In a recent “Skeptic’s Collection” column I gave examples of beliefs that represent the principle that “A little learning is a dangerous thing”. The examples I cited were derived from physics, psychology, and literature. But history is no less susceptible to warped beliefs than other disciplines. A recent issue of the Washington Post Magazine contains such an example of warped history. Problem is that the Post writer, while doing a sterling job of debunking the beliefs of lovers of the Confederacy, fails to note that liberals and progressives, in their zeal to repudiate such atavisms, fail equally to take into account their own myopia, and end up with a view of history – Civil War history in particular – that is equally warped, just in the opposite direction.
The article compri
I invite my fellow progressives / leftists to please feel free to vote me off the Island for saying the following, but ... in the interest of fairness, it should be said that acting AG Matthew Whitaker is right in a certain sense about Marbury v. Madison. To be sure, Matthew Whitaker is indeed a crackpot, and his own utterances, both written and spoken, amply justify that description. But let's be fair to broken clocks: even they are right twice a day. (The full text of Marbury can be found here; a very literate, enlightening, and even-handed summary, here.) The Constitution’s Article III is rather ambiguous, not about the scope of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, but about how “hard-coded” that original jurisdiction is in the Constitution. There are two questions at issue.
In 2007, Harvard University Press published a remarkable book by Yale professor Bruce Ackerman, The Failure of the Founding Fathers (hereafter Failure). Best I remember, I read the book because I was startled by the sacrilegiousness of the title: Ackerman was violating the cultural canons mandating unqualified awe of the Founders and Framers by suggesting that, in writing the Constitution, they had failed in some way. (To say that the Framers failed because they compromised with the slave States to get the Constitution ratified is a truism. Ackerman had something else in mind, however.) He convinced me, though I persist in believing that the “perfect storm” of synergistic malfunctions that very nearly deadlocked the election of 1800, and that almost led to the dissolution of the Union