How the Bellesiles Story Developed

Guide

(Many people have wondered how to pronounce Mr. Bellesiles's name. It's ba-leale ..."leale" rhymes with feel.)

Chronology of Events

On April 19, 2002, two months after Emory announced it had launched a formal investigation of Mr. Bellesiles's book, Arming America, the school newspaper, the Emory Wheel, called on the university to complete its work quickly, noting that"by remaining silent on the issue in the face of national controversy, Emory appears to be implicitly supporting Bellesiles.""If Emory has already completed its investigation," the paper's editorial continued,"it has an unquestionable duty to its students to release its findings. And if it has not yet, the University should reach a verdict before he sets foot in the classroom. Whatever the final outcome, Emory must eventually participate in the national dialogue surrounding Bellesiles' research, either to support or denounce him." The editorial included this stinging accusation:"an overwhelming amount of evidence has surfaced to suggest that Bellesiles was indeed guilty to some degree of fraud."

(Note: Mr. Bellesiles is currently a fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He is scheduled to return to Emory in the fall.)

On April 24 National Review, which published several highly critical articles about Mr. Bellesiles in the fall, reported that Columbia University's Bancroft committee was considering taking away the Bancroft Prize, which was awarded to Arming Americain 2001. The magazine cited Roger Lane as a source; Lane himself was a winner of the Bancroft Prize. Doubt was cast on the story the next day when Eric Foner told the magazine,"I've heard nothing about Columbia rescinding the prize. The University's trustees would have to do it, not the Bancroft Committee."

Another report by National Review was more portentous; the magazine reported that Bellesiles's Newberry fellowship may be in question:

The National Endowment for the Humanities has sent a letter to the Newberry Library in Chicago which raises serious questions about the Library's $30,000 grant to Michael Bellesiles for the second book he is writing on guns. In a letter to Dr. James Grossman, director of the Newberry Library, the NEH asks the Newberry to provide a written notice of the institution's"procedures for handling alleged cases of academic misconduct and fraud." If the Newberry's response fails to satisfy the NEH's concerns, officials there are prepared to take any"necessary and appropriate actions including but not limited to removing the NEH name from the Newberry Fellowship to Michael Bellesiles."
On April 25 Andrew Ackerman, the Wheel's assistant news editor, reported that Mr. Bellesiles"suggested this week that one of his main critics fabricated e-mails in his name." The charge referred to a controversy first reported by History News Network on April 15, when Mr. Bellesiles denied writing certain emails to critic James Lindgren. According to the Wheel, Mr. Bellesiles this week went further, charging Lindgren with manufacturing the emails:"I don't know how to break this to you, but anyone can print up anything and say I received this e-mail." Bellesiles added:"Shouldn't you go by what I say I said rather than what someone else asserts?"

In a separate article, the paper charged that"Bellesiles may have lied to the Wheel" about the emails, including an email Lindgren wrote Bellesiles. The paper reported obtaining"an e-mail confirming Lindgren wrote Bellesiles on Nov. 11, 2000, offering to assist the Emory professor. The e-mail was forwarded to the Wheel by Randy Barnett, a visiting professor of law at Harvard University (Mass.) who was copied the message when Lindgren originally sent it." The paper also reported that Bellesiles had told the paper that"he was driven off e-mail in September 2000." The Wheel reported that"this statement appears to be a falsehood."

Six days after the Wheel encouraged Emory to reach a decision about Mr. Bellesiles quickly, the university issued the following statement:

On February 7, Emory University announced that its History Department and Michael Bellesiles had jointly initiated a formal process to address allegations of misconduct in research concerning Professor Bellesiles' book, Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. That internal inquiry is now complete, and based on it, Robert Paul, Dean of Emory College, concluded that further investigation would be warranted by an independent committee of distinguished scholars from outside Emory University. That investigative committee's work is now underway and should be concluded no later than summer's end. During the course of the investigation the committee's work will remain confidential. Professor Bellesiles has concurred that the outcome of the investigation may be made public.

This statement was reported by National Review online. It was not posted on the university website.

On May 2, 2002 Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reported that the Newberry Library had provided answers to the NEH's detailed questions about the $30,000 fellowship awarded to Bellesiles to study the history of American gun laws."The NEH request is unprecedented," said the Newberry's James Grossman, vice president for research and education:"They're asking questions that they're entitled to ask, and we're answering them as best we can." The library refused to disclose the answers provided to the NEH. Grossman told the newspaper that the grant was awarded before the controversy arose and that it was up to Emory to investigate Bellesiles, not the library.

George Will weighed in on the Bellesiles story with an essay in Newsweek (dated May 20) titled,"Gunning for a Bad Book." The article--posted prominently on the last page of the magazine--recounted many of the allegations Jerome Sternstein leveled in HNN in March and April (though without citing Sternstein by name). According to Will this"academic scandal" has produced evidence of"Bellesiles's malfeasance" that is"startling in its sweep, brazenness and apparently political purpose."

Shortly after the Newsweek story appeared, the Weekly Standard published an article about"the continuing misadventures of award-winning author Michael Bellesiles." Author David Skinner, the magazine's assistant managing editor, reviewed in detail the Vermont court records Bellesiles cited in Arming America and a previous book, Revolutionary Outlaws, and concluded:

even if Bellesiles did find pre-1790 Superior Court Records for years other than 1778 to 1782--records that do not exist in Rutland county where he said they reside; records that are not listed in the Windham county inventory held by [state archivist] Gregory Sanford; records he did not refer to in 'Arming America' or list in the long and detailed appendix of 'Revolutionary Outlaws'--such records would still fail to cover the years mentioned in his original claim." (Disclosure: Mr. Skinner based his article in part, he acknowledged, on work published on HNN by Mr. Sternstein.)

The week of May 20 HNN published two articles about Mr. Bellesiles. Jerome Sternstein cast doubt on Bellesiles's story about the"great Bowden Hall flood" that allegedly destroyed the yellow legal pads on which he says he recorded probate data related to gun ownership in early America. Don Williams noted that because Arming America was cited frequently in legal briefs filed by gun-control advocates, the serious questions about the book may very well undermine the position anti-gun groups took in court.

On May 21 the National Endowment for the Humanities asked the Newberry to remove the NEH name from Mr. Bellesiles's fellowship. The Newberry said it would comply. This is the statement the NEH released to the media:

May 21, 2002
Statement by Chairman Bruce Cole on Newberry Library Fellowship Award

The issue of trust and truth is at the heart of our decision to require the Newberry Library to remove the NEH name from Professor Michael Bellesiles' fellowship. The authorities at the Newberry Library neglected to take seriously the many substantial questions that had been raised about the accuracy of Mr. Bellesiles' scholarship. These questions were widespread before the award committee made its decision; indeed some of them were discussed in the national press, in the letters of support for Professor Bellesiles, and on a web discussion group on which the Newberry was regularly posting notices before the award was made. It was the responsibility of the Newberry Library to have known about these charges and to have held Professor Bellesiles, or any other applicant, to the highest ethical standards. By not doing this they failed to weigh and consider all the factors surrounding Professor Bellesiles's previous research, his proposed research, and indeed the credibility of the researcher himself. By neglecting its crucial oversight responsibilities the Newberry Library failed to meet the high scholarly and ethical standards necessary for any award bearing the NEH name. Consequently we have asked the Newberry Library to remove the NEH name from Professor Bellesiles' fellowship.

Bruce Cole
Chairman
National Endowment for the Humanities

On May 22 National Review online drew attention to the Newberry's contention that the library had not been aware of questions about Bellesiles's scholarship when his fellowship was awarded."How the Newberry thought they could get away with this assertion is remarkable," observed NRO's Melissa Seckora.

As the NEH notes, questions regarding Arming America were raised in the press as early as October 29, 2000--about five months before the Newberry gave Bellesiles $30,000 to write a second book on guns. What is most fascinating about the NEH's follow-up letter to the Newberry is that two of Bellesiles's letters of recommendation for the grant" clearly called attention" to"extensive criticism" of Arming America. States NEH:"One opined that Arming America had 'created a sensation,' arguing that awarding Professor Bellesiles a fellowship 'would be a public service' in light of the 'financial resources available to gun rights groups.' Another forecast that 'his next book, which focuses on the history of gun laws, promises to upset even more people."

NRO also reported that NEH deputy chairman Lynne Munson chided the library for flawed procedures."[I]t is the Endowment's opinion that the Newberry procedure...is flawed, in part because it does not extend to claims made in applications to the library. Please know that the federal government defines research misconduct as 'fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing, or in reporting research results.'" Munson added:"because the serious questions concerning academic integrity, which the Newberry gives no evidence of having considered, Professor Bellesiles' application must be deemed insufficiently competitive to warrant an NEH-sponsored fellowship."

Mr. Bellesiles responded to the NEH action in an email sent to the Chronicle of Higher Education (May 23, 2002):"They simply made a political decision that should send chills through academics everywhere. The spirit of Joe McCarthy stalks the halls of the NEH." He said the NEH's action was" completely gratuitous." He added:"I regret that my name has been associated with an agency that values so little the principles of the First Amendment, due process, and academic freedom." The NEH awarded the Newberry $270,000 in 2000 for fellowships. Mr. Bellesiles received $30,000.

On May 23 the Newberry released a statement defending its fellowship practices. Library President Charles T. Cullen wrote that questions about Arming America in scholarly journals (as distinguished from the mass media) were not raised until after February 2001, when Mr. Bellesiles was awarded his fellowship:"We disagree that our review process was 'flawed' and that our actions afterwards reflect inattention to issues of academic misconduct." As evidence of the high esteem in which the book was still held at the time, Mr. Cullen noted that"in April 2001, two months after the Newberry's review committee's meeting, Columbia University awarded Professor Bellesiles its Bancroft prize."

Mr. Cullen did not defend Mr. Bellesiles or his book. He insisted that questions about the book should rightly be referred to Emory University. On May 30 Mr. Bellesiles is scheduled to talk at a seminar at the Newberry regarding a paper he recently completed,"The War of 1812 in experience and memory."

On June 3 HNN published the letter the NEH sent to the Newberry.

The Bellesiles story attracted international attention in June when the Guardian published an article about his book. In the article, for the first time, Mr. Bellesiles was quoted as claiming that the flood at his Emory University office lasted six hours. Emory's official report on the flood (May 8, 2000) says:

On the evening of Sunday, April 2, a connector on a sprinkler main broke on the building's third floor. Contractors had been working on the plumbing. When the water was finally cut off about 25 minutes later, standing water was two inches deep in some places, and practically no part of Bowden Hall escaped completely dry.

Mr. Bellesiles says that his probate notes were destroyed in the flood.

In the June 10 edition of the Weekly Standard David Skinner reported that the Bancroft Committee apparently had no plans to consider withdrawing the award from Mr. Bellesiles. Arthur Goren, professor at Columbia, told Skinner,"I have nothing to say." Jan Ellen Lewis, professor at Rutgers University, told Skinner she was too busy to comment. Berkeley professor of history Mary P. Ryan, also too busy to comment, told Skinner when he pressed for details, that he was being rude.

The Wall Street Journal, in a stinging editorial by Kimberle A. Strassel on June 6, 2002, charged that Emory University, Columbia University and publisher Alfred A. Knopf have abdicated their responsibilities by refusing"to take a professional or moral stance." Strassel added:"The silence of these bodies--groups charged with maintaining the standards and ideals of the academic profession--has been so deafening, that even the traditionally closed-mouth world of scholars is calling for some public disclosure." Strassel, an editorial writer for the Journal, concluded that only the NEH had acted properly by ordering the Newberry Library to remove the agency's name from Bellesiles's fellowship.

On July 23 HNN noted that the panel appointed by Emory to investigate Mr. Bellesiles had reportedly completed its work. The school declined to confirm this report, telling HNN that an announcement would be made at the end of the summer, as had previously been indicated.

Mr. Bellesiles spent much of the summer in England in the Emory at Oxford program. His course: History 341,"The American Revolution from the British Perspective. 4 hours."

At the end of July HNN published an article by Donald Kates,"Do Guns Cause Crime?" The article prompted a spirited debate between Mr. Kates and critic Tim Lambert. The article did not specifically address Mr. Bellesiles's books, but subsequently was cited by his critics in response to the publication in August of an article by John G. Fought, which was also published by HNN. Mr. Fought questioned Mr. Bellesiles's claims that he and his family had received physical threats after the piublicaton of Arming America. Mr. Fought reported that Mr. Bellesiles had apparently never filed any reports with local police agencies, suggesting that the threats either were never made or were not taken seriously by Mr. Bellesiles. Reader response to the article was extensive. One reader claimed that the members of the Emory History Department did not believe Bellesiles's story that his office door had been set on fire. Another reader noted that Mr. Bellesiles had moved his family out of his Atlanta house prior to the controversy over Arming America and not as a result of it, as some media accounts had falsely indicated.

On August 15 Glenn Reynolds published a link on his blog to historian Jim Lindgren's Yale Law Review article,"Fall from Grace: Arming America and the Bellesiles Scandal." Unlike the earlier Lindgren/Heather article published this year in William & Mary Law Review ("Counting Guns in Early America"), the new Yale review focuses mostly on issues other than the probate data. In an Appendix to the Yale review, Lindgren lists apparent discrepancies between Arming America and the sources it cites.

Reynolds reported on August 22 that the Lindgren article was downloaded 74,000 times the first week it was posted.

On the morning of Thursday August 22 HNN learned that Emory College's interim dean, Robert Paul, scheduled a meeting with the Emory University History Department for Friday morning to announce the outcome of the Bellesiles investigation.

Late in the afternoon on August 22, the scheduled meeting between Dean Paul and the History Department was called off, Emory releasing a surprise announcement:

Professor Michael Bellesiles will be on paid leave from his teaching duties at Emory University during the fall semester. The University's inquiry regarding Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture is continuing. Professor Bellesiles and the University have agreed that the results of the University's inquiry will be made public when the inquiry is completed.

Just last month the university told HNN that at the end of the summer there would be an announcement concerning the outcome of the investigation.

Jerome Sternstein, commenting on the latest turn of events, told the Chronicle of Higher Education:"What they're doing now is hard to understand. It appears that Emory is so fearful that it is unwilling to make a judgment that will meet the concerns of those who believe that Bellesiles has committed academic misconduct."

On August 27 HNN published a digital version of Mr. Lindgren's devastating review of Arming America. The long, convoluted and seemingly unending story finally took a decisive turn on September 24, 2002, when Emory's interim provost Woody Hunter announced that Mr. Bellesiles was filing an appeal of the decision of the independent panel appointed earlier this year to investigate charges that he had invented and manipulated evidence.

The university declined to reveal the panel's finding. But it was obvious from the announcement that the scholars had ruled against Bellesiles. (Would he appeal a decision that was favorable?)

The panel's report is being withheld from the public while the appeals process goes forward.

The story was broken by the Emory Wheel, the university student newspaper. (This was a needed scoop for the paper. This summer the university snubbed the Wheel, releasing infomation about the Bellesiles investigation to the Boston Globe before bothering to call the reporters on the university's own paper.)

HNN asked the school on Tuesday September 24 to confirm the provost's statement as quoted by the Wheel. A spokesperson with the school's communications office, Jan Gleason, told us she could not corroborate the provost's statement. We asked her to get back to us when she had details. She agreed. As of Thursday September 26 she had not called back.

On October 17, 2002 the Nation, which had earlier published an article by Alexander Cockburn critical of Bellesiles, broke with the growing media consensus that Bellesiles was guilty of fraud. The article, by contributing editor Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California, opened with a nightmarish scene in early 2001 at which Bellesiles was harassed at a college lecture by"four unusually large men passing out a brochure titled 'The Lies of Michael Bellesiles.' One wore a flak jacket, one had a shaved head; they did not look like faculty members or even history grad students." Two of the men asked precisely the same question about Bellesiles's use of probate records:"I want to ask about your use of probate records. You say probate records showed few guns, but my father owned several guns that did not appear in his will when he died." Wiener concluded:"So this is what it's like when you're the target of a campaign to destroy your work."

Later in the article Wiener recounted charges that Bellesiles critic James Lindgren had pressured historians to retract positive reviews they had given of Bellesiles's book. Then Wiener went further.

Who is James Lindgren? He told me he has no connection to the NRA and has never been a member or accepted funding from the group; furthermore, he contends that he is pro-gun control, dislikes guns and has never owned one. He accuses Bellesiles of bias, but apparently has some of his own: Before he weighed in on the Bellesiles debate, he published an article using data gathered by the right-wing Federalist Society that purports to prove the American Bar Association has been biased against George W. Bush's judicial nominees. Lindgren's methodology was exposed as deeply flawed in an article last December in the Journal of Law & Politics co-written by Michael Saks, a law professor who is also co-editor of the book Modern Scientific Evidence.

One of the chief allegations against Bellesiles is that he claimed to have done research on probate records in San Francisco.

That seemed unlikely to many historians, who know the San Francisco archives were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Bellesiles had re-created from memory the list of the counties where he researched probate records, after the flood destroyed his notes. He went back to San Francisco and found the documents in question across the bay, in the Contra Costa County archives. He photocopied and distributed the documents in question and posted examples on his website (www.emory.edu/HISTORY/BELLESILES/index.html). They are indeed headed"City and County of San Francisco." The Contra Costa archivists confirm that the documents are real--and that they come from the Contra Costa County archives, not San Francisco. That's error, not fraud.

Many historians who originally praised the Bellesiles book have declined to publicly rescind their favorable reviews; Wiener drew the conclusion that they remain Bellesiles supporters. In addition, he noted, Mary Beth Norton is now publicly endorsing the book:

Mary Beth Norton, a Pulitzer-nominated historian of early America who has worked in [the records Bellesiles covered], went back and checked them herself for the sake of the debate [following a symposium held by the William and Mary Quarterly]. She concluded that Bellesiles's interpretation of the documents was"just as plausible" as that of his critics,"if not more so." She did find Bellesiles's use of probate records"slapdash and sloppy," but contends that the rest of the criticisms of Arming America"strike me as the usual sorts of disagreements historians always have about how to interpret documentary evidence, although those criticisms have been expressed more vehemently than is usual in the scholarly literature."

Wiener reported that Bellesiles has written a new introduction for the paperback edition of the book, though Vintage, the publisher, has not decided whether to publish one."The original introduction opened with the contemporary debate on guns and criticized Charlton Heston and the NRA. That has been cut from the new introduction."

The Bellesiles case remains under review, according to Emory. Weiner suggests that the secret panel investigating Bellesiles may have recommended that he be demoted.

Wiener concluded:

Perhaps the secret Emory review board has come up with new evidence, though that seems to me unlikely. Barring that, in the end, despite dozens of researchers devoting weeks and months to checking every line in the 125 pages of notes at the end of Arming America, the critics have come up with errors but have produced no proof of intentional deception, no proof of invented documents, no proof of fraud.

But the campaign against Bellesiles has demonstrated one indisputable fact: Historians whose work challenges powerful political interests like the NRA better make sure all their footnotes are correct before they go to press.

RESPONSE OF JAMES LINDGREN TO STATEMENTS MADE IN THE NATION

After HNN posted the above summary of the Nation article, James Lindgren complained that Wiener had made several inaccurate statements:

As anyone familiar with the Bellesiles matter can plainly see, the Nation article by Professor Jon Wiener has a large number of errors and exceedingly misleading statements. Since the Nation was unable to find any factual errors in my scholarship, it instead attempted some rather crude ad hominems, most of which HNN decided to excerpt on this site. Here I will confine myself to pointing out the ones that HNN repeats about me here.

Referring to me, the first paragraph that HNN quotes from the Nation falsely states: "He accuses Bellesiles of bias . . . ." I have never accused Professor Bellesiles of bias (nor of prejudice). To the contrary, I have repeatedly argued that such claims of bias are incoherent in this matter.

Also, HNN repeats and inadvertently embellishes the Nation's false charge that I have urged people to retract their reviews of Arming America. If I had done so, that would indeed have been unusual, though not improper. What I did was urge two authors to correct or retract one statement in each of their separate reviews (on an issue not central to their reviews), merely by an online post to H-Net lists. Eventually they each retracted the false statement I asked them to, because the particular statements were indeed factually wrong, something the Nation fails to mention. Also, I never said the words that one of those authors, Matthew Warshauer, attributes to me in the Nation article.

[Editor's note: Mr. Warshauer published a favorable review of the Bellesiles book. According to the Nation, Warshauer said that Mr. Lindgren pressured him to publish a retraction:"He added something like he would hate to have this affect my career. I viewed that as a veiled threat." Warshauer originally reported ( on H-Net January 23, 2002) that Lindgren had pressured him to publish a correction. At the time Warshauer did not mention that he had received a"veiled threat."]

As for my studies of ABA ratings of federal appellate judges in the Journal of Law & Politics, I used data from many sources, including the ABA, the Federal Judicial Center, and Michigan State University, in addition to the Federalist Society (which got its data almost entirely from the first two sources). Further, I spent three very happy years as a Project Director at the ABA's think tank, the American Bar Foundation. Indeed, it was my affinity for the ABA that led me to wonder what the judicial ratings data might suggest. I strongly urge those interested to read the exchange in the Journal of Law & Politics to determine whose work is actually "deeply flawed"--mine or the people the ABA Litigation Section hired to oppose me.

CONTINUING DEVELOPMENTS

In response to the Wiener article, Bellesiles critic Clayton Cramer posted a rebuttal on his website. He indicated that the fellow with the shaved head was not white:"Did you picture a bunch of neo-Nazi skinheads? Did you notice that he didn't describe the race of the 'shaved head' guy? If he had, it would have damaged this image of neo-Nazis a bit."

Cramer also reminded readers of the abundant charges that have been made about Bellesiles's use of evidence:

Bellesiles has a history of putting up false materials on his website. Too many independent researchers have now examined the 'San Francisco' probate records that Bellesiles FAXed to reporters--and they are all Contra Costa County probate records. Weiner [sic] also makes the claim that the probate records are only a small part of Arming America. Very true. But Weiner, for some odd reason, neglects the much larger set of problems with Bellesiles's pack of lies: the altered quotes, the altered dates, and the misrepresentation of sources.

A main theme in Arming America was that the absence of gun smiths in the United States prior to the Civil War is a strong indication that the country lacked a"gun culture" until then. Wiener emphasized this point. Cramer argued that Wiener failed to understand that Bellesiles's claim had been contested:

So few gun manufacturers? So few gun sellers? Let's see, how about visiting this site? It is a data base that I am only part-way through to completing that lists 2,273 gunsmiths and gun makers in America before 1840. For every gunsmith and gun maker that I included in that data base, there was at least one for whom we know that there was a gunsmith or gun maker, but for whom we don't have any exact dates. In a number of cases, we have guns of this early era with a maker's name, but we don't know where he lived, or when.

On Friday afternoon, October 25, 2002, Emory University made the following announcement:

"Dr. Michael Bellesiles has resigned from his position as Professor of History at Emory University, effective December 31, 2002."

Three documents accompanied this announcement:

Click here to read HNN's summary of the Emory report.

Click here to read HNN's summary of Bellesiles's response to the Emory report.

Click here to read general responses to the Emory report.

Click here to read HNN's list of the"Remaining Questions Concerning Michael Bellesiles."

On October 28, 2002 Jerome Sternstein, in an article published by HNN, reported that both Garry Wills and Edmund Morgan have distanced themselves from Bellesiles, whom they once had praised. Sternstein's disclosure, heretofore unreported, came in the course of an article critical of historian Jon Wiener's recent defense of Bellesiles in the Nation:

And what about Garry Wills and Edmund Morgan, considered by Wiener to be two of America's"top historians." Wiener makes much of the fact that neither of them has publicly retracted their glowing reviews of Arming America, though, he says, they have been under pressure to do so. He doesn't say whether he interviewed them for his article. But it is safe to say he didn't -- and it's probably a good thing too. One can only imagine how Wiener would have responded to Garry Wills, who, when asked last spring to appear on a panel to speak in favor of Bellesiles, emailed his refusal back with the blunt message,"nobody defends him." And last April, when asked by a colleague at Northwestern what he presently thought of Arming America, Wills replied:"I was took. The book is a fraud." As for Morgan, he, too, might have upset Wiener. Recently, on his own volition, Morgan sent a highly complimentary letter to one of Bellesiles's leading critics, praising both the substance and the tone of his work, concluding that the critic was right and Bellesiles was wrong.

The Federal Lawyer has become the first periodical to repudiate the Arming America after publishing a favorable review. The review was written by Michael Coblenz in January 2001. In the October edition of the periodical Coblenz writes that the common sense premises of the book misled him.

While the rest of the country was busy wondering about the outcome of the mid-term elections, many Bellesiles observers were wondering about the Bancroft Committee. Rumors floated around the Internet that the committee planned to issue an announcement about the prize it had awarded to Arming America. Meanwhile, Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, criticized a summary of the Emory Report posted by the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (NCCPH), which was written by Bruce Craig. Volokh asserted that Craig's summary left the false impression that the Emory" committee found that Bellesiles had made errors, but not intentional ones." Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit.com immediately picked up the story, giving Craig's summary the"airbrush award.""If we can't trust historians to be honest about the past week, how can we trust them to be honest about things that happened years ago?" Reynolds asked.

On November 7, 2002 the Nation addressed the Emory Report for the first time in an editorial which summarized the case against him without reaching a conclusion that he had done anything wrong. The editorial ended with a quotation from Jon Wiener, the contributing editor who rallied to Bellesiles's defense just days before the Emory Report became public. The report does not seem to have changed Wiener's conclusions about Bellesiles scholarship. In a passionate coda, Wiener defended Bellesiles while attacking the committee that wrote the report:

Since the issue here is Bellesiles's integrity as a historian, the Emory inquiry should have been as sweeping as the stakes, instead of being tied to a few pages in a great big book. And if Bellesiles is right in his reply, then those distinguished historians are guilty of some of the same sins they accuse him of committing: suppressing inconvenient evidence, spinning the data their way, refusing to follow leads that didn't serve their thesis. The point is not to condemn them for their inability to achieve the scrupulousness they demanded of Bellesiles. The point is that historians have to deal with the messy confusion of things, and they offer interpretations of it. Historical knowledge advances by the testing of interpretations, not by stifling interpreters, and not by indicting the interpreter's character for flaws in a table.
In mid-November the Internet percolated with speculation regarding the fate of Bellesiles's multiple prizes. Would they be taken away? The Emory Wheel reported on November 19 that"Columbia's board of trustees will meet during the second week of December ... to discuss the possibility of revoking the Bancroft Prize and have asked a group of historians to review the 40-page report released by Emory's external panel at the end of October," according to an unnamed source.

The Wheel also reported that the OAH is considering withdrawing the"Binkley-Stephenson Award, given to Bellesiles in 1996 for an essay published in the group's journal."

Why did Bellesiles resign? On November 20 the Chicago Tribune reported that Bellesiles resigned because he had heard that Emory was going to demote him and"that would have been an affront to my honor." About the Emory Report, Bellesiles told the paper:"I was absolutely shocked! Obviously, they were very angry at me." The paper conducted the interview with Bellesiles at a coffee shop across the street from Emory:"Since resigning his professorship last month, Bellesiles has avoided the university's Atlanta campus. He doesn't want to present former colleagues with the embarrassing choice of either lowering their eyes or saying hello to a pariah, he explained. He has also avoided the media."

Bellesiles indicated to the paper that he believes he was the victim of an"intellectual lynching" (Trib's phrase). He continues to insist that he made few mistakes, noting that the Emory Committee found errors in just five of 1,347 footnotes."Look, I've never been good at math," he explained when asked about the errors in counting guns.

There have been rumors that Emory paid off Bellesiles in order to avoid a lawsuit. He told the paper he did not receive any cash payout:"I only wish that were true." His plans now that he will no longer be teaching at Emory?"He intends to keep up the fight to vindicate his theory. He has lined up visiting professorships in England for the next academic year. After that, he would like to remain in teaching, possibly at the high school level."

Jack Rakove, one of Bellesiles's original supporters, told the Trib that he still includes Arming America on class reading lists, but indicated that he no longer believes the book is trustworthy."It's clear now that his scholarship is less than acceptable," Rakove told the paper."There are cautionary lessons for historians here." On November 22, 2002 the OAH issued the following statement:

At its meeting on 8 November 2002 in Baltimore, Maryland, the executive board of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) discussed the report on Michael Bellesiles recently issued by Emory University. Board members agreed that this matter raises larger questions about trust and integrity in the scholarly process and the ways in which historical argument and interpretation are conducted. The board agreed that these issues should become the subject of wider discussion across the profession. The Organization will use the OAH Newsletter as a vehicle for further consideration of the matter. In addition, sessions on the subject will be planned at upcoming annual meetings in Memphis and Boston in 2003 and 2004. The editorial board of the Journal of American History will consider a commissioned essay or a roundtable to address the ethical issues of this and other recent cases and how much historians rely on trust in practicing their craft. Finally, the board agreed that it would continue this discussion at its meeting next April in Memphis.
On November 23, 2002 the Orange County Register published a long essay by senior writer Alan C. Bock outlining the history of the Bellesiles controversy. The essay included this provocative statement:

Don Kates, a Washington state lawyer and professor affiliated with Academics for the Second Amendment (who furnished me with extensive info on the Bellisles affair about a year ago), told me he thinks it is possible that Bellisles is a sociopathic liar of the kind who responds to being found out with more fabrications. I can't claim to know. If so, he has managed to ruin himself and damage the cause.

On Friday December 13, 2002, the trustees of the board of Columbia University announced that they had rescinded the award of the Bancroft to Michael Bellesiles and asked him to return the $4,000 prize money. The Associated Press reported that this"was the first time in the 54-year history of the Bancroft award that Columbia has taken such actions." Eric Foner told the AP:"The Bancroft judges operate on a basis of trust. We assume a book published by a reputable press has gone through a process where people have checked the facts. Members of prize committees cannot be responsible for that." (Note: Mr. Foner was not on the Bancroft committee when Bellesiles was awarded a prize.) According to the wire report, Knopf, the publisher of Bellesiles's book, indicated that it does not intend to withdraw the book.

The AP report noted that the paperback edition published by Vintage"includes corrections." Critics have charged that the paperback contains numerous errors. A new edition of the paperback with a fresh introduction by Bellesiles was scheduled for publication in 2003. It remains unclear if the publisher will issue the new edition. Bellesiles has stated that the new edition would contain many corrections.

Reached by telephone shortly after the announcement was made, Bellesiles told the New York Times:"I have nothing to say."

The statement by the board of trustees included the following statements:

Columbia University's Trustees have voted to rescind the Bancroft Prize awarded last year to Michael Bellesiles for his book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. The Trustees made the decision. Based on a review of an investigation of charges of scholarly misconduct against Professor Bellesiles by Emory University and other assessments by professional historians. They concluded that he had violated basic norms of scholarship and the high standards expected of Bancroft Prize winners. The Trustees voted to rescind the Prize during their regularly scheduled meeting on December 7, 2002 and have notified Professor Bellesiles of their decision....

Columbia's Trustees considered the report of the Emory investigating committee and Professor Bellesiles' response to it. They also considered assessments by professional historians of the subject matter of that report.

After considering all of these materials, the Trustees concurred with the three distinguished scholars who reviewed the case for Emory University that Professor Bellesiles had violated basic norms of acceptable scholarly conduct. They consequently concluded that his book had not and does not meet the standards they had established for the Bancroft Prize.

In making their decision, the Trustees emphasized that the judgment to rescind the Bancroft Prize was based solely on the evaluation of the questionable scholarship of the work and had nothing to do with the book's content or the author's point of view.

Eric Foner came under attack on December 16, in an article published by National Review . Melissa Secora, citing a student's account, reported that Foner allegedly attempted"to suppress knowledge of possible problems with the book" after the Bancroft Prize was announced but before it was awarded:

"On April 4, I e-mailed members of the history department and the Bancroft committee with a summary of the case against Bellesiles including some clear cases of fraud. I received no responses," explains Ron Lewenberg, then president of the CCCC [Columbia College Conservative Club]. He tried again and was shunned again."I was not allowed to put the packets in the mailboxes of professors and staff, so with the approval of the secretary, I placed them on the desk. According to a friendly TA, whose anonymity I have kept secret for the protection of his career, Professor Eric Foner, saw the handouts and threw a fit. All of the packets were thrown out."

On the day the Bancroft was awarded to Bellesiles two weeks later, Secora reported, the CCCC held a rountable symposium devoted to his book:"Not a single Bancroft committee member or member of the school's history department attended."

By the fall of 2002 enough questions had been raised about the book that Columbia began a careful slow review that culminated in the withdrawal of the prize last week, according to Columbia Provost Jonathan Cole. Columbia even asked outside historians to begin an independent review of the book's merits.

But National Review noted that critics believe the school easily could have determined earlier that the book was seriously flawed. The article cited a comment by Joyce Malcolm:"The sad part is that if the prize committee had taken the trouble to read the serious criticism of the book before bestowing this award they would never have been put in this embarrassing situation. The award was meant to be for a work of impeccable scholarship, and it was clear before April 2001 that Arming America was not such a book."

HNN contacted Mr. Foner for a response to the National Review article. This was his reply:

There is something entirely implausible about Mr. Lewenberg's account. The mailboxes of history professors in Fayerweather Hall are in a public hallway. Anyone can leave material in the mailboxes at any time. We receive not only mail, but term papers, announcements of campus events, etc. in these boxes. They have large slots in the front and his materials could easily have been placed in each mailbox without the permission of anybody. In addition, I absolutely deny throwing out materials relating to this controversy or anything else -- I would never do such a thing.

My quote about the Bancroft committee was simply an attempt to explain to the reporter how such prize committees generally operate. I was not on the committee that awarded the prize to Bellesiles and obviously know nothing specific about their deliberations.

Editor's Note: Mr. Lewenberg responded to Mr. Foner in a posted comment on HNN.

On December 19, 2002 the Wall Street Journal congratulated Columbia University for withdrawing the Bancroft Prize and denounced Knopf for keeping the book in circulation:

Released in 2000, the book caused a sensation among the left, who used it to bolster their anti-gun readings of the Second Amendment. The plaudits piled around the Emory historian -- that is, until serious scholars began to examine his work.

Their dogged investigations found that Mr. Bellesiles's truth wasn't just stranger than fiction -- it was fiction. By October, an academic panel declared his scholarship"unprofessional and misleading," and Emory announced his resignation. Finally, Columbia's trustees announced the book didn't meet their standards and revoked the Bancroft.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bellesiles's shoddy work lives on. A federal appeals court referred to it in a footnote in a decision this month upholding a California gun ban. And even as the controversy kicked in, a Knopf imprint released a paperback version, which again extolled his Bancroft Prize. Might we suggest that Knopf send out stickers -- of the sort stores affix to books after authors win prizes. Only these would read: First Ever Loser of the Bancroft Prize.

The week following the withdrawl of the Bancroft Prize, Jerome Sternstein, writing in HNN, assailed Knopf for keeping the Bellesiles book in circulation. Mr. Sternstein concluded:

It is clear that the impact of this scandal on Knopf's reputation as the premier publisher of history trade books is likely to be considerable. If Knopf continues to stand"behind" Arming America and fails to confront the fact that it is not simply a slightly flawed book that can be tinkered with and fixed with a few" corrections" here and there but it is rather a deeply dishonest book, one that is racked by invented, falsified, and grossly distorted renderings of the historical record, then Knopf will be doing itself and its great publishing tradition a monumental disservice. More importantly, however, by keeping Arming America in print and not recalling it Knopf will be doing an even greater disservice to the reading public. It will be saying to those who care about history that even America's leading publisher is more concerned with profits than integrity, and is more interested in selling deceitful, though politically correct books than works of enduring merit. The editors at Knopf need to rethink their position, just as Emory University and Columbia University reconsidered their positions. And they need to do so quickly. They should cease printing the Vintage paperback of Arming America and recall all remaining copies from the bookstores. They can do no less and live up to the example of the firm's founder who, though he valued loyalty to his authors, valued scholarly integrity and intellectual honesty even more.

History News Network Poll: The week of December 16, 2002 HNN asked readers if they think Knopf should withdraw the Bellesiles book from circulation. As of Friday December 20, 487 readers had responded; 61 percent indicated that Knopf SHOULD NOT withdraw the book.

On the afternoon of Friday December 20, the software used to measure the number of readers responding to our poll jumped in the course of a few hours from fewer than 500 to over 1,800. The overwhelming number of votes cast during this brief period were"no." Between Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, in yet another sudden shift, thousands of"yes" votes were cast. The sharp increase in"no" votes on Friday afternoon and"yes" votes afterwards cast doubt on the poll's reliability as a measure of reader response.

Apologists for Bellesiles have argued on several occasions that anybody can make mistakes. As evidence they have pointed to a passage in the Emory Report taking James Lindgren to task for mistakenly claiming in his Yale Law Journal article that 57 percent of the troops in one unit of a 600-man Connecticut militia assembled to invade Canada in 1746 were armed. In fact, 57 percent of the men belonging to this one unit--the least-armed unit in the militia--were unarmed. As soon as the mistake was brought to his attention, Lindgren corrected his article and owned up to the mistake on HNN and other websites.

That was the end of the matter until a pro-Bellesiles writer self-identified on HNN's discussion board as "Benny Smith" again assailed Lindgren for making an error. That prompted Lindgren to post an extended explanation on December 20, 2002. In the course of his comment, posted on HNN, Lindgren noted that the Emory Report itself included several mistakes and misleading statements. This was the first time he had publicly drawn attention to them. For one, he wrote,"referring to fact that 57% were unarmed in the worst armed unit, the report stated, 'In this case, Bellesiles' number was right.'"

As the Emory Report makes clear [elsewhere], however, this number is not the right number for the state of arms of the Connecticut militia, which is what Bellesiles said the 57% applied to. It is the right number for the state of the worst armed unit, which is something Arming America offered no numbers for. So Bellesiles's number is not right as applied to what he applied it to.

In the conclusion to his post Lindgren took note of several other flaws in the Report:

The Emory Report makes several small errors in describing the 1746 CT militia. It considers a “hanger” a person, when a hanger was a “sword,” an error that slightly affects their count of the state of arms. They assume that a unit has its full complement of 100 men, when [historian Robert] Churchill reports that the background records show that the unit had only 98 men, another apparent mistake that slightly affects their count.

Most significantly for me, the Report claims that I misread documents that I never read, mentioned, cited, or claimed to have read, even attributing to me the research assistant’s own ignorance about the meaning of the word “hanger.” If I had counted the original 1746 CT records, I would have cited them, rather than citing just Churchill.

At the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) in 2003 one session was likely to draw more attention than all the others: Session No. 161, which was scheduled to be held in the Hilton Waldorf Room on Sunday January 5 at 11 AM:"Comparative Legal Perspectives on Gun Control." Two historians were to present papers: Peter Squires of the University of Brighton and Michael Bellesiles, who was supposed to talk about"The Interaction of Law and Culture: Guns and the Common Law in Early America," a subject he studied during his controversial year-long fellowship at the Newberry Library.

According to the AHA's Arnita Jones, Bellesiles was still scheduled to appear at the session, which was selected months ago, as of the end of November; that is, after the release of the Emory Report. At that time she told HNN:"We expect a vigorous debate among the many scholars who are intensely interested in Mr. Bellesiles' and others work on this subject."

At the end of December, however, the panel was abruptly cancelled. Jones told HNN:"The participants decided to cancel and notified us."

The OAH, it was disclosed in early January 2003, arranged for Jon Wiener, the long-time defender of Michael Bellesiles, to host a" chat room" concerning the Bellesiles scandal at the annual meeting of the organization in Memphis. Chat rooms are informal venues designed to give scholars an opportunity to consider topics of interest to the profession. OAH executive director Lee W. Formwalt told HNN:

"Since the Bellesiles controversy is an important one for our profession, and since there was not enough time after the release of the Emory report to create a special session for the Memphis meeting (we do plan to have such a session at the 2004 meeting in Boston), we decided to use the chat room as a vehicle for discussion by individuals registered for the annual meeting."

Upon learning about Wiener's selection, Ralph Luker objected on the grounds that Wiener was not an expert on the history of guns. Formwalt then asked Luker if he would like to serve as co-host of the chat room."I think you would provide a good balance in leading this informal discussion," Formwalt told Luker in an email. Luker declined:"I think it would be inappropriate for me to co-host the chatroom session because one of my objections to Jon's solo hosting was [that he was] inappropriate because he had no particular expertise in the field. If I cohosted the session, it would only mean that both cohosts lacked any expertise in the field."

On the afternoon of January 8, 2003 the OAH asked Paul Finkelman, Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law, to join Jon Wiener as co-host of the Bellesiles chat room. Finkelman promptly agreed. (Mr. Finkelman is known to HNN readers for a lively debate with Clayton Cramer in July 2001 concerning Timothy McVeigh.)

On January 8, 2003 the Associated Press reported that Knopf had decided to stop selling the Bellesiles book and to end its contractual relationship. Bellesiles reportedly had offered to revise the book; the revisions were considered inadequate. The decision to cancel the book contract was made weeks ago but not disclosed.

Jane Garrett, Bellesiles's editor, told the AP:"I still do not believe in any shape or form he fabricated anything. He's just a sloppy researcher."

Knopf told the wire service that Arming America had sold 8,000 in hardback and 16,000 in paperback.

In the February newsletter of the OAH historian Jon Wiener, the Nation columnist, disputed the significance of the findings of the Emory Report, noting that it"found 'evidence of falsification' ... only on one page: Table 1, 'Percentage of probate inventories listing firearms.'"

In fact, the probate records criticized by the committee are referred to only in a handful of paragraphs in a four-hundred page book, and Table 1 is cited in the text only a couple of times. If Bellesiles had omitted all of the probate data that the committee and others have criticized, the book's argument would remain a strong one, supported by a wide variety of other evidence that the committee did not challenge.
Wiener noted that Bellesilles had offered an explanation--reasonable to Wiener--that the table omitted two years of data (1774-1775)"not to deceive readers, but because those years were not relevant to his thesis: 'the colonial governments were passing out firearms to the members of their militia . . . in preparation for the expected confrontation with Great Britain' therefore these two years give 'an inaccurate portrait of peacetime gun ownership' by individuals."

Wiener went on to contrast what happened to Bellesiles's career with that of the historian whose book about Denmark Vesey had to be withdrawn and then reissued because of transcription errors. Both historians had been subjected to criticism at the same time and coincidentally in the same issue of the William and Mary Quarterly:

In the Bellesiles case, the parallel would be the publication of a revised edition with errors corrected. Indeed, Bellesiles had conceded serious problems in his probate data, and was working on correcting those errors when he and his publisher parted ways in early January. His plans included a corrected version of Table 1. Do Gray, Katz, and Ulrich consider that an appropriate resolution of the problems they found? They refuse to say.
Wiener closed with a vigorous condemnation of the authors of the Emory Report, arguing that they had"abdicated their intellectual responsibility" by letting the pro-gun crowd--which has tried to discredit the book by"focusing attention on errors in a tiny portion of the documentation"--set the terms of the debate.

As a result, their report has ominous implications for other historians dealing with controversial issues. Of course every historian has an obligation to provide full and accurate citations of evidence in a form that makes it possible for others to replicate their work. But I know of one historian coming up for tenure who, after reading the Emory report on Bellesiles, decided to remove all the tables from his book manuscript, to treat the evidence anecdotally instead, in order to avoid facing the same kind of critique.

In the February 2003 newsletter of the OAH executive director Lee Formwalt argued that the Bellesiles controversy cannot be put to bed as quickly as some would like:

Although the case appears to be closed for many observers, the Bellesiles matter, like many historical problems, is not a simple matter of determining unprofessional conduct, condemning it, and moving on. As professional historians, we offer our readers, students, and clients a complex understanding of the past, often with inherent tensions. Why should this case be any different? Yet, there has been a growing drumbeat, fed by the media, to condemn Bellesiles and move quickly beyond this unpleasant affair. The questions that historian Jon Wiener ... and others raise, however, indicate this is not the simple open and shut case that some believe it to be. We have an obligation to deal with ambiguity and tension in this matter and not simply wash our hands of it. Wiener's essay and his article in The Nation touch on these matters. Other concerns have been raised and others, no doubt, will be raised. OAH provides members with the logical forum in which to discuss various perspectives on matters ranging from the use/abuse of probate data to the bigger issues of trust in the world of research and publication.
In mid-February 2003

Soft Skull Press announced that it would be issuing a revised edition of Arming America. From the press release:

"This is not the first time it has fallen to Soft Skull to ensure the American public can read books the Right doesn't like," says Publisher Richard Nash."It is imperative that we stand up to the NRA smear machine. We believe in allowing readers to evaluate for themselves how Bellesiles has responded to the legitimate criticisms and whether the core thesis of the book-the undermining of the creation myth of the Second Amendment-stands up."

The book will feature a new introduction by the author, as well as several clarifications concerning research and a new Table One (the original being the source of much of the controversy) in which the author recreates the contested data.

"I challenge anyone to show how the revised paragraphs addressing probate materials undermine in any way the thesis or logical structure of this book," said Bellesiles, who is currently teaching in the U.K.

In March the NYT published a provocative cartoon by Alan Stamaty ridiculing Bellesiles. In one panel Bellesiles can be seen shooting a hole through his own foot.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

On December 16, 2003 Soft Skull Press issued a news release indicating that a revised and corrected edition of Arming America would be published on December 18. Along with the press release the publisher distributed a pamphlet to the media which outlines Mr. Bellesiles's response to his critics:

Please find enclosed a gratis copy of the pamphlet Weighed in an Even Balance by Michael Bellesiles. Bellesiles, for those of you unfamiliar with the name, is the former Emory professor who wrote Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. Published to critical acclaim in 2001—“Bellesiles has dispersed the darkness that covered the gun's early history in America. He provides overwhelming evidence that our view of the gun is as deep a superstition as any that affected Native Americans in the 17th century,” wrote Garry Wills in the New York Times Book Review—the book and its author were subjected to vicious attack by the pro-gun Right. In an orchestrated series of web and print articles, organs such as the History News Network and the National Review furiously denounced the book.

However, serious historians also raised a number of questions concerning what appeared to be sloppy research. In the January 2002 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, some of Bellesiles’s research in probate records was criticized for misattribution and lack of verifiability. Facing a political firestorm, Emory University in Atlanta appointed a committee to investigate the allegations. Following the committee’s report (available on Emory University’s website), Bellesiles resigned from Emory, and Columbia University rescinded the prestigious Bancroft Prize it had awarded the author. In early 2003 Random House decided to end their contractual relationship with the author. Shortly thereafter, I announced that Soft Skull Press would issue a revised version of the book.

The enclosed outlines exactly what changes the author has, and has not, made to Arming America. It demonstrates, I believe, that the totality of any errors Bellesiles (wittingly or unwittingly, I hold the latter) introduced into the book’s text do not undermine the central thesis of the book.

This will no doubt come as a surprise to many. The conventional wisdom is that this book is “discredited.” The idea that a few changes could be made that address the totality of the legitimate criticism is at odds with the widely-held perception that the book irredeemably flawed, lock, stock and two crooked barrels. We knew that if this book were allowed to disappear, the publishing records would reflect this perception only. The world would believe Bellesiles was completely wrong. This, to me, was a completely unacceptable outcome. Financially it perhaps made little sense for Knopf/Vintage to keep it in print, or to issue a revised edition, but if there’s a larger cultural raison d’etre for independent publishers, it’s to keep important books like this one available to the American public, especially when it is necessary in order to counteract a campaign that was 1/10 truth, 9/10 smear.

Click here to read excerpts from the pamphlet, Weighed in an Even Balance.

Click here to read responses by Jerome Sternstein, James Lindgren and Clayton Cramer.

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More Comments:


Norman Brendan Coulson - 10/2/2009

The Graccahiae have little woth praising about them. The Senators didn't kill them because of their land reform efforts. They left numerous tribunes historically who advocated popular policies alone. Most of them were not in the least bit corrupted members like Cato the Younger, and his ancestor Cato the Elder were great ascetics. This was the group that refused control of Egypt(a wealthy kingdom) when it was offered to them. On the other hand Tiberius caused a riot in Rome and drew it into a bloody war to conquer Pergumum. And when Gaius came to power corruption spiralled out of control when he gave control of the courts to the Equestrians.


Earl D. Quammen - 2/23/2008

The following explains our God-given, Inherent and Inalienable Natural Right as it was INTENDED by the men whom framed our Constitution:

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government . . . The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms..."

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #28.
http://gunshowonthenet.com/FederalistPapers/FedNo28.html

"The opinion of the Federalist has always been considered as of great authority. It is a complete commentary on our Constitution; and is appealed to by all parties in the questions to which that instrument has given birth. Its intrinsic merit entitles it to this high rank; and the part two of its authors performed in framing the constitution, put it very much in their power to explain the views with which it was framed..."

- Chief Justice John Marshall, U.S. Supreme Court, Cohens v. Virginia (1821).
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALaw/CohensvVirginia.html

"Also, the conditions and circumstances of the period require a finding that while the stated purpose of the right to arms was to secure a well-regulated militia, the right to self-defense was assumed by the Framers."

- John Marshall, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. [As quoted in Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. 243, 251 (1846); State v. Dawson, 272 N.C. 535, 159 S.E.2d 1, 9 (1968).]
http://gunshowonthenet.com/AfterTheFact/NunnVsState.html

“Afforded us by God & Nature”
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/AffordedGodNature.html

“Agreed to found our Rights upon the Laws of Nature....”
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALaw/LawsofNature.html

“...Which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...”
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALaw/God&;Nature.html

Life, Liberty and Property
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALaw/LifeLibertyProperty.html

George Washington: Concerning Arms in the hands of the People
http://gunshowonthenet.com/SecondAmend/GeorgeWashingtonArms.html

"the overruling law of self preservation"
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/SelfPreservation.html

'for the common defence' (?)
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/SenateJournal09091789.html

"Rights of the citizen declared to be --"
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/CitizensRight.html

"The Right to Self Defense"
http://gunshowonthenet.com/AfterTheFact/RightofDefense.html

"The right of self-defence never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals."

- President James Monroe, Nov. 16, 1818 message to the U.S. House and Senate. [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, November 17th, 1818.]
http://gunshowonthenet.com/AfterTheFact/Senate11171818.html

Right to Keep and Bear Arms - Historical Directories:

Origins
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Origins.html

Precedent
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Origins&;Precedent.html

After The Fact
http://gunshowonthenet.com/AfterTheFact/Contents.html

Amendment II and the Law
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALaw/Contents.html

"No, surely, No! they meant to drive us into what they termed rebellion, that they might be furnished with a pretext to disarm and then strip us of the rights and privileges of Englishmen and Citizens."

- George Washington, March 1, 1778 letter to Bryan Fairfax, Valley forge.


Earl D. Quammen - 2/23/2008

The REAL ORIGINAL INTENT behind the Second Amendment:

The Shay's Insurrection, "These the Legislature could not infringe, without bringing upon themselves the detestation of mankind, and the frowns of Heaven", Jan. 12, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/ShaysInsurrection01121787.html

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "and shall obtain an order for the re-delivery of such arms", Feb. 16, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/CommonwealthOfMass02161787.html

Journals of the Continental Congress, "...impolitic and not to be reconciled with the genius of free Govts...", Feb. 19. 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/ContCongress02191787.html

Letters of Delegates to Congress, "...An Act to disarm and Disfranchise for three years...", Feb. 27th, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/AnActToDisarm02271787.html

Letters of Delegates to Congress, "...this act has created more universal disgust than any other of Government...", March 6, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/IrvineToWilson03061787.html

Journals of the Continental Congress, "That a large body of armed insurgents, did make their appearance...", March 13, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/ContCongress03131787.html

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, "a great proportion of the offenders chuse rather to risk the consequences of their treason, than submit to the conditions annexed to the amnesty", March 19, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/MadisonToJefferson03191787.html

A Proclamation, "and of being again renewed to the arms of their country, and once more enjoying the rights of free citizens of the Commonwealth", June 15, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/AProclamation06151787.html

The Debates in the Federal Convention, "...let the citizens of Massachusetts be disarmed. . . . It would be regarded as a system of despotism.", Aug. 23, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/FedDebates08231787.html

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, "A constitutional negative on the laws of the States seems equally necessary to secure individuals agst. encroachments on their rights", Oct. 24, 1787
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/MadisonToJefferson10241787.html

"The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted."

- Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 13, 1787 letter to William S. Smith.
http://gunshowonthenet.com/2ALEGAL/Precedent/JeffersonToSmith11131787.html

That's RIGHT people, it was intended to SECURE the God-given, Natural, Inherent and Inalienable Right of those that HAD transgressed the law. ALL 'gun control laws' are REPUGNANT to the U.S. Constitution.


Benny Smith - 7/19/2004

"Except that the sources which Williams quotes, and which aren't favorable to Bellesiles, predate the source you quote."

What Mr. Williams provided was his report and interpretation of what those historical figures said, not those historical figures speaking in their own words, so we’re back to the original subject title of this thread.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 6/3/2004

Here's an item from Clayton Cramer's weblog discussing costs of guns during colonial times, and comparing their cost to the cost of bread:

http://www.claytoncramer.com/weblog/2004_05_23_archive.html#108587418604973544


Andrew Ackerman - 4/25/2004

Oh... so Smith was booted from HNN? Anyone else have any correspondence with him/Bellesiles?
-Andrew


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/11/2004

PS

If you check the California state statutes, for instance, you'll see that at least California continues the custom of adding it's own list of exemptions to the state militia, and the Governor can call out the state militia (apparently) at his whim, without asking the federal government:

CALIFORNIA CODES
MILITARY AND VETERANS CODE
SECTION 120-130




120. The militia of the State shall consist of the National Guard,
State Military Reserve and the Naval Militia--which constitute the
active militia --and the unorganized militia.



121. The unorganized militia consists of all persons liable to
service in the militia, but not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia.


122. The militia of the State consists of all able-bodied male
citizens and all other able-bodied males who have declared their
intention to become citizens of the United States, who are between
the ages of eighteen and forty-five, and who are residents of the
State, and of such other persons as may upon their own application be
enlisted or commissioned therein pursuant to the provisions of this
division, subject, however, to such exemptions as now exist or may be
hereafter created by the laws of the United States or of this State.



123. Whenever the Governor deems it necessary, he or she may order
an enrollment to be made by officers designated by the Governor, of
all persons liable to service in the militia. The enrollment shall
include any information that the Governor may require. Three copies
thereof shall be made: one copy shall be filed in the office of the
clerk of the county in which the enrollment is made, and two copies
in the office of the Adjutant General.



124. Enrollment shall be made upon such notice and in such manner
as the Governor may direct. Every person required by such notice to
enroll who fails or refuses so to do is guilty of a misdemeanor.



125. The following persons shall be exempt from military service:
(a) Persons exempt from military service by the laws of the United
States.
(b) Regular or duly ordained ministers of religion.
(c) Students preparing for the ministry in recognized theological
or divinity schools.
(d) Pilots and mariners actually employed in sea service by a
citizen of the United States.
The above persons shall not be exempt from enrollment but shall
file verified claims for exemption from military service in such
forms and manner as the Governor may direct.



126. The Governor shall appoint boards in number and personnel as
will best accomplish the enrollment and such boards shall be vested
with the authority and power of passing upon and determining the
claims of exemption filed under section 125. An appeal to the
Governor may be taken from the decision of the boards by the State or
any person interested in the matter and within the time prescribed
in regulations promulgated by the Governor.



127. When the National Guard and Naval Militia are on duty as a
combined force at any time, the commanding officer of the whole force
shall be designated by the Governor. When two or more officers are
on duty in the same place, camp, field, command or organization, the
Governor may assign the command to any one of such officers without
regard to seniority of rank or branch of service.



128. The unorganized militia may be called for active duty in case
of war, rebellion, insurrection, invasion, tumult, riot, breach of
the peace, public calamity or catastrophe, or other emergency, or
imminent danger thereof, or may be called forth for service under the
Constitution and laws of the United States. Whenever it is
necessary to call out any portion of the unorganized militia, the
Governor may call for and accept as many volunteers as are required
for such service, under regulations provided by this division.



129. Every member of the militia who is ordered out, or who
volunteers or is drafted under the provisions of this division and
who does not appear at the time and place designated by the Governor,
or under his authority, within twenty-four hours from such time, and
who does not produce a sworn certificate of physical disability from
a physician in good standing, is a deserter and shall be dealt with
as prescribed in the Articles of War of the United States, or by this
division.



130. Members of the militia of the state shall not be segregated on
the basis of race, national origin or ancestry, or color, nor
discriminated against on such basis in enlistments, promotions, or
commissions.
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of California
that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all
members of the militia of the state without regard to race, national
origin or ancestry, or color. Such policy shall be put into effect
in the militia by rules and regulations to be issued by the Governor
with due regard to the powers of the federal government which are, or
may, be exercised over all the militia of the state, and to the time
required to effectuate changes without impairing the efficiency or
morale of the militia.

------------

So the question suggests itself. Is the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment "muted" by the fact that the Governor has not called out the militia, or had all enrolled, or had them drill? U&M suggest yes. I'm not sure. In any case, should the Governor actually enroll every citizen (plus), would that be enough to give the Second "voice" under U&M's view?


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/11/2004

Don and Josh, I'm not sure we really disagree all that much.

As I think you pointed out before, Don, the National Guard is authorized under the military power, not the militia clause. It is a select militia. And further federal legislation gives the Governor of a state the ability to apply for its use. This obviously goes beyond the militia clause.

When Rufus King reported out of the Committee of Style, he explained thet the federal constitutional power to provide ofr organizing the militia meant deciding what portion were officers, what portion enlisted. Since I don't put much store in Madison's notes (for all kinds of reasons I've beaten to death elsewhere), I rely instead on the exact same distinction being made in Congressional debates that do form a part of legislative history for purposes of analysis. This is supported by the fact that states maintained their right to exempt people from militia service -- the definition of who was eligible or mandated for militia service was left to the states.

Then the Knox proposals "clarified" this body, followed by the Militia Act of 1792. But, I submit, the power to define membership in the militia is not within the power of the federal government -- it is only within its power when it defines a militia for the purposes of the draft and the National Guard (which are not within the meaning of the militia in the militia clause of the Constitution).

What I'm saying is we have two animals here: (1) the militia of the Constitution, as found in the militia clauses and the Second Amendment (to be defined by the states); (2) the militia defined by US Code, for the purposes of drafting and the National Guard (to be defined by the federal government).

My thesis is that the definition of the militia for militia clause and Second Amendment purposes lies beyond the power of the federal government. So even if Uviller and Merkel are followed, and there is no militia corresponding to the militia of the militia clauses and the Second Amendment (because the states have not exercised the power), the right (whether individual or collective) of the Second Amendment could be activated simply by state statute defining the militia. Everything else said on the militia defintion front is either just federal usurpation of state power, or federal defintion for purposes of its military power and National Guard. Or, the militia of the militia clauses and the Second Amendment is simply the common law definition -- all citizens.

In either case, Don, we're on the same page. I'm not committed to agreeing with Uviller and Merkel, just saying that even their objection could be met by having a state enact a militia statute. Most states have, but they have blindly dovetailed theirs to the federal definition (for the most part), apparently unaware that they have separate authority. U&M haven't addressed my possibility -- at least not in their Chicago-kent paper, though maybe in their book (which I haven't read). What I do find amusing is all the collectivists merely assume that "organizing" (a federal power) includes defining membership. Rakove does this, based on a "plain meaning" of the Constitution, apparently unaware that history goes against him (funny, for a historian). It is all the more "amusing" inasmuch as Rakove quotes King from the very same page (when it suits Rakove's purpose) of Madison's notes, and then promptly forgets King and retreats to a "plain meaning" when King runs against his preferred interpretation. The virus of Wills spreads. Bad logic by Wills, Bellesiles, Finkelman, and now Rakove.


Don Williams - 3/10/2004

Something I forgot to point out above: The concept of the militia has always been that it is largely inactive until a time of danger. As Madison noted in the Federalist, societies have economic difficulty in supporting much more than 2% of the population as full time soldiers --and such "standing armies" are a temptation for abuse by central authority.

The idea, propounded by Bellesiles and gun control advocates, that the militia is ineffective is nonsense. Only a small percentage of the US army is actual combat troops and roughly 40% of those combat troops are National Guard. If you look at the nine weeks of National Guard basic training, only about 2.5 weeks are spent on actual combat training.
(Over time, however, Guard members in Combat MOSs do take advanced infantry training.)

Moreover, many modern military skills (radio communication with combat support and service support units, avoidance of fratricide, Military Code of Justice, organization of the US military, drill and cermonies, etc.) would be irrelevant to an insurgency.

By contrast, many skills relevant to an insurgency ( improvised explosives, industrial sabotage, covert communications, surveillance detection,etc.) are not taught even to army combat troops --although such skills are obviously known by operatives in the CIA's Clandestine Service and the Green Berets.


Don Williams - 3/10/2004

In a curious sign that even negative publicity can help sales, the Soft Skull edition of Arming America rose in sales rank at Amazon.com -- from around 900,000 to around 99,000 as noted above-- for a week or two after the Wall Street Journal article. However, it has since fallen back to around 690,262. At BarnesNoble.com, it's sales rank is holding at a very low level (397,602 ). It may be that some sales are occurring due to academic sales --i.e, to Arming America being used as an example in courses on historical method (see, e.g, http://www.history.ccsu.edu/syllabi/Warshauer_syllabus501.htm , http://www.unc.edu/depts/history/faculty/pdf/hist209hoffert.pdf ).

The Idaho Librarian has an interesting post mortum on Arming America at
http://www.idaholibraries.org/newidaholibrarian/200305/RecordEnrichedII.htm .


Don Williams - 3/10/2004

Re your comment above: "the right is conditioned on the actual existence of a militia, which no longer exists in the US "

I would point to US Code Title 10, Part I, Chapter 13
("The Militia"), Sect 311:
---------------
"Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female
citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are--
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

Ref: http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title10/subtitlea_parti_chapter13_.html
----
The above definition is what, in part, gives Congress the power to draft men into military service.

In my opinion, the above definition is merely a clarification. Congress does NOT have the constitutional power to define who is a member of the militia -- else Congress could restrict membership to "all registered Republicans of the Caucasian race".

The militia consists of ALL citizens. At the time the Constitution was created, citizenship (right to vote) was free white males --in some cases, with property requirements. Since then, the duties and privileges of citizenship has been expanded to a broader mass of the people.

Congress only controls the organization of the militia , who is in active federal service at any one time, and who (state governor or President) has operational control at any one time.

Congress has no power over state officials --hence, the exemption for state officials from militia duties in section 312. The number of official positions in a state could be greatly expanded if a state government so chose.
Curiously enough, Congress has indicated in Section 312 that state legislators are not exempt from militia duties. (heh heh heh)


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 3/10/2004

"Now maybe Uviller and Merkel have a point -- the right is conditioned on the actual existence of a militia, which no longer exists in the US (the National Guard is organized and authorized under the military provision of the federal constitution, not the militia clauses)."

I thought I'd read that as recently as 1970s some law somewhere in the federal code said that the militia was basically all able-bodied adults (amended at that time from all able-bodied men) capable of bearing arms.


Phil Lee - 3/9/2004

I'd take the win at the Federal level since that would invalidate Federal regulations that prevent a person going to another state to buy a firearm.

The elimination of that Federal law, so obviously in violation of the equal protection of the law provision in the Constitution, would allow our states to operate to protect freedom by placing the burden for stupid local requlations on the individual states that wanted them.

So, states wanting to ban or license handgun ownership could pass their own laws which would operate only in their jurisdictions. These states would have the burden of finding and prosecution citizens going to another state to buy what was legal in that state. It would be impossible, and only regulations of genuine merit (those passed in most of the states) would survive.


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/8/2004

I don't happen to agree with Judge Kozinski on this matter -- that's why I stated it as a hypothetical. Here's the actual wording from the Miller decision:

"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a "shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length" at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State, 2 Humphreys (Tenn.) 154, 158."

Here's the rub. The appeal (by the US government) came to the Supreme Court directly, as the District court had sustained a demurrer -- they quashed the original indictment before the matter ever went to trial. Thus, no evidence was ever taken in the case, and the Supreme Court only has appellate jurisdiction in this area.

Seems that Miller was a bootlegger who jumped bail once the District court ruled, and was not represented before the Supreme Court. Having only appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court is not a determiner of fact, but only law. This throws a different light on the wording of Miller. The Supreme Court does not say that an individual right to a sawed-off shotgun is not protected by the Second Amendment. It says it can't decide the issue based on the evidence -- there is no evidence, as the case came to them on appeal from a demurrer. The Supreme Court then says it can't decide the matter by judicial notice -- judicial notice meaning a fact so indisputable that a judge need not take evidence on the matter (such as, say, the law of gravity).

Now why would the Court even entertain the notion of judicial notice if it had just, in the previous line, said the weapon was outside the scope of Second Amendment protection? Secondly, the Supreme Court cites a Tennessee Supreme Court decision (!!) interpreting the differently worded Tennessee constitutional provision. That is the Aymette decision. Now why is the Supreme Court citing a Tennessee decision based on its own constitution? Beats me. But the interesting fact is the Tennessee Supreme Court in Aymette said citizens had an unqualified right to keep arms, but not an unqualified right to bear arms!!

And Miller even says of the militia: "when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time." Miller even defines the militia thus:

"The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense."

Now maybe Uviller and Merkel have a point -- the right is conditioned on the actual existence of a militia, which no longer exists in the US (the National Guard is organized and authorized under the military provision of the federal constitution, not the militia clauses). In any case, it's not clear that the Supreme Court addressed Miller on the merits -- it remands the case to the District for further action (but the appeal was multiple -- there was more than one issue implicated). If it did address it on the Second Amendment merits, then it granted standing, which seems to preclude a collective right interpretation (Kozinski's point).

In this case (Silveira) there is another issue. Even if the Supreme Court did recognize that it had decided, via standing, for an individual right, that does not apply to the states. California is still free to ban assault weapons, as the Supreme Court has never held that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment as a limitation on state power. The NRA could win the federal case, and still lose out at the state level.


Matt Siroki - 3/6/2004

If the that is the case, one would think the NRA would challenge the assault weapons ban. However, I think the NRA realizes they would face certain defeat.


Ronald W Best - 3/3/2004

The latest Amazon.com sales rank for the new edition of Arming America is 689,269.


Tim Lambert - 2/27/2004

I guess it must be one of those irregular verbs the way you use it: Lott was "gaming Amazon" whereas Bellesiles was "lying through his teeth". So when Lott wrote: "A couple of friends of mine have been nagging me to read this book for a couple of years. When the second edition came out I finally gave in and got it (for $9.60 I couldn’t argue that the price was too high). Anyway, I am only sorry that I didn’t read this book earlier. As an academic and a person who has been somewhat anti-gun,...", he wasn't lying, no sir, he was just GAMING.
And thanks for letting us know what the real problem with Lott is. Apparently it's not that he fabricated a table, it's that I'm "shrill". The post is here, if anyone wants to judge themselves:
http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/2004/02#athletesguns2


Alec H Lloyd - 2/18/2004

I refer to it as "gaming" because that is what it is, just as having your buddy write a favorable review in the NY Times Book Review is "gaming" the system.

Perhaps you are aware that partisans regularly manipulate Google searches and other reviews using public input? It is a form of advertising.

Amazon makes no claim that every reviewer is thoroughly vetted or has even read the book in question. The reviews there are exactly what they purport to be: testimonials from people you don't know.

Now whether you think it is more dishonest to have a bunch of friendly academics pose as unbiased reviewers in a major publication or write glowing emails on a public site is your business.

I think they're equally tawdry, but also part of the rough-and-tumble world of book sales.

However, I see neither as a career-ending offense. Do you?

As for your obsession with Lott, you are merely the latest entreant into a cottage industry. I've watched Lott get creamed from the day he released his data. Most of his early critics were incompetent, which is partly why your (perhaps more valid) arguments are getting short shrift.

To many of us, it seems like more of the same old. To put it bluntly, the gun control movement uses so much junk science that your criticisms of Lott seem simply like background noise. Indeed, I have to wonder if he does things now just to make you even more irate.

I went to your web site last week where you were having a fit over some chart he quoted and I have to admit the thought did occur to me: does he do this just to get under your skin? He knows you're watching Mr. Lambert.

Assuming he is the charlatan you say, he may also know that the more shrill you get, the less people will listen.

That is why I suggested that you confine your criticisms to a few very narrow and specific areas. Once those are proven, we can try him for rigging Amazon's review system.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/18/2004

Cornell is an ingenious constitutional historian. But he's not a lawyer or jurist. If Judge Alex Kozinski (in his dissent in the enbanc opinion in Silveira) is correct, and the US Supreme Court addressed Miller on the merits vis-a-vis his Second Amendment appeal (and a collective right would be inconsistent with standing), then the Supreme Court has already decided the issue -- the Second expresses an individual right. Law trumps even Cornell's history.


Matt Siroki - 2/17/2004

Saul Cornell is publishing a book (Oxford University Press) that purports to prove the collective right theory.


Robert Bryan Haskins - 2/17/2004

Richard, you are right about standing, it always comes first. For example: An officer searches a car at a traffic stop, finds cocaine stuffed under the driver’s seat, and then charges you with possession of it. If you want to suppress that search on a claim that it was an unreasonable search and seizure, then you must first establish that you have standing to do so. That is, you must first show that you had some connection to the car that gives you an expectation of privacy in it which society accepts as reasonable (a good example would be that you were the operator of the car when it was stopped). Only then does the court consider the merits of the search and seizure. Many times I concede without argument that standing exists. It appears that the court did the same in Miller.

Additionally, judges often write opinions that go far beyond that which is required to decide the case--sort of a “and this is how I would have ruled if the plaintiff had proven he had standing and we had actually heard this case on its merits” opinion. This is called “dicta,” and while it has no bearing on the outcome of the present case it is designed to help establish a roadmap for how future lawsuits should be styled.

In Silveira, I think the majority is correct to have considered the collective right—individual right issue, because it does affect whether the plaintiff had standing to raise his claim. If, as the majority suggests, the right is collective, then the plaintiff had no standing to bring his claim before the court.

I think the court is wrong in deciding that the right is collective—but that’s an argument for another venue. The issue here is to what extent AA (or Lott’s work, for that matter) has been used to support either the collective or individual right opinions, and how judges should react to the disclosure that the research which they cite in support of their interpretation has been discredited.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/16/2004

Had another brain fart. Silveira is consistent with Hickman. In Hickman the Ninth said the USSC had taken no position on the individualist versus collectivist question. The Ninth now says they were wrong, and that Miller endorses a collective view.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/16/2004

The SAF website is linked to by the Potowmack Institute, an anti gun site. What does that do for your logic?


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/15/2004

PS

Rakove has a pretty sophisticated treatment of originalist problems in his preface and first chapter to his book Original Meanings. It admits most of the problems of originalism, seems to concede that original understanding is the only theoretically coherent form of originalism, and then he promptly reverts to original intent.

Actually, he marries original understanding to the strategy that original understanding is dispositive for all time (precludes later precedents). I see it different. I see original understanding as the only way to determine original meaning, which may be adjusted by later precedents. He seems to marry the two in order to dismiss original understanding as the sole legitimate means of originalism, thereby allowing him to privilege the writings of Madison (who, by the way -- and Rakove admits this -- himself endorsed original understanding).

Here's a quote from Rakove, from his preface (p. xv):

"I am often asked whether I think originalism offers a viable or valid theory of constitutional interpretation. My preferred answer is, I hope, suitably ambivalent. In the abstract, I think that originalism is vulnerable to two powerful criticisms. First, it it is always in some fundamental sense anti-democratic, in that it seeks to subordinate the judgment of present generations to the wisdom of their distant (political) ancestors. Second, the real problems of reconstructing coherent intentions and understandings from the evidence of history raise serious questions about the capacity of originalist forays to yield the definitive conclusions that the advocates of this theory claim to find. On the other hand, I happen to like originalist arguments when the weight of the evidence seems to support the constitutional outcomes I favor -- and that may be as good a clue to the appeal of originalism as any other."

I disagree that originalism seeks to subordinate judgment to ancestors. The Constitution was arrived at by supermajority, by the people. We have a method for avoiding subordination -- it's called the amendment procedure. Liberals hate this, as it involves honest labor. Much better to get some judges to privilege their own views over those of the people expressed in the Constitution.

On a larger question, Rakove just doesn't seem to appreciate that the roles of historian and judge differ as to evidence. Historians must, of neccessity, go beyond the evidence with responsible conjecture to fashion a complete narrative. The problematic materials for such simply aren't appropriate to constitutional interpretation. Rakove appropriates (as one might expect for an historian) the widest possible role for history. There is an historian's Constitution, however, and a judge's, and we should be ruled by the judge's.

I'll give an example. Rakove says (and Wills and the 2-1 majority in Silveira follow suit): "I have tried to give the Anti-Federalists their due by allowing their most trenchant objections to the Constitution to lay a foundation for the response they elicited from their Federalist opponents."

This is precisely the unacknowledged assumption (unacknowledged as an assumption) that so many commentators make. Was the Second, though, meant to address major Anti-federalist objections (which would have entailed structural change in allowing the states to arm themselves, thereby asserting sovereignty), or was it an appeal (as Madison put it) to the people directly (over the heads of the most outre Anti-Federalists) over their concern for individual liberties? Rakove, Wills, and the Ninth merely assume the former, as do so many others, despite the fact that Madison himself wanted to address individual liberties without affecting structure (and said so!!).


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/14/2004

I've just re-read the original majority opinion of the Ninth in Silveira. Interesting. The court admits it departs from Hickman (their own Ninth Circuit precedent), as Hickman concluded that Miller neither endorses nor dismisses the collective rights theory. The Ninth then, supposedly based on recent scholarship (though the weight of recent scholarship suggests the opposite), endorses the collective rights view -- while admitting in a footnote that the question is still open to controversy. The Ninth admits that in Fresno Rifle it ruled on the basis on non-incorporation -- that the Second is not incorporated by the 14th as a limit on state power (presumably the implicit ruling of standing stemmed from the Ninth's refusal to interpret Miller one way or the other on the question of individual v. collective right). The Ninth then states that it must decide standing first -- but cites no authority or precedent for doing so. Somebody who knows legal procedure much better than I do should be able to answer this. I think it quite possible that a determination of standing is a prerequisite to assuming jurisdiction, rather than the other way around -- though I've found some legal dictionnaries that say the opposite.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/14/2004

Rakove is a strange bird. He has an article in the NYU Law Review called Confessions of an Ambivalent Originalist. He admits he used originalist arguments in the impeachment hearings, specifically original intent. As a history professor he quite naturally thinks history has the answers. He quotes Madison's notes, without any apparent concern that they are incomplete, not contemporaneous, not official, and not available to the ratifiers. That the Philadelphia Convention did not have plenary power seems to leave him unfazed in his original intent analysis. In fact, he seems blissfully unaware that history is just one modality of constitutional analysis.

He is ususally portrayed as a critic of originalism, but he resorted to it in the Clinton impeachemnt. He also cited Bellesiles at length in his Chicago-Kent article, and when Bellesiles blew up, Rakove stated in his William&Mary article that Bellesiles had very little to say "directly" on the Second Amendment (a new minimizing strategy? -- sure he had little to say directly, but Rakove had found him mighty useful in his Second Amendment article). Rakove now admits he read Bellesiles for his Second Amendment implications. Now here's the fun part. Bellesiles thanks Rakove for reviewing every page of his manuscript, and Bellesiles had the Militia Act of 1792 stating that the governement would supply arms to the militia -- when the act said the people had to arm themselves. Rakove missed this incredible howler, as did the peer-reviewers for Knopf. Now I ask you, if you don't even know the content of the Militia Act of 1792, are you even competent to pronounce on Second Amendment interpretation? That's a rhetorical question.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 2/14/2004

"Originalism has more than one face, as even your post suggests."

Which face does Rakove attack? And is his attack on "originalism" just a screen for his 2nd Amendment revisionism, or is it a position he thoroughly believes in?


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/13/2004

Just saw your post at this date, and decided to answer right away.

Originalism has more than one face, as even your post suggests. First you ask of "precedent and original intent", then speak of "the original intent of the framers and the contemporary meanings of the words put into the Constitution and Bill of Rights...".

'Original intent' is considered, by many, as the most problematic and retrograde form of originalism. First, there is no official record of debate at the Philadelphia Convention, nor in Congressional Committee concerning the Bill of Rights. When it comes to the Constitution, most delegates were not vested with plenary power, so their intentions are meaningless.

Other mistakes abound by those wishing to employ original intent. Some collectivists actually cite Hamilton's Federalist paper concerning a select militia as either governing the meaning of militia, or because it contrasts with Madison's militia view, establishing an intent to leave the characterization of the militia up to statutory definition. Problem is, Hamilton wasn't a framer. He was one of three delegates from NY, the other two being Antifederalists who left early, depriving NY of a vote at Philadelphia. Hamilton, ever the self-promoter, though without a vote, signed the Philadelphia document. Moreover, Hamilton's Federalist, like most of the Federalist articles, were not widely published in much of thew South, and therefore can't have informed the ratifier understanding from that area.

