"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, June 02, 2017

When Historians Attack: Harvard's Dr. Joyce Chaplin

One in an occasional series. Right-wing "pseudo-historians" such as the uncredentialed David Barton are easy pickins for the academic left, but when one of their own hijacks history for their own ideology and politics, such guardians of historical accuracy are more easily cowed, if not fooled themselves.

From Jay Cost--not on CNN, of course, or the NY Times where our liberal friends might actually see it, but in the conservative The Weekly Standard:


Twitter has a remarkable power to make well-credentialed people look like fools. Case in point: Joyce Chaplin, who is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University.

In response to President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, Chaplin tweeted





Senator Ted Cruz would have none of this, and responded,

Chaplin, apparently forgetting that discretion is the better part of valor, responded


Chaplin is not just wrong, but embarrassingly wrong. A 17-year-old high school student should know better.

- First, the Treaty of 1783 was not a multinational accord. It was a bilateral agreement between the United States and Great Britain.

- Second, the Treaty was a recognition of the facts on the ground, which were that, after their defeat at Yorktown, the British had no chance of reclaiming their American colonies.

- Third, there was no "international community" in 1783, at least not in any sense that corresponds to what Chaplin suggests. While the Declaration of Independence is solicitous of world opinion, no extra-national entity existed to make such determinations.

- Fourth, insofar as the international community did exist, it was on the side of the United States. France, Spain, and the Netherlands were all lined up against Great Britain in the Revolution.

- Fifth, the Declaration of Independence explicitly lays out the moral logic of the Revolution, relying heavily on early liberal political philosophy, which set out the guidelines for legitimate revolution. It then was at pains to explain why those conditions were met.


- Sixth, Chaplin's logic leads to ridiculous propositions. Did the "international community" sanction the Glorious Revolution of 1688? Of course not. But, per Chaplin's logic, Queen Elizabeth II is not the legitimate monarch of Great Britain, but instead it should be Franz, Duke of Bavaria, who is currently the senior member of the House of Stuart.
Read the whole thing.

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