My American History professor had a favorite expression: “Every age defines itself for itself.” Now that I am fully grown up, I find his wording less than felicitous, but nobody had any trouble understanding what he meant. He was saying that it is improper, and in fact futile, for later generations to impose the morals and standards of their own times in judging the morals and standards that prevailed in earlier generations.
Do I hear slavery? Throughout much of history, slavery was legal all over the world, even in the United States, and while there were contentious stirrings here and there, it was largely accepted. Today few Americans would be likely to speak up in favor of slavery, but as recently as a century and one-half ago it had not yet been legally abolished in every corner of our country.
Slavery, it is almost universally agreed today, at least in this country, is vile beyond debate. Yet one of America’s greatest heroes, Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves. He is constantly reviled today, nearly two centuries after his death, because of this. Recently the Democratic Party in Connecticut removed his name from its annual fundraising dinner because of the fact, blatantly ignoring my history professor. While they were at it they also dropped the name of fellow honoree Andrew Jackson, who also had been memorialized in the annual dinners. Jackson was blacklisted because of his role in the Trail of Tears forced relocation of American Indians during his administration.
The Democrats said they took the actions to reflect their party’s traditional role as “the party of inclusion.” They didn’t mention any names, but no doubt that had in mind such eminent Inclusionists as George Wallace, Kissin’ Jim Folsom, Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett and Theodore Bilbo.
I am going to drop any pretext of journalistic impartiality for a moment to opine that not even a stadium full of today’s Connecticut Democrats has contributed even a tiny fraction of what Messrs. Jefferson and Jackson did to enhance the greatness of our country. How many of those pious ninnies would have cheerfully owned slaves if they had lived in the first half of the 19th Century?
Also not long ago, the Democratic Party in Missouri dumped the names of the same two principals from their own Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner, and named it instead after native son Harry Truman. That wouldn’t be the same Harry Truman who dropped atomic bombs on two largely civilian targets in Japan, would it?
As this trend gathers steam, it begins to raise some intriguing questions. Will the Jefferson Memorial, arguably the most beautiful building in Washington, D.C., be bulldozed to make way for another branch of Planned Parenthood? Will a certain former President who is still alive and widely beloved drop his middle name?
Speaking of Hillary, do you suppose she would have owned slaves if she had ever had the chance? The anecdotal evidence suggests that she treats her employees like slaves, screaming at and berating them. All that is missing is the bull whip, although perhaps somebody out there knows differently.
While slavery was legal in the distant past, there is evidence that not everything Hillary does even today is legal. Just ask the two inspector generals who want the FBI to investigate what they consider her abuse of her office as secretary of state. Hillary may become the first presidential candidate since Eugene Debs to sweat out the campaign in prison. And unlike Debs, she just might win, because people nowadays just don’t give a damn about such things.
What would Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson have thought of Hillary’s hocus-pocus with her at-home computer server?
My history professor never said, but I wonder if he would have approved of past generations judging future generations according to the superior morals and standards of their own times.