"Ratifier understanding" comes closer to "contemporary meanings", and was endorsed by Madison on a half dozen occasions. The ratifiers were actually vested with the power to enact.

It's hard to figure out, sometimes, what was meant back then, so we muddle through. And in muddling through, we create new ambiguities. Some take advantage of this to read their own ideology into the law. There is no law unless there is an honest attempt to discover original meaning, and correct meaning of precedents. There is no test for sincerity, though.

By the way, Rakove realizes that his arguments vis-a-vis the Second smack of the originalism he deplores, and he has sheepishly as much as admitted it. I think a good many liberals oppose originalist analysis because it acts as a check on the expansion of government power, which they tend to see as an unmitigated good. I suspect that liberals like Tribe of Harvard, Amar of Yale, and Levinson of Texas have come to see the wisdom of the individualist interpretation at least partly because the professional officer corps of the military has become overwhelmingly Republican. Maybe those framers (and Justice Story) were right -- the militia is needed as a moral check on the designs of ambitious men and standing armies.


Don Williams - 2/13/2004

This morning's sales rank for Arming America (Soft Skull edition) at BarnesNoble.com is 410,178 -- down from the 398,000+ area of a few weeks ago (see above) and approaching what submariners call crush depth.

However, this mornings Amazon sales rank is around 99,969-- a huge leap in the past two days from the roughly
800000 range where it laid for weeks. Amazon doesn't update its sales rank --especially for slow sellers -- daily as does Barnes Noble, so only time will tell if this is a one time spurt in sales.

Re Richard's complaint above --that Arming America is still outselling some of his library's dust collectors -- I would observe that Arming America is in a strange Hisenbergian universe --in which we cannot measure the position of an electron because our measurement disturbs the electron.

Negative publicity seems to spur just enough sales to improve Arming America's bleak position. I noticed a brief spurt in sales when Chronicle of Higher Education put out it's largely negative article. Kimberly Strasser's recent Wall Street Journal article seems to have had the same effect. Briefly, People stop to look at car wrecks.

As I once noted to Ralph Luker in a post above, the worst fate in academia is not to be criticized --it is to be ignored.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/12/2004

I think you're right, and Kleinfeld makes an interesting point, colorfully expressed. Then, so too does Kozinski. What I loved about their dissents is that they seem alone in taking Supreme Court precedent seriously. They make the point that in Miller the court did not deny standing by asserting a collective right.

The question of standing should precede the question as to whether a sawed-off shotgun could be a militia weapon. But Miller involved federal law. And the question of jurisdiction should precede that of standing -- to pronounce on standing is an assertion of jurisdiction. What I can't find is any mention in the dissents (and I admit I read them quickly) of the jurisdiction problem -- I can't think of Supreme Court precedent holding that the 14th incorporates the Second as a limitation on state power.

To my mind, the 3 judge panel of the 9th stepped over the jurisdictional issue to address the issue of standing, precisely in order to set precedent vis-a-vis the collective nature of the right. Even the strongly anti-gun Potowmack Institute says the 9th politicized the court.


Robert Bryan Haskins - 2/12/2004

Here is the point I think Judge Kleinfeld was making when he mentioned Lott: Current public policy research, which attempts to establish either the present day benefits or dangers to individual ownership or firearms, is irrelevant to interpreting the nature and the scope of the “right to keep and bear arms.”

The more interesting comment appears earlier in his dissent (around footnotes 11 & 12): “Historical context has its uses in understanding the context and purposes of any law, constitutional or legislative, but like legislative history, the use of history is subject to abuse. Where the historical scholarship is partial and tendentious, relying upon it becomes like relying upon legislative history: ‘entering a crowded cocktail party and looking over the heads of guests for one’s friends.’”

Using this analogy for Lott, we have him throwing a big cocktail party at which he wins a 98 percent rate door prize. Tim Lambert poses this question: “What if Lott threw a party, and nobody came?” The jury, to my mind, is still out on whether Lott’s party took place, and, if so, then why the need for fictional flattery from our non-existent “social scene” reporter, Mary Rosh?

The same analogy can be used by Bellesiles’ critics: (1) He never went to a party in San Francisco, (2) Whenever he did attend a party, he avoided the crowd to focus on his friends, (3) When his friends didn’t agree with him, he chose to misquote them so it looked like they did, etc.


Tim Lambert - 2/12/2004

My Lloyd, why do you keep trying to pass off Lott's reviews of his own work as "gaming"? They are not "gaming". "Gaming" would refer to manipulation of the system while staying within the rules. Amazon's rules permit authors to review their own books, but they have to identify themselves as the author. Lott was well aware of this because he actually followed the correct procedure in one review. His conduct was not "gaming". It was dishonest.

I am against academic fraud whether it be by Bellesiles or Lott. You and the WSJ only seem to care about Bellesiles' misconduct and give Lott a free pass.


Alec H Lloyd - 2/11/2004

Once again, Mr. Lambert, you are allowing your distaste for John Lott to crowd out your arguments.

Regarding the book reviews: explain to me how gaming Amazon is different than having your academic buddies publish paean to your lastest work. It's just another form of advertising.

As far as your concerns with other data, I eagerly await your relentless assault into gun control researchers, which are far easier to dismantle. I believe you have a web site, and I'll see what numbers you are talking about there rather than trying to argue abstracts here.

You're welcome for the advice.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/11/2004

I would add that the text quoted above is from the dissenting minority (and has no legal force as precedent) -- dissenting from the opinion and order that a rehearing be denied. So even those who thought the case should be reheard believed that Lott and the questions he addressed were irrelevant to the constitutional meaning of the Second Amendment.

Just why did they bring it up then, if only to deny its relevance? I suspect that the appellate brief requesting a full en banc rehearing mentioned Lott, but I can't know that. The courts don't publish the briefs. Interested parties do sometimes post them on a website of their own choosing. For instance, keepandbeararms.com, has a copy of the initial appeal brief to the Ninth, which includes a mention of Gary Kleck in the text, but not Lott. But no sources are included in the post, so maybe Lott appears in the endnotes of the initial brief. I couldn't find a copy of the appeal brief for an en banc hearing. Maybe he appears there. Or maybe a well-read judge among the dissenters just decided to throw it in, in order to dismiss its relevance.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/11/2004

Tim, you're an Aussie, I believe, so I'll take this from the start at the risk of insulting you.

The pro-gun position, via a kitchen-sink brief, lost the appeal before the Ninth Federal Circuit by a vote of 2-1. To get to the Federal courts, they had to raise a federal issue -- they claimed that the Second Amendment bars the states from gun control. Whatever the Second means, the US Supreme Court never has ruled that it applies to the states (the original case was in state court, suing the Attorney-General of California for enforcing a state law that the pro-gun side thought violated the federal constitution). Many other provisions of the federal constitution do bind the states, via the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Having lost 2-1 in the federal appeals court, he then asked for an "en banc hearing" -- essentially asking the entire court to rehear the case. A panel of the Ninth federal circuit court of appeals refused to rehear the case. That is the opinion you linked to -- a refusal for a rehearing.

Here's the relevant passage from the en banc opinion:
---
Indeed, while
some think guns cause violent crime, others think that widespread
possession of guns on balance reduces violent crime.114
None of these policy arguments on either side affects what the
Second Amendment says, that our Constitution protects “the
right of the people to keep and bear Arms.”
-----

Footnote 114 then cites Lott, but only as an example of a source that discusses the effect of gun possession on crime. The opinion then goes on to say that such considerations simply aren't relevant to the constitutional issues at hand.

If you go to http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov and hit the link to 'opinions', you can then search by date. Select '2003', then select 'May', and then you'll see the Silveira en banc opinion listed among others (May 6). It's a PDF and takes a while to load.


Tim Lambert - 2/11/2004

Here is the decision where Lott was citied:


http://www.rkba.org/judicial/silveira/EnBancOrder.txt


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/11/2004

PS

Here's an excellent article on the case making the point that the appellate lawyer kitchen-sinked the brief with false and extraneous material, didn't even have standing, yet Reinhardt went to substantive issues of interpretation given the open opportunity. I'll try to find the specific reference to Lott.

http://www.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel200309230925.asp


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/11/2004

Tim, a lot of extraneous and dubious material gets into briefs, and even into decisions. I just scanned the decision in Silveira v. Lockyer and found no mention of Lott. I'm trying to track down appellate briefs and reply briefs, and check them. Maybe he's cited in there. I'll let you know when I find out.


Tim Lambert - 2/10/2004

Just how much knowledge of statistics does it take to divide 26 by 28 (the numbers that Lott claims he got in his survey) and see that the result is not 98%?

Forgetting to carry the 1 isn't even close to what Lott did, either.

And Lott altered quotations too. How hard is it to check what he says against his sources? Here's an example from just three days ago. Lott publishes an op-ed in Fox News where he claims that NCVS data proves that in a violent crime passive behaviour is by far the most likely to result in an injury. I post a response with the actual numbers that show that this isn't true. Lott responds with a table of numbers that purport to show that his claim is true. Except that his table is falsified, constructed by mixing numbers from two different columns so that he is comparing apples with oranges.

And gee, thanks for the advice about concentrating on only one or two issues. Maybe you could talk to all the folks who argue that Lott just did one thing wrong not like that horrid Bellesiles.

Giving your own books a dozen five-star reviews is not just vain, it is dishonest. No, it is not the same as fabricating evidence, but it certainly suggests that he is the sort of person who would fabricate evidence.


Tim Lambert - 2/10/2004

Richard, I'm not interested in the constitutional questions, but if Lott's work doesn't touch them, why was he cited in Silveira vs Lockyer?


Ralph E. Luker - 2/10/2004

Richard, You teach me a lot when your spleen is tweaked. I do understand your hesitation to comment on Lott's credibility. You can imagine Tim Lambert's frustration that there is apparently no authority to whom Lott is accountable in the same way that there was an authority to whom Bellesiles was accountable.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/10/2004

Ralph, I now see that I forgot to address your question as to whether I am anti gun control (I like that expression better, as 'anti-gun control' introduces ambiguities, suggesting that 'anti' applies to 'gun' rather than 'gun control') and whether that has influenced my apparently blase attitude toward Lott. The second part of your question I addressed, but I will be more explicit here. If the facts are as Lambert alleges, then Lott deserves to be pilloried. The WSJ editorial page has its conservative bias, and that might account for their treatment of Lott. Or, they might simply think the issues raised by Lott not as pregnant with constitutional implications. Or they might believe the case has not been made against him, or that he is not sufficiently large a target. Or all of them.

The other part of your question seems to betray an attitude or assumption often seen in the collectivist Second Amendment literature -- that an individualist interpretation is inconsistent with gun control tout court. If I'm wrong, please forgive me. But any number of liberal commentators who support an individualist interpretation think otherwise -- Tribe of Harvard, and Amar of Yale, to mention just two.

The far wing of the individualist camp seems to often conflate 'bear arms' with 'carry arms'. Wills is right to correct them on this. They rely on only three quotes -- one from Coxe, one from Adams, and one from the Pennsylvania Minority. The overwhelming evidence from usage suggests otherwise. It seems to me that a large sphere of gun control, including a ban on carrying, is consistent with the individualist interpretation.

Wills strikes me as correct on two other issues. One can't simply read Antifederalist ideology into the Second, and the Second does not express a constitutional right to rebel. On just about every other issue his claims are either correct and irrelevant, or relevant and incorrect.

He gets Miller exactly backwards. He claims that preambles determine the scope, when they may have merely been used on occasion to interpret scope. There is only one hard and fast rule for preambles -- they don't expand the scope. In any case, if used to interpret the scope, there are any number of scope interpretations that are consistent with the language and with an individualist interpretation (his choice of scope interpretation is not the only possible one, nor necessarily any better than competing ones).

Wills uses two analytical categories to interpret the Second -- Federalist and Antifederalist. He then invests the Antifederalist category with the most outre stance -- that of Patrick Henry. It would appear, rather, that the term 'Antifederalist' more closely approaches a 'family resemblance term', in the Wittgenstein sense. For instance, Wills argues that the Antifederalists opposed a standing army, the Second doesn't do away with that, therefore the Second has no Antifederalist content. Yet Mason, surely an Antifederalist, saw a necessity for both a standing army and a militia. Wills is right that one can't simply read Antifederalist ideology into the Second, but one can't simply read it out either.

Wills thinks the meaning of the Second, quoting Jefferson, is to be determined by those who wrote it, supported it, and voted for it. This simply commits the error of reading Federalist ideology exclusively into it. Moreover, this reliance on ideology as an interpretive tool is necessitated by the fact that those who wrote it, supported it, and voted for it, nowhere laid down an interpretation of it -- except for Tench Coxe, who gave it an individualist interpretation. This is such an embarrassment that Wills then abandons his standard, and points out that Coxe was not a constitutional authority (though Coxe came from a distinguished legal family, studied the law, and was intimately involved in supplying arms to the militia). In fact Grayson, an Antifederalist, is the only other contemporary to characterize the meaning of the Second, when he claimed all of Madison's proposals had to do with individual liberties (on this point my memory is hazy, as I can't remember offhand if Grayson and Coxe were addressing Madison's proposals, or the finished Second text). What are we to make of that?

In any case, the views of the writers are unknown, as Madison did not write the Second!! It was written in committee, whose records don't exist.

Madison expressly said that his proposals were aimed to address individual liberties, and affect the structure as little as possible. Which has less affect on the structure -- letting the people arm themselves on an individual basis, or letting the states arm the militia? I submit the former. The power of the state to arm the militia seems in tension with constitutional provisions banning states from raising a navy or a standing army, or making treaties with foreign powers (without federal permission). It seems the Federalist thrust was to strip the states of the marks of sovereignty, including the power of the sword. Why then would they allow states, via the Second, to arm the militia?

Madison came to believe that because of its limited powers, the federal government would sit more lightly upon the shoulders of the people than the states, and would therefore gain their loyalty. He had faith in their support, and thought (presumably) that the federal government could gain more loyalty from a populace -- why wouldn't he want his followers armed, rather than directly give the state the right to determine who could be armed, which might just be Antifederalists? In any case, the Shaysites were mostly militia, as were those who defeated them. Madison seems vindicated.

I could go, citing chapter and verse. Wills proceeds, without argument, from a claim that the Second is a positive right of states to be armed by the federal government (from 'keep' to 'be provided' seems a gulf), to the claim that it is a mere pledge (which is not enforceable). He takes a proposal by Trenchard as analytic of militia, and then by truncated quote conflates firelocks with arms (which he elsewhere says includes cannons -- and Jefferson's proposed constitution would therefore have an individual right to cannons? -- I think not). His argument from etymology is fallacious, and uses the wrong etymology to boot, ending up with a proposed synonym for 'arms' in 'equipage', whose meaning as revealed by usage doesn't even include individual's weapons!!

I think your question might be better directed to Wills. Has his demonstrated anti-gun bias (demonstrated in op-ed pieces available on the net, where he says that those who wish to have guns have declared war on their neighbors) affected his interpretation of the Second? I think so, though that is not a point to be made in a journal article. And this from a reputable scholar whose Lincoln at Gettysburg is a veritable jewel. We are all human after all.

I actually think there is a defensible collectivist interpretation that is weakened only or mostly by the interlineation problem. Since the Federalists aimed to strip the states of sovereignty, perhaps the Second expresses a collective right in the people (a tip of the hat to popular sovereignty) -- a right, through their legislature, to arm a militia (as opposed to a right granted to the states by the constitution).

Many of the criticisms by the collectivists of individualist scholarship are spot on. What I find so disturbing is that their own are so often equally weak, or even worse, which doesn't seem to stop their triumphalist rhetoric. Wills overflows with it, the Washington seminar overflows with it, and the Chicago-Kent contributions follow suit.

A brief mea culpa. I'm a hypocrite, but trying here to be less so. I've tried here (where elsewhere I haven't) to be civil to the collectivists, which is hard given their own practice. I will endeavor to do so in my final version. Will there come a day when a certain degree of civility returns to journal articles on the subject? I say this without confidence, because I suspect that the lack of civility might very well be a deliberate tactic. Cicero's dicacitas, or intermittent ridicule, seems to have obtained its usual ends -- to obscure the weaknesses of argument. Aimed at obscuring or not, the ridicule by Wills in his NYRB article did just that. The responding professors largely devoted themselves to protesting his ridicule, and missed the weaknesses (for the most part) of his arguments. Rhetoric will never be abandoned entirely where the aim is to win assent rather than discover and reveal the truth. Sorry for the lecture, but the implicit assumption (?) that I oppose gun control tweaked my spleen. I'm merely focussed on the constitutional questions, which Lott's work doesn't touch.


Alec H Lloyd - 2/9/2004

The problem with Lott is that if you have no knowledge of statistics, you can't really understand the points in dispute.

Sorry, but forgetting to carry the 1 isn't even close to what Bellesiles did.

I mean, Bellesiles altered quotations! You don't need a PhD to compare what he said originals sources said to what they actually SAY.

As far as the rest of Mr. Lambert's charges, I'm sorry, but lots of people use aliases on the Internet. Ghosting good reviews is silly, perhaps vain, but hardly rises to the level of fabricating evidence.

Mr. Lambert has developed a visceral hatred of John Lott. It's sad, because it clouds his judgement. If he could simply focus on one or two clear-cut issues, he might get somewhere (among the math crowd, at least).

But for the rest of us, the charge list goes from serious (fabricating evidence) to ludicrous (gaming Amazon's search function).

John Lott has performed a huge service in providing us with the first real set of numbers on guns and crime. His numbers may be crude and the methods inexact, but they were better than anything else out there.

That ludicrous Kellerman study ("guns are 43 times more likely to kill a family member than a criminal") is far worse. Indeed, most gun control scholarship can't even compare with Lott.

I wish Mr. Lambert luck. Perhaps he will finally discover the "true" set of numbers and we can go from there. Until that point, the topic is simply to inaccessible for most people to figure out who is right and who is wrong.


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/9/2004

Apparently, Ralph, there isn't a question about whether a writer is ever so discredited that he shouldn't be published -- if Bellesiles is a guide. Seems he has a contract for another book with the OUP. From Knopf to the OUP is not exactly a case of Down and Out in London. Bellesiles the Canuck seems to have successfully marketed himself to his fellow Commonwealthmen as a martyr -- I anticipate a picture for his next dusk jacket not of him in his library, but tied to a post a la St. Sebastian, though bleeding from gunshot wounds rather than arrows. I would have thought the OUP standards would be more rigorous than those of the WSJ, but as has become my habit of late, it appears I'm wrong.

I don't know that Lott has wronged, as I have not pursued the matter (I'm interested in Second Amendment scholarship, and only got hooked into the Bellesiles affair via my confrontation with the writings of Garry Wills). I'm so little engaged with the questions raised by Lott that I've neither devoted much time to looking into Arthur Kellerman's work, nor seeking professional discipline for him for withholding his data for such a long time (the fact that he hadn't read Lindgren before dismissing him does give me pause -- but no, I have other chores, and miles to go before I sleep ...). Release the hounds. If Lott has wronged, have at him.

I further don't know if Lott has or will pay a price. As far as I can tell, he has survived on a succession of two-year non-tenured appointments, which may very well dry up. Time will tell. The difference for me is that I actually read Bellesiles, and Lindgren, and others, and came to my own conclusions. I'm not in the same position with Lott.


Ralph E. Luker - 2/9/2004

O.K., Richard, you've taken a fair pro-gun shot at Tim's grievance. Tim isn't the only one complaining about Lott's op-ed appearances. Kevin Drum at CalPundit recently complained about a Lott op-ed in the _LA Times_ -- or did Tim already say that? Chalk it up to my senior moment.
But there's a more interesting question here about whether a writer is ever so discredited that work by him should not be published. Michael has paid an enormous price for his mistakes. So far as Tim and Kevin and I can see, John Lott has paid no price whatsoever. You seem to think that difference not terribly important. Could it be because you are anti-gun control? Tell me not!


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/9/2004

"When is the Wall Street Journal going to take a moral stance on John Lott?"

Maybe they're waiting for Lott to get favorable frontpage reviews in the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. Or maybe they're waiting for the CDC to fund Lott's program. Then again, maybe they're waiting for him to win a prestigious prize. Or for his colleagues to mindlessly defend him. Or for a professional organization to turn over their newsletter to him to use as a vehicle to attack his critics. Or perhaps they're waiting for his Parthian shot of innocence as he resigns, rather than take his case to the AAUP. Or maybe the WSJ editorial page has as much an ideological agenda as the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. I'm putting my money on the latter. I think you'll see the WSJ take on Lott about the same time as you see the New York Times Book Review and New York Review of Books run frontpage correction notices withdrawing their positive reviews. Such is life.


Tim Lambert - 2/8/2004

I don't think that Soft Skull should be promoting a fraud like Bellesiles. But the Wall Street Journal is hardly in a position to crtiticize Soft Skull when it continues to publish John Lott.
In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Lott claimed that polls by the Los Angeles Times, Gallup and Peter Hart showed that 98% of the time, merely brandishing stopped an attack. When he found out that those polls showed no such thing and other polls give a very different number Lott changed his story and claimed that the 98% number came from a survey he had conducted. His stories about how and when the poll was conducted have kept changing. He claims to have lost all the data from this survey and can't produce any evidence that it was ever conducted. He also miscoded his "More Guns, Less Crime" data and when this was discovered he tried to conceal the effect this had on his results by changing the way he did his calculations. When this, too, was discovered he tried to cover up the changes by altering dates and switching files on his website. Lott also made over a dozen anonymous five-star reviews of his own books and on and on.
In an earlier comment on Bellesiles, Strassel wrote:
"But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of L'affaire Bellesiles is that despite the enormity of the scandal, nearly every institution involved---from Emory University, to Columbia University's Bancroft Prize Committee, to the publisher--has refused to take a professional or moral stance."
When is the Wall Street Journal going to take a moral stance on John Lott?


Samuel Pearce Browning IV - 2/7/2004

Great they used my full name instead of just Samuel Browning. Okay I admit I fell out of the WASP tree and hit every branch on the way down, but it wasn't my intent to appear that formal or stuck up! I swear!


Samuel Pearce Browning IV - 2/7/2004

Benny has always puzzled me. In the last month as the econd Edition of Arming America was published he finally broke his year old policy and actually attempted to argue some historical facts. (cowpens) Notice I didn't say successfully, but it was a step up as he actually started to mention real books in his writing and not just internet sites. I was suspicious that this was so because he and Bellesiles were in touch and he didn't want to roll out Bellesiles's arguments before their public debute when they could be 'traced' back to Bellesiles. I suppose we will never know the truth but there was always something odd going on.


Ralph E. Luker - 2/7/2004

Josh, Don't forget to get those quotation marks or indents in place to make sure that we know what Josh is saying and what Ms. Strassel is saying.


Alec H Lloyd - 2/6/2004

Unfortunately, the audience that Bellesiles is writing for won't bother to consult those sources, either.

Look, even assuming he was scrupulously honest (ahem) it is clear that, like many anti-gun historians, he doesn't know much about the things.

His book is full of slight-of-hand about how dangerous/unreliable/crude firearms were, and this is supposed to explain why no one bothers to use them.

Now anyone who knows anything about period firearms knows that they had their limitations. However, given the choice between standing in front or behind a Brown Bess, I think we know where the safer position is.

One of the most frustrating things about dealing with the topic of fireams in general is the amazing amount of wilfull ignorance about them. This isn't subjective knowledge; it's applied physics.

A flintlock is no more mystical than a hand drill or steam engine. For someone to write on colonial carpentry without ever seeing a block of wood would by insane, yet historians think nothing of doing the equivalent when guns are involved. With military history, it is even worse. They not only haven't seen a block of wood, their knowledge of trees is purely speculative.

I appreciate the effort, but I'm afraid its wasted here.


Alec H Lloyd - 2/6/2004

Which cut is that?


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 2/6/2004

Bellesiles Misfires
An antigun "scholar" as today's Galileo? Oh please, just shoot me.

History has its fair share of persecuted geniuses, men who were ahead of their time and made to pay for it. There's the hemlocked Socrates, the house-arrested Galileo, the exiled Rousseau. And to this list of giants it seems that we are now expected to add the name of Michael Bellesiles.
...
The officials of the prestigious Bancroft Prize stripped him of his award, he left Emory and Knopf chose to stop publishing his book. Most of us sighed happily and figured that was the end of that academic scandal.

But oh, no. It turns out that Mr. Bellesiles is still riding his dead horse, his nonexistent guns still blazing. Soft Skull Press (which takes pride in putting out books that other publishers avoid like ricin) has not only agreed to reissue "Arming America" but has decided to release Mr. Bellesiles's latest response to his critics. This 59-page pamphlet, "Weighed in an Even Balance," is a spirited attempt by Mr. Bellesiles to turn himself into the world's latest misunderstood genius. As such, it's worth reading for pure
entertainment value.
...
http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/kstrassel/?id=110004653


Charles V. Mutschler - 2/6/2004

Checking In!

No sign of the ususal suspects, like Benny Smith or Think Tank.

Charles V. Mutschler


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 2/5/2004

Richard, thanks for your response to my questions. It seems that constitional law isn't for the weak of mind or the unpersistent. Chasing down all the relevant writings from all the valid state delegates and other contemporary legal authorities is clearly a whole history career by itself.

If I can ask another question here, what is behind Jack Rakove's attack on "originalism"? Isn't our entire legal system based on precedent and original intent? What happens to our legal system if it is decided that the original intent of the framers and the contemporary meanings of the words put into the Constitution and Bill of Rights over 200 years ago don't matter?


Richard Henry Morgan - 2/2/2004

Don, I've actually found some of my bookshelf dustcollectors that Bellesiles is outselling at B&N:

Geometry Civilized, by J. L. Heilbron

The Meaning of Evolution: the Morphological Construction and Ideological Reconstruction of Darwin's Theory, by Robert J. Richards

Purgatorio, by Dante (a new verse translation by W. S. Merwin)

Can't you do something, Don, to drive Bellesiles' numbers down more?


thomas j smith - 2/2/2004

Benny has been shut out by HNN. His last contribution a week or so ago was rejected by the HNN editor. I understand he got an email from HNN saying for him not to post any more unless he used his "real name." There had been earlier efforts to track him down by his internet addresses and by phone. He didn't want to give HNN any more personal information for verifying for those reasons. So the rest of you fellows can call eachother ignorant and talk about whose diaper needs changing and whatever else it is intelectuals do here. Just don't look for Benny. He's moved on


Robert Bryan Haskins - 1/30/2004

My prediction: This spells the end for "Think Tank," but Benny will survive it.

BTW, I prefer the Kimber CDP II .45. I got so excited when I found out it had these cool glow-in-the-dark tritium sights that I almost sewed a holster for it into my PJs. (just kidding, Benny)


Ralph E. Luker - 1/30/2004

Did Benny make the cut?


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 1/30/2004

Also, they're comfy in the hand, powerful enough for most self-defense situations, and fun to take to the range. :)

I don't think this forum is going to have much fake-name dropoff, whatever the contents of anyone's gun cabinet.


Don Williams - 1/29/2004

is that one doesn't fear to use one's real name on Internet posts.

(Note to any of Mr Ashcroft's Homeland Security lurkers.
I, of course, own no firearms. none. I was just citing
a hypothetical situation. )


Don Williams - 1/29/2004

Soft Skull's Arming America Sales ranks on this morning's http://www.BarnesNoble.com site is
402,230, down from 396,696 in my previous post above.

For comparison, I enclose the CURRENT sales rank of some of my other books:

a) The Confidence Man --Herman Melville: 182,747

b) The Big Con --David Maurer(1940): 60,162
(Has Soft Skull Press been ..er.. " put on the send"? )

c) Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong --
James W. Loewen : 1,339
(I haven't acquired it yet but plan to do so)

d) A Devil of A Whipping --Lawrence Babits (Battle of Cowpens): 108,955

e) A People Numerous and Armed -- John Shy (Revolutionary
War militia) : 176,368

f) Corruption and the Decline of Rome --Ramsay Macmullen:
308,186

g) Discourses on Livy -- Machiavelli : 40,793

h) Guns, Germs , and Steel --Jared Diamond: 867

i) The Annals of Imperial Rome -- P Cornelius Tacitus:
57,688 (probably much higher sales rank if you accumulated the current sales of this work by several publishers/translators )

j) The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire --Edward Gibbon: 6,594

k) The History of the Peloponnesian War -- Thucydides: 7,003


John G. Fought - 1/29/2004

Surprise! Surprise!
But hey, I always used my real name.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/29/2004

I suspect that some of us didn't make the cut.


Don Williams - 1/26/2004

Normally, a newly released book will rise quickly in Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble sales rank . The moneymakers , of course, have "legs" and will hold relatively high sales for months.

By that standard, the Soft Skull edition of Arming America appears to be doing extremely poorly. Amazon.com currently lists it's sales ranks as 846,752 . Barnes and Noble ,which appears to have a smaller inventory, lists its sales rank as 396,696. Those rankings suggest to me that very few copies of Arming America are being sold -- even with big discounts -- and that Arming America will sink beneath the waves within the next few weeks.


Don Williams - 1/26/2004

I\'ve perused the 74 page pamphlet given to the news media by Bellesiles with the release of the Soft Skull edition of Arming America. In Chapter 5 \"Specific Challenges: Matters of Interpretation\" ,page 54, Bellesiles addressed one of my criticisms of Arming America made on H-OIEAHC:
------------------
\" 9 Cowpens
“Bellesiles appears to show a strong bias against the militia concept in his
description of the Revolutionary War battle of Cowpens.”
This author does not question my sources, but rather insists that I disagree with some
web sites. As Professor Joan Gunderson responded to this particular statement:
\"Historians do differ on the degree of orderliness in the militia’s retirement from the field
at Cowpens, but that is typical of historical interpretation. We don’t all read the same
evidence in the same way.\"
Professor Richard Bernstein added what should be obvious to any student of history:
\"People can read historical evidence differently and draw different conclusions from that
evidence.30\"
Repeatedly, critics of Arming America find it difficult to accept that people can disagree
on how to interpret a specific historic event or body of evidence. And yet, without such a will-ingness
to disagree, history would quickly become dormant, as lifeless as any tyranny’s official
story. \"
30 Quotations from the h-oieach e-mail list, April 2002.
-------------

In my opinion, Bellesiles\' response is more false and misleading than his description of the militias at Cowpens.

For one thing, the \"web sites\" I cited in my H-OIEAHC post (April 10,2002 --see http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lm&list=H-oieahc ) were
, as I noted, online copies of published works by the US Army.
One was the book \"American Military History\" , published by the US Army\'s Center of Military History(CMH). CMH\'s mission, as it notes, is \" to write the official history of the United States Army. This history provides a comprehensive account of Army activities in peace and war and serves as an important tool in training officers and noncommissioned officers in the profession of arms.\".
Another work I cited was the US Army\'s monograph for the Cowpens Staff Ride -- the detailed lesson the Army develops for military officers touring historical battlegrounds to observe terrain, maneuvers,etc. The third work I cited was the National Park Service\'s historical account of Cowpens. For Bellesiles to casually dismiss all three official accounts as \"web sites\" is, I think , to grossly mislead his readers.

Two, I also cited Lawrence Babits\' detailed study of Cowpens --\"A Devil of a Whipping\".

Three, I noted on H-OIEAHC (August 9 2002) why I cited those works:
\"1) Some people here appear to think I\'m attacking Bellesiles\'\"interpretation\" of history. My argument is that an \"interpretation\" is false and misleading if it (a) omits important and relevant facts (b)makes false statements or (c) states facts in a misleading and
deceptive way. I do not criticize Arming America\'s description of the Battle of New Orleans because it fails to incorporate the views of contemporary historians like Remini. I criticize it because it does not reflect the facts provided in the most important primary sources
for the battle -- the papers of Andrew Jackson and his chief engineer,Arsene Latour. I criticize it because I think it misrepresents what Andrew Jackson wrote about the militia. I do not reference other historians because I favor their \"interpretation \" over Bellesiles\' --
I reference them when I see that they cite factual information contrary to Bellesiles\' thesis --factual information which Bellesiles has not
addressed. Mr Bell misunderstands my point re being selective about sources but not about the facts one is not obliged to incorporate the opinions of other historians if such opinions are ill-reasoned or
unsupported by evidence, but one is obliged to address the facts submitted by others. I refer readers again to my post of July 20 -- the
issue is over facts, not interpretations.\"
The primary sources I cited above , which agree with the Army descriptions of Cowpens, were all mentioned in Lawrence Babits book \"A Devil of a Whipping\", with the exception of the John Marshall history (Babits preferred to cite Col John Howard\'s letters in the Bayard papers.)

Four, contrary to what Bellesiles says above, I explicitly noted in a May 1 2002 post that Bellesiles\' own sources --Higginbotham and Tarleton --did not support his description of Cowpens.

Would not a honest historian, notified of his mistakes on H-OIEAHC , make an attempt to example cited sources and see if he was in error?

Note that Bellesiles did not address my comments on H-OIEAHC re why I thought that his description of the militia in the Battle of New Orleans was also false and misleading.

It appears to me that Bellesiles did not respond to review comments as a historian -- rather he, in my opinion, merely went through a hypocritical pretense of doing so.


- 1/26/2004

Bellesiles’ summary of the Cowpens battles, as quoted by Mr. Williams, bears a remarkable resemblance to the history of the battle recounted in "An Eyewitness History: The American Revolution." That book is a mainstream historical reference work found in many libraries and lauded by educators, particularly for its use of primary sources by author David F. Berg. As I alluded to in my previous thread, it then becomes a matter of whom do you trust. Mr. Berg holds degrees from Depauw University, Washington State University and the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored, co-authored or edited books and articles on American history, politics, folklore, etc., including the aforementioned book on the American Revolution, which was part of the Facts on File acclaimed ‘Eyewitness History’ series. Mr. Williams, to my knowledge, has not offered his credentials. For all we know, Mr. Williams’ version of history has as much veracity as the tales concocted by Hector Heathcoat, of Terrytoon fame. I am not sure how many history buffs know about Hector, whose narrator announced, "History has recorded many great names, but only we know about Hector Heathcoat."

Perhaps, we could paraphrase that famous cartoon line to make it relevant here: "History has been recorded by many great names, but only we know about Don Williams."


Don Williams - 1/22/2004

a correction to the post immediately above. Where I say
"The unit on Howard's far right which caused the unplanned retreat was a Virginia Continental unit --located to the left of Triplett's militia"

I should have said
"The unit on Howard's far right which caused the unplanned retreat was a Virginia Continental unit --located to the RIGHT of Triplett's militia"


Don Williams - 1/22/2004

In his recently released 74 page pamphlet, Bellesiles acknowledges the criticism I posted on H-OIEAHC re the description of Cowpens contained in Arming America Vers 1 (Knopf). I was surprised that he therefore left his description of Cowpens essentially unchanged in Vers 2 (Soft Skull) --not because my arguments were so compelling but because of the information contained in the sources I cited. I'll discuss this later. In the meantime, recall Bellesiles description of the militia at Cowpens (Arming America, Knopf, p 197-198). The same account ,with a minor change, is also on pages 197-198 of the Soft Skull edition ) and runs as follows:


"1)The Battle of Cowpens in 1781 offered further evidence that it was still possible for the militia to fulfill their vaunted role. But that victory was the consequence of Daniel Morgan's careful planning in placing the militia in front of his Continental units, and his working out a deal with the militia whereby they agreed to fire a volley and then leave the field.
2) Even then, Morgan repeatedly had to cajole and even beg the militia to keep their part of the bargain in the face of Banastre "Butcher" Tarleton's English forces, and
3) most of the militia initially made to flee as soon as the English started to leave the field.
[DonW Note: I assume Bellesiles meant to say "enter the field". In the Soft Skull edition, the phrase has been changed to "most of the militia initially made to flee as soon as they started to leave the field."--which is even more murky and confusing. ]
4) It seemed as though the militia understood any movement as full-scale retreat, and Morgan and Colonel Andrew Pickens had to place themselves between the militia and their horses, waving their swords threateningly in order to keep them from turning victory into rout.
5) The militia kept blundering around the field, convincing the British that the Americans were in flight.
At that very moment when the British confidently charged, Morgan had Lieutenant Colonel John Howards's Continentals perform a perfect change of direction, fire a withering musket volley at ten yards, and then charge the British with fixed bayonets.
6) Tarleton's forces collapsed before the American bayonets, and the militia, which had to fire only that single volley, managed to hold on to their guns this time. "



A) Bellesiles statement 1 is contradicted by the primary sources and it's not clear what basis he has for making it, since Bellesiles' sole primary source (British Commander Tarleton) could hardly have known what Morgan's orders were.

Contrary to Bellesiles' account, the primary sources show that the militia were set up to fire more than a "single volley" , that they were to ordered by Morgan to retreat behind the Continental Line when the British drew near, and that they were reinforce the right flank of the Continental Line after reassembly. The Primary Sources show that they largely fulfilled Morgan's orders. McDowell and Cunningham's units fired upon the British before retreating to Pickens line and units on Pickens line fired 1 to 2 volleys. After retreating, the militia did reinforce the Continental Line's right flank, although some were disrupted by a British cavalry charge during their retreat. Presumably they fired additional volleys after joining the Continentals. Other than some of the militia temporarily running from the British cavalry charge, the militia did not "flee" nor did they leave the battlefield. The only unit which could be considered to be "blundering around the field" was the Howard's Continental Line , which made an unplanned retreat about 100 yards to the rear -- an unplanned retreat triggered by a Continental unit under the command of Continental Captain Andrew Wallace.

What is rather comical is that Bellesiles' other source--Don Higginbotham's "Daniel Morgan, Revolutionary Rifleman" --agrees with the primary sources and also provides an account of militia actions contrary to Bellesiles, as I describe in detail below.


A.1) Bellesiles first statement is certainly contrary to John Marshall's account--which notes:
"The front line was composed entirely of militia, under the command of Colonel Pickens. Major M’Dowell, with a battalion of North Carolina volunteers, and Major Cunningham, with a battalion of Georgia volunteers, were advanced about one hundred and fifty yards in front of this line, with orders to give a single fire as the enemy approached, and then to fall back into the intervals , which were left for them in the center of the first line.
The militia , not being expected to maintain their ground long, were ordered to keep up a retreating fire by regiments, until they should pass the continental troops, on whose right they were directed again to form."
[DonW Note: The "first line" was Pickens line of militia. Recall that John Marshall said his account was based upon accounts he had received from Daniel Morgan, Col John Howard, and Col Washington ]

A.2) In his own account, Daniel Morgan noted that “Majers [sic] McDowell and Cunningham gave them a heavy and galling fire and retreated to the Regiments intended for their support. The whole of Colonel Picken's Command then kept up a Fire by Regiments retreating agreeable to orders.”. This is certainly consistent with John Marshall's description of Morgan's orders.


As Lawrence Babits notes, "Fire by Regiments" meant that Pickens line was firing in stages rippling down the line from one unit to the next so one unit could reload while another fired. Babits asserts that at least some, but not all, of the units on Pickens' line got off two volleys before having to retreat from the British bayonet charge in order to reload.

A.3) Tarleton merely says: "The militia, after a short contest, were dislodged". His account does indicate that the Continental line was much more resistant: "The fire on both sides was well supported, and produced much slaughter …As the contest between the British infantry in the front line and the continentals seemed equally balanced, neither retreating".

This was likely true -- partly due to the superior battle experience /training of Howards' Maryland/Delaware units but also due to the rapid reloading possible with the musket and the protection provided by the bayonets on the muskets. The superior range/accuracy and slower reloading of the rifle --and it's lack of a bayonet -- tended to force riflemen to fire on musketmen at longer ranges and to then retreat beyond musket range and reload. What's interesting is that roughly half of Howard's "Continental Line" was Virginia militias , some armed with rifles. While Harry Lee had suggested that many in Triplett and Tates militia had Continental experience, Lawrence Babits says that their pension records indicate that this is not so -- that only roughly 8 percent of Triplett's men mention having had Continental experience.

(Note: it is not entirely clear when, where, and to what extent Pickens militia began supporting the Continental Line. Babits indicates (p.107) that McDowell's riflemen had retreated to Morgan's right flank and that they were critical in delaying an attempted British cavalry charge/envelopment there until Washington's cavalry could return from beating back the cavalry charge over on Morgan's opposite (left flank). Lt McKenzie refers to this when he says " Captain Ogilvie, with his troop, which did not exceed forty men, was ordered to charge the right flank of the enemy. He cut his way through their line, but exposed to a heavy fire, and charged at the same time by the whole of Washington's dragoons, was compelled to retreat in confusion. " Tarleton also mentions use of cavalry against Morgan's right flank.)

A.4) Re militia initial contact with the British line, British Lt McKenzie says :" the military valour of British troops, when not entirely divested of the powers necessary to its exertion, was not to be [p98] resisted by an American militia. They gave way on all quarters, and were pursued to their continentals: the second line, now attacked, made a stout resistance."

A.5) Harry Lee said: " Two light parties of militia, under Major McDowel, of North Carolina, and Major Cunningham, of George, were advanced in front, with orders to feel the enemy as he approached; and, preserving a desultory well-aimed fire as they fell back to the front line, to range with it and renew the conflict. The main body of the militia composed this line, with General Pickens at its head….
“The American light parties quickly yielded, fell back, and arrayed with Pickens. The enemy shouted , rushed forward upon the front line, which retained its station, and poured in a close fire; but continuing to advance with the bayonet on our militia, they retired, and gained with haste the second line. Here, with part of the corps, Pickens took post on Howard’s right, and the rest fled to their horses; probably with orders to remove them to a further distance. "

A.6) Bellesiles cited source, Don Higginbotham's "Daniel Morgan, Revolutionary Rifleman" , says (p. 133)
"Morgan realized that these men [the militia] were capable guerrilla fighters; they were excellent shots with
the musket and rifle. With the exception of the Virginians, however, they could not be counted on if forced to perform in open battle against the military formations of Tarleton's regulars; so Morgan devised a plan that would make the most of their ability with firearms without compelling them to stand for long in combat…

Morgan's disposition of his troops was far from orthodox in that he posted his most unreliable units far in advance of the main line of defense. But Morgan thought he knew his militia, and he told his officers how he proposed to use this information in the event Tarleton attacked. When the British drew near, the skirmishers in the front line were to open a scattered fire and then fall back into Picken's line. After being joined by the skirmishers, Picken's men were to hold their fire until the enemy advanced within fifty yards of them. Then they were to take careful aim and shoot twice, attempting to pick off Tarleton's officers. Having completed this assignment, they were to retire in good order around the left side of Howard's main line to a position where they were to be re-formed and held in reserve."

I will include Higginbotham's account of what the militia did below.


B) Bellesiles’ statement 2 is contrary to the Primary Sources.
B.1) As posted above, Harry Lee quotes Col John Eager Howard, commander of the Continental Line, as saying:
" that Morgan did not decide on action until he was joined in the night by Pickens and his followers -- and adds: ‘I well remember that parties were coming in the most of the night, and calling on Morgan for ammunition, and to know the state of affairs. They were all in good spirits, related circumstances of Tarleton's cruelty, and expressed the strongest desire to check his progress’ "

There is not one source reporting that Morgan went around the countryside, howling appeals for help into the night in order to lure in the militias hiding in the darkness. It is unlikely that Morgan ever begged for anything -- while serving as a wagoner in the French and Indian War, he received 399 lashes on his back for punching out a British officer who addressed him in an insulting fashion.

A day or two before Cowpens, Morgan did ask some militia—whose term of enlistment had expired -- to stay and help him. The only other thing I can think of that Bellesiles might have been referring to is Morgan's visits to the men during the night in order to clearly explain his plan and bolster their confidence.
But if the militia had not intended to fight, they wouldn’t have ridden long distances well past sundown in order to assemble at Morgan's camp.

C) Bellesiles statement 3 makes no sense, even in the revised Soft Skull version: ""most of the militia initially made to flee as soon as they started to leave the field."
Assuming that "they" now refer to the militia rather than the English, it is still confusing.
How does one leave a battlefield during a battle without "fleeing".

C.1) As I noted above, the sources indicate that both the riflemen skirmishers and Pickens’ line fired with effect on the British line before retreating to the Continental line. In his report , Morgan noted that the militia riflemen under “Majers [sic] McDowell and Cunningham gave them a heavy and galling fire and retreated to the Regiments intended for their support. The whole of Colonel Picken's Command then kept up a Fire by Regiments retreating agreeable to orders.”. John Marshall’s account noted
“After a single well directed fire, M’Dowell and Cunningham fell back on Colonel Pickens, who, after a short but warm conflict, retreated into the rear of the second line”.

C.2) Possibly Bellesiles is referring to the incident in which some of the militia did flee to horses tied in the rear near Washington’s cavalry during the retreat to the rear of the Continental Line. This occurred, however, because the last of the militia retreating around Morgan's left flank were caught in the open–with unloaded rifles – , were being run down by British cavalry with sabers , and Washington was slow to protect the militia.

Also , as John Marshal and Harry Lee both noted, part of Pickens' militia assembled behind Howard’s right flank and renewed fighting.

C.3) Bellesiles own source, Don Higginbotham, says ( p. 136-139):

(1) "Tarleton sent a detachment of dragoons to disperse Morgan's skirmishers. When the horsemen approached the Americans, they received a volley that emptied fifteen saddles, and the survivors galloped to their rear. At this point, Tarleton began forming his battle line, without having clearly ascertained Morgan's
dispositions…."

>
(2) "The American skirmishers fired a few scattered shots before drifting back into Pickens' line. At Pickens' command, the militia loosed a deadly blast that momentarily staggered Tarleton's force. When the enemy came on again, their bayonets raised for a charge, the militia filed off toward toward the left end of Howard's line, as Morgan had instructed them. The retreat, orderly at first, became disorganized when Tarleton sent the dragoons on his right flank to disperse the militia. At the moment, the troops composing Pickens' far right had only reached the center of the field. Private James Collins feared his "hide" would soon be "in the loft", but Morgan, seeing the enemy horsemen dash forward, ordered Washington's cavalry to drive them away. As Tarleton's men rode among the Americans, Washington's horsemen struck with such force that the British soon fled. Though Washington pursued them, Collins reported they were as hard to catch as a "drove of wild Choctaw steers." >
"Meanwhile, Morgan had galloped to the end of Howard's line to rally the militia. While brandishing his sword and shouting encouragement to the last units to leave the field, he saw that many of the irregulars were heading for their horses near the second elevation. Riding after them, he shouted, "Form, form, my brave fellows…Old Morgan was never beaten." Assisted by Pickens, Morgan managed to halt most of the militia, and the two officers began to assemble them just behind Howard's men."
"Tarleton, taking the withdrawal of the militia for flight , regrouped his Legion and sent it up the slope. Howard's veterans gave the enemy a "well directed and incessant fire" wrote Morgan…"

C.4) What's really absurd is Bellesiles' suggestion that Morgan could stop a panic-strickened mob merely by waving his sword. This absurdity casts doubt on Bellesiles' depiction of the militia.

Plus Bellesiles' account is INTERNALLY INCONSISTENT --if the militia's job was really just to fire a single volley and to then leave the battlefield, who cared if they ran to their horses? Why would Morgan and Pickens bother stopping them or moving them to the rear of Howard's right flank?

C.5) Finally, Bellesiles own source --British Col Tarleton -- indicates that the cavalry attacking the militia on Morgan's left flank were driven off by heavy fire as well as Washington's cavalry -- indicating the some of the militia had reloaded their rifles and were rallying. As Tarleton noted (see above post):
"The cavalry on the right were directed to charge the enemy's left: They executed the order with great gallantry, but were drove back by the fire of the reserve, and by a charge of Colonel Washington's cavalry."

D) The misleading nature of Bellesiles statement 4 --and it's refutation by the sources -- has been discussed above.

E) What is misleading about Bellesiles' statement 5 is that it was the Continental Line --not the militia --which was "blundering around the field". All the sources testify to that Line's unplanned retreat. What
Bellesiles hilariously calls a "perfect change of direction" is a reference to the Line halting its running.
As I noted on H-OIEAHC, Bellesiles may have been misled by an error in Higginbotham's 1961 book. On
Page 139, Higginbotham says that Howard ordered the Virginia and Georgia militia companies on his right flank to wheel about to defend against a flank attack, that confusion resulted, and that those militia units began retreating to rear,pulling the rest of the Line with them.

However, this would be a tacit acknowledgment by Bellesiles that he knew that a significant part of the "Continental Line" was militia--as described in his Higginbotham source. It seems ..er.. unscholarly to call Triplett's units "militia" when they screw up but to call them "Howard's Continentals" when they are forcing the British infantry to flee from a musket volley and bayonet charge.

Plus, Lawrence Babits "A Devil of a Whipping" shows that Higginbotham and Bellesiles are mistaken. The unit on Howard's far right which caused the unplanned retreat was a Virginia Continental unit --located to the left of Triplett's militia --under Continental Captain Andrew Wallace.

F) Bellesiles Statement 6 is also contradicted by the sources. Both John Marshall and Harry Lee indicated that Pickens militia renewed the attack on Howard's right rear. But let Bellesiles' own source, Higginbotham, tell the story. From "Daniel Morgan, Revolutionary Rifleman", pages 140-141:

"Taken completely by surprise, the line of red and green staggered, at which point Howard yelled for a bayonet charge. Then , as Washington's cavalry crashed down upon Tarleton's right, Morgan and Pickens threw the re-formed militia at his left.
The result was a double envelopment, perfectly timed. The British were thrown into a "panic" admitted Tarleton…"

"..On the American right the 71st Regiment , composed of Scottish Highlanders, continued to fight. Finally, with Picken's militia hammering at one flank and Howard's troops at the other, its commander, Major Archibald McArthur, yield his sword."

The 71st Regiment was Lt McKenzie's unit. Recall how he described lashed at Tarleton in the 1782 London newspaper letter--posted above:

"You got yourself and your party completely ambuscaded, completely surrounded, upon all sides, by Mr. Morgan's rifle men. What was the consequence? The two detachments of British were made prisoners after a great slaughter was made among them, your legion dragoons were so broke by galling fire of rifle shot that your charging was in vain, till prudence, on your side, with about twenty men who were well mounted, made your retreat good, by leaving the remains of the poor blended legion in the hands of Mr. Morgan who I must say, though an enemy, showed great masterly abilities in this manoeuver. "

----------
"Riflemen" were Pickens' and Triplett's militia, not Continentals.


Josh Greenland - 1/21/2004

"Don, This posting is a conspiratorial crock ..."

How so?


Josh Greenland - 1/21/2004

Richard,
Thank you belatedly for your response. It did make some things clearer. I've gone over it once but hope to have the time to go over it again more carefully and reply if that's the thing to do.


Don Williams - 1/19/2004

The following is from “Light Horse” Harry Lee's "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States". I include it because , while Harry Lee was not at Cowpens, his cavalry unit was joined with Andrew Picken's mounted militia in the weeks following Cowpens by General Nathanael Greene. Andrew Pickens , a stern Scotch Irish Presbyterian, preferred to spend his time exterminating his Cherokees, Tories, and British soldiers -- and running his farm -- rather than to struggle for the limelight on the national stage. He left no account of the battle, but presumably Harry Lee learned much of Cowpens from Morgan, Washington, Pickens, and the soldiers who were at the Battle.

Here is Lee’s account, from his book “Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States” (finished 1810). Note Harry Lee’s comment toward the bottom that “Morgan derived very great aid from Pickens and his militia” and the earlier footnote in which Lee cited Continental Colonel Howard as saying that Morgan did not decide to fight Tarleton until the arrival of Pickens’ militia the night before the battle. Note also Lee’s statement that the riflemen in the militia were expert marksmen.
-----------------
"Morgan, having been accustomed to fight and to conquer, did not relish the eager and interrupting pursuit of his adversary; and sat down at the Cowpens to give refreshment to his troops, with a resolution no longer to avoid action, should his enemies persist in pressing it. Being appraised at the dawn of day of Tarleton's advance, he instantly prepared for battle. This decision grew out of irritation of temper, which appears to overruled the suggestions of his sound and discriminating judgment.*”

[* Harry Lee Footnote: ” On this passage Colonel Howard remarks --that Morgan did not decide on action until he was joined in the night by Pickens and his followers -- and adds: ‘I well remember that parties were coming in the most of the night, and calling on Morgan for ammunition, and to know the state of affairs. They were all in good spirits, related circumstances of Tarleton's cruelty, and expressed the strongest desire to check his progress’ The probability is that these circumstances confirmed the decision Morgan had already formed.-ed” ]

(continued) “ The ground about the Cowpens is covered with open wood, admitting the operation of the cavalry with facility, in which the enemy trebled Morgan. His flanks had not resting place, but were exposed to be readily turned; and Broad River ran parallel to his rear, forbidding the hope of a safe retreat in the event of disaster. Had Morgan crossed this river, and approached the mountain, he would have gained a position disadvantageous to cavalry, but convenient for riflemen, and would have secured a less dangerous retreat. But these cogent reasons, rendered more forcible by his inferiority in numbers, could not prevail. Confiding in his long-tried fortune, conscious of his personal superiority in soldiership, and relying on the skill and courage of his troops, he adhered to his resolution. Erroneous as was the decision to fight in this position, when a better might have been easily gained , the disposition for battle was masterly.

Two light parties of militia, under Major McDowel, of North Carolina, and Major Cunningham, of George, were advanced in front, with orders to feel the enemy as he approached; and, preserving a desultory well-aimed fire as they fell back to the front line, to range with it and renew the conflict. The main body of the militia composed this line, with General Pickens at its head. At a suitable distance in the rear of the first line a second was stationed, composed of the Continental infantry and two companies of Virginia militia, under Captains Triplett and Taite, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard. *

[*Harry Lee Footnote: “These two companies of militia were generally Continental soldiers, who, having served the time of their enlistment, had returned home regularly discharged. A custom for some time past prevailed, which gave to us the aid of such soldiers. Voluntary proffer of service being no longer fashionable , the militia were drafted conformably to a system established by law; and whenever the lot fell upon the timid or wealthy, he procured, by a douceur, a substitute, who, for the most part, was one of those heretofore discharged.” ]

(continued) “Washington’s cavalry, re-enforced by a company of mounted militia armed with sabers, was held in reserve, convenient to support the infantry, and protect the horses of the rifle militia, which were tied, agreeably to usage, in the rear.

On the verge of battle, Morgan availed himself of the short and awful interim to exhort his troops, First addressing himself , with his characteristic pith, to the line of militia, he extolled the zeal and bravery so often displayed by them, when unsupported by the bayonet or sword; and declared his confidence that they could not fail in maintaining their reputation, when supported by chosen bodies of horse and foot, and conducted by himself. Nor did he forget to glance at his unvarying fortune, and superior experience; or to mention how often, with his corps of riflemen, he had brought British troops, equal to those before him, to submission. He described the deep regret he had already experienced in being obliged , from prudential considerations, to retire before an enemy always in his power; exhorted the line to be firm and steady; to fire with good aim; and if they would pour in but two volleys at killing distance, he would take upon himself to secure victory. To the Continentals he was very brief. He reminded them of the confidence he had always reposed in their skill and courage; assured them that victory was certain if they acted well their part; and desired them not to be discouraged by the sudden retreat of the militia , THAT being part of his plan and orders. Then taking post with this line, he waited in stern silence for the enemy.

The British lieutenant-colonel, urging forward, was at length gratified with the certainty of battle; and being prone to presume on victory, he hurried the formation of his troops. The light and Legion infantry, with the seventh regiment, composed the line of battle; in the centre of which was posted the artillery, consisting of two grasshoppers; and a troop of dragoons was placed on each flank. The battalion of the seventy first regiment, under Major McArthur, with the remainder of the cavalry, formed the reserve. Tarleton placed himself with the line, having under him Major Newmarsh, who commanded the seventh regiment. The disposition was not completed, when he directed the line to advance, and the reserve to wait further orders.”*

[* Harry Lee Footnote: “Tarleton’s cavalry are stated at three hundred and fifty, while that under Morgan did not exceed eighty.
“Morgan’s militia used rifles , and were expert marksmen; this corp composed nearly one half of his infantry. “
Tarleton’s detachment is put down as one thousand. Morgan, in a letter to General Greene, after his victory, gives his total as eight hundred. “ ]

(continued) “The American light parties quickly yielded, fell back, and arrayed with Pickens. The enemy shouted , rushed forward upon the front line, which retained its station, and poured in a close fire; but continuing to advance with the bayonet on our militia, they retired, and gained with haste the second line.

Here, with part of the corps, Pickens took post on Howard’s right, and the rest fled to their horses; probably with orders to remove them to a further distance. Tarleton pushed forward, and was received by his adversary with unshaken firmness. The contest became obstinate; and each party, animated by the example of its leader, nobly contended for victory. Our line maintained itself so firmly, as to oblige the enemy to order up his reserve. The advance of McArthur re-animated the British line, which again moved forward; and , outstretching our front, endangered Howard’s right. This officer instantly took measures to defend his flank, by directing his right company to change its front; but mistaking this order, the company fell back; upon which the line began to retire, and General Morgan directed it to retreat to the cavalry. This manoeuvre being performed with precision, our flank became relieved, and the new position was assumed with promptitude. Considering this retrograde movement the precursor of flight, the British rushed on with impetuosity and disorder; but , as it drew near, Howard faced about , and gave it a close and murderous fire. Stunned by this unexpected shock, the most advanced of the enemy recoiled in confusion. Howard seized the happy moment , and followed his advantage with the bayonet.” *

[Harry Lee Footnote: “In this charge, the brave Kirkwood , of the Delawares, was conspicuous—See “Garden’s Anecdote”, p. 397 “ ]

(continued) “This decisive step gave us the day. The reserve having been brought near the line, shared in the destruction of our fire, and presented no rallying point to the fugitives. A part of the enemy’s cavalry, having gained our rear, fell on that portion of the militia who had retired to their horses. Washington struck at them with his dragoons , and drove them before him. Thus, by simultaneous efforts, the infantry and cavalry of the enemy were routed. Morgan pressed home his success, and the pursuit became vigorous and general. The British cavalry having taken no part in the action, except the two troops attached to the line, were in force to cover the retreat. This , however, was not done. The zeal of Lieutenant-Colonel Washington in pursuit having carried him far before his squadron, Tarleton turned upon him with the troop of the seventeenth regiment of dragoons, seconded by many of his officers. The American lieutenant-colonel was first rescued from this critical contest by one of his sergeants, and afterward by a fortunate shot from his bugler’s pistol. ++
[++ Footnote—At this point , there is a quote from John Marshall’s description of the incident from Marshall’s “Life of Washington”. However, this citation must have been inserted by Robert E Lee -- Harry Lee’s son and famous Confederate General –when Robert E Lee revised his father’s Memoirs. John Marshall’s “Life of Washington did not come out until almost 20 years after Harry Lee finished his first version of Memoirs. ]

(continued) “This check concluded resistance on the part of the British officer, who drew off with the remains of his cavalry, collected his stragglers, and hastened to Lord Cornwallis. The baggage guard, learning the issue of battle, moved instantly toward the British army. A part of the horse, who had shamefully avoided action, and refused to charge when Tarleton wheeled on the impetuous Washington, reached the camp of Cornwallis at Fisher’s Creek, about twenty five miles from the Cowpens, in the evening. The remainder arrived with Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton on the morning following. In this decisive battle we lost about seventy men, of whom twelve only were killed. The British infantry, with the exception of the baggage guard, were nearly all killed or taken. One hundred, including ten officers, were killed; twenty –three officers and five hundred privates were taken. The artillery, eight hundred muskets, two standards, thirty-five baggage wagons, and one hundred dragoon horses, fell into our possession. *
[* Harry Lee citation: “Cornwallis’s letter to Sir H. Clinton”]

(continued) “The victory of the Cowpens was to the South what that of Bennington had been to the North. General Morgan, whose former services had placed him high in public estimation, was now deservedly ranked among the most illustrious defenders of his country. Starke fought an inferior , Morgan a superior , foe. The former contended with a German corps +, the latter, with the elite of the Southern army, composed of British troops.”
[+ Harry Lee Footnote: “This remark is not made to disparage the German troops serving with the British army in America. They were excellent soldiers; but, for light services, they were inferior to the British. Ignorant of our language, unaccustomed to woods, with their very heavy dress, they were less capable of active and quick operations.
The splendid issue of the subsequent campaign, and the triumph of Gates has been noticed, as well as the instrumentality of Morgan in producing the auspicious event. Great and effectual as were his exertions, General Gates did not even mention him in his official dispatches. “ ]

(continued) “In military reputation the conqueror at the Cowpens must stand before the hero of Bennington. Starke was nobly seconded by Colonel Warner and his continental regiment; Morgan derived very great aid from Pickens and his militia, and was effectually supported by Howard and Washington. The weight of the battle fell on Howard; who sustained himself admirably in trying circumstances, and seized with decision the critical moment to complete with the bayonet the advantage gained by his fire.

Congress manifested their sense of this important victory by a resolve, approving the conduct of the principal officers, and commemorative of their distinguished exertions. To General Morgan they presented a gold medal, to Brigadier Pickens a sword, and to Lieutenant-Colonels Howard and Washington a silver medal , and to Captain Triplett a sword.”



Richard Henry Morgan - 1/18/2004

Nice bait and switch, Benny. You made a quip about Cramer as "an amateur historian", and I pointed out that is false. Now you want to compare his credentials to Bernstein's. OK. Granted. Now explain why Bernstein, with his greater credentials has now left Bellesiles swinging in the wind.

You made a crack about peer review, and Williams avoiding it, and I pointed out that Bellesiles published in a non-peer-reviewed journal. No response? If it's a hit against Williams, why is it not against Bellesiles?

The truth is not determined by comparing credentials -- Einstein was a patent clerk. The appeal to credentials is just a form of argumentum ad verecundiam. Refer to the sources I give for #Wills and US v. Miller. Wills is just plain wrong, yet he has a PhD in Classics from Yale, and I don't. How do you explain that by way of credentials? And criticizing my post because it includes not an opinion by the SAF, but merely a scan of a filed government reply brief in the Emerson case, is just an example of the genetic fallacy.

I don't trust Cramer's expertise, because the issue isn't decided on the basis of comparative "expertise". I simply checked the sources he cited in refutation of Bellesiles on the issue of central storage, and Cramer seems correct to me. What I admire about Cramer, and others, and what I try to achieve myself to the extent possible, is that they cite and link to the sources, and don't ask me to trust them.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/18/2004

Don, This posting is a conspiratorial crock ...


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

Mr Sandburg was referring to the custom in the South, when one lacks evidence in a debate, of making a vehement unsupported assertion followed up by a strong spit of tobacco juice to emphasize the universal truth one has just spoken.

The history profession seems to be doing that in its attempt to undermine the Second Amendment.

I acknowledge that discussing some big issues in depth --e.g., the validity of Charles Beard's idea that economic and financial interests controlled the detailed design of the COnstitution -- can take years of scholarship and hence is often, but not necessarily always, left to the full time scholars.

But specific issues --like what actually happened at a specific battle -- are narrow enough that anyone can acquire and review the available evidence.

Benny seems not to recognize the strong forces that professional historians work under at the moment. When you do an activity for a living--to satisfy a patron of any kind -- you lose some control and objectivity as your intellect is twisted by self interest. As a field becomes more competitive and ideological, such forces greatly warp scholarship and pulls it away from truth. I frankly wonder if the Emory Investigation would have reached the same conclusion/result if Al Gore , vice George Bush, had been elected President--and hence had acquired control of NEH funds.

To what extent was the history developed at the Chicago Kent Symposium twisted by the Joyce Foundations $80,000 funding -- particularly when the Joyce has much more where that came from.

True experts KNOW they have reviewed the evidence and that they have drawn reasonable conclusions from the evidence that they can defend --including producing the evidence itself. WHere has that happened in the Bellesiles affair?


Benny Smith - 1/18/2004

I am obliged to Mr. Richard Morgan for his recent rejoinder as it delves closer to the substance of my original subject topic. Regarding 'amateur' scholars, it is apparent in this age of the internet that anyone with a computer and too much time on their hands can fancy themselves an expert. And in this heavily politicized country we live in, this passes muster with many. Oftentimes, the necessary prerequisite to being recognized as an expert is not degrees, professional credentials, peer respect and the like, but possessing the right political ideology. Hence, you see right wing politico Newt Gingrich offering ‘expert history commentary’ on Fox news, and Mr. Morgan's Danish statistician Lomborg enthralling even more right wing followers with his ‘scientific analysis’ that poo-poos the threat of global warming. Among some right wing zealots, Rush Limbaugh is an expert on everything. Then it becomes a tug of war between political forces to enthrone some experts, while discrediting others--an ugly process that led to the intellectual lynching of Professor Bellesiles.

To illustrate, let’s compare Richard Bernstein with Clayton Cramer, since Mr. Morgan mentioned both. Mr. Bernstein has produced or co-produced at least a dozen books having to do with law and history, the last one just recently reviewed by the New York Times. Sample reviews of one of his works can be found here . . .

http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/berame.html


When one of Clayton Cramer's books can produce that type of across-the-board plaudits, then maybe he will have the requisite respect and credentials to get a book published through Oxford University Press, which recently refused one of his works. Now, certainly Mr. Morgan can choose to trust Mr. Cramer's expertise, whether as a critic of Arming America, or on the gay community’s alleged support of child molestation, or on the evil and murderous ambitions of our nations's leaders. Personally, I don't think Mr. Cramer has the credentials suitable to unstrap Professor Bellesiles’ gun holster, let alone academic credentials of any merit.

As far as Mr. Morgan trying to distance himself from the NRA and the gun lobby, I will note in passing that Mr. Morgan referenced for our edification the website of the Second Amendment Foundation. One need only to visit its homepage to determine that they are even more gun rights radical than the NRA. That makes me wary of Mr. Morgan's contributions here, just as I am of any other NRA propagandist.


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

test


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

In a letter to Feb 13 letter to General Butler, Greene acknowledges that even if the militia showed up, he had no food to feed them, due to the state of the US supply system.
---------------
Sir

Your letter of the 11th is this moment come to hand. I wrote you yesterday to collect your Militia and have them in readiness in the neighbourhood of Hillsborough. The enemy press so hard upon us and our force is so inferior to the enemies we shall be obliged to cross over into Virginia.

It is evident this Army is Lord Cornwallis's first and great object, The destruction of which would compleat the reduction of the State. Your Militia cannot either recieve arms or Ammunition with me as I am in want of both. And if they could their numbers would be too inconsiderable to authorise a stand, nor would our present position warrant it without great superority of numbers, which cannot be expected from one or two Counties.

The only way in which the State can form any considerable force will be to collect from each County a certain number and rendezvous at some given point, Say Halifax. In this way arms may be got for the Militia of each County in the County to which they belong. But in no other as it is impossible to furnish Arms for all the Militia of a County without calling them out of other Counties.

The moment I can secure our stores, and Lord Cornwallis ceases his pursuit I shall fall into his rear. If he cannot over take us he will file off towards Halifax and pass through Hillsborough. The Militia collecting between him and Genl Arnold may prevent a junction until I can collect a force sufficient to attack his rear. All the Militia of your State have deserted me except about 80 Men. In this situation and having many Stores exposed I found it necessary to pursue the present route. I wish my numbers had been considerable enough to have authorised a stand. If we can keep out of Lord Cornwallis's reach, he will gain no other advantage by his Manoeuver than having passed through the Country, and it may serve to convince the Legislature of what they ought to have known long since, that but a well appointed Army can save them from subjugation.

I have left unattempted to save your State, and run every risque and hazard that prudence would dictate to see whether the State could afford the succour necessary to authorise a stand. But if we could have got men, it would have been almost impossible to have fed them, in the present deranged State of the Commisarres Department. I am Sir

your humbl S

N Greene
----------
The bright side to all this, of course, is that Cornwallis army was trimmed down, King George had spent huge amounts of money in the Southern campaign --yet achieved nothing, and the Southern militia had showed that they could not be subdued, that they could block formation of a puppet government, and that no commercial profit could be gained while they existed. When the Bankers in Holland did their profit-loss calculations, they cut off King George's line of credit and the game was over.


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

Sir

I have been honored with your Letter of the 24 Jany last.

You know I am not much elated at good News or depressed at bad. I acknowledge my Breast was warmed with the most lively Emotion at knowing your great Success.1 An Instance so brilliant in all its parts has not occurred to my Knowledge during the War. Your real Friends feel for you much. While they know you have Enemies, they are certain you dont deserve so ill a Fate. Your Enemies are not personal, but political. The Number is small. I find however, they very readily [Page 278] condemn in you, what they would extol in your Predecessor as the Result of uncommon Wisdom and Fortitude. I dont mean your military Conduct, but political Sentiments respecting the Nature of Armies in this Country.2 My most serious Assiduity is now exerted to convince every Body, that your late Success was the Result of Skill, and not of Force, that we must soon hear of your retiring, & that you must be upon the defensive 'till we can give you Magasines and regular Troops. But, my good Friend, our civil Condition is very similar to your military one, only you have one Advantage, wch is Credit, derived from Victory. We are obliged to begin every Thing anew. In an Intervall between the laying aside of old, & introducing new Systems there must be a political Pause; And this Pause will injure your Department more than any other. Congress have no Money.3 I am one of a Committee upon the Affairs of the Southern Department.4 I hope you will Derive some Advantage from our Measures. We have pretty good Authority that on the Night of the Twenty second last, a Brittish seventy four was stranded on Montauge Point [Montauk Point, Long Island], and another dismasted.5 Should that be true, the French Squadron will be superior to the British; In which Case, Arnold may be dislodged from Virginia, and Provisions and Men may be sent you by Water, as well as Arms and Amunition.6 For I am determined to get you the Pennsylvania Line, if possible; For I dont think the great Knife has been ground lately.7 You have heard of the Mutiny of that Line. The Consequence has been that most of them have been discharged, & the remainder furloughed. However, about a Thousand of them will be assembled at their Regimental Rendesvous in about two Weeks.8 I inclose you a political Account of that Insurrection; As it was written by your Friend, it will give you some Amusement.9

Congress have agreed to appoint a Superindendant of Finance, a Secretary of War, A Secry of Marine, & Secry of Foreign Affairs. This arrangement will knock up many useless Boards, & direct our executive Business to certain Points. It will create a Responsibility in the respective great Departments & prevent Infinity of Confusion.10

Congress have called upon the States to vest their willfull Powers to levy and collect Duties upon Importations and Prise Goods. Should this Measure succeed, you will perceive our System aided by increasing Vigor, and public Credit rear its Head amidst surrounding Disgrace.11 We are now upon the great Subject of Revenue. And as our Plans increase, I will let you know it.12 I am extremely happy in this City, being honored with every kind of polite and generous Attention.

A Few days since I had the Honor of a Letter from your good Lady in which I am so happy as to find she, and the little ones, are well. I have wrote Her your Success, and have endeavored to fortify her Mind against any Reverse of Fortune that succeed thro' your great Inequality [Page 279] in Force and Magasines to Lord Cornwallace. I have requested to address her Letters to me, wch I can send by pretty certain Conveyances.13

Maryland, I am very certain, have acceded to the Confederation; & the Ancient Dominion have graciously ceded to Congress their Lands North West of the Ohio; & I suppose will soon include the Island of Japan, and that Tract of Country extending from the [portion damaged] Calmuck Tartar down to the Black Sea.14

God bless you. Let me hear from you often. I wont be in Debt.

Adiu my good Friend

J M Varnum
************
Note: at the end, Varnum is ridiculing Virginia's claims to the American West

The above items are from the online collection of Nathanael Greene's letters:

The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, ed. Dennis Conrad et al. (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999). Full texts of documents calendared in The Papers of General Nathanael Greene (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), Vol. 7, pp. 152-289. http://adh.sc.edu [Accessed (supply date here)]


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

In a Feb 9 1781 letter to George Washington, Greene informs him that the Carolina militia are refusing to turn out and that Greene is crossing the Dan River into Virginia with a force of about 700 men running from Cornwallis' army of 2500-3000 troops. Some extracts from his letter:
-----------
"Genl Davidson who had great influence among the Mecklenberg & Roan [Rowan County] Militia had made use of all the arguments in his power to get the Militia into the field, but without effect. They had been so much in service and their families so distressed that they were loth to leave home even on the most pressing occasion."
--------------
"As soon as I arrived at the Lt Infantry camp I wrote letters to all the Militia Officers over the mountains and in the upper Country to embody their men and join the Army as early as possible.6 But very few have joined us, and those principally without arms or amunition. We have no provisions but what we recieve from our daily collections.7 Under these circumstances I called a council who unanimously advised to avoid an action and to retire beyond the Roanoke [i.e., the Dan] immediately. A copy of the proceedings I have the honor to enclose.8"
-----------
I have ordered Genl Marion to cross the Santee River and Genl Sumter to collect the Militia in the upper part of S. Carolina. Genl Pickens has orders to take command of the men in arms in the rear of the enemy.14 [Page 269]


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

In a February 9 1781, Nathanael Greene informs Governor Abner Nash that Greene's forces must flee North Carolina,complains about militia stealing his guns
---------------------
Sir

I wrote your Excellency at the Island Ford on the 3d of this instant, and informed you of the situation of the enemy and our Army. The distressed state which the latter was in as well as the badness of the roads, deep creeks, and a thousand other difficulties, prevented our forming a junction at the Yadkin as I first intended. Finding Lord Cornwallis pressed hard upon our rear, I orderd our Army to file off to Guilford Court House, where part of it arrivd last evening, the rest has not come up yet.1

The Enemy crossed the Yadkin at the Shallow Ford the day before yesterday in the evening, and were encamped the night before last three miles on this side the ford; and I expect they will be at this place by to morrow noon at farthest.2

Our force is so unequal to the enemy, as well in numbers as condition that it is the unanimous opinion of a Council of war held this day, that it would be inevitable ruin to the Army and no less ruinous to the American cause to hazard a General action; and therefore have advisd to our crossing the Dan River immediately; which will be carried into execution as soon as possible; and all the Stores have been orderd over the Roanoke accordingly.3

Nothing can be more painful than this measure; but a defeat is certain if we come to action; and your Excellency can easily conceive the fatal consequences of having our little Army dispersed small as it is; nor do I know whether it will be in our power to avoid an action, the enemy moves with such rapidity. We have retarded their motions all we could but our force has been so unequal to theirs that they have moved with amazing rapidity.

There are few Militia collected nor can I see the least prospect of collecting any considerable force; and if we could, we have no provision [Page 265] or forage. Col [John] Lutterell's party that was three hundred strong a few days since, are now reduced to Thirty Six as the Colonel reported this morning; and those that have gone have carried off with them all their arms. There is besides these about two hundred militia on the ground; and upwards of two hundred on the march under General Lillington and may join this evening.4 These are all the Militia we have with us that are armed. There are some Militia in the rear of the enimy, but their numbers are very inconsiderable, nor can I tell whether there is a prospect of their increasing.

Your Excellency must take such steps for the preservation of public Stores and other matters that concerns the interest of the State, as you may think the occasion requires. Should I leave the State, I shall return the moment I find the army in a condition to take the field.

I cannot stop this letter without one observation, which is that I think it an endless task to attempt to arm and equip all your Militia. Such a waste of arms and ammunition as I have seen in different parts of this State, is enough to exhaust all the Arsenals of Europe. Nor ought arms in my opinion to be put into the hands of doubt[ful] characters: for you may depend upon it such will never be useful in the hour of diffi[cul]ty. I am with great respect

your Excellencys most Obdt humble

N Greene


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

In a Feb 3 1781 letter to Baron Steuben, General Nathanael Greene complains:

------------
"These Southern States are in such a defenceless condition, that they must fall under the dominion of the enemy, unless reinforcements are immediately sent from the Northward. You know I have always considered the incursions in Virginia as of no consequence if we could prevent their penetrating this way. Pray send on all the men you can equip: and if Colo Carrington has not left Virginia desire him to join the Army as soon as he can; and Major Forsyth also, if he has the appointment of Commissary General for the Southern Department.10 In moving the Stores from Salisbury I found upwards of 1700 stand of Continental Arms in one Store, kept for the use of the Militia, in the most miserable order you [can] imagine. Such distribution of publick stores is enough to ruin a nation. These are some of the happy effects of defending the country with Militia; from which good lord deliver us."

-----------
Yet at the end of the above letter, Greene says:

"If the Enemy distress us in this State, I am not without hopes of giving them trouble in their rear; and Shall take measures to this purpose, with Generals Sumter, Marion and Pickens.12 O that we had in the field as Henry the Fifth said, some few of the many thousands that are Idle at Home.13 I am dear Baron

Your Most Obedt humble Sr

Nath Greene "
------------------
Note that "Generals Sumter, Marion and Pickens" were commanders of the guerrilla southern militias --the forces doing the fighting.

By that point in the war, the men of the US understood that only the village idiot would be stupid enough to enlist in the Continental Army -- to rot in some shithole of a camp, to freeze from lack of clothing and to starve to death while being fucked over by the corrupt morons in the Congress and state governments.


