December 5, 2017 10:57:22 AM
Should modern standards be imposed on historical figures?
MSU has recently opened its latest addition to the University Library, the U. S. Grant Presidential library and the largest private collection of Lincoln memorabilia.
The two collections offer a unique opportunity for "Southern" historians.
Perhaps Southern scholars may bring a more critical eye to their historical projects and offer, in time, a more balanced perspective to both the men and the times.
I have long resented the prevailing and erroneous notion that Southern history and personalities should be judged by modem standards (an idea that any serious historian should reject) and that Northern history and personalities should not be subjected to the same standard.
For example, much excoriation has been given to "Andersonville" and Confederate Major Wirz, who was executed at the conclusion of the war as a war criminal. On the other hand, there has been little or no examination of Grant's and Lincoln's involvement (role) in abandoning Northern POWs in the interest of victory, while suppressing any shipments of medical or humanitarian supplies to the South.
There has been no real historical commentary on Grant's and Lincoln's involvement (role) in Sherman's destruction of much of the civilian sector of the South and his war on the civilian population during his infamous March to the Sea. Sherman has had the benefit of no modern-day scrutiny, objective or otherwise.
Judged by today's standards, they, and their actions, would be roundly condemned here and in Geneva.
My point is that I am not at all sure that Grant, Lincoln and Sherman would fare any better under today's lens than those Southern patriots who's symbols and likenesses are being systematically destroyed or removed from view.
If the placement of these collections at MSU can potentially level the historical playing field and result in a more balanced assessment of them (good and bad), then I applaud the university's effort at securing the collections and its forward thinking.
If they are only to become yet another "memorial" that promotes much of the current historical bigotry continuing to divide us as Americans, then I believe the considerable expense may have been better spent on other things.
D. Presley Hutchens
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