07
Mar
11

rewriting history?

‘How did the University of Virginia come to publish a version of Lincoln’s inaugural speech that cut crucial words on slavery?’

Matt Seaton (The UK Guardian): ….I was preparing for publication Eric Foner’s article on the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration speech … I went searching for a transcript of the speech to link to. The results of a Google search took me to the site of the University of Virginia’s Miller Centre of Public Affairs; reckoning this a prestigious institution at a public university (founded by Thomas Jefferson, no less), I assumed this would be a reliable link to use …

Then I reached the passage quoted by Eric’s piece, where Lincoln flatly states: “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”

…I searched the transcript on the Miller Centre site for this sentence but could not find it…. I sent off an email to the Miller Centre staff, alerting them to the fact that they were publishing a misleading, redacted version of Lincoln’s address; and outlining my interpretation that it looked as though the speech had been cut to remove references to slavery… I received an immediate reply; and within an hour, the webpage had been amended and the full text restored.

Since then, I’ve done a full comparison of the cached version of the page and the amended one; at the foot of this article run all the passages that had been omitted from the original…

…the sum of the redactions appeared to have two key effects: first, of toning down or removing entirely Lincoln’s strong assertions of the legitimate authority of the Union before and above the Constitution; and second, as said, of shifting the emphasis away from slavery as the key point of dispute between North and South and towards differences over the precedence and prerogative of individual states v the Union in law-making and enforcement. It is difficult not to see a neo-Confederate agenda in this editing.

It is possible that the erroneous version of Lincoln’s address was published by accident or carelessness. But the alacrity with which a correction was made suggests that Miller Centre executives realised the potential damage to the institution’s reputation of hosting what might appear to be a politically tendentious, “doctored” version of the address.

Having had a polite note from them, thanking me for pointing out the error and confirming the correction, I wrote back saying I was considering writing about it and seeking their comment on several questions (see the questions here)

In contrast to the almost instantaneous earlier response, as yet, I have received no reply to these questions. So the Miller Centre would seem to wish to make no further comment. But given that its online database of the Scripps Library purports to be a vital resource for scholars of public policy, US government and presidential history, I certainly hope they are running some checks.

Full article here


7 Responses to “rewriting history?”


  1. 1 Sonjia Duncan
    March 7, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Why does Virginia keep trying to eliminate slavery as one of the main causes of the civil war. They lost the war and the slaves were freed and the union was restored. Why do they want to refight this issue.

    • March 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

      This really is bizarre Sonjia, isn’t it? Someone who attened the University of Virginia accused the writer of a “paranoid fantasy” in a comment under the article – but it’s kind of hard to come up with any reasonable explanation for why references to slavery in the speech were removed?? I’d love to hear their explanation!

  2. 3 DoNoHarm
    March 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I’ve run into this “changing history” for years. Looking for the connection with GE/Russert back late 90s, it was easy to find in Wiki. They had the complete story, in detail. Now I’ve had to really search: http://www.makethemaccountable.com/coverup/Part_04.htm, and even then it’s not as complete. With simple research, the word “maverick,” used by McCain/Palin–the definition in Wikipedia was changed before I could copy it–they had great examples. The repubs also went through and enhanced their ‘resume’ and continue to do so. What surprises me is someone from UK spotted the omission in Lincoln’s speech, and took the time [this was a real endeavor on Seaton's part] to have it, in part, corrected. The republicans will stop at nothing, and yet they espouse g-d and all that business, i.e., family values. There is no honor among thieves. Factcheck.com is becoming less so; snopes.com is always on a fence. The best we can do is go after our Democrats, in both houses, to support our President.

    Thanks for posting this travesty. It appears VA is still behind “the south shall rise again.”

    • March 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Hi DoNoHarm, as I said to Sonjia I’m trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for why this happened – but I just can’t think of one. I’ll keep checking back on the Guardian site to see if he hears back from them. It’s utterly bizarre.

    • 5 Theo67
      March 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      There are right wing “guards” on Wikipedia who are quick to block anyone trying to correct misinformation on right wing topics. I was threatened with banning and more severe action (not sure what that meant) when I tried to update the Tea Party wiki definition. They were quick, and they were threatening. I now take anything I read on Wikipedia with a pinch of salt, because there’s no filter for truthfulness.

      As for this story, it’s not entirely surprising, given the fact that the Republicans are trying to destroy education and generally re-write history.

  3. 6 Andogriff
    March 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Excellent sleuthing, Chips! Thanks for the article, I will certainly pass it on.

  4. 7 Sue in Minnesota
    March 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

    And will the MSM in the US cover this…..this is NEWS, and the American public should be made aware. I’m not sure I’ld risk holding my breath…maybe a few e-mails to Maddown, Matthews, et al will prompt someone to bring this to the attention of Americans. I know I’ll be sending a few.


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