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

I wonder why Bellesiles bashed the militia (falsely in my view), but overlooked the major mutinies occurring in the Continental Army. General Robert Howe, in a February 2 1781 letter to General Greene, describes them:
--------------------
We also have had our Embarassments, the sources of them I need not enumerate to you. [Things?] have principally sprang from those causes you, and I, have so frequently Descanted upon, & most of them have been by us foretold, & expected. You can not but have heard of the mutiny of the whole Pensylvania line, & the murder of some of their officiers & Brother soldiers who offered to support the officers. Our Good General was desirous of Coercing them, a party was form'd for this purpose, and the command was to have been mine, But Civil Authority took the management of this matter to themselves. A Treaty was open'd with them, Even while they had arms in their hands, and the affair has been Quieted as I am informed at the loss of at least one half of the Division by Discharges; & that the murders committed were not attoned for nor are they to be atton'd for. The mode fallen upon where original inlistments could not be found (How few of which Exist at this time) was to take the soldiers oath in his own cause, the consequence of which you know & will I persuade myself agree with me in opinion, that perjury had authority to become frequent.

Whilst this was Transacting the Jesey line caught the Infection, & went off in a Body. The General Instantly order'd, me off with a Detachment, the Result of which the enclos'd copy of my letter to him will inform you. I have often in conversation mentioned to you the good opinion I had of, & the confidence I plac'd in the New England Troops but highly as I thought of them, they have Exalted themselves exceedingly with me by their conduct in the Expedition against the Insurgents. The service was peculiar. It was not against a common Enemy, but against a Brother soldier who held out as the object of his aim only a redress of Grievances, while they were actually suffering under similar grievances; to Rise superior to the feelings which those reflections could not but Excite, plainly Demonstrates that a sense of duty & love of their Country, precedes with them every other considera tion, and it should pull from community its applause, rewards & blessings. I think to write to Mr Hancock upon this subject tomorrow or next day, & this, or something like this, will I say to him.

When the General upon the Pennsylvania revolt call'd all the General Officers together, & all the Field Officers of the [ ] New England Line, and asked their opinion whether the men would march cheerfully on, & Act faithfully in such a service, will it not Excite your Indignation to be told that any person should Express doubts upon the Occasion, and yet there were two, or three, & those high up who not only doubted, but urged that the men had greatly suffer'd, that they had grievances, that this was to be feared, & 'tother apprehended, in short Buggaboo's & Hobgoblins, started up in their fancys, which however well meant, I did not approve, tho' I regard the men who uttered them.

I pledged, myself, to the General that the men, would go, and that they would acquit themselves, just as they did & in this opinion I was supported by Every officer, those above mentioned Excepted.

The States have not (I mean some of them) seconded Congress in their Efforts to obtain an army for the war, and the policy of Three years men appears to be the prevailing System. I only wish that they have no reason to regret it. Remember me very particularly to your Family. Write to me often, very often, I beg of you. Be as happy as I wish you, and you will be very happy indeed. I am, my Dear sir, with affection & friendship

Yours sincerely &c.

Robt Howe

PS Dont complain of my bad writing for I have done my best, but learn to read it.


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

Baron Steuben's Jan 28, 1781 letter to Nathanael --re von Steuben's attempts to deal with the British invasion of Tidewater Virginia led by Benedict Arnold --is interesting. See http://adh.sc.edu/dynaweb/MEP/ng/@Generic__BookView
(click on "Published Material" then click again to expand it --or click on Index.)


It includes the following:

"In making this Disposition I had in View as a very material object the Keeping up as small a number of Militia as possible and therefore reduced the 4000 called out to the above number. The Militia of the Counties adjacent to the River I have orderd to be relievd by others from the back Country and as a great part of these will bring Rifles with them I have orderd the spare Arms to be collected & Kept on Waggons ready to Arm the Militia of the Vicinity should we be in want of them.

I have directed Genl Weedon to remain at Fredricksburg, to discharge all the Militia adjacent to that place but to keep ready 1000 Stand of arms that they may be Armed in case the Enemy should move that way & in that case also Genls Muhlenberg & Nelson are to move the same way."

---------------
Steuben's also notes that "The Continental Troops being too naked to Keep the Field had been sent back to Chesterfield Co Ho "

Steuben's letter indicates that he and other commanders had decided that it was infeasible to try to force Arnold out of Petersburg --hence, that they would simply block the routes out of Petersburg and see what Arnold's next move would be.

Note Steuben's view that the militia coming from the back country would be amply armed with private rifles. Note also that he collected muskets from the Tidewater region to hand out to rotating groups of militia. Jefferson, in his 1781 Notes on Virginia, noted that the Tidewater region had been totally denuded of private firearms to supply Virginia's Continentals (most of whom had been captured in the fall of Charleston -- a major disaster resulting from Continental General Lincoln's stupid decision to defend a penisula subject to the full force of the British Navy.) Jefferson had also noted that men west of the Blue Ridge were armed with rifles. Fortunately those private firearms were available to defend Virginia after General Lincoln lost over 4000 muskets and several hundred cannon to the British.


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

The Nathanael Green papers I cited above have a number of interesting items pertaining to the supplies. It seems that the Continentals were often unable to fight because they were almost naked from lack of clothing and often scrounging for food -- Greene noted that if not for the aid of the Carolina militia, his Continental forces would be scattered over the land due simply to the need to forage. His letters to Maryland,etc. complain bitterly that the Mid Atlantic states are not giving the Southern states help --both troops and supplies. He notes that the problem is political -- that the United States is actually much richer in 1781 than years earlier but that the Continental Army and supplies to militia are lacking due to a failure to collect the necessary taxes (note that COngress had avoided this by printing money --to the point that US money had become worthless. ) Other letters simply note the failure of supply due to the usual problems in the Continental commissary --stupidity, chokepoints and delays due to the need to obtain the necessary political permission,etc. The letters confirm that broader view of failure in the supply system given in this US Army study, which also discusses the toll imposed by corruption and politically-protected profiteering:
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/RevWar/risch/risch-fm.htm

If you think matters have changed today, I regret to inform you that you are mistaken. Circa 1994, the Director and Deputy Director of a major US intelligence agency were relieved of command after it was revealed that they had managed to build a $500 million headquarters building in Fairfax County (outside Washington) without the knowledge of the Congressional oversight committees and had accumulated almost $4 billion in a slush fund unknown to COngress. This at a time when the US ARmy cutbacks had trimmed almost 40% of its soldiers from the rolls and when enlisted mens' families were being forced to apply for food stamps.


Don Williams - 1/18/2004

I thought Benny might being interested in the following report to General Nathanael Green from a militia unit re it supply of firearms. This is from the cited online collection of Nathanael Green papers at http://adh.sc.edu/dynaweb/MEP/ng/

****************
From Colonel Thomas Farmer

Camp near Salisburey [N.C.] Jany 22nd. 1781

Sir

Our number of Troops from Hillsborough District being noways Compleat, Have Ordered a Capt & Leut to Collect the Guard you appd out of the Delinquents.1

The Troops under my Command Concist of about 310 Including Officers Soldiers & Wagoners. We have Seven Wagons, Two Thousand [Page 170] four Hundred Cartridges[,] Two Hundred & forty Muskets, One Hundred & Thirty Eight Bayonets, One Hundred & fifteen C[artridge] Boxes[,] forty nine Knap Sacks, Thirty five Pots, Twelve axes and Thirty-six flints. We Expected to be furnished with flints at this post, & all other Articles Sutable for Camp, but Cannot. Have Sent to Gen l Davidson for flints & his Answer is also Doubtfull, Concerning them.2

Have recd Ord[e]rs from Gen l Davidson to Joyn him as Quick as possible. Shall March at 12 OClock to day to Joyn him. Am Sir, with Respect

yr Hb l Servt

Thos Farmer

Autograph letter signed (MiU-C).

1. NG's orders concerning the guard are in his letter to Farmer of 16 January (PGNG, 7: 129-130).

2. This list of equipment was presumably what a "typical" militia unit in the South might bring into the field. As seen by Gen. William L. Davidson's letter of 24 January (PGNG, 7: 188-189), Davidson lacked flints for his own command.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, ed. Dennis Conrad et al. (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999). Full texts of documents calendared in The Papers of General Nathanael Greene (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), Vol. 7, pp. 152-289. http://adh.sc.edu [Accessed (supply date here)]

*****************
Note that this militia unit of about 310 people seems abundantly supplied with 240 muskets. They are lacking in flints -- although flints already in the muskets should be adequate for a single engagement of 24 shots (standard battle load for Continental soldier ). Note that they are also somewhat short of cartridges -- 24 cartridges for 240 muskets yield 5760 cartridges-- versus the 2400 that they report having.


General Davidson was the commander of the Rowan County North Carolina militia --one of Greene's major subordinates.

Note that this report occurs a few days after Cowpens and at a time when the South had been devastated by war for several years. Yet this militia unit is well armed and reports no shortcomings in its muskets.


John G. Fought - 1/17/2004

It would 'balance' the collections of articles on the other side (you know, the way truth balances falsehood). It would be easier to put together a compact, affordable reading list for courses on the topic. And more such courses would then be taught. The only drawback is that getting a bunch of authors to finish on time makes cat herding seem like child's play (which it is, come to think of it).


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/17/2004

Who's the co-editor? What's the title?

Critical works are hard to get published, particularly if not by a big name. I think Cramer would do better if he edited or co-edited a collection of critical essays on the subject, featuring articles by Sternstein, Lindgren, etc. (and include one of his own) I notice that the whole controversy is being taught by a professor at UNC in her history methods class. A good example of what I have in mind is Black Athena Revisited, published by UNC Press. At just over 500 pages, it was a bargain at $16. There was some overlapping, but it was worth the candle to watch Bernal get slapped around by real professionals.


Don Williams - 1/17/2004

Benny's "William T Sherman" is not the Civil War General , but a modern day "William Thomas Sherman" --see http://battleofcamden.org/sherman.htm .

"William T Sherman"'s account does not describe Cowpens, noting that
"The action has been already so ably described elsewhere to need much recounting here." He also does not explain the basis for his high value of Tarleton's account. Plus, even if we assume there is some basis, Mr Sherman speaks of Tarleton's account a a whole --not of the Cowpens description-- Tarleton most embarrassing defeat. I'm afraid I give more credence to Lt McKenzie's criticism -- since McKenzie was at Cowpens.

Colts Coach Tony Dungy is hardly a relevant source for Cowpens. Benny's analogy is misplaced --John Marshall adn Harry Lee's accounts came out after the Revolutionary War was over -- at that time, Morgan, Howard, and Washington had no reason to defend the militia --indeed, they had every reason to complain bitterly if the militia had left them in the lurch.


Don Williams - 1/17/2004

Benny's "William T Sherman" is not the Civil War General , but a modern day "William Thomas Sherman" --see http://battleofcamden.org/sherman.htm .

"William T Sherman"'s account does not describe Cowpens, noting that
"The action has been already so ably described elsewhere to need much recounting here." He also does not explain the basis for his high value of Tarleton's account. Plus, even if we assume there is some basis, Mr Sherman speaks of Tarleton's account a a whole --not of the Cowpens description-- Tarleton most embarrassing defeat. I'm afraid I give more credence to Lt McKenzie's criticism -- since McKenzie was at Cowpens.

Colts Coach Tony Dungy is hardly a relevant source for Cowpens. Benny's analogy is misplaced --John Marshall adn Harry Lee's accounts came out after the Revolutionary War was over -- at that time, Morgan, Howard, and Washington had no reason to defend the militia --indeed, they had every reason to complain bitterly if the militia had left them in the lurch.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/17/2004

Richard, Your post walks all over the sensitivities of those you defend and celebrates, by implication, the work of those you criticize. It is one of the great irritations in Clayton Cramer's life that, while Oxford University Press announces the publication of a new book co-edited by Belles, Cramer can't get his manuscript on the gun controversy published.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/17/2004


The quote from Sherman is interesting. Tarleton's literary effort is characterized as "the single most valuable book on the War in the South 1780-1781 by a contemporary." Yes, the single most valuable BOOK, by a CONTEMPORARY, on the War in the South. Not a lot of competition there. Note, this isn't an endorsement of Tarleton's account of Cowpens.

It is a commonplace that in an ambitious work like Bellesiles', that synthesizes a lot of material, that many subtopics will be addressed only through secondary sources. And Don Higginbotham is a respected historian. But the work of Higginbotham that Bellesiles cites on the Battle of Cowpens is a biography of Daniel Morgan, and dates from 1961. Fully two years before the publication of Bellesiles' book, a book was published, and reviewed in JAH, centering on the Battle of Cowpens, yet it seems not have been read (or at least cited by Bellesiles -- an interesting point because the new research includes the claim that Morgan had more men than reported, which would diminish the lustre of his victory, and the glory that would accrue to the militia). This dimishes my sympathy for Bellesiles' predicament. In fact, Bellesiles seems not to have availed himself of any other secondary source, nor any other primary source. I find this interesting because, on p. 583 of Arming America (1st edition), Bellesiles writes: "And, as always, my warmest thanks to Christine Heyrman, my graduate advisor, who taught me to check the sources myself. Good point."

Unfortunately, there is often a political dimension to citing sources. One often sees a big name cited in preference to a more comprehensive source. And you also see people fail to criticize work whose conclusions they agree with. Recently I reread a work on global warming by Stephen Schneider. More than 20 years ago Schneider wrote a paper purporting to demonstrate that CO2 did not contribute to global warming. He then wrote a book forecasting the imminent arrival of the next ice age. He then became a convert to global warming, and though in his book he says you must separate science from politics, in the same book he reports how he kept his mouth shut when sitting next to James Hansen, as Hansen provided a flawed study to Congress in support of the global warming hypothesis. Schneider said he kept his silence because Hansen was on the side of the angels -- which sounds like politics to me. On that score, Higginbotham and Bellesiles had already taken public positions, known to each other, against an individualist interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Your animadversions against Cramer as an "amateur historian" are misplaced, as are your comments about NRA propagandists. For instance, I've said on this site that the NRA interpretation as to "bear arms" is just plain wrong. I also think that there is a defensible version of the collectivist interpretation. I don't own a gun -- and never have. I'm not a member of the NRA, or any other such group, nor have I received any funding from such. Yet I've been lumped in, by you previously on this site, with the NRA as a gun lobbyist. Cramer is a published historian, and an adjunct university faculty member (like RB Bernstein, your recent favorite source of wisdom, who of late seems to have lost his taste for Bellesiles). Cramer, I might add, has not yet been forced to resign, nor had a publishing house cease publication because of questions of quality, nor had any prize revoked. If one were to compare Cramer to Bellesiles, perhaps that is an endorsement of "amateurism".

As an example of the political dimension of citing sources, I offer this last little tidbit. it is from a government reply brief in the Emerson case: http://www.saf.org/EMERSONgovtrepl.html

You will note that in the Table of Authorities, which cites (among others) Garry Wills' A Necessary Evil, Wills' work is the only work that doesn't have an accompanying page number. You will note, further down the text, the text which is end-noted by endote number 9. I quote it here:

"And, most important, he [Emerson] fails to come to grips withUnited States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), the case now recognized by every circuit as providing the definitive interpretation of the Second Amendment. (9)"
[bracketed insert mine]

When you proceed to endnote 9 you find the following text:

"9. The case law and history ignored by Emerson are more than adequately set forth in the Government's opening brief and the amicus briefs of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence et al. and the Ad Hoc Group of Law Professors and Historians, as well as by countless legal and historical researchers. See, e.g., Michael A. Bellesiles, Suicide Pact: New Readings of the Second Amendment, 16 Const. Commentary 247 (1999); Carl T. Bogus, The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, 31 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 309 (1998); Saul Cornell, Commonplace or Anachronism, 16 Const. Commentary 221 (1999); Dennis Henigan, Arms, Anarchy and the Second Amendment, 26 Val. U.L. Rev. 107 (1991); Don Higginbotham, The Second Amendment in Historical Context, 16 Const. Commentary 263 (1999); Garry Wills, A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government (1999)."

This is the sort of corporate endnote that commits the author of the brief to no particular version within the sources cited. Note that once again there are no page numbers provided for Wills. Amicus briefs contained references to Wills' NYRB book review, but a book makes a much more impressive reference, so they cited a book they obviously never read. Wills is cited in support of two propositions (or, at least one of the two, such being the vagaries of the corporate endnote). On the subject of case law, Wills is wrong, and has Miller completely backwards. On p. 252 of ANE, Wills states: "The Court declared that a sawed-off shotgun is not a militia weapon." Of course, Wills cites no source for this claim. Here's the opinion in US v. Miller:

http://www2.law.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/foliocgi.exe/historic/query=%5BGroup+307+U.S.+174:%5D(%5BLevel+Case+Citation:%5D%7C%5BGroup+citemenu:%5D)/doc/%7B@1%7D/hit_headings/words=4/hits_only?

It clearly states that the Court is refusing to supply by judicial notice what wasn't established by a trier of fact -- the appeal arrived on demurrer. In other words, the Court is NOT saying that a sawed-off shotgun is not a miltia weapon. So much for "professionsal historians". On the question of history alone, Wills gets Madison's proposal wrong -- a mistake reprinted without comment in Saul Cornell's reader on the Second Amendment. So much for the professional historians. Your comments on peer review are similarly off-base, as your Mr. Bellesiles (and others of collectivist bent) published in Constitutional Commentary -- a journal without peer review. The professional historians who gathered at the Handgun Control Symposium had a great many laughs at the expense of "law-office history". But as this example suggests (and the previous example of Wills and Trenchard) the perils of history-office law and even history-office history show equal dangers.

You would do better, Benny, to stick to questions of subtance, rather than make adverse comparisons between professional and "amateur" historians. BTW, I forgot to mention that the Danish Ministry of Science cleared Lomborg recently, and slapped down the Lyzenkoism of the DCSD.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3340305.stm




Benny Smith - 1/17/2004

A week later, Mr. Williams is still writing scripture here, trying to create the gospel of Cowpens according to Don. In response to something Mr. Luker said, I don’t believe Mr. Williams really is interested in publishing anything serious or scholarly. He wants to skip that process with its peer review and such, and merely etch his version of history in stone. Our Pentagon would love to have more citizens like Mr. Williams and the unflagging willingness to accept the military’s version of events with the naiveté of a kindergartner. No need for embedded reporters, no need to answer to any pesky Pentagon correspondents, no need to respond to critics, no need for independent investigation. Just put out the "official" military account of events and claim anything else is from a secondary source and therefore must be discredited.

While skimming a couple of Mr. Williams’ contributions here, it dawned upon me that a football analogy might shed some light so those like Mr. Williams might understand why Daniel Morgan and others on his staff said what they said following Cowpens. Last Sunday, I watched the Indianapolis Colts upset the Kansas City Chiefs 38-31. It was an offensive show all the way, with neither team having to punt the whole game. In the lockeroom afterwards, Colts coach Tony Dungy spoke only positively to his team, crediting the whole team’s effort. Of course, observers like myself were surprised. After all, the Colts’ defense was pretty much in retreat during the game, much like the militia at Cowpens. But ask yourself, why would Dungy, with his team flush with a big victory, throw a wet blanket over the team’s enthusiasm, particularly when they faced more games ahead. Likewise, Morgan was not going to temper the enthusiasm of a great victory by being critical of militia whose actions may have jeopardized that victory. He faced more battles ahead. And a soldier who thinks he is a hero is more likely to stand and fight next time, rather than flee. Morgan, who understood and communicated with the common soldier as well as any officer, knew this.

So far as Bellesiles’ relying on Tarleton’s own historical memoirs, I found a passage regarding Tarleton’s account from history buff, author, and scholar William T. Sherman. Sherman wrote, "His (Tarleton’s) Campaigns, for all the criticisms it has received, much of them justified, is easily the single most valuable book on the War in the South 1780-1781 by a contemporary." So Mr. Richard Morgan’s intuition that Bellesiles probably chose the best sources available for his Arming America was probably not far from the truth.

Sherman’s own account of this southern campaign is available in PDF form off the internet and, although 350 pages long, is engaging as well as literate. In one passage, Sherman describes the problem of a lack of arms for the Colonials. "In the way of arms, there were 5,000 muskets. But many of these were useless because of being damaged, and the lack of gunsmiths to repair them. Some Virginia troops were sent home due to the lack of clothes and arms." Not enough guns and many of them broken? That supports Bellesiles’ theses. But didn’t NRA propagandist and amateur historian Clayton Cramer say there were plenty of guns and gunsmiths back in those days? He even claimed to me here that there was little reason for guns to break once they were past the "proof" stage.

Once again, we’re drawn back to my original subject topic: Be wary of NRA propagandists masquerading as historians.


Don Williams - 1/16/2004

I should note that Harry Lee's criticism of Morgan's positioning show that cavalry leaders should not presume to interpret that tactics of infantry leaders. In fact, Morgan's manipulation of Tarleton was masterly.

Morgan's retreat (a) drew Tarleton away from Cornwallis main army (b) put the Broad River on his right flank as a block to Cornwallis approaching from the east (c) forced Tarleton's men to ford several streams (freezing water in January) and to march for 24 hours with only 3 hours sleep (d) thereby bringing Tarleton to battle with exhausted troops while Morgan's men were well fed and well-rested--a decisive advantage as it gave Morgan's men (on both the militia and Continental Line) the ability to fire, retreat and reload, then fire again--since the exhausted British troops were too tired to run after the Americans and bayonet them during the retreat and reload. (e) Cowpens was a well known landmark and crossroads, allowing multiple militia units to rapidly ride along main roads and suddenly coalesce in Morgan's support (f) As noted in Babits "A Devil of A Whipping" (p. 52), Morgan's retreat also to took him toward his supply caches while forcing Tarleton to bring along supplies in slow wagons (g) Babits also notes (p.53) that Morgan chose Cowpens as battleground after a careful reconnaissance and (h) In chapter 4 describes in detail the tactical trap Morgan set for Tarleton based on his knowledge of Tarleton's mindset
(e.g., forming the Continental Line in front of a slight hill which was sufficiently high to shield Washington's cavalry hidden behind it from British fire and which also provided a protected area for the militia to reassemble and reload concealed from view and to then reappear. On page 73, he describes the "reverse slope" defense Morgan set up for the militia by placing them in a slight swale on the other side of a rise -- so that they were revealed to Tarleton's troops only as Tarleton's line charged over the ridge at dawn --silhouetted against the brightening sky at their back.

Bellesiles, of course, had even less understanding of Cowpen tactics than Harry Lee.


Don Williams - 1/16/2004

Those of us who are evidently "NRA propagandists masquerading as historians" engage in several dangerous practices contrary to the methods of modern day historians.

One is that we prefer to assemble and examine the evidence--the Primary Sources -- before forming a thesis. I realize that some might consider this putting the cart before the horse.

Second, we find the accounts left by men long dead --re events of 200 years ago in which they were involved -- to be far more compelling and interesting than the unstantiated, poorly sourced "interpretation" of today.
Don't you?


Ralph E. Luker - 1/16/2004

My POINT (yelling back at John in caps) is that these lengthy posts go nowhere but into the e-hole. Where is the counter-narrative that all of this seems to point to -- or is all this just about e-hole yelling?


Don Williams - 1/16/2004

The following is from “Light Horse” Harry Lee's "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States". I include it because , while Harry Lee was not at Cowpens, his cavalry unit was joined with Andrew Picken's mounted militia in the weeks following Cowpens by General Nathanael Greene. Andrew Pickens , a stern Scotch Irish Presbyterian, preferred to spend his time exterminating Cherokees, Tories, and British soldiers -- and running his farm -- rather than to struggle for the limelight on the national stage. He left no account of the battle, but presumably Harry Lee learned much of Cowpens from Morgan, Washington, Pickens, Nathanael Green, and the soldiers who were at the Battle.

Here is Lee’s account, from his book “Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States” (finished 1810). Note Harry Lee’s comment toward the bottom that “Morgan derived very great aid from Pickens and his militia” and the earlier footnote in which Lee cited Continental Colonel Howard as saying that Morgan did not decide to fight Tarleton until the arrival of Pickens’ militia the night before the battle. Note also Lee’s statement that the riflemen in the militia were expert marksmen.
-----------------
"Morgan, having been accustomed to fight and to conquer, did not relish the eager and interrupting pursuit of his adversary; and sat down at the Cowpens to give refreshment to his troops, with a resolution no longer to avoid action, should his enemies persist in pressing it. Being appraised at the dawn of day of Tarleton's advance, he instantly prepared for battle. This decision grew out of irritation of temper, which appears to overruled the suggestions of his sound and discriminating judgment.*”

[* Harry Lee Footnote: ” On this passage Colonel Howard remarks --that Morgan did not decide on action until he was joined in the night by Pickens and his followers -- and adds: ‘I well remember that parties were coming in the most of the night, and calling on Morgan for ammunition, and to know the state of affairs. They were all in good spirits, related circumstances of Tarleton's cruelty, and expressed the strongest desire to check his progress’ The probability is that these circumstances confirmed the decision Morgan had already formed.-ed” ]

(continued) “ The ground about the Cowpens is covered with open wood, admitting the operation of the cavalry with facility, in which the enemy trebled Morgan. His flanks had not resting place, but were exposed to be readily turned; and Broad River ran parallel to his rear, forbidding the hope of a safe retreat in the event of disaster. Had Morgan crossed this river, and approached the mountain, he would have gained a position disadvantageous to cavalry, but convenient for riflemen, and would have secured a less dangerous retreat. But these cogent reasons, rendered more forcible by his inferiority in numbers, could not prevail. Confiding in his long-tried fortune, conscious of his personal superiority in soldiership, and relying on the skill and courage of his troops, he adhered to his resolution. Erroneous as was the decision to fight in this position, when a better might have been easily gained , the disposition for battle was masterly.

Two light parties of militia, under Major McDowel, of North Carolina, and Major Cunningham, of George, were advanced in front, with orders to feel the enemy as he approached; and, preserving a desultory well-aimed fire as they fell back to the front line, to range with it and renew the conflict. The main body of the militia composed this line, with General Pickens at its head. At a suitable distance in the rear of the first line a second was stationed, composed of the Continental infantry and two companies of Virginia militia, under Captains Triplett and Taite, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard. *

[*Harry Lee Footnote: “These two companies of militia were generally Continental soldiers, who, having served the time of their enlistment, had returned home regularly discharged. A custom for some time past prevailed, which gave to us the aid of such soldiers. Voluntary proffer of service being no longer fashionable , the militia were drafted conformably to a system established by law; and whenever the lot fell upon the timid or wealthy, he procured, by a douceur, a substitute, who, for the most part, was one of those heretofore discharged.” ]

(continued) “Washington’s cavalry, re-enforced by a company of mounted militia armed with sabers, was held in reserve, convenient to support the infantry, and protect the horses of the rifle militia, which were tied, agreeably to usage, in the rear.

On the verge of battle, Morgan availed himself of the short and awful interim to exhort his troops, First addressing himself , with his characteristic pith, to the line of militia, he extolled the zeal and bravery so often displayed by them, when unsupported by the bayonet or sword; and declared his confidence that they could not fail in maintaining their reputation, when supported by chosen bodies of horse and foot, and conducted by himself. Nor did he forget to glance at his unvarying fortune, and superior experience; or to mention how often, with his corps of riflemen, he had brought British troops, equal to those before him, to submission. He described the deep regret he had already experienced in being obliged , from prudential considerations, to retire before an enemy always in his power; exhorted the line to be firm and steady; to fire with good aim; and if they would pour in but two volleys at killing distance, he would take upon himself to secure victory. To the Continentals he was very brief. He reminded them of the confidence he had always reposed in their skill and courage; assured them that victory was certain if they acted well their part; and desired them not to be discouraged by the sudden retreat of the militia , THAT being part of his plan and orders. Then taking post with this line, he waited in stern silence for the enemy.

The British lieutenant-colonel, urging forward, was at length gratified with the certainty of battle; and being prone to presume on victory, he hurried the formation of his troops. The light and Legion infantry, with the seventh regiment, composed the line of battle; in the centre of which was posted the artillery, consisting of two grasshoppers; and a troop of dragoons was placed on each flank. The battalion of the seventy first regiment, under Major McArthur, with the remainder of the cavalry, formed the reserve. Tarleton placed himself with the line, having under him Major Newmarsh, who commanded the seventh regiment. The disposition was not completed, when he directed the line to advance, and the reserve to wait further orders.”*

[* Harry Lee Footnote: “Tarleton’s cavalry are stated at three hundred and fifty, while that under Morgan did not exceed eighty.
“Morgan’s militia used rifles , and were expert marksmen; this corp composed nearly one half of his infantry. “
Tarleton’s detachment is put down as one thousand. Morgan, in a letter to General Greene, after his victory, gives his total as eight hundred. “ ]

(continued) “The American light parties quickly yielded, fell back, and arrayed with Pickens. The enemy shouted , rushed forward upon the front line, which retained its station, and poured in a close fire; but continuing to advance with the bayonet on our militia, they retired, and gained with haste the second line.

Here, with part of the corps, Pickens took post on Howard’s right, and the rest fled to their horses; probably with orders to remove them to a further distance. Tarleton pushed forward, and was received by his adversary with unshaken firmness. The contest became obstinate; and each party, animated by the example of its leader, nobly contended for victory. Our line maintained itself so firmly, as to oblige the enemy to order up his reserve. The advance of McArthur re-animated the British line, which again moved forward; and , outstretching our front, endangered Howard’s right. This officer instantly took measures to defend his flank, by directing his right company to change its front; but mistaking this order, the company fell back; upon which the line began to retire, and General Morgan directed it to retreat to the cavalry. This manoeuvre being performed with precision, our flank became relieved, and the new position was assumed with promptitude. Considering this retrograde movement the precursor of flight, the British rushed on with impetuosity and disorder; but , as it drew near, Howard faced about , and gave it a close and murderous fire. Stunned by this unexpected shock, the most advanced of the enemy recoiled in confusion. Howard seized the happy moment , and followed his advantage with the bayonet.” *

[Harry Lee Footnote: “In this charge, the brave Kirkwood , of the Delawares, was conspicuous—See “Garden’s Anecdote”, p. 397 “ ]

(continued) “This decisive step gave us the day. The reserve having been brought near the line, shared in the destruction of our fire, and presented no rallying point to the fugitives. A part of the enemy’s cavalry, having gained our rear, fell on that portion of the militia who had retired to their horses. Washington struck at them with his dragoons , and drove them before him. Thus, by simultaneous efforts, the infantry and cavalry of the enemy were routed. Morgan pressed home his success, and the pursuit became vigorous and general. The British cavalry having taken no part in the action, except the two troops attached to the line, were in force to cover the retreat. This , however, was not done. The zeal of Lieutenant-Colonel Washington in pursuit having carried him far before his squadron, Tarleton turned upon him with the troop of the seventeenth regiment of dragoons, seconded by many of his officers. The American lieutenant-colonel was first rescued from this critical contest by one of his sergeants, and afterward by a fortunate shot from his bugler’s pistol. ++
[++ Footnote—At this point , there is a quote from John Marshall’s description of the incident from Marshall’s “Life of Washington”. However, this citation must have been inserted by Robert E Lee -- Harry Lee’s son and famous Confederate General –when Robert E Lee revised his father’s Memoirs. John Marshall’s “Life of Washington did not come out until almost 20 years after Harry Lee finished his first version of Memoirs. ]

(continued) “This check concluded resistance on the part of the British officer, who drew off with the remains of his cavalry, collected his stragglers, and hastened to Lord Cornwallis. The baggage guard, learning the issue of battle, moved instantly toward the British army. A part of the horse, who had shamefully avoided action, and refused to charge when Tarleton wheeled on the impetuous Washington, reached the camp of Cornwallis at Fisher’s Creek, about twenty five miles from the Cowpens, in the evening. The remainder arrived with Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton on the morning following. In this decisive battle we lost about seventy men, of whom twelve only were killed. The British infantry, with the exception of the baggage guard, were nearly all killed or taken. One hundred, including ten officers, were killed; twenty –three officers and five hundred privates were taken. The artillery, eight hundred muskets, two standards, thirty-five baggage wagons, and one hundred dragoon horses, fell into our possession. *
[* Harry Lee citation: “Cornwallis’s letter to Sir H. Clinton”]

(continued) “The victory of the Cowpens was to the South what that of Bennington had been to the North. General Morgan, whose former services had placed him high in public estimation, was now deservedly ranked among the most illustrious defenders of his country. Starke fought an inferior , Morgan a superior , foe. The former contended with a German corps +, the latter, with the elite of the Southern army, composed of British troops.”
[+ Harry Lee Footnote: “This remark is not made to disparage the German troops serving with the British army in America. They were excellent soldiers; but, for light services, they were inferior to the British. Ignorant of our language, unaccustomed to woods, with their very heavy dress, they were less capable of active and quick operations.
The splendid issue of the subsequent campaign, and the triumph of Gates has been noticed, as well as the instrumentality of Morgan in producing the auspicious event. Great and effectual as were his exertions, General Gates did not even mention him in his official dispatches. “ ]

(continued) “In military reputation the conqueror at the Cowpens must stand before the hero of Bennington. Starke was nobly seconded by Colonel Warner and his continental regiment; Morgan derived very great aid from Pickens and his militia, and was effectually supported by Howard and Washington. The weight of the battle fell on Howard; who sustained himself admirably in trying circumstances, and seized with decision the critical moment to complete with the bayonet the advantage gained by his fire.

Congress manifested their sense of this important victory by a resolve, approving the conduct of the principal officers, and commemorative of their distinguished exertions. To General Morgan they presented a gold medal, to Brigadier Pickens a sword, and to Lieutenant-Colonels Howard and Washington a silver medal , and to Captain Triplett a sword.”



Don Williams - 1/16/2004

I'll explain shortly -- first, let me put up Harry Lee's description of Cowpens. Benny has expressed concern about my "interpretation" of Primary Sources vice the Sources themselves and I want to allay his concern. I ,too, have become much more skeptical of "interpretations" in the past week.


John G. Fought - 1/15/2004

This fine example shows several aspects of the collectivist enterprise very well. The scholarly search for evidence is expected to be broad and deep enough to bring contradictions and indeterminacies into the open where they can be discussed and perhaps resolved. But as the collectivists and would-be nullifiers publish in their loosely cooperative fashion (that comes from shared convictions about what the outcome should be), trading their little baskets of cherries picked from branches in easy reach, a tradition of biased interpretations piles up from which still more delectable cherries may be picked. Mutual professional support, in the form of reciprocal recommendations for appointments, grants, and other prizes, not to mention public and private reviews, including peer reviews, Ralph, help to perpetuate and seemingly to legitimize their collective work. But these works and their authors are not legitimate, and the appearance of checks and corrections within it is largely false. That is, I think, the point that Don is driving home with his long, well-documented, lavishly substantiated postings. To me, the collectivists seeking to mess with my rights in this fashion are merely so many scholarly incarnations of Dorian Gray. Their pseudonymous groupies are mere action figures. So, Ralph, what's YOUR point here?


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/15/2004

I can't speak for Don, but I think something along this line could be said:

What we have here is not a contradiction between one primary source and another primary source, but a tension between one primary source (Tarleton, a dubious source), and a whole cartload of other primary sources. It doesn't look like Bellesiles read the entire corpus of primary sources, and then arrived at his conclusion. Rather, he chose Higginbotham, a dated source (and someone from Constitutional Commentary, Gang of 47, and Handgun Control Symposium days he knew to be reliably collectivist in his Second Amendment interpretation) and picked a primary source for window dressing. Babits' study was published in Fall, 1998, and centers on Cowpens -- yet Bellesiles does not reference it, nor any other secondary source (official US military history accounts, say), nor any other primary sources. The snarkey comment at the end of Bellesiles' paragraph leads one to suspect that he had his thesis, and then he cherry-picked a small subset of accounts that would go with it.

As I understand it, Bellesiles came to his doctoral program from law school, where one is trained to develop a thesis, and then cite that evidence in support of it -- even misconstrue evidence in the service of a client (a duty by the standards of legal ethics). I can't think of a worse possible training of the mind preparatory to a doctoral program in history.

In a previous string I gave an example of how Reinhardt cherry-picked a truncated quote from John Adams, and used it as the sole quote to support a general thesis -- in fact, the whole quote reveals that the use is illegitimate.

A similar example suggests itself from Garry Wills. In his NYRB article (p.67), available at Potowmack.org, he says:

'Trenchard advised that "a competent number of them [firelocks] be kept in every parish for the young to exercise with on holidays". These would be used on a rotating basis, since Trenchard proposed that only a third of the militia should be exercised at one time.'

[bracketed insert by Wills]

Here's the fuller quote from Trenchard:

"Why may not the Laws for shooting in Crossbows be changed into Firelocks, and a competent Number of them be kept in every Parish for the young Men to exercise with on Holidays, and Rewards offered to the most expert, to stir up their Emulation?"

Here's how it appears in Wills' A Necessary Evil (p.259):

'John Trenchard, the British celebrant of militias, said that their arms must be "kept in every parish" (not every home).'

Quite amazing. In the original, by Trenchard, there is no mention of the militia, nor of their arms. Nor is Trenchard describing then current practice with firearms, but proposing a change in law and practice. Note the lack of apodictic force in Trenchard's comment, which somehow gets translated into "must" by Wills. What are the 'laws for shooting in crossbows'? They are laws dating back to Henry VIII (and beyond?), mandating that every city, town, and place had to maintain a shooting range, and each inhabitant practice on it, or the municipality would be fined. Concurrent with that law, each family had to provide each son, at age seven, a bow, and two shafts, and see to it that he knew how to use them.

In 1660 (some 37 years before Trenchard's work) the parish of Lyme Regis was fined in accordance with the first law.

Now we see what the real import of Trenchard is. He's proposing that a law be passed to compel people to maintain shooting ranges for firearms, where it was still currently applied only to bows (with the usual penalties for failure to comply). The competent number to be kept, would be just those sufficient for young men to shoot on holidays (maybe a dozen for a shooting tournament?). It is not the competent number for the one-third of the militia in training at any one time, as they are to be a competent number for just shooting on holidays.

What Wills has done is taken a proposal by Trenchard for a target shooting program, and twisted it into "evidence" that miltias kept all their arms (not even just firelocks) in a central repository. From there to Bellesiles, who cites 19 documents that he claims to show that the militia's weapons must be kept in central storage, and which (thanks to Cramer) we now know say nothing of the sort.

Cherry-pick a bit of evidence. Truncate a quote if you have to. Graft it onto a proposition (by ellipsis) that it didn't originally support, and voila -- modern scholarship by two prize-winning historians.

I would add that I originally thought that Bellesiles had just taken the most accepted secondary source, and run with it -- something that happens in a large work of synthesis like his. What I didn't know was that Babits' work was available to him, and he ignored it.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/15/2004

You just keep posting and posting. To what end?


Don Williams - 1/15/2004

Note: One other Primary Source(s) for Cowpens which I have not given is the pension applications of Revolutionary War veterans, in which they described the battle in more or less detail from what they saw. Lawrence Babits provides that material in his recent book "A Devil of a Whipping"

There is also a near-Primary source: Harry Lee's account of the battle, which I will provide below

There is also William Gordon's early history (1788) of the war, which describes Cowpens. Gordon's history would be considered a Secondary Source, but he did have access to the papers of various military commanders. I will include an excerpt of this account below as well.

I should also note that John Marshall's account of the battle is a Secondary Source -- although Marshall does state that it is based upon accounts provided to him by Morgan, Howard, and cavalry leader Washington.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/15/2004

Thanks for the source, Don. I had known that Tarleton had ended up an MP, but I hadn't known that he was already laying the groundwork for a political career before he suffered defeat at Morgan's hands. Seems odd that one would use as a sole primary source, the account of an officer with political ambitions, who had lost the battle, and who (not to put too fine a point on it), failed miserably in command and fled the field of battle, leaving his troops to fend for themselves.

I was rereading (for the unintentional hilarity) the Washington symposium at which Higginbotham, Cornell, and Bellesiles participated -- their encomia to the superiority of the history profession's practice of peer review still makes for great fun, in retrospect. Seems I had missed the reference to Bellesiles' Canadian citizenship. I also understand that it is a matter of public record the schools Bellesiles attended -- the registrar's office at UC Irvine should know where Bellesiles attended law school (before dropping out?). There might be an interesting story there, as the law school years don't appear on his CV associated with his dissertation.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/15/2004

Don, You've got a primary source in tension with or contradiction of another primary source. You've posted 4 or 5 times, each time at great length, about it. Historians deal with primary sources in tension with or contradiction of each other all the time. It isn't really a big deal. Why not write and publish your own account of the Battle of Cowpens?


Don Williams - 1/15/2004

As I made clear, Lt McKenzie --who lived in 1787-- denounced Tarleton's 1787 account of Cowpens. Tarleton's account was the sole Primary Source cited by Bellesiles in Arming America's depiction of Cowpens.

Where do you see a "220 year old primary source" denouncing "a current 2ndary source"?

What I gave you was a "220 year old primary source" denouncing a "220 year old primary source".


Josh Greenland - 1/15/2004

Rakove: "Probing beyond the hackneyed paeans to American sharpshooting that occur both in the primary sources (some of them clearly contrived for European eyes)...."

So Stanford Jack didn't buy Bellesiles' ignoring of contemporary accounts of American expertise with firearms?


Don Williams - 1/15/2004

The US Army's monograph for the Cowpens staff ride has an Appendix E,which includes the following note:
(Ref: http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Moncure/moncure.asp#appendixe
)

-------------
2. Lieutenant Roderick Mackenzie served in the 71st (Frasier's) Highlanders at the battle of the Cowpens. After his return to England, he attacked his former commander, Tarleton, in the press. This letter appeared in the London Morning Chronicle on 9 August 1782.3 London Morning Chronicle 3

"You got yourself and your party completely ambuscaded, completely surrounded, upon all sides, by Mr. Morgan's rifle men. What was the consequence? The two detachments of British were made prisoners after a great slaughter was made among them, your legion dragoons were so broke by galling fire of rifle shot that your charging was in vain, till prudence, on your side, with about twenty men who were well mounted, made your retreat good, by leaving the remains of the poor blended legion in the hands of Mr. Morgan who I must say, though an enemy, showed great masterly abilities in this manoeuver.

Thus fell, at one blow, all the Provincial Legion, with about three hundred veterans" [italics in Commager edition]!4

******************

What I find curious about this is that "riflemen" were militia --the Continentals were armed with muskets. McKenzie was with the 71st which attacked Morgan's right flank --he may be referring to the sweep around Morgan's right flank made by Pickens' reloaded militia. Note also the reference to Tarleton's horsemen being "so broke by galling fire of rifle shot that your charging was in vain"


Ralph E. Luker - 1/15/2004

Mislabeling. A 220 year old primary source can't denounce a current 2ndary source. Why is Don Williams filling the comment boards with ...?


Ralph E. Luker - 1/15/2004

This "What I actually suggested was that Bellesiles is apparently ignorant of how history works ..." is _not_ what your subject line said. Rules of evidence and truth in packaging apply to you, too, Don.


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

Only Tarleton's account could be considered a primary source and it is notoriously self-serving-- the account of a commander trying to explain how his force was totally destroyed by an inferior enemy. His count of Morgan's forces --1920 -- was over twice the count (less than 900) given by Morgan in his letter to General Green. His account of the number wounded on both sides is also not consistent with Morgan's. Plus, he blamed his superior, Lord Cornwallis, for not linking up and supporting him. (This was in 1787, about 7 years after the Battle and 7 years after Cornwallis had forgiven Tarleton and spared him from court martial ).
I've posted LtCol Banestre Tarleton's account of Cowpens below.


I'm puzzled as to why Bellesiles used Tarleton's account as his sole primary source for the Battle of Cowpens. Tarleton's account was subjected to scathing denounciations by his own subordinate --Lt McKenzie of the 71st-- in London newspapers, as I describe in a post below.

Plus, I don't see that Tarleton's account supports' Bellesiles depiction. True, the militia yielded but that was per Morgan's orders , based upon the slow reloading time of rifles and the lack of bayonets. But Tarleton indicates that the British cavalry charge onto Morgan's right flank was driven off not only by Washington's cavalry, but also by "heavy fire from the reserve". That reserve was Pickens' militia, now behind the Continental Line , who had reloaded their rifles and were shooting the British cavalry out of their saddles. (This was probably why Tarleton's cavalry reserve refused to move forward at his orders.)

Moreover, Tarleton's description of the "Continental Line" indicates that almost half of it consisted of 300 "backswoodmen"-- Triplett's Virginia militia.

Notice that Bellesiles did not cite the other major primary sources -- the account of Cowpens by Morgan, the accounts of the battle by Colonel Howard and Washington captured by John Marshall. He also didn't cite near-primary sources : the account of the battle by Harry Lee. He didn't cite British Lt Roderick McKenzie's account -- and McKenzie was at Cowpens.

Nor did he cite, or appear to have consulted, the modern scholarship of military experts in the US Army at the Command and General Staff College and Center of Military History.

I noted on H-OIEAHC, in Bellesiles' defense, that Higginbotham did mistakenly indicate that a militia unit triggered the retreat of the Continental Line ( as Lawrence Babit's shows, it was a Continental unit). But Bellesiles should have caught this error if he had consulted more sources.


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

Following is McKenzie's account of Cowpens (From Letter X of the Strictures)

------------
" I was upon the detachment in question, and the narrative which I now offer has been submitted to the judgment of several respectable officers, who were also in this action, and it has met with their intire approbation.

Towards the latter end of December, 1780, Earl Cornwallis received intelligence, that General Morgan had advanced to the westward of the Broad River, with about one thousand men. Two-thirds of this force were militia, [p96] about one hundred of them cavalry, the rest continentals. His intention was to threaten Ninety Six, and to distress the western frontiers. To frustrate these designs, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton was detached with the light and legion-infantry, the fusileers, the first battalion of the 71st regiment, about three hundred and fifty cavalry, two field-pieces, and an adequate proportion of men from the royal artillery; in all near a thousand strong. This corps, after a process of some days, arrived at the vicinity of Ninety Six, a post which was then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Allen. An offer of a reinforcement from that garrison was made to Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton. The offer was rejected; and the detachment, by fatiguing marches, attained the ground which Morgan had quitted a few hours before: This position was taken about ten o'clock in the evening of the 16th of January. The pursuit re-commenced by two o'clock the next morning, and was rapidly continued [p97] through marshes and broken grounds till day-light, when the enemy were discovered in front. Two of their videttes were taken soon after; these gave information that General Morgan had halted, and prepared for action; he had formed his troops as described by Ramsey, in an open wood, secured neither in front, flank, nor rear. Without the delay of a single moment, and in despite of extreme fatigue, the light-legion infantry and fusileers were ordered to form in line. Before this order was put in execution, and while Major Newmarsh, who commanded the latter corps, was posting his officers, the line, far from complete, was led to the attack by Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton himself. The seventy-first regiment and cavalry, who had not as yet disentangled themselves from the brushwood with which Thickelle Creek abounds, were directed to form, and wait for orders. The military valour of British troops, when not entirely divested of the powers necessary to its exertion, was not to be [p98] resisted by an American militia. They gave way on all quarters, and were pursued to their continentals: the second line, now attacked, made a stout resistance. Captain Ogilvie, with his troop, which did not exceed forty men, was ordered to charge the right flank of the enemy. He cut his way through their line, but exposed to a heavy fire, and charged at the same time by the whole of Washington's dragoons, was compelled to retreat in confusion. The reserve, which as yet had no orders to move from its first position, and consequently remained near a mile distant, was not directed to advance. when the line felt "the advance of the seventy-first, all the infantry again moved on: the continentals and backwoods-men gave ground: the British rushed forwards: an order was dispatched to the cavalry to charge11." This order, however, if such was then thought of, being either not delivered or disobeyed, [p99] they stood aloof, without availing themselves of the fairest opportunity of reaping the laurels which lay before them. The infantry were not in condition to overtake the fugitives; the latter had not marched thirty miles in the course of the last fortnight; the former, during that time, had been in motion day and night. A number, not less than two-thirds of the British infantry officers, had already fallen, and nearly the same proportion of privates; fatigue, however, enfeebled the pursuit, much more than loss of blood. Morgan soon discovered that the legion-cavalry did not advance, and that the infantry, though well disposed, were unable to come up with his corps: he ordered Colonel Washington, with his dragoons, to cover his retreat, and to check the pursuit. He was obeyed; and the protection thus afforded, gave him an opportunity of rallying his scattered forces. They formed, renewed the attack, and charged in their turn. In disorder from the pursuit, unsupported by [p100] the cavalry, deprived of the assistance of the cannon, which in defiance of the utmost exertions of those who had them in charge, were not left behind, the advance of the British fell back, and communicated a panick to others, which soon became general: a total rout ensued. Two hundred and fifty horse which had not been engaged, fled through the woods with the utmost precipitation, bearing down such officers as opposed their flight: the cannon were soon seized by the Americans, the detachment from the train being either killed or wounded in their defence; and the infantry were easily overtaken, as the cause which had retarded the pursuit, had now an equal effect in impeding the retreat; dispirited on many accounts, they surrendered at discretion. Even at this late stage of the defeat, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, with no more than fifty horse, hesitated not to charge the whole of Washington's cavalry, though supported by the continentals; it was a small body of officers, [p101] and a detachment of the seventeenth regiment of dragoons, who presented themselves on this desperate occasion; the loss sustained was in proportion to the danger of the enterprise, and the whole body was repulsed."
-------------

Note McKenzie's description of the large number of British officers killed . Note also his description of the extreme fatigue which afflicted the British infantry. Note also his confirmation that the British cavalry attack on the retreating militia (on Morgan's left flank) was driven off by heavy fire as well as by Washington's cavalry.


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

British Lt Roderick McKenzie of the 71st, a subordinate of Lt Col Banastre Tarleton's at Cowpens, denounced Tarleton in a series of bitter letters to London newspapers. His "Strictures On Lieutenant. Col. Tarleton's History Of The Campaigns Of 1780 And 1781, In The Southern Provinces Of North America" are available here: http://home.golden.net/~marg/bansite/_main.html

McKenzie's criticism of Tarleton's account of the Southern campaign occurs throughout his Strictures. An example which occurs in Letter IX immediately prior to the discussion of Cowpens in Letter X:

-----------------
"The real province of a historian is to relate facts; by this principle he should abide; whenever he deviates from it, and indulges a fanciful vein of conjecture concerning probable contingencies, if not totally divested of partiality, he is certain of misleading his readers. That our author was not aware of the force of this remark, is sufficiently evinced. "

(Note: McKenzie was criticizing
Tarleton --Bellesiles' primary source for Cowpens--not Bellesiles himself, who did not arrive until 220 years later.)


The advertisement for McKenzie's Strictures:
"STRUCK with the numerous incoherencies, misrepresentations, and contradictions, contained in the work which is the subject of the ensuing letters[i.e., Tarleton's book on the Southern Campaign. DW] , the author had given way to the first emotion of his mind, and submitted to publick inspection several cursory remarks, through the medium of the Morning Post, under the signature of "An Officer on that Service." But now, that he has taken a fuller survey [p vi] of the subject, he considers himself at liberty to resume such of his former arguments as he may find conducive to the elucidation of facts in this publication."


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

Following is the account of Cowpens published by the British commander, Lt Col Banastre Tarleton, in his 1787 book "A History Of The Campaigns Of 1780 And 1781, In The Southern Provinces Of North America". This book is available online at http://home.golden.net/~marg/bansite/_main.html , with the description of Cowpens being in Chapter 4.

As I will describe, his account is somewhat self-serving and semi-reliable-- and was publicly denounced in London Newspapers by his own subordinate, Lt Roderick McKenzie, who had been at Cowpens. Nevertheless, this is the only primary source cited by Bellesiles for his account of the Battle.
_________________
"Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton having attained a position, which he certainly might deep advantageous, on account of the vulnerable situation of the enemy, and the supposed vicinity of the two British corps on the east and west of Broad river, did not hesitate to undertake those measures which the instructions of his commanding officer imposed, and his own judgement, under the present appearances, equally recommended. He ordered the legion dragoons to drive in the militia parties who covered the front, that General Morgan's disposition might be conveniently and distinctly inspected. He discovered that the American [p216] commander had formed a front line of about one thousand militia, and had composed his second line and reserve of five hundred continental light infantry, one hundred and twenty of Washington's cavalry, and three hundred back woodsmen. This accurate knowledge being obtained, Tarleton desired the British infantry to disencumber themselves of every thing, except their arms and ammunition: The light infantry were then ordered to file to the right till they became equal to the flank of the American front line: The legion infantry were added to their left; and, under the fire of a three-pounder, this part of the British troops was instructed to advance within three hundred yards of the enemy. This situation being acquired, the 7th regiment was commanded to form upon the left of the legion infantry, and the other three-pounder was given to the right division of the 7th: A captain, with fifty dragoons, was placed on each flank of the corps, who formed the British front line, to protect their own, and threaten the flanks of the enemy: The 1st battalion of the 71st was desired to extend a little to the left of the 7th regiment, and to remain one hundred and fifty yards in the rear. This body of infantry, and near two hundred cavalry, composed the reserve. During the execution of these arrangements, the animation of the officers and the alacrity of the soldiers afforded the most promising assurances of success. The disposition being completed, the front line received orders to advance; a fire from some of the recruits of the 7th regiment was suppressed, and the troops moved on in as good a line as troops could move in open files: The militia, after a short contest, were dislodged, and the British approached the continentals. The fire on both sides was well supported, and produced much slaughter: The cavalry on the right were directed to charge the enemy's left: They executed the order with great gallantry, but were drove back by the fire of the reserve, and by a charge of Colonel Washington's cavalry.

[p217] As the contest between the British infantry in the front line and the continentals seemed equally balanced, neither retreating, Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton thought the advance of the 71st into line, and a movement of the cavalry in reserve to threaten the enemy's right flank, would put a victorious period to the action. No time was lost in performing this manoeuvre. The 71st were desired to pass the 7th before they gave their fire, and were directed not to entangle their right flank with the left of the other battalion. The cavalry were ordered to incline to the left, and to form a line, which would embrace the whole of the enemy's right flank. Upon the advance of the 71st, all the infantry again moved on: The continentals and back woodsmen gave ground. The British rushed forwards: An order was dispatched to the cavalry to charge: An unexpected fire at this instant from the Americans, who came about as they were retreating, stopped the British, and threw them into confusion. Exertions to make them advance were useless. The part of the cavalry which had not been engaged fell likewise into disorder, and an unaccountable panic extended itself along the whole line. The Americans, who before thought they had lost the action, taking advantage of the present situation, advanced upon the British troops, and augmented their astonishment. A general flight ensued. Tarleton sent directions to his cavalry to form about four hundred yards to the right of the enemy, in order to check them, whilst he endeavoured to rally the infantry to protect the guns. The cavalry did not comply with the order, and the effort to collect the infantry was ineffectual: Neither promises nor threats could gain their attention; they surrendered or dispersed, and abandoned the guns to the artillery men, who defended them for some time with exemplary resolution. In this last stage of defeat Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton made another struggle to bring his cavalry to the charge. The weight of such an attack might yet retrieve the day, the enemy being much broken by their late [p218] rapid advance; but all attempts to restore order, recollection, or courage, proved fruitless. Above two hundred dragoons forsook their leader, and left the field of battle. Fourteen officers and forty horsemen were, however, not unmindful of their own reputation, or the situation of their commanding officer. Colonel Washington's cavalry were charged, and driven back into the continental infantry by this handful of brave men. Another party of the Americans, who had seized upon the baggage of the British troops on the road from the late encampment, were dispersed, and this detachment retired towards Broad river unmolested. On the route Tarleton heard with infinite grief and astonishment, that the main army had not advanced beyond Turkey (a.) creek: He therefore directed his course to the south east, in order to reach Hamilton's ford, near the mouth of Bullock creek, whence he might communicate with Earl Cornwallis.

The number of the killed and wounded, in the action at the Cowpens, amounted to near three hundred on both sides, officers and men inclusive: This loss was almost equally shared; but the Americans took two pieces of cannon, the colours of the 7th regiment, and near four hundred prisoners.

A diffuse comment upon this affair would be equally useless and tiresome: Two observations will be sufficient: One will contain the general circumstances which affected the plan of the campaign, and the other the particular incidents of the action. It appears that Earl Cornwallis intended to invade North Carolina: Before his march commenced, an irruption was made by the enemy into the western part of South Carolina: In order to expel hostility from that quarter, he directed [p219] Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton to proceed with a corps, and "push the enemy to the utmost;" at the same time desiring to know if any movement of the main army would be useful. Tarleton, finding the Americans not so far advanced as was reported, halted his troops, that he might convey his opinion, by letter, to his commanding officer. He proposed that the army under Earl Cornwallis, and the corps of light troops, should commence their march at the same time for King's mountain, and that he would endeavour to destroy the enemy, or push them over Broad river to that place. Earl Cornwallis replied, that Tarleton perfectly understood his intentions. After three days move from Wynnesborough, his lordship sent intelligence that General (I.) Leslie was retarded by the waters, and that he imagined the light troops must be equally impeded. Tarleton shortened his marches till he heard that the reinforcement was out of the swamps, though he had more difficulties of that nature to struggle against than could possibly be found between the Catawba and Broad rivers: This delay being occasioned by General Leslie's corps, rather astonishment him, because the troops under that officer's command were not mentioned in the first proposal; and if they were deemed necessary for the combination, one forced march would have brought them from the banks of the Catawba to the middle road, which Earl Cornwallis was then moving on, between the two great rivers, and where no creeks or waters could obstruct their advance towards Tryon county. On the 14th Earl Cornwallis informed Tarleton that Leslie had surmounted his difficulties, [(a.)2] and that he imagined the enemy would not pass the Broad river, though it had fallen very much. Tarleton then answered, that he would try to cross the Pacolet to force them, and desired Earl Cornwallis to acquire as high a station as possible, in order to stop their retreat. [p220] No letter, order, or intelligence, from head quarters, reached Tarleton after this reply, previous to the defeat on the 17th, and after that event he found Earl Cornwallis on Turkey creek, near twenty-five miles below the place where the action had happened. The distance between Wynnesborough and King's mountain, or Wynnesborough and Little Broad river, which would have answered the same purpose, does not exceed sixty-five miles: Earl Cornwallis commenced his march on the 7th or 8th of January. It would be mortifying to describe the advantages that might have resulted from his lordship's arrival at the concerted point, or to expatiate upon the calamities which were produced by this event. If an army is acting where no co-operation can take place, it is necessary for the commander in chief to keep as near as possible to his detachments, if such a proceeding does not interfere with a manoeuvre which in itself would decide the event of the campaign. A steady adherence to that line of conduct would prevent the misfortunes which detachments are liable to, or soften their effects. Earl Cornwallis might have conceived, that, by attending to the situation of the enemy, and of the country, and by covering his light troops, he would, in all probability, have alternately brought Generals Morgan and Greene into his power by co-operative movements: He might also have concluded, that all his parties that were beaten in the country, if they had no corps to give them instant support or refuge, must be completely destroyed. Many instances of this nature occurred during the war. The fall of Ferguson was a recent and melancholy example: That catastrophe put a period to the first expedition into North Carolina; and the affair of the Cowpens overshadowed the commencement of the second.

The particular incidents relative to the action arise from an examination of the orders, the march, the comparative situation of Morgan [p221] and Tarleton, the disposition, and the defeat. The orders were positive. The march was difficult, on account of the number of creeks and rivers; and circuitous, in consequence of such impediments: The Pacolet was passed by stratagem: The Americans to avoid an action, left their camp, and marched all night: The ground which General Morgan had chosen for the engagement, in order to cover his retreat to Broad river, was disadvantageous for the Americans, and convenient for the British: An open wood was certainly as proper a place for action as Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton could desire; America does not produce many more suitable to the nature of the troops under his command. The situation of the enemy was desperate in case of misfortune; an open country, and a river in their rear, must have thrown them entirely into the power of a superior cavalry; whilst the light troops, in case of repulse, had the expectation of a neighbouring force to protect them from destruction. The disposition was planned with coolness, and executed without embarrassment. The defeat of the British must be ascribed either to the bravery or good conduct of the Americans; to the loose manner of forming which had always been practised by the King's troops in America; or to some unforeseen event, which may throw terror into the most disciplined soldiers, or counteract the best-concerted designs. The extreme extension of the files always exposed the British regiments and corps, and would, before this unfortunate affair, have been attended with detrimental effect, had not the multiplicity of lines with which they generally fought rescued them from such imminent danger. If infantry who are formed very open, and only two deep, meet with opposition, they can have no stability: But when they experience an unexpected shock, confusion will ensue, and flight, without immediate support, must be the inevitable consequence. Other circumstances, perhaps, contributed to so decisive a route, which, if the military system [p222] admitted the same judicious regulation as the naval, a court martial would, perhaps, have disclosed. Public trials of commanding officers after unfortunate affairs, are as necessary to one service as the other, and might, in some instances, be highly beneficial to the military profession. Influenced by this idea, Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, some days after the action, required Earl Cornwallis's approbation of his proceedings, or his leave to retire till inquiry could be instituted, to investigate his conduct. The noble earl's decided support of Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton's management of the King's troops, previous to and during the action, is fully expressed in a letter (L.) from his lordship."


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

What I actually suggested was that Bellesiles is apparently ignorant of how history works --that evidence for one's thesis should be based on -- and consistent with --a complete survey of primary sources; not upon a small cherry-picked selection of secondary sources, especially secondary sources taken out of context.

I think this is a fair comment. If you look at Bellesiles description of Cowpens on Arming America, Knopf version 1, pages 197-198 plus 511; you see that his cited sources (footnote 85) are solely (a) Don Higginbotham's 1961 book
"Daniel Morgan, Revolutionary Rifleman",p. 125-42 and
(b) the 1787 account by Banastre Tarleton (British commander at Cowpens) --"A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America",
p. 210-26.

Only Tarleton's account could be considered a primary source and it is notoriously self-serving-- the account of a commander trying to explain how his force was totally destroyed by an inferior enemy. His count of Morgan's forces --1920 -- was over twice the count (


Ralph E. Luker - 1/14/2004

John, It really isn't possible to engage Don Williams in scholarly discourse because he writes irresponsible things in the subject lines of his posts (I can only assume because he has this incredible need for attention) and _never_ takes responsibility for what he has said there. Whatever is wrong about Michael Bellesiles, it isn't that he is ignorant and, if you begin with such a wrong-headed notion, you'll never even get to scholarly discourse. Instead, we laugh till we almost pee in our pants, things are hilarious, yadda-yadda-yadda.


John G. Fought - 1/14/2004

Rules of Scholarly Discourse:
(a)Never concede a point to an opponent.
(b)Set high standards of civility for opponents.
(c)Never mind citing evidence.
(d)Never concede a point to an opponent.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/14/2004

Don,
a) I don't teach at Emory;
b) I don't know which of my 5 or 6 "obscure tomes" you have reference to;
b) My point is that you drone on and on with pointlessly lengthy posts here and
c) Attempt to draw attention to them by including gratuitous personal insults in the Subject line.
d) Nobody is paying attention.
e) Why not go do something constructive.


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

Oh, I forgot. To make erudite repartee like "If your pants are wet, it's time to change your diaper" , one must have at least a PhD in History plus have published an obscure tome.

It seems to me that such an educational program has some apparent shortcomings, however -- one of which is a self-acknowledged inability to address facts which lie outside one's narrow "area of expertise" -- what Herman Kuhn once noted as the "educated incapacity" developed by US higher education. It seems to me this shortcoming leads to a certain gulliability and naivete'.

There are compensations, however. One develops a certain quiet assurance --that quality which the unwashed sometime mistake for pomposity. Plus an ability to discourse endlessly on a topic while never once actually saying something.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/14/2004

Don, If your pants are wet, it's time to change your diaper.


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

Saul Cornell could write a laudatory review of the Chicago Kent articles -- and their incorporation of Bellesiles' dubious history via extensive citations -- because the historical profession had played rope-a-dope during the Bellesiles affair by (a) insisting critics remain silent while the sancrosanct Emory Investigation proceeded over almost a year (b) secretly restricting the scope of the secret Investigation to a few very narrow issues while ignoring many other major flaws in Arming America (c) exempting Arming America from serious peer review even after flaws were pointed out (d) having an OAH forum on Arming America chaired by Jan Wiener and Paul Finkelman --a forum which by all report accomplished nothing --and (e) having the Journal of American History continue to promote Bellesilesean history --in the form of the Chicago Kent articles -- even after Bellesiles had been (temporarily?) sacrificed.

For example, one of the Chicago Kent Law Review articles -- supporting the gun control interpretation of the Second Amendment -- is Jack Rakove's "THE SECOND AMENDMENT: THE HIGHEST STAGE OF ORIGINALISM"
--see http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/RakoveChicago.htm

Mr Rakove's article --which was cited by the Ninth Circuit Court in it's ruling that US citizens have no right to own firearms -- included the following statement:
--------------
"The behavioral context is most clearly associated with the work of Michael Bellesiles, which will doubtless attract substantial notice and scrutiny. Probing beyond the hackneyed paeans to American sharpshooting that occur both in the primary sources (some of them clearly contrived for European eyes)[143] and in later writings, Bellesiles is evidently the first historian to examine the actual use of firearms in the colonial, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary eras.[144] What he discovers, among other things, is that many, perhaps the majority of American households, did not possess firearms; that Americans imported virtually all of their firearms; that the weapons they had were likely to deteriorate rapidly, firearms being delicate mechanisms, prone to rust and disrepair; that gunsmiths were few, far between, and not especially skilled; that the militia were poorly armed and trained, their occasional drilling days an occasion for carousing rather than acquiring the military art; that Americans had little use for hunting, it being much more efficient to slaughter your favorite mammal grazing in the neighboring pasture or foraging in nearby woods than to take the time to track some attractive haunch of venison with a weapon that would be difficult to load, aim, and fire before the fleshy object of your desire went bounding off for greener pastures. (Trapping was much more efficient than hunting, and hunting was a leisure activity for the elite.)[145] All of these considerations make plausible and explicable the concerns we have already noted in describing the Virginia ratification debate of mid-June 1788: that without a national government firmly committed to the support of the militia, the institution would wither away from inefficiency, indifference, and neglect (which is pretty much what happened in any case, for reasons both Federalists and Antifederalists readily foresaw). Americans of all political persuasions could pay rhetorical lip service to the value of an armed citizenry, because that [Page 155] sentiment was embedded in the traditions that the individual right interpretation celebrates; but the reality was quite otherwise.[146]

Bellesiles's findings, coupled with the evidence that militia reform was indeed the object of debate, thus illustrate a fundamental problem that all originalist inquiries must address. "
-----------
Was any of the Bellesilesean claims cited by Rakove ever verified by the historical community's peer review and Emory Investigation?


Don Williams - 1/14/2004

1) On September 9, 2003 you expressed shock that the Journal of American History "will apparently take no action to acknowledge the flaws in the article that launched the book." See http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=17925#17925 .

I grinned when I read your blog post because you failed to recognize that the Journal had already responded to the Bellesiles matter. Recall my comment to you on Sept 11, 2003?? ( http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=18013#18013 )

In March 2003, the OAH Newsletter printed my letter to Lee Formwalt noting the Journal's obligation to clear up the case files in Silveria v Lochyer and US vs Emerson -- to clear up which of the cited Bellesiles' findings were true, false, partially true, or mistaken.

In it's June 2003 issue, the Journal printed Saul Cornell's glowing review of the Chicago Kent Law Review articles -- the articles containing extensive citations to Bellesiles and --as noted by the Fifth Circuit Court -- containing the definitive argument for the "collective right" view of the Second Amendment. In spite of Bellesiles' resignation, the revocation of the Bancroft, and Knopf's suspension of Arming America publication, the Journal was still promoting Bellesiles' dubious history --
and it's use in two major Supreme Court cases.

Hence, I found your late-breaking outrage rather comical. When I recalled all of your past assurances to us here re the integrity of the history profession's "processes", I almost wet my pants from uncontrollable laughing.

2) Your solemn printing of Saul Cornell's response to John Fought's article ( http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=18203#18203 )
was equally hilarious -- given that you did not appear to know that Mr Cornell had received $400,000 from the Joyce Foundation to pick up where the Chicago Kent Symposium had left off. See http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=18236#18236

3) In fact, your blog comment seemed similar to Jan Wiener's article in The Nation, which presented Jack Rakove's remarks in the light of an objective elder statesman without ever informing the Nation's readers that Rakove was involved in the Bellesiles mess -- that (a) Rakove had a view of the Second Amendment supported by Bellesiles' articles (b) Rakove had sponsored Bellesiles for the fellowship at Stanford Humanities Center, where Bellesiles wrote Arming America (c) Rakove had made Bellesiles the keynote speaker at a Stanford Symposium on the Second Amendment, giving Bellesiles the opportunity to fulfil one of the fellowship requirements (d) Within Arming America's acknowledgements, Bellesiles had thanked Rakove for his extensive review of Arming America (e) the glowing review of Arming America in the Journal of American History was penned by a professor at Haverford College -- Jack Rakove's alma mater.

4) I do not think my observations and criticisms presented in the past two years are all that noteworthy -- if my tone sometimes seem derisive, it is because I think that watching the history profession react in this affair has been as comical as watching a Saturday Night Live satire about Bill Clinton in the Lewinski matter -- or watching a four year old toddler make up increasingly implausible (but creative) explanations to get out of an embarrassing situation.

5) The latest cause for hilarity has been Richard B Bernstein's solemn assurance that judges are not influenced by historians. This at a time when the Joyce's Board --containing several Partners of major law firms -- has spent almost $500,000 developing a history and almost $2 million to have the Violence Policy Center promote it. Plus let us not forget all those prominent historians strongly engaged in what dog breeders call a "campaign".


Ralph E. Luker - 1/14/2004

Don Williams calls my 4 line post a "tirade"! I simply asked you to refrain from abusive insult. You go on and on and on, however, to not much point. I don't read all this stuff you post, Don. Just thought you ought to know.


Don Williams - 1/13/2004

I'm not sure what sparked Mr Luker's tirade above. My suggestion that Benny and Bellesiles are ignorant of how history works seems to me to be the most charitable of several possible explanations for their past publications.

I assume that Mr Luker had no objection to my distinction between primary sources vs secondary sources?

Possibly he thought I was rude to Benny --but he was not bothered by Benny's comment re "NRA Apologists masquerading as historians"

The only long posts I've put up recently have been the comments re the Battle of Cowpens made by John Marshall and Daniel Morgan. I note that I put those excerpts up after Benny suggested that I was posting my "interpretation" of what those men said, not what they actually said.

Possibly Mr Luker was hurt by John Fought's comment above that "the actual participants in an event can't be trusted: we need to wait for the cool, objective judgement of professional historians making careful use of each other's secondary work generations later.". I assume Mr Luker was intelligent enough to recognize Mr Fought's acid sarcasm, although apparently Benny lacked the wit to do so.

Most likely, however, Mr Luker realized with a sinking feeling that he has once again been made to look like a fool.

A few months ago, Josh noted Mr Luker's blog entry containing Saul Cornell's criticism of John Fought's comments. See http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=18203#18203
At the time, I noted:
---------------
You don't understand the ..er.. "context" of Mr Cornell's response, Mr Fought (#18236)
by Don Williams on September 15, 2003 at 2:24 PM
I hope to explain it in a few days -- I'm trying to work something out at the moment. When I do, I hope you will find Mr Cornell's comments as comical as I do.
-------------

Similarly, I thought it was hilarious that Mr Luker huffed and puffed about JAH not responding to the Bellesiles matter -- and failing that JAH already had already showed which way the wind was blowing.

To understand, look at the my information on JAH and Saul Cornell at the bottom of this post:
http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=28229#28229



Ralph E. Luker - 1/13/2004

Don, I'm never quite sure what the object of your lengthy posts here is. Could we have fewer demeaning references in the subject lines? Whatever may be the problems with Michael Bellesiles, ignorance is not one of them. Your calling other people ignorant on a fairly regular basis seems only to indicate your own need for self-inflation. I, for one, stopped reading your over-long posts long ago. They do, as you would say, hurt my head. Call me ignorant, if you will, but I just don't have time for your unjustified preening about how wonderfully knowledgeable you are about all things considered.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/13/2004

Just for the record, Don, I'd point out that what we know as Cicero's defense of Milo is not the defense he provided at trial -- for which there is no record. He rewrote his defense (and rewrote history?) much later. According to accounts, the first version he delivered was faltering, and Milo was convicted by a large majority, and sent into exile. The rewritten version is so at odds with the lost original that when Milo saw the second, he was said to have remarked that if Cicero had delivered it he (Milo) never would have had the opportunity to enjoy the seafood of Marseilles (in exile).


Don Williams - 1/13/2004

I would place "forensic history" at least as far back as Cicero and the fall of the Roman Republic. Consider Cicero's argument --in defense of Titus Annius Milo circa 52 BC -- that assassination of political opponents is sometimes justified : "Take, for example, those occasions on which Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus were killed , and the armed action of Saturninus was put down. Their repression could not fail to convulse the Republic; though it was to safeguard the Republic that it had to be carried out."

As historian Appian noted circa 160 AD, in Book I of his history "The Civil Wars", the unjustified killing of the Gracchi reformers by the patricians --resentful at the Gracchi campaigns against patrician corruption and theft of public lands -- marked the begining of the end for the Roman Republic. As Appian noted, the murder of Tiberius Gracchi (circa 133 BC --80 years prior to the trial of Milo ) marked the first point in the Republic in which political disputes had been settled by violence instead of debate and compromise. Plutarch essentially agrees with Appian.

Cicero justified the Gracchi assassinations because Cicero ,like some other lawyers, had become rich and famous by being an advocate for the rich and powerful patricians-- by promoting their agendas with sophistry and deceit.

All hail the beautiful Clodia, sister of Clodius and lover of many men and possibly some women. When Cicero was later proscribed, hunted down, and his chopped-off head was returned to the Forum, Clodia pulled out the once eloquent tongue and stuck her hatpin through it.

A salute also to General Pompey who --wearied of the legal sophistry and corruption of his age -- said : "Speak not to us of laws --we carry swords "


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/12/2004

I'm not sure we're really disagreeing, Prof. Bernstein. Judicial practice, as you describe it, does extend back beyond the legal realists. As a conscious formal movement, with an associated title, dedicated to studying and describing actual judicial practice, I believe (and I could be wrong) it goes back to, as you say, the 1920's and the 1930's. I was just trying to put a name to what I thought was your view, not describe the origins of that brand of judicial practice.

As an example (at its worst) of what we are talking about, I offer this tidbit from Reinhardt's opinion in Siveira v. Lockyer (available at http://www.potomac-inc.org/silveira.html):

"Moreover, in other public fora, some of the framers explicitly disparaged the idea of creating an individual right to personal arms. For instance, in a highly influential treatise, John Adams ridiculed the concept of such a right, asserting that the general availability of arms would "demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man— it is a dissolution of the government." 3 JOHN ADAMS, A DEFENCE OF THE CONSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES 475 (1787). n51"

Those familiar with the Second Amendment literature will recognize this familiar truncated quote, as it is often deployed by those arguing for a collective right interpretation of the Second (individualist theorists have their own favorite truncated quotes). Here is the fuller quote:

"It must be made a sacred maxim, that the militia obey the executive power, which represents the whole people in the execution of laws. To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, counties or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed, and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws."

Adams is not arguing against a general availability of arms -- how else could they be used in private self-defense, a use to which he has no objection? Nor is there any argument offered vis-a-vis "an individual right to personal arms". The discussion is centered on the subordination of the militia to civil authority. Arms in the hands of individual citizens acting in personal self-defense, or under civil authority, are not a threat. If by "general availability" Reinhardt means "available to non-citizens too", then he has a point, as Adams restricts his discussion to citizens, those who would serve in the militia (and might or might not have a private right as conducive to a proper functioning militia). A private right to keep arms, and a right to bear arms (say, to serve in the militia, as a protection against a select militia), should not be confused with a right to carry arms, or use them indiscriminately (say in armed vigilante bands).


I also disagree with Reinhardt's contention that Adams "Defence of the Constitutions ..." was "highly influential" in the sense of informing the meaning of the Second Amendment. Certainly his "Thoughts on Government" influenced state constitutions, but his "Defence" was openly laughed at by many (even by many Federalists) as outdated, elitist, and anti-democratic.


R. B. Bernstein - 1/12/2004

I respectfully disagree with Richard Henry Morgan's attempt to trace the pedigree of the understanding of what judges do. It goes back before the legal realists of the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, as some of the best work on the intellectual history of the era of the American Revolution teaches (e.g., works by Bernard Bailyn, Gordon S. Wood, Peter Gay, the late Clinton Rossiter, and the late Douglass G. Adair), it goes back to the mid and late 18th century. Professor John Phillip Reid of NYU Law School calls it "forensic history" -- the invoking and deploying of carefully selected historical facts and arguments in the service of a present political or legal position.

