owner correct that glaring error?***

*** Not until Trump apologizes to President Obama.


Tea Party history, Texas textbook version

July 21, 2010

A mostly historically accurate view of history of Tea Party-like movements:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Unreasonable Faith and earthaid.


Texas education: Social studies on the gallows today

May 18, 2010

Social studies curricula climb the scaffold to the gallows set by the “conservative” majority of the Texas State Board of Education today.  If they get their way — and signs are they will — they will hobble social studies education for at least a half generation.

As The Dallas Morning News explains this morning, lame-duck board members fully intend to change Texas and American culture with their rewriting of history, de-emphasis of traditional history education, and insertion of what they consider pro-patriotic ideas in social studies.

AUSTIN – When social conservatives on the State Board of Education put the final touches on social studies curriculum standards this week, it will be a significant victory in their years-long push to imprint their beliefs upon what Texas students learn.

We in the part-time blogosphere can’t cover the meeting as it deserves — nor have we been able to mobilize pro-education forces to do what was needed to stop the board — yet.

McLeroy will make the most of his remaining time on the panel. He proposed several additions to the social studies standards for the board to consider this week. One would require students to “contrast” the legal doctrine of separation of church and state with the actual wording in the Bill of Rights that bars a state-established religion.

McLeroy has resurrected the old Cleon Skousen/David Barton/White Supremecist argument that “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, disregarding what the document and its amendments actually say.  Jefferson warned that such discussions poison children’s education, coming prematurely as this one would be as McLeroy wants it.

Watch that space.  Tony Whitson at Curricublog will cover it well, and probably timely — read his stuff.  Steve Shafersman’s work will be informative.  The Texas Tribune offered great coverage in the past.  Stay tuned.  And the Texas Freedom Network carries the flag and works hard to recruit the troops and keep up morale.

People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have already chimed in.

It is discouraging.  Under current history standards, Texas kids should know the phrase “shot heard ’round the world,” but they do not get exposure to the poem from which the phrase comes, nor to the poet (Emerson), nor exposure to Paul Revere whose ride inspired Longfellow later to write a poem that children have read ever since — except in Texas.

But under the new standards, Texas children will learn who Phyllis Schlafly is.  Patriots are out; hypocrites and demagogues are in.


SBOE shames Texas, part H: Luckovich on Texas education follies

April 17, 2010

Mike Luckovich on Texas education board gutting social studies standards, March 18 or 20, 2010Mike Luckovich on Texas education board gutting social studies standards, March 18 or 20, 2010

Mike Luckovich on Texas education board gutting social studies standards, March 18 or 20, 2010 - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

I found this brilliant Mike Luckovich cartoon from March 18, just in time for the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, and the anniversity of Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.”  What will SBOE members be reading for poetry to their kids, on April 18?


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