Real Historians Know History

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

Here’s the difference between real historians and the counterfeit variety we usually get in academe: The former bring history to life because they make an effort to know their subject.

Consequently, they realize, as too few of their peers do, that we still have a lot to learn from the founders. “The idea that Jefferson would say ‘Bake the cake’ is beyond comprehension,” Kevin Gutzman of Western Connecticut State University said at the regional meeting of the Philadelphia Society.

Gutzman, of course, was referring to a recent Supreme Court case in which the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is trying to punish the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding. Similarly, “the idea of Jefferson approving federal lands making up 85 percent of Nevada doesn’t compute,” Gutzman alleges.

The Philadelphia Society is a group of conservative intellectuals formed in the wake of the Goldwater defeat in 1964. Gutzman has made a careful study of the papers and life of America’s third president.

Gutzman spoke on a panel at the meeting in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with Richard Samuelson of California State University at San Bernadino, who has made a careful study of the life and papers of America’s second president, John Adams.

“What he wanted was what we had until the Civil War—a system in which the center is the Senate,” Samuelson said. “Now we have an administrative elite.”

“The children who need to be nudged are the elite.”