Or, to quote the Book of Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun."


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/12/2004

Don, the Joyce Foundation's money, and the Chicago-Kent historians' efforts were not wasted. They provided more current, more fashionable building materials for Reinhardt's construction. Bernstein's point is that the locus of control is the judges writing the decision, and that historical arguments have little epistemic force with them -- the judges merely cherry-pick a bit here, and bit there, and then roll their own rationale.

Bernstein's view of the matter has a pedigree. It is called (or is similar to) a theory of judicial behaviour called legal realism, and it came out of Columbia and Johns Hopkins, and Yale. One of the tenets, closely associated with Cardozo, is that there is not necessarily one correct way to decide a case. This is a reaction against the formalism that had been taught, complete with law as a syllogistic structure.

There is no precise metric for weighing competing arguments, and cases at the upper appeals levels often have good arguments on both sides. if the law doesn't uniquely determine the outcome, what does? That's the function of ideology in both legal realism and political theory. Legal realism doesn't explain all judicial behaviour, but I think it explains a plurality or even a majority of decisions in the upper levels of the appeals courts, particularly involving cases with large ideological implications. Do you honestly think that Reinhardt, in the absence of the Chicago-Kent contributions, would have found an individual right? Do you think that Scalia, as the graduate of an all-male military prep school in NYC, would have ever decided differently in the VMI case?


Don Williams - 1/12/2004

Benny commented:
"The list of primary sources Mr. Williams trusts on Cowpens all have in common that they were Continental officers who would be expected to put the best face on their victory."

I don't see any reason why Morgan, Howard, or Washington would feel compelled to "put the best face on their victory" -- they whipped Tarleton's ass in a convincing fashion. The results spoke for themselves-- over a hundred British dead, hundreds taken prisoner, and the much vaunted Tarleton running like a whipped cur.

Benny also seems to be trying to ignore the point I make -- Continental officers were more likely to condemm militia than to praise them and to acknowledge their contribution in achieving victory.

I don't see where Morgan, Howard, or Washington condemmed the militia the way Bellesiles does. Morgan didn't say the militia blundered around the battlefield --he said they retreated in accord with his orders.


Benny Smith - 1/11/2004

Mr. Williams appears to be climbing farther out onto his limb with his prolific rants here. Primary sources may be fine but to infer that they never mislead or lie is preposterous. And where would we be without secondary sources like history teachers, history texts, encyclopedias—indeed without persnickety pundits like Mr. Williams himself?

The list of primary sources Mr. Williams trusts on Cowpens all have in common that they were Continental officers who would be expected to put the best face on their victory. To continue with Mr. Williams’ courtroom analogy, accepting the officers’ accounts as unadulterated truth would be like having a trial where only the police testify without so much as a cross-examination. Normally in a trial, you could have forensic evidence, eyewitness reports, circumstantial evidence, and expert witnesses representing more than one view. A judge relying on his professional experience and training will ultimately determine what likely took place. In viewing history, professional historians are in many ways like judges. They may read various eyewitness accounts; evaluate archeological evidence; study expert reports and interpretations; read contemporary journals and newspaper articles; and possibly visit the site itself. Then, they report what likely took place. That’s why professional historians are so important for students of history, regardless of whether they are primary or secondary sources. However, just as judges differ in their opinions, historians may differ similarly.

With that in mind, I located a slightly different interpretation of the battle of Cowpens that may more closely adhere to the gospel according to Don. This is from the book An Eyewitness History: The American Revolution: “Realizing the militiamen’s low tolerance for sustained battle, Morgan decided to emplace them as his two front lines with orders for each line to fire two volleys at the enemy and then withdraw uphill to entice Tarleton’s legions, presumably reduced by the volleys, into striking the Continentals.” This account does not call the retreat of the militia “quailing” from the charges of the British, nor does it mention patriot commanders rallying fleeing militiamen (it is a brief account, however). Instead, it credits clever, if risky, planning in putting the militia up front, knowing that they were likely to cut and run anyway.

Although debating various historical interpretations can be fun and enlightening, I view this forum as a poor venue for this purpose. Indeed, it is difficult now to know exactly where this post will appear in the thread or whether the title will appear at all. For armchair history buffs like Mr. Williams, may I suggest the “phorums” at http://www.earlyamerica.com/ Just follow the prompts to the town crier forums where Mr. Williams and others will find an active discussion going on regarding many topics of early America.


Don Williams - 1/11/2004

I've received the program for the Organization of American Historians(OAH) Annual Meeting in Boston: March 25-28, 2004

On page 56, there is an announcement of a session
"Guns in Early America: Ownership, Meaning, and Violence"
with Edward M Cook (University of Chicago) Presiding.
Presenters are Amy A Cox, Kevin Sweeney, Robert H Churchill,
and Randolph A Roth; with Comment by Gloria Lund Main.

Note that the last three (Robert H Churchill, Randolph A Roth, and Gloria Lund Main) were the major critics of Arming America within the historical profession.


Don Williams - 1/11/2004

See http://chronicle.com/ .

A temporary copy of the article will be available here until around January 15:
http://chronicle.com/temp/email.php?id=k1p5onqb6zy6l7r2dey8a9kbx8xxbsy1

Some excerpts from the article:

--------------
"RELOADED: Michael A. Bellesiles is having his say again. A revised edition of Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture has been issued by Soft Skull Press, a small New York City imprint. The previous edition was withdrawn by Vintage Books in January 2003, after two scholarly committees found serious problems with Mr. Bellesiles's use of historical data. In the months before Vintage's cancellation, Mr. Bellesiles resigned from the faculty of Emory University, and Columbia University rescinded the 2001 Bancroft Prize in History, which had been awarded to the book."
(Nice leadin, no?)
--------------
"Not everyone is pleased with Mr. Bellesiles's choice of publishers. "I think he made a very serious mistake in not turning to a university press, not going through peer review," says Saul Cornell, an associate professor of history at Ohio State University who is completing a book about the Second Amendment for Oxford University Press. Mr. Cornell shares Mr. Bellesiles's skepticism toward the National Rifle Association's view of guns in American history, but says that Mr. Bellesiles "should have taken time to think hard about the criticisms of his book. Not just about the charges of misconduct, but about the general criticisms of how he framed the issues."
(One passenger abandons the sinking Arming America boat with a big splash )
----------------
"I thought that what happened to Arming America was the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my time in academia," says Richard B. Bernstein, the author of the new Thomas Jefferson and the Revolution of Ideas (Oxford), who has been a friend of Mr. Bellesiles's for several years. "As far as I'm concerned, my faith in his integrity is unshaken. ... I am very glad that this book is going to get a second lease on life."
(wotta guy. Someone throw this man a life preserver )
---------------
Mr. Bellesiles is now falsely minimizing the importance of probate records to his original argument, according to Peter Charles Hoffer, a professor of history at the University of Georgia and the author of the forthcoming Historians on Trial: The Cases of Stephen Ambrose, Michael Bellesiles, Joseph Ellis, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, which PublicAffairs will publish late this year. "In the pamphlet, he says, Look, I only devoted four pages to the probate stuff," says Mr. Hoffer. "He doesn't even mention the full-page table."
(Another passenger jumps overboard with a big splash. I believe Mr Hoffer , along with Bellesiles, was one of the signers of the Yassky Brief in US vs Emerson )
------------


Don Williams - 1/11/2004

It seems strange that the Chairman and Directors of the Joyce Foundation would waste almost $500,000? in developing historical narratives that Mr Bernstein assures us are ignored by judges. Especially when the
Chairman and several Directors are PARTNERS in major law firms.


The Joyce Foundation's Board of Directors are here:
http://www.joycefdn.org/about/aboutmain-fs.html

Another site , http://www.consumerfreedom.com/activistcash/donor_detail.cfm?DONOR_ID=139 ,
gives more detail about the Chairman and individual Directors:

1) Chairman John T. Anderson --Managing Partner, Lord Bissel & Brook

2) Vice Chairman Richard K. Donahue --Partner, Donahue & Donahue;

3) Director Anthony S. Earl --Former Wisconsin Governor; Partner, Quarles & Brady LLP; Chair, Center for Clean Air Policy; Director, Great Lakes Protection Fund

4) Director Roger R. Fross -- Partner, Lord Bissel & Brook


Don Williams - 1/11/2004

1) The pro-gun control Joyce Foundation spends millions every year in grants for gun control groups-- see
http://www.joycefdn.org/programs/gunviolence/gunviolencemain-fs.html.

If history has no influence on judges,
why did the Joyce give Saul Cornell and the Ohio State Department of History a grant of $399,967 in 2002 for " the creation of a comprehensive Second Amendment Research Center. (2 yrs.)"??

2) At first, I accepted your superior judgement and assumed that the Foundation was simply carelessly throwing money away. Then it occurred to me that the Foundation received a pretty good return on one 1999 grant:

Illinois Institute of Technology,
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Chicago, Illinois $84,000
For a symposium and law review on the Second Amendment (6 mos.)

3) After all, the Ninth Circuit Court used the Chicago Kent Law Review articles from the Joyce Symposium as it's "forensic history" when it ruled that US citizens have no right to own firearms. And that happened even with the Billesiles trainwreck --which after all, was triggered by Clayton Cramer and James Lindgren's criticisms, not by the professional historical community.

4) Now, we have the Organization of American Historians(OAH)'s Journal of American History publishing Saul Cornell's praise (June 2003) for the Chicago Kent Law Review articles, packaged into a book by Carl Bogus:
"The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms." Ed. by Carl T. Bogus. (New York: New Press, 2002. x, 358 pp. $24.95, ISBN 1-56584-699-0.)"

5) In it's Dec 5, 2002 Press Release on the Ninth Court's ruling (that the American people have no Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms"), the leading gun control advocacy group "Violence Policy Center" noted the following:


" Citing cutting-edge scholarship such as the 2000 Chicago Kent Law Review—Symposium on the Second Amendment: Fresh Looks, the Silveira decision details the history and context of the Second Amendment, as well
as existing legal precedent, and makes clear that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms."

6) I assume this is objective judgement and was not influenced in any way by the following Joyce grants to the Violence Policy Center:

2002:
Violence Policy Center
Washington, DC $800,000
To support research, public education, communication, and advocacy efforts promoting public health oriented gun violence prevention policies. (18 mos.)

2000:
Violence Policy Center
Washington, DC $1,000,000
To support its efforts to promote public health-oriented gun policy through research, public education, coalition building, and advocacy. (2 yrs)


Don Williams - 1/11/2004

I have just found out that Bellesiles has supposedly just released a pamphlet --in addition to the Soft Skull Press book -- in which he allegedly addresses criticisms of Arming America, version one (finally). I therefore retract my last statement-- that Bellesiles did not defend Arming America --until I obtain and review his pamphlet.
(Soft Skull Press web site currently says to find it "at " but fails to give a location.)

In my next to last statement in the above post, I wish to clarify that I do not definitely know that Bellesiles and his allies "made up a pack of lies" to mislead the Supreme Court --merely that I see that as a possibility and that the massive negative effects of a Supreme Court judgment are such that that should not be allowed to happen. Hence, people advocating the curtailment and possible abolition of a major civil right should expect to have to defend the truth of their claims/assertions.

I can not eliminate my doubts re the truth of either Bellesiles history or of the Chicago Kent Law Review articles because, in my opinion, the people who are attempting to influence a major legal judgement using a historical narrative are ,at the same time, saying that historical narrative is not subject to the ordinary challanges of the legal process.

It has long been legal procedure that two parties in a legal battle present their facts, answer challenges to their submittals, and that truth will emerge from this contention.

In most areas of scholarship, a similar process exists in which a thesis is submitted with evidence and undergoes "peer review" in which peers may challenge the thesis if it (a) misrepresents known facts, (b) presents nonexistent or false facts or (c) does not address pertinent known facts which are contrary to the thesis

Yet now the meme seems to be that there are no real facts --merely "interpretations" and that one interpretation is pretty much as good as another. If that is so, then why the enormous effort to submit this mallable, indeterminate thing called "history" into a major Supreme Court case?

Why did Bellesiles' demurs regarding the fallability of historians not show up in the Chicago Kent articles and the legal briefs submitted by gun control advocates in US vs Emerson?? I saw damm little confessions of fallability in that material.

In my opinion, Arming America, the 1996 predecessor article, and the Chicago Kent Law Review articles citing Bellesiles' work have short-circuited peer review--as I have described in the past. So let's see what has happened since Bellesiles' resignation.

In spring 2003, OAH had their annual meeting, including a preliminary forum on Arming America. So what was the result? Nothing?

In March 2003, I suggested to the OAH that it had an obligation to correct the case files for US vs Emerson and Silveria vs Lochyer by determining which of Bellesiles' assertions were true, false, mistaken, or partially true.

In response, the OAH's Journal of American History blandly published in June 2003 a rather laudatory review of the Chicago Kent Law Review articles , reissued as a book edited by Carl Bogus. The review was by Saul Cornell -- the historian who has received $400,000 from the Joyce Foundation to investigate the Second Amendment's history. The same Joyce Foundation which put up the money for Bellesiles and others to conduct the Chicago Kent Symposium solely for the creation of a defense of the "collective right" (pro gun-control )interpretation of the Second Amendment. The same Joyce Foundation which receives the yearly revenue of almost $1 Billion in assets tax-free because it tells the IRS that it does not engage in political lobbying.
See http://www.historycooperative.org/cgi-bin/justtop.cgi?act=justtop&url=http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/90.1/br_14.html

Mr Cornell lauds the Chicago Kent authors --although I seem to recall that he mentions that Bellesiles is controversial. From what I remember, Mr Cornell doesn't discuss the extensive citations to Bellesiles that the other authors make. Yet it seems to me that citations to Bellesiles -- who resigned from Emory, whose Arming America was withdrawn from publication by Knopf, and whose Bancroft prize was rescinded -- would reflect badly upon the knowledge, judgment,and credibility of the other Chicago Kent authors. It seems hilarious to me that Knopf can halt publication of Arming America yet Bellesiles' history lives on in the legal arena in the form of
"The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms." Ed. by Carl T. Bogus. (New York: New Press, 2002. x, 358 pp. $24.95, ISBN 1-56584-699-0.)







R. B. Bernstein - 1/11/2004

So you are NOT the Richard Henry Morgan who wrote THE SUPREME COURT AND RELIGION in 1972? Then it's a case of mistaken identity and not some sort of "joke." I was proffering a sincere comment to *that* Richard Henry Morgan; if you are not that Richard Henry Morgan, then I apologize for the confusion.

Other than that, I have nothing to add to what I've already said. Bellesiles's critics charged deliberate, willful, malice-aforethought professional malfeasance; it seems odd that they resist the usual approach of a profession to charges of professional malfeasance, but there is so much that's odd about their approach to l'affaire Bellesiles that a reasonable person would become exhausted counting the oddities.

Yes, *that* bitter number-crunching joke *was* deliberate.


R. B. Bernstein - 1/11/2004

No, I wouldn't. I've given my reasons for not having written the preface, and you will have to be content with that.


Don Williams - 1/10/2004

Curious minds want to know.

After all, I assume that Amazon.com would not have promised a Preface from you without some committment on your behalf to Bellesiles. Surely you wouldn't break a promise to a close friend, would you?


Don Williams - 1/10/2004

Benny keeps referring to SECONDARY SOURCES -- accounts written by people who lived 200 years after an event took place.

What I've provided is PRIMARY SOURCES --accounts written by people who lived 200 years ago and who were eyewitnesses to events when they occurred.

SECONDARY SOURCES are of value only to the extent that they provide detailed citations to the PRIMARY SOURCES which support the narrative provided by the SECONDARY SOURCE -- and to the extent that the SECONDARY SOURCE does not overlook major PRIMARY SOURCES which provide information/evidence which contradicts the narrative of the SECONDARY SOURCE.

The reason for this approach is that SECONDARY SOURCES can be mistaken or even lie.

ARMING AMERICA is a SECONDARY SOURCE -- one which, in my opinion, is very lacking PRIMARY SOURCE citations to support it's argument and also one which overlooks/ignores much PRIMARY SOURCE evidence which contradicts it's argument.

The documents Benny have cited above have all bee SECONDARY SOURCES -- his last citation seems to lack any references to PRIMARY SOURCES to back it's argument but is merely a story on the Internet. I don't have access to the 100 year old history he cites so I don't know if that historian provided any PRIMARY sources as evidence.

History is very much like a police investigation and testimony presented at a courtroom trial. Jurors must ignore hearsay -- including assertions made by lawyers for either the prosecution or defense who may be trying to mislead them. Instead, jurors must focus on the EVIDENCE:
who actually saw the events? How credible are they? Are there contradictory accounts? Is there an explanation for the contradiction?

John Marshall, Harry Lee, Daniel Morgan, Col Washington, and Col Howard were all CONTINENTAL Officers who were quick --in other circumstances -- to speak of militia shortcomings with contempt. Witness Marshall's description of Camden , for example. That they spoke well of Pickens' militia at Cowpens discredits Bellesiles' account greatly.


Benny Smith - 1/10/2004

Mr. Williams will have to forgive me if I don’t trust the military’s accounts of their exploits as gospel. Long before Baghdad Bob, long before our commander in chief’s steadfast warnings of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, truth became the first casualty of war. Any real student of the American Revolution will tell you that propagandizing was existent there too. That is why I agree with Mr. Fought that it is better to rely on the "cool and objective judgement of professional historians." And why I believe that history, particularly military history, provides fertile ground for such a rich and divergent mixture of views and interpretations. Certainly, it is not a field where one’s views, supported by authoritative literature, should be dismissed as fraud, lies, wrong, etc.

Unfortunately, history has become so politicized that one must become wary when seeing gun lobby compatriots rallying around a particular historical view, especially when it is the gospel according to Don. Is Mr. Williams affiliated with the NRA? Should objective and open-minded students then be wary of what he has to say? From my experience dealing with the gun lobby, I believe that to be the case.

Regarding the battle of Cowpens, although I do not necessarily trust internet sources, here is what one referential site said that may shed some light:

"Lt. Colonel Tarleton ordered his infantry to reform and they now attacked Lt. Colonel John Eager Howard's Continentals on the right. The disciplined Continentals exchanged heavy fire with the British for several minutes. Meanwhile General Morgan rode to the rear to help Andrew Pickens rally the militia. Many of whom were willing to continue their withdrawal and leave the field of battle entirely. Morgan and Pickens succeeded in gathering most of the militia and they headed for Howard's right flank in reaction to the latest British movement."

http://www.patriotresource.com/battles/cowpens/page5.html


Although this account appears to support Bellesiles’ thesis, I am not going to say it is 100 per cent correct any more than I am likely to say that Mr. Williams is 100 per cent wrong. But what the gun lobby has tried to do in attempting to censor Bellesiles is wrong—100 per cent wrong.


R. B. Bernstein - 1/10/2004

No, I did not read the second edition. I have not seen it in any shape or form.


R. B. Bernstein - 1/10/2004

Prof. Morgan has correctly characterized my view.


R. B. Bernstein - 1/10/2004

Nobody seems to have noticed that I already answered this question back in December in another thread. The answer is simple. It has nothing to do with any doubts about Michael Bellesiles as a scholar. It has everything to do with the pressure of my own writing schedule. I have spent much of the past five years writing a book, which appeared on 4 Septmeber 2003: THOMAS JEFFERSON (NY: Oxford University Press, 2003). I then had to finish a young-adult version of the book, titled THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE REVOLUTION OF IDEAS, which Oxford will publish in early 2004. THOMAS JEFFERSON was reviewed in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW on 14 December 2003 by Gordon Wood, who had nice things to say, thank Heaven. And Michael Bellesiles read the entire manuscript and provided an excellent and constructive critique that greatly improved the book.

Further deponent saith not, save to say that I am sick and tired of people trying to figure out what I might thing or might not think or why I did what I did or did not do why I did not do. Perhaps someone might have thought to ask me directly. It's not hard to find my email address or to drop a letter to me c/o New York Law School. But, of course, it's so much more fun to speculate ominously about "reasons" and "motivations," isn't it? So true to the spirit (in the loosest possible sense) of History News Network.


Don Williams - 1/9/2004

I actually have a much more negative view of Bellesiles' character now --due to my initial examination of the Soft Skull edition --than I initially had due to the first edition of Arming America. I saw much sophistry and misdirection in the first edition but I saw the possibility that Bellesiles had been compromised by the poor job prospects for historians, the benefits from the patronage of prominent historians --like Garry Wills, Jack Rakove, Don Higginbotham, Saul Cornell, and other authors at the Chicago Kent Second Amendment Symposium-- and his own gun control bias.

From what I see so far of the second version(Soft Skull) of Arming America, Bellesiles corrects few of the major errors in the first version (Knopf). Plus, in my opinion, Bellesiles has gone from lying about events of 200 years ago to lying about events of the present day.

For example, Bellesiles states on page 8 of the new edition:

"When Arming America appeared in September 2000, it inspired a firestorm of criticism. Many of these attacks worked on the premise that this book assailed an individual's right to own a firearm. There is , however, nothing in this book to support that characterization, and a great deal to support a contrary reading. On the other hand, that the book observes that gun regulation was historically part of various patterns of political and social repression does not mean that I set out to undermine or endorse current efforts at gun control."

This above comment seems rather misleading to Bellesiles' readers--given that his pose as an objective historian does not mention to them his heavy involvement in gun control advocacy in 2000 --until Arming America began to smell -- and the way Bellesiles' assertions were used by gun control advocates in legal briefs to sway the Supreme Court in US vs Emerson. It does not mention that the Chicago Kent articles --recently used by the Ninth Circuit Court to rule that Americans have no right to own firearms--extensively cite Bellesiles to make their gun control argument.

Similarly, Bellesiles' claim on page 15 that "What an historian says has little impact on present conditions".
That , of course, is utter bullshit.

Two of the Supreme Court judges most sympathetic to gun rights are also constitutional originalists --i.e., approach the interpretation of the Constitution by looking at history and trying to determine the original intent of the founders. Some of the same historians who are now trying to run from the Arming America debacle were arguing several years ago that THEY ALONE were qualified to
describe Early American history -- that scholars of Constitutional Law who promoted the Standard Model of the Second Amendment were ignorant of the American Founding.

The prominent historians who joined with Bellesiles in writing the Constitutional Commentary articles, the Chicago Kent Law Review articles, and who signed the Yassky brief -- the primary legal arguments by gun control advocates in US vs Emerson --were trying to convince the Supreme Court to make a fundamental civil right into a dead letter. They were trying to destroy the primary bulwark against tyranny in this country and the primary protection for the Constitution.

On page 582 of his book, Bellesiles expresses appreciation that "many people who value free speech and fair play have spoken out on my behalf". On page 584, he states of his young daughter that "No one should have to end her childhood as the witness to the sort of fury and cruelty as was directed at her father".

To this pitiful whining, I respond: Timothy Emerson and millions of other Americans should not be thrown into prison, lose all civil rights as convicted felons, and be condemmed to a life of poverty because a group of avowed "intellectuals" think they can execute a Foucaultian Maneuver -- disarm American citizens by making up a pack of lies to mislead American voters and the Supreme Court.

In my opinion, Bellesiles' suggestion that he has responded to criticism of Arming America is also false -- he hid out in Britain and refused to defend Arming America or to address factual criticisms to any significant extent.


Don Williams - 1/9/2004

Your first memory refers to Colonel Howard's response when Daniel Morgan rode up and asked if Howard's Continental Line was beaten (given the unplanned retreat). Howard responded
that men were not beaten who retreated in an orderly manner.

Your second memory refers to Captain Duncanson , of the 71st Highlanders, grabbing at Col Howard's saddle and asking for his protection --given the cries of "Tarleton's quarter" that began ringing out among Morgan's men, a reference to the Waxhaws massacre in which Tarleton killed about 100 US Continental soldiers after they had surrendered.

Lawrence Babits, of East Carolina University, recounts both events in his book "A Devil of a Whipping" (1998)--the best account so far of the Battle of Cowpens.
Babits, in turn, acknowledges a debt to the study of Revolutionary War pension applications --which include soldiers' accounts of battles in which they participated --done by Bobby Moss of Limestone College, Gaffney, South Carolina. I wonder if Don Higginbotham at the University of North Carolina has corrected his course material to reflect the findings of Mr Babits and Mr Moss.

I disagree somewhat with the suggestion that Bellesiles
was misled by the secondary sources to which he referred.
While Don Higginbotham's text had the error to which I referred, such errors are easily exposed if one reads seven or eight histories on a particular matter. Doing that tends to reveal errors, different accounts, or unusual extrapolations which should be investigated further by looking at the author's cited evidence. Plus a real historian will go beyond the accounts written by other historians and look at the primary sources -- the actual accounts left by people who lived 200 years ago.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/9/2004

I have somewhere floating in the recesses of my mind, two vague memories, whose provenance is uncertain. One is an occasion where either Morgan or one of the upper officers decried the fleeing of some American troops, with a colonel responding that they were retreating to a new position in good order.

Another memory is a British officer, having dropped his weapon and surrendered, grabbing the saddle-horn of an American officer, and begging not to be left behind. When the American officer inquired as to his behaviour, the Brit said he expected to be killed despite surrendering, as Tarleton had ordered the Brits to do to Americans (just as they had at the Battle of the Waxhaws, or Buford's Massacre). Given knowledge of Tarleton's tactics, I can imagine that the planned repositioning might not have looked all that orderly to an observer not familiar with the plan (I'll bet they beat a hasty retreat to their new position, rather than forming up into nice, neat rows).

It's interesting, Don, that you picked up the discrepancy between Bellesiles' acocunt and the facts. I remember reading the official US Army history of the battle, and was shocked that they too said it was the Continental unit that blundered about (shocked because I had read so much bad history before).

Bellesiles' account demonstrates the perils of synthetic history. Taking such a broad topic, and approach, and so many different kinds of "evidence", the synthesizer can't be expert in as many fields as are demanded, and ends up being at the mercy of the few sources he does choose -- and then is left with the task of making a silk purse from a sow's ear.


Don Williams - 1/9/2004

I need to turn in. If you are interested, I also have Light Horse Harry Lee's account of Cowpens --and an account of the Battle given in William Gordon's 1788 History-- which I intend to post below for Benny's edification in the next few days.


Don Williams - 1/9/2004

Daniel Morgan mentioned the following men in his dispatch to Congress -- a traditional way of honoring subordinates' performance in battle. Following is taken from the Penn microfiche and is the enclosed list Morgan alluded to
in his letter posted above.
----------------
DAN MORGAN

A LIST of teh commissioned officers in the action of the 17th of jan, 1781

Of the light infantry.
John Howard, Lieut. Col. Commandant
Benjamin Brooks, Capt. and Major of Brigade
Captains, Robert Shenkwood Delaware
Anderson Maryland
Dobson, ditto
Lieutenants Ewing ditto
Watkins ditto
Hanson ditto
Barnes ditto
Miller ditto
Ensigns King ditto
Dyer Maryland
Smith ditto

Of the third Battalion of Dragoons
Lieut Col Washington Virginia
Major Richard Call ditto
Captain Barrett ditto
Lieutenant Bell ditto
Cornet Simmon South Carolina

Of the Maryland State Battalion
Edward Giles, Major, and acting Aid-de-camp

Of the Virginia Militia
Major Triplett
Captains Buchanan
Tate
Gilmore
Ensigns Combs
McCorkill
Wilfoe

The Baron de Glafbuck served as a volunter to General Morgan's family, and Mr Andrews with Col Washington's battalion

Col Pickens, and all the officers in his corps, behaved well; but from their having lately joined the detachment, it is impossible to collect all their names and rank. So that the General does not particulate any , lest it should be doing injustice to others.

[Col Pickens' militia did not join up with Morgan until the night before the the battle ]

Note that Morgan did not mention Captain Andrew Wallace, whose unit had triggered the inadvertent retreat by the Continental Line. Contrary to Bellesiles' description, it was the Continental Line and Wallace's unit which was blundering around the battlefield at Cowpens.

Note that Congress later award medals to Morgan, Howard, and Washington and gave Col Pickens a sword.

Morgan's commendations and Congress's award would hardly have occurred if the militia had behaved at Cowpens as depicted by Bellesiles in Arming America.


John G. Fought - 1/9/2004

Thanks, Don. Marshall's account is very easy to follow, and the coordination of units by Morgan during the action seems to have worked as well as anyone could have hoped. It's striking how few men were involved. Of course, the actual participants in an event can't be trusted: we need to wait for the cool, objective judgement of professional historians making careful use of each other's secondary work generations later.
By the way, I've meant to tell you and Richard and the rest that I've enjoyed two recent books by John Mosier: The Myth of the Great War and (slightly less) The Blitzkrieg Myth. (He's an English professor...) In both, he gets and gives important insights from simply studying at first hand some crucial bits of terrain, an elementary exercise that doesn't seem as common among military historians as it should be. I'd like to hear from any of you who's read either book, though I guess this isn't quite the right venue. And remember, always keep your legal pads dry and your office doors wet.


Don Williams - 1/9/2004

Following is from http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~familyinformation/transcripts/morgan1.html
but I have checked it against a microfilm copy of the document at the University of Pennsylvania (Van Pelt Library, Microfiche 821, number 44035 )
--------------------------
General Morgan's Report on the Battle of Cowpens
Papers of the Continental Congress M247 roll 175 vol. 1 pg. 541
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland




COPY


Camp near Cain Creek
Januay 19 1781

Dear Sir.

The Troops I have the honor to command have gained a compleat Victory over a Detachment from the British Army commanded by Leut. Colonel Tarlton. The Action happened on the 17th Inst. about Sunrise at a Place called the Cowpens near Pacolet River.

On the 14th having received Intelligence that the British Army were in motion, and that their movements clearly indicated their Intentions of dislodging me, I abandoned my Encampment at Goindales Ford and on the 16th in the Evening took possession of a Post about 7 miles from the Cherokee Ford on Broad River. My former Position subjected me at once to the Operations of Lord Cornwallis and Colonel Tarlton and in Case of a Defeat my Retreat might easily have been cut off. My situation at the Cowpens enabled me to improve any advantages that I might gain and to provide better for my Security should I be unfortunate. These Reasons induced me to take this Post notwithstanding it had the Appearances of a Retreat. On the Evening of the 16th the Enemy occupied the Ground we had moved from in the morning. An Hour before daylight one of my Scouts informed me that they had advanced within five Miles of our Camp. On this Information the necessary positions were made and from the alacrity of the Troops we were soon prepared to receive them.

The Light Infantry, commanded by Leut. Colonel Howard and the Virginia Militia under Majr. Triplett were formed on a rising Ground. The 3rd Regiment of Dragoons consisting of about 80 men under the command of Lt. Colonel Washington were so posted in their Rear so as not to be injured by the Enemy's Fire and yet to be able to charge them should an occasion offer. The Volunteers from N. Carolina, S. Carolina and Georgia under the command of Colonel Pickens were posted to guard the Flanks. Majr. McDowell of the N. Carolina Volunteers was posted on the right Flank in front of the Line 150 yards and Majr. Cunningham of the Georgia Volunteers on the left at the same distance in Front. Colonels Brannon's and Thomas of the S. Carolina Volunteers on the right of Majr. McDowell and Colonels Hays and McCall of the same Corps on the left of Majr. Cunningham. Captains Tate and Buchannan with the Augusta Riflemen were to support the right of the Line.

The Enemy drew up in one Line 400 yds. in Front of our advanced Corps. The 1st Battn. of the 71st Regt. was opposed to our Right. The 7th Regt. to our left. The Legion Infantry to our Center and two Companies of light Troops of 100 each on our Flanks. In their Front they moved two pieces of Artillery and Lt. Colonel Tarlton with 280 Cavalry was posted in the rear of his Line. The Disposition being thus made small Parties of Riflemen were detached to skirmish with the Enemy on which their whole Line advanced with the greatest Impetuosity shouting as they advanced. Majers [sic] McDowell and Cunningham gave them a heavy and galling fire and retreated to the Regiments intended for their support. The whole of Colonel Picken's Command then kept up a Fire by Regiments retreating agreeable to orders. When the Enemy advanced to our Line they received a well directed and incessant Fire but their Numbers being superior to ours they gained our Flanks which obliged us to change our Position. We retired in good order about 50 Paces, formed, advanced on the Enemy and gave them a brisk Fire which threw them into disorder. Lt. Colonel Howard discovering this gave orders for the Line to charge [with] Bayonets which was done with such address that the Enemy fled with the utmost Precipitation.

Lt. Colonel Washington discovering that the Cavalry were cutting down our Riflemen on the left charged them with such Firmness as obliged them to retire in Confusion. The Enemy was entirely routed and the pursuit continued upwards of 20 miles.

Our loss was inconsiderable, not having more than 12 killed and 60 Wounded. The Enemy loss was 10 Com. Officers and upwards of 100 Rank and File killed, 200 Wounded. 29 Com. Officers and above 500 Privates Prisoners, which fell into our Hands with two Pieces of Artillery, two Standards, 800 musquets [sic], one travelling Forge, 35 Baggage Waggons, 70 negroes and upwards of 100 Dragoon Horses with all their [Musith?]. They destroyed most of their Baggage which was immense.

Altho our Success was compleat, we fought only 800 Men and were opposed by upwards of 1000 of proven British Troops.

Such ws the Inferiority of our numbers, that our Success must be attributed to the Justice of our Cause and the Bravery of our Troops. My Wishes would induce me to mention the Name of every private Centinel [sic] in the Corps. In Justice to the Bravery and good Conduct of the Officers, I have taken the Liberty to enclose you a List of their Names from a conviction that you will be pleased to introduce such Characters to the World.

Majr. Giles my Aid d[e] Camp and Capt. Brooks acting as my Brigade Majer [sic] deserve and have my thanks for their assistance & Behaviour on this occasion.

The Baron De Glaibeuh, who accompanies Majr. Giles with these Dispatches, served with me as a Volunteer and behaved in such a manner as to merit your attention.

I am Dr Sir
Yr. Obt. Servt.

Dan Morgan

-----------------------------
Note that Morgan testifies that the militia gave the British line a heavy fire before retreating and that the retreat was according to his plan (because a British bayonet charge would overtake the militia line before the rifles --slow to reload --could be reloaded). Bellesiles description of militia fleeing from the British is misleading -- some of them --with unloaded rifles --fled from a British cavalry charge on Morgan's left flank, but it is misleading to suggest this occurred for all of Pickens' militia. Moreover, the militia fled the British cavalry because Washington was slow to cover them as had been planned.


Don Williams - 1/9/2004

Benny
I assumed that when I gave two references, you would have
the initiative to get off your duff and check the books I cited. I forgot that your "insights" have been, in my opinion, usually fact-free and consisting almost wholly of cheap rhetorical gestures such as unsupported assertions, unsupported suppositions about the character of Bellesiles' critics, and unsupported skepticism re facts submitted by others. So devoid of content are your comments -- so shallow in their thought --that I think I could program a computer to mimick your comments.

Given below is what John Marshall wrote in "The Life of George Washington" (pages 470-473, Volume I, Walton Book Co, New York, 1930,an exact copy of the 1848 text per publisher's note. The 1848 text was a revision of the book released in 1832. )

In submitting it, I do not expect you to finally engage reality -- I never pursue forlorn hopes except in poker. Rather, I think Mr Morgan and Mr Fought may find John Marshall's comments of interest.
--------------------------------------------
"But Morgan had great and just confidence in himself and in his troops, he was unwilling to fly from an enemy not so decidedly his superior as to render it madness to fight him; and he also thought that, if he should be overtaken while his men were fatigued and retreating, the probability of success would be much less than if he should exhibit the appearance of fighting from choice.
These considerations determined him to halt earlier than was absolutely necessary.2
[John Marshall notes in his Footnote 2:"These reasons for his conduct were given to the author by General Morgan soon after his return from the southern campaign." ]
Tarleton, having left his baggage under a strong guard, with orders not to move until break of day, recommenced the pursuit at three in the morning.
Before day, Morgan was informed of his approach, and prepared to receive him.
Although censured by many for having determined to fight, and by some for the ground he chose, all admit the judgment with which his disposition was made.
On an eminence, in an open wood, he drew up his continental troops, and Triplet's corps, deemed equal to continentals, amounting to between four and five hundred men, who were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Howard. In their rear, on the descent of the hill, Lieutenant Colonel Washington was posted with his cavalry, and a small body of mounted Georgia militia commanded by Major M'Call, as a corps de reserve.
On these two corps rested his hopes of victory, and with them he remained in person. The front line was composed entirely of militia, under the command of Colonel Pickens. Major M’Dowell, with a battalion of North Carolina volunteers, and Major Cunningham, with a battalion of Georgia volunteers, were advanced about one hundred and fifty yards in front of this line, with orders to give a single fire as the enemy approached, and then to fall back into the intervals , which were left for them in the center of the first line.
The militia , not being expected to maintain their ground long, were ordered to keep up a retreating fire by regiments, until they should pass the continental troops, on whose right they were directed again to form.
His whole force, as stated by himself, amounted to only eight hundred men.
Soon after this disposition was made, the British van appeared in sight. Confident of a cheap victory, Tarleton formed his line of battle, and his troops rushed forward with great impetuosity, shouting as they advanced.
After a single well directed fire, M’Dowell and Cunningham fell back on Colonel Pickens, who, after a short but warm conflict, retreated into the rear of the second line. 1 [Marshall’s Footnote 1, p 471:”some of them formed afterwards, and renewed the action on Howard’s right” ]
The British pressed forward with great eagerness; and, though received by the continental troops with a firmness unimpaired by the route of the front line, continued to advance. Soon after the action with the continental troops had commenced, Tarleton ordered up his reserve. Perceiving that the enemy extended beyond him both on the right and left, and that, on the right especially, his flank was on the point of being turned, Howard ordered the company on his right to change its front, so as to face the British on that flank.
From some mistake in the officer commanding this company, it fell back, instead of fronting the enemy, upon which the rest of line, supposing a change of ground for the whole to have been directed, began to retire in perfect order. “

[ Don Williams Note: The unit which triggered this unplanned retreat by the Continental Line was a Virginia Continental unit, led by Captain Andrew Wallace. Lawrence Babit’s book “A Devil of a Whipping” describes this in detail. This unplanned retreat could have been a disaster, if the British troops had not been so worn out by days of fast marches and little sleep so that they were slow in the pursuit, giving the Continentals time to reload , regroup , and face the Brits with a sudden firing when the Brits finally caught up . One can imagine the impact that the Continental retreat had upon the militia reforming behind them –who were supposed to have been protected by the line while they reloaded their rifles.

Bellesiles justifies his narrative by citing a circa 1960 book by Don Higginbotham, which MISTAKENLY asserted that Virginia militia caused the retreat. As I noted on H-OIEAHC, one of Bellesiles’ more endearing traits is an ability to locate blunders by prominent historians and to quote them to support his misleading descriptions. He did something similar with John Ward’s hilariously flawed description of the Battle of New Orleans ]

(Marshall continues:) “At this moment General Morgan rode up, and directed the infantry to retreat over the summit of the hill, about one hundred yards to the cavalry. This judicious but hazardous movement was made in good order, and extricated the flanks from immediate danger. Believing the fate of the day to be decided, the British pressed on with increased ardour, and in some disorder; and when the Americans halted, were within thirty yards of them. The orders then given by Howard to face the enemy were executed as soon as they were received; and the whole line poured in a fire as deadly as it was unexpected. Some confusion appearing in the ranks of the enemy, Howard seized the critical moment , and ordered a charge with the bayonet. These orders were instantly obeyed, and the British line was broken.

At the same moment the detachment of cavalry on the British right was routed by Washington. The militia of Pickens, who rode to the ground, had tied their horses in the rear of Howard’s left. When the front line was broken, many of them fled to their horses, and were closely pursued by the cavalry, who, while the continental infantry were retiring , passed their flank , and were cutting down the scattered militia in their rear. Washington, who had previously ordered his men not to fire a pistol, now directed them to charge the British cavalry with drawn swords. A sharp conflict ensued, but it was not of long duration. The British were driven from the ground with considerable slaughter, and were closely pursued. Both Howard and Washington pressed the advantage they had respectively gained, until the artillery, and great part of the infantry had surrendered. So sudden was the defeat, that a considerable part of the British cavalry had not been brought into action; and, though retreating, remained unbroken. Washington, followed by Howard with the infantry, pursued them rapidly, and attacked them with great spirit; but, as they were superior to him in numbers, his cavalry received a temporary check; and in this part of the action he sustained a greater loss than in any other. But the infantry coming up to support him, Tarleton resumed the retreat.
In this engagement upwards of one hundred British, including ten commissioned officers, were killed; twenty nine commissioned officers, and five hundred privates were made prisoners. Eight hundred muskets, two field pieces, two standards, thirty five baggage wagons, and one hundred dragoon horses , fell into the hands of the conquerors.
Tarleton retreated towards the head quarters of Lord Cornwallis, then about twenty five miles from the Cowpens.
This complete victory cost the Americans less than eighty men in killed and wounded.
Seldom has a battle in which greater numbers were not engaged, been so important in its consequences as that of the Cowpens. Lord Cornwallis was not only deprived of a fifth of his numbers, but lost a most powerful and active part of his army. Unfortunate, Greene was not in a condition to press the advantage. The whole southern army did not much exceed two thousand men, a great part of whom were militia.”
------------------

[ Don Williams NOTE: That unfortunate situation was due to the entire Southern Continental Army –over 6000 men – having been captured at Charleston , when Continental General Lincoln made the stupid decision to defend a penisula—thereby leaving his force vulnerable to the full might of the British fleet. As John Marshall discusses on pages 461-469 , after Charleston, the British were largely held at bay in the Carolinas by the militia armies of Francis Marion, Colonel Andrew Pickens, and Thomas Sumpter. The US Army’s “American Military History” notes that the turning point in the Revolutionary War occurred when a group of western Virginia /Tennessee mountaineers—angered by threats sent to them by British Major Ferguson, trapped and exterminated Ferguson’s army at King’s Mountain. Ferguson’s unit was a major component of Cornwallis’ forces and King’s Mountain ruined Cornwallis’s plan to take North Carolina.


Bryan Haskins - 1/7/2004


I to am always struck at how quickly my topics of discussion have been shunted aside by you, Mr. Smith, the regular Arming America defender, while you busily plug your own agenda or criticism with all the predictability of a pull-string talking doll. It is a mystery to me why you constantly muster here at our feet, only to strike camp and flee as soon as I attempt to engage you in an honest discussion. Why do you quail whenever I attempt to start a discussion with you? After all, I’m not advancing upon you with raised bayonets.

Now if relevance to your posts is what you truly want, then I will once again make you this offer: You chose a topic—-be it an outrageous quote from some “gun nut,” a complaint against AA you feel is unfounded, or whatever else you think is relevant to AA, its thesis, or its author. Post that topic and ask for my comment upon it. I’ll freely give it to you (its possible the answer could even surprise you) and we’ll go from there. Then, once we have discussed that matter, I will chose a relevant topic and ask for your opinion of it. If it works and stays civil, then we can continue alternating the choice of discussion topics. If at any time you feel that the discussion becomes uncivil or becomes a waste of your time, then you can just call it off and we’ll go back to talking about each other rather than too each other.


W. Whitelaw - 1/7/2004

"In his book 'The Life of George Washington', John Marshall (Continental soldier and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) noted the following about the Battle of Cowpens:"

I do believe John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice, being preceded by John Jay, John Rutledge, and Oliver Ellsworth. Marshall was the first long-termer, serving from 1801 to 1835.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/6/2004

"So, once again, history written far before our present time seems to favor Bellesiles’ retelling rather than Mr. Williams.'"

Except that the sources which Williams quotes, and which aren't favorable to Bellesiles, predate the source you quote.


Benny Smith - 1/6/2004

(with apologies to Melanie)

I am always struck at how quickly my topic of discussion is shunted aside by the regular Arming America critics, who plug their own agenda or criticism with all the predictability of a pull-string talking doll. Why the gun lobby has to constantly muster at my feet is a mystery to me. At least, I wish their responses could be relevant to my post, which here had to do with NRA propagandists masquerading as historians.

So far as Mr. Williams query on the disappearance of the foreword, I’m sure I have no answer to that. Perhaps, he should forward his concerns to Mr. Luker, who indulges literary gossip more than I. Out of curiosity, I did follow up on Mr. Williams’ complaint about Bellesiles’ treatment of the battle of Cowpens. Using the genealogical database that I have been researching for a while, I searched on the appropriate keywords to find references to Cowpens. Interestingly, the first one I looked at, from “The History of the American Nation”, a nine-volume tome published by William Jackman almost 100 years ago, contained the following description of this important battle in the American Revolution:

“Morgan disposed his men to the best advantage; the Continentals (the army regulars) on a woody hill and the militia in a line by themselves . . . The militia stood their ground, delivered their fire, but quailing before the bayonet, broke and fled. In pursuing the fugitives, the enemy almost passed by the Continentals, who to avoid being taken in flank, fell back in order.” And the passage followed with the Continentals counterattacking and routing the British. Jackman’s use of the word “quailing” to describe the flight of the militia is significant. To “quail” means to recoil in dread or terror, falter, cower, etc. If anyone has seen a group of quail scurrying about the forest floor at the approach of man, they will understand how the word is being used here. I believe our commander in chief went quail hunting recently and shot five or so of the fleet-footed fowl.

So, once again, history written far before our present time seems to favor Bellesiles’ retelling rather than Mr. Williams.’ But then, I guess I need to reconsider my original complaint. Perhaps Mr. Williams’ contribution here was more relevant to the topic of my thread than I originally considered it to be.


John G. Fought - 1/5/2004

No, there's no Bernstein contribution in it. I got mine about a week ago, and have merely glanced through it. My favorite thing in the book so far is the postively Byronic photo of the author on the first page. The tables and graphs look suspiciously familiar. I won't be able to work on this for a while, since I'm tied up with a more pressing obligation. Does anyone have a listing of everything B has published from 2000 to the present? I'm betting that most of it will show up in the book.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/5/2004

Is there no Bernstein contribution therein? Back on Dec. 3 Bernstein said he had finished his Jefferson biography and hadn't read the second edition of AA. As of that date he was still pondering what to say about the second edition, which wasn't published until Dec.18.

Bernstein (here at HNN, on Dec. 3) stated:

"I have not yet seen the pages of ARMING AMERICA's second edition and I cannot comment on what they contain.

As for the content of the original book, for the past five years I have been struggling to finish my own book, which Oxford University Press has just published."

Bernstein's Jefferson book (according to the net) was published in August 2003. Apparently, he was never previously in a position to argue the merits of the first edition, having never read it -- his Dec, 3 post suggests his support of Bellesiles was based on friendship and past experience, not on any familiarity with the first edition (and therefore restricted to a plea for due process and fundamental fairness). Based on his prior personal and professional experience with Bellesiles alone (his Dec. 3 post suggests), Bernstein refused to believe that Bellesiles "lied or misrepresented evidence." Understandable.

As of Dec. 3, Bernstein says he hadn't seen the second edition. This leaves open the possibility that he read the first between August and Dec. 3, and the second between Dec. 3. If there's to be no Bernstein contribution to the second edition, did Bernstein read the first edition between August 2003 and Dec. 3, and change his mind?


Samuel Browning - 1/5/2004

I'm going to start comparing the texts of the original version of Arming America and the newly released edition to discover what changes Belliseles made to his text. I anticipate that I will be done in mid to late February. Please keep the thread going in my absence :)


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/5/2004

Bernstein asserts:

"What I tried to do in the controversy over ARMING AMERICA was to insist that the historical profession treat this matter as an instance in which standards of due process and fundamental fairness should be followed."

This is precisely a point at which I disagree with Prof. Bernstein. The evaluation of a work of history, even to the point of asserting fraud, is not (in my view) the special or exclusive professional province of the historical profession. It certainly isn't fair to harass Bellesiles, and all who make charges potentially face legal exposure in a forum where "due process" has a settled meaning. Most would certainly hope for, or even insist, that Bellesiles be accorded whatever passes for due process and fundamental fairness in a professional setting. To the extent that Bernstein would apply those standards outside the professional setting or to those outside the profession, is to claim a monopoly for professional processes that I reject.

Bernstein also asserts:

"I offered an affidavit with documentation pointing out that there were two strong traditions of church-state relations in the United States in that period, strict separation and nonpreferentialism, and that it was hard to say which was stronger in a given historical context, but that it was a clear error to assert that one or the other clearly predominated. (Professor Richard Henry Morgan may be pleased to know that I have learned a lot from his work on this very subject, and that I remain grateful to him for his lucid scholarship on that area of history and law.)"

I'm not sure what to make of this. Having already pointed out that I'm not a professor, and not having provided any scholarship on the subject, I guess I'm left to conclude this is Bernstein's joke, of sorts. OK. I can take the hit. What I have pointed out in more than one post, is that one possible motivation for support of the religion clause of the First Amendment is that it precluded a federal preference or establishment, while permitting a state preference or establishment. An analogy to the Second Amendment was made -- it prohibits federal banning of the right to keep and bear arms, while permitting the states to institute such bans. The USSC has never held that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Second as limit on state power.

On the tradition of religious preferentialism (as opposed to the nonpreferentialism of McConnell and, say, Rehnquist), the Massachusetts Constitution made it clear that religious freedom did not extend to a ban on preference. This was a declining tradition, and I would not argue that it was a strong one -- though I still suspect it influenced the formation and passage of the First Amendment.

I would quote just this one source, without claiming it authoritative, and let the the historians of religion debate the merits:

"However, legal preference of the Congregational Church still survived into the nineteenth century in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut with government-required financial support. This condition continued to exist despite the New England support for the First Amendment ending federal government support of religion." (it's written by Carl L. Becker, and can be found at http://earlyamerica.com/review/2003_summer_fall/religious_freedom.htm )

If Becker is right, then there would seem to have existed a third tradition.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/4/2004

In any case, a request for judicial notice of the "fraudulent work" of Michael Bellesiles was filed Dec. 30, 2003, and the recommended passages were replaced by Reinhardt in his amended opinion of Dec. 5, 2002 (http://www.keepandbeararms.com/silveira/status.asp).

One would think that such important matters would be decided by a method more exacting than judicial notice -- though one might reasonably hold that Reinhardt was not endorsing the charge of "fraudulent work."

Finally, a point where I misunderstood Prof. Bernstein. He is correct that judges don't take dictation from historians -- they select which historians to take dictation from based on their own opinions of the matter at hand. I think I agree with Bernstein on this score (if I have not unfairly mischaracterized his view).

An example of this Reinhardt's decision where he quotes, with approval, Finkelman's claim: "Historians have
observed that “[n]o state at the time, nor any state before, had
ever compelled people to carry weapons in their private
capacity.” Finkelman, supra, at 228."

The fact is Finkelman's claim is not just false, but laughably so.




Richard Henry Morgan - 1/4/2004

Don, do you think the backing out of Bernstein (or negotiations over such) was the cause of delay in publishing the Soft Skull edition?

My problems with Bernstein mirror yours, and perhaps go beyond yours. Here was a man of reputation whose apologia consisted of vouching for Bellesiles' character (a "good man and a fine scholar") and citing his work on Ethan Allen. When challenged on certain depictions, he vouched for another author, rather than argue the merits. At one point he allowed that "Bellesiles concedes that he made mistakes in crunching his numbers" -- as though that were the extent of the problems. Bernstein misconstrued, in my opinion, the criticisms of Lindgren (as a personal attack), and the criticism of Randy Barnett. While he offered protestations of supporting debate on the one hand, he seemed inclined to easily construe debate as personal, thus putting it beyond the pale.

Bernstein appealled to "appropriate professional processes" as the final arbiter -- processes undemocratically arrived at by historians and academics (as though they alone had a final say in what constitutes fraud ). There is a well-established history of publishing just such charges in journals, and elsewhere, and the appeal to "appropriate professional processes" as a "moral and ethical duty" assumed by those making such a charge, is an appropriation, by bureaucrats, of the realm of truth. I believe my mistrust of "appropriate professional processes" was more than justified by the Emory Report, where the committee was hamstrung by legal exposure (the university failed to indemnify them), a narrow portfolio, and an exceedingly high standard of evidence.

To Bernstein, the report of the committee "rejected the charges that he committed fraud or set out to deceive or to mislead". As the report makes clear, they were restricted to just five questions, none of which explicitly dealt with his treatment of travelogues (though, whether selective quoting constitutes misrepresentation of evidence, and thus falls under Question 5, is open to debate).

The report does state:

(p.6)"The problems with documentation are compounded by the fact that to date no one has been able to replicate Professor Bellesiles' results for the places or dates he lists."

(p.8): "How the Westmoreland material survived the flood in his office, we do not know"

(p.8):"Significantly, neither he in his subsequently published data nor any other scholar has been able to replicate the low percentages of guns reported in those tables for eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."

(P.11-13): "Professor Bellesiles’ critics have charged him with claiming to work with records that do
not exist. The San Francisco issue has been widely discussed. His critics have charged
that he has fraudulently claimed to have read records that do not exist because the San
Francisco records he claims to have used were destroyed in 1906. He has responded by
saying that he at least thought he was using San Francisco records and has provided
examples of several files from Contra Costa County that contain references to San
Francisco.
If Professor Bellesiles did indeed read Contra Costa records believing they were from
San Francisco, then the issue could again be one of extremely sloppy documentation
rather than fraud. There are three aspects of this story, however, that raise doubts about
his veracity.
a. He didn’t accept the opportunity to go find the San Francisco records until a friend
suggested he may have found them in Contra Costa. So the idea that he had confused
the origins of the records seems to have come from outside. In addition, there is some
question as to whether the records he now cites could indeed be ones that he had read
in 1993.
Material dealing with discrepancies in Professor Bellesiles’ accounts of this
matter, his initial reluctance to go to California to check on his San Francisco
sources, his announcement of finding them in Contra Costa records, and the
questions raised by the director of the History Center in Martinez, CA, is to be
found most usefully in the following documents, attached to the preliminary and
confidential internal report [Tab 3, Vol. 1 of documentation]:
E-Mail Correspondence, Tab 4C
AAOOO88, AA00091, AA00093, AA00096, AA00097. AA0107, AA00128
AA00134, AA00136, AA00138
12
Tab 4G: ”Notes on Supposed San Francisco Records in the Contra Costa County
Historical Society History Center, from the Director [AA 00266-69]
The Preliminary and Confidential Internal Report : The essential discussion is on
pp. 16-18 [AA00029-31] and 21-25 [AA 00034-38]. On p. 25 of the report it is
mentioned that the Contra Costa records in dispute and which Professor
Bellesiles claimed to have read at the History Center in 1993 did not in fact go to
the History Center until 1998 (they had earlier been stored in a county warehouse
used to store records from the Contra Costa Superior Court.)
b. The records he selected and photocopied from that Contra Costa archive were hardly
random, but explicitly chosen because they had the words “San Francisco” in them,
even though the records themselves clearly identify them as deriving from the Contra
Costa court.
c. The records he selected do not seem to provide the sort of information his project
requires. They may be California records. They may bear the name “San Francisco”
somewhere in the files, but they do not appear to be detailed inventories of personal
property. The Welsh inventory includes only livestock and wheat, and the Crippen
only livestock and a wagon. These do not seem to be appropriate sources for
determining either the presence or absence of guns.
At issue as well is his claim to have read microfilms at the National Archives Record
Center in East Point, Georgia. When told that the National Archives had no probate
records, he responded that he read so-called “Mormon microfilm” that he brought with
him to the archives. When others pointed out that those microfilms do not circulate, he
responded that he got them through a friend. [AA 00136, MB 00025-27l]
Since microfilms owned by the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City are freely
available to the public through hundreds of small branch libraries all over the United
States, we found this explanation puzzling. One need not be a Mormon or even know a
Mormon in order to borrow microfilm through this library, and scholars can with
permission of the original archive purchase film for a small fee. Wanting to make sure
we had not misunderstood his story, we raised the question again in our written queries.
He responded, “Over the time I was looking at probate microfilms, two graduate students
in my department were working on dissertations that involved economic themes. All
three of us benefited from our association with a member of the Mormon Church who
assisted us in getting microfilms. At the time none of us thought anything about it, but I
may have endangered his job by what I thought was an innocent activity.” (Since branch
libraries are staffed by volunteers, however, there was no “job” to endanger.) [MB
00450-00451]
When we asked Professor Bellesiles how his friend knew what microfilm to borrow on
his behalf, he said that he selected them from “a binder” that listed the available records.
While it is certainly possible that an unnamed friend provided Professor Bellesiles with
the microfilms he needed, it would have been an extraordinary act of service and surely
13
would have merited thanks in the acknowledgements of a book. LDS branch libraries do
not in fact contain records. What they hold is a catalog (initially on microfiche and later
on computer) of the vast Salt Lake holdings. No binder could possibly contain this
information. Significantly, Professor Bellesiles told us on June 14 that he had never
visited one of these libraries. [Transcription of Interview, AA 00731-AA 00733]"

At this point I repeat for the hard of hearing:

"If Professor Bellesiles did indeed read Contra Costa records believing they were from
San Francisco, then the issue could again be one of extremely sloppy documentation
rather than fraud. There are three aspects of this story, however, that raise doubts about
his veracity."

How delicately put. The committee establishes a hypothetical, where mere sloppiness can account for the discrepancy, and then it cites evidence that the hypothetical does not obtain, ending with the claim that the evidence "does raise doubts about his veracity".

The report also states:

(p.13)"Our concern about when—or whether—Professor Bellesiles did his Massachusetts
research was increased, however, when our research assistant attempted to collect data on
gun ownership in those counties in the nineteenth century."

(p.13)"Our attempt to replicate his numbers failed. There are NO extant Suffolk inventories for
1849-50 or 1858-59. For the years 1830-31, our assistant found 133 inventories that
enumerated personal property other than stocks, bonds, or debts [Suffolk County Probate
Record Book, Vols. 128-129, microfilm reels #99 and #100]. Of these 133 estates, 10
(7.5%) contained guns. This, of course, is exactly opposite to Professor Bellesiles’
conclusion that gun ownership increased in the nineteenth century. (His figure for
“Northern coast: urban” for 1858-59 is 25%).

(p. 14)"The issue with Table 3 seems to be less the existence of these annual militia censuses,,
however, than with Professor Bellesiles’ claim that they represent an accounting of
"Private Gun Ownership in Massachusetts." As a number of scholars have pointed out,
such censuses were actually counts of guns brought to the annual muster. [Robert
Churchill review, AA 00382-AA 00390, James Lindgren review, AA 00339]"

(p.15)"We also reviewed materials relating to Professor Bellesiles’ discussion of 1746
Connecticut records. In Arming America, he wrote that in preparation for an assault on
Canada, “Connecticut finally raised its six hundred troops, 57 percent of whom did not
have guns.” [Arming America, p. 141] Our assistant confirmed the problems other
scholars had originally noted. The primary sources Bellesiles cites confirm that in extant
reports from company captains 368 of 456 men (80.7%) were armed. Our hunch is that
15
Bellesiles skimmed the surface of these sources, relying instead on a passage from Harold
Selesky, War and Society in Colonial Connecticut, “The volunteers in 1746 were not
vagrants, although a few were ‘very poor,’ and many enlisted without a blanket or a gun.
In some companies as many as fifty-seven of the hundred men lacked a firearm.” [New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1990, 91.] Significantly, Selesky’s “some
companies” became for Bellesiles the whole.

(p.15) "His lumping together of guns and ammunition in his
discussion of Benedict Arnold’s march on the powderhouse in 1776 is reminiscent of his
conflating of wills and inventories."


Conflation? What a delicate way to put it. Conflation is when you run to things together, but in this case, there were no guns.

The committee recognized some of the problems with their portfolio, which made the focus rather narrow:

"We should mention at the outset that we have not found Emory's statement of Policies
and Procedures entirely adequate by itself in guidance for this kind of inquiry (unless it
were, as the present allegation is not, one of plagiarism or manufacturing records,) since
it seems basically designed for the investigation of alleged misconduct in the life and
physical sciences."

Interestingly, while Bernstein takes solace in the lack of a committee finding of fraud, the committee did find reason to doubt Bellesiles veracity. Just what would constitute conclusive evidence of fraud in the matter of the San Francisco archives is not clear. Apparently, non-existence of the archives is not enough. Apparently the later citing of Contra Costa records not available to Bellesiles at the time, is not sufficient.

Even more interestingly, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seems to take the charge of fraud seriously (though one might hesitate to say the Court endorsed the view, rather than just took a prophylactic step). In any case,



Don Williams - 1/3/2004

One of Bellesiles most steadfast defenders on H-OIEAHC , HNN, and the Chronicle of Higher Education has been Richard B Bernstein of New York. Until recently, the Amazon advert for Version2 of Arming America promised a Preface written by Richard B Bernstein.

As I noted to Richard Morgan above, I was highly interested in seeing what defense of Bellesiles Mr Bernstein would produce. I had discussed several shortcomings in Arming America Version 1 with Mr Bernstein on H-OIEAHC. At the time, Mr Bernstein's had limited his defense of Bellesiles largely to Bellesiles as a person while , in my opinion, largely ignoring the factual problems in Arming AMerica . Nevertheless, I respect Mr Bernstein as a scholar and looked forward to his Preface.

Yet the promised Bernstein Preface does not appear in the Soft Skull edition -- and Amazon appears to have dropped the Bernstein reference from their advert.

What happened, Benny? Did Mr Bernstein have second thoughts about supporting Bellesiles after seeing the Second version of Arming America?? I noticed that the
Second Version has many of the same major errors contained in Version 1 -- including what I consider to be false and misleading descriptions of militia performance in Revolutionary War battles.

For example, Bellesiles still describes the militia's role in the Battle of Cowpens as (a) militia firing one volley (b) militia trying to flee but being stopped by Daniel Morgan and Andrew Pickens "waving their sword threateningly" (nice way to stop several hundred armed but panic-stricken men, no?) and c) militia blundering around the battle field while "John Howard's Continentals" performed "a perfect change of direction, fire a withering musket volley at ten yards, and then charge the British with fixed bayonets" while "the militia, which had to fire only that single volley, managed to hold on to their guns this time"

In his book "The Life of George Washington" , John Marshall (Continental soldier and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) noted the following about the Battle of Cowpens:

a) After the militia line was forced to retreat by the British line, it retreated behind the Continental Line --
some fled to their horses but some reformed on the right hand of the Continental Line and renewed the attack

b) A major part of Howard's "Continental Line" was made up of Virginia militia under Captains Triplet and Taite-- although many of this militia included men with previous service in the Continental Army

c) Howard's "perfect change of direction" was a halt to an unplanned retreat by the Continental Line --in which the Line reformed about 100 yards to the rear of it's initial position, faced about, and fired a volley at oncoming British line which had been chasing the Continentals during their retreat.
(It appears to me that this tactic worked largely because Morgan/Howard's men were well rested and could run faster than the British Line --which been on the fast march chasing Morgan for almost 40 hours , without sleep. The slow staggering pace of the British line gave the Americans time to reload their muskets on the run and reform a new line. The surprise of the volley may have been due to the new Continental position being on the other side of a slight rise -- in which their new line was concealed from the British until the British were almost upon it. Plus the British line appeared to have become dispersed and spread out -- the British soldiers panicking when charged by the bayonet because they were separated from their fellows with no one to guard their left/right flanks)

John Marshall was not at Cowpens but his bio of Washington notes that Marshall "received statements of this action from General Morgan and from Colonels Howard and Washington(calvary leader at Cowpens)"

Note also that John Marshall's bio of George Washington was based upon George Washington's volumious collection of private papers --given to Marshall by George Washington's heir, Bushrod Washington.

Marshall's account tallies with the account of Cowpens given by calvary leader "Light Horse" Harry Lee in his "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States". Harry Lee was not at Cowpens but his calvary detachment served with Andrews Pickens' mounted militia (which was at Cowpens) in the weeks following Cowpens. Harry Lee would likely have heard much of the truth from Andrew Pickens, Morgan's soldiers, and General Nathanael Greene.


Carl Naaman Brown - 1/2/2004

Before anyone defends Bellesiles, I would wish they would read all of Bellesiles' different accounts of the Bowden Hall Flood. First, the pipe in his ceiling burst and sprayed water on his notes for six hours while he was in England and third parties threw his pulped notes away.
Latest, he admits the flood occurred 2 April that year, before he went to England, but the water leaking from the floor above his office caused a "mud" of ceiling tile to fall on his notes. He left them that way, and when he came back from England, the notes were too pulped to be entered on his computer. There are several versions of the Bowden Hall flood from Mr. Bellesiles, all contradicting themselves.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/2/2004

Sorry for this break from protocol, but I've only now just responded to something you posted elsewhere, some two weeks back, which is now archived. You can find it at http://hnn.us/articles/1558.html


Benny Smith - 12/31/2003

In the book “The Treasury of the Gun” which sits on a shelf of my local library, author Harold Peterson wrote, “Because firearms were so important on the frontier, every man became proficient in their use. Boys learned to shoot as soon as they were big enough to hold a long rifle steady . . . a whole population grew up in the school of marksmanship.” That statement, unsubstantiated by any footnote, not only runs contrary to the theses advanced in Arming America, but is not supported by the written history I have encountered while doing genealogical research.

For example, in “The History of the Lehigh Valley,” I found these passages: “The inhabitants of Easton were in hourly danger of their lives, without any means of defence; they had none or but very few guns, and were not provided with ammunition. They were all too poor to purchase guns . . . Colonel Burd: ‘I was in the town of Northhampton; I found only four guns, three of which were unfit for use, and the enemy within four miles of them.’ All these frontier towns were settled by the poorest class of people, such as could purchase no lands, or could not procure the necessary implements for farming purposes. Many of them were tradesmen to whom a town was most congenial and probably most to their interest.” Now I know that Professor Bellesiles has maintained, to the guffaws of many gun huggers, that guns were often scarce on the frontier. But the historical text here supports him and not Mr. Peterson. Why is that? Could it be that, besides being an author of "The Treasury of the Gun", Mr. Peterson is, or was, a director of the National Rifle Association, according to the book jacket?

It’s noteworthy that when I raised the fact that early American city directories list only a tiny number of gunsmiths, contemporary NRA propagandist and amateur historian Clayton Cramer replied that the services of a vast number of gunsmiths were not needed, since guns were unlikely to break. “It seems entirely likely that the average owner would have little or no reason to go to a gunsmith,” Mr. Cramer said. Yet here, as in another example I had given earlier, most of the few guns in town are “unfit for service.” Wasn’t it Bellesiles who said many of the guns possessed in the 17th and 18th centuries were broken, or otherwise out of service. So again, written history favors Bellesiles’ point of view over the NRA propagandist.

I only raise this issue since I noticed a historian’s comment that he would be wary of anything Bellesiles has written or is writing. Since so many of Bellesiles’ critics are in one way or another associated with the gun lobby, discriminating readers should cast a wary eye towards their writings as well. Even more so.


Samuel Browning - 12/28/2003

Hi John:

Could you please e-mail me again with your address and phone #? I will promptly have Bellisles latest edition shipped to you at my expense. My e-mail is TappingReeve@aol.com

Happy Holidays

Samuel Browning


Ronald Best - 12/18/2003

I paid $3.00 for my copy of Arming America through abebooks.com. It is curious that Amazon.com's listing for the second edition does not identify it as such. The listing does mention a co-author, Mr. Berstein.


R. B. Bernstein - 12/4/2003

I just discovered this thread. I have abjured History News Network for over a year, because of its function as an accelerant (people who read about arson in true-crime books or murder mysteries will get the reference) of invective rather than as a useful forum for discussing history. It seems that nothing has changed.

I am still pondering what to say as to the second edition of ARMING AMERICA. I think that the ARMING AMERICA controversy is a case-study in the scholarly politics of personal destruction. As to the factual errors in ARMING AMERICA, based on my six years knowledge of Michael Bellesiles as a fellow historian (author of a fine book on Ethan Allen and the Vermonters) and as a good and loyal friend, I do not believe one word of the claims that he lied or misrepresented evidence. That he may have made serious, self-damaging errors is another matter.

I have not yet seen the pages of ARMING AMERICA's second edition and I cannot comment on what they contain.

As for the content of the original book, for the past five years I have been struggling to finish my own book, which Oxford University Press has just published. For what it's worth, it's a concise biography of Thomas Jefferson.

What I tried to do in the controversy over ARMING AMERICA was to insist that the historical profession treat this matter as an instance in which standards of due process and fundamental fairness should be followed. I tried to make these points with respect and fairness, but I admit to having made them with increasing heat as time went on, and as the lynch-mob atmosphere of the controversy became more and more apparent. I did not deliberately or consciously seek to condescend to anyone.

I still stand by my profound skepticism about the position, advanced by some people in this controversy, that historians have some way of clouding judges' minds (a la Lamont Cranston, a/k/a The Shadow). The record of how judges use history is all too clear: judges pick and choose whatever history they want to use to bolster legal conclusions they've reached by means other than historical reasoning. There's not much that historians can do about that, one way or the other. In many cases, historians join forces to sign briefs in droves, proffering historical arguments to courts, only to have courts rebuff them or ignore them. In many cases, teams of competing historians pelt judges with conflicting readings of the past presented with equal certitude. You have to feel sorry for the judges, sometimes.

The one time that I got involved in making a historical argument in a lawsuit had to do with one of the Alabama cases involving the Ten Commandements posted on a courtroom wall. In response to a religious historian (let me be clear -- a historian of American religion, who may also have been a religious person who was a historian) who insisted that there was no such thing as strict separation of church and state in the era of the Revolution and the making of the Constitution, I offered an affidavit with documentation pointing out that there were two strong traditions of church-state relations in the United States in that period, strict separation and nonpreferentialism, and that it was hard to say which was stronger in a given historical context, but that it was a clear error to assert that one or the other clearly predominated. (Professor Richard Henry Morgan may be pleased to know that I have learned a lot from his work on this very subject, and that I remain grateful to him for his lucid scholarship on that area of history and law.)

So ... there it is. That's all I have to say. I hope it provides some light, more than heat, and I wish you all well, and we now return you to your regular program.


Phil Lee - 12/2/2003

Courage and integrity are two qualities you need develop.

Courage won't keep you from being criticized, but it will enable you to withstand criticism. Integrity will cause you to exercise care in your work and will help minimize the potential for criticism. Important to your integrity is to recognize your biases and to strive to overcome them as you look for truth.

If you have both qualities and exercise ordinary care, no topic area should give you pause.


Josh Greenland - 11/29/2003

Are you implying that Arming America didn't deserve most of the criticism it got?

And do you really think you could do as badly as Bellesiles with the sources?

A lot of academic work is done on guns, supporting different viewpoints, but I haven't seen any of it attract the amount of condemnation that Arming America received.


John G. Fought - 11/29/2003

There's nothing special about guns as a subject. Whatever you write about, you can expect to be criticized not only for mistakes you made but also for scholarly virtues: for originality ("not convincing") and for failing to cater to the prejudices of your reviewers, whoever they may be ("out of the mainstream"). At the same time, as you can see from reading the discussions on HNN, your work may be stolen, in some cases by those who criticized it. All this will begin no later than your doctoral dissertation, and quite possibly sooner. Welcome to your world. You might do well to seek out somebody who seems trustworthy (and lets hope that's true) for some tips on how to cope with pettiness, jealousy, and vanity in those around you. Oh, I almost forgot denial, especially denial that misdeeds like these are commonplace.


New Young Doctoral Student - 11/29/2003

Having just read within the last two weeks Michael Bellesiles book for the first time for a class, and then many other documents critiquing it, I have the following observations as an historian:

1. I used to be concerned about making mistakes in facts or methodologies for my history writing. "Concern" has turned to "worry" if I ever hope to have something of mine published, especially because I do work in similar kinds of sources that Bellesiles used.

2. I don't think there is an objective person on this planet about guns. I finally had to stop reading the critiques for that reason.

3. I will NEVER write anything about guns!!


jhorst - 11/26/2003

Mr. Williams:
Very good. I'd like to add that Bellesiles has not learned his lesson related to manipulating history to support his agenda. My study of American Revolution history revealed that the Ferguson rifle was abandoned after the battle of Brandywine, due to Feguson being wounded and unable to support his new rifle while he was convelescing. No or insignificantly few Ferguson rifles were used in the southern campaigns, so how could Ferguson have ever reasoned that his extrodinary rifle would so demoralize the over mountain men that they'd drop their arms and run for the hills? Please correct me if I am wrong.
It is ridiculous to think that the Ferguson rifle was ever considered by the British army to produce the shock and awe affect Bellesiles is attempting to link. The Ferguson rifle, again, per my study, was an invention of Patrick Ferguson, and was the British army's attempt to respond to the regular use of rifles, not muskets, early in the war, by the Americans. Ferguson had an extremely difficult time just getting the few rifles into the hands of his soldiers, as an experiment. Will Mr. Bellesiles ever stop? He sounds like a complete fool.


Don Williams - 11/26/2003

See the Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1932360077/ref=lpr_g_1/002-0126530-7021655?v=glance&s=books

I recall the hardcover and softcover editions of Arming America --
round 1 --being eventually discounted at 30% as the scandal grew.

(I believe the $30.00 original hardcopy edition is now available for about $2.85 from some dealers. One could almost buy a hundred copies and stage a bookburning at the next NRA annual convention in order to drive Benny into a carpet-chewing frenzy ...hee hee hee.

Alternatively, $2.85 for 603 pages makes it cheaper than toilet paper for the frugal.)

However, my understanding from the above Amazon page is that the unreleased Soft Skull revision is now also being discounted at 30%. That plus the delayed release makes me wonder if demand is ..er..limited??

It would be rather funny if the Soft Skull book revision was largely bought by critics on this page.


Don Williams - 11/25/2003

I'm glad that Bellesiles is finally aware of King's Mountain --he conspiciously overlooked that militia victory in "Arming America". This was an especially noteworthy omission given that many histories -- including the US Army's "American Military History" --consider King's Mountain to be the turning point in the American Revolution.

However, I would correct Bellesiles' impression of the battle. The battle occurred contrary to Fergueson's desire because of the rapid mobility of the American militiamen -- as Cornwallis noted, the excellent quality of their horses allowed them to assemble suddenly out of the blue and trap/destroy Ferguson's unit before Cornwallis could come to it's aid. A similar fate befell Tarleton's unit shortly afterward at Cowpens. Those two militia victories destroyed Cornwallis's two mobile wings and destroyed his ability to suppress Patriot guerrillas in North Carolina. Even today, the US Army realizes that high mobility –e.g, helicopters in Air Cav units –is needed to fight insurgents.

Cornwallis tried to make his regular army into "light infantry" (remember the glum faces of the British soldiers as he poured their rum ration on the ground to lighten the wagons?) but was run into the ground chasing General Greene around North Carolina. The toll on his men from disease, poor nutrition, exhaustion,etc eventually forced Cornwallis into the retreat to Yorktown.

In the meantime, Cornwallis’ s lack of mobility meant that he controlled only the area within 100 yards of his army. Which meant that he could not form a puppet government because he could not protect Loyalist leaders from executions by the Patriots. Nor could he protect the transportation routes.

Which meant that no profits could be gained from commerce. Meanwhile maintenance of Cornwallis’s army in the field ate up money at a horrendous rate. When the Dutch bankers saw the morass in which King George III had placed himself, they cut off their loans to him and the British military effort collapsed. The King could not continue the war using English taxes because when the English people asked “Why should we continue to spend blood and money in North America?”, the King’s only answer was “Because some of our aristocrats’ have investments there.” (Anyone see any lessons for present day Iraq?)

Bellesiles also failed to note that the militias’ high mobility relative to the British –and the greater accuracy of their rifles – led to different tactics than set-piece standup battles.

Finally, I seemed to remember that Fergueson’s army at King’s Mountain ran into a major disaster -- the loosely fitting balls in their muskets fell out of the barrels when the muskets were aimed downhill. (The loose fit was favored by the British because it allowed rapid reloading). The Loyalists were forced to rely on bayonet charges –but having flatlanders chase hillbillies up and down a heavily-forested hill is not a profitable tactic. (Rapid movement up and down steep terrain requires special muscle development in the legs and buttocks which is found in mountaineers, not in the Loyalist flatlanders.) The steepness of the terrain made it easy to shoot Loyalists in the back as they struggled back up the hill to their camp. Plus the heavy cover of forested terrain gave the advantage to accurate riflemen over inaccurate muskets.

To the best of my knowledge, Bellesiles (and many historians) have never been within 500 miles of an active battlefield. Which
raises the interesting question of whether historians are competent to interpret the historical data which exists. (For another example, note Bellesiles' failure to recognize the limitations of cannon --due to the fixed choke pattern-- at the 1815 Battle of New Orleans .


Benny Smith - 11/22/2003



Michael Bellesiles’ re-appearance in the media does not come without some irony. One of the newspapers that picked up Bellesiles’ opinion piece is the Provo Daily Herald in Utah. Anyone familiar with issues of gun control knows that Utah is a veritable haven for gun rights activists. The legislature there has gone to great pains to bend to the whim of the NRA and other pro-gun groups. This included going to court to force state colleges and universities to accept concealed guns on campus. Gun huggers in that state have also tried to force their admittance with guns, albeit unsuccessfully, to the recent winter Olympics and to a venue where our vice president was speaking. So I can imagine the consternation that must have occurred among the right wing and gun rights activists when Bellesiles’ op-ed piece appeared in that NRA nirvana there.

