Historians can say the darndest things… the profession has been sullied by superfluous tales of alleged sexual dalliances, rumors, and tabloid style conjecture. It’s open season on the Founding Fathers, the more outrageous the interpretation, the more air time and book sales can be generated. The current crop of historians, struggling to carve themselves a slice of relevance, is degrading the profession to the point where the messaging more closely resembles Morton Downey Jr. than Dumas Malone, Edmund Morgan, or David McCullough. Say something crazy, but say it often and say in LOUD !
Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Ellis… is known to stretch the truth about his past, but his scholarship is considered sound and his storytelling compelling. Recent comments Ellis made during the tour for his latest book cast doubt on his judgement, if not his scholarship. Ellis blasted the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United vs. FEC with highly partisan and poorly worded hyperbole. Comparing Supreme Court cases to the Scott vs. Sanford ruling of 1857 makes for an interesting sound byte, but unless supported by relevant evidence(beyond Ellis’s political leanings) it is a dubious historical comparison intended to shock rather than enlighten. He goes on to attack the Heller vs. DC ruling of 2009 as a scurrilous attempt by Conservatives to force the doctrine of Original Intent upon an unwitting society. Ellis has a political axe to grind with supporters of the 2nd Amendment- his reputation as an historian providing a thin veil of legitimacy to his misguided partisanship. He’s screaming that Original Intent is wrong and damaging our society- all the while, his new book stays on the best seller lists.
Joe should remember the words of his supposed hero–
“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” Thomas Jefferson