Meanwhile, other pro-gun forces have not given up their efforts to ban Bellesiles’ Arming America. A district library in Colorado recently turned down two censorship requests, one of which was a request from an individual to pull Arming America from the shelves. The man who made the request was not available for comment but called Bellesiles’ book “revisionist history.” This latest incident was reported just last week in the Greeley Tribune.

By the way, I believe that Diane Nicholl, whose post started this thread, is a member of the gun lobby herself, which makes me wonder, apparently as Mr. Luker does, what her motive was in posting her information.


Phil Lee - 11/21/2003

Bellesiles opinion piece is superficial for attributing failures to technology when failure might better be attributed to leadership vision or lack. For example, Bellesiles writes that Smith's vision of technology did not win an immediate battle against the indians in Virginia. By contrast, it is clear that technology did win the day for Pizarro against the Incas in 1531 and that technology did include firearms.

Bellesiles is simply wrong about the American peasants carrying old-fashion weapons. American rifles (and American marksmanship) were superior to all but the small numbers of Ferguson rifles. The British military commander was a fool not to realize what that technology might have done for their side.

As to his WWII bombing examples, Dresden was late in the war and has been critized for the lack of military purpose. By contrast, Albert Speer told allied interrogators after the war that the shock of the Hamburg rade was severe and that several more blows of that type could have caused a collapse of Germany. The allies were not aware of this effect or they might have persisted. Again, not technology, but vision was decisive.

And, if Mr. Bellesiles want to re-write the history of WWII, he needs to explain why the Germans made such great efforts to field defenses against the airforces of Britain and the US if they were so ineffective. Why not use those resources against the Soviets.

Bellesiles is a lesson for our time. While it may be a free country and we are all entitled to our opinions, Bellesiles' opinion on anything military is just so much undisciplined bushwah.


John G. Fought - 11/21/2003

Bryan, I don't care what he thinks. When he appears in the costume of an expert in an op-ed, it's reasonable to expect some expertise. He shows no more in that column than he did in AA or the 1996 aritlce. Douhet's fundamental doctrine was that air-power, in the form of bombers, should be used offensively at once against the civilian population of the enemy in order to force the enemy into early capitulation; while this terror bombing was in progress, the land forces would merely contain the enemy forces until the prompt surrender of the enemy government. The recent air campaign in Iraq, as I understand how it developed, involved precise targeting of key military and government assets in order to limit the enemy's ability to resist the coalition's rapid offensive movements (also aided by close air support). You can be sure that the Air Force did not name the operation "Shock and Awe": that has this White House all over it. It wasn't the civilian population we were trying to influence, since they had no control over their government anyhow. The civilian population was spared as much as possible. Except for this important detail, the Iraq invasion was a high-tech version of the German offensives early in WWII. The 1939 invasion and conquest of Poland within a few weeks was quite similar in implementation, except for the technological differences in target acquisition and weapon aiming. The Germans used their air weapons as an extension of their artillery, to open and protect the advance of their ground forces. What they did later (the so-called Blitz of Britain) was quite different, and was also quite ineffective.
So, Bellesiles' fundamental argument is based on an elementary mistake about Douhet and the history of air power. Of course he's free to sell his junk for whatever he can get. But it is still junk, at any price. As I said, my problem is with his bogus expertise.


Bryan Haskins - 11/21/2003


I don’t have a problem with his op ed. It would be different if he were falsely offering himself as an expert on the application of military force, for that would be misleading. Here, it looks like he is just offering his own opinion, which he is certainly entitled to do. Everyone is free to accept or reject the point he makes. In this instance, I agree with his opinion (and I pray that my comrades in arms within our vast right-wing-destroy Bellesiles conspiracy will forgive me for saying so).


Josh Greenland - 11/21/2003

"...I have a problem with Bellesiles' credentials and product as a military commentator, let alone a historian."

I agree with you.

If Michael Bellesiles is a historian who is competent to write on military matters, then I guess Ira Gruber's article in William & Mary Quarterly shredding Arming America on its handling of weapon and military history didn't mean anything. Maybe I just hallucinated that article....

But when skipping around in Arming America I thought I caught a remark or two about colonists hunting with muskets. Only tens of pages into AA, it was already dotted with dubious statements about military establishments of the last few hundred years choosing weapons for reasons of image and machismo rather than for effectiveness. (Gloria Main in her W&MQ article scorched Bellesiles for saying the same thing about American Indians.)

Michael Bellesiles seems like the majority of gun control activists: he doesn't know much about guns themselves, and doesn't want to know about them.

How can Bellesiles be considered any kind of historian, given the lies and use of fabricated evidence throughout AA?

I'm quite sure that HNS is posting his article because they agree with his gun control politics, and I assume that they'd justify their actions by sticking to the fallback position of Bellesiles supporters, that the only errors in Arming America are those found by the Emory committee.


Ralph E. Luker - 11/20/2003

John, Whatever social disease one may acquire from sharing space with historians, I acquired long ago. By now, it is a part of who I am. The decision about circulating the Bellesiles op-ed was made by the editors of HNS, but it is one that I, as an author of other HNS op-eds and a member of HNS's advisory board, support on the grounds that the piece should be judged on its own merit or lack of merit. Similarly, I supported Rick Shenkman's decision not to post Bellesiles's op-ed on HNN, as a decision which Shenkman as HNN editor was entitled to make. Generally speaking, I do wish Michael well in his effort to make a professional recovery. As he knows, it will not be easy and it may be impossible.


Samuel Browning - 11/20/2003

Surprisingly enough I do agree with Belliseles's thesis that anglo-americans tend to believe that technology will solve our military problems while avoiding the consideration of certain unpleasant tactical realities, (see Somolia). From first glance it appears his 20th century history is relatively accurate, but anyone know if John Smith actually said the words that Belliseles attributed to him?


John G. Fought - 11/20/2003

I don't know about her, but I have a problem with Bellesiles' credentials and product as a military commentator, let alone a historian. I just read his 'Shock and Awe' piece, and it's certainly his: short yet shallow. Sharing space with him sounds like a bad idea to me. I sure hope you don't catch anything.


Ralph E. Luker - 11/20/2003

Ms. Nicholl, You have a problem with that?


Diane Nicholl - 11/19/2003

I found a newspaper story by Bellesiles from the History News Service. http://www.h-net.org/~hns/articles/2003/111103a.html
He has joined with Ralph Luker and others to as HNS states "present opportunities for historians to learn the practices and values of professional journalists."


Bryan Haskins - 11/18/2003

Thank you for your kind words about my wife and daughter, Mr. Smith. Actually, those pictures you saw of my daughter are a little old now. She will be four in March, and I have a son who will be two later this month (both of whom are thankfully sound asleep as I write this).

That’s quite a list of accomplishments, Mr. Smith. After reading it I think it would be fair to characterize your efforts here as being primarily “counter battery” fire directed at exposing what you believe are the vengeful motives that compel Bellesiles’ critics to say what they have about his work. I must say that I remain amazed at the time and effort required by such an oblique defense of AA and its author. Indeed, I still think that it would have been so much simpler (and I imagine far less time consuming) to, for example, say something like: “No, Mr. Lindgren, you didn’t add it right. My calculations show that AA’s probate stats are mathematically possible.” I looked, Mr. Smith, but I could not find any attempt to directly challenge or even address the content of a single criticism that has been leveled at AA. Surely you must see how easy it is to conclude that your reason for refusing to answer these many criticisms is that you either believe them to be accurate or at the very least you are aware that you cannot refute the evidence which supports them. Additionally, I am certain that there are some out there who are of the opinion you so desperately want to believe in the validity of AA’s thesis that all your efforts here are really designed for your own consumption—sort of an elaborate attempt to focus on what you want to believe is true so that you may divert your attention from the nagging doubts about AA that must occasionally creep into your consciousness. I for one don’t believe in either of these reasons for refusing to address the specific criticisms of AA, and I hope that one day you will put an end to such rampant speculation by telling us the reasons for your refusal.

I don’t believe that I said my year here was wasted. On the contrary, I think it has been a lot of fun. I wish you could have relaxed a little and taken the time to enjoy it with me, though. By the way, it’s not too late, you know. All you have to do is start addressing the real issues, which in my opinion are (and I say this because even you must admit that AA contains errors): (1) what the errors are; (2) how did they get into the work (i.e. whether through an innocent miscalculation, a deliberate falsehood, or through any number of other reasons); AND (3) what effect, if any, these errors have on the validity of AA’s thesis. I know you have asked yourself these questions, Mr. Smith. All I am asking for is a chance to freely compare and discuss your conclusions with mine.


Samuel Browning - 11/17/2003

Amazing Mr. Smith, you managed to do all that without once apparently opening Bellesiles' book to address the flaws of the text itself. Perhaps you can actually tell me where that run of San Francisco Probate records actually came from since none of Michael's stories panned out. The staff of the California historical society he visited post critism, do not remember him having done research there prior to the publication of Arming America. I could go on, but if you never responded to Bryan on his various entries to address specifics within this book so I doubt you're going to change your approach at this date. As for intellectual lynching it was more of an intellectual suicide since no one but Michael made Michael take the liberties with the truth that he did, but I suppose that this is another reality that you are uncomfortable with.


Benny Smith - 11/16/2003



Mr. Browning wrote: "Hi Bryan (Haskins):

When the new version of arming America comes out, would you like to help me and John review it for changes?"


Since Mr. Haskins considers his year here wasted, Mr. Browning, I do hope he will consider your offer if he can find the time. The value of whatever scholarship he produces on your behalf would certainly surpass the worth of his lengthy, repetitive attempts to court my attentions.

On the other hand, I feel that my year here has been rather productive. Besides providing contrast to the shrill, angry voices calling for Michael Bellesiles’ intellectual lynching, I believe that I have provided some insight and perspective. My posts have demonstrated the deep involvement of the gun lobby in the attacks on Bellesiles—from my posting here a gun lobby website that implored readers to e-mail Columbia University administrators who were re-considering Bellesiles’ Bancroft prize, to revealing a $1 million NRA grant to the university sponsor of the History News Network, itself a prominent bulletin board for Bellesiles’ critics. I took on Bellesiles’ critics themselves, including Clayton Cramer and Northwestern Professor James Lindgren. I demonstrated Cramer’s extremism to the point where a reader here admonished him, saying, "You should be ashamed." Another of my posts caused Lindgren to admit that he had passed on criticism of Bellesiles without independently verifying it himself.

I also posted updates to show how the gun lobby has failed in its attempt to discredit Arming America. One story spoke of an Iowa library board that responded to an NRA member’s attempt to have Arming America pulled from the shelf with the statement: "No citizen in a democracy has a right to prevent another from reading a specific book by demanding its removal from the library shelves." And I wrote of how research from Arming America was included in the newly published reference work, "Guns in American Society." Also, how Bellesiles’ book has been included in an English university’s America Studies course that asks, "What accounts for America’s apparent love affair with the gun?" And how Bellesiles himself chaired an American Studies seminar at a recent convention in Wales. In fact, my research has gleaned so much news on Bellesiles and Arming America that the editor of the Emory University newspaper recently published an article that insisted I must be Bellesiles himself.

Although my contributions have been sporadic at times, I have taken my involvement here seriously. I have avoided the name-calling, ridicule and fun-poking that so many others have engaged in at my expense, and at Bellesiles’ expense as well. And that is not meant to single out anyone in particular, including Mr. Haskins. I know that the assistant prosecutor has been fighting the good fight against the criminal element and hopefully he can continue to focus his efforts there. He also has a young wife and a lovely pre-school daughter, who certainly are more deserving of his attentions than you, Mr. Browning, or I. (I haven’t yet known a little girl who wouldn’t benefit from more of her father’s attention).

However, I certainly hope you find some competent book reviewers who are able to keep an open mind to the subject, Mr. Browning. Good luck in your endeavor.


Richard Henry Morgan - 11/14/2003

Touche, Ralph. I should have said Scalia was the greatest free speech absolutist in the constitutional context. Silly mistake by me, after going to all the trouble of distinguishing the First Amendment free speech provision from free speech, tout court.


Samuel Browning - 11/13/2003

Hi Bryan:

When the new version of arming America comes out, would you like to help me and John review it for changes? If you're interested my e-mail is TappingReeve@aol.com Nice to see that Benny is back to his usual escapades.


Bryan Haskins - 11/13/2003


I support each and every amendment within the “Bill of Rights,” Mr. Smith. I do so every day. I just finished my fourth capital murder prosecution, a drug-deal-gone-bad murder. As I am required to do in each case, whether great or small, I scrupulously honored every right that gun-toting crack-dealing murderer had: his 4th. Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure; his 5th. Amendment right to not have to answer for a capital crime unless an indictment had been returned against him by a grand jury of his peers; his 5th. Amendment right to remain silent; his 5th. Amendment right to receive due process of law during my attempt to deprive him of his liberty; his 6th. Amendment right to speedy trial; his 6th. Amendment right to confront and cross examine his accusers; his 6th. Amendment right to be represented by counsel; his 6th. Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury of his peers (a right I forced upon him after he tried to waive it); and his 8th. Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments.
He got life + 58 years. Five of those years came from possessing a firearm after having been previously convicted of a violent felony--an offense which some could suggest infringes upon his 2nd. Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Yet I believe that all of these individual rights (including the one recognized by the 2nd.) are not absolute, and a prohibition of firearms possession for those who have previously been convicted of trying to kill another with one is a restriction on the right to keep and bear arms I wholeheartedly endorse.
I’m sorry that I don’t fit your comfortable stereotype of a gun rights demagogue, Mr. Smith, but I am at a loss to understand why this frightens you away from entering into a dialogue with me. While it may seem easier to vent your ongoing frustration by lobbing verbal bombs at everyone who does not share your views, I am sure that entering into a dialogue with me would channel your energy in a direction which we would both recognize as productive. For example, we can easily agree on the importance of protecting the individual liberties recognized by the 1st., 3rd., 4th., 5th., 6th., 7th., and 8th. Amendments. It would appear that our only area of disagreement concerns the interpretation of the 2nd. Amendment. Why not discuss this amendment with me, Mr. Smith? Oh, I doubt that either of us will convince the other into changing his view--but you must agree that a respectful and informed discussion of this (or any other) issue would yield more results than the snipe & run offense you continue to use. After all, what have you to show for our one year together here?


Ralph E. Luker - 11/13/2003

Richard, Unless you know something I don't know, which is often the case, I don't recall Justice Scalia protesting the cancellation by CBS of the production about the Reagans.


Alec Lloyd - 11/12/2003

On this very website. Or are you mugging for your fan base?


Richard Henry Morgan - 11/12/2003

"After the cancellation, the manager of James Brolin, who portrayed former President Ronald Reagan in the series, told a Today show correspondent that the only amendment that mattered to conservatives was the Second, the right to bear arms."

Brolin's manager, like Benny Smith, has a rather loose a grip on the First Amendment, which enjoins the government from censorship, not CBS, and not individuals. Perhaps this confusion between government and CBS was just the manager's backhand admission that the unelected media often have greater power than the elected government. In any case, the greatest free speech absolutist on the US Supreme Court is ... you guessed it ... Antonin Scalia, the most conservative.


Benny Smith - 11/11/2003



Right wing zealots have claimed another victory over the First Amendment with the cancellation of the Reagan mini-series on CBS. For those who have followed the efforts of gun huggers and extreme conservatives to silence the voice of Arming America author Michael Bellesiles, this continuing campaign of right wing censorship is becoming all too familiar. After the cancellation, the manager of James Brolin, who portrayed former President Ronald Reagan in the series, told a Today show correspondent that the only amendment that mattered to conservatives was the Second, the right to bear arms. Although he was referring to the clamor to cancel the Reagan series, he could have just as well been referring to Bellesiles’ book.

Led by conservative talk show hacks and backed by Republican Party stalwarts, an army of ideologues quickly subverted CBS intentions to prominently run the series in prime time. What was it about the series that so inflamed these people? One complaint I heard was Reagan’s response to the plight of AIDS victims in the line, “They that live in sin, shall die in sin.” Although admittedly dramatized, as is common with such dialogue, conservatives wailed that the line was dishonest and unfair to the former president. However, history records Reagan as being, at best, indifferent to the plight of AIDS victims. In the Reagan biography Dutch, Reagan is quoted as saying “maybe the Lord brought down this plague . . . because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.” Former Reagan chief of staff Donald Regan was quoted in Reagan—the Man and his Presidency: “The Reagan administration realized that there was an AIDS crisis but that it was being caused by immoral practices, and how far do you want to go to make the world safe for immoral practices.” And Reagan himself was quoted in Time magazine as saying “When it comes to stopping the spread of AIDS, medicine and morality teach the same lessons.” What lesson is that? “That they that live in sin, shall die in sin?” So that dramatization is anything but a dishonest response, based on Reagan’s legacy.

The right wing drive to control what we see and hear is not confined to just re-writing history. I heard a tour guide in New Hampshire speak about Reaganites’ quest to re-write geography as well. There is a push among conservatives to re-name something in Reagan’s honor in every state. In New Hampshire, this involved re-naming Mt. Clay to Mt. Reagan. At the same time, conservatives added an amendment that officially re-named Mt. Clinton, Mt. Pierce. Never mind that Mt. Clinton was not originally named for former President Bill Clinton. Perception is reality enough for the right wing zealots of this country.


Josh Greenland - 11/9/2003

The use of the excerpt from Garry Wills' review is amusing from another angle: "progressive" Soft Skull chose a passage that is laughably Eurocentric and condescending to Native Americans. Gee, weren't some American christians burning and drowning "witches" in the 17th century?


Richard Henry Morgan - 11/8/2003

Waiting, as I am, impatiently (nay, breathlessly) for the revised edition of Bellesiles' book, I chanced upon this little portion of the Soft Skull (General Paresis?) website:

"The mythology of the gun would be elaborated and drummed into Americans, during the second half of the 19th century, by massive advertising and by popular celebration in dime novels and Wild West shows.…Bellesiles has dispersed the darkness that covered the gun's early history in America. He provides overwhelming evidence that our view of the gun is as deep a superstition as any that affected Native Americans in the 17th century."
—Garry Wills THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW


Seems the boys, girls, whatever, at Soft Skull are using Wills' favorable review from the first edition to flog the revised edition, though Wills has removed his imprimatur from the work. Tsk, tsk. http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-932360-07-7


Josh Greenland - 10/25/2003

How sad that the San Jose Mercury is now writing those too-short, uninformative articles so typical of the rest of the SF Bay Area's press. It wasn't clear what exactly Rakove thought was wrong with California recall other than that it was too easy to get enough signatures for recall, and that he didn't like the idea of popular electoral processes like recall and initiative.

Those who didn't like this recall were already pushing for changes in the law before the October election. They complain that too few signatures are required to qualify a recall (but 900,000 sounds like a lot of me, even in California), and that a judge should rule on whether a recall has "sufficient grounds" in some kind of politician malfeasance. This last especially makes me nervous given that California's recall was intentioned to be free of judicial gatekeeping, given that the abuses it was created to correct included a judiciary that was even more corrupted and controlled by a single corporation (Southern Pacific) than were the legislature or governor's office (per an article here on HNN).


Samuel Browning - 10/23/2003

What James Madison would think in a case like this is not particlarly relevant because the intent behind the recall mechanism dates from a change in, I believe, the California State Constitution enacted during the early 1900s. States have long had the option to experiment with the stucture of democracy as long as their efforts do not deny rights protected by the US constitution which are made applicable to the states by the 14th amendment. Rakove's argument, as reported by the media, is so vague that it is not particularly credible. (though in fairness the media could have always abreviated Rakove's comments so abruptly that they did him a disservice.)


SteveH - 10/23/2003

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/7051097.htm

Top Historian warns of flaws in California recall process
San Jose Mercury News
Sunday, October 19, 2003

Founders didn't Aim for Popular Rule, Panel Told

by Renee Koury
Mercury News


James Madison would have been very disappointed that
Californians got together and kicked their governor
out of office this month, a noted historian told a panel
of deep thinkers at Stanford University on Saturday.

...

"There is something deeply disturbing about what is
going on in this state," Rakove told the panel.

[I guess that's because minorities can be politically
terrorized by the tyranny of the majority.]

"People have learned to manipulate the initiative
process," Rakove said. "The smaller
the group, the more dangerous it is," he said...

[woops...]



Ralph E. Luker - 10/20/2003

Bryan, Of course, you are correct. Benny will not respond substantially to your questions any more than he will identify himself. Whether Benny is Bellesiles or not remains unproved, but it is increasingly clear that he is a sock-puppet for someone who goes about in the world under some other name.


Bryan Haskins - 10/20/2003


He will never answer my questions, Sam, because he cannot dispute the facts contained within them. His entire history on this site can be summarized like this: He avoids addressing the underlying facts that led to Bellesiles’ downfall by simply responding to all who report them with “liar [biased gun hugging] liar pants on fire.”

I have been following Mr. Smith’s lack of progress on this site for months. I told him long ago that the exclusive (and obsessive) reliance on the “you are all biased liars” theory was a horse that would not run. It stumbled badly right out of the gate, and he has since fallen so far behind that he can no longer even see the pack he is racing against. Indeed, he is not even making an attempt to understand the posts that appear here anymore. From his responses to them, it is clear that he merely skims them looking for one of two things: 1) Something that he can latch onto and claim to have taken offense from, OR 2) Something that will allow him to claim that the writer is somehow connected to (and therefore proving to all the existence of) a vast right-wing NRA-funded gun-hugging conspiracy to get Bellesiles.

He may, of course, prove my analysis of his behavior completely wrong at any time. All it takes is the courage to consider my questions, stand up, and actually say what he really believes (and, in fairness, a request that I do the same for questions he may have for me). For the reason provided in my first sentence, however, I am confident that he will never accept these repeatedly offered opportunities to try and prove me wrong.


Samuel Browning - 10/17/2003

With the three well written posts by Tim Lambert, Phil Lee, and Reader there is not much new ground to cover in this response to Benny's October 13, 2003 letter. Benny, you assume that some of us have a facility with doing advanced internet searches that we do not, and here I speak for myself and presumably Ralph. But even concluding your search engine superiority here, Reader is right in his post. You could have easily provided such information to the Emory Wheel and decided not to for whatever reason.

They should make a correction but because of your game playing they do not owe you a retraction or apology. Remember they argued that you are either Belliseles or in cahoots with him. Assuming you Michigan IP is correct you are not the former, but still can be the latter.

Certain parts of your post I find hard to understand. You quoted from the Atomic Book's site and then you didn't want to disclose this site because you thought that Mr. Morgan wouuld make fun of you? Benny give me a break, you know that quoting from a website leads to inquiries as to its location.

I don't care if you are suspicious concerning my inquiry concerning the exact dates of the e-mails that passed between you and Mr. Ackerman. This information is valuable in indicating how long he waited before writing his editorial and therefore helps reconstuct whether he rushed to judgment or made a reasonable attempt to obtain information from you that was not forthcoming and then ran his story. I should ask though, when are you going to finally address Mr. Haskin's questions since he has ben trying to get a answer from you for months.


Don Williams - 10/15/2003

Note that Congress, in the 1792 Militia Act, did not define the full militia --they simply said that all white males 18-44 years of age must serve. They did not exclude others. I seem to recall , however, that Section 2 gave the States the power to exempt people from militia service --which might have been used to exclude some people from training but not necessarily from membership.

On the one hand, this power could be helpful -- State governments could ,in the future, resist a tyrannical government by forming a large paramilitary police force and claim members of said force are State officials and hence exempt from federal command (via the draft or federalization.) Congress could, however, overturn the exemption by passage of law, not Constitutional amendment.

On the other hand, the States power to exclude people has allowed abuse of minorities in the past. There is also an argument that the 14th Amendment made the Bill of Rights binding on the States as well as the Federal Government and hence States no longer have the power to exclude people from the militia. As Akhil Amar has noted, Part of the background of the 14th Amendment was predecessor federal laws passed after the Civil War which affirmed that African American citizens had a Second Amendment right to possess firearms --and to defend themselves from violence in the South.

Where Congress stepped over the line was in the Dick Act. The Dick Act ,passed circa 1903, replaced the 1792 Militia Act and
set up the present dual-hat National Guard. The Dick Act was where Congress presumed to define the militia solely as all male citizens 18-45 years of age not serving in the federal military.
I think this limiting definition was unconstitutional.

If Congress can define which citizens are members of the militia, then it can exclude population groups -- e.g, it can copy the Nazi's "Draft Law for the Regulation of the Status of the Jews" and exclude from military service anyone..

"a) who adheres to the Jewish faith,
b) whose parents or all grandparents adhered to the Mosaic faith,
even if they or some of them later abandoned the Mosaic faith,
c) who is a descendant of those named under a) and b) "

Alternatively, it could exclude all those who adhere to the Islamic faith.


Reader - 10/15/2003

I agree with Phil Lee -- let's take a step back.

All this wrangling by Benny Smith and his quick two-step has diverted attention from the real issue -- Bellesiles was discredited and remains discredited. His research was shoddy, as was his method. It is apparent to me that he had a axe to grind and he manipulated data….or made some of it up….to reach the conclusions already well stamped in his mind.

I knew that the bulk of his arguments were bogus when I first read the book. It didn't take too much research to come up with discrepancy after discrepancy and misrepresentation after misrepresentation.

My friends were first a bit skeptical of my assertions -- after all, I was just one reader.

But then the floodgates opens and Bellesiles got a flood much more than of his offices.

So, aapparently Bellesiles is 25% complete with his renewed research. I hope he keeps better records than he did last time. I actually hope that he does publish some of his research and correct, when necessary, his earlier work. I think he has a real tough row to hoe.

It doesn't take too much to pick Smith apart. On one hand he says: "First, let me say I’m not fond of providing internet links. They don’t always cut and paste easily, they sometimes throw up a red flag of "spam" to forum hosts—some of whom won’t even permit their posting—and they occasionally disappear." Then he quotes his wife as saying he is a "search engine genius."

For a so-called genius, he certainly expresses that he has difficulty with the basics.

Smith implies criticism of the editor of the Wheel: "I found it strange also that Mr. Ackerman’s work was referenced and praised by many. Did NOBODY think to check to see if this website existed?"

Well, Benny, being the search engine genius and all, you could have whipped up that site cite very quickly and provided it to the Wheel. But you didn't...or couldn't.

Additionally, Smith takes refuge in the ultimate "disgrace" and criticism -- a word was misspelled in the Wheel article. It is amazing that when many scoundrels are cornered on the internet, they become "grammar police" and heap ridicule on their "enemies."

Smith is being coy. And secretive.

He is reluctant to answer specific questions, which would shed light on the issue. His connection to Arming of America is suspect, at best. He seems to have a connection outside being the humble researcher he claims to be. Of course, all he has to do is provide some information and it could be cleared up.

But Smith revels in the limelight. He is, now, Somebody.

And there is a Conspiracy out there and he has now been targeted.

He now lives is exciting times.



Phil Lee - 10/14/2003

Some people crave attention, and they don't care whether it is positive or negative. They see a forum as a means to gain attention they can't get in their own life. Fanciful argument and denial of information are means of stretching out this attention. By never conceding a point they indulge their fantasies of cleverness that they really lack. They frequently justify their actions because of bad behavior of others or of tools (i.e., I would have told you where the material was found, but someone would make a snide remark or the computer might make it disappear).

Honest people interested in a meeting of the minds and factual discussion of issues, don't play got-ya games. They don't mind sharing information even if it might occasionally disappear or involve a little extra work to cut and paste.

Behavior by people trying to make themselves the center of attention is well recognized on the web. The term to use is "troll." The only way to deal with trolls is to remember they are playing a game and ignore them.

In my previous note, that is why I suggested the need to regain focus.

Phil Lee


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/14/2003

Don, thanks for your lengthy and informative reply. I share your view of Bernstein -- he is a reputable scholar, though less than credible as a defender of Bellesiles. Politics can warp the judgment.

I will get the Veit collection on Inter Library Loan. So too with some of the sources in Uviller and Merkl's contribution to Bogus' The Second Amendment in Law and History (the article by U&M was ginned up into a book put out by, I believe, Duke University Press, a condensed version of which appeared on HNN). U&M go to great lengths to trace the history of that portion of the militia trained to arms, arguing in the end that there is no milita today, so there is no Second Amendment. Their argument obscures the fact that there is an unbroken statutory stream (right up to the present day) which defines the militia as, at a minimum, all able-bodied males 18 to 45. The question is, does this unbroken statutory stream simply embody a common-law understanding of what a militia, tout court, is, or is the stream a statutory invasion of the constitutional realm by stipulative definition?

What you will never see from the collectivists is the words from the Miller decision, which suggest that the constitution itself embodies a common-law definition of militia (complete with a reference to Justice Story and his famous interpretive principle that common-law terms maintain their everyday meanings in constitutional interpretation).

This explains the almost manic preoccupation on the part of the collectivists to cast the Knox Plan as a select militia plan. It also explains why they consistently ignore the words of Rufus King in the Philadelphia Convention. Most hilarious of all is Rakove (in Bogus) quoting Mason to the effect that the militia might in the future be anything at all, where in previous writings Rakove offers that AntiFederalists are so consumed by paranoia that their views offer no real insight into the meaning of constitutional text. Mason might best be read as warning against the possibility of later statutory restrictions via stipulative definitions, or the equivalent by activist judges. When you see what has happened to the commerce clause you can understand his concern. The votes in the House and Senate do give some clue to the original understanding of those two bodies, but not too much of a clue -- in any case, the real balance of weight must lie with the ratifiers, and the state ratification records (when it comes to the Bill of Rights vary from poor to non-existent).


Don Williams - 10/14/2003

Richard

I have been out of town for several days --it was Parent's Weekend at my son's school. His school's library, for some reason, has an excellent collection of primary source material on the American Founding and I wanted to check something before responding to you.

a) When I said Bernstein was a persistent defender of Bellesiles on H-OIEAHC, I did not mean to imply that he was a credible defender of Bellesiles. I don't not recall Bernstein ever attempting to address the specific criticisms of Arming America or attempting to determine whether primary sources supported or disproved Bellesiles' claims. Bernstein's approach, as I recall, was a patronizing "Historians have different interpretations
and maybe if you were a historian you would understand that" meme. In my opinion, Bernstein will simply dismiss the San Francisco records issue as an inadvertent error in sourcing.

Bernstein will probably be much bolder in his Arming America Preface than he was on H-OIEAHC because no one will have the right to reply to his Preface -- to still his yapping by rubbing his nose in the mess and smacking his behind with a rolled up newspaper.

b) Re the definition of the militia, I found a Helen Veit collection, called "Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789-1791", which listed primary sources describing
the detailed actions taken by the First Congress, including the creation of the Bill of Rights. (NOTE:I don't know if this collection has been updated in later works by Veit --or if this collection has material not in similar works.)

c) At the beginnning of Volume IV(Legislative Histories) of the Documentary History, there is a detailed log for development of the Bill of Rights , with citations to contemporary newspaper articles, Maclay's Journal,etc for detailed accounts of Congress' deliberations.

d) The Histories indicate that:
(1) The deliberations on the Bill of Rights explicitly started with consideration of petitions from the States arising out of the Constitution's approval process
(2) Several of those petitions (New Hampshire?, Virginia?) explicitly state that the militia is "composed of the body of the people"
(3) The First Congress decided not to be limited solely to the
State petitions in drawing up the Bill of Rights
(4) The text of the Second Amendment submitted by the House to the Senate explicitly stated that the militia was composed "of the body of the people"
(5) The House explicitly voted DOWN a resolution to limit the militia to those people "Trained to Arms" (e.g., National Guard )
(6) The Senate deleted the phase "composed of the body of the people" but left no reason re why it did so
(There is very little information on Senate deliberations --my understanding is that the Senate tried to preserve it's lofty
image and mystery by only reporting it's final results and not how it reached the results -- One reason why Maclay kept his Journal. However, Maclay evidently left no record on the Senate's intent.)

e) As you've noted, if Congress could decide who has membership in the militia, then it could nullify the States' right to appoint officers --which would be contrary to the explicit statement in Article 1.

This is very relevent today. A few years ago, a highly decorated female Army colonel was dismissed from the US Army because it was discovered that she was a lesbian. However, she was accepted into California's National Guard. This raises the interesting question of whether Congress can extend the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to the National Guard and other state militias. I would argue that gays have a right to be in the militia and a corresponding Second Amendment right.

f) Congress and State Governor's obviously control the militias -- i.e., decide who stays at home, who engages in training exercises, and who fights in a war.

Note that the 1792 Militia Act did NOT say that the state militias would consist SOLELY of white males 18-45 years of age --it merely said that the militias would include such males at a MINIMUM. I believe that many early militias used elderly men over 45 years of age as a "Home Guard" to help defend a home area when men of military age were away on campaign.


Don Williams - 10/14/2003

Richard

I have been out of town for several days --it was Parent's Weekend at my son's school. His school, for some reason, has an excellent collection of primary source material on the American Founding and I wanted to check something before responding to you.

a) When I said Bernstein was a persistent defender of Bellesiles on H-OIEAHC, I did not mean to imply that he was a credible defender of Bellesiles. I don't not recall Bernstein ever attempting to address the specific criticisms of Arming America or attempting to determine whether primary sources supported or disproved Bellesiles' claims. Bernstein's approach, as I recall, was a patronizing "Historians have different interpretations
and maybe if you were a historian you would understand the process" meme. In my opinion, Bernstein will simply dismiss the San Francisco records issue as a mere error in sourcing.

b) Re the definition of the militia, I found a Helen Veit collection, called "Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789-1791", which listed primary sources describing
the detailed actions taked by the First Congress, including the creation of the Bill of Rights. (I don't know if this collection has been updated in later works by Veit --or if this collection has material not in similar works.)

c) At the beginnning of Volume IV(Legislative Histories) of the Documentary History, there is a detailed log for development of the Bill of Rights , with citations to contemporary newspaper articles, Maclay's Journal,etc for detailed accounts of Congress' deliberations.

d) The Histories indicate that:
(1) The deliberations on the Bill of Rights explicitly started with consideration of petitions from the States arising out of the Constitution's approval process
(2) Several of those petitions (New Hampshire?, Virginia?) explicitly state that the militia is "composed of the body of the people"
(3) The First Congress decided not to be limited solely to the
State petitions in drawing up the Bill of Rights
(4) The text of the Second Amendment submitted by the House to the Senate explicitly stated that the militia was composed "of the body of the people"
(5) The House explicitly voted DOWN a resolution to limit the militia to those people "Trained to Arms" (e.g., National Guard )
(6) The Senate deleted the phase "composed of the body of the people" but left no reason re why it did so
(There is very little information on Senate deliberations --my understanding is that the Senate tried to preserve it's lofty
image and mystery by only reporting it's final results and not how it reached the results -- One reason why Maclay kept his Journal. However, Maclay evidently left no record on the Senate's intent.)

e) As you've noted, if Congress could decide who has membership in the militia, then it could nullify the States' right to appoint officers --which would be contrary to the explicit statement in Article 1. This is very relevent today. A few years ago, a highly decorated female Army colonel was dismissed from the US Army because it was discovered that she was a lesbian. However, she was accepted into California's National Guard. This raises the interesting question of whether Congress can extend the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to the National Guard and other state militias. I would argue that gays have a right to be in the militia and a corresponding Second Amendment right.

f) Congress and State Governor's obviously control the militias -- i.e., decide who stays at home, who engages in training exercises, and who fights in a war.

Note that the 1792 Militia Act did NOT say that the state militias would consist SOLELY of white males 18-45 years of age --it merely said that the militias would include such males at a MINIMUM. I believe that many early militias used elderly men over 45 years of age as a "Home Guard" to help defend an area when men of military age were away on campaign.


Tim Lambert - 10/14/2003

So Benny Smith admits that he deliberately withheld the information about where he found the cover art in the hope the the Emory Wheel would be embarrassed. This makes his demand for an apology rather disingenous.

Jimmy Wales has looked at the IP numbers of some of Benny Smith's emails. These suggest that it is unlikely that Smith is really Bellesiles. It appears that Smith was posting from Michigan when Bellesiles was still at Emory.

So, it looks like Benny Smith has been allowing the mystery to continue so people would pay more attention to him.


Benny Smith - 10/14/2003



First, let me say I’m not fond of providing internet links. They don’t always cut and paste easily, they sometimes throw up a red flag of "spam" to forum hosts—some of whom won’t even permit their posting—and they occasionally disappear. A couple weeks ago even Professor Lindgren had such links drop out from one of his posts here on HNN. Anyone who has been following my posts knows that I use and suggest using Google searches. For example, you asked about that Thomas Jefferson quote, Mr. Browning. Using the advanced web Google search, type in "Thomas Jefferson" as the exact phrase, then pick out a less-than-usual word from the quote, such as "disputant." Check your results. I believe I originally discovered the "atomic" site by combining the phrase "soft skull" with "Bellesiles" and "October," since I knew his revised Arming America was being released by Soft Skull in October. On my search, the "atomic" site popped up on the first page of hits.

Once I posted to HNN, then it became even easier to Google-find my site, since I quoted directly from the site itself. Google-search the words Bellesiles, Bernstein, "Soft Skull" and either "obliterate" or any other word I used in quotes and you get only a tiny handful of hits, including "Literary Finds for Mutated Minds," the site I used. That’s why I believe Mr. Luker is being disingenuous when he claims he and others searched for the site repeatedly. Either he is lying or can’t negotiate the internet. I honestly felt I was being "set up", first because of the offbeat name of the site, and because Bellesiles’ book looked somewhat ill-placed among the comic books and children’s toys. Certainly, my linking the site would send Arming America critics like Mr. Morgan, or as it turned out, Mr. Lee, into a fun-poking frenzy with me the stooge. Of course, how was I to know that this site was the only one with the book jacket photo of the revised Arming America. When I later learned there was another possible Arming America book jacket cover, albeit a dead dog ugly one, I hedged in my reply to one of your posts, saying that the photo I saw could have been just an advertising graphic. Then I saw the curious reply from Mr. Luker who seemed to be accusing me of knowing too much.

So I saw where Mr. Luker posted "Benny Smith Meet Mary Rosh." However, Mr. Luker was sly enough not to stick his neck out too far. He left that for Mr. Ackerman, the editor of the Emory Wheel. Now, I do believe that the Emory Wheel is "in cahoots" with Bellesiles’ critics and have allowed the gun lobby to steer them to stories or viewpoints they want published. It’s not just coincidence that very shortly after the Emory Wheel published their story on me, Luker was putting out his "Extra, Extra" article on his blog, publicizing Ackerman’s editorial. And another prominent Bellesiles critic, Mr. Fought, praised Mr. Ackerman’s article in an on-line comment almost simultaneously.

Mr. Browning, you can see by my first e-mail that I did try to steer Mr. Ackerman towards doing a more balanced story, rather than merely continuing to report right wing gossip and innuendo. But any shrewd propagandist could see the opportunities Mr. Ackerman presented. Afterall, the Emory Wheel has not been kind to Bellesiles. And lately, neither has Luker. There was a chance for some vindication, even perhaps, briefly, a larger stage to make my voice heard. So I certainly was not going to stand in the way of a runaway train of Bellesiles’ critics heading down the wrong track. And when the train crossed the point of no return, with Luker blowing the train whistle hard and more of Bellesiles’ tormentors, including an Emory administrator, hopping aboard . . . well, I am reminded of Leonardo DiCapprio’s con man character’s favorite line in the movie Catch Me If You Can—"Even better."

To be honest, I fully expected to be vindicated afterwards when some alert reader located my original "atomic" site. That nobody did this leads me to one of three conclusions: that nobody other than Bellesiles haters reads this stuff, that nobody cares, or that I am, in the words of my wife, a search engine genius. Of course, I couldn’t wait for Luker’s "he got me" response. When I forwarded his "Benny’s Revenge" blog to a close confidant, she replied, "He says you can’t read. I think he wants to fight. Be nice, be nice." So I will let his vituperative remarks slide this time. I hope I have satisfied your curiosity, Mr. Browning. So far as dates of the e-mails in question, they were not included in the body of text that I cut and pasted and I am frankly suspicious of your asking for them. If I recall correctly, Mr. Ackerman first e-mailed me about a week ago and we exchanged correspondence through last Thursday.


Benn Ray - 10/13/2003

Phil Lee stated: "If you look at the focus of Atomic books (comic books, books on strippers, ...), it would be fair to say that Bellesiles has found a retail outlet to match the qualities of his book. "

Why thank you.


Samuel Browning - 10/13/2003

Nice save on the photograph Bennie, while I don't trust your word, Tim Lambert is reliable, and I accept his and Mr. Lee's posts. Of course you did "dangle" this issue by posting this discription on October 2nd without providing an accompanying link which is standard procedure on this board. After all, we readers could spend weeks searching the internet fruitlessly, that's not our responsibility, and you know that. But there are omissions in your version of events which are as follows.

On October 2nd your post quoted from the Atomic website as follows: The new book "answers his academic critics, providing updated research addressing their legitimate concerns, while finding that the underlying thesis of his book remains as solid as ever," then Bernstein's foreward examines "the virulent power of the American Right to obliterate those voices which speak out in opposition to their own." The original text is at http://www.atomicbooks.com/comingsoonoct.html Now to get these forty odd words in correct order you must have either printed out this blurb or taken notes which you had in front of you while you typed.

In your Ocober 3, 2003 post you avoided the issue of origin by saying that you didn't remember finding this information on the Soft Skull website, without mentioning the website that you did take the quote from. You also stated "By the way, what I interpreted to be book cover art could end up being an advertising graphic" when you would have to have known based on the atomic picture, that it was indeed cover art.

Now I cannot prove that such omissions establishes that you are Belliseles but I can say that any errors in the Emory Wheel were promoted by your behavior since you deliberately did not provide this link until well after a timely request from at least yours truly to explain where at least the picture accompanying your chosen text came from. I also do not understand why you removed the dates from your correspondance with Andrew Ackerman unless it was to obscure that he wrote you days before his editorial ran which would have given you the opportunity to provide the same link to him defusing this issue.

It is also apparant that you did not tell him the truth when you said you did not have the website handy. If you took notes from it, or printed it out, you would have been able to, at a mimimum, provide him with more of a lead on where to find it. Its kind of hard to forget an Atomic Books in Baltimore. But Ackerman's editorial raised another issue, how did you know back on December 15, 2002 that Belliseles had lawyered up if you have no connection to Michael. Your stories are not consistant over time Benny.


Tim Lambert - 10/12/2003

I emailed Benn Ray and he replied:
"The cover image displayed on my site is from the catalog of a distributor of Soft Skull Press' books. It has been up on our site for several months."

Also posted to http://timlambert.org/2003/10#1012 for people who think that this isn't me.


Phil Lee - 10/12/2003

It seems to me that Bennie Smith's tactic is to divert attention and change the subject whenever possible. Perhaps it is only for reasons of ego he is trying to make himself the issue rather than Bellesiles' product.

I think he has succeeded and many of you should re-focus.

To add a brief bit of factual information which will not settle the issue of whether or not he is Bellesiles, I explored the Atomic Books web site. What I found is:

The picture describe by Smith was posted to that site on 12-Jul-2003 15:36 and appears to have been posted by Benn Ray with e-mail benn@atomicbooks.com. The date of posting (assuming they did not diddle the server clock) is given from:
http://www.atomicbooks.com/dugimages/
(scan down until you reach armingamerica.jpg). It appears this site follows the practice of listing poster in a file with similar root name and extension "LCK" so the cover is:
http://www.atomicbooks.com/dugimages/armingamerica.jpg
and the poster is in
http://www.atomicbooks.com/dugimages/armingamerica.jpg.LCK

Benn Ray is pictured on the web site's contact page along with other employees. His picture may be found at:
http://www.atomicbooks.com/dugimages/benn.jpg

Atomic books is a retailer based in Baltimore with address:
1100 W. 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
410.662.4444

If you look at the focus of Atomic books (comic books, books on strippers, ...), it would be fair to say that Bellesiles has found a retail outlet to match the qualities of his book.

Phil Lee


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/12/2003

"I have removed only ads, phone numbers and other personal identifying information"

You seem to have also removed the dates, which might be of interest for establishing a chronology. Of course Mr. Ackerman can always avail himself of the Bellesiles Defense -- he doesn't recognize the e-mails as his, somebody hacked into his computer, a flood destroyed his records, the records can be found at East Point, or was it the San Francisco Court House?


Benny Smith - 10/12/2003



Regarding the Emory Wheel article:

:http://www.emorywheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/10/10/3f86484674de4

I have seen newspapers occasionally perpetrate hoaxes on April 1st, but Andrew Ackerman’s opinion column in the Emory University’s student newspaper on Friday ranks right up there as one of the more fantastic concoctions perpetrated in print, regardless of the date. Well, even an "intemperate" soul like myself is deserving of a good laugh once in a while, and my family and I had a great laugh over the Emory Wheel’s conspiracy theory. No, I am not Bellesiles, nor am I "in cahoots" with him or any of his associates. My research and my opinions are 100 per cent my own. I have never said otherwise.

The linchpin of Ackerman’s piece is a theory that I somehow received an advance copy of Michael Bellesiles’ second edition of Arming America, since I described aspects of the new foreword and the cover. However, if you compare my article with my internet source (both linked here), it should be abundantly obvious to even a junior high cub reporter where my information came from. Why Mr. Ackerman could not locate this site, or even whether he tried, is a good question and deserving of an answer.


http://www.historynewsnetwork.com/comments/19502.html

http://www.atomicbooks.com/comingsoonoct.html

I found it strange also that Mr. Ackerman’s work was referenced and praised by many. Did NOBODY think to check to see if this website existed? Among those praising Mr. Ackerman for his ‘scoop’ were several authors of weblogs, including Ralph Luker here at HNN who twice declared, "Benny Smith meet Mary Rosh", comparing me to pro-gun author John Lott who invented a fictitious on-line persona to defend himself. Although I’ve considered ‘blogs’ to be mostly self-indulgent gossip-mongering, these internet columnists would have us believe that they know the worldwide web better than anyone else. Obviously, this is not the case.

What you see here is a microcosm of the smear campaign against Michael Bellesiles and Arming America. Criticism is picked up and repeated ad infinitum without anybody checking to see whether the criticism is valid or whether the critic is biased. I am reminded of how Professor James Lindgren, Bellesiles’ chief critic, was rebuked in Emory University’s Bellesiles investigation for accusing Bellesiles of an incorrect militia count, when it turned out that Bellesiles was correct. Lindgren’s excuse was that he was quoting another critic and did not bother to check the primary source material to see if the criticism was accurate. What an incredible abuse of academic authority!

Anyhow, in the case of the Emory Wheel editorial (it was not a "news" item), I thought it might be instructive to read the e-mail exchanges between Mr. Ackerman and myself, which I have reprinted below, with the most recent e-mail on top. I have removed only ads, phone numbers and other personal identifying information (there was one last e-mail from Mr. Ackerman where he briefly asked me to contact him by phone, but the story was in print before I had a chance to respond):


Benny: I appreciate you getting back to me. In any event, no, a lot of what you've written about is not available to the public on the Internet or at my local library. That's just insulting and condescending. The cover of the forthcoming paperback that you described isn't available at Soft Skull Press' site nor anywhere else. Bernstein's forward isn't available, either. Yet you insist that they are. Would you tell me where I can find them? A lot of people would like to know how you found them. In my column for tomorrow's Wheel, I make it clear that Professor Bellesiles is either using you as his mouthpiece or is you. I've looked at the IP addresses from some of your messages. They appear to originate from a Michigan ISP, giving credence to your claim to be a database administrator from Detroit. But there's no way you could have known anything about the cover or the Bernstein forward or a number of other minutiae related to Bellesiles and _Arming America_ unless you were close to Michael or an online persona that he invented. Yet you've written on HNN that you don't know Bellesiles personally. So something's wrong here. You just won't talk about it seriously. -Andrew >

Andrew, Although I am both flattered and amused that my humble scribbles here might be mistaken for that of a respected author and essayist, I do not believe those making such "charges" are serious. None of my information is "secretive." It is all available, either on the internet or at your local library. > >Benny > >

Benny: > >A lot of people insist that you're really Bellesiles, and it's beginning to sound like you are, considering the secretive information that you're privy to and a random database administration from Detroit wouldn't have access to. How do you respond to those charges? > >-Andrew > >>

Andrew, >> >> No, I do not have an advance copy of the second edition of Arming America. My information came from the internet, although I do not have the website handy. I hope your coverage of the Bellesiles matter in the future will be more balanced. Unfortunately, the Emory Wheel has been less than objective in the past, depending much upon many sources who bore personal/professional grudges, or who were ideologically aligned against the theses Professor Bellesiles proposed. Check out this website:

>>http://www.jointogether.org/gv/news/features/reader/0,2061,566717,00.html

It describes what happens when hard core politics trumps academic freedom in this neo-conservative age. When the new edition of Arming America comes out, I hope you read the new foreword by Richard B. Bernstein. It also describes how right wing power politics can silence voices that we need to hear. Journalism should always be on the side of free speech, particularly when it involves academic freedom. Unfortunately, the Wheel allowed itself to be seduced and abused by the radical right. Benny >> >> >>

Andrew Ackerman wrote: Hi there. I'm working on a column for the Emory Wheel, Emory's student paper. You're probably familiar with my stories last year on the Bellesiles controversy. I see that you've posted recently on HNN regarding the forthcoming paperback 2nd edition of _Arming America_. Did you obtain a preview copy of the Soft Skull book? If not, how were you able to describe its cover so accurately? >> >>Thanks, >>Andrew >> >>-- >>Andrew Ackerman >>Editor in Chief,

Note that Mr. Ackerman discovered that my posting address indicated that I am from Michigan, as I have stated. He even admits that gave credence to my story." Did that appear in the Emory newspaper article then? No. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story? I realize that rumor and gossip is often more sexy than the truth, but it is the truth that respectable journalists should always print. Also note that I spelled "foreword" correctly. One of the Emory Wheel’s reader responses chided Mr. Ackerman for spelling it incorrectly, at which time the Emory corrected itself but left the misquote of me unchanged, except for a ‘sic’ to try to put the blame for the spelling mistake upon me. That may be just sloppy journalism, but I also think it is also representative of the immature manner in which Emory has covered the Bellesiles matter. I still do believe they have allowed themselves to be seduced and abused by the gun lobby in this matter. And it unfortunately continues a sad trend at the Wheel. And it damages the integrity of Emory University itself, particularly when the article is so publicly praised by a member of the university’s inner echelon.


Bryan Haskins - 10/11/2003


Well, the Emory Wheel article is certainly an eye-opener. I must tip my e-hat to the EW editorial staff once again. In addition to the denial quoted by the article, I thought you had answered this question at least once more, Mr. Smith,. I went back and found this rebuke of Mr. Luker (http://hnn.us/comments/11906.html):

“Did I also hear you suggest that by my speaking to Bellesiles I might be having a conversation with myself? I have heard that suggestion put forth by Bellesiles' critics here, but I am surprised that you bought into that fiction as well. Perhaps you have allowed yourself to be held captive too long by the gun lobby's rhetoric here. The Stockholm syndrome is having its effect. You are losing your perspective.”

I can only construe this May post as a denial of being even distantly related to Mary Rosh, and I await your response to the latest EW article.

I have followed your posts for nearly a year, Mr. Smith, and I am saddened to see the box you have placed yourself in. How is it that you, who began with so much promise, have found yourself ostracized by everyone here?

Let me get straight to my point. Here is where I see your dilemma, Mr. Smith. From the beginning no one has doubted your zeal to defend what you believe to be a man wrongfully accused of academic fraud. Additionally, I at least have noticed your considerable ability to conduct background research as well as your ability to pay careful attention to detail (both of which you demonstrated during your April/May “deconstruct Clayton Cramer phase”). Yet, with all this zeal, time, and ability, you shy away from addressing even one factual allegation of fraud made by Bellesiles’ critics. Why is that? Surely you see how this odd behavior has led to a general consensus that your silence equals acceptance of the truth contained in these allegations? Everyone here believes that if you could have proven these claims false you would have done so long ago. Therefore, can you not agree that your avoidance of these claims of fraud should be construed as a concession that you cannot dispute them?

In saying this I am mindful that you have argued ad infinitum about the evil motives which possessed the critics and caused them to write what they have said about Bellesiles and AA. Yet, I am sure you will agree that the (rare) coin of this realm remains truth, and your claims of motive to fabricate are only one side of that coin. The time has come, Mr. Smith, for you to show me the other side of that coin--for you to tell me WHAT is factually wrong with the critical analysis leveled at AA. Either you must explain how the factual criticism leveled at both AA and its author is incorrect, or you must admit that some of it is true and further explain just how much fraud you are willing to accept being included in the “definitive word” on guns in early America.

Regardless of whether you are truly Bellesiles or Smith, please understand that I am only trying to help you. For example, do you not see the bitter irony in your recent choice of Jefferson quotes? Why, of all the quotes you could have “googled” from the ether, would you chose one which contradicts the very theory of AA?---“I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many on their getting warm, becoming rude and shooting one another.”[shouldn’t that be “many of them”?]---Does the “definitive word” explain where the firearms came from that were used in the “many” shootings TJ refers to? Since you obviously possess some special knowledge of AA2d, can we expect it to account for the presence of the firearms used in these confrontations TJ references?

In closing, let me offer in return a few TJ quotes. I doubt you will find them behind that as yet unseen cover you definitively say will grace the second edition of AA:

1. “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind....Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.” Cite: Thomas Jefferson, Encyclopedia of T. Jefferson, p. 318 (Foley, Ed., reissued 1967). (Letter to Peter Carr, his 15-year-old nephew, August 19, 1785).

2. “SIR, Your letter of Sep. 15. 1777 from Paris comes safe to hand. . . . From the kind anxiety expressed in your letter as well as from other sources of information we discover that our enemies have filled Europe with Thrasonic accounts of victories they had never won and conquests they were fated never to make. While these accounts alarmed our friends in Europe they afforded us diversion. We have long been out of all fear for the event of the war. I enclose you a list of the killed, wounded, and captives of the enemy from the commencement of hostilities at Lexington in April, 1775, until November, 1777, since which there has been no event of any consequence. This is the best history of the war which can be brought within the compass of a letter. I believe the account to be near the truth, tho' it is difficult to get at the numbers lost by an enemy with absolute precision. Many of the articles have been communicated to us from England as taken from the official returns made by their General. I wish it were in my power to send you as just an account of our loss. But this cannot be done without an application to the war office which being in another county is at this time out of my reach. I think that upon the whole it has been about one half the number lost by them, in some instances more, but in others less. This difference is ascribed to our superiority in taking aim when we fire; every soldier in our army having been intimate with his gun from his infancy. Cite: Letter to Giovanni Fabbroni, Williamsburg, June 8, 1778, The Letters of Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826.

3. “False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put and end to personal liberty--so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator--and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventative but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree.” Cite: Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book, 1774-1776, quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment, 1764.


Samuel Browning - 10/10/2003

My congradulations to Andrew Ackerman for a first rate article that meets the standards of any national newspaper. Any comments Bennie? It appears this college senior just hung you out to dry.


Alec Lloyd - 10/10/2003

The Emory Wheel has an article on the mysterious Mr. Smith.

http://www.emorywheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/10/10/3f86484674de4


Samuel Browning - 10/10/2003

Hey Bennie:

BTW where did you find your last quote by T.J. involving people who shoot each other? I'd like the specific cite to see how far off you are from the original language. And please answer my question from the other thread. Where on the web did you find the Belliseles graphic you referred to in your earlier post?


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/9/2003

Again, though without surprise, my questions went unanswered. BTW, the shorter paper on Wills is done but is getting expanded into a group portrait of the collectivists. Thanks for the interest, Benny. The editor of this site has had a copy for months, a blogger on this site for weeks. Again, reasoned argument would be appreciated. Can you address the questions I asked? I add them again, just in case you missed their two prior postings.

(a) HOW WOULD STATE ARMS SHOW UP AS PRIVATE PROPERTY IN PROBATE RECORDS, AND THUS BIAS THE COUNT, THEREBY JUSTIFYING THEEIR EXCLUSION FROM BELLESILES' FIGURES?; (b) HOW DOES THE CONSTITUTION SUPPORT A LEGISLATIVE POWER TO RESTRICT THE MILITIA TO A SELECT MILITIA, WHEN MADISON'S NOTES FROM PHILADELPHIA CLEARLY SHOW THAT THE FRAMERS UNDERSTOOD "ORGANIZING" TO MEAN NOT A CONSTITUTIVE ACT, BUT AN ORGANIZATION OF A PRE-EXISTENT ENTITY, AND THE MILITIA ACT OF 1792 CLEARLY INTENDS A UNIVERSAL AND NOT SELECT MILITIA?; (c) HOW WILL BERNSTEIN PLACE NON-EXISTENT ARCHIVE RECORDS IN HIS CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM OF BELLESILES' MISTAKES -- QUANTIFICATION, OR OVERARGUING, NEITHER OF WHICH SEEM TO APPLY?


Benny Smith - 10/9/2003



Mr. Morgan wrote: “So yes, BS, I aim for immunity from mere opinion, though not from reasoned argument. Maybe some day you will indulge us with the latter?"

To quote Thomas Jefferson once more: “I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many on their getting warm, becoming rude and shooting one another.” Since Mr. Williams and Mr. Morgan toe the line of the NRA and guns, I would be wise not to argue by Jefferson’s advice. How Mr. William’s scatological insults or Mr. Morgan’s fun-poking (he is back to crudely referring to me as “BS”) qualifies as reasoned argument escapes me in any case. It seems to me that they are only getting warm and becoming rude, just as Jefferson observed.

Why must Mr. Williams with his yearning intellect or Mr. Morgan with his classical education use me as a stepping stone to their scholarly stage? Their purposes would seem better served by authoring serious mainstream scholarly literature to buttress their views. Mr. Morgan has been promising for close to a year a scholarly treatise regarding Garry Wills. I Google-searched, pairing “Don/Donald Williams” with his alma mater, and I recorded no significant hits to indicate that he has written any reputable published materials. So there remains a dearth of serious mainstream literature to back up their arguments. Last I heard, even Clayton Craemer was having difficulty finding a publisher who found his own ‘arming America’ work acceptable for print.

In the meantime, Professor Bellesiles’ second edition of Arming America will soon be available. Despite all the personal attacks, scurrilous charges and investigations against its author and his work, Arming America remains the definitive word on the origins of our gun culture. That speaks volumes in itself.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/9/2003

BS, you apparently (what a surprise!!) don't understand the meaning of 'immunity from opinion' -- that would necessitate a long disquisition on the distinction between episteme and doxa, but I fear it's a little late in life for you to acquire a classical education. Freedom from the tyranny of [mere] opinion is a substantial concern of JS Mill in his On Liberty:

"Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage, which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of our time."

At one point, in his Democracy in America, Tocqueville comes to grips with the power of opinion:

"This all-powerful opinion penetrates at length even into the hearts of those whose interest might arm them to resist it; it affects their judgment whilst it subdues their will."

So yes, BS, I aim for immunity from mere opinion, though not from reasoned argument. Maybe some day you will indulge us with the latter?


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/9/2003

I sak pertinent questions, and all I get is ad hominem blather. Imagine my surprise. If there is anyone else out there who can answer the questions, please feel free to jump in.

To repeat: (a) HOW WOULD STATE ARMS SHOW UP AS PRIVATE PROPERTY IN PROBATE RECORDS, AND THUS BIAS THE COUNT, THEREBY JUSTIFYING THEEIR EXCLUSION FROM BELLESILES' FIGURES?; (b) HOW DOES THE CONSTITUTION SUPPORT A LEGISLATIVE POWER TO RESTRICT THE MILITIA TO A SELECT MILITIA, WHEN MADISON'S NOTES FROM PHILADELPHIA CLEARLY SHOW THAT THE FRAMERS UNDERSTOOD "ORGANIZING" TO MEAN NOT A CONSTITUTIVE ACT, BUT AN ORGANIZATION OF A PRE-EXISTENT ENTITY, AND THE MILITIA ACT OF 1792 CLEARLY INTENDS A UNIVERSAL AND NOT SELECT MILITIA?; (c) HOW WILL BERNSTEIN PLACE NON-EXISTENT ARCHIVE RECORDS IN HIS CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM OF BELLESILES' MISTAKES -- QUANTIFICATION, OR OVERARGUING, NEITHER OF WHICH SEEM TO APPLY?

If anyone has anything intelligent to say on these matters, I'd be interested to hear from them.


Don Williams - 10/9/2003

Mr Jefferson's support. Given Benny's posts here and at the Emory Wheel, I think Mr Jefferson would have regarded Benny in the same light as he would have viewed chicken manure soiling his riding boots.

Mr Jefferson described the ruling spirit of his University (and of his intellect) in a Dec 27, 1820 letter to William Roscoe:

"for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it "

A related tradition is the University's Code of Honor: "We will not lie, cheat, or steal --nor tolerate among us anyone who does"
What this means is that if student A observes dishonorable conduct by studentB, then student A is REQUIRED to ask student B
to leave the University -- and to bring formal charges if student B does not comply. There is only one sanction --explusion and lose of degree if one has been awarded. If studentA is observed to not do his duty --i.e., if he ignores dishonorable behavior, then student A is expelled as well.

When taking exams, students are free to leave the room and go elsewhere --trusted to not look up answers in textbooks,for example. The professors often leave the room during exams, without monitoring the students.

With regard to firearms, The honor code arose early in the University's history. Some German professors had been imported and attempted to impose their ideas of discipline on the Southern students. When one of the professors was shot dead for his troubles, the faculty agreed to leave enforcement of the gentleman's code to the students.

A 1997 article in the Stanford Alumni magazine noted that Stanford was attempting to "revive" its honor code.
See http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/1997/marapr/articles/honor.html


Considering that Bellesiles and Arming America were the product of Stanford's Humanities Center, I think they may still have a few bugs in the system.

The above Stanford article noted :
"The tradition of the honor code can be traced to the schools of the antebellum South. William and Mary College instituted the country's first honor code in 1779, and the University of Virginia adopted one in 1842. In those days, an honor code was simply an informal vow taken by the sons of plantation owners not to lie, cheat or steal. Violators were ostracized and pressured to promptly leave the school.

For many years, academic historians doubted honor codes could work above the Mason-Dixon line. "The sentiment of honour is an aristocratic product, fostered in the South by family pride," wrote University of Oregon professor Henry Sheldon in his 1901 book, Student Life and Customs. According to Sheldon, an early attempt to establish an honor code at Stanford failed because "the strong sense of personal honour is the peculiar product of Southern life and conditions."

Sheldon was wrong. Around the time that he was writing, honor codes began appearing outside the South, typically at smaller schools like Haverford and Williams. Stanford adopted its Honor Code in 1921. "
-----------------
Actually , Sheldon was probably correct. The Stanford article itself goes on to note that "But most institutions, including Stanford, have come to embrace more lenient readings of the tradition. ... At Stanford, students are almost never expelled for a first offense. "



Don Williams - 10/9/2003

Mr Jefferson described the ruling spirit of his University (and of his intellect) in a Dec 27, 1820 letter to William Roscoe:

"for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it "


Benny Smith - 10/8/2003



The posts of Mr. Williams and Mr. Morgan here are revealing not so much in what they propose, but in how they reflect their authors' dogmatic convictions. It appears that Mr. Morgan and Mr. Williams alone possess the truth. Their interpretations, their insinuations, their opinions have become sacrosanct. Mr. Morgan has declared himself "immune to others’ opinions." Mr. Williams is apparently just as immutable. A famous philosopher once said, "Convictions are more dangerous to truth than lies." I wonder if either Mr. Williams or Mr. Morgan has encountered that expression in their literary travels.

Anyone who has dealt publicly with the gun lobby knows that Mr. Williams and Mr. Morgan are representative of that culture. Gun rights activists speak their opinions as if they steadfastly believe them to be gospel truth. Never mind that in the case of Arming America we are dealing with circumstances and events that occurred centuries ago. The gun lobby’s history of America is its Bible and any challenges must be reduced to heresy and the heretics persecuted with zeal.

Thomas Jefferson once said , "A single zealot may become persecutor and better men be his victims." With an army of zealots, one can only imagine the damage that can be inflicted on a free society.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/8/2003

Don, I too consider Bernstein a scholar -- I used his works in constitutional history to prepare a course in con law I once taught as an ordinary schoolteacher. I have a similar curiosity about his forthcoming introduction. Bernstein makes solid points about not drumming out people who overargue a thesis. My greatest curiosity involves how Bernstein will handle the non-existent San Francisco probate records. Will they fall under Bernstein's characterization as one of Bellesiles' quantification problems, or as an instance of overarguing. To my mind the San Francisco problem fits neither of Bernstein's concessions. What say you?


Don Williams - 10/8/2003

Mr Morgan, you may perhaps recall the Chronicle of Higher Education's Colloquy on Arming America??

See his post at http://chronicle.com/colloquy/2002/guns/137.htm and
my reply at
http://chronicle.com/colloquy/2002/guns/142.htm

Mr Bernstein subsequently responded to my H-OIEAHC posts with some ..er..vigor. (hee hee) One of the subscribers called him on
it --see http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-oieahc&month=0208&week=a&msg=AvK14BbubKoaArw9MvRmhQ&user=&pw=

I mention all this not so much to put forth my arguments on H-OIEAHC --which were largely pointing out the obvious -- as to
show my view of Mr Bernstein, based on my experiences with him.

I do consider Mr Bernstein a scholar ,although my respect for his
arguments in defense of Bellesiles had obvious limits. I have always been curious why Bernstein defended Bellesiles.
For that reason, I'm more interested ,in some ways, in seeing Bernstein's introduction to the new Arming America -- his depiction of the malign effects of the sinister NRA -- than I am in seeing what new card tricks Mr Bellesiles has developed.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/7/2003

Richard, If your daughter married into a family of lawyers, you wouldn't _tell_ anyone would you? I happen to sleep in a bed that came out of the Mark Twain Inn, I think in Jamestown, NY, maybe Conneaut, PA, and the scheister who sold it to me assured me that Mark Twain had slept in it. I don't care. It's a great bed, even if Mark Twain _did_ sleep in it. Have you ever read Mark's short essay about the statistic that reported that more people died in bed each year than in railroad accidents. He vowed that he was never going to sleep in a bed again, which is one of the reasons that I'm skeptical about my bed's authenticity.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/7/2003

Let's not be too rough on Cornell. There is more than enough sloppiness to go around without making him out a mouthpiece. For instance, Cornell cites Robert Spitzer. Here's an example of Spitzer's (and by implication, his editor, Carl Bogus') attention to detail. On p. 290 of The Second Amendment in Law and History, Spitzer provides the following quote of Patrick Henry, from Elliot's debates:

"May we not discipline and arm them [the states], as well as Congress ..."

In the above quote, which I chopped (the ellipsis is mine, as Spitzer's quote of Henry is longer), the bracketed insert is Spitzer's. It is perfectly obvious to even the casual reader of the entire quote that 'them' refers to the militia, and not the states. This same quote is given bracketed insertions, though of a different sort, by Garry Wills in his NYRB article -- after complaining of chopped-up quotes by individualists. It seems to me that when quoting a crucial piece of text the entire relevant text should be quoted, free of ellipses and bracketed insertions (I plead guilty, on this occasion, to hypocrisy). Spitzer even favorably quotes Garry Wills snarky comments from Wills' breathtakingly bad NYRB article.

Sloppiness or worse abounds. Wills has, in his NYRB article, Madison's original Second Amendment-related proposal as three clauses, all related by semi-colons. But the conscientious objector clause, in the original, is linked to the rest of the proposal by a colon -- it is a mere elaboration of the militia clause, and not directly or equally related to the rights clause. Interestingly, this rewriting seems to dovetail with Wills' thesis. This rewriting of history, sadly, went undetected and therefore without comment in Saul Cornell's reader Whose Right to Bear Arms Did the Second Amendment Protect?, which faithfully reproduces Wills' article. Neither writing nor editing seems to have attained the standards one might wish for.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/7/2003

Ralph, I applaud the good news, implied by your post, that "sivilization" has reached eastern Tennessee -- assuming, of course, you weren't being flippant (as I am). I once spent a year in Gatlinburg one weekend. I brought up Possum Trot not because I have any problem with that lovely ... uh ... burg, but because I once had a college classmate from there, who did very well for himself by marrying into a distinguished Virginia family of lawyers. As I understand it, the museum at Possum Trot now features a cabin once occupied by Mark Twain's family, though before he was born -- a tenuous claim to historical significance, but perhaps the only one available.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/7/2003

Don, you have been much too kind to Prof. Bernstein -- he does insist on the 'Professor' moniker. To borrow your quote from Bernstein:

"* Second, I note once more the touching -- and sadly misplaced -- faith
that Don Williams seems to have that federal judges, even justices of the U.S.
Supreme Court, will meekly lap up whatever historical arguments are placed
before them by members of the academic history profession."

I note the touching, indeed sad fact, that Judge Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit did precisely that -- featuring a butchered quote from John Adams, fed Reinhardt in a brief, that eliminated the fact that Adams thought that private ownership of weapons for self-defense was not a threat to civil order. We are left with a problem. According to Bernstein, judges much of the time don't do their own historical research to great depth. Too true. And they don't meekly lap up history, bad or otherwise. Too often not true, I'm afraid, though one could defend Bernstein's remark on the grounds that the lapping up is not done meekly, but energetically. That's precisely why so much bad history ends up making bad law.



Richard Henry Morgan - 10/7/2003

PS

I see, Benny, that you've taken the Bernstein route -- characterizing "the table question" as a problem of "calculations and graphs". Actually, as would be obvious to a non-partisan, my question goes to a conceptual problem, not Bellesiles problems with elementary arithmetic. To state the conceptual problem again (in Garrett Morris style, for the hard of hearing) HOW DO STATE ARMS SHOW UP IN PROBATE RECORDS OF INDIVIDUALS AS PRIVATE PROPERTY, THUS AS A POSSIBLE SOURCE OF BIAS THAT WOULD JUSTIFY ELIMINATING THOSE YEARS FROM BELLESILES' CALCULATIONS?


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/7/2003

Am I the only one here who finds it passing strange that Bernstein's expertise in constitutional hstory and law is put to use in the service of a cultural history of American gun ownership and use? And we were told that Arming America didn't really have anything to do with the Second Amendment (that despite Rakove's later admission that he read it primarily for its Second Amendment implications). Now if Bellesiles can produce a recognized authority in those fields most centrally relevant to his subject, or even a recognized authority on the Second Amendment to plump his work, then I would be surprised but not impressed.

The appeal to credentials is nothing more than an appeal to authority, a disguised form of argumentum ad verecundium. Were Bernstein's credentials even relevant, the argument would still not be dispositive, as it would merely shift the burden of argument to the other party. Since his credentials aren't relevant, the ball is still in Bellesiles court. Nice try though, Benny. Perhaps you can recruit a Nobel laureate in economics next?

I am looking forward to seeing how Bellesiles finesses the question of his table. I'm also curious as to how he addresses another problem. Bellesiles has written, and Rakove endorsed the view, that problematic passages in constitutional text can be given meaning (or have their meaning revealed) by subsequent legislation (Rakove calls this the behavioural approach in his William & Mary essay, and in his Chicago-Kent contribution). Here's the rub. Bellesiles wrongly (as I've demonstrated elsewhere on this board) characterizes the Knox Plan for the militia as a select militia. The collectivists have gone to great pains to characterize all militia as select. Yet the Militia Act of 1792 applies to all men. By Bellesiles' own constitutional interpretive principles the matter can be settled thus only two ways: either the 1792 act reveals the meaning of the constitutional militia to be universal militia, or it puts the characterization of the militia squarely within the purview of the legislature. If the latter, then "organizing" the militia is a constitutive act, and the national legislature can make one as small or as large as it wants. Rakove quotes Rufus King as dispositive on the meaning of "arming" when he spoke for the committee at the Philadelphia Convention (in Rakove's Chicago-Kent contribution). Not surprisingly, Rakove nowhere mentions that in the next breath King restricts "organizing" to a non-constitutive meaning -- it extends only to deciding which portion are officers, and which are enlisted. Thus the meaning of militia coming out of Philadelphia implies a universal militia, as was subsequently implied by the Militia Act of 1792. How exactly does Bellesiles plan to finesse that? Using Rakove's technique of silence?


Don Williams - 10/7/2003

The header in Mr Bernstein's H-OIEAHC posts describe him as follows:

"R. B. Bernstein
* Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School, 57 Worth Street, New York, NY
10013-2960
* Co-Editor of Book Reviews, H-LAW http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~law/
* Senior Research Fellow and Director of Historical Research, Council on
Citizenship Education, Russell Sage College
* Director of Online Operations, Heights Books, Inc., 109 Montague Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11201-3420 [718-624-4876] heightsbooks@aol.com
* rbernstein@nyls.edu, richard_b_bernstein@hotmail.com "


Don Williams - 10/7/2003

1) Throughout much of 2002, I had numerous exchanges with Richard B Bernstein re Bellesiles on H-OIEAHC. He remained steadfast in his defense of Bellesiles but his defense seemed largely "history is a process without end " etc etc. I don't recall him ever addressing the specific errors I pointed to in Arming America.

2) I actually enjoyed my exchanges with Mr Bernstein --he was unfailing courteous while being very critical of my comments.
Based on reading one of his books and scanning another, I have a favorable impression of his scholarship and of his objectivity when he is writing history (vice trying to defend Bellesiles). He and Joan Gundersen were Bellesiles' primary defenders on H-OIEAHC.

3) On occasion, our exchanges became hilarious. On May 22, 2002 the H-OIEAHC moderator put up a Bernstein response to one of my earlier posts. Bernstein went into a long raging stemwinder against my overall view of history, my view of how history should be used by developers of Constitutional law, and the malign effects I saw resulting from Bellesiles' sophistry.
At one point, Bernstein scoffed:
" Nonetheless, Mr. Williams's touching faith in the power of historians to uncloud Justices' minds (or,conversely, to cloud them) is the occasion for lighthearted mirth by this grizzled constitutional historian...
..So, too, Mr. Williams is offering us all sorts of wild testimonials to the power of historians to make constitutional law. I'd like to see the newspaper he is reading. Mine offers no such paeans to the power of historians"

4) The H-OIEAHC moderator then put up a post of mine pointing to a newly published HNN article in which I documented in detail how a group of prominent historians were making a strong concerted effort to influence the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Second Amendment in US vs Emerson. I also documented how Bellesiles was deeply involved in that effort.

Mr Bernstein declined to explain why historians like Jack Rakove would be making such a strong effort if Bernstein's assertions re their powerlessness was true.

5) Bernstein himself explained some of the reasons for his defense of Bellesiles in a January 31, 2003 H-OIEAHC post. An excerpt:
"I applaud John Saillant's comment as H-OIEAHC moderator, and I have only a
few things to add:


* First, I reaffirm what lawyers would call my "character testimony" in
support of Michael Bellesiles as a scholar and a colleague. I note in
particular that, during the worst of his recent ordeal, he gave me
extraordinarily generous aid as I was finishing a book of my own. That
ARMING AMERICA was characterized by flawed quantitative scholarship is
true. That Michael Bellesiles may have overargued his thesis in the book
is also true. I note, however, that in legal academia, if we were to drum
out of the ranks every law professor who overargued his or her thesis, who
accentuated the positive and eliminated the negative in his or her use of
evidence, then the law schools would be nearly empty. Readers of H-OIEAHC
may well have a range of views on the benefits or drawbacks of such a
result. I'll leave those unexplored."

6) Still unbowed, Mr Bernstein goes on to say:
----------------------------------------
"* Second, I note once more the touching -- and sadly misplaced -- faith
that Don Williams seems to have that federal judges, even justices of the U.S.
Supreme Court, will meekly lap up whatever historical arguments are placed
before them by members of the academic history profession.


As a legal and constitutional historian who has studied this question --
and who once was asked to provide an expert-witness affidavit on the
original intent, meaning, and/or understanding of separation of church and
state -- I can attest that judges are skilled at using history to support
whatever present-day legal position they are seeking to substantiate. It
adds force (and deniability) for a judge to be able to say, "History
teaches..." or "History commands..." -- but we should never forget that the
judge is in charge of what his or her opinion says. To paraphrase Charles
Evans Hughes, "We live under a constitution, but its history is whatever
the judges say it is."


Prof. John Phillip Reid of New York University Law School has pointed out,
in a series of challenging books and articles, that one of the key themes
of legal and constitutional history is "forensic history" -- the deploying
of historical evidence and arguments chosen to make a forensic or debating
point.


I would only add that, given the rise of a profession devoted to the
research and writing and teaching of history, the practice of forensic
history has an unintended consequence. People unaware of forensic history
will assume that, when a judge declares "History commands X," the judge has
done the work of an academic historian and reached conclusions that are
sound academic or professional history. As the comedian Paul Reiser would
say, "Not so much." ..."
--------------------------------------

6) A month or so later, the Ninth Circuit Court --in its Silveira vs Lochyer decision that US citizens have no right to own firearms -- certainly gave ample evidence of creating "forensic history" as Bernstein described. However, the Ninth Circuit Court then hastily rushed to amend it's decision in order to delete citations it had made to Bellesiles -- an embarrassing display which made the gun rights community collapse in laughter.

7) The H-OIEAHC posts are available here:
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lm&list=H-oieahc .

I posted under username "vze2t297@verizon.net". Bernstein posted under name ""R. B. Bernstein".
A text scan of this thread's text will also show several posts he has made here.


Don Williams - 10/7/2003

In his post above, Benny asks "Mr. Bernstein, is, I believe, a very distinguished voice in the field of constitutional law and American history. He has edited or authored a dozen books in his area of expertise and has contributed to mainstream history textbooks. Why is it that those vocal Arming America critics do not have such credentials? "

Answer: Some of us got off on the right foot when choosing our major in college.


Samuel Browning - 10/7/2003

I have to second Ralph's comment. Normally you have provided links to you sources of information. Why make an exception now Bennie?


Benny Smith - 10/7/2003




Since Professor Bellesiles has already said that his “Table One” needs clarification, then Mr. Morgan need not spend an exorbitant amount of time attempting to “redo the math.” Mr. Morgan will be happy to know that, from what I’ve read, fixing whatever may have been wrong with “Table One” is a priority in the revised edition of Arming America.

Instead of worrying himself over calculations and graphs, perhaps Mr. Morgan might be inclined to research Mr. Bernstein, who will be writing the new foreword to Arming America. Mr. Bernstein, is, I believe, a very distinguished voice in the field of constitutional law and American history. He has edited or authored a dozen books in his area of expertise and has contributed to mainstream history textbooks. Why is it that those vocal Arming America critics do not have such credentials?


Ralph E. Luker - 10/5/2003

Richard, You ask a good, legitimate question. I can't answer it, but I would like to know what your problem is with Possum Trot, Tennessee. We certainly are well enough armed there. My best scientific estimate (a la John Lott) is that Possum Trot's got 1.3 guns for every man, woman, and child in the holler, just in case the outliers need come to the settlement to defend God, country, and eastern Tennessee sivilization.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/5/2003

Would that be the same Richard Bernstein who defended Bellesiles by saying that Bellesiles had admitted to mathematical errors? I'm still waiting for an explanation for Bellesiles' leaving out the probate records for two years (while claiming in the table description that the two years were included) on the grounds that the states were distributing arms to citizens -- how exactly do state arms show up in personal probate records? Funny how Weiner swallowed Bellesiles explanation whole on that question.


Richard Henry Morgan - 10/5/2003

Cornell's reply is less than it may appear at first glance. Indeed, the collectivist interpretation did dominate scholarship of the "last century" until the Standard Model made its appearance. However that's like saying that the local McDonald's dominates the skyline of Possum Trot, Tennessee, as there is very little 2nd Amendment scholarship of the last century before the advent of the Standard Model. Of course, this leaves one asking "What about the 19th century"? As in "Where are the sources for this supposed refutation of an individualist consensus in the 19th century"?


Ralph E. Luker - 10/3/2003

As far as I know, my favorite #2 daughter isn't responsible for Soft Skull's website. Are you backing off your claim to know what is on the jacket cover of the revised 2nd edition of _AA_? Why would you do that? Was it too revealing?


Benny Smith - 10/3/2003



I don't remember saying that I gleaned my information from the Soft Skull website. It may be just my opinion, but I don't believe the staff at Soft Skull does a good job keeping its own website updated. We should impose on Mr. Luker to see if has any influence over his daughter and her colleagues to do a better job in that respect.

As far as what I reported, I am sure you can find the information on the web if you keep digging, Mr. Browning. By the way, what I interpreted to be book jacket cover art could end up being an advertising graphic.


Don Williams - 10/3/2003

At the end of last year, I was curious why Bellesiles' one-time allies made no strong effort to defend him or Arming America.
When I posted a possible excuse for Bellesiles' probate errors on H-OIEAHC last January 24,
(See http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lx&list=H-oieahc&user=&pw=&month=0301
)
Peter Hoffer (Georgia) responded as follows:

" Williams's defense of Bellesiles is admirable and on the period 1760-1790 convincing. We now know why Bellesiles may have inadvertently mistaken atypical low numbers for a general pattern. But a defense that explains why an argument is wrong, biased, and incorrectly documented is not entirely reassuring about the quality of the larger piece of scholarship of which the argument is a part."

Mr Hoffer, as some of you may recall, was one of those historians who joined Bellesiles in signing the pro-gun control Yassky brief in US vs Emerson.

I suspect Mr Bellesiles' one-time allies may not be as soft-skulled as Bellesiles hopes.

I also have the impression that the worst punishment imposed in academia is not to be attacked, but to be ignored.

But, hey, maybe the Joyce Foundation can give Saul Cornell another $400,000 and Mr Cornell can give it an ..er.. evenhanded review in the Journal of American History.


Samuel Browning - 10/3/2003

By the way I was just over on the Soft Skull website at 3 am on October 3rd and even they haven't yet posted pictures of this Bellesiles book or the graphics contained within said tome. How did you get an advance look? I mean besides handling the gallery proofs yourself.


Samuel Browning - 10/3/2003

Actually Bennie I believe that I had promised John that I would buy him a copy of this edition so we could read the text to answer a simple question, how much of the text of the second edition has Mr. Bellesiles actually changed? The only way to find out is to review this book page by page and compare the texts side by side. I'll buy you a copy if you want to join the fun but I you'll first have to reveal your real name, I hate anonymous scholarship. Such a comparison might do you good, if you are really not MB as you claim, it will be probably the first time you have read anything that Bellesiles has published on paper.


Benny Smith - 10/3/2003



Book distributors are beginning to pitch the highly anticipated second edition of Professor Michael Bellesiles’ Arming America, which is due out soon. The new book "answers his academic critics, providing updated research addressing their legitimate concerns, while finding that the underlying thesis of his book remains as solid as ever," according to the blurb. The book also has a new forward written by constitutional scholar and distinguished historian Richard B. Bernstein, who examines "the virulent power of the American Right to obliterate those voices which speak out in opposition to their own." Sounds like what I’ve been preaching here. If the NRA still has problems with the text, maybe they will find the accompanying book jacket photo less objectionable. The photo features a young girl with racks of guns behind her, a hauntingly poignant portrait of our gun culture today.

Perhaps the beneficent and deep-pocketed Mr. Fought will bulk purchase some advance copies for those here who have expressed an interest in studying and reporting on the new edition. Personally however, I am skeptical that ideologically biased lawyers, linguists and internet scholars can give an adequate critique of Arming America. It’s rather like Rush Limbaugh offering his opinion on football.


Josh Greenland - 10/2/2003

I think that "the Bellesiles-Burt prize" has a nice ring to it.


Bryan Haskins - 9/29/2003


Now Mr. Smith, since you have brought my name into this discussion again, let me make a request. Instead of wasting time talking ABOUT me, why not just talk TO me? After all, it has been your desire to do only the former that has brought us to where we are.

In keeping with that spirit, I do wish to point out one problem I gleaned from your posts with Mr. Lambert. In one of those posts you expressed your sympathetic understanding of how “chilling” it is to have someone “trying to savage my reputation in an effort to render my voice silent.” Please, Mr. Smith, go back and read the posts in your thread “Bellesiles critic struggles to rise from irrelevance” (beginning with http://hnn.us/comments/11626.html). Now honestly, Mr. Smith, would it surprise you if the subject of your attacks in that thread could just as easily accuse you of “trying to savage my reputation in an effort to render my voice silent.” This is not a defense of Mr. Cramer. Rather, I am merely trying to point out how your conduct here gives rise to the complaint of hypocrisy which has been leveled at you. (If you wish to further discuss Mr. Cramer, then I am willing to discuss him with you as part of a larger discussion of the issues which you have hitherto avoided.)

“I believe that diversity of opinion is healthy to an informed debate of the issues.”---I am glad to hear that even at this late date you harbor this conviction. As you recall, I started on this web page on 11/14/02 (http://hnn.us/comments/4809.html) with a request for amicable discussion. Although you did not choose to address my request, you quickly responded in a polite manner. Thereafter, I watched you to see if you would be someone willing to engage in amicable debate.

Unfortunately, you then set the tone for your remaining time here with your “Intellectual lynch mob mentality” thread. I then chose to expose to you my own world view and potential bias, and I asked you to do the same. I challenged you to discuss the issues. You again refused that opportunity for amicable debate by ignoring my questions. Instead, you chose to come after me personally by questioning my work ethic. I then made my analogy between the evasive behavior exhibited by Bellesiles with that of criminals I prosecute (http://hnn.us/comments/5375.html). (I still stand by that analysis.) I again challenged you to engage in a discussion of the issues. It was at this time we began to see the ascendancy of your tactic of aggressively seeking to take offense at what the critics were saying and in turn wielding it as a shield to avoid engaging in debate.

Nevertheless, Mr. Smith, I did not give up hope that one day we could engage in some form of amicable discussion of these issues. As winter deepened, I made many offers to discuss the “issues” with you:

http://hnn.us/comments/5412.html
http://hnn.us/comments/5967.html
http://hnn.us/comments/7445.html
http://hnn.us/comments/7794.html
http://hnn.us/comments/7177.html
http://hnn.us/comments/6430.html
http://hnn.us/comments/7809.html

I even took the dangerous step of exposing my private e-mail address to you and others in the hopes that an offer of private discussion would prevail where an offer to do so in public had failed. You refused to respond to any of my requests, however, and you continued to chose the path of talking about me rather than too me. You continued to take hyper-sensitive offense at what I had to say. I even apologized for this, saying in essence that you selected both the tune and the dance, and that I was sorry for stepping on your toes while trying to follow your lead. Predictably, my repeated requests for discussion failed, and you decided to refuse to speak to me anymore.

Yet I did not give up hope, Mr. Smith. I offered to start anew, and I proposed the fairest format for discussion that my poor intellect could devise: http://hnn.us/comments/8265.html. You chose to ignore the olive branch I offered. Thereafter I watched and I waited, and I restrained myself as you and Mr. Morgan subsequently had a lively exchange.

Finally, you decided to at least mention my name again, and (hoping that spring was come early and had driven away the frost on our relationship) I renewed my offer for discussion: http://hnn.us/comments/8625.html. This too was ignored.

Now you have mentioned my name again, Mr. Smith. Although it is painfully apparent that it was done merely to offer disingenuous criticism of me, it has nevertheless rekindled the flame of hope that we may yet talk to each other about the issues we each believe to be important. And so I offer again, Mr. Smith, to discuss the issues that surround Bellesiles and his work with you (your issues as well as mine). I see that you have started down the same path with Mr. Lambert that you have already traveled with me, and it is my sincere hope that you will turn from this path and finally accept my offers to discuss the issues surrounding AA. What do you say, Mr. Smith?


John G. Fought - 9/28/2003

That sounds about right to me. Have I mentioned that I spent a substantial part of my academic career in linguistics dealing with scholarship of the same caliber? I think that sometime in the past year my polarity finally reversed. I now feel that academic credentials should be valued at par with Confederate government bonds.
The key to what really matters is all those people holding out for peer-reviewed reviews of peer-reviewed publications before deciding what it was safe to say. Long live Sir Cyril Burt! Let us endow a prize in his name!


Josh Greenland - 9/28/2003

Don, what about Saul Cornell?

The more I read him, the more I think Cornell is a mouthpiece who tries to espouse the results of other gun control activists' work as effectively as possible, while trading on his own supposed learnedness to add weight to his words.

In other words, he may have little or nothing original to say on gun politics.


Thomas Gunn - 9/27/2003


IIRC, Bryan was one of the most polite posters here. That you criticize what you perceive as ad homs from him with ad homs of your own is very telling.

Bryan's criticisms of Bellesiles research is the meat of the reasoned debate which you claim to desire, yet instead of debating you seem to take as personal insult what Bryan says. Why is that?

Even odder than your ad homs at the pro gun side of this debate is the manner in which you lash out and attack those who can only be characterized as being against the standard model.





thomas


Tim Lambert - 9/27/2003

Benny, when someone sends me an email, that is a meesage for me, not something for me to post. If I want to post it, then I ask for permission. I have not treated Lindgren differently from other people who email me.

In any case, if you will not acccept my word that there was no "quid quo pro", then my posting a private email would not resolve the matter, since you would accuse me of editting it.

I object to your statement that I was claiming to be clairvoyant about the motives of others. It's not clairvoyance but my judgement about the motives of others


Josh Greenland - 9/27/2003

From Ralph Luker's current HNN article, Clio's Malpractice; or, What's A Fallen Girl To Do? http://hnn.us/articles/1696.html :

"Persistent rumors hold that one tough-minded female historian cast the only vote against Michael Bellesiles's promotion to full professor at Emory University and that another tough-minded female historian single-handedly prevented Arming America from winning the Pulitzer Prize."


Benny Smith - 9/27/2003




So what you’re telling me, Mr. Lambert, is that Professor Lindgren specifically prescribes what is on the record and what is off the record so far as publishing his remarks. That does sound like his familiar modus operandi. It still smells like a quid quo pro to me. What makes me suspicious is that on a prior occasion I posted an article concerning Lindgren to which he responded here at HNN--in a copyrighted response no less!? The editor at HNN picked up his response and wrote a little blurb on it, mentioning myself as well, which gave me and my post much more attention than it would have otherwise received. That led me to wonder if Lindgren wasn’t depending on you to defend him this time around. From what you have said, I guess we’ll never know for certain unless we are to trust your clairvoyance regarding the motives of others. And regarding your own curiosity, I have not received any materials directly from Professor Bellesiles.


Benny Smith - 9/27/2003




Since Mr. Haskins' posts have drawn parallels between Bellesiles' behavior and that of a rapist, Mr. Haskins demonstrates the antithesis of what I would call a "healthy and informed" debate. That gun huggers, apparently including Mr. Gunn himself here, see Mr. Haskins' contributions as something other than the crude ad hominems that they are shows how uncivil Bellesiles' critics have become in this matter.


Tim Lambert - 9/26/2003

Benny, I posted the part of Lindgren's email that was written for posting. All I can do to satisfy your curiosity about the rest is tell you that Lindgren considers your comments about his scholarship and his motives to be inaccurate.

Perhaps you can now satisify my curiosity? Your posts sometimes seem to display a great deal of knowlege about Bellesiles' doings. Does he send you comments and information to post?


Josh Greenland - 9/26/2003

"they do" in the message above should read "they do exist."


Josh Greenland - 9/25/2003

I have URLs to websites that demonstrate that they do, but I think our diligent editor wouldn't appreciate me posting them here.


Thomas Gunn - 9/25/2003


Benny Smith,


"I believe that diversity of opinion is healthy to an informed debate of the issues."

RIGHT!!

I can remember the 'healthy' and 'informed debate' you avoided with Bryan Haskins.



thomas


Benny Smith - 9/24/2003




Mr. Lambert said:
"So now Smith insinuates that Lindgren paid me off. For the record , I wrote my original response to Smith before Lindgren sent me his response for posting on my blog:

http://timlambert.org/2003/09#0919
"

Then why don't you share Lindgren's e-mail in its entirety right here, unless there is some reason you are only willing to share the portion that is damaging to John Lott's research. I would be curious to see what Professor Lindgren had to say about me and my article. Since I did not see anything on your blog where Lindgren mentioned myself or HNN, then I assume there is more than what you published.

And I thank you for contributing to my thread here, Mr. Lambert. Although we may not agree, I believe that diversity of opinion is healthy to an informed debate of the issues. I can imagine how chilling it would be to my freedom of speech if there were some academic gestapo or some powerful lobby trying to savage my reputation in an effort to render my voice silent.





Ralph E. Luker - 9/24/2003

Josh, Are there no such things as big tits and tats?


Josh Greenland - 9/24/2003

Ralph,
Tit for tat refers to an immature attempt to "get someone back" for a perceived slight or wrong.


Tim Lambert - 9/24/2003

So now Smith insinuates that Lindgren paid me off. For the record , I wrote my original response to Smith before Lindgren sent me his response for posting on my blog:
http://timlambert.org/2003/09#0919

Smith neglects to mention that Lindgren's response showed that Smith was wrong to suggest that Lindgren had dropped out of the Lott investigation and that Smith was wrong to suggest that Lindgren had tried to clear Lott.

My continued participation in this thread is because you keep making false claims that I want to correct.

I should thank you for one thing, however. Lindgren's response has prompted more pro-gunners to ditch Lott. For instance, Glenn Reynolds wrote:
"I trust Jim Lindgren as a neutral arbiter with expertise in the area, and it seems to me that this time Lott’s critics have him dead to rights, and he’s failed to mount a convincing response."


Benny Smith - 9/24/2003



Mr. Lambert said, "It takes a rare talent for detecting 'nuances in statements' to read Lindgren's report on Lott:

http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lindgren.html

and see it as a defence of Lott . . .Your 'evidence' for investigative bias by Lindgren is nothing of the sort. Like Lindgren, I started out trying to find evidence that Lott had done a survey. Do you think I am biased in favour of Lott as well?"

Again, you take my statement out of its context, Mr. Lambert. I hope your habit of misquoting me is not carried over to your other scholarly endeavors. But to answer your question within the context of my statement, Mr. Lambert, if you professed that you were undertaking your study of John Lott to HELP him establish THAT he did such a pro-gun survey, then yes, I would say you were going in with an investigative bias, particularly if it stood in context with the other evidence.

Review again Lindgren's treatment of the Bellesiles case. Lindgren has spent what you have termed "lifetimes" in this endeavor. And Lindgren is still laying out his case here long after the official investigation has ended. Remember, the Chronicle of Higher Education described Lindgren's excessive preoccupation with the Bellesiles matter in an article that ran close to TWO YEARS AGO. In that piece, one academic said he heard from Lindgren more often than he heard from his own wife--this as Lindgren lobbied those who initially had positive things to say about "Arming America", urging them to retract their statements of support. One educator said he felt professionally threatened by Lindgren's tactics. Does this sound like an objective investigator to you, Mr. Lambert? Why then did the ad hoc Emory investigative committee say they did not find Lindgren's evidence in at least two cases to be as "damning" as he claimed? Were they as troubled by his peculiar brand of attack scholarship as I am? If Lindgren is the objective investigator that you, Mr. Lambert, believe he is, then did he find and report exculpating evidence for the sins allegedly committed by Bellesiles? Or was he only interested in the evidence he felt was "damning?" Perhaps, since Lindgren's background is in law rather than in history, he feels compelled to be an advocate, rather than an objective reporter of the facts. I believe he merely bears a heavy grudge.

Regarding Kellerman, I believe that the gun lobby has "gotten" him in ways you may not be aware of. Kellerman and other anti-gun researchers may annoy the gun rights activists, but what Bellesiles did was sacrilegious to the NRA. Pair the words "Bellesiles" and the "NRA" on Google and you get over 2,000 hits, whereas pairing "Kellerman" with the "NRA" gets you just under 640 hits. Bellesiles challenged the myths that provide the foundation for our gun culture, a far greater threat to the gun lobby.

It is curious how vigorously Mr. Lambert defends Lindgren here. Since Lindgren strangely appears to have originally responded to my article in a private e-mail to Mr. Lambert, and subsequently printed on Mr. Lambert's website, it is interesting to note that Lindgren also in that e-mail provided more ammunition for Mr. Lambert in his ongoing war of words against pro-gun researcher John Lott. Evidence of a quid pro quo?


Samuel Browning - 9/23/2003

Hi Benny:

If you choose to remember inconvenent facts, Lindgren originally set out to help Michael Bellesiles privately, even offering to let him borrow a CD rom disk containing probate data. They have since become bitter enemies, however existing facts as provided by Lindgren, and as never really refuted by Bellesiles (I'm skipping over Michael's bizzare claims that he never wrote a certain e-mail)indicate that the latter was initially extended the presumption of good faith that Lott also later received from Lindgren.

Your attempt to show bias therefore collapses under its own weight. But since you were probably there perhaps you'll like to tell your side of the story about your interactions with Mr. Lindgren in the first person. Right Michael?


Tim Lambert - 9/23/2003

It takes a rare talent for detecting "nuances in statements" to read Lindgren's report on Lott:
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lindgren.html
and see it as a defence of Lott.

Your "evidence" for investigative bias by Lindgren is nothing of the sort. Like Lindgren, I started out trying to find evidence that Lott had done a survey. Do you think I am biased in favour of Lott as well?

What happened to Bellesiles had everything to do with academic policing. The evidence against him is compelling and however much the gun lobby wanted to get him they could not have manufactured such evidence. The gun lobby would like to get Kellermann just as much as Bellesiles and there are numerous attacks on Kellermann available on the web. Half of the pro-gun posters here seem to believe that Kellermann is somehow guilty of fraud. Trouble is, of course, that no-one who actually understands the relevant statistics takes the attacks on Kellermann seriously since the people making them don't know what they are talking about.

If the gun lobby had the power you describe they would have gotten Kellermann. But they didn't, because there was no case against him.


Josh Greenland - 9/23/2003

"And evidence of Lindgren’s bias is even more extant in his investigation of Bellesiles."

Come off it, Belle Siles. Lindgren is pro-gun control and by his own admission at first found Arming America "convincing".


Ronald Best - 9/22/2003

"The resurrection of activity here may foreshadow more gun lobby harrassment directed against Michael Bellesiles whose second edition of Arming America is due out soon. "

Michael Bellesiles "harrassment" was deserved--he lied, the lies can be found on almost every page of his book.

"Lindgren's scholarship has borrowed liberally from gun rights propagandist and right wing extremist Clayton Cramer, whose own vendetta against Bellesiles rivals Lindgren's own."

I suppose I can also be known as a gun rights propagandist and right wing extremist. But then along with Clayton Cramer, I respect the truth.

An Endowment Member of the National Rifle Association.


Benny Smith - 9/22/2003




Mr. Lambert will have to forgive me if I am skeptical of those who claim to be central repositories for the truth, whether it is Professor Lindgren in his translation of centuries old documents and events, or Mr. Lambert himself in his assessment of Mr. Lindgren’s motives. Mr. Lambert has done nothing to convince me of Lindgren’s objectivity in his investigation of Bellesiles and Lott. Mr. Lambert need only read from the first paragraph of Lindgren’s own report of John Lott: “I thought that offering such help to Lott and to the profession was the responsible thing to do when serious questions were raised, and I thought it would be exceedingly simple to establish that a survey of 2,424 people had been done.”

It is clear that, unlike in the Bellesiles affair, Lindgren went it with a notion to help Lott. Note that his statement regarding Lott’s work showed that his goal was to “establish that a survey . . . had been done.” Not establish WHETHER a survey had been done, or IF a survey had been done, but THAT a survey had been done. That sounds like clear investigative bias to me, even if nuances in statements like that escape Mr. Lambert. When it became clear that there were major problems in establishing the existence of Lott’s pro-gun survey, and when Lott’s reputation and honesty began to unravel rather publicly, Lindgren high-tailed it out of that mess more quickly than a loser in court. Lindgren may be biased, but he’s not stupid. And evidence of Lindgren’s bias is even more extant in his investigation of Bellesiles.

Regarding Bellesiles, his fate had nothing to do with academic policing and everything to do with the gun lobby and right wing power politics. If Mr. Lambert’s teaching venue were here in the United States, he might suffer the same fate as Bellesiles if the president of the NRA decreed that he too had too much time on his hands. As it is, he can be merely ignored where he is.


Thomas Gunn - 9/20/2003



Mr. Lambert,

As previously stated, I agree with this:

http://hnn.us/comments/18530.html

My purpose in requesting a cross link was to establish that the post actually came from you. It would be easy for a poser to hijack your name here but not so easy to do so on your blog.

Thank you for the authentification.

I apologize if I've upset you, it was not my intention.




thomas


Ralph E. Luker - 9/20/2003

Perhaps so, Josh. But don't you think the real tit for tat would be for Lott apologists to go on the wagon as Bellesiles apologists, except for Benny, did?


Josh Greenland - 9/19/2003

"Lott's critics have tended to be more gracious about people with whom they may disagree than Bellesiles's critics have tended to be."

Ah yes, Tim Lambert's tit for tat response to me in your blog's comment area is truly evidence of that.


Tim Lambert - 9/19/2003

You are turning the truth on its head when you question Lindgren's objectivity because he chooses to spend more time on the investigation of Bellesiles than of Lott. Of all the people involved in both investigations he is the one with the strongest claim for objectivity because he was involved in both investigations.

Yes, the end result of academic policing is that sometimes reputations are ruined, but that is the whole point of the exercise. When you publish something, you are putting your reputation on the line and if that publication is found to be fraudulent or incompetent then you should suffer the consequences. Can you imagine what it would be like if folks could publish papers anonymously?

I did not say you had done nothing here, I said that you had done nothing to further the investigation into Lott. It is really easy to contribute, since Lott's work is a target-rich environment. Just open his new book at a random page and compare what Lott says with what his sources say.


Tim Lambert - 9/19/2003

OK,

http://timlambert.org/2003/09#0919

Does everyone else have to provide a cross link too?


Benny Smith - 9/19/2003



Perhaps part of my message was mistranslated down under since I never accused Lindgren of "not doing enough to investigate John Lott’s claims" as Mr. Lambert indicates. I did, and do, question Professor Lindgren’s investigative objectivity, partly because he seems to pick and choose which battles he will spend "lifetimes" fighting. Long after the Emory investigation has concluded, and long after he had overplayed his hand with the Emory investigative committee, Lindgren continues to pour blood in the water, trying to incite the gun lobby and others who have campaigned relentlessly for Bellesiles’ intellectual assassination. Just this past week Bellesiles characterized his situation in a report, saying: "It destroyed my life. I had dedicated myself to teaching, not writing, and it's been devastating to me not being able to teach. It shattered my family. It was devastating in every way, shape, and form. I can barely give it words."

If this end result of ‘academic policing’ is what you advocate Mr. Lambert, then shame on you. Personally, I am proud of the courage shown by Professor Bellesiles in this matter. In a nation awash with guns, gun huggers and right wing politicos who worship both, I’ll certainly stand up for the honor of an author who dares to exercise his academic and literary freedoms by questioning NRA dogma. And maybe you believe I have "done nothing" here, Mr. Lambert, but even with my limited time I believe that my past contributions here have been substantive. I’m sure I could contribute much more in your eyes if I had a university position with tenure, and all the free time to do what I please that apparently goes with it. Until then, however, I hope you will tolerate my contributions here without feeling the need to insult me.



Ralph Lambert - 9/18/2003


This is really Thomas Gunn

Ralph,

You probably know better than me. It wasn't so much what was said but how it was said.

Like I said, I agree with the sentiment and analysis of Benny's single point addressed.



thomas


Ralph E. Luker - 9/18/2003

Sounds like Tim to me, Thomas. Lott's critics have tended to be more gracious about people with whom they may disagree than Bellesiles's critics have tended to be.


Thomas Gunn - 9/18/2003



Tim?

Issat You?

A cross link would be nice. Just to establish bona fides. I agree with your analysis, I just wonder is that really you.




thomas


Tim Lambert - 9/18/2003

I'm only going to comment on one of "Benny Smith"'s points. That should not be construed as an agreement with any of his other statements since I don't agree with any of them.

"Smith" accuses Jim Lindgren of not doing enough to investigate John Lott's claims. This is an outrageous charge. Lindgren has done more that almost any other person to investigate Lott. What has "Smith" done? Nothing. Lindgren has done way more than could reasonably be expected of him in investigating Lott. I believe that part of the duties of being an academic is policing our own, but Lindgren has already done enough of that for several lifetimes in the Bellesiles affair, so more than anyone else there was no obligation for him to get involved in the Lott affair. I am most grateful for the assistance that Lindgren has provided to the investigation, and it irritates me when people like "Smith", who have done nothing, dare to criticize Lindgren for not doing enough.


Don Williams - 9/18/2003

When I saw some shortlived spam posted here a week ago --advertising medical remedies for erectile disorders -- I assumed that you had finally found gainful employment.

You , of course, are not intellectually qualified to wipe Mr Lindgren's behind--much less discuss his scholarship. My suggestions that he should shore up his data a little was meant in the spirit of urging him to pound the stake in a little deeper.

My discussion of the probate study is hardly recent -- I posted
"In defense of Bellesiles" on H-OIEAHC back on January 24 of this year. Admittedly, I had several motivations. Partly I was intrigue by Jack Rakove's comment in the Chicago Tribune. As I noted:
**********
" On December 14 2002, the New York Times announced that Columbia University had rescinded the Bancroft award given to Michael Bellesiles.
In the previous weeks, even Bellesiles' former allies --prominent historians who had cited Bellesiles' work to support their gun control arguments in the Chicago Kent Law Review, the Constitutional Commentary, and the US vs Emerson Yassky brief -- had either seemed silent or had thrown in the towel.
A Nov 20 Chicago Tribune article quoted Jack Rakove of Stanford as follows:
"It's clear now that his [Bellesiles] scholarship is less than
acceptable," Rakove said. "There are cautionary lessons for historians here."

(I blinked when I read this, given that page 583 of Arming America has the following acknowledgment: "Jack Rakove kindly went through the second draft with a keen eye and improved every page he read.")"

************
By way of reply, Mr Rakove admitted on H-OIEAHC that he had recommended Bellesiles for the Stanford Fellowship to write Arming America.

My understanding is that in 1995, Michael Bellesiles was an untenured associate professor approaching middle age. In my opinion, Bellesiles wrote Arming America --and not Jack Rakove --for the same reason that suicide bombs are carried into Israel by impressionable young men and not by Yassar Arafat.

Plus, I was interested in truth, justice, and fairness. That too.


Samuel Browning - 9/18/2003

Err Benny;

If you read Lindgren's report closely you would have discovered it was hardly a defense of Lott since it pointed out multiple inconsistancies in Lott's version of events which he communicated to Lindgren. I don't think that even Tim Lambert, Lott's chief nemesis, would call the Lindgren report a defense of Lott though since further exculpatory evidence has not appeared since January, I have personally concluded that Lindgren was probably mistaken when he concluded Lott had actually conducted his 1997 survey. By the way Lambert says that what Bellisiles did went 'beyond the pale' proving that just because you think one of these gentlemen lied one does not have to argue on behalf of the other. Such distinctions however seem lost upon you.


Benny Smith - 9/18/2003





Curiouser and curiouser this little corner of cyberspace becomes. The resurrection of activity here may foreshadow more gun lobby harrassment directed against Michael Bellesiles whose second edition of Arming America is due out soon. Although I can understand the never-say-enough attitude of the gun rights activists, I am surprised that they are joined by Bellesiles' chief persecutor Professor James (Jim) Lindgren. Afterall, the beginning of the academic year usually portends preparatory coursework, a host of introductions, and the usual committee assignments. What makes Lindgren drag his soapbox in here now to pursue his peculiar brand of attack scholarship? Maybe after getting his reputation stung while trying to defend gun rights activist John Lott this past winter, he feels he might be better off preaching to the choir. But even here, he ends up defending his work to Mr. Williams, a fellow Bellesiles critic. How low can you go?

Maybe Mr. Williams is joining others who have begun to question Professor Lindgren's investigative abilities. I found it telling that in Emory University's Investigative Committee Report on Michael Bellesiles, the committee not once but TWICE characterized evidence against Bellesiles to be not so "damning" as Lindgren claimed. If one is to believe that the committee chose their words carefully, which is logical considering the extreme interest in this case, then their redundancy in characterizing Lindgren's attacks is significant. They essentially referred to Lindgren's claims in the same manner as one might refer to charges brought forward by a grand inquisitor in a witch hunt. Coincidence?

Then there's Professor Lindgren's ill-fated attempt to defend gun rights propagandist John Lott. After serious questions arose regarding a survey that Lott claimed to have done, Lindgren interviewed "at length" a man who claimed to have been interviewed by Lott for the survey. Lindgren pronounced him credible and the Washington Times in a follow-up article credited Lindgren when it said the matter of whether Lott had actually done such a survey was partly resolved. Yet others investigated further and found that the man who claimed to have been interviewed by Lott had extensive connections to the gun lobby, and was himself a former NRA board member. Apparently, this was not significant enough for Professor Lindgren to investigate himself. That Lindgren should naively trust hard core gun rights activists at their word is not at all surprising, however. Lindgren's scholarship has borrowed liberally from gun rights propagandist and right wing extremist Clayton Cramer, whose own vendetta against Bellesiles rivals Lindgren's own. It was up to another investigator to discover that Lott himself was masquerading on the internet as "Mary Rosh", alternately praising and defending himself in various forums. No wonder that Lindgren excused himself from investigating further, claiming ironically enough that "this project detracts from my other scholarly efforts."

So I guess these scholarly efforts include chatting with the members of the NRA who lurk here at this site. Maybe scholarship to some is whatever they happen to be interested in doing at the moment.


Josh Greenland - 9/17/2003

Bellesiles and related subjects we've discussed here are now being discussed in the reader response area of Ralph Luker's blog:

http://hnn.us/articles/1558.html


Don Williams - 9/15/2003

I hope to explain it in a few days -- I'm trying to work something out at the moment. When I do, I hope you will find Mr Cornell's comments as comical as I do.


John G. Fought - 9/15/2003

I've replied in the comments section of Ralph's blog.


Josh Greenland - 9/15/2003

Please ignore the message above this one. I accidentally saved it to the board before I was done writing and editing it.


Josh Greenland - 9/15/2003

This is Ralph Luker's most recent blog entry on the "Gun Wars," featuring mention of John Fought's most recent article and Saul Cornell's attempted rebuttal ( http://hnn.us/articles/1368.html ) :

THE GUN WARS ... 09-12-03

Those who followed the discussion of Michael Bellesiles's Arming America on History News Network will know that John Fought and I often, well, fought. In my lesser moments, I even referred to him as "Professor Past Tense." Sorry about that, John. Well, he has put his talents to more deconstructive work and posted the results on his website. It is, to my knowledge, the first extended examination of problems in Bellesiles's article, "The Origins of American Gun Culture in the United States, 1760-1865," which won the Organization of American Historian's Binkley-Stephenson Award for "best article of the year" in its Journal of American History.* Forewarning: do not expect John to mince any words about the professional depravity of any historian, living or dead, who may have failed to see it all in 1996.

*Update (10: a.m.): Before my gun-loving friends send a posse after me, I hasten to add that the first part of this sentence is wrong. Clayton Cramer's "Gun Scarcity in the Early Republic?" which the Journal of American History might have published and from which it should have taken warning five years ago is posted here. [ http://www.claytoncramer.com/GunScarcity.pdf ]

Saul Cornell speaks his mind, again: After seeing this post about Fought's essay, Saul Cornell writes:

In a quick glance at the essay by Fought I noted that it contains a number of errors. Since some of these errors have been repeated on HNN since the start of the Arming America controversy it is time to set the record straight.
Perhaps the most glaring mistake would be the charge that the collective rights view of the Second Amendment is revisionist. Most courts in the 20th century have adopted it, and political scientist Robert Spitzer has shown that it dominated the scholarly literature for most of the last century until the rise of the so called "Standard Model" in the last two decades of the 20th century. While one might describe Bellesiles and others as part of a counter-revisionist wave, the term revisionist is simply wrong. (The Standard Model argues that the individual rights view dominated the 19th century, but this has also been challenged quite effectively.) While one might argue that the Chicago-Kent essays made use of the argument of Arming America, my Constitutional Commentary forum appeared before Arming America. The work of other supporters of the militia based view of the Amendment, including Don Higginbotham, Lawrence Cress, and Richard Morris all pre-date Arming America.
It is true that I did use some of Michael's flawed work on gun laws in my essay. I no longer cite that article and have had to go out and do the research from scratch. Actually, I found that if Michael had been less thesis driven, he might have made a more robust argument in favor of weapons regulation in early American history. (One of many ironies in this mess.) If one analyzed individual rights scholarship with the same level of scrutiny applied to Arming America one would detect a host of errors at least as bad as those made by Arming America. The probate material is obviously in a separate category-- but the selective use of evidence and distortion of the historical record is quite common in individual rights scholarship.
Here is a link to a very lively debate on the Second Amendment and guns which touches on some of these issues.
[ http://www.abanet.org/publiced/focus/spring_03.pdf ]

Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EDT


Josh Greenland - 9/15/2003

As Ralph notes on his blog, Saul Cornell was kind enough to correct the errors in John Fought's essay:


Don Williams - 9/13/2003

1) Re the probate studies used by Mr Lindgren, here are the details I noted in my H-OIEAHC post:

" The wartime effect I speak of, if it existed, would have hit records
from 1776 to 1790. The prepondence of records Bellesiles checked would
probably have been in that timeframe, both because of greater population in
1780s vice 1760s and because of a greater number of deaths due to the war,
wartime smallpox epidemic, etc.
By contrast, the probate studies which Mr Lindgren used in his William
and Mary Law Review Article on Arming America were as follows: A) Alice
Hanson Jones /1774 period /919 inventories B) Providence, Rhode Island /
1679-1726 period / 149 inventories C) Gunston Hall sample of
Virginia-Maryland /1740-1810 period /325 inventories D) Essex , Mass /
1636-1650 period / 59 inventories E) Gloria Main'study of Maryland Estates
/1657-1719 period / 604 inventories F) Anna Hawley's study of Surry County
VA estates/ 1690-1715 /221 inventories G) Male inventories from Vermont /
1773-1790 /289 inventories H) Judith McGaw's study of New
Jersey/Pennsylvania /1714-1789 /250 estates

Of the above probate samples, note that A,B, D,E,F would NOT have
shown the wartime effect I describe. Sample G would not have shown it
because it was not in a coastal area. Samples C and H may have shown the
wartime effect to a SLIGHT degree (because a small percentage of sample
period falls within 1776-1790 timeframe and because part of the samples
fall within coastal areas.)

The difference between pre-1776 conditions and conditions in 1776-1790
might explain how Bellesiles got results different from those of other
researchers. “

2) Note that the Gunston Hall sample of 325 inventories was spread over a long
period (1740-1810) and only part of them would date after 1776. Besides, as I noted
earlier, Thomas Jefferson’s statement re arms scarcity in Tidewater and Piedmont Virginia
circa 1781-82 has far more authority than small samples of whatever material has survived to
the present day—i.e., it trumps the Alice Hanson Jones, Gunston Hall, and Anna Hawley
studies.

3) Firearms ownership in Vermont in 1773-1790 is irrelevant to the context of the Constitution’s
creation and the meaning of the Second Amendment. Vermont was not admitted to the Union until
February 1791, she was an independent nation prior to that, she had no delegates to the Constitutional Convention or to the First Congress, and her Experience with citizens possessing (or not possessing firearms) would not have informed the counsels Of the Founders. See http://www.victorianvermont.com/celebrate/celebfact_right.html . One exception
To this judgment is that Vermonters helped clean Burgoyne’s clock at Bennington –thereby inducing the French King to throw his support to the US and declare war on Britain. The prowness of
Vermont’s militias (Ethan Allen and Green Mountain Boys,etc) was probably known to some. You may
Recall that Bellesiles wrote a book on the subject.

4) Re Charleston,SC probate results, note the material on Bellesiles site here: http://www.bellesiles.com/Charleston.html He indicates that there are
“435 inventories for the three years 1783, 1784, and 1785” and lists the ones with firearms.
By my count, there are 103 gun owners and 5 records of potential gun owners. Splitting the
Difference on the uncertain records, we have 106 gun owners out of 435 cases , yielding an ownership rate in 1783-1785 of roughly 24%, well below the rate indicated by Mr Lindgren above (i.e, the statement “My student Gant McCloud counted the rate of gun ownership in male inventories in Charleston, SC in the late 1780s at between 39 and 49% (we are still rechecking some numbers)” )

Bellesiles notes that Charleston, SC was the most highly populated of
The South Carolina probate districts in that timeframe.

5) The Westmoreland PA county was a frontier county –perhaps Mr Lindgren
can tell us how it’s population compared with the coastal counties like Philadelphia.

6) If some new latebreaking study is published just before the Supreme Court rules on the
Second Amendment, Mr Lindgren may not have the time to leisurely check the data behind the
Study. Several years ago, the Joyce Foundation gave roughly $85,000 to create the Chicage Kent law review articles cited by the Ninth Circuit Court recently (in the Silveira v Lochyer ruling that US citizens have No right to own firearms.) It also gave the Violence Policy Institute roughly $1 million – and VPI
Put out news releases touting the Chicago Kent articles as leading edge scholarship.

I’m glad that Mr Lindgren is trying to remedy the weaknesses in his data.
Does Mr Lindgren think that the Joyce Foundation gave Saul Cornell money in order to develop data supporting the “Individual right” interpretation?

7) My primary concern, as a NRA member, is that the NRA leadership and lobbyists get $millions per year from members
to protect the Second Amendment and the NRA leadership seems to
be asleep at the switch on this matter.


James Lindgren - 9/13/2003

Mr. Williams mischaracterizes the years of sources I used ("the 1600s and 1700-1774 timeframes of Mr Lindgren's sources"). In my Yale and (co-authored) William & Mary articles, I discussed 1780s cases from several sources. First, I discussed many cases of guns in Vermont in the 1780s, particulary the 1786-90 period, where Bellesiles missed most of Vermont's guns in the very counties he reported data from (Yale Appendix). I also discussed 1780s cases in the Gunston Hall database, as Mr. Williams himself previously noted.

Mr. Williams says that the later 1780s is the most important period for the Constitution, but he never provides any evidence for his hypothesis that guns might be listed rarely enough in inventories in the 1780s to offset large numbers of guns in the 1765-1774 period. In other words, Mr. Williams never tests his hypothesis by looking at probate inventories to see whether his speculations are in fact true.

Leaving aside the impossibility of Bellesiles's data, I looked at what data I had available for the late 1780s. My student Gant McCloud counted the rate of gun ownership in male inventories in Charleston, SC in the late 1780s at between 39 and 49% (we are still rechecking some numbers), just below the proportion of estates listing clothes and above the proportion listing books. In the Rutland, VT probate district in the same period, we get about 29-35% of male inventories with guns, again more than list books.

In Westmoreland County, PA, about 2/3rds of male inventories in the 1786-90 period list guns. The Gunston Hall database (parts of MD & VA), show over 75% of inventories listing guns in the 1786-89 period.

All but the last of these four sources were supposedly in Bellesiles's sample in his Table 1, though the actual numbers of guns in these late 1780s inventories are high enough (when combined with other counts) to reject Table 1 for the 1765-90 period.

These data are far from conclusive, but so far there are no data to support Mr. Williams's hypothesis about very low levels of guns in post-war 1780s inventories in Bellesiles's sample counties, and I have provided enough contrary data that Mr. Williams's argument--always highly speculative--looks even more so.


John G. Fought - 9/11/2003

I have just posted the unpublished article I wrote on Bellesiles' Origins paper of 1996, its context, and its consequences. It runs about 10,000 words. Access it at
http://users.adelphia.net/~jgfought


Don Williams - 9/11/2003

firearms ownership rates in the 1785-1790 will probably play a bigger role in interpreting the context of the Second Amendment (proposed with the other Bill of Rights in late Sept 1789) than
ownership rates in the 1600s and 1700-1774 timeframes of Mr Lindgren's sources. This will be especially likely if someone makes a case to the Supreme Court --however contrived or false -- that the 1785-1790 rates of PRIVATE firearms ownership were low.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/11/2003

Glad to know Don sees me acting in some role or other. He can be counted on to act as himself.


Don Williams - 9/11/2003

however, his blog post re JAH is charming -- although, it reminds me for some reason of Louis Renault (police inspector in "Casablanca" )


Don Williams - 9/11/2003

1) When I looked at Bellesiles' 1996 article last year, I could only find it online via JSTOR. However, JSTOR is not hard to use and many colleges/universities have JSTOR access open to public visitors. The nearest JSTOR location can be found here:

http://www.jstor.org/about/participants_na.html


James Lindgren - 9/10/2003

I gave 2 links in the preceding post, neither of which appeared. I will try again, leaving off the http://

Michael Bellesiles's current website on probate data:

http://www.bellesiles.com

My Yale review of AA:

http://www.law.northwestern.edu/faculty/fulltime/Lindgren/LindgrenFINAL.pdf


James Lindgren - 9/10/2003

Thanks for your kind words.

As to issues other than the probate evidence, those concerns are addressed in Randolph Roth's Wm & Mary Quarterly piece, in most of Clayton Cramer's comments and evidence on his website, in most of Robert Churchill's writing on this matter, and in most of Joyce Malcolm's comments. I address many of these in my Yale LJ review of Arming America, which focuses mainly on problems other than in the discussions of probate.

I also spend considerable time in my Yale review on what parts of the thesis tend to stand or fall on the probate evidence. I also describe what the thesis would look like without the probate discussion entirely, and how the thesis on the existence or non-existence of a "gun culture" should be viewed after the work of the other various scholars has been evaluated.

One can read my Yale review here:

As to what Bellesiles might say about probate records, one might get some clues by visiting his website:



James Lindgren
Professor of Law
Northwestern University


Bryan Haskins - 9/10/2003

Thank you, Mr. Lindgren.

Your response was very informative. I remain curious about the methodology being used in and the eventual results which will arise from this “correcting” process Mr. Weiner referenced in his February 03 article. The announced October 03 release date for the revised AA is fast approaching, and it’s said that anticipation breeds speculation. I know that many of us are wondering what the revised probate data will look like.

Will Bellesiles continue to try and justify his original findings? Does the process of “correcting” his errors involve an attempt to replicate his original research to determine what errors were made? Does he even possess the necessary information to do so (or the time, for that matter)? Will he accept your advice, Mr. Lindgren, and address the contrary evidence that you, Mrs. Main, and others have found?

Mr. Weiner suggests that even if we discard the probate data, AA’s thesis is still supported by other sufficient evidence. That sounds a little too much like the wizard telling Dorothy to ignore that man behind the curtain. I don’t believe that Bellesiles can safely abandon his probate data now that others have discovered compelling probate evidence which contradicts his thesis. In any event we can safely assume from Mr. Weiner’s comments that Bellesiles has not yet abandoned the attempt to have probate data validate his thesis. I cannot pretend to know his reasoning for this. It could arise from fear that dropping the probate issue entirely will appear as an admission of prior fraud; or it could arise from some sense of insecurity about the ability of his remaining evidence to support his thesis absent being shorn up by probate data; or it could arise from any number of other motives.

Regardless of why Bellesiles chooses to continue the use of probate data, I do believe that he must address the contrary evidence that you and others have discovered. AA has already been assailed by those (myself included) who believe that it was written merely to provide justification for a preconceived thesis. I believe that at a minimum the revised version of AA should acknowledge these contrary findings and address how, if at all, they impact upon his probate research and his overall thesis. I doubt that he will do this, but only time will tell.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/10/2003

Sam, I stand to be corrected by others who know better, but the only on-line access to the article I'm aware of is through JSTOR which can be accessed only through participating libraries. Perhaps someone else knows how to access it on-line some other way.


Samuel Browning - 9/10/2003

Hi Ralph:

I wish to respond to JAH's response but I do not presently have a link to Bellesiles's 1996 JAH article though I remember seeing it available at one time on one of our threads. Can anyone help me here? I really should review this article again to refresh my memory before I engage my mouth. :)


Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2003

For those of you who may not have seen it, this is posted on my blog today:

THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY "RESPONDS" ... 09-09-02

Ten months ago, after the outside reviewers' panel at Emory University released its report in the case of Michael Bellesiles, the Organization of American Historians announced that the "editorial board of the Journal of American History will consider a commissioned essay or a roundtable to address the ethical issues of this and other recent cases and how much historians rely on trust in practicing their craft."

According to JAH editor Joanne Meyerowitz, the Journal has commissioned "several authors to write short essays on issues of historical ethics, and we intend to publish them in March 2004." The names of the authors have not been released and their essays are still in revision, but Meyerowitz says that the commissioned essays "do not directly address the Bellesiles case." Rather, they "deal more generally with questions of ethics in historical practice."

With respect to the Journal's responsibility for the publication of Bellesiles's prize-winning article in 1996, Meyerowitz says:

The key clue (and perhaps the only clue) to the questionable research in Bellesiles's 1996 JAH essay was in his Table 1. All of our editorial staff (editors, copyeditors, and editorial assistants)--most of whom did not work here in 1996--have reviewed Table 1 and used it as a refresher course of sorts on how to approach, scrutinize, question, and edit quantitative data.
We do, by the way, check footnotes. But no journal can send assistants to archives to check the accuracy of authors' primary research.

Thus, while Bellesiles lost his position in the history department at Emory University, the Bancroft Prize for his book, Arming America,was revoked, and the book was withdraw from sale by his publisher, he continues to hold the Binkley-Stephenson Prize for having published the Journal of American History's "best article of the year" for 1996 and the Journal will apparently take no action to acknowledge the flaws in the article that launched the book.


James Lindgren - 9/8/2003

Mr. Haskins raises the size of the differences between Arming America and the existing work. One of the largest was pointed out by Gloria Main in the William & Mary Quarterly, speaking about Bellesiles's probate counts:

"Are his results credible? Bellesiles bases his case against the presence of a "gun culture" in early white America on the very low percentages of guns in his sample of inventories, fewer than one out of five. Indeed, he found only 7 percent in Maryland with guns (p. 109). My own work in the probate records of six Maryland counties from the years 1650 to 1720, ignored by Bellesiles, shows an average of 76 percent of young fathers owning arms of some sort. Even the poorest of these men had them, although only half did so as compared to the richest, of whom 96 percent were gun owners.2 "Arms" was my short-hand code for the presence in the inventory of any weapons or armor, but in practice it usually meant a firearm of some sort rather than a sword, which was quite rare, or a pike, which was rarer still. Even if not all inventories coded for "arms" in this study included a gun, the sheer contrast in scale of its findings with Bellesiles's--76 to 7--boggles the mind."

This claim by Gloria Main is one of the most striking discrepancies--Bellesiles's claim that in MD in the colonial period only 7% of inventories listed guns. The Maryland inventories are the most studied set, with continuous work on them stretching back over 30 years. For one of Bellesiles's two MD counties (Anne Arundel), the MD probate group did itemize the exact weapon and they kindly offered me their data from 1657-1776.

Although I don't have the data in front of me as I am writing this, my recollection is that these MD data show that about 60% of the over 1800 inventories had guns (not just "arms"), with even a higher percentage of guns if you exclude the female estates, which Bellesiles once told a reporter that he did.

It is not enough just to drop such apparently grossly false claims from the next edition of the book. Even if Bellesiles chooses to pretend that he never made such an error and chooses not to explain how he found 7% guns in colonial MD when the MD group found about 9 times that number, one must deal with the contrary evidence. The data from MD show very high gun ownership quite early, as do the data from Massachusetts, 1636-50. To write a plausible history of the gun culture in America, one must deal with high gun ownership rates in inventories in the very areas where he found low gun ownership rates in inventories in the first edition.

I presented these MD data at the SHEAR history conference this summer at a panel moderated by Jack Rakove, including also Randy Roth, Robert Churchill, and Saul Cornell. Looking at some other probate records over time, I found some weak support for Mr. Williams's contentions that gun ownership was dropping into the early 1800s, but none for Arming America's contention that gun ownership was climbing, and none for the sorts of extremely low numbers that Arming America contains. Indeed, the pattern in probate inventories looked to be the opposite of what Arming America claimed, but my research on time trends is quite tentative and (I hope) still ongoing.


Bryan Haskins - 9/8/2003


It’s good to see people posting again. I went out and tried my hand at golf again while we were all away, and while I remain a poor player I may have returned with an analogy. The other day I was playing with a co-worker, and I duffed (as usual) my drive off the first tee, barely clearing the ladies tee box. My friend then steps up and crushes a drive 280 yards or so. As we get back into the cart, he turned to me and asked in all seriousness if I had heard where they were going to be building the new Wal-Mart superstore. I hadn’t heard a word about it, so I said “no.” He then said, “yeah, you know, the one between your ball and my ball.”

After reading Mr. Lindgren’s post, I decided to compare it to Mr. Weiner’s defense of Bellesiles in the February OAH newsletter. In my opinion, Mr. Weiner’s comment that “Bellesiles had conceded serious problems in his probate data, and was working on correcting those errors” is about as far from Mr. Lindgren’s “mathematically impossible” declaration as the distance “between your ball and my ball.” (by the way, I subscribe to the “mathematically impossible”/”he hit a ‘worm burner’ that dribbled just beyond the tee box” theory)

My questions now are: Can anyone show us how they believe Bellesiles can bridge this gap in opinion? It is claimed that his new edition will contain a corrected “Table 1.” But is it possible for him to create a new “Table 1” that is consistent with reality while still relying upon his original research, or should he start over from scratch? If we assume that starting over again is not what he will do because of the time/effort/money involved, then does anyone think it possible for him to sufficiently replicate his original research to find the sources of and corrections for the “serious errors” that arose before? If he claims the ability to do so, then shouldn’t he help himself by explaining how he corrected the errors to allow independent verification of his corrected statistics?



Ralph E. Luker - 9/8/2003

Let's see now: we have Lindgren indicating that Don Williams' critique of Michael Bellesiles's _Arming America_ has strangely morphed into a defense of it; we have Don Williams arguing that Lindgren's critique of the book misplaces emphases such that its real flaws go unidentified; and we have Don Williams suggesting that academics, I suppose Lindgren, Paul Finkelman and I, are in cahoots, determined to resurrect _Arming America_ as a basis for sound legal judgments in the Supreme Court. Who's on third and why does Don Williams keep placing himself at the center of these mysteries?


Don Williams - 9/8/2003

From the Tao-te Ching:

"Therefore in the government of the sage,
He keeps their hearts peaceful,
Fills their bellies,
weakens their ambitions,
and strengthens their bones,
He always causes his people to be without cunning or desire,

and the crafty to be afraid to act "


Don Williams - 9/8/2003

Mr Lindgren may think that he put several holes below Arming America's waterline --that Bellesiles' thesis now lies on the bottom with the Titanic. I think this is optimistic -- hence, my concern over any weaknesses in Mr Lindgren's indictment against Arming America. I presume that anything a lowly gun-nut like myself can see will be readily apparent to Jack Rakove and the academic signers of the Yassky Brief

I am not referring merely to the Amazon listing for Bellesiles' new edition -- see http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1932360077/ref=lpr_g_2/104-9418663-0463100?v=glance&s=books

Rather, recent events lead me to think that Bellesiles' history-- and legal arguments based upon it -- will be strongly pushed by gun control proponents when the Supreme Court finally makes a ruling on the meaning of the Second Amendment --i.e., when the Court attempts to resolve the contradictory opinions issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Federal Appeals (US vs Emerson) and the Ninth Circuit Court (Silverira v Lochyer)

Academia channeled, controlled, and diverted the storm of criticism over Arming America by focusing solely on Mr Lindgren's criticism of the probate study -- and ignoring large sections of questionable history in Arming America. Some historians on H-OIEAHC expressed bafflement over the direction taken the Emory Investigation --see, e.g.,

http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-oieahc&month=0302&week=a&msg=v2qvDqvHMEOJ1mXHtnipzA&user=&pw=

and
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-oieahc&month=0301&week=e&msg=VShnlH8vfpyMhwH8K81HpQ&user=&pw=


Ralph E. Luker - 9/8/2003

Don Williams accusing James Lindgren of being "unnecessarily quarrelsome" is like, well, its a bit like, ah -- George Bush or Bill Clinton accusing George Washington of being a liar.


Don Williams - 9/8/2003

1) In his William and Mary Law Review article "Counting Guns in America" , Mr Lindgren indicates that Bellesiles used the same counties for sampling as were used by Alice Hanson Jones (plus Bellesiles added some counties in additional states --Vermont, Georgia,etc.) If that is the case , then the criticisms I leveled at Bellesiles' sampling would apply to Alice Hanson Jones's findings as well.

Specifically, Jones findings of gun ownership rates of 50%-70% based on sampling in several coastal counties in 1774 would no longer be valid in the 1775-1790 timeframes because the population system she sampled was disrupted by massive effects from political revolution, 8 years of warfare,occupation by the British Army, an economic depression, smallpox epidemic, etc.

2) Mr Lindgren evidently doesn't understand my H-OIEAHC post, so let me reiterate my points:

a) Ms Jones 1774 estimate of high firearms ownership in Virginia based on sampling in several Tidewater counties would not have been valid by 1781 because, as Thomas Jefferson noted, that section of Virginia had been stripped of firearms.

b) Ms Jones 1774 estimate of high firearms ownership in South Carolina, based on sampling in the coastal Charleston county, would not have been valid in the 1780-1790 timeframe because almost the entire Southern Department of the Continental Army, plus supporting militia, were trapped in Charleston in 1780 and captured. Given that British warships forced their way into Charleston Harbor, sailed upriver, and dropped landing parties in General Lincoln's rear area --cutting him off from the rest of South Carolina -- I think its reasonable to assume that almost all the firearms in Charleston County were captured by the British in 1780.

c) Ms Jones 1774 estimate of firearms ownership in Pennsylvania --to the extent it was influenced by sampling in the highly populated Philadelphia county -- would not have been valid in the 1779-1790 timeframe, given the British capture and occupation of Philadelphia.

d) Ms Jones 1774 estimate of high firearms ownership rate in Massachusetts --to the extent that it was influenced by sampling in the high population county of Suffolk (Boston) would not have been valid in the 1778-1790 timeframe, given that British General Gage seized all private firearms in Boston circa 1776? when the British occupied Boston. After Washington forced the British to leave Boston, his Quartermaster Thomas Mifflin had forward elements of the Continental Army entering Boston make a careful survey of military stores left in the city. Mifflin's report noted that the British made strong effects to destroy heavy assets that had to be left behind (trunnions knocked off cannon, ships scuttled and sunk in Boston harbor, cannon and shot dumped in the harbor, barrels of wheat flour dumped on the ground,etc. Mifflin survey makes no mention of finding the roughly 1500 private arms seized by Gage.

e) In judging Bellesiles results for 1765-1790, one would think that most probate samples would have been taken from records in the 1775-1790 timeframe, given the rapid growth in population , the deaths from wartime violence and the wartime smallpox epidemic,etc.

f) There were countervailing effects, of course. One was the smuggling of 100,000 muskets into America by a covert operation of the French king. (The muskets from Europe were transferred onto US ships in the Caribbean at St Eustatia island and then landed in obscure spots along the US coast chosen by the captains. See my H=OIEAHC post at
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-oieahc&month=0302&week=a&msg=LplYLWmW5XBVFb6B9aYkYw&user=&pw= )

Some of those muskets would have been transferred to Continental armories located in defensible areas of the US interior protected from British incursions (Carlisle , Pennsylvania; Springfield,Massachusetts ; Fishkill, New York,etc. ) However, George Washington complained repeatedly about militiamen temporarily attached to his Army stealing muskets. Given that Congress could barely feed and clothe 12,000 Continentals by 1780, it seems likely that many of the French muskets ended up in private hands. But, as I noted, many of those arms may have been carried to Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohia by young militiamen emigrating westward for cheap land.

2) The primary point is that we do not get a better picture of Early America by discarding primary sources, sticking a hatpin in our frontal lobes, discarding all knowledge of the period, and focusing on hypotheses gained from sampling whatever paper rubbish from that time that has survived to the current day.

3) Mr Lindgren's repeated harping about Bellesiles's 14.7 national average for 1765-1790 being "mathematically impossible" is unnecessarily quarrelsome. As Mr Lindgren noted in his own paper, Bellesiles' national average would have fallen somewhere between the highs and lows of Bellesiles' regional averages -- i.e,. between the 14.2 percent for the frontier and the 18.3 percent for the South, with the primary influence being the total number of samples taken for each region. I really see little difference between a national average of 14.7 % (mathematically impossible) and a national average of ,say, 16.4 % (possible if Northern urban and rural samples greatly outnumbered the Southern samples).

Mr Lindgren's talk of X number of Southern samples "falsifing" Bellesiles results is not valid -- Mr Lindgren/Jones would probably have gotten different averages and results than Bellesiles if they sampled in a different manner and different timeframe than Bellesiles. Since we don't know how Bellesiles' collected his samples, the dispute is meaningless. I would agree that Bellesiles findings are worthless given that he cannot describe how he obtained the data on which he performed his calculations. But as I explained above, I don't think Hanson Jones' findings for 1774 can be extrapolated to the 1776-1790 period.

4) Mr Lindgren's arguments about confidence intervals,etc. are valid only for random samples. It is a basic axiom that "judgemental" sampling results --as opposed to random sampling -- cannot be extrapolated to the population as a whole. However, There is no evidence that firearms were evenly distributed across the geographical US in 1774, that they were evenly distributed across the US population, or that the boundaries of different ownership patterns were known.

To use an analogy, a political pollster knows that 10 voters expressing support for Mr Bush is bad news for the Democrats if the 10 voters are from downtown Chicago vice downtown Austin. By the same token, it would be a mistake to ignore political boundaries and assume, on the basis of opinions collected from the Republican precincts of outer Chicago, that millions of voters in a Democratic stronghold are about to vote Republican.

Alice Hanson Jones' sampling design is certainly defensible, but she did not sampled randomly across every county in the 13 states.

Political pollsters who use statistical models can check the results of their models again truth (e.g., predictions vs actual election results) and modify their models when major discrepancies are found.
The largest shortfall in Hanson Jones' sampling --and Mr Lindgren's use of it -- is that the truthfulness/accuracy of their statistical model cannot be validated against the reality of 225 years ago because much data from that time
frame either never was recorded or has been lost in the 225 years since.


Samuel Browning - 9/7/2003

Interesting debate, to the outsider like myself it looks like Bellesiles's results were unbelievable for both the different reasons Lindgren and Williams provide. Unfortunately for Bellesiles his failure to keep any real documentation of his efforts (which probably did not exist in the first place) nullifies his ability to use the Williams defense regardless of whether it could help him, since he can't really say, "yes that's of course how I was mistaken" and back up such a contention. I do have a couple questions for Mr. Lindgren.

Is there any way to effectively lobby JAH to do a postmortum on this particular failure of peer review. (strong words but look at the result)

How many graduate courses in statistics and research design does he suggest would be appropriate for a History P.D.? When I reviewed some of the catalogues for Ph.d programs in criminal justice the magic number appeared to be five courses. It should bee less for someone who doesn't crunch numbers but what do you think should be a minimun? Say one course in statistics and a course in research design?

Sincerely

Samuel Browning


James Lindgren - 9/5/2003

I will respond to only a few of Mr. Williams's points.

1. The data in Table 1 of Arming America are mathematically impossible. Mr. Williams postulates that if the numbers were changed to numbers that are not impossible, then the numbers would not be impossible. Well, of course.

But Williams’s new suggested mean of 16.4% could be falsified by finding about 900 southern inventories with guns in Bellesiles's sample of 16 Southern counties 1765-90. A rough guess is that it would take only about the first 6 years of that period to locate 900 Southern inventories in Table 1’s sample, enough to falsify Williams’s new suggested mean. I, the MD probate scholars (L. Green et al.), and another history professor have located and counted perhaps half of these 900 Southern gun inventories already in just four of Bellesiles’s 16 southern counties for just a small portion of the years in his 1765-90 sample. A solid week counting guns in Charleston inventories would probably suffice to raise the number of gun estates high enough to falsify Mr. Williams’s new 16.4% number.

2. Mr. Williams says that my samples are so small that the range of an estimate would be between 1% and 99%, and he even implies that engineers would know this. This debate about the SIZE of a sample needed for reliable estimation was debated about 80 years ago in statistics and resolved so thoroughly that I have never heard of anyone trained in statistics doubting it.

It may seem counter-intuitive that a sample of 900 or even 300 is almost as good as a sample of one million, but it is true. The sampling error for a sample of 919 cases (the size of the Hanson Jones collection) and a mean of 50% inventories with guns, is +/- 3.2%. That means that a randomly drawn sample of 919 cases would have a confidence interval of 46.8% to 53.2%. By the way, this general point is discussed in Randy Roth’s William & Mary Quarterly piece in the Bellesiles forum.

If you increased the sample size to 10,000 cases, the 95% confidence interval closes only slightly to 49.0 to 51.0%. At 100,000 cases, it becomes 49.7% to 50.3%. At a million cases, 95% interval closes to 49.97 to 50.03%. It hardly matters for our purposes whether the percentage is 47% or 53%, given the other sources of error in this analysis. A sample of 919 is much larger than is needed to get reliable estimates, if the sample is representative.

How representative is the Hanson Jones sample? It was a carefully drawn probability sample selected so that each county had a chance of being selected exactly proportional to its population in 1774. Thus this sample is equivalent to a random sample of inventories once a design effect and weighting for the different number of inventories drawn from different counties are applied. My guess is that the clustering might lead to a design effect under 1.5, but let’s be pessimistic and assume a huge design effect of 3. Applying the design effect of 3 means dividing the sample size by 3, yielding 306.17 cases. Even with an effective sample of just over 300 cases, the sample would still be large enough to yield a 95% confidence range of only 44.4% to 55.6% (+/-5.6%).

What if there were a random sample of only 30 cases and a mean of 50% of inventories with guns? Would that be large enough to reject Bellesiles’s mean of 14.7% with confidence? Absolutely, the 95% confidence interval for a sample of just 30 cases would be 31% to 69%, and the 99% confidence interval would be 24% to 76%, well above his mean. The samples used in my paper are plenty large enough, indeed much larger than needed to get the rough estimates we are looking for.

The problems with the samples in this area are not their size, but their representativeness. Only the Hanson Jones sample is a representative sample of the number of guns listed in probate inventories (in her case for 1774, with some cases from 1773 and a few from early in 1775). By the way, I have looked at several databases and there is no evidence at all of a spike in guns in inventories in the 1774-75 period. The only statistically significant results I got were in one database, which showed that guns were LESS likely to be listed in probate estates in 1774-75 than in immediately prior years.

As for Mr. Williams’s point about the incompleteness of probate inventories and the biases in what they list, that was perhaps the primary motivation for my starting my study of Arming America; I knew that Bellesiles’s was mistaken in his many claims that “all” inventories in the period “reported each and every object, piece of property, debt, and credit belonging to the deceased.” Robert Churchill (Univ. of Hartford) has discovered and analyzed some New England gun censuses that were actually done door-to-door and they show slightly higher percentages of guns than the New England probate inventories of the same period. Thus, my best guess is that male gun ownership in the late colonial period was slightly higher than is revealed in probate inventories in the Hanson Jones probability sample.

3. Last, as to Mr. Williams’s speculations about age being an important determinant of listing a gun, there are no significant age effects in the Hanson Jones sample.


Don Williams - 9/5/2003


1) Mr Lindgren's repeated cries that Bellesiles' 14.7% national average (Table One, p.445, Arming America) is "mathematically impossible" might sound impressive in a courtroom --or to the mathematically ignorant. In reality, it is a minor observation that distracted attention from Clayton Cramer’s far more significant criticisms.

If Bellesiles had instead given a national average of, say, 16.4%,then it would have been consistent with his other figures for 1765-1790. The difference of 1% seems to me minor and easily explained as an error in computation caused by confusion due to the shifting nature of the sampled counties (i.e, the counties designated as “frontier” in the 1765-1790 timeframe moved into the Northern or Southern settled categories in later time periods --as the frontier moved westward.

Bellesiles' primary shortcoming was that he could provide no real information on his data sources, sampling technique,etc.

2) Speaking as an engineer, I was taught that a quantitative value is worthless without an indication of it’s accuracy. A temperature reading is expressed as “32 deg C plus or minus 1 deg”, for example.

In that regard, Bellesiles’ national average value for gun ownership of 14.7 percent is worthless -- because information about his sampling technique gives us no assurance that his measurement reflects reality with any accuracy. The implied accuracy of .7 percent is grossly misleading -- I don’t see how he argue an accuracy better than plus 80% or minus 14 % -- i.e., that his sampling indicates that gun ownership rates were somewhere between 1% and 99% with his small sample happening to give 14.7%.

But in my opinion, Mr Lindgren’s averages (50% -79% ) are worthless as well. In other words, the small sample set used by Mr Lindgren tells us little more than that gun ownership rate prior to 1776 was somewhere in the range of 1% to 99%, with the average for his small samples showing a range of 50% to 79%. All the impressive handwaving about “multivariate analysis” and “possible correlation with other household items” simply makes an engineer smirk.

If , instead of guns, Bellesiles and Lindgren had taken a few temperature readings recorded in several 1775 diaries and from that data engaged in a bitter quarrel about the detailed weather pattern across the 13 colonies in July 1777, then the technically challenged historical community might have gotten the joke as well.

Given the huge uncertainly in their values, the difference between Mr Lindgren’s 50% and Bellesiles’ 14.7% are of little significance.

3) It is true that political pollsters today argue that their sampling can yield an accuracy of +- 4 percent.
However, their sampling design/model is based on extremely detailed demographic data and voting data from elections held within the past two years. Even then, they consistently have to develop contorted explanations for why election results don’t match their predictions.

4) Mr Bellesiles and Mr Lindgren , by contrast, have nowhere near the detailed demographic information they would need to design a statistical sampling for events happening 225 years ago -- at least, no design yielding information in which we could place any confidence.

Mr Lindgren himself noted some of the problems introducing uncertainty into probate sampling: (a) records have been lost, (b) the original records only covered part of the population, and (c) they do not indicate gun ownership where the owner gave his guns away to relatives prior to his death.

To those uncertainty factors I added the following in my H-OIEAHC posts: (a) that sampling from high population coastal counties in the 1776-1790 timeframe would probably give an unrealistically low indicator for gun ownership because guns in those areas were either seized during British occupation or were moved out of the area (e.g., given to the Continental Army) to prevent seizure by the British and
(b) sampling in those coastal areas would have greatly skewed regional and national averages because those coastal areas were high-population areas. See http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-oieahc&month=0301&week=d&msg=lhUfZFG4qIR8iBfMk8aoDg&user=&pw=

5) I noted in my H-OIEAHC post that my hypothesis was unproven --it was provided more to illustrate the superficial nature of the Emory Investigation than to state a historical truth. Unlike Bellesiles and Lindgren’s findings,however, there is more support for my hypothesis than mere speculation. In my post I cited a primary source -- Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia” , written 1781-82, which states:
“ The law requires every militia-man to provide himself with the arms usual in the regular service. But thisinjunction was always indifferently complied with, and the arms they had have been so frequently called for to arm the regulars, that in the lower parts of the country they are entirely disarmed. In the middle country a fourth or fifth part of them may have such firelocks as they had providedto destroy the noxious animals which infest their farms; and on the western side of the Blue ridge they are generally armed with rifles. "

As wartime governor responsible for the defense of Virginia, Jefferson’s knowledge on the arms inventory in Virginia circa 1781 certainly has more value than opinions extrapolated from whatever random rubbish is
still available 200 years later.

6) I also noted the significance of Jefferson’s observation -- the Virginia counties sampled by Bellesiles were clustered together and in/near the Tidewater region which Jefferson said had been denuded of firearms. Artifically low findings here could have distorted Bellesiles’ national average,
due to the huge population of Virginia relative to the other colonies in 1781.

7) The larger point is that the above factors introducing uncertainty and distorting samples are only a few of the possible factors distorting Bellesiles’ and Lindgren’s findings. There are probably many other factors -- factors apparent only to someone with a detailed,broad understanding of the history of 1765-1790--as opposed to a professor of law.

For example, did the estate inventories of old men dying in 1776-1790 really reflect the arms ownership of young men 20-35 in the the militias? Did estates samples of coastal regions really capture arms ownership of young militiamen during the Revolution, given that many of those men emigrated (and later died in ) Kentucky and Ohio -- the massive migration being driven by land grants, politically driven land speculation,etc. What effect did wartime deaths due to battle , the smallpox epidemic which hit civilians vice inoculated Continental soldiers,etc have on the distribution of probate records post 1776?

8) It seems to me that Bellesiles’ and Lindgren’s firearm ownership averages are not so much scientific findings as they are very subjective judgments --akin to theological convictions or opinions re who should be President in 2005.




Ralph E. Luker - 9/5/2003

Don, Since I was there for the discussion and you were not, I _might_ be in a better position than you are to say whether Finkelman's presence added balance to a session co-chaired with him by Jon Weiner. Suspend you obnoxious self momentarily and accept the fact that Finkelman was excellent. You are in _no_ position to say otherwise. If I don't answer your comments about that, it is because I really don't find discussing any of these matters with you very constructive.


James Lindgren - 9/5/2003

I have spoken to two people whom I believe were among the original outside peer reviewers on the 1996 JAH article, both of whom were originally positive in 1996. One was Don Hickey, who was the first academic in any field that I am aware of to say publicly and unequivocably that whatever Bellesiles did was "academic fraud." That came about nearly a year and a half after the public debate began in September 2000.

The other peer reviewer who spoke to me reread his original (quite positive) peer review. He had actually asked for more information on the probate sample, including details that would have been impossible if Bellesiles had just used tick marks on yellow pads, as he claimed.

As to Don Williams' comments on another thread, I think he needs to reread the discussions of the impossibility of Bellesiles's data, which I describe in both my Yale review and at more length in my William & Mary article with Justin Heather.

In short, Williams’s thesis is that Bellesiles's counts in probate records for 1765-90 could have been the result of having more cases after 1783 from the coastal regions where the British might have confiscated guns or caused Americans to move them inland.



There is absolutely no chance that the sampling issues Williams raises could account for the probate discrepancies, because (as is explained in my Yale & Wm. & Mary papers), Bellesiles's overall mean is mathematically impossible. There is only one region below the national mean in Table 1 for 1765-90. He says there are 1200 cases in those frontier counties. With that being the only region below the national mean, it would take only a few hundred inventories with or without guns in the other regions to bring the mean above the national mean Bellesiles reports in Table 1.

His overall mean is impossible if there are more than 37 Southern estates with guns in the 16 Southern counties in his sample or more than 201 Southern estates with or without guns throughout the entire 1765-90 period.

One reaches the first threshhold in just the first six months of 1765 in Charleston, SC. One reaches the second threshhold in his two MD counties in 1765-67, or in a combination of MD and Charleston in 1765-66. One could falsify Bellesiles's overall mean in several of the other Southern counties as well (and it was privately falsified in one other Southern county by one of Bellesiles's fellow historians). I have also falsified Bellesiles's overall mean for Table 1 in Philadelphia alone in the beginning, middle, and late middle of the 1765-90 period.

What Mr. Williams appears not to realize is that the British could have confiscated nearly every gun on the North American continent in the Revolutionary War and the years after and Bellesiles's mean would still be false because any number of Southern estates over 201 (whether they have guns or not) or any number of Northern coast inventories over 611 (whether they have guns or not) renders his counts impossible. There are thousands of each. Indeed, Williams's own claim of lots of post-1783 coastal inventories is all that would be needed to falsify Table 1, whether they listed guns or not.

Also, Bellesiles's frontier data from Vermont are falsified in my Yale review . As I wrote there in Appendix section L:

"Overall, Bellesiles finds only 45 Vermont estates with guns, when there were 115 such surviving gun estates in Vermont (or 110 if you exclude Orange County, which Bellesiles did in Arming America). Thus, besides misdescribing guns and omitting some guns in gun estates he identifies, he misses all guns in at least 65 Vermont estates."

Since then, I have found more Vermont inventories that Bellesiles missed (and more guns).

One must remember that early on Bellesiles made exactly the opposite argument from Don Williams’s when he thought that might work. Bellesiles claimed that his counts were low because he drew his sample from the beginning of the 1765-90 period, not the end as Williams speculates. In a taped interview on the night of the Bancroft Prize, Bellesiles asserted, "The sample set I used for that period was from 1765 and 1766. That was the period when arms had been turned in. So my figures were probably relatively low."

That is the reason that we falsified his data in both Charleston and MD from those years at the beginning of the period. We also falsified his data using years in the middle of the 1765-90 period (Jones) and toward the end of the 1765-90 period (e.g., VT & PA). It doesn’t matter whether you look at the beginning of the period (as Bellesiles claimed he did), the middle of the period (as he claimed he did, but then changed his story), or at the end of the period (where Williams claims that Bellesiles sampled). One can falsify Bellesiles’s Table 1 using any one of those subsets of the 1765-90 period (and we did just that).

If Bellesiles's data were not absolutely false, and if we had not shown them to be false using the same records that he claimed to have read, then Mr. Williams's explanation might be a plausible explanation.

Mr. Williams' account, which he first raised as an (unfair) criticism of Bellesiles for skewing his selection of counties, has somehow morphed into a defense of Bellesiles. It is as if someone has come up with an ingenious explanation for why Germany won World War I, the only problem being the false premise that Germany won World War I.


Josh Greenland - 9/4/2003

Ralph,
I won't bother to harangue OAH or JAH, or make pleasant inquiries of them. They would have no interest in my input since I'm not a degreed historian. I'm hoping that you all will let them know that their promises of action on l'affaire Bellesiles have not been forgotten within the field.


Don Williams - 9/4/2003

Ref: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-oieahc&month=0301&week=d&msg=FaCnw5zZm1EyRsuYsD6X5A&user=&pw=

Of course my poor findings cannot compare to the many compelling
insights Mr Luker has posted here over the past 18 months --e.g., his idea that adding Paul Finkelman (of the Chicago Kent 11) to Jon Wiener's Bellesiles panel as co-chair would add objectivity and balance.

(giggle)


Ralph E. Luker - 9/4/2003

And g-n DW never did. Must not have had any.


Don Williams - 9/4/2003

-- in fact, I believe you ultimately were driven to argue that
"Don Williams really owes it to the world to reveal to all of us the special wisdom he's been claiming in the Bellesiles case for the past three months".

Ref:
http://hnn.us/comments/3171.html
http://hnn.us/comments/3173.html
http://hnn.us/comments/3177.html
http://hnn.us/comments/3178.html
http://hnn.us/comments/3404.html
http://hnn.us/comments/3420.html
http://hnn.us/comments/4228.html
http://hnn.us/comments/4994.html
http://hnn.us/comments/5005.html
http://hnn.us/comments/5721.html
http://hnn.us/comments/5734.html
http://hnn.us/comments/5743.html
http://hnn.us/comments/5869.html


Ralph E. Luker - 9/4/2003

whatever ...


Don Williams - 9/4/2003

eom


Ralph E. Luker - 9/4/2003

Sam, You're a gentleman and a scholar, Sam, but don't even mention Bennie's name. He might come back here and spoil our quiet meditations.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/4/2003

Don, You're quite out of your league trying to argue with Dresner and me. The points that you thought countered Dresner's argument were already assumed by him. You didn't even bother to read and understand what he had said before you started running off at the keyboard. Quit blustering. Read and learn.


Samuel Browning - 9/3/2003

Aw Ralph, don't you know that I only harangue Benny Smith, otherwise my postings here have been quite polite. I would be happy if they would simply set up a concrete timetable saying when they would complete such a task. when I write them I will of course post notice on this site.


Don Williams - 9/3/2003

see http://hnn.us/comments/17492.html


Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2003

Josh and Sam,
The list of the editorial staff and editorial board of the _JAH_ can be found here: http://www.indiana.edu/~jah/staff.shtml. Pleasant inquiries are more likely to be effective than harangues. I sent copies of the post on my blog to both the OAH and the JAH offices and have had no response from either office. Do keep in mind that both the editor of the _JAH_ and the director of the OAH are busy people who do have other things to keep them busy.


Samuel Browning - 9/3/2003

Hello fellow writers;

Its good to see many of our usual suspects writing again after a vacation of sorts. I have been very disappointed that the JAH has never published an inquiry into how exactly its peer review system hit the skids when it published Bellisles 1996 article, without detecting its statistical problems. The failure of peer review has a larger importance to society then simply an argument concerning gun ownership as I will argue below.

Since the 1993 case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical Inc, 113 S.Ct. 2786 (1993)the United States Supreme Court has required scientific evidence in federal courts be evaluated according to a five prong standard which includes whether a particular technique or theory has been subject to peer review and publication. Later in Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (1999) this court opined that all expert testimony, even non-scientific evidence, should be evaluated using the Daubert standard. Since 1999, the Kumho ruling is gradually being adopted by state courts though its complete adoption may take several decades.

Historical research has been previously allowed into court evidence in such important cases as Brown v. Board of Eeducation, and Sheff v. O'Neill, a 1990's Connecticut desegregation case. Generally speaking peer review and publication of a historical argument by a recognized body like the JAH serve as a powerful argument for admissibility of a particular piece of research. Its only one fifth of the Daubert standard but I would argue that it may be the most important, especially since such research is also evaluated on the basis of whether it has obtained widespread acceptance in its scholarly community, and peer reviewed publication is generally necessary to support such a development.

Daubert however does not discuss what actually constitutes effective peer review. Is its goal to review every footnote in an article like students running a law review would? (this would have probably prevented publication of Bellesiles article in 1996) Does the panel itself need to have a certain threshold competancy in the field being reviewed ? Or can peer reviews be done like book reviews in the New York Times in which Gerry Wills ended up very badly out of his depth when reviewing Arming America? Is there a certain minimum amount of time and effort that must go into this enterprise including actual research? I do not know and I would supect that neither does the reader. Given an important and controversal thesis, I believe a publication should be willing to perform a review that digs into some of an article's source material to double check its accuracy.

Perhaps this is not what the JAH considers peer review to be. In the absence of their voice, people like myself default tto questions like, "Were you sloppy because of your political preferences, or because historical peer review normally does not dig below the surface of the articles it supposedly examines." Did the JAH conduct a typical peer review for its profession or did it take shortcuts? In the absance of their comment we will not know. It should be pointed out that in the aftermath of many great misfortunes involving potential malfeasance, from 911 to the Church Comittee it is normal for governing bodies to invstigate their mistakes and publish some sort of public account of what happened. dispite the historical nature of such an inquiry this is something that the JAH seems to have no interest in doing.

Eveentually the JAH will print another article useful in some existing legal battle, and this article may end up being submitted to some court as evidence supporting aa friend of the court brief. What confidence can we have in the JAH if we do not know what went wrong? Daubert was written to prevent the submission of 'junk science' into evidence, do we have any assurance that historical peer review will prevent the submission of 'junk history'? If Ralph could tell us if there is anything that would encourage the JAH to reveal what when astray in its 1996 peer review process I would be happy to write a few letters. Their continued avoidance of this issue has provided the opposite of a learning experience.

Samuel Browning


Josh Greenland - 9/3/2003

Okay, but then who do you think people should contact at OAH if they are unhappy with the lack of action on the other items in their press release?


Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2003

Josh, Lee Formwalt has little to do with the establishment of the program for the 2004 convention, so it can only irritate his office and not do anything positive to jam his e-mail address and his telephone line with calls. The program for the convention will be agreed upon by a program committee. Its membership list can be found here: http://www.oah.org/about/cmte/cmte.html (scroll down).


Josh Greenland - 9/2/2003

It seems the OAH also committed itself to a least one session on l'affaire Bellesiles at next year's convention:

http://www.oah.org/reports/pr-bellesiles-112102.html

"In addition, sessions on the subject will be planned at upcoming annual meetings in Memphis and Boston in 2003 and 2004."

When does planning start for the 2004 convention?

BTW, the press release URLed above has a link to OAH Exec Director Lee Formwalt's email address, as well as his phone number. I'm sure he'd welcome input from fellow historians.


Thomas Gunn - 9/2/2003

I'll be looking forward to it John.



thomas


John G. Fought - 9/2/2003

Yes, I'm still alive and snarling. Ralph is to be congratulated for dispensing justice (or whatever it turns out to be) so evenhandedly. As for JAH, I'm about to decide between ISPs, finally, and then I'll put up a website which will display my 10,000 word essay on Bellesiles 1996 and related matters, as well as my earlier stuff about him and eventually some linguistics, of all things. I'm hoping to have this up by my birthday, which is, by the way, 9/11. See you all then. I estimate that my website will have about 8 hits a year, or maybe monthly, if I get busy.


Thomas Gunn - 9/2/2003

I haven't been missing you Ralph. I read your blog frequently. There just doesn't seem to be an *issue* as contentious as gun control except maybe abortion. It is also near impossible to respond to your blog; I understand why it is set up that way.

An article by a lib extolling the virtue of abortion might get a sea of response similar to the waves generated by Michael's refuted and invalid fantasy. (I almost uesd the "T" word. Whew caught myself just in time.)

Hunting won't start in earnest for another month. Right now fishing is the thing and the catfish are going nuts. Some of the boys ate work were pulling them in one after another, flatheads and channels mostly. The only thing I'm shooting now is targets. My daughter bought her first handgun the other day. She was like a kid in a candy store. She has a 9mm auto with a pair of preban mags. Much too big to carry concealed though. She was at the house shooting targets and can hit a 4" circle near every shot. Pappa's proud.

A reunion would be fun.

Maybe you could do a short on the sunsetting AWB and the *history* of assault rifles and their prominence in the civilian market. It is obvious that Bush has little intention of upsetting the masses with continuing unnecessary regulation. I'll keep an eye out.

I'm sad to say I haven't spoken with Henry Morgan in several months. I've watched for his 'Wills' article to appear at HNN. There was a question about that elsewhere too as I recall.

Your daughter still at Soft Skull? Hope everything is going well for you and yours.




thomas


Ralph E. Luker - 9/2/2003

Thomas, You son of a Gunn, you, where in the heck have you been? I've been missing you. I had to write that bloody post to see if I couldn't drag you out of whatever woods you were hunting in and make yourself known. Dragged Fought out of the woods, too, via e-mail. I just had to denounce Don Williams for a characteristically blustery post elsewhere. Where's Richard Morgan? When's the class re-union?
No, I'm not getting any work done. It takes me too much time trying to get you hard-headed gun nuts educated about history. I'm up against a deadline on two articles and here I am reminiscing with you. When's the class re-union?


Josh Greenland - 9/2/2003

From Ralph Luker's weblog here on HNN:

TEN MONTHS LATER ... 09-01-03

Ten months ago, responding to the report of Emory University's panel of outside reviewers in the case of Michael Bellesiles, the Organization of American Historians announced that: "The editorial board of the Journal of American History will consider a commissioned essay or a roundtable to address the ethical issues of this and other recent cases and how much historians rely on trust in practicing their craft." As of this date, the editorial board of the JAH has given no indication, to borrow the language of Watergate, of what it intends to do or when it intends to do it.

Sure, the JAH is a big, lumbering elephant which intends to publish for the ages, not for the moment, but after publishing Bellesiles's article on guns in early America in 1996, it has been embarrassed by the more aggressive inquiries of amateurs, of gun enthusiasts, of legal scholars, of journalists, of historians working outside OAH frameworks, and of the William and Mary Quarterly. Can our lumbering elephant finally assume some responsibility or tell us how it will assume some responsibility for what it hath wrought?


Thomas Gunn - 9/2/2003

Just read your blog, thanks for the thoughts re OAH and Bellesiles.

I'm torn between being happy with your insight and sad that it took you so long.

Then again you may be rushing to judgment much too soon, it is after all only ten months, or much too late, the original deception started in 1996. ;-)

Anyway I am happy you got your blog going on HNN. Are you getting any *work* done?




thomas


Josh Greenland - 8/22/2003

"I was surprised too, and also angered by the gross rhetorical manipulation and the underlying self-satisfaction."

On the part of Bellesiles, or his academic and/or news media supporters?

"Since then, however, I've realized that it isn't that unusual for scholars to believe and support what they want to believe even in the face of clear evidence of error."

There is a greater tendency toward "ideological immunity" among the highly educated (the ability to justify or rationalize what one wants to believe in the face of strong contradicting claims or evidence.

This site talks about ideological immunity (at the bottom of the page). Also the Overreliance on Authorities section talks about PhDs and their ability to admit that they don't know about something or are wrong about it:

http://www.psychology.psych.ndsu.nodak.edu/mccourt/website/htdocs/HomePage/Psy351/Why%20we%20believe%20weird%20things/Why%20we%20believe%20weird%20things.html


John G. Fought - 8/21/2003

I was surprised too, and also angered by the gross rhetorical manipulation and the underlying self-satisfaction. Since then, however, I've realized that it isn't that unusual for scholars to believe and support what they want to believe even in the face of clear evidence of error. This isn't found just in history either. As I've mentioned before, I think the corrosive
effects of years spent in the classroom listening fondly to the sound of one's own voice, rarely interrupted by challenges from one's audience, will overinflate almost anyone's sense of worth. That's the only way I can account for some of the experiences I've had in the academy. From there, it's only a short step to "If I believe it, it must be true."


Josh Greenland - 8/20/2003

I've gotten hold of and started reading Arming America only recently. I found that even with the few bits of relevant history that I know and my knowledge of modern gun rights politics, the book starts off with dubious, cleverly worded and obviously false statements.

The first 6 pages of the book are devoted to pure gun control propaganda about the current parlous state of the nation. It should have been impossible for anyone to believe Michael Bellesiles' often repeated lie that his book was not a political document.

The only explanation for its being swallowed wholesale by the historical establishment and the mainstream media is its manipulativeness. It seems to have been written to manipulate the feelings of gun control supporters. It makes the kinds of statements in those first six pages that would cause gun control advocates to angrily defend them even where they are clearly untrue.

I spotted the falsehoods and clever misstatements easily, but then the book wasn't written to influence gun rights supporters like myself. (I can't say what kind of effect this book would have had on those who want "some" gun control but who also seriously believe in the right to own and use firearms. That large middle ground of Americans seems to have been completely missing from the debate over Arming America.)

What surprises me, finally, is the degree to which the academic historical realm and the mainstream media are controlled by gun control supporters. The two milieux dug in and supported Arming America much longer than was wise for their credibility, given the obviousness of its falsehoods even without historical research. I can only conclude that he "played" these two groups consummately, and caused them to act ultimately against their own best interests. I think that media and historical defensiveness and stonewalling over past support of Arming America is motivated almost as much by the need to salvage their credibility as it is by their need to support the gun prohibitionist agenda.


Frank A. Baldridge - 8/18/2003

Testing


Josh Greenland - 7/10/2003

Is there any way a private citizen could see who attended a particular lawschool for a year? Or are there organizations that some nationwide organizations some law students might be a member of?

Bellesiles seems to mostly be in the Orange County area of southern California on his CV. Would it be realistic to think that he would have attended law school down there, or would the difficulties of getting admitted to a school of his choice have made this unlikely?


John G. Fought - 7/8/2003

Bellesiles' dissertation (UC Irvine 1986) contains a "CV" section. It lists his undergraduate degree as UC Santa Cruz 1975, and the following additional items: TA at UC Irvine, 1981-83, Instructor, West Coast University, 1981-83, Humanities Assoc. at UCI, 1983-86, Instructor, UCI, summer 1984, Instructor, Emeritus Program, Saddleback College 1985-86. Visiting Lecturer, UCLA Fall 1986. The gap between 1975 and 1981 is not filled in.


Frank A. Baldridge - 7/8/2003

I have a fuzzy recollection from a couple years back that both Bellesiles and Patricia Limerick were both from southern Calif and did time together at UC Santa Cruz (birds of ......). You might inquire of her.


Josh Greenland - 7/7/2003

I look every so often and haven't found anything yet. I think he had a resume up on Emory U's site when he worked there that said what schools he graduated from and when. (It isn't there anymore, I just checked.) If he isn't lying about having attended law school, he presumably would have gone after he finished his bachelors degree. Does anyone know when that was?


Ralph E. Luker - 7/6/2003

Josh, Delinking Richard's question was accidental and has been corrected.


John G. Fought - 7/6/2003

I check here requently also. And yes, Richard's question has become inert for some reason. I'm also curious about the whereabouts of Richard's brief piece about Garry Wills and the etymological fallacy, which I understood was to have turned up here somewhere a couple of weeks ago.


Josh Greenland - 7/6/2003

Something odd has happened and I can no longer read Richard's question anymore. The title just shows up as text for me, not at a link I can click on to get his message.

I do recall that it was a question about Bellesiles having gone to law school for some short period of time.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/6/2003

Frank, I don't know that anything was deleted. Posts throughout HNN were revamped by a computer whiz to put the earliest at the top, most recent at the bottom, and get them into chronological order by thread.
If anything, posting stopped because no one seemed to be able to answer Richard's question.


Frank A. Baldridge - 7/6/2003

Josh:
It is good to hear you and the site still exist. Since everything was inverted and communications deleted, I assummed somebody pulled the plug.


Josh Greenland - 7/5/2003

I can't speak for anyone else, but I check this forum almost every day. I just haven't had anything to say for a while.


Frank A. Baldridge - 7/5/2003

Like what happened? My whole world got tuned upside down. Was it those rascally republicans or the looney left?


Don Williams - 6/22/2003

I think Socrates and Plato would be embarrassed. Wasn't it Socrates (according to Plato) who argued that "the unexamined life is not worth living"? And did Plato not found the first academy?

Sounds like some people in universities are examining their lives and are feeling sick. However, maybe that increase in funding that Bush has proposed for historians will improve morale -- although there is a price for everything, Faustus.

But then Sophists are infinitely adaptable --I expect someone to publish a defense of the divine right of kings any day now.


Frank A. Baldridge - 6/22/2003

Ralph:

As far as I'm concerned, you can be anything you want to be. Obviously I have been too confrontational, but your argument is not valid. But there seems to be some kind of disconnect, so I give up.

But just for my edification, would you define "gun control" and "anti-gun," or explain the difference between them from your, or academia's, perspective. Are not they really synonymous?

And, based on your education and experience, what specific examples or methods of "gun control" do you feel would be most useful in curtailing the tragedies and traumas associated with the inappropriate or unsafe use of firearms.

Regards,
Frank


Richard Henry Morgan - 6/21/2003

This might be an old question to those most familiar with the issues, but here goes. I was just reading Bellesiles' contribution to the HCI symposium. Therein he lets it be known that he attended law school. He doesn't say he graduated. Does anybody out there know what law school he attended? When?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/21/2003

Sorry, Frank. Ya got it all wrong. I'm a Republican.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/21/2003

"Are you claiming your interest in Southern Cross was an erudite exercise with no meaning but your refusal to engage on Arming Americawas, 'beyond your expertice', even though you now admit an anti-gun bias? Tsk tsk tsk."
Get a grip, Thomas! What's to "tsk"? Whether it was erudite or not, if you think the discussion of _Southern Cross_ has "no meaning," fair enough. You're welcome to your judgment. I never hid the fact that I am inclined to be in favor of gun control and, yes, I wouldn't argue the details of evidence because I have no expertise in the relevant fields. Unlike some people who seem to have an opinion about everything, I have some sense of my limitations. There were already people discussing the evidence who were a whole lot better informed about such matters than I am.


Frank A. Baldridge - 6/20/2003

Sorry John, I meant Ralph.


Thomas Gunn - 6/20/2003


06.20.03 ~1830

Ralph,

Are you claiming your interest in Southern Cross was an erudite exercise with no meaning but your refusal to engage on Arming Americawas, 'beyond your expertice', even though you now admit an anti-gun bias? Tsk tsk tsk.




thomas



Frank A. Baldridge - 6/20/2003

John:
It was an ivory tower, not ivy. The main thing I was trying to say is that some element of logic seems to be missing from your arguments. On two separate occasions you have illogically inferred that bad things are more likely to occur as "guns" become more common in the environment - an argument that is reminiscent of the introduction of Bellesiles JAH article.

If your inferences were true, the wives, children, neighbors, and pets of mine and my fellow collectors and skeet shooters would all be dead. But they are not, so there must be factors relative to "firearms abuse" other than just many guns in the proximal environment. Academicians might call that the "social context."

Seems like in most cases of "firearms abuse" one hears about only one gun is involved, plus the failure to follow basic firearms safety, or more commonly a violation of law - such as having or using a firearm illegally or failure to secure it as required by law. Quite often it involves repeated violations of the law.

I personally believe that any responsible, and halfway politically conscious, firearm owner believes that some degree of gun control is essential to preserve public safety, and our firearms heritage. The problem is that most folks who use the words "gun control," apparently like yourself, really want to eliminate guns from the environment. So they incrementally inhibit the legitimate use and responsible ownership of firearms, and try to drive manufactures out of business through frivolous lawsuits. And some in academia use their positions to disseminate false information to the public and judges.

It seems that in reality the compassionate "gun control" crowd wants the trauma to continue, so they can continue to advance their agenda. Otherwise they would advocate the enforcement of existing laws and firearms safety in the schools, for the same reason sex ed is taught.

Benny:
Glad to see your back. Hope your trip to New York on behalf of Jason Blair was fruitful.

Don:
Interesting questions, are you going to post the answers somewhere?

Regards to all





Ralph E. Luker - 6/20/2003

Give me an F or an I or just leave it blank, Don. I didn't pay tuition for your course.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/20/2003

Thomas, There go your "fat fingers" again. I don't think my "scared cow" has been gored. I don't have a stake in Heyrman's claims and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson don't seem to care. Did I ever pretend to be pro-gun? What's to be "embarrassed," according to you, or "ashamed," according to Stephen Warner, about?


Don Williams - 6/20/2003

I believe he's off doing some frantic research.
Hee hee
I wonder if I should give him a B or a C?

I would submit the same questions to you but remedial therapy --excuse me, "special education" , is not
in my charter.


Thomas Gunn - 6/20/2003


06.20.03 ~1400

Ralph,

Are you embarrassed for Frank, or yourself?

Although I have been aware of your anti-gun (remember I accused you of being anti-rights) proclivities since early in our relationship, it wasn't until the flap over Southern Cross that I became aware of your interest in historical dishonesty, vis-a-vis Arming America.

You may recall I've made some speculation that folks seem uninterested in the truth until it is their scared cow being gored, particulary when the lie supports their political purpose.





thomas


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/20/2003

"I have no particular animous, nor disrespect, for any individual just because he happens to be a socialist or an elite."

Most of the gun control advocates in this country aren't socialists. They are closer to fascists than anything else. They believe in private property, and are often members of the superrich. They don't particularly believe in free enterprise, however, because that would require them to compete in the marketplace. For example, Sen. Metzenbaum's fortune was made in airport parking lot franchises. Bill Clinton has never worked in the private sector in his entire life, and his economic alliances have been with fabulously wealthy "leftists" (in scare quotes because most of them are more fascist than socialist).

Academics tend to be out of the left end of the political spectrum, but their motivations for gun control are more out of ignorance of the subject than any fascist tendencies.

"The elites have chosen a different path for this country. As Americans, they should have the right to have at it. I personally think socialism is inevitable, and the Constitution a dying institution. I don't presume that elites are misguided, but rather very well guided."

You are giving too much credit to academics if you are including them among the elite. The elite are people that fly on their own jets. Professors don't have that kind of money or influence on the political process.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/20/2003

Good Lord, I'm so embarrassed. Frank Baldridge has discovered that I am in favor of gun control.


johnhorst - 6/20/2003

"Oh, and John, how did the equation of "elite" and "socialist" slip into the conversation. Karl Marx would be surprised."

Dear Ralph:

It wasn't my intention to "slip" it into the conversation. I was just attempting to identify the players here. Someone on an earlier post suggested that those of your ilk were misguided or misinformed, but I give you and your compatriots more credit than that. Isn't bringing Karl Marx into this like wondering what Plato would think of our use of the term "Republic" in this day and age? Why are elites so afraid of calling themselves socialists anyway? Every time a liberal is called a liberal or a socialist, they get red (no pun intended) in the face and cry foul. Don't be ashamed of your roots and convictions, by gum! Go for it, and may the best elitist win.


Benny Smith - 6/20/2003



Not to pick on Mr. Luker, as I feel he is honest and sincere in whatever it is he is trying to prove here, but I believe it should be abundantly obvious to him now why this forum is a poor venue for debate, particularly on issues such as gun control. One only need to see the strained, fractured syntax of the messages here. Yet I believe this discussion is fruitful for a number of reasons. It demonstrates what I’ve said all along--that the gun lobby has been the driving force in the Bellesiles witch hunt. And the responses from the gun rights extremists show that there is no statistic they can’t manipulate, no fact that they won’t distort in order to promote their agenda. Finally, it shows that pro-gun forces will collectively shout down and denigrate anyone who interferes with that agenda.


Don Williams - 6/20/2003

See http://www.erinoconnor.org/archives/000419.html .
A short excerpt:
****************
"Will dying-a-painful-academic-death historian Michael Bellesiles take the gun control movement down with him? Considering how heavily the gun control lobby relies on Arming America's highly dubious information about early American piece-packing practices, it looks like the answer could be a resounding yes. Don Williams explains in detail on the History News Network. So much for peer review."
**********
hee hee


Don Williams - 6/20/2003

You have spent a year conversing with us and have several times skirted dangerously close to the edge of making a factual assertion. Each time however, you pull back from the abyss with the disclaimer that the area is not in your area of expertise.

Bellesiles , conversely, rendered assertions in a wide variety of areas --with the unfortunate results we have seen.

May I suggest an experiment? Go to the recent "Liberal Arts" graduates from Emory and ask them the following elementary questions about the primary forces in our world:

a) Who are the major military powers in the world and what is the relative power of each? Who can project significant power beyond their borders? What are the primary goals and constraints on each?

b) Who are the major economic powers of the world and what is the total GDP and GDP per capita of each? What is their foreign direct investment and where is it located?

c) What are the major trade flows in the world, the products, volume ($), sources, and destinations. What is the size of US imports/exports as % GDP, who are the major trading partners, and what is the account balance with the major partners.

d) What is the size of the US defense budget and how does it compare with the other major military powers?

e) What are the major components of the US GDP and their rough size ($)? What is the total US national wealth and how is ownership distributed? What is size of the US total debt and it major components? How does the Feb 2003 federal debt forecast for 2008 compare with the forecast that Bush made two years ago. What part of the debt will have to be paid off starting in 2010 and how will the debt be paid?

f) What was odd about Ronald Reagan's defense budget?

g) Currently, What is your share of the federal debt? What has been the trend?

h) Who are the 10 wealthiest people in the US and what industries do they influence? What percentage of national wealth is owned by the 8% wealthiest households? What percentage of national income?

i) What business interests were helped by the Afghanistan war?

Would you like to answer the above questions, Mr Luker? They are
rather elementary --something that any educated person should know.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/20/2003

More D. W. B. S. Erin O'Connor isn't a graduate student. Whatever profession D. W. happens to profess, his felt need to denigrate academic people suggests its own deep insecurities and need for acceptance. A variety of things seem "hilarious" to D. W. -- probably even the human condition.


Don Williams - 6/20/2003

In fact, if you check Mr Luker's blog (from HNN front page) you will see a link to a grad students' recitation of a fairly miserable existence. When an intellectual feels that academia is a "fraud" and that his livelihood depends on publicly propagating politically correct sophistry, you are talking about a pretty sad situation. WHen the intellectual realizes that he spent $170,000 and seven years of his life putting himself in that deep hole, you have clinical depression.

Given the pay in universities, I don't think even full professors could be considered in the income elite.

As for them forming the "intellectual" elite, the idea is hilarious to anyone who's actually conversed with them. Well versed in their narrow specialty, yes. Well educated in the things that matter and highly knowledgeable in major important areas outside their narrow specialty --no. Reasonably intelligent people worth knowing --in general, yes. Deeply insecure --yes.


John G. Fought - 6/20/2003

Yes, Mr. Luker, that was a lot to be hit with all at once, wasn't it? I was actually getting ready to take up arms on your behalf, as we doctors of philosophy are wont to say. I'm glad you also spoke up on the issue of elite socialists too. I've had it with elites, actually, but I have to say, unless Mr. Horst is in on a secret, they aren't actually 'chosen' as the term would suggest. That's too bad, but in my experience they tend to just choose themselves at a certain point, and that's it: they never stand for re-election. Well, I guess some get picked by their daddies. Maybe that's what he meant.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/20/2003

Frank, I don't know where you make up all this stuff in your post about me. 1) I don't have a doctorate in philosophy. 2) I have to look up the word "enthymeme" every time you use it. 3)Doctorate or no, you are not obliged to agree with what I say. And 4) I don't hang out in some ivy tower somewhere. Now, what were you saying ... ?
Oh, and John, how did the equation of "elite" and "socialist" slip into the conversation. Karl Marx would be surprised.


Frank A. Baldridge - 6/20/2003

The interesting thing about many of these so called elites is their hypocritical nature. Luker, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, can't even string together a valid enthymeme, but us less intellectual folks are supposed to buy into it because he has a doctorate and hangs out in an ivory tower somewhere.

Here in California, where we have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, and locally high crime rates, virtually all the gun control political elites have concealed weapons permits, plus bodyguards. But a nurse who works nights in a hospital in a bad part of town can't get one. And if I read Luker right, he'd just as soon see that she didn't have access to a gun at all.

Speaking of the "oil elites," the most condescending letter I ever received, except the one from my department head pointing out that the on campus bookstore was the student's best friend, was from U.S. Senator Diane Fienstine regarding what was best for my gun collection. Probably dictated it while she was driving around Aspen, with her gun beside her, in one of her four SUVs. And I'm not supposed to have even one of those either.

Probably the most hypocritical thing about the elite "gun control" crowd is that they keep passing laws, to "protect the public," but fail to enforce them. One doesn't need to be among the "intellectual elite" to realize that they are just waiting for the day when, in a condescending manner, they can proclaim, "You kids don't play appropriately with the toys, no matter what, so we are going to take them all away (at least all the ones we can easily find because of the paper trail)."

And speaking of the intellectual elite, where's Benny?





Josh Greenland - 6/19/2003

""My experience is that most people who hold Dr. Luker's views do so because they have been misled."

"I don't think the intellectual elite are misled at all."

Some in the educated upper-middle class and others with post-graduate degrees may tend to fervently believe many falsehoods that maintain the gun control cause, but so do many people socioeconomically below the upper-middle class and without post-graduate degrees. However, many highly educated people seem to feel uncomfortable with the idea that the average joe without a post-graduate degree or great wealth can in most parts of the US readily get his hands on a gun and use it. And some I think are cynical about playing the crime and children cards, while they know the facts well enough and really want the rabble disarmed.

It says everything to me that (as far as I can tell) few gun control activists are not from the educated upper-middle class or the wealthy. The gun rights movement's activists are much more representative of the US population, including by income and education.


johnhorst - 6/19/2003

Dear Ralph:
I have no particular animous, nor disrespect, for any individual just because he happens to be a socialist or an elite. The elites have chosen a different path for this country. As Americans, they should have the right to have at it. I personally think socialism is inevitable, and the Constitution a dying institution. I don't presume that elites are misguided, but rather very well guided. Please don't take offence, as you have your agenda and I have mine. I am not, by the way, a neo-con or a republican, or a religious zealot, or a libertarian for that matter, but rather, (I hope) a free thinking individual who happens to believe we don't need someone else running our lives. I want to make my own way in the world.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/19/2003

John, I appreciate your relegating me and my predispositions to the class of "intellectual elites," tho I suspect from the rest of what you say that it is one for which you don't have much respect. Well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, we have the oil elites (hardly the Constitution) to save us from threats posed by the socialist intellectuals.


Thomas Gunn - 6/19/2003


06.18.03 ~2240

Clayton, Josh,

Thanks for your responses. I am in complete agreement. Now if only we could get Ralph to see the light.

Clayton, since your words are indisputable why is it some refuse to see the light? Can it be just the emotional response to the power of the gun, or is it the responsibility attendant? Metaphorically speaking of course.




thomas


Frank A. Baldridge - 6/19/2003

Mr. Haskins:

THANK YOU! If you want, I'll gladly swap my graduate degree in history for your law degree - just kidding, I think I'll get my own rather than a PhD.


Frank A. Baldridge - 6/19/2003

Ah!! The real Luker reveals himself:

http://hnn.us/comments/13547.html
http://hnn.us/comments/13663.html
http://hnn.us/comments/13684.html

In regards to "the thousands of Americans killed and wounded annually in the most over-armed national in the world." How many of those interactions involved a "gun" acting on its own? How many involved the inappropriate use of a "gun"?

Essentially Luker has demonstrated that he has bought into the Charles A. Beard rap that it is okay to use history, even if its made up as in Bellesiles case, as propaganda, has long as the cause is just. Such as nullifying the Second Amendment (13547, 13663).

I can not speak for Mr. Clayton, but I personally have a real problem with people who: 1) lie to advance their personal agendas, and 2) believe academia or the state, rather than personal responsibility, should prevent all "bad things" from happening (13684).

So we get guys like Dr. Dix, who never taught his son firearms safety, though he probably showed him how to use a condom, suing a "gun" manufacturer because its product didn't inform the unknowing user that it was loaded. And we get legislators and academicians, like Luker, hopping on the bandwagon.

My lowly MA brain tells me that Mr. Clayton has advanced a much more meaningful argument regarding violence in society. Our society feeds on it. Watched TV lately?


Josh Greenland - 6/18/2003

"However, it is of course common knowledge and stands to reason that if we take the guns away, gun violence will be reduced, the unspoken lie being that VIOLENCE will be reduced similarly. No need to control for any variables here."

I assume you mean if we imagine the guns away. Since in the real world it would take armed government people to take all guns away from citizens, all guns couldn't go away. And the level of armed government violence against civilians would increase.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/18/2003

"I don't think you can make this claim, 'Perhaps the high prison population is a function of a high violent crime rate', without controlling for every possible variable."

That's why I said, "Perhaps." It is very clear that America is a very violent country, regardless of weapon type. That violence is heavily concentrated in a relatively small number of subcultures. A detailed examination of what makes those subcultures so violent is probably a more productive way to solve the violence problem than to look at what is common to the society as a whole. Courtwright's _Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City_ is a good start. (The subtitle gives away part of the problem.)

"However, it is of course common knowledge and stands to reason that if we take the guns away, gun violence will be reduced, the unspoken lie being that VIOLENCE will be reduced similarly. No need to control for any variables here."

The other problem is that taking away the guns is, without house to house searches and police state tactics, simply not possible. There are enough guns in the U.S. to keep both career criminals and the violent misfits supplied for centuries, even if there were no resupply through illegal manufacturing and smuggling. The net effect of less severe gun control tactics is to disproportionately disarm the people that are neither career criminals nor social misfits--and who commit very, very little violent crime.

It is fashionable in some circles to assert that gun ownership makes every into a dangerous misfit, in order to distract attention from the shockingly high murder rates (with and without guns) common in some American subcultures. The evidence is very clear that this is NOT true. In most recent years, 40% or more of murders are committed by convicted felons; about 1/3 are committed by minors; about 5% of murders in 1992 were by mental patients who were not taking their medicine. There's some overlap between these groups, but you quickly find that murder in America is highly concentrated; an American adult without a felony conviction is very, very unlikely to commit murder.

Of course, we have done some experiments with strict gun control in the U.S. Washington DC passed a very strict handgun measure in 1976. There was a very dramatic reduction in both homicides and suicides with guns; there was also a nearly equivalent increase in homicides and suicides with non-guns. The net gain was a 1.5% reduction in the suicide rate, and a 5.4% reduction in overall homicide rate (which includes a reduction in defensive homicides also, so this may mean less than it seems).

Solve the violence problem, and the guns don't matter. If you don't solve the violence problem, nearly all the gun homicides and suicides turn into non-gun homicides and suicides.


Thomas Gunn - 6/18/2003


06.18.03 ~1320

Clayton,

I don't think you can make this claim, "Perhaps the high prison population is a function of a high violent crime rate", without controlling for every possible variable.

However, it is of course common knowledge and stands to reason that if we take the guns away, gun violence will be reduced, the unspoken lie being that VIOLENCE will be reduced similarly. No need to control for any variables here.



thomas


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/18/2003

"Clayton, This is _such_ nonsense. The United States has already a higher percentage of its population in prisons than any other major nation on earth."

Quite a number are there for victimless crimes, too. On the other hand, we have a very serious violent crime rate (with all sorts of weapons) compared to most other industrialized nations. Perhaps the high prison population is a function of a high violent crime rate?


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/18/2003

"Those promises often turn out to be a con game when the economy turns bad."

Murder rates often FALL during recessions. I'm ignoring the drop in murder rates during the Great Depression--the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 probably played the larger part.

Murder rates fell during the Reagan recession of the early 1980s. I've even seen sociologists try to defend the "unemployment causes murder" argument by asserting that there is a delay of 3-4 years between becoming unemployed and becoming a killer. Of course, with a 3-4 delay, what you do you know! Murder rates often rise with improving economies.

About 40% of U.S. murders are done under the influence of alcohol or alcohol combined with some other intoxicant. Unemployment tends to reduce the amount of money available for alcohol. That's probably why unemployment often reduces murder rates.


Josh Greenland - 6/18/2003

"Clayton, This is _such_ nonsense. The United States has already a higher percentage of its population in prisons than any other major nation on earth. Yet, you want more people in prison as a way of solving our gun violence."

I don't have a problem with certain very specific types of enforcement, but I agree with you generally on the prison-craziness of the US.

However, I think you are perpetrating a false dichotomy if you insist that the only alternative to imprisoning more people is severe restrictions on or mass confiscations of firearms. We may have a worse poverty problem in this country than do the other industrialized countries, and this could be ameliorated.

Also, I think you are conflating unlike things when you talk about "gun violence." What does that include? Suicides (violence against self)? Legitimate use of firearms in self-defense? Police use of firearms in the legitimate line of duty? If you mean "gun violence" rather than "gun crime," are you saying that "making firearms unavailable" (making them impossible to obtain and/or confiscating those already owned) would actually lower the suicide rate? Are you saying that the police should not use firearms in the course of their duties? And are you opposed to the use of firearms for civilian self-defense?


johnhorst - 6/18/2003

"Clayton, This is _such_ nonsense. The United States has already a higher percentage of its population in prisons than any other major nation on earth. Yet, you want more people in prison as a way of solving our gun violence."

So, Mr. Luker, your point is that we should turn criminals out because we just have too many criminals in jail, based upon what other "major" nations do? And that's not a nonsense statement? I thought criminals go to jail because they need to be separated from society, and they are either incarcerated or freed based upon the conviction, not whether or not they fit into the statistics of any other major nation on earth.


Josh Greenland - 6/18/2003

"Professor Volohk has greater confidence than I do that our criminal justice system is drawing clear lines of distinction between "law-abiding citizens" and "gun-owning criminals." I suspect that the system fairly effectively draws that line along class lines."

In what ways do you suspect this line is being drawn? Are you saying that lower income people are being unfairly pushed around by the police and prosecuted for owning and using guns, or are you saying that affluent people are getting away with gun crimes that poor people are not?


Samuel Browning - 6/18/2003

Personally I'd be happy to knock down some of the Federal drug sentence times to reasonable levels as a way of making room for felons caught with firearms. We have high incarceration rates but it is one of several factors which have helped decrease our present crime rate from the early 1990s. And yes it would be better if we could head off crime beforehand with better social programs and social change but I'm glad certain people in Connecticut are now serving 75-85% of their sentences behind bars rather than the 10-20% they were serving in the early 1980s. In that sense if we are going to use our prisons to handle social problems then the high rate of incarceration is a default solution that works to a certain extent.


Don Williams - 6/18/2003

Birmingham has belonged to US Steel for a long time. You all remember Birmingham? See http://www.post-gazette.com/books/reviews/20010429review763.asp

Birmingham also has a very high murder rate, as noted in my original post above, but the high number of murders take place over a much larger population. Fairfield's population is about 12,000.


Don Williams - 6/17/2003

Arming America has an interesting passage on page 210:

"The early national period witnessed a tension between federal efforts to arm white male Americans and elite fears that poor whites might put such weapons to an incorrect, class-based use"

I couldn't help wondering if a certain professor might also fear
"poor whites" with guns --especially poor whites with a "class-based" grudge.
I also can't help wondering if someone might have gotten his ass whipped in an Atlanta bar sometime in the past --especially if he voiced his "class consciousness" with a faux British accent.

To see what I mean, listen to Bellesiles lecture at the Second Amendment Symposium held on February 16, 2000, by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence:
http://www.gunlawsuits.org/audio/symposium/clip5.mp3

(More is here: http://www.gunlawsuits.org/defend/second/symposium/audio.asp )


Ralph E. Luker - 6/17/2003

Clayton, This is _such_ nonsense. The United States has already a higher percentage of its population in prisons than any other major nation on earth. Yet, you want more people in prison as a way of solving our gun violence.


Don Williams - 6/17/2003

One interesting connection between the two murder capitals (Fairfield Alabama and Gary Indiana) is a common employer: US Steel.
See http://www.newsteel.com/2000/NS0007vp.htm .

Anyone remember the spat of killings by Postal Workers a few years ago -- coincident with work place changes the Post Office took to compete with FedEx,etc.? How do you guys think US Steel has been treating it's workers in the past few years?

Murder results from intense rage -- sometimes rage that's been caused by people other than the victim. Corporate managers preach a paternalistic culture and loyalty/hard work to encourage productivity --with the promise that that devotion will be rewarded. Those promises often turn out to be a con game when the economy turns bad.

What do you think happens when a man works hard for 10 years, is laid off, can't find work, and his wife starts complaining. Maybe he like to hit his boss with the claw hammer but his boss isn't the one standing next to him.

Would anyone be all that heartbroken if a bankrupt Enron employee whacked former Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling?

You were in Silicon Valley during the crash , Clayton. Any of this ring a bell -- not personally but with regard to people you've known?


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/17/2003

"You fellahs keep your guns where they are. Atlanta already has more than it needs."

I doubt that more guns would help very much--nor would reducing the number make much of a difference, either. The problems there (as with most big cities), are tied to social pathologies that have taken a generation to create.

What does work, in most communities, is locking up the relatively small percentage of violent criminals who commit 30-40% of the felonies. Since most of these violent criminals have felony convictions already, aggressive enforcement of the existing federal law against felons in possession would rapidly reduce your violent crime rates. This assumes, of course, that the city government has an interest in doing that.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/17/2003

"Professor Volohk has greater confidence than I do that our criminal justice system is drawing clear lines of distinction between 'law-abiding citizens' and 'gun-owning criminals.' I suspect that the system fairly effectively draws that line along class lines."

This is nonsense. The distinctions are clear-cut. If you have been convicted of a felony, you may not own a gun. If you are subject to a domestic violence restraining order, you may not own a gun. In some states, if you have been convicted on a violent misdeameanor in the last 5 (sometimes 10) years, you may not own a gun. If a few states, if you have been locked up against your will in a mental hospital in the last 3 or 5 years, you may not own a gun.

There are some "class distinctions" with respect to felony convictions, and I would not dispute that at least some of the disparity in felony conviction rates has to do with racism and poverty. But victimization studies demonstrate that racial disparities in both convictions and imprisonment roughly match racial disparities in violent crime rates (both offenders and victims). If Dr. Luker wants to claim that poor people are more violent because they are victims of economic oppression, go right ahead. But this is not the same as his claim.

Now, there are laws that regulate gun ownership in ways that suffer from the class distinctions and vague rules that Dr. Luker is concerned about: New York City's pistol permit process, and concealed weapon permit issuance policies in places like California, New York State, and Massachusetts. In all three cases, there are clear cut problems with racial discrimination that, of course, liberal judges refuse to do anything about. Is Dr. Luker concerned about these abuses of power?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/17/2003

Professor Volohk has greater confidence than I do that our criminal justice system is drawing clear lines of distinction between "law-abiding citizens" and "gun-owning criminals." I suspect that the system fairly effectively draws that line along class lines.


Diane Nicholl - 6/17/2003

In an article published June 17, 2003, titled Domestic Disputes, Eugene Volokh examines recent studies regarding firearms in the home. He points out the studies do not control for the criminal background of those involved in homicides where guns were used.

"Curiously, the study starts by pointing out that an earlier study, which used a similar approach, "inspired a paper trail of challenges that continues to grow." The new study was partly a reaction to those challenges. But a key argument in those challenges was precisely that the earlier study didn't adequately control for the victim's criminal background — and yet the new study made the same mistake, and in fact control for fewer factors than the earlier study did. The new study didn't even try to deal with the possibility that law-abiding citizens aren't endangered by their own guns, but rather that gun-owning criminals are jeopardized by their gun-owning criminal associates or enemies."

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-volokh061703.asp


Bryan Haskins - 6/17/2003


As I read some of the posts Monday, the following thought hit me: Ah, now we come to a core gun control issue--Will a ban on firearms deter violent crime? You will forgive me if I now pretend to have some knowledge regarding this question. I am not a historian, but I am a prosecutor from a rural county in which guns are abundant. In Virginia, we refer to every non-lethal yet intentional infliction of “serious” bodily injury as a “malicious wounding.” The crime is defined as follows: The intentional infliction of a bodily injury to another, done with malice, and with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill. I have prosecuted many of these over the years, and these are my conclusions:

1. Never, ever, has a single one of these crimes been caused by the mere proximity of a firearm or other weapon. Although I have heard quite a few bizarre defenses of insanity, I have never yet heard anyone complain that they heard “voices from the gun cabinet” which made them do it.

2. The majority of these crimes arise from a defendant acting on a sudden impulse to lash out at his victim while motivated by anger, hatred, jealousy, or revenge. (this is particularly the case in domestic woundings) The remaining few of these crimes are the result of a pre-planned assault or a “lying in wait” ambush, and they also arise from the same personal motives.

3. The vast, vast majority of these woundings are committed with a weapon other than a firearm (bare hands, glass ashtrays, knives, brush axes, 2x4 lumber, cordless drills, rocks, hatchets, chairs, chain saws, baseball bats, iron pipes, barbells, beer/bourbon bottles, etc.).

4. Where firearms are used, the vast majority of these woundings has not resulted in the victim’s death.

5. Nevertheless, where a homicide actually occurs, a firearm was used about 70% of the time.

6. An “assault weapon” as currently defined by Congress has been used only once out of hundreds of woundings (in a drug-related drive-by fatality)

7. The vast majority of these crimes occur between a defendant and a victim who live near the poverty line and have some relationship with each other.

8. The majority of these crimes has occurred while the defendant (and frequently the victim as well) was under the influence of alcohol or some other self-administered intoxicant.

Everyone is free to spin these facts as they wish.

My comment upon them is this: Our society has a very unhealthy fascination with firearms (for example, go to your local Blockbuster, tour the new release titles, and count the number of new title covers which show someone brandishing a firearm) Yet, there are many people out there who refuse to acknowledge society’s responsibility for promoting violence in general and firearm violence in particular. Furthermore, firearm violence, while far less common than violence committed with other weapons, is frequently more sensational and as such garners an unrealistically disproportionate amount of media coverage. Finally, it is easier on us to blame a firearm for the violence someone causes with it than it is for us to look a fellow human in the eyes and tell him that he is responsible for his malicious acts committed with that firearm. These facts have led many people to believe that it is far easier to attempt to cure our nation of its violent tendencies by banning firearms. Yet, a ban on firearms will not act as a ban on the base motives which comprise malice or depravity of mind. Our violence problem will continue unabated until we are willing to confront the harder, underlying factors which cause a man to rationalize the taking of another man’s life (whether it is poverty, racism, substance abuse, or other issues). In short, reducing the number of firearms will do nothing to prevent the number of assaults, woundings, and homicides which our society otherwise chooses to tolerate, and I believe that the worst policy of all is to seek to stop a particular and unwanted brand of violence by punishing innocent, lawful firearms owners who had nothing to do with it.

Finally, let me say that this is an interesting topic, even if it walks us away from the issue of what problems exist with AA and what changes, if any, will be made in the second edition. I for one am also glad that Mr. Luker is here. I do not always agree with his observations, but he at least deserves credit for actually entering the arena, taking on the topics of discussion, considering our views, and in turn asking us to consider his. There is a lesson here for Mr. Smith, if he will only choose to accept it….


Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2003

Chuck, the allusion to G.H. Hardy is even more obvious in its intent than you suggest. Most professors will have, at some point in their careers, come across G.H. Hardy's famous statements, in A Mathematician's Apology, that pure mathematics had no applications, and elsewhere, that applied math was "repulsively ugly and intolerably dull". Hardy was a pacifist who felt the need to defend his mathematical work (including number theory, where he was among the greatest) by its utter uselessness. Thus, having Hardy defend number theory as a path to crytography is akin to having Einstein defend physics as a glorification of German nationalism. Any professor pretending to pass on the merits of Sokal's contribution should be aware of this -- it was intended as a red flag of immense proportions, though one still missed by the editorial collective of Social Text. It can't be said that Sokal didn't warn them -- they were just too ignorant to know it.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/17/2003

You fellahs keep your guns where they are. Atlanta already has more than it needs.


Samuel Browning - 6/17/2003

Hi Tim:

I've read Whitley's statement and my take is that he can only remember being in John Lott's office at some unspecified time with two students who may have been doing some sort of work for Lott, nothing more. If this is the best evidence Lott can put forward, it is my personal opinion that Lott never conducted a survey in 1997 as he has claimed. I would however invite people to review the evidence and draw their own conclusions.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/17/2003

You are correct that there are white subcultures with significant violence problems in the U.S. See Nisbet and Cohen's _The Culture of Honor_ for a discussion of these issues--including experiments in which physiological responses to conflict were measured, and found to be different between Southern whites and Northern whites.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/17/2003

"Clayton, don't you imagine that part of the reason for the focus is that some of us think that it is much more 'doable' to control the widespread proliferation of guns than it is to repair families."

You may imagine it, but that's all it is. If there is anything that alcohol and drug prohibition has demonstrated, it is that bans are not terribly effective methods of removing something from commerce--there are always people prepared to break the law supplied desired goods. Until you reduce the demand for a good, you can pass all the laws you want--it may reduce overall consumption of a good, but the people that you are most interested in disarming--violent felons--are the ones least likely to obey the laws. That's why they are criminals--they don't feel a need to obey laws.

Another poster has observed that good intentioned Great Society efforts aggravated the existing problems of the ghettos. They also aggravated those same problems outside of the ghettos. Out of wedlock pregnancies roughly tripled in the period 1960-1995, among both blacks and whites. The rate was already higher among blacks, and the Great Society turned a minor problem in black communities into a major one.

"It is, I think, indisputable that a family dispute with a gun at hand is more likely to yield wounds or death than a family dispute where a gun is not at hand."

You may think it indisputable; I don't. I've seen more than a few families going through difficult times. One in particular was a house awash in guns, most of them loaded. The wife was off engaged in adultery with, it seems, a cast of thousands, including a guy that was renting a room in the house. To my great surprise, no guns were drawn.

The fact is that violence-prone subcultures misuse not just guns, but also knives, fists, feet, and everything else known to man.


Don Williams - 6/17/2003

The FBI's database "Uniform Crime Reports" is here http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/01cius.htm . I pulled the table at the
bottom "Offenses known to Law Enforcement -By Cities 10,000
and over,2001 " into a spreadsheet and added a computed column to
computer the ratio "Murders/voluntary manslaughter per 100000".

What's surprising is the many places have ZERO deaths per 100000 people in 2001, and many more only had 1-5 deaths per 100000.
However, there are hot spots of homicides. Gary Indiana and Fairfield Alabama rated highest at 79 deaths per 100000 and 97 per 100000 respectively. (That's not low if continued over time. Gary's rate gives you 790 deaths over 10 years time--meaning almost 1 person per 120. Imagine your high school class of 240 student losing 2 people within 10 years after graduation.)

Some other high areas: Alabama: Birmingham (30 /100000), Fairfield
(97), Washington, DC (41), Compton-California (48), Opa Locka- Florida (65), New Orleans(44), Detroit (41), St Louis (42),
New York (43), Youngstown-Ohio (42), West Columbia-South Carolina (45),

Mr Luker's Atlanta,Georgia had a death rate of 34 per 100000.

By contrast, most states which did not have cities with deaths rates reaching 30 per 100000. Some states, like North Dakota , mostly have cities with death rates lower than Europes, i.e, in the 0 to 1 range.

The death rate in Clayton Cramer's Boise Idaho is 1.05 per 100000.

Most of the local townships around my home had Zero deaths per 100000 but Norristown (a small, poor, largely black town located about 5 miles away has roughly 15 per 100000) and Philadelphia (located about 17 miles away) has a death rate of about 20 per 100000.

Maybe Clayton and I should lend Mr Luker some of our firearms.

I also checked the other file " Table 8a, Offenses Known to Law Enforcment by City with populations less than 10,000". What is striking is that the vast majority of these 4660 small towns reported NO deaths by murder/voluntary manslaughter in 2001.

Here again, there are some towns with high rates but in most case we are talking about 2-3 deaths which give a high ratio because of the small population. I ignored cases of 1 death and checked on those towns with 2 or more deaths. Some examples: Clayton, Alabama (135 /100000), Irwindale Calif (135), Edgewood Florida (2 killed in population of 1950, giving ratio of 102 per 100000), Woodland Township (169- 2 out of 1180), Milan New Mexico 157 (3 out of 1901) , Selma NorthCarolina 67 (4 out of 6015), Burns Oregon 96 (3 out of 3100), Jamestown Tennessee 107 (2 out of 1855), Pound Virginia 181 (2 out of 1106 --small town in Appalachians on Kentucky border), South Boston Va 58 (5 out of 8622)

All of the above suggests that targeted job, education, and law enforcement assistance to the hot spots could reduce deaths greatly and that areas with high gun possession don't necessarily have high or even moderate homicide rates.


johnhorst - 6/17/2003

"Clayton, don't you imagine that part of the reason for the focus is that some of us think that it is much more "doable" to control the widespread proliferation of guns than it is to repair families. It is, I think, indisputable that a family dispute with a gun at hand is more likely to yield wounds or death than a family dispute where a gun is not at hand."

Could it be possible, Mr. Luker, that the meddling of the liberal elites' experiment, (e.g., The Great Society, "It Takes a Village") has so successfully disintegrated the family, and therefore caused the dreadful state of the underclass it had attempted to save? And now that things are so irreperably damaged, without at least a significant adjustment of the liberal agenda, you look at gun control as the answer to the problem? Isn't that like the Dutch blaming the sea for disintegrating poorly constructed dykes? Of course the liberal elite want to point the finger at guns, a finger pointed in that direction keeps it pointing away from them.

Normal families resolve disputes all the time without ANY violence. I have firearms all over my house, I also have two fists and an excellent vocabulary of very hurtful words, I have never laid a hand on my wife or child, told them I hate them, called them stupid or worthless, or purposefully subjected them to any kind of pain or anguish. How do you account for that, Mr. Luker? And by the way, I learned how to be a human being from my parents, not from Hillary or Gloria, or any of the Kennedys.


Tim Lambert - 6/17/2003

The statements from Whitley and others are available at
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lottreply10.html

The relevant portion of Whitley's statement is:

"Unfortunately, I can't directly corroborate the survey, but I do have one memory which may be related. I remember stopping by John's office one time I think during my first year and there were some undergraduates in the office. John was finishing up with them and my recollection is that he introduced me to them and then they left. I think he introduced their names (which I don't remember) and said that they had recently worked for him (although I don't remember if he said on what), they then left and I met with John to talk about working as an RA for him. I am pretty sure they were undergraduates because I seem to recall them being impressed when I said I was an econ graduate student (anything that inflates your ego during the first year of graduate school at the University of Chicago is a big deal at the time).

"In that situation, what I really remember most is the scene and not the words. I don't know when exactly it was, but I can remember the room. It was in John's old office, when he was in the middle of the back wall of the Chicago Law School library (before he moved over near the stairwell to the smaller office). I can remember him sitting at his desk and the students (I am pretty sure there were two students, but not 100% positive) were standing between me at the door and John at his desk against the far wall. I think one was taller than me (I am 5'6") and had lighter hair while the other was shorter and had darker hair (the heights I am pretty sure of, the hair color I am less sure of). The taller one was closer to me and seemed to be more of the leader. For some reason, that image sticks in my head.

"Unfortunately it is possible that I am mixing this scene up in my head with other events, but it is fairly clear in my head so I am at least reasonably confident in it. If my recollection is correct, it is entirely possible (very likely, in fact) that these were some of the students who had worked on the survey (I do have some vague recollection that they had coordinated something and that others may have been involved, but this recollection is so fuzzy that even though it would be definite corroborating evidence I don't want to make a big deal out of it). Unfortunately that is all I can really remember on that one right now, sorry I can't be more specific."


I don't think I need to comment on this.

You asked about the weighted percentage. I calculate the answer here:
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lott98update3.html#2003-04-25

I explain how to calculate the weighted percentage, give the details of the calculation and have a spreadsheet of the calculations that you can download. I couldn't include Lott's raw data -- he requires you to get that directly from his website.


Tim Lambert - 6/17/2003

The statements from Whitley and others are available at
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lottreply10.html

The relevant portion of Whitley's statement is:

"Unfortunately, I can't directly corroborate the survey, but I do have one memory which may be related. I remember stopping by John's office one time I think during my first year and there were some undergraduates in the office. John was finishing up with them and my recollection is that he introduced me to them and then they left. I think he introduced their names (which I don't remember) and said that they had recently worked for him (although I don't remember if he said on what), they then left and I met with John to talk about working as an RA for him. I am pretty sure they were undergraduates because I seem to recall them being impressed when I said I was an econ graduate student (anything that inflates your ego during the first year of graduate school at the University of Chicago is a big deal at the time).

"In that situation, what I really remember most is the scene and not the words. I don't know when exactly it was, but I can remember the room. It was in John's old office, when he was in the middle of the back wall of the Chicago Law School library (before he moved over near the stairwell to the smaller office). I can remember him sitting at his desk and the students (I am pretty sure there were two students, but not 100% positive) were standing between me at the door and John at his desk against the far wall. I think one was taller than me (I am 5'6") and had lighter hair while the other was shorter and had darker hair (the heights I am pretty sure of, the hair color I am less sure of). The taller one was closer to me and seemed to be more of the leader. For some reason, that image sticks in my head.

"Unfortunately it is possible that I am mixing this scene up in my head with other events, but it is fairly clear in my head so I am at least reasonably confident in it. If my recollection is correct, it is entirely possible (very likely, in fact) that these were some of the students who had worked on the survey (I do have some vague recollection that they had coordinated something and that others may have been involved, but this recollection is so fuzzy that even though it would be definite corroborating evidence I don't want to make a big deal out of it). Unfortunately that is all I can really remember on that one right now, sorry I can't be more specific."


I don't think I need to comment on this.

You asked about the weighted percentage. I calculate the answer here:
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lott98update3.html#2003-04-25

I explain how to calculate the weighted percentage, give the details of the calculation and have a spreadsheet of the calculations that you can download. I couldn't include Lott's raw data -- he requires you to get that directly from his website.


Tim Lambert - 6/17/2003

The statements from Whitley and others are available at
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lottreply10.html

The relevant portion of Whitley's statement is:

"Unfortunately, I can't directly corroborate the survey, but I do have one memory which may be related. I remember stopping by John's office one time I think during my first year and there were some undergraduates in the office. John was finishing up with them and my recollection is that he introduced me to them and then they left. I think he introduced their names (which I don't remember) and said that they had recently worked for him (although I don't remember if he said on what), they then left and I met with John to talk about working as an RA for him. I am pretty sure they were undergraduates because I seem to recall them being impressed when I said I was an econ graduate student (anything that inflates your ego during the first year of graduate school at the University of Chicago is a big deal at the time).

"In that situation, what I really remember most is the scene and not the words. I don't know when exactly it was, but I can remember the room. It was in John's old office, when he was in the middle of the back wall of the Chicago Law School library (before he moved over near the stairwell to the smaller office). I can remember him sitting at his desk and the students (I am pretty sure there were two students, but not 100% positive) were standing between me at the door and John at his desk against the far wall. I think one was taller than me (I am 5'6") and had lighter hair while the other was shorter and had darker hair (the heights I am pretty sure of, the hair color I am less sure of). The taller one was closer to me and seemed to be more of the leader. For some reason, that image sticks in my head.

"Unfortunately it is possible that I am mixing this scene up in my head with other events, but it is fairly clear in my head so I am at least reasonably confident in it. If my recollection is correct, it is entirely possible (very likely, in fact) that these were some of the students who had worked on the survey (I do have some vague recollection that they had coordinated something and that others may have been involved, but this recollection is so fuzzy that even though it would be definite corroborating evidence I don't want to make a big deal out of it). Unfortunately that is all I can really remember on that one right now, sorry I can't be more specific."


I don't think I need to comment on this.

You asked about the weighted percentage. I calculate the answer here:
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lott98update3.html#2003-04-25

I explain how to calculate the weighted percentage, give the details of the calculation and have a spreadsheet of the calculations that you can download. I couldn't include Lott's raw data -- he requires you to get that directly from his website.


Samuel Browning - 6/17/2003

Hi Chuck:

Welcome to the board and funny piece. I hadn't realized that Bellesiles even screwed up his discussion of Little Big Horn. BTW I'm from Connecticut and if you tell me where the New Haven Grey microfilm is, I'll check it for you. Best regards.

Samuel Browning


Samuel Browning - 6/17/2003

Hi Tim:

Fair enough, the three months have indeed run. My comments on whether Lott made up his 1997 survey will depend on an affidavit posted on lott's website at http://www.johnlott.org/files/GenDisc97_02surveys.html Here Lott has "a statement by John Whitney, who at the time was a graduate student at the University of Chicago and is now at Adalaide University in Australia, saying that he met the students that conducted the survey."

I tried to access it and confirmed once again that I am a computer idiot since I am seemingly unable to teach myself how to uncompress a zip download :( But if you reproduce the entire text of the Whitley affidavit, here, or on your website, as verses just a summary, I will be willing to stick my neck out on this issue. Theoretically Whitley's statement might be credible and it is the only statement that Lott offers (other than that David Gross) which discusses observation of his survey as verses confirmation that his hard drive got wiped out. I agree that David Gross is a weak reed for Lott to rest his defense on, but I don't remember anyone on this site depending on Gross's word to try to bail Lott out three months ago. (I certainly didn't).

Out of curosity, what percentages do the 6 or 7 defensive gun uses actually amount to, in his 2002 survey. Please understand that most of us don't know how to calculate a weighted number. :)


Josh Greenland - 6/16/2003

"As I pointed out in detail, there are a lot of factors that are correlated with race, but not necessarily tied to race, that would explain the much higher murder rates within black and Hispanic populations of the U.S. Most of those factors, by the way, are matters that liberals would, I hope, agree should be fixed."

I would think that the #1 factor is poverty. I've read that violent crime rates for middle-class black people are about the same as for middle-class white people. My impression is that poor, overwhelming white communities also tend to have high violent crime rates.


Don Williams - 6/16/2003

See http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/race.htm .


Don Williams - 6/16/2003

a kitchen knife stuck in them. Anyone remember John Wayne Bobbit?
(no pun intended).


Don Williams - 6/16/2003

1) I think that the real measure of violence in a community is homicides PER CAPITA. I grew up in the southern Appalachian mountains --I have the impression that some Appalachian counties have high per capita homicide rates (or at least had such rates in the past)but the total number of homicides is low compared to urban areas because of a much lower population density.
2) Those counties also have boom and bust coal economies --largely bust in the past two decades. It might be interesting to check homicide rates in those areas in periods of past prosperity vice
periods of deep poverty. The partial correlation of homicides with the 20-30 year old age group is known, as is a linkage to heavy drug use. (The area is currently having a non-trivial problem with Oxycontin abuse --Oxycontin being an addictive opiate used for pain relief for cancer patients.)


Ralph E. Luker - 6/16/2003

Clayton, don't you imagine that part of the reason for the focus is that some of us think that it is much more "doable" to control the widespread proliferation of guns than it is to repair families. It is, I think, indisputable that a family dispute with a gun at hand is more likely to yield wounds or death than a family dispute where a gun is not at hand.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/16/2003

"I'd be real careful how you explain matters referenced in this blurb. One would think that you believe that African American and Hispanics are garbage; gun violence is only the flies they attract; and, if one is smart enough to live where African Americans and Hispanics are few, you could have all the maggots you wanted without the garbage and the flies."

It is a matter of fact that murder rates within black and Hispanic communities in the U.S. are much higher than in the white, non-Hispanic population. Most murder is within race, typically about 90% of murder victims are the same race as their killers. As I pointed out in detail, there are a lot of factors that are correlated with race, but not necessarily tied to race, that would explain the much higher murder rates within black and Hispanic populations of the U.S. Most of those factors, by the way, are matters that liberals would, I hope, agree should be fixed.

As for your analogy about garbage, maggots and flies: there are parts of America where guns are widespread, and yet there isn't a big murder problem. That suggests that guns either aren't the cause, or they are, at worst, a minor contributing factor. Yet it seems as though you and many other academics are more focused on the item that is clearly NOT a primary causal factor, rather than the items that should be part of any liberal's concerns (broken families, crummy housing) and ARE likely to be a causal factor in the violence.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/16/2003

Clayton, I have never pretended that I did not favor gun control. You got a problem with that?
I'd be real careful how you explain matters referenced in this blurb. One would think that you believe that African American and Hispanics are garbage; gun violence is only the flies they attract; and, if one is smart enough to live where African Americans and Hispanics are few, you could have all the maggots you wanted without the garbage and the flies.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/16/2003

Well, at least Dr. Luker is now admitting that it isn't an abstract concern about Dr. Bellesiles, or about history, but that he thinks we have a gun problem in the U.S.

We don't have a gun problem. We have a violence problem. Our murder rates with knives, blunt objects, hands, and feet, far exceed those of any Western European nation. Our murder rates of children under five years of age who are beaten to death are a profound embarrassment. This isn't about guns. It's about violence.

The problem of murder in America is concentrated in a relatively small number of communities, overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. The problem is complex: the large numbers of boys growing up without fathers is certainly a factor; the housing density is certainly a factor; the historic failure of the criminal justice systems in ghettos to protect people from criminals has created a perception that if you want to be safe, you need to be perceived as dangerous; and restrictive gun control laws in most of those communities have tended to disarm the victims more than the predators.

On the other hand, there are parts of America that have extraordinarily high levels of gun ownership--and murder rates that compare well to Britain. I live in Boise, Idaho. Our murder rate for the years 1999-2001 is about 0.9/100,000--about 80% that of England & Wales, and about 45% of that of Scotland. Why? The cultural values of our population encourage the notion that violence is not okay. Most kids are growing up in reasonably middle class values families. We have a reasonably effective criminal justice system, and this encourages the belief that you don't need to solve every violence problem yourself. Widespread carrying of handguns for self-defense also plays a small part in keeping murder rates low; our robbery rates are trivial compared to places like San Francisco.

Dr. Luker: the murder problem in America is no more caused by guns than flies cause garbage.


Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2003

The answer to that question is simply Justice Brennan's comment about the Supreme Court -- he'd hold up his open hand and declare, with a smile, that it only takes 5 votes to make law. of course, this is the same guy who later complained, when in the minority, that the majority had no respect for precedents.
It's easier to get five activists on the highest court than it is to pass an amendment.


johnhorst - 6/16/2003

Mr. Luker:
Why then don't you and your comrades work to repeal the 2nd amendment, rather than recreate history to dilute its meaning? If it is such a bad amendment, and open to interpretation, rally the citizenry and get rid of it.


John G. Fought - 6/16/2003

Some time ago I explained to you why I don't pay attention to surveys, regardless of their findings. You never responded to that part of my message, which pointed out that an unkowable but possibly very high percentage of people do not often reveal the truth of their beliefs or experience to a stranger on a telephone, and are still less likely to do so when the answer may reveal legal vulnerability. I see that you are still banging on this old pot, however. It's very much like your insistence that if enough changes are made in the statistical analyses that Lott et al. did for his books, the results will be different. I expect to hear from you soon showing that whenever 'shall carry' laws are enacted, the rate of gun violence immediately rises sharply and continues to rise until everyone in the jurisdiction is dead or wounded, more or less as your preferred authorities would like us to think. If I were you, I'd get right on that, before Kellerman publishes it. I don't know much statistics, but I know quite a few statisticians, and though I admire them, I notice that they are well aware of the contingency of results on assumptions. Are you? What would it take to convince you?


Tim Lambert - 6/16/2003

Over three months ago Samuel Browning wrote:
"I am in reluctant agreement with Mr Lambert that the question of whether Lott actually conducted the 1997 survey is still open, but I am not seeking blood. Lott's notice was published by an alumni publication in February. I think in another three full months if a participating student or professor who has contemporanous knowledge of this study does not come forward, we can conclude the study did not take place."

Since then, the only further information that has come to light has not been helpful for Lott. David Gross, whose statement that he had been surveyed by Lott originally persuaded me that Lott had done some sort of survey, has been revealed as one of the prime movers behind Minnesota's just-passed concealed carry law. It is just too much of a coincidence to have someone with such a stake in Lott's credibility just happened to have been surveyed.

Lott's claim to have "replicated" the survey has fallen apart. He claims that the 2002 survey found 95% brandishing, but his data shows he had seven defensive users, with six brandishing. 6/7 is not 95%. If you follow the weighting procedure he claims to have used, you don't get 95% either. Now that he has given more details about the weighting, we also know that it is impossible for the procedure he describes to yield a 98% brandishing number from his 1997 survey.

It remains possible that Lott did some sort of pilot survey in 1997, but we can conclude that he did not do a national survey of 2,424 people that yielded a 98% brandishing number.


Josh Greenland - 6/16/2003

"Get a grip. Where is _your_ compassion, not for some abstract group fifty years from now, but for thousands of Americans who are killed and wounded annually in the most over-armed nation in the history of the world."

Ralph, I figured that you were upset at the analogy between holocaust denying literature and Arming America because you thought gun owners didn't deserve to think of themselves as innocent victims like the European Jews. I hadn't even suspected that the analogy bugged you so much because you see American gun owners as closer to being the Nazis.


Don Williams - 6/15/2003

The US Army's Center of Military History puts out a reference book
titled "American Military History". It's account of George Washington's recommendation is consistent with yours. In addition, it notes that Washington made the observation that priority should be given to building a Navy, given our geographical position and the ability of the militia to defend the mainland. See
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/AMH/AMH-05.htm .

You may recall that I cited products from the Army's independent history centers repeatedly last year in my critique of Bellesiles and his allies.

Oddly enough, I noticed an attempt about two months ago to break up the Army's Center of Military History and "privatize" it's research by contracting it's work out to the universities. I notified the NRA and others of this attempt. I do not know if my warning had any effect but the latest that I've heard is that the Center will continue to exist and be funded.


Don Williams - 6/15/2003

--they do not realize their ignorance, and they have an aversion to correcting their ignorance.

Glaring flaws that are obvious and laughable to one who has shot firearms are easily overlooked by many academicians. I believe Herman Kahn once referred to the peculiar form of ignorance seen in universities as "educated incapacity".

Over on Mr Luker's blog, I made the point that convincing a student to spend $180,000 and seven years of their life acquiring a worthless certificate (PhD) is an education of a sort, but that it would be more efficient to have the students read "The Big Con" by David Maurer or "The Confidence Man" by Herman Melville.


Chuck Jackson - 6/15/2003

Upon seeing that people are still discussing this topic, I thought that I would point out a short essay that I wrote regarding Arming America---offering an alternate view of that book.

See http://www.jacksons.net/AAHoax.pdf

Chuck Jackson


Don Williams - 6/14/2003

Except that they would die from knives, clubs, claw hammers,etc.

A gun is just a tool. Murders occur not because a particular tool is available but as a social pathology. Well, most of the time -- some people need killing.

In my bland suburbia, I do not fear my neighbors possessing firearms. They support the rule of law. They have been reared by parents who have taught them moral precepts. They actually know who their parents are.

More to the point, they have something to lose if they commit violence -- a home, savings, job.

Finally, they insist that the local government provide adequate police protection -- and they will throw that government out of office if it does not.

It seems to me that most murders occur in urban areas run by Democratic mayors. Many appear drug-related --people disputing turf over the only viable means of income. If the people in those areas were given decent jobs -- the chance to acquire homes and savings -- then much violence would abate. If the mayors took a small portion of the tax money wasted on patronage (I know-- stop laughing) and devoted it to neighborhood policing, then people in those neighborhoods could live without fear. I think the police should be recruited from the neighborhoods where they police so that residents will talk with them and report crime. It is absurd to argue that human societies cannot maintain peace among their members -- if they have the will to do so.

There's only one political party that cares whether poor people live or die. And that party has lost election after election because members of that party have let gun control morons like Chuck Schumer pull the party over a cliff. It's beyond belief that the Democratic leadership continually forces blue collar workers to vote Republican on order to preserve their freedom.

The NRA does not object to law enforcement. It objects to repeated and deceitful attempts to create a gun registry -- as a prelude to confiscation -- being done under the guise of law enforcement.

I surprised that you are a historian but learn nothing from history. Yes, we aa a nation have guns. We are also one of the few nations in 7000 years of human history to have a government which largely respects human rights. In most nations, today and throughout history, we have seen the vast majority of mankind kept in slavery by small minorities using brutal methods. Before you speak of the thousands of deaths in the US, recall the millions killed throughout the world by legal governments: Nazi Germany, the deliberate starvation of millions in the Ukranine by Stalin, the thousands who disappeared in Argentina about two decades ago.

Recall that the other places with freedom in the world, Western Europe and Japan, have freedom because we put it there. Even wealthy Britain let 100,000 Irish starve during the Potatoe famine.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/14/2003

John, I'm not sure most people who read these lines are particularly interested in how and why I became a historian, but you ask: I grew up in suburban Louisville, suffering from what a teacher described as "Buechelites," a profound case of lacking ambition. But admission to Duke and majoring in history plunged me into a big, exciting, and intimidating world of books and ideas. (Never, by the way, has there been a gun in the house of my parents, me, or my syblings) Oddly, I was not a strong student until I got involved in the civil rights movement and it became clear that the books and ideas vitally engaged current affairs. Briefly, I was run out of the South and studied church history and historical theology at Drew University in NJ. I returned to NC with a wife to go to graduate school in history and prepare for a life of teaching. Obviously, I've had my share of challenging established orders of things (see my Thoughts on Collegiality and Welcome to my World on my blog of the latter name). Most of what I've published has been about issues which I've been interested in since I was a teenager: religion and race. By instinct, I'd be pro-gun control and pro-abortion rights. Debate on both issues tends to nuance my instincts. I have little interest in writing about either issue, but challenging established orders cut short my teaching career and left me with nothing but my writing. I tend not to be impressed by arguments by people I don't agree with that I must: a) take their position in the debate; or b) assume positions on my side of the issue with which I don't agree.


John G. Fought - 6/14/2003

I will give you an answer that's more detailed than you want. In return, if you don't mind, I'd be interested to find out how and why you became a historian. I had a good chance to do so myself as a sophomore, and I sometimes still regret not having done it. The short answer to your question is that my understanding of the current 2d Amendment situation was rudimentary and mostly wrong, and my interest in it was close to zero until after I got involved with the Bellesiles affair. I took my rights for granted. I have owned one or more guns since I was 12, and I've enjoyed shooting since before that. I hunted a few times as a boy, and I still regret having done it. I joined the NRA in the early 60s for a personal reason: I wanted a Springfield M1903 rifle. I cancelled my membership in 1968 over their official reaction to the RFK assassination. I have never wanted anything to do with them since, though I am very concerned with the preservation of the Bill of Rights, all of it. I have always voted for Democrats, blue collar ones when I could find them. As I've grown older, I've grown more radical (and more cynical), not more conservative. My interest in history began in boyhood, and has always focused on military history, and on the history of particular conflicts involving the USA, with the history of technology (including but not limited to military technology) as a strong second. I began as a child of WWII (born 1938), and worked outward and backward in time in my readings as I grew older, but my main focus has long been on the period from the Mexican War to WWI. Any thoughts of publication were vague and focused on the Civil War. For about 15 years I worked (and published) also on the history of linguistics, because of disaffection with the direction the field took while I was still a graduate student. Until I moved to California in 1995 and began to experience the practical consequences of extreme gun control laws, I was not interested in or aware of current political struggles over these issues, and even then, I wasn't really involved. My interest in Bellesiles' work was aroused when I picked up the book in Vroman's in Pasadena and opened it to a page strewn with obvious falsehoods and technical errors about specific types of weapons and tactics. I found the smugly snide writing obnoxious as well, so I bought the book to see how bad the rest of it was. I had never posted to a website before I began reading HNN. I did have some early experience in swimming futilely against the tide of the Zeitgeist, dating back to the 70's when I began publishing articles arguing against Chomsky's theoretical stance, especially in phonology, where the issues could be posed most clearly. While I never received any positive response to those papers, I noticed over time that the worst elements of their position gradually fell away, without any admission of error, of course. It wasn't because of me, but because the position was untenable. But officially, nobody had been wrong; they were just even more right later. That is what I expected from the Bellesiles affair, and to some extent that is what has happened. But in all, I think some minds have changed, and in some other cases, some fingers have been burned. I'm glad to have played a part in this. I have no more patience or compassion now than I did earlier for scholars who build their personal success on deception or incompetence or just staying fashionable. And let's pause to note that Bellesiles is the only one of the bunch to have been tagged so far. That's not to say he's the worst. So, over to you, Ralph.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/14/2003

John, Tell me that your interest in the Bellesiles case had nothing to do with your interest in the protection of the right of individuals to own and use guns. Just an abstract interest in history, right?


John G. Fought - 6/14/2003

And all this time, I thought it was about history. I got that impression from you, didn't I? But no, it's been about gun control all along, as a way of saving all those lives, or maybe just one. How disappointing.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/14/2003

Get a grip. Where is _your_ compassion, not for some abstract group fifty years from now, but for thousands of Americans who are killed and wounded annually in the most over-armed nation in the history of the world.


Don Williams - 6/13/2003

Recall that if Timothy Emerson loses his appeal because of the uncorrected Bellesilesean history in the Chicago Kent articles, Mr Emerson will not face an academic slap on the wrist -- he will face several years in prison and loss of civil rights as a convicted felon.

The same fate will await anyone else who insists on their Second Amendment rights if false history and sophistry wins the days.

And if, 50 years from now, some American group faces the fate of the Jews at Dachau then that will be on historians hands as well -- because they remained silent.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/13/2003

Sorry, Josh. I'm not going to go through this line by line, but suffice it to say that I've done more than my own share of "negative research" as a professional historian. That being so, any critique of Bellesiles's critics is, by implication, a critique of my own work as well.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/13/2003

Touche, John. You are consistent, at least, in all lack of human compassion.


John G. Fought - 6/13/2003

Let us not forget, as Mr. Luker experiences phantom pain from his amputated fellow scholar, that the original body of negative research serving political ends that provoked all this posting was done by Bellesiles, not by his critics. In both the 1996 paper and in AA, the political motivation is explicit and the strategy is to discredit the opposing view using a wide range of propaganda techniques. What is unusual is not that an ambitious scholar would try to turn a political issue into cash and professional credit by taking the side most popular with his colleagues: that happens all the time. What's unusual here is that he would be so inept in this effort as to grossly misrepresent many sources that can easily be checked, and that the issue matters to enough outsiders so that a number of us did check them. It's on record after all that AA was received with honors by the academy. They didn't do the checking because they wanted to believe what he wrote.
I don't care if he's not ALL bad. He's bad enough for me. AA is by far the worst piece of published professional historical research I've ever read. Does anyone out there have a worse candidate for that honor to put forward? Perhaps we could start a book club.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/13/2003

I could see why historians whose specialty was outside the colonial or early Republic periods might have read _Arming America_ and thought, "Wow! What an insightful and impressive piece of scholarship." But how did anyone else get taken? My respect for Rakove collapsed after realizing that he had "improved every page" of _Arming America_--and had it still turn out to be a pack of obvious lies.

The letter I wrote to the Journal of American History after Bellesiles's 1996 paper was published gave several examples of primary sources that suggested that gun ownership and hunting were common in early America. What a coincidence that these sources ended up in Bellesiles's list of "eighty travel accounts" that claimed that guns and violence were NOT common in early America. It's very clear that Bellesiles just cynically added them to his list, without bothering to read them, and relying on the fact that essentially no professional historian was going to embarrass Bellesiles by asking to explain his dishonesty.


Richard Henry Morgan - 6/13/2003

Thanks, Don, for the link to the H-Net discussions. It provided, as usual, the unintended hilarity so commonly associated with the site. There was Rakove admitting that he read Arming America for Second Amendment implications (no fooling? knock me over with a feather), along with his defense that he read Bellesiles' manuscript as much for style as for content (as a defense for all the bad content? doesn't that negatively reflect on his ability to read for style?). Then there was Bernstein's late admission that Bellesiles' problems extended beyond the math (some might remember the double-barrelled shotgun blast I got for pointing out the "problem" -- to be gentle on this occasion -- of defending Bellesiles on the basis of conceding math problems alone). Then there was Bernstein's assertion that judges don't just lap up historians' arguments. I thought I'd send him a copy of Reinhardt's decision, where he laps up the deliberately distorted quote from John Adams -- but I don't think it would change his mind.

As for learning something from Bellesiles, or even a bad book in general, the point is often repeated. True, we often learn from bad books, and from confronting bad books. Until I had read Bellesiles, I had not realized that Madison and Congress had authorized (mandated?) the states to arm the militia at the outset of the War of 1812 (assuming that Bellesiles' point is true). I continue to wonder how Congress can authorize something that some consider (based on their reading of the Second Amendment) a right, and if arming the militia is a power of the national government (as opposed to providing for arming), what federal power is invoked in mandating state arming of the militia?

Not to draw parallels, or analogies, but rather to bring out the logic of a reductio ad absurdum, would people defend the publishing of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion because of the discussions it provoked? Tuning back from that extreme, at what point do the manifest errors of a work swamp the silver lining of provoked discussion (to combine clanking metaphors)?

I've just now finished, after 37 iterations, a short piece on Wills. Here's an appetizer, demonstrating the devotion to "forensic history" -- well, even that would be unfair to forensic historians. On page 72 of "To Keep and Bear Arms" (http://www.potomac-inc.org/garwills.html) Wills offers that that the Knox Plan was "for a small but well-trained militia". The Knox Plan was actually formed in reaction against the notion of a select or volunteer militia (the notion that Wills identifies as the historical militia, and thus the militia of Article I and the Second Amendment). The Knox Plan was formed on the principle that "all men, of the military age, should be armed, enrolled and held responsible for different degrees of military service." (http://www.potomac-inc.org/washknox.html). How exactly one distills "small but well-trained militia" from "all men" is beyond my modest powers, but then I don't have a PhD from Yale, nor a chair in polymathy at the New York Review of Books.


Josh Greenland - 6/13/2003

"Josh, If the critics of _Arming America_ do not readily admit that their work has been limited to publicizing the errors in the book, then _they_ would simply be lying."

I thought James Lindgren first tried to communicate privately with Bellesiles, in order to give him a chance to explain or correct his work, before he went public with his criticism. Are you sure you want to make this blanket statement about ALL critics of Arming America?

I think you're demeaning those critics who've researched Bellesiles' claims. You say that _all_ they've done is _publicize_ MB's errors. Why don't you ask Don or Clayton how much time they spent researching Bellesiles' claims, versus the amount of time they've spent publicizing the errors they've found?

"It is called "negative research" -- isn't that what it is called when one does that on a potential opponent in politics?"

I don't know if that's what it's called, but I'd say you're implying that critics of AA are doing "negative research" on it to discredit it for political reasons. If that's what you're implying, the number of gun control supporters who've authoritatively discredited parts of AA suggests strongly that your implication isn't true.

"It is a legitimate enterprise, but it should not be mistaken for a disinterested or even-handed search for truth."

I don't why the motivation of the researcher should matter. Sure, one is bound to trust a person who has no partisan motivations, but it's been noted that "disinterested," "even-handed" researchers also tend to be
unmotivated researchers. I thought we were supposed to pay attention to the argument, and not to the person making it.

"Finding something that is accurate or true is not noted because it isn't grist for the mill."

Ralph, isn't there an assumption that academic historians will tell the truth? So why should a truthful statement be notable in a search for untruthful ones?

"There is a lot of grist in _AA_. No one bothered to keep a tally of non-findings of grist. You demand that I do that."

No, but I think you expect critics of AA to list things that aren't untrue in AA. Under the academic rules of engagement, they are expected to report all things that might mitigate, contradict or invalidate their criticisms. Isn't this enough?

Those who've critically researched Arming America have done a tougher job with more positive implications than you give them credit for. In the political world, all you have to do to cripple or destroy someone is dig up one hidden conviction or one college degree that the candidate didn't really get. In the legal world, cousin to the political one, one just needs to establish that a person lied once about something significant. Maybe one of the attorneys could help me here, but I understand there's a legal presumption that if a person lies about something, s/he is likely to lie about something else.

In the academic world, there's evidently a resistance to the presumption that an academic might be lying in his/her work. Proving that a person is lying, is incompetent, or for other reason is persistently skewing results, requires that multiple results be discredited, not just one. Critics of Arming America had to go through many of Bellesiles' claims and demonstrate that there was a pattern of incorrect results. In doing this, they had to understand a given claim by Bellesiles, had to research that claim to discover the truth, and had to understand the context around the claimed historical event well enough to establishment that he wasn't literally wrong but basically right. They had to clearly understand the truth, which might contain complexities or mitigating factors, before they could nail MB on a falsehood. And they had to do this repeatedly. And in publicly making their case for his pattern of error, they've had to describe the gun-owning and using milieu of America from colonial times to the late 19th century to show where Bellesiles' claims deviated from historical reality.

They've also published that truth, which has been helpful to our understanding of the times Bellesiles claims to have studied.

It's a big job, with many positive implications, and I think you're being unfair to AA's critics when you relate them to negative political researchers.


Josh Greenland - 6/13/2003

"No one bothered to keep a tally of non-findings of grist. You demand that I do that. I keep telling you that I have no expertise in the field and will not be told that I _must_ give you a list of things in the book that are true or accurate simply because you want to argue ad infinitum about it. Go look for yourself."

Ralph, I was requesting that you expand on your own statement that were enough elements of truth in AA that it could not legitimately called all lies, or that you confirm your later, contradicting statement that there hasn't been enough study of AA to be able to say that it's all lies. You've done the latter in the post to which I'm replying, and that's all I was seeking with those requests.


Josh Greenland - 6/13/2003

Mirror image can mean a perfect reproduction, or a complete reversal, depending on context. I thought Clayton's meaning was clear based on context, but that's just my perception.


Josh Greenland - 6/13/2003

I screwed up the title in my previous post. There was no cute, cryptic humor intended.


I have too - 6/13/2003

"Benny" clearly isn't the garden variety troll that he's been portraying. His writing ability fluxuates, and it has been quite good lately. There has been some recent change in the person behind the pen name, due either to a turn in our conversation or some external circumstance. And lately his emotional reactions have been wrong for the character he is trying to portray. I had been skeptical when some of you claimed that he might be Bellesiles. Now I think he may be Bellesiles or some other person whose real name we'd recognize.


Don Williams - 6/13/2003

It wasn't until your statement just now -- "I have expended no small effort to try to bring fresh, substantive and germane material to light here" -- that I finally got the joke.

I finally realize that your past comments have not been serious -- rather they were intended as irony, sarcasm, and acidic satire.
Viewed in that light they are hilariously funny -- as is your statement above.


Benny Smith - 6/13/2003



Ironic that you should accuse Mr. Greenland of cheap shot artistry, Mr Luker. I felt similarly wounded myself when you described my contributions here as being less than "fruitful." I have expended no small effort to try to bring fresh, substantive and germane material to light here. On the other hand, Professor Bellesiles' critics offer little beyond what can be found on the gun lobby websites that proliferate on the internet. Perhaps it is their fun-poking and nit-picking that you find so fruitful. If so, that is their world and you're welcome to it. It just surprises me that a serious academic would devote so much time and effort pontificating over the meaning of "mirror image."


Ralph E. Luker - 6/13/2003

Jon Weiner did. I don't think this conversation is going anywhere, Don.


Don Williams - 6/13/2003

how many of the 2500+ historians at OAH's meeting in Nashville bothered to walk down the hall to Mr Weiner's room in order to speak on Bellesiles' behalf?

Which is worse -- to have one's work honestly critiqued or to have it ignored? To be bluntly but honestly criticized with a right to reply or to be silently ostracized/shunned?

On page 583 of Arming America, Bellesiles states :"Jack Rakove kindly went through the second draft with a keen eye and improved every page he read." If Bellesiles had instead given the draft to Clayton Cramer or myself, would he have been better off or worst off?

Note that I do not claim any great skills or knowledge of history. Certainly I have neither Cramer's education nor his skills. It is not that I set myself high but that Rakove's standard, in my opinion, is so low. Certainly if I ever reviewed someone's draft, I would NOT, three years later, tell a national newspaper that
"It's clear now that his scholarship is less than
acceptable,"


Ralph E. Luker - 6/12/2003

Let me see if I have this right: Don Williams and Clayton Cramer have given Michael Bellesiles his best defence and "professional historians" have let him down. Is that what you are saying, Don? Was that what Clayton meant by "mirror image"?


Don Williams - 6/12/2003

Re your statement "Josh, If the critics of _Arming America_ do not readily admit that their work has been limited to publicizing the errors in the book, then _they_ would simply be lying.", you are wrong. Some examples:

1) I explained in a January 24 post on H-OIEAHC (and to you) how Bellesiles might have seen low gun ownership rates in probate records for the 1776-1790 timeframe in coastal areas occupied by the British -- see http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lx&list=h-oieahc&user=&pw=&month=0301

Look at the response of Peter Hoffer on January 25 -- Mr Hoffer was one of the historians who joined Bellesiles in signing the Yassky Brief.

2) I have argued the Bellesiles' depiction of the militia at the Battles of Cowpens and New Orleans was false and misleading -- but I acknowledged that the militia performed badly on occasion --most notably at Camden SC. (Although I think performance in set piece battles is an immature way of judging military effects in the Revolutionary War -- the economic damage to Britain from the militias and (private sector) privateers was enormous and ,in my opinion, one reason why Dutch bankers cut off King George's line of credit circa 1781(?) )

Note that Clayton Cramer has repeatedly stated a less favorable view of the militias than my own and one more supportive of Bellesiles -- although he has noted some of the more blatant exaggerations of Bellesiles in this area.

I would argue that just those two examples provided a greater defense of Bellesiles than the embarrassed silence maintained by you and other professional historians. Look at the Jack Rakove quote I supplied at the beginning of the January 24 post I referenced above.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/12/2003

Clayton, This is helpful. It is good reason that suggestions that _AA_ be moved to the fiction shelves won't do and good reason why "lies, lies, lies" won't quite do in dismissing _AA_. If one reads _only_ the results of negative research on it, it creates an unbalanced perspective on it.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/12/2003

I'm curious, Dr. Luker: What fraction of a history book needs to be accurate to be worth reading? If you know that a history book is 40% wrong, how much confidence do you have that the other 60% is right? I've seen a bit of neo-Nazi revisionist stuff over the years, and it often has significant bits of accurate history in it--along with stuff that I know is deceptive or wrong, and stuff that I really don't if it's accurate or not. Is it worth reading?

One of the reasons that I don't read historical fiction is because a book that is 40% accurate, 30% invented, and 30% wrong, starts to infiltrate my thinking a bit too much. It's too easy to confuse something that you read in a real history book, from something that you read in a work of historical fiction. When books marketed as history (such as _Arming America_) turn out to be more like historical fantasy (historical fiction has to have a bit more connection to the real world), that is a worrisome matter.

I will tell you that when I was checking footnotes in _Arming America_, I found very few that were accurate. I was, admittedly, checking the claims that smelled funny--but it still took many hours to find one that wasn't an altered quote, quoted out of context, or misleadingly used.

Of the big picture claims of _Arming America_, I have found three statements that are accurate:

1. Gun ownership was not universal (though it was much closer to it than Bellesiles admits).

2. Quite a bit of meat eaten by colonists was acquired by trading with the Indians.

3. Militias were often not very competent or willing to do their job (although this is hardly news to historians).

Even thoroughly documented, this is a job of about 100 pages--and the rest of Bellesiles's big claims (guns owned by a small minority of white men, no civilian market for handguns before 1848, strict regulation of gun ownership to keep guns locked up in the colonial period, few Americans hunted before 1840, almost no violence before 1840, almost no gunsmiths before 1840, no manufacturing capacity before the Revolution) turn out to be not just unproven, but clearly and unambiguously wrong.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/12/2003

"Clayton, Your response is interesting, but I am not inclined to buy into analogies between North American slavery and the holocaust."

Neither am I, but you would agree that such a book, if it were published and widely accepted by historians, would almost certainly be an example of falsifying the past for a nefarious current political goal?


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/12/2003

Mirror image has two different connotations; one is perfect image; the other is an image that is exactly backward of the original.


johnhorst - 6/12/2003

enantiomorph

"An enantiomorph (pronounced en-ANT-i-o-morf) is a mirror image of something, an opposite reflection. The term, derived from the Greek enantios or "opposite," is used in a number of contexts, including architecture, molecular physics, and political theory. It is reported to also be used in computer system design."

This might shed some light on Mr. Cramer's use of the term, and Mr. Luker's dislike for its use in describing historically related documents. (I have way too much time on my hands...)


johnhorst - 6/12/2003

See, I said you were tenacious, or is that the mirror image of tenacious?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/12/2003

Sorry, John. Mirror image means a perfect reflection of ...


johnhorst - 6/12/2003

Dear Ralph:
You and poor Benny are the only ones who make this site so fun to visit. I give you credit for your tenacity, but I have to tell you, I knew exactly what Mr. Cramer was eluding to regarding the mirror image. I don't know anyone who relates mirror image to the idea that something is identical, but rather opposite.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/12/2003

Josh, If the critics of _Arming America_ do not readily admit that their work has been limited to publicizing the errors in the book, then _they_ would simply be lying. It hardly needs saying. It is called "negative research" -- isn't that what it is called when one does that on a potential opponent in politics? It is a legitimate enterprise, but it should not be mistaken for a disinterested or even-handed search for truth. It is a matter of high-lighting the flaws. Finding something that is accurate or true is not noted because it isn't grist for the mill. There is a lot of grist in _AA_. No one bothered to keep a tally of non-findings of grist. You demand that I do that. I keep telling you that I have no expertise in the field and will not be told that I _must_ give you a list of things in the book that are true or accurate simply because you want to argue ad infinitum about it. Go look for yourself.


Josh Greenland - 6/12/2003

I intended no rhetorical cheap shot. Since there seems to have been a great deal of misunderstanding in this most recent discussion, perhaps you could quote me and I'll tell you what I meant. I won't guess at what you're complaining about.

And by the way, what are the things you referred to recently that save Arming America from being all lies? You never did answer that question. Or are you now saying that there hasn't been enough study of Arming America to be able to say it's all lies? And I'm wondering how much of it has to be false before you would accept that it is an intentionally false history? And do critics of AA have a higher burden of proof than critics of other alleged falsifiers of history?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/12/2003

John, You are the linguistics professor among us and, normally, I am inclined to defer to expertise. But you have a way of antagonizing me that makes it unusually difficult. I tried your experiment and find that you are correct. Now, try mine. Say to someone, anyone: "He is the mirror image of his father." I do not believe that someone, anyone, will believe that you have said that "He is the opposite of his father."


Ralph E. Luker - 6/11/2003

Josh, Most of your comments have been better than this rhetorical cheap shot.


Josh Greenland - 6/11/2003

"Josh, In ways unintended, even, _Arming America_ has stimulated discussion of the issues at stake."

Ralph, if you can't determine whether or not Bellesiles was lying in the book, how can you determine whether or not he intended to cause the fuss that he did, precisely to stimulate such discussion?

"Many historians who would not condescend to participate in a discussion such as this have read _Arming America_, know that there are substantial problems with it, and will pursue research in the field and publish it in more dignified places than this."

And one who is involved in this discussion has been planning to publish on the subject. I don't see what point you're making here.

"Moreover, "lies, lies, lies" just doesn't cut it because, as much research as has gone on into errors in the book, I suspect that no one has yet succeeded in proving that everything in the book is false."

That's a less strong statement than your previous one:

"Despite extremist claims that _Arming America_ is "lies, lies, lies," there are obviously some things to be said for it"...

Which do you mean? If you still stand by your earlier one (the one in the paragraph above), what obviously good things are there to say about Arming America?


Josh Greenland - 6/11/2003

"Clayton, Your response is interesting, but I am not inclined to buy into analogies between North American slavery and the holocaust."

Clayton isn't making an analogy between North American slavery and the holocaust. He's making an analogy between falsification of the history of North American history and falsification of the history of the holocaust, and previously made an analogy not between gun owners and Jews, but between falsification of the history of gun ownership and use in the colonies and early US, and falsification of the history of the holocaust.

Or maybe you shouldn't be so quick to judge those holocaust deniers as politically motivated liars. After all, the history of the holocaust isn't your field, right?


John G. Fought - 6/11/2003

The image in a flat mirror is REVERSED laterally. That is what I understood Clayton to mean: it's a fairly common expression. Write 'oops' on a card and go look at yourself in a mirror. Then report back and tell us what you read. Never noticed that before, huh?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/11/2003

Clayton, You've just illustrated a point that I've been trying to make to you. You get carried away with excessive or inaccurate language and, in doing so, undermine whatever legitimate point you have to make. Look at what you just said: "in many areas, Bellesiles's book is a mirror image of not just reality, but of the documents he repeatedly cites." You do not mean that because "mirror image" implies that it is an accurate reflection of something. You mean something more like "his book stands reality and the documents he repeatedly cites on their head." A "mirror image" is not the opposite of something; it is its twin.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/11/2003

Josh, In ways unintended, even, _Arming America_ has stimulated discussion of the issues at stake. Many historians who would not condescend to participate in a discussion such as this have read _Arming America_, know that there are substantial problems with it, and will pursue research in the field and publish it in more dignified places than this. Moreover, "lies, lies, lies" just doesn't cut it because, as much research as has gone on into errors in the book, I suspect that no one has yet succeeded in proving that everything in the book is false.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2003

Clayton, Your response is interesting, but I am not inclined to buy into analogies between North American slavery and the holocaust.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/10/2003

"John, If you can't see the difference between Holocaust denying and whatever Michael may have done, I'm afraid I can't help you."

If you mean that Bellesiles's goals weren't to promote racial hatred, well, sure, that's different. But the similarities between the Holocaust deniers and Bellesiles in methodology (it has the form of scholarship, without the substance) and purpose (to change modern politics by falsifying the past) are really quite similar.

Imagine if someone wrote a book on American history that denied that there were many slaves here--that claimed that the vast majority of blacks were actually free, or indentured servants. Why, I believe that almost any competent historian could use the Bellesiles methodology to construct such a book without too much trouble. You would point to examples such as Mathias da Sousa, black legislator in 1641 Maryland, the presence of all blacks in the Virginia militia in the 1630s, and give examples of wealthy free blacks from works like Alice Hanson Jones _The Wealth of a Nation Yet To Be_. You would mention the many free blacks of wealth in Charleston and New Orleans--and make false assertions based on the 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses, and hope that no one looked them up.

So, Dr. Luker, would such a book (which did for slavery what Bellesiles did for early American gun ownership) be comparable to Holocaust denial? Why or why not?


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/10/2003

You think I've been too harsh in comparing Bellesiles to a Holocaust denier? In what way? Bellesiles didn't just engage in selective reading, miss important contrary sources, or misinterpret ambiguous documents. He either falsified on a massive scale the documents that he did read, or suffers from the most incredible reading disability of any PhD in history. Arming America does not suffer from trivial problems; in many areas, Bellesiles's book is a mirror image of not just reality, but of the documents he repeatedly cites.

Like the Holocaust deniers, Bellesiles's goal was to alter the past for modern political advantage. In what way is this too strong of a comparison?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2003

John, If you can't see the difference between Holocaust denying and whatever Michael may have done, I'm afraid I can't help you. As I've explained _many_ times, I haven't engaged the substantial issues at stake in the discussion of _Arming America_ because it is out of my areas of expertise. That doesn't inhibit some people, but hold your fire. I have a piece coming out on matters I do know something about. Judge me by that, if judge you must.


Josh Greenland - 6/10/2003

"Despite extremist claims that _Arming America_ is "lies, lies, lies," there are obviously some things to be said for it"...

At the risk of sounding "extremist" (to only you, Benny and Mr. Hayhow), it isn't obvious to me that there are any good things to be said about Arming America. Could you tell me what some of those are?


John G. Fought - 6/10/2003

This form of argument just won't do, Mr. Luker. As I recall, Cramer came upon Bellesiles's work while he was doing his own research into an overlapping topic, and detoured from it to look more closely into claims he found unlikely. I seem to recall also that Lindgren's involvement came about in a somewhat similar way. I was drawn in when I opened a copy of AA in a bookstore and was shocked by what I read on the first page I looked at. I suspect that many others who volunteered to work on this had similar reasons. I was not joking in an earlier piece when I referred to them as a militia. Your public message to Cramer, besides being insultingly and most unjustifiably patronizing, is very much like praising a virus for stimulating epidemiologists. You leave the victims out of account. Just what is it about this matter that leads you to rise again and again to Bellesiles' defense? I notice that unlike Cramer, you have never confronted any of the scholarly issues here or elsewhere. Is it Bellesiles in person that you are defending, or some dim fantasy of scholarly gentility? Or what? And again, why?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2003

Clayton,
In the last 3 to 7 years, Michael has stimulated more work on the history of gun ownership and use, including your own, than anyone else. To compare him with Holocaust Deniers is the sort of excess that causes professional historians to read your own work with a critical eye. If you could contain that rhetorical overkill, you would win more readers of your work.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/9/2003

"Despite extremist claims that _Arming America_ is 'lies, lies, lies,' there are obviously some things to be said for it, but it also obviously needs to be read with a critical eye."

What is to be said for _Arming America_? About what is to be said for Holocaust denial literature of the 1980s--it forced Holocaust historians to go start taking oral histories from the survivors, and correcting minor errors (i.e., bars of soap made from Jews). There are so many things wrong with _Arming America_--and not just errors of interpretation, but massive whoppers told about what is contained in various primary sources that Bellesiles cited (and some of which he may have actually read), that to say it should be read with a "critical eye" is like saying that one should read books "with a critical eye" that deny the Holocaust.

"In a second edition, Michael would be foolish not to correct every error highlighted in the debate about the book, but public relations may oblige him to deny that such corrections materially affect the weight of his argument at all."

Except that there won't be much of the book left. His claims about colonial gun regulation are not just a little wrong; they are exactly opposite what his OWN primary sources (and many others) say about the subject.

His claims about gun scarcity based on probate records are not just wrong--they convert a situation where guns were owned by majority of free white men into a small minority of free white men.

His claims about the rarity of hunting by the colonists? It is harder to prove the converse of his claims, but it is easy to demonstrate from primary sources that his position is, at best, unproven, and the vast majority of the available materials shows that hunting by the colonists was widespread.

His claims about the rarity of guns and violence in the early Republic, based on primary sources? His primary sources directly contradict him--and often on a massive scale. One of his "eighty travel accounts" that he uses to buttress this claim has references to guns, violence, and hunting on 13% of the pages of the book. A number of his other "eighty travel accounts" have whole chapters devoted to hunting, target shooting, and guns--that somehow Bellesiles missed.

Bellesiles's claims about the militia are overdrawn; they were often unimpressive, but his portrayal of the militias as drunken incompetents who couldn't hit the broad of a barn is a cariacture of real militias, whose actions and competence varied dramatically from region to region, and from decade to decade.

Bellesiles's claims about the low levels of murder in the U.S. before Colt started marketing handguns in 1848? Utterly wrong. Randy Roth and Eric Monkonnen are busily collecting data from their work and other scholars for a union database of violent deaths and crimes in the U.S., and one of the motivations for this seems to be to correct the grossly erroneous claims that Bellesiles made.

Bellesiles's claim that there was effectively no civilian market for handguns in the U.S. before 1848? Utterly wrong. Ads from pistols appear throughout the Pennsylvania Gazette and Boston Gazette from the colonial period. There's no shortage of crimes committed with pistols by civilians during this period, and they appear frequently in probate inventories.

What, pray tell, is there left in Bellesiles's book that is worth reading "with a critical eye"? In many respects, _Arming America_ is nearly antitruth--every significant new claim that Bellesiles makes is either demonstrably wrong, or so overstated in its certainty as to be false.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/9/2003

Sam,
Thanks for this. You have summarized the various exchanges quite well. I didn't reply to Benny because I've not found that discussions with him have been fruitful for anyone. Obviously, "deeply flawed" is a qualitative judgment. I suppose it could be interpreted differently by different people. Would every word need to be mis-spelled, every fact wrong, and every logical connection in a book a _non sequitor_ for it to be "deeply flawed"? Despite extremist claims that _Arming America_ is "lies, lies, lies," there are obviously some things to be said for it, but it also obviously needs to be read with a critical eye. In a second edition, Michael would be foolish not to correct every error highlighted in the debate about the book, but public relations may oblige him to deny that such corrections materially affect the weight of his argument at all.


Don Williams - 6/8/2003

The student newspaper, The Exonian, has a list of which colleges Exeter graduates are attending in the fall. Of the 316 students, none are listed as entering Haverford. Here are the schools (219 students from 316 -- I did not list all colleges ---New York University, Skidmore,etc.):

Amherst 6 (students), Bates 3, Bryn Mawr 1, Berkeley 3, Bowdoin 3, Brown 14, Cambridge 1, Carnegie Mellon 4, Cornell 9, Chicago 5, Columbia 6, Cornell 11, Dartmouth 7, Duke 7, Georgetown 11, Harvard 10, Harvey Mudd 3, John Hopkins 3, Middlebury 6, McGill 3, Michigan 3, MIT 10, Naval Academy 2, Northwestern 4, Oxford 2, University of Pennsylvania 12, Penn State 1, Princeton 7, Rice 2, Reed 1, Stanford 5, St Andrews 3, Swarthmore 5, Tufts 8, Trinty 6, University of Virginia 5, USC 3, Wesleyan 12, Williams 4, Yale 11, US Air Force Academy 1, Vanderbilt 3, Washington 4

Note that while Harvard, Yale, Princeton,Penn,Brown, etc. have their draw, the small highly rated liberal arts colleges (Amherst, Middlebury, Bowdoin,Williams,Swarthmore etc ) still attract some students. Which make Haverford's absence somewhat surprising.

Not that any of this necessarily matters. The most successful billionaries in the US -- Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, etc. dropped out of college or sacrificed academics in favor of building their company. Moreover, I'm sure there are some unemployed Ivy League graduates out there.


Samuel Browning - 6/8/2003

Hi Ralph:

I've just finished reviewing some letters between you and Benny and I think I have finally realized what happened.

On May 3, 2003 at 11:42 pm speaking of Michael Bellesiles you wrote "His work was deeply flawed. even he acknowledges that. Benny Smith may be the only person in the universe who doesn't"

On May 4, 2003 at 1:29 pm Benny Smith responded: "I am not aware that Bellesiles ever characterized his own work as (sic) on Arming America as 'deeply flawed.' Do you have a source or cite for that?" and "I believe the evidence more than bears up the author's theses. And I believe Bellesiles believes this too. Otherwise, what would be the point of a second edition."

On May 4, 2003, at 5:07 pm you replied: "Let's, see Benny .... I own up to having had a conversation with Michael about his book after his resignation from the Emory faculty. Do you? Or would that be like talking to yourself? Among the things I said to him were that he would be a fool not to take advantage of the massive criticism of his book to correct it at every discrete point that he can see his mistake. The point of a second edition of_any_book is to correct mistakes found subsequent to the publication of a first editions. Scoffers here are likely to believe that Michael would have to start over from scratch. I doubt that."

Benny then replied on May 7, 2003 at 7:02 pm that :"Mr Luker ... Are you indicating that Professor Bellesiles told you in confidence that his book was 'deeply flawed?' Indeed, if so, you should perhaps inform the editor of this site as that would be news. Of course, I believe it was Mr. Haskins who stated to you that 'the surest way to destroy a relationship you have with someone is to betray their confidence.' Somehow I do not believe that Bellesiles used the phrase "deeply flawed" I believe it was your hyperbole along the same line as stating that I am the only person in the universe who does not believe that Arming America is deeply flawed. As you yourself have stated here, "Gross exaggeration never adds weight to your argument. It undermines it."

Since you never responded to Benny's question/accusation r.e. the source of the "deeply flawed" language when you posted next on May 9, 2003 I jumped to the conclusion that these words had passed between yourself and Bellesiles not connecting the dots in your May 4th letter. i.e. the purpose of a second edition is to correct mistakes in the first edition. So I admit based on your present letter of June 3rd, that I made an erronous assumption. Now as for your two questions.

1) Does the statement made by Bellesiles that he wasn't a good at mathematics and planned a second second edition suggest an acknowledgment that his data is flawed? Normally it would. My understanding from reading the Soft Skull press release is that Michael is seriously downplaying the magnitude of mistakes in his data to the point where he is not necessarly admitting that his work is "deeply flawed" as could normally be inferred.

2) Does he see errors in the first edition that need to be corrected in a second? Yes Michael sees some errors which he believes can be corrected with a few paragraphs. His publisher of Soft Skull however seems to believe that a right wing conspiracy is what lead to Michael's troubles though perhaps even Michael doesn't believe that one.

In conclusion I was wrong to assume that you betrayed Michael's confidence but I stick by my observation that such a possibility makes Benny VERY uncomfortable.


John G. Fought - 6/7/2003

This discussion is especially interesting to me: in my first years of teaching at Penn I lived first in Bryn Mawr (right next to Haverford) and then in Swarthmore. I taught one semester course at Swarthmore a bit later. Around Penn it was sometimes said that the strength of these schools was in their students, not their faculty. The intended conclusion of course was that at Penn it was the faculty. (Let's hope so ...) My first hand observation in those days suggested that there was something to it. What seems to me overriding, however, is the liberal arts culture, and the style and values it exhibits and constantly fosters in those who choose such schools as a workplace. To some degree, the style is the substance. There's a certain smile those students wear at times. Well, I guess you have to be there.
A propos, read the First Person piece by Thomas H. Benton (!?) in the current Chronicle of Higher Education: So You Want to Go to Grad School?


Don Williams - 6/7/2003

heh heh

Does anyone have any info on Haverford's rankings in the Gourman Report, by the way? Yes, I know some criticize it for an opaque methodology but those schools who receive a high ranking seem to note that fact on their web sites. Perhaps Mr Lindgren could analyze the internal consistency of the Gourman numbers?

I find the hard data in the Lombardi Report of more interest. In that regard, it's interesting that the small liberal arts schools like Middlebury, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, and yes, Haverford , have incoming student cohorts with some of the highest median SATs in the country. So a student's peers at those schools are some very bright people-- if one accepts the SATs. Middlebury and Haverford, for example, report that the median SATs of their students are 1410 and 1355 respectively. Emory ranks somewhere in between.

On the other hand, the faculty at the liberal arts schools do not seem to rank high when judged by the measures of major universities (research expenditures, federal research awards, number of faculty who are members of the National Academy,etc.)
See http://thecenter.ufl.edu/research2002.html .
Middlebury's faculty does seem to have PhDs from major universities, however.



James Lindgren - 6/7/2003

In the US News rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges, Haverford was ranked tied for 5th in 2001-2, and ranked 10th in 2002-3. It has often been ranked 5th or 6th in recent years. This year it ranks ahead of Wesleyan, Grinnell, Claremont McKenna, Smith, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Barnard, etc.

It is always hard to compare the faculty quality of liberal arts colleges to big universities, but the Haverford faculty is pretty highly regarded nationally.

Roger Lane was probably chosen to review Arming America because he had written a classic book on homicide in Philadelphia. Further, he had reviewed (favorably) an earlier book by Bellesiles on Ethan Allen.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/7/2003

Don,
I hardly know what to make of this, except to say that linking Jack Rakove to Haverford College as an alum and Roger Lane as a faculty member strikes me as more conspiracy theory. Play with it if you will. A-hah! Haverford is a Quaker founded institution and we know about those conspiratorial pacifists don't we?


Don Williams - 6/6/2003

1) I should note that the above excerpt from "The Papers of Thomas Jefferson" was obtained at Haverford's library, which is fairly decent.

The campus is rather pretty -- one drives several hundred yards through a wooded area with a pond to reach the main buildings. Along the way to the library, I passed a cricket ground where some jovial Pakistani students appeared to be beating the mortal crap out of some sullen WASPs. At cricket, that is.

I tiptoed with a slight trepidation into the library given a cynical speculation I made months ago re why Roger Lane was chosen to do peer review of Arming America in the OAH's Journal of American History. See paragraphs 4-5 of http://hnn.us/comments/3155.html . Recall my comment?
"In my opinion, Mr Lane's review would be an embarrassment to a middle-aged professor at a first or second tier university but neither Mr Lane nor his institution have that much to lose.
While Haverford School is a renowned prep school, Haverford College is of much more modest accomplishment. Being a Quaker school , his peers probably support gun control and the promotion of the world view espoused within Arming America. Finally, Mr Lane's web page at Haverford indicates that he received his BA in 1955. Assuming he was somewhere around 22 at the time, that would make his current age somewhere around 69 -- ready for retirement? Amazing how these things work out."

2)Your subsequent fervent defense of Haverford filled me with mirth -- I assume that you didn't realize that Haverford is Jack Rakove's alma mater? (see http://history.stanford.edu/faculty/rakove )

3)The Jack Rakove who sponsored Bellesiles for the Stanford fellowship to write Arming America and who had Bellesiles give the keynote address at Rakove's Symposium on the Second Amendment (thereby fulfilling one of the requirements of the fellowship) The Jack Rakove who wrote the Chicago Kent Law Review article and William and Mary Quarterly article explaining how Bellesiles' findings should affect interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Jack Rakove who Bellesiles thanked in Arming America (top of p.583.) The Jack Rakove who was frequently quoted by newspaper reporters writing on the Bellesiles matter -- reporters who presumably were not aware of the above.

Presumably, if Mr Rakove ever expressed his admiration of Arming America to Roger Lane, the comments were not coming from a stranger to Haverford.


John G. Fought - 6/6/2003

Nah -- your posting, like Jefferson's letter, is much too long. The Wills approach could be put on a T-shirt:
"Misconstruing History, One Word at a Time"


Don Williams - 6/6/2003

1) One of my low amusements in life is to watch the deceitful mental contortions of hardened sophists like the Ninth Circuit Court. The Court would have us believe that the Second Amendment was intended to preserve the right of state governments to own firearms , not the broad mass of citizens, so that the states could resist tyranny on the part of the federal government.

Yet Article I, Section 10 explicitly states that " No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay ".

The purpose of the Second Amendment was to arm the people, so that the people could protect the Congress. Possibly by fighting the state governments, as when Lincoln called out the militia after the attack on Fort Sumpter. Possibly by fighting the federal standing army, as when Congress fled to the protection of the Princeton militia after Independence Hall was surrounded by Continental troops in 1783. Article I, Section 8 makes clear that Congress controls who commands the militia.

I think that most historians would generally agree that Thomas Jefferson had the most intellectual influence on James Madison --
many of the Founders like Alexander Hamilton were simply maneuvering for financial advantage and power but Jefferson and Madison were building for the ages. The need for a Bill of Rights was asserted from the very beginning by Jefferson upon his receipt of the Constitution -- in his Dec 20 1787 letter to Madison, Jefferson stated:
"I will now add what I do not like. First, the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms [Mr Jefferson anticipated existence of the Ninth Circuit Court, you see] for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, PROTECTION AGAINST STANDING ARMIES, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of Nations."

Mr Jefferson then went on to explain why an explicit statement of rights was essential, to note that the federal government should be limited solely to powers expressly delegated and that a statement to that effect had been omitted from the Constitution, and to note that terms limits for the President was also necessary.

All in all, a remarkable letter.

We have strong cause to regret today that "sophisms" justify de facto monopolies in many industries --even in the news media business. Our right to habeas corpus/trial by jury also seems much less secure than what we thought only a few years ago. Plus, the federal government today recognizes no limit on its powers and the Supreme Court has let the Ninth and Tenth Amendments become dead letters.

Plus the Ninth Circuit Court seems to be using "sophisms" to undermine the people's "Protection against standing armies" proposed by Mr Jefferson and inserted by James Madison.


Samuel Browning - 6/5/2003

Hi Ralph;

I'm searching for the posts that I remember between you and Benny on this matter. I will be able to comment further once I refresh my recollection. If I am wrong about their existance then an extra big serving of crow for yours truly!


John G. Fought - 6/3/2003

I've been away, Mr. Luker, and I can see that you've missed me. To repeat briefly what I posted some time ago about Bellesiles and mathematics: in the introduction to his dissertation he thanks a couple of people for 'converting me from mathematics' (the actual quote and reference are in the earlier posting). His actual competence in it is not revealed by what seems to have been a plan at some time to major in it. After all, there was a time when I wanted to be a chemical engineer (a time when I didn't yet know what they did).

As for Wills and classical philology, I hope that Mr. Morgan will soon release his note on this. I can report with sadness that Wills' Classics degree is no guarantee that he knows how to make inferences about other languages. In a Classics Department he doubtless spent most of his time reading the classical texts that were once established and edited using philological methods. On the special technicalities of language change which are relevant here (as Plato and Cicero are not) I can speak as an expert: my training in linguistics in Yale's then-conservative department included lots of comparative Indo-European philology. For my sins I studied Greek (1 year intensive), Gothic (1 yr), and Sanskrit (1 yr); there were many courses in the theory and history of historical-comparative linguistics too. This field is essentially about the details of both patterned and sporadic changes in and the consequent relationships among the Indo-European languages. Of course, the method can be used on any family of languages. (This work made me the person I am today, so think twice before you study any of that stuff yourselves.) Wills' argument is a fine specimen of what is often called the etymological fallacy, namely that there is a true or deep 'original' meaning that somehow remains forever 'in' the later forms of a word or phrase. Another version of this kind of belief was a staple of old magic and religion, namely, that things have true names, god-given, and that knowing them confers power over those things upon the knower. These notions persist, but there is no foundation to them. The key fact is that like other cultural features, language CHANGES as it is used. All of it, all the time, slowly and unpredicably, not just the pronunciations and the morphology, but the meanings as well. To see the problem, look back at the Greek or Latin words and their meanings that are supposed to be inherent in our present use of the forms descended from them. Under this theory, did the Greeks themselves first infuse the forms with those meanings? Uh, no: they were already there, a result of earlier evolutionary and accidental changes leading from earlier stages of Indo-European usage. And before that? We can't tell. IE is not attested but is 'reconstructed', and is very incompletely known. Change is always going on: some innovations take; others fade away. After a certain point we can no longer reconstruct earlier stages, because the evidence runs out and the reconstructed 'regularities' can no longer be separated from background 'noise'. So there is no way to arrive at what in grad school we used to call Proto-Indo-Squirrel. Moreover, there is no point in the evolution of a language family where things settle down. So, what counts for this debate is not what 'arma' meant in Rome or Athens, but what 'arms' meant in Colonial America. You get the answers the same way, by studying the usage of the time, attempting to discern the elements of meaning which make each word the correct choice in each context where it is found.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/3/2003

Sam, You may or may not be correct that Benny is Michael. I don't know. But I did not betray Michael's confidence, as your note implies and an assumption on which your conjecture is based. I do not recall Michael having said to me that the first edition of _Arming America_ is deeply flawed. I _do_ recall the implication of some of his public statements (i.e., that he was not very good at mathematics -- a statement subsequently challenged, in part, by John Fought) and of his plan for a 2nd edition. Doesn't the first suggest an acknowledgement that his data are flawed? Doesn't the second suggest that he sees errors in the 1st edition which need to be corrected in a 2nd?


Samuel Browning - 6/1/2003

Yes Anon;

One of the reasons for my suspicion about the Benny/Belllesiles connection is that in my opinion Bennie's most vehement outburst came when Ralph Luker revealed one comment Bellesiles made to him late last year. Ralph had previously said that his conversations with Bellesiles were confidential, a condition we respected. Benny responded immediately and with anger and I think the quality of his writing really improved during that post. While it would be logical for Bellesiles if he was writing on this board to argue some of his favorite points, he would also be more likely to reveal his style if he discussed material we were all familar with.

But of course the question is why is this all relevent? And its because of the so called John Lott rule. it is intellectually dishonest to participate in an internet debate concerning oneself, or ones family while using a false internet name. Lott broke this rule and suffered a lose of crediability even among the gun crowd.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/31/2003

Ralph, I'm probably misunderstanding your point, so I'll apologize in advance. Yes, I have trouble with Wills' philology, but even more so with his classical philology. It is precisely Wills' background in the classics that Wills and Bogus invoke in service of Wills' Second Amendment interpretation. If you like, I'll send you a copy of my MS, which is still missing a footnote or two.

I certainly expect Wills to make a mess of legal issues, and he always seems to deliver on my wishes (check out his summary of Miller in A Necessary Evil, versus, say, the works of Powe, Reynolds, and Kates, and you'll see that Wills has not the foggiest notion of what "judicial notice" encompasses -- in fact, he gets Miller exactly backwards on the question of a Supreme Court ruling vis-a-vis the militia status of a sawed-off shotgun). What does surprise me is that he makes a mess of classical philology too, his supposed strength (as he had previously published reviews in the American Journal of Philology). Passion makes fools of us all, and Wills is well-known as passionately anti-gun, which somehow didn't stop the NYTBR from giving him Bellesiles' work to review -- one suspects that not only was his anti-gun position not a disqualification, it was a requirement.

I include some links to Bogus. You can find Bogus' encomium to Wills in his Chicago-Kent contribution. That he would, with apparently no background in the classics, praise such a conceptual mess is less surprising when you consider the other link -- Bogus has hit the trifecta of what Benny would call "the anti-gun lobby": member of the National Advisory Panel of the Violence Policy Center; member of the Board of Directors of The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence; and member of the Board of Directors and Board of Governors of Handgun Control, Inc. Read the Bogus Chicago-Kent contribution, and tell me that is a balanced and fair treatment of the topic suggested by his title (the basis of which probably helped secure him a place for his symposium at Chicago-Kent).

http://law.rwu.edu/Faculty/ctb/cbogus.htm

http://lawreview.kentlaw.edu/articles/76-1/Bogus%20macro2.pdf


Anon - 5/31/2003

The Google search I offered was so that anyone could find it easily because the links seemed a tad odd and people might choose the HTML version.

I used a different search to find it a while ago; I don't remember which one, but I think it was simply "Bellesiles" and the name of a particular UK university. Someone else at the conference was from that University, so the Wales program popped up.

I apologize for using a post directed to you for making my general criticism about responses to trolls. You have have made a large number of sophisticated and interesting posts. I should have made the criticism in a separate, general post. You are obviously free to disagree with me (and you do, temperately I might add).

Actually, your suggestion of differing qualities and tones of writing in Benny's posts is quite interesting. You hint at the possibility that Bellesiles is trying to dumb down his remarks to fit his alter ego, Benny. Support for that speculation might come from what I think was Benny Smith's first appearance--the comments section of the Emory Wheel, when few knew that the Wheel was on the story. Further, Benny has not appeared on moderated sites where real registration is required.

On the other hand, I don't buy it because Benny fails to make obvious arguments that Bellesiles would make and refuses to give the (often false) details that characterize Bellesiles's style of argumentation. Benny just doesn't know much about the merits of the dispute.

Yet your argument about inconsistencies in writing would tend to support the idea that Bellesiles is in contact with Benny and is sometimes feeding him ideas and text to post on his behalf. That is a third possibility.


Samuel Browning - 5/31/2003

Hi Ralph;

Regardless of a previous request please be aware that I wouldn't want to ask your daughter to help out in a case like this. Her employer would probably take an exceedingly dim view of such assistance given the previous statements made by people like myself on this board. Better to make the request formally and honestly and see what happens. I would be willing to promise Soft Skull that if I could buy an advance copy from them I would embargo the results until they had formally published the book. Even with my views of Belliseles, if I make a formal promise like that I would abide by it.


Samuel Browning - 5/31/2003

Dear Anon:

If you have been following this board for any length of time you will notice that "Bennie Smith's" writing is inconsistent in qualitity but has a brittle unnaturalness that suggests (but does not prove) that the author is attempting to obscure their real writing style. For this reason it might easily be Bellesiles, and I will not rule out that possibility like you do. Certainly when Benny really wishes to write well his writing dramatically improves but if "he" wishes to put out his normal propaganda broadside when the facts don't support him, his skill declines more then one would expect from a natural range of variation in writing skill.

It is my choice how I deal with trolls and if that means that I and others respond to him rather then let his posts go unchallenged that is our decision. If you desire to see a high level of politeness, re your teenager remark, you may be on a board on which you will feel quite uncomfortable. But before you make such judgments how long have you been reading posts here and how far have you gone back? There is a lot of background here so if we are to debate these issues my response should be geared to your answer to that question.

Since aberystwyth is quite an unusual word I feel quite confident that Benny could not have done such a google search without having certain information beforehand. Assuming Belliseles is in the UK and remains in contact with friends in the states how many people would he have passed this information onto 10, 15? it suggests a close connection to say the least.


Anon - 5/31/2003

Do a Google search for these keywords:

bellesiles atlanta aberystwyth

The UK American Studies program will pop up.

Several days before Benny posted his fanciful interpretations in this thread, I heard a rumor that Bellesiles was hanging out at a particular respected UK university (No, I won't say which one), so I did a search and the program that Benny mentions popped up. I did not find any evidence on UK websites that Bellesiles was at the unnamed UK university. Indeed, the American Studies program listed his residence as Atlanta, GA.

Benny is guilty of many things, but on this one he's probably innocent.

I don't know why people keep wanting to draw Benny out. This is a rare post that had any real information in it, even with his usual nonsense sandwiched around it. Usually, with Benny it's just one slur after another, without even the minimal amount of fairness that people on both sides of this debate usually show.

Benny is just trying to get a rise out of you guys. Don't give him the satisfaction. I've never seen a "troll" get such consistent responses. You'd think you were teenagers.

As for Benny being Bellesiles, there is no possibility. Benny doesn't use Bellesiles' style at all; he lacks Bellesiles sophistication. It is, of course, possible that Bellesiles is feeding him information as he fed others in Bellesiles' very public campaign of attacks on critics.


Clayton E. Cramer - 5/30/2003

I share Mr. Morgan's reaction to the Bogus hypothesis. I haven't read it in some years, but I recall being surprised at there being only one real piece of evidence to support the claim--the rest was supposition.

There's no question that fear of slave revolt played a big part in the maintenance of the militia in some colonies in the eighteenth century, and the South's preservation of a viable militia much later into the nineteenth century is certainly associated with fear of slave revolt. But where do the requests for a Second Amendment come from? Largely from states where slavery was clearly not going to be around for long, such as New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Oh yeah, more reasons to suspect that Benny Smith is Bellesiles: what are the first and last letters of Bellesiles's last name? What are the initials of Benny Smith? And what do both spell? BS! :-)


Ralph E. Luker - 5/30/2003

Richard, Your skepticism of Garry Wills's philological skills may be justified, but his doctorate and early publications are in classics. It was only later that he began publishing so prolifically in American studies.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/30/2003

English vista? English countryside? Bite your tongue!! Cymric!! If I remember correctly, 'Wales' stems from an Anglo-Saxon expression for 'stranger', or somesuch, so the locals quite naturally have not taken the name their breast.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/30/2003

"Rather than risk infecting another institution with poisonous attacks from the gun lobby, Bellesiles is maintaining an inconspicuous profile."

How altruistic of Bellesiles. And BS's ability to channel Bellesiles' thought (with or without the aid of crystals?) is truly astounding. What a pity BS didn't put that ability to work for Bellesiles when he was reversing the meaning of the Militia Act of 1792.

The interesting thing about Bogus' original paper, which I have before me, is that it quite explicitly admits there really is no documentary evidence for his thesis -- you see, slavery, as he would have it, was such an outre topic that discussion of it wasn't committed to paper, even in the context of constitutional debate. The effect of this manoevre is to make the evidence for Bogus' proposition precisely the same as that for the lack of any such motive. I call this The Method of Must Have Been, since precisely that construction, or its equivalent, is offered by Bogus in the absence of evidence (you can find it at least a half-dozen times in his paper). Don Higginbottam, an enthusiastic collectivist on the Second Amendment issue, posivitely vibrated with giddiness at the appearance of the Bogus thesis, but could still only offer a bit of cautionary praise. I'm rather certain that slavery played some role, but I can't find the evidence for it as a prime mover. I heartily suggest that others read the Bogus piece, and make up their own minds. I would only add that Bogus gave an unqualified endorsement to Wills' philological gymnastics, the insufficiency of which suggests that Bogus has no Latin, and even less Greek, and quite literally doesn't know what he is talking about. But that's for another day.


Samuel Browning - 5/30/2003

Mr. Smith's last post does not seem to depend on any media sources only the program from this conference. (Bennie could always provide a link to prove otherwise) It therefore appears that Benny must have been in the UK or had a good friend such as Michael mail him a copy. You're e-mails Benny tie you closer and closer to Mr. Bellesiles on a personal level. When are you going to admit the obvious?


Frank A. Baldridge - 5/29/2003

"The collective chairs have amassed a wealth of fellowships, awards, and degrees. They have authored, co-authored and edited numerous academic texts, articles and reviews published both in Europe and in the United States." (By Soft Skull Press)

BFD!!!

And I thought you were going to tell us Bellesiles is currently driving a school bus in Guadalajara.


Clayton E. Cramer - 5/29/2003

"I've never understand what was 'liberal' or 'progressive' about giving the police and military a monopoly in armed force."

It depends whether the people giving orders to the police or military are progressive or not. :-)

Seriously, I agree with you. As late as the 1920s, gun control was usually a conservative cause in America, and liberals and leftists tended to be skeptical or outright hostile to gun control. In Britain, the Firearms Act of 1920 was passed to disarm the masses because the Cabinet believed that they were on the verge of a Bolshevik Revolution. Don Kates argues that part of the change in America in the 1920s was FDR's attempt to distract liberals and progressives from their support for the Noble Experiment with another Noble Experiment--gun control.


Ralph E. Luker - 5/29/2003

Josh, I think you make a very good point. I suspect that the crude generalization arises from the tendency of the NRA to support political candidates which tend to support its positions and many of them happen to be Republicans. Many people believe that Al Gore failed to carry West Virginia, for example, largely because of his position on gun control and ownership. In the crude construction of our national politics that seems to identify gun ownership support with the right wing, but I can think of many contributors to discussions on this site, even, who can't be categorized that way.


Josh Greenland - 5/29/2003

What's "right wing" about being pro-gun rights? I've never understand what was liberal" or "progressive" about giving the police and military a monopoly in armed force.


Thomas Gunn - 5/28/2003


05-27-03 ~1720

Ralph, Ralph, Ralph,

The 'nickle' you spent responding to me could have been better spent e-mailing your daughter for assistance in a worthwhile endeavor. ;-) I assume you feel facts are more valuable, especially to historians, than propaganda. I could be wrong however, it won't be the first time.

I wouldn't comment on the 'vast right wing conspiracy' slur, funding its own research, for it is only a matter of time till liberals are weaned from the peoples teat, (Can I say that word?) and are forced to fund their own research. :-)



thomas





Bryan Haskins - 5/28/2003

OK, sorry for the Python pun, but all I could think of while reading about the glorious English vista referenced in Mr. Smith's post was the warning from the Knights who say NIT to King Arthur that unless he brought back a shrubbery he would never pass "through these woods alive."

Well, I for one have never assumed that Bellesiles’ problems have reduced him to hiding in a secret underground bunker like some fearful troglodyte. Therefore, I really don’t mind it if Mr. Smith chooses to give us periodic updates on changes to Bellesiles’ event calendar.

Still, while it may entertain Mr. Smith to make these generalized “you see, you can’t keep a good man down” posts, they are ultimately meaningless unless we can learn what actually happened at the events he references. In short, Mr. Smith, this is not a horticultural web site, and I could care less whether Bellesiles spent his conference breaks strolling amongst the “glorious” English countryside. I would rather know what went on inside the conference.

With this in mind, let me pose a few questions to our general audience: Is there anyone out there who did more than merely read an internet-posted flier advertising this conference? Can anyone out there tell us what actually happened at the conference? Were any of the issues raised in AA discussed at the session Bellesiles chaired? If AA was discussed, then can anyone tell us who was involved in the discussion and/or tell us what was said? Did Bellesiles himself make any comments about the content of either the 1st or 2nd edition of AA at this event? Did Bellesiles respond to or comment upon either the nature or the specifics of the criticism he has received regarding AA? Did Bellesiles participate in the subsequent “Militia” session? If so, then what did he say or do at that session? I may be wrong, but I believe that answering these questions would provide us with far more relevant information than wistful speculation about the springtime beauty of the English countryside.


Ralph E. Luker - 5/28/2003

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas,
I appreciate your volunteering my nickel in this enterprize, but I prefer that the vast right wing conspiracy fund its own research. All my research dollars have been committed to President II's unfruitful search for WMD in Iraq.


Thomas Gunn - 5/28/2003


05-28-03 ~0840

Maybe the header should read "Bellesiles takes low profile though prominent leadership role"!

Thanks for my chuckle of the day Benny!

Aside for John Fought: You've hit the nail on the head. The only question remaining is this; Has Michael made himself superfluous, or just embarrassing?




thomas


Josh Greenland - 5/28/2003

"Regarding the question of the Second Amendment and the militia, I should clarify that the full topic of the paper presented was "Carl Bogus Reconsidered: Was the Second Amendment Designed to Protect Slave Patrols Against the Abolitionists?" "

I found the paper's full title here, but no mention of Bellesiles:

http://www.baas.ac.uk/resources/asib/asibdets.asp?ordernum=8802&head=8802&range1=8803&range2=8805


Benny Smith - 5/28/2003


Mr. Fought's defamation of his esteemed fellow academics here no doubt stems from bias and pettiness. I doubt that he actually reviewed the resumes of the chairpersons presiding over the aforementioned conferences. I did. The collective chairs have amassed a wealth of fellowships, awards, and degrees. They have authored, co-authored and edited numerous academic texts, articles and reviews published both in Europe and in the United States. For example, one chairperson, Philip Davies, a professor at De Montfort University, is chairman of the British Association for American Studies and concurrently Director of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.

It is unfortunately characteristic of Bellesiles' critics to dispense unproved accusations and biased invective as if it were fact. I honestly believe that part of Mr. Fought does want to engage in such demeaning behavior. Sadly, as he has stated, it is not his grown-up part.


Benny Smith - 5/28/2003



Like Mr. Morgan, I did wonder why Professor Bellesiles, of all the chairs in the program, did not have a university affiliation listed on the program. My suggestion is that the author of Arming America felt there are still fanatical, hate-driven critics out there who would seek to track him down and harass his new employer and colleagues, much the way it happened in Atlanta. Rather than risk infecting another institution with poisonous attacks from the gun lobby, Bellesiles is maintaining an inconspicuous profile.

Regarding the question of the Second Amendment and the militia, I should clarify that the full topic of the paper presented was "Carl Bogus Reconsidered: Was the Second Amendment Designed to Protect Slave Patrols Against the Abolitionists?" So, indeed, Arming America was not credited there with that particular postulate. In fact, many of Bellesiles' theses have been proposed or supported by other academicians and professionals, something that Mr. Morgan no doubt is aware of since he is familiar with the literature.



Clayton E. Cramer - 5/27/2003

"exempting Benny, he shouldn't be reviewing his own work:)" got me to thinking: is Benny Smith actually Michael Bellesiles, pulling a John Lott/Mary Rosh thing? Reasons that make me wonder:

1. Smith engages almost entirely in character assassination, never addressing the real issues.

2. Smith pretends that Bellesiles is a victim of vast right-wing conspiracy influence in the academic community.

3. Smith engages in the sort of ad hominem attacks that I have learned to expect from Bellesiles (who called me a "ideologically driven polemicist" to the Conservative Club of Columbia University--especially entertaining since it has now turned out that Bellesiles is the ideologically driven polemicist).

On the other hand, Benny Smith doesn't seem as smart as Bellesiles, and doesn't seem to have any grasp of the questions involved.


Clayton E. Cramer - 5/27/2003

"Those who have read Arming America know that colonial slavery’s dependence upon the militia was an issue discussed by Bellesiles in his book."

But not discussed in much depth, because had Bellesiles done so, he would have to acknowledge that those laws required widespread gun ownership, not guns locked up in government arsenals, as Bellesiles claimed on p. 73. See http://www.claytoncramer.com/primary/militia/GA1757SlavePatrols.pdf for the Georgia 1757 slave patrol statute which required that every person performing slave patrol duties "shall provide for himself and keep always in readiness and carry with him on his Patrol Service, one good Gun or Pistol in Order, a Cutlass and a Cartridge Box with at least Six Cartridges, in it...", or http://www.claytoncramer.com/primary/militia/GA1770BringGunsToChurch.pdf for the 1770 Georgia law requiring every militia member (almost all adult men in the colony) to carry a gun to church, and requiring elders or deacons to search men coming in, to make sure that they were armed. Or the similar South Carolina statutes of 1743 that Bellesiles cited as evidence that nearly all guns were kept locked up, except at militia musters or during war.


Clayton E. Cramer - 5/27/2003

"Cramer, who serves as kind of a disinformation minister for extremists in the gun rights movement, has long attempted to gain some respect among legitimate scholars, while trying to collect some buckage on the side. Yet despite his self-collected research which he publishes on his website, he remains largely ignored by academics in the mainstream, something that clearly rankles him."

Actually, it's the dishonesty of Bellesiles, and that he continues to have defenders in the academic community, is what rankles me.

"He wrote a long article for the History News Network, saying that he saw what other historians did not in part because history departments are rife with left wing ideologues who conspired to ignore his criticisms of Bellesiles’ Arming America."

You must have a "special" edition of that article. My point was that historians tend to not examine carefully materials that agree with their point of view, and gun control is a very popular idea in academia.

"Cramer himself is a self-described "narrow-minded bigot.""

It's called irony. I would explain the concept, but it would be over your head.

"However, with few legitimate historians joining in the campaign of intellectual assassination against Bellesiles, the gun lobby and their right wing allies have been forced to embrace Cramer, warts and all."

Hmmm. Columbia revoked Bellesiles's Bancroft Prize. The external committee that investigated Bellesiles's actions politely called him at least incompetent. Knopf decided to stop publishing the book, and pulp the returns. Three of the four William & Mary Quarterly articles about _Arming America_ politely said it was nonsense.

"Cramer only hopes more of them would contribute monetarily to his "research." His blog whined recently that he had not received many contributions of late. Some while back, he personally launched a fund-raising campaign for himself on usenet, where he has been a fixture for many years."

Like many academics, such as Professor Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee.

"He told me later on an Emory Wheel forum that his campaign had netted him a few hundred dollars, which he later characterized as nothing (I’ll leave it to Professor Lindgren, the quantitative expert, to determine whether a few hundred dollars is nothing). Most recently, Cramer put up for sale his Chinese SKS rifle with a folding spike bayonet. Apparently, when nobody’s buying your scholarly shtick, it must be time to sell the guns."

Try again. As the blog entry made very clear, I was selling the SKS because I have no need for it. I earn more interest in a week than I expect to get from the sale of that SKS.


Clayton E. Cramer - 5/27/2003

I have now received funding for travel and research expenses. When I made the statement about NRA's lack of funding, it was a true statement.


Thomas Gunn - 5/27/2003


05-17-03 ~1315

Gentlemen,

Lest you forget, our favorite resident historian has a daughter working at Soft Skull Press.

Perhaps you could impose upon Ralph Luker to use his influence with his daughter to provide complimentary copies or gallies for you comparison endeavor. You could then include Soft Skull in your findings and give them the heads up the original publisher was, Hurrumph, obviously lacking, re errors in the first edition of AA.



thomas


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/27/2003



I'm still trying to figure out how such a "scholar" as Bellesiles, who plays a "leadership role", and who is purportedly the victim of right-wing zealots, doesn't have an institutional affiliation -- and Soft Skull Press said he would be teaching in Britain. Go figure. I guess the omnipotent right-wing conspiracy can keep him off the faculty, but not off a program. Doesn't make sense to me, but maybe that's just me.

Benny asks what contributions Bellesiles might have made to a session on the militia and the right to bear arms -- an unfortunate choice, Benny, given that Bellesiles rewrote the 1792 Militia Act to square with his Wills-inspired view that the federal government pledged to arm the militias. And if the use of militia as slave patrols was discussed in Bellesiles book, it hardly originated with him or his book, so he can hardly take credit for later sessions devoted to it -- it was broached by Bogus' 1998 article in the UC Davis Law Review. But then you'd have to know the literature to know that.

Earlier, I posted some reflections on American Studies in Britain. Benny referenced a course that included consideration of Bellesiles' JAH article. The course was an intro to American Studies, in what the Guardian called the premier American Studies program in Britain -- something like the tallest building in Wichita, for the course had no mention of Henry Nash Smith, the foundations of James Harvey Robinson, or the continuities in American ideology with the commonwealthmen and the country party Whig opposition. I suspect it wouldn't take much to lead those turnipheads.


John G. Fought - 5/25/2003

A part of my wants to leave 'Benny Smith' to his/her pathetic fantasies, but not the grown-up part. For those not familiar with the intricate rituals of academic conferences, let me point out that chairing a session is not always a role to be coveted. The duties include introducing the speakers in turn, many of them junior scholar; informing each how much time they is left for the presentation, if any; pointing to hand-wavers in the question period between papers, if any; and sipping water to stay awake. Session chairs do not take part in debate. The role is quite often given to people either too senior or too embarrassing to ignore completely, as a way of darting them into nonparticipation at crucial moments. That's the least cruel interpretation I can provide. British and other academics have also been known to put on public display, as if in stocks, those whose behavior, appearance, or predicament they find amusing. Was anyone who reads these posts at this conference?


Josh Greenland - 5/25/2003

Richard, I accept that any or all of the things you've just written about Allende could be true without qualification. I just don't think they justify our destabilization campaign against him and Chile, or his murder and replacement by elements much worse than he was by almost any criteria, elements that the Nixon, Kissinger and the CIA were much happier with.

I didn't reply quickly because the Chilean coup really isn't related to Bellesiles, except as it relates to Benny. It says much that he could think that the truth about the anti-Allende operation was so outre that no one would believe it and that he could use it in an "anti-American rhetoric" smear. I'm guessing that he's younger than mid-40s (wasn't very old or was not born in the early 1970s), and isn't politically sophisticated, inquisitive or well-read enough to have heard about an affair that the mainstream media has not talked about much since it happened. Nor is he a serious conservative or a left-winger, because he would probably have read in sources friendly to his views about the Chilean coup, especially if he was a lefty. Hence the attack on those who criticize Bellesiles "from the center," culminating recently in that one bizarre post where he tried to attack us as both leftwingers and rightwingers. He's a respectability-seeking middle of the roader, and doesn't have the intellectual wherewithall or courage that the other technical people on the board (Clayton, Don and I) do that bring us to conclusions about the state of things in our country that he claims to find distressing.

I agree completely with Bryan that every post where Benny can get away with attacking Clayton or someone else here is one where he can avoid dealing with the substance of criticisms against Arming America, and the content of the book itself. So I'm done with this little diversion. If you want to have a last word on this topic, feel free.

What's in The Nation is irrelevant to me. I don't read it.


Benny Smith - 5/24/2003



Perhaps those who campaigned to instigate the exile of Professor Michael Bellesiles from his post at Emory University hoped that he would go quietly into the night. However, gun huggers, right wing zealots and a few others obsessed with Bellesiles’ intellectual character assassination might be unpleasantly surprised to learn that the historian still plays a leadership role within his profession—most recently exercised at the 2003 British Association of American Studies Annual Conference last month in Wales. On the agenda there was the topic "American Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century" with a number of scholars presenting their views. Listed there on the program was "Michael Bellesiles Atlanta, Georgia," who chaired the session. This annual conference attracts top scholars from the United Kingdom, Europe, the Far East, and from America as well. This year’s conference took place in Aberystwyth, a town which was described by the event organizers as "surrounded on three sides by areas of outstanding natural beauty that includes some of the most glorious countryside in Great Britain." Egad, the horrors of exile!

Ironically, another topic on the program’s agenda was "Militia and the Right to Bear Arms." As this program occurred after Bellesiles’ own, one wonders whether he may have attended that program and what contributions he would have made. One of the papers to be presented there asked "Was the Second Amendment Designed to Protect Slave Patrols Against the Abolitionists?" Those who have read Arming America know that colonial slavery’s dependence upon the militia was an issue discussed by Bellesiles in his book. Overall, the program reflects the influence Bellesiles’ work is having on international views of American history and culture, something that no doubt sticks in the craw of his critics here. If they are thinking of complaining to the University of Wales, they may want to check its website which publicizes a personal harassment network that "provides support for staff and students experiencing any form of harassment of bullying." If only Emory or Columbia had such a support network in place to protect academic freedom on its campuses from the NRA.



Josh Greenland - 5/23/2003

"What is really unfortunate is that if Benny would pick his battles and use facts he could provide a much better defense on individual issues for Mr. Bellesiles."

Perhaps he doesn't because he thinks the cause is lost?

I was hoping to see him explain his rebuttal of Clayton Cramer's criticism of the Bellesiles double error that turned a gun shopping list into a gun census. His rebuttal has in turn been rebutted, but he hasn't offered a defense of his rebuttal yet.

I recall that militia records were one of the two things the Emory committee pilloried Bellesiles for.

"I know you don't like Tim Lambert's position on gun control Josh but he was a good example of what Phil called a dissenter."

I agree. Lambert is a dissenter, not a troll, by Phil's criteria.


Samuel Browning - 5/23/2003

Lets start planning. My cell phone is 203-376-5772 and my e-mail is TappingReeve@aol.com Please call anytime but this Saturday and Sunday and we can go from there.


Samuel browning - 5/21/2003

Sounds good to me, though I understand the copyright facists may consider that illegal. I'll look into it and if its an issue, Michael may end up making another $2 in royalties, if its going to be in paper I might be able to afford a couple copies we can loan out. I'll contact soft skull and find out what their release date is. For some reason I doubt we'll get a free advance copy.


John G. Fought - 5/21/2003

I like it. I'll take a chapter, but I won't
buy the book. I'll repay you for copying and
postage; we can set a deadline, and report back
in with documentation. How does that sound?


Samuel Browning - 5/21/2003

When Michael's new version of Arming America comes out of Soft Skull Press I intend to buy a copy and compare it to the first addition to see how many editing changes have been made. For the sake of Michael's reputation I hope the answer is many.

Since the book will be roughly 400 pages I thought we could split up this review by chapter among the participants of this board (exempting Benny, he shouldn't be reviewing his own work:)and get a handle on whether any substantial revisions have taken place or the text went out with no changes. Ideally Michael would mention in his introduction what he altered but I somehow do not think thats going to happen. What do people think?


Bryan Haskins - 5/19/2003


I have patiently read everything you have recently said about Clayton Cramer, Mr. Smith. I even gave you a free opinion of some of it on the “conspiracy kook” thread. Now you want me to comment upon how Cramer’s view of homosexual pedophilia relates to Bellesiles and Arming America. You also want me to address the funding you claim the NRA has given Cramer. Well, Mr. Smith, the time for freebies is over. I will gladly give you my opinion of these matters, but only if you will give me your elusive opinion of the two issues I raise (again) below:

ISSUE #1: THE LINDGREN E-MAIL CONTROVERSY

These are the facts: Mr. Lindgren claimed to possess an e-mail from Professor Bellesiles which contradicted his then current assertions regarding a portion of his probate research. Bellesiles promptly told the Emory Wheel that the e-mail Lindgren claimed to possess was in fact a forgery. Some, including you, Mr. Smith, have suggested that Mr. Lindgren had a motive to attack Professor Bellesiles. However, Lindgren was able in response to cite us to an earlier, recorded radio interview in which Bellesiles admitted sending the e-mail he subsequently claimed was forged.

ISSUE #2: THE SAN FRANCISCO PROBATE RECORDS

At the end of 2001 and into 2002, the National Review and the Boston Globe were hot to prove a fraud charge against Bellesiles over his use of San Francisco County probate records that were said to have been destroyed in the fire which followed the great quake. Bellesiles made several attempts to answer the fraud charges. These are the facts:

Bellesiles first claimed he could not remember where he had done the research. He then suggested two different libraries, only to have each of them claim that they don’t have the records and that to the best of their knowledge the records no longer existed. This in turn caused many to suggest that Bellesiles fabricated the San Fran records. Finally, in January 2002, Bellesiles secretly visited the Contra Costa County History Center (CCCHC). He had never mentioned doing any research there before, and afterwards he incorrectly referred to it as the California History Center. Nevertheless, he made copies of records from that facility, and he claimed that these were the records from San Francisco County which he had originally relied upon. He further claimed that he had done his original research at the CCCHC in 1993, and that the CCCHC had an “entire bookcase” of San Fran records. In an effort to assuage his skeptical critics, he produced these newly copied records for inspection. What followed was a massive attempt to verify his claim, which lead inevitably to a response from Betty Maffei, the director of the CCCHC.

Ms. Maffei had her staff review the San Fran records Bellesiles produced, and she confirmed that those documents did in fact come from her collection. She stated that they were not, however, records from San Francisco County. She explained them thus: “Examining the 26 pages of Bellesiles' probate records that were supplied to us, it appears that Professor Bellesiles merely photocopied estate documents that contained the word "San Francisco" somewhere in them.”

Ms. Maffei went on to directly contradict Bellesiles’ assertion that the CCCHC had a bookcase full of San Fran records: “We certainly do not have "an entire bookcase of probate record files" from San Francisco County. From what we know, it would appear to be impossible to count guns in San Francisco probate inventories from 1849-50 or 1858-59 in our collection, since we have no such inventories.”

Finally, she cast serious doubt on Bellesiles’ assertion that he had done his original research there in 1993. She noted that the CCCHC’s visitor log showed no visit by Bellesiles prior to January 2002, and she concluded with the following: “we cannot confirm that Professor Bellesiles did substantial research in our collection in 1993 (as he claims) or at any other time before his visit in January, 2002. We do not remember him visiting our collection before his recent visit. We have searched our log books and invoices for the years 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996 and find no record for research fees or photocopies. Further, we are not cited or acknowledged in his book, something we always expect and receive. During Professor Bellesiles recent visit he did not reveal his primary reason for the visit. He did not tell us that he had been in our archives before and now wished to confirm aspects of his previous research. He did not say he was the author of a book and needed some help confirming his previous work. Had he done so we would have immediately begun a search of our invoices and log books. We only discovered after his visit, when we began getting phone calls from both scholars and reporters, that we were in the eye of a hurricane. We had to learn from others what it was Professor Bellesiles really needed.”

Now my opinion of these two issues is this: The Lindgren E-mail issue is an example of an outright lie, and it (like Lott’s Mary Rosh episode) casts serious doubt on Bellesiles’ credibility. The San Fran records issue is more difficult to ascertain. Bellesiles had to have known that these newly released records would be scrutinized, because they would either make or break the case being amassed against him for fabricating the San Fran records by the Boston Globe and the (definitely unfriendly) National Review. Nevertheless, he still made the incredible mistake of failing to recognize that these records did not come from the county he claimed they did. This leads to only two possible conclusions: Either he is absolutely incapable of accurately researching probate records, or this entire episode represents a desperate, lying attempt to fend off a fraud complaint with the lesser-evil “I’m just a sloppy researcher/I’m not a liar, I’m just confused” defense. The first conclusion renders his entire probate research worthless, while the second does the same in addition to proving he has committed outright fraud.

This, of course, is merely my own poor opinion of these issues. I welcome yours, Mr. Smith. You are the only one willing to attempt a defense of Bellesiles here, and I am forced to deal with you by default. I asked you many moons ago to give your opinion on these two issues. Your response claimed that it was all a “soap opera of who said what to whom” which held no interest for you. After all, (so you now claim) “Bellesiles readily admits errors.”

Nevertheless, I continue to take the time to reach out to you because you do raise some interesting issues here. In particular, I would really like to discuss your suggestion that Cramer selectively used quotes and other information to build his thesis. However, you cannot have it all your way, and I offer you a quid pro quo. If you will give me your opinion of one of my issues, then I will address one of your two newest issues with Cramer. For example, you give me your opinion of how Bellesiles handled the San Francisco records controversy, and I’ll give you my opinion of how Cramer’s views on homosexual pedophilia should affect the credibility of his research into AA. I believe that such a frank exchange of views on topics of mutual interest would surely be more productive than our current stalemate. I tire of sniping at one another across some verbal no man’s land, and I cannot think of a fairer offer to start anew, Mr. Smith.

You may of course decline by suggesting that after you discharge your mind on one of my issues I would then refuse to comply with my obligation under this new offer. Well, I can only say that I have given my word here for all to see, and I have no intention of being branded a liar. Or, if you like, just signal here your verbal agreement with the terms of my offer, and I will start the process by addressing one of your issues first. If you cannot or will not accept this offer, then perhaps you can suggest someone else who is willing to carry Bellesiles’ water here. I must say that I will not be drawn into your current Fabian strategy of trying to burn down Bellesiles’ critics. You know as well as I do that every day you can get by with drawing responses to your attacks on Cramer (and others) is another day you are spared having to answer why you refuse to consider any evidence of Bellesiles’ failings with AA.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/17/2003

I noticed the same omission, Frank. I also remember an interview with Mr. Stack where he said that shotgunning got him into the movie business -- I think he said he had developed a rep at at a Hoyywood shooting club, where he made the contacts that built his career.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/17/2003

You're right about Benny's tactics. I hold no brief for the CIA, I just realize that Allende was not a model of democracy -- he ruled by unconstitutional decree, outside the law. He also put a 400% import tax on spare parts for broadcasting and printing equipment -- except the government (Allende) controlled media, of course. I'm just not prepared to see Allende as the spotless virgin despoiled that is such a romantic myth on the left. We have similar electoral provisions for similar circumstances, and Bush did garner a larger percentage of the popular vote, and (arguably, though reasonable people can differ) a majority of the electoral college. If I remember correctly, Allende got about 36% of the vote, and only took a majority of the legislative votes with the help of the Christian Democrats, who threw their support behind Allende only with Allende's promise to respect the constitution -- a promise he promptly broke. Of course, you'll read these facts in The Nation.


Josh Greenland - 5/17/2003

A few years ago Robert Stack was a speaker at the California Rifle and Pistol Association's annual banquet. The CRPA is NRA's state-level affiliate in CA. Part of the program was devoted to recreational shooting matters, but I think he spoke during the political part of the evening. I wonder if a little news suppression went on as regards his politics as well?

That's amazing that the media would quash almost any mention of his shotgun prowess.


Frank A. Baldridge - 5/17/2003

Mama, what's a skeet?

As some of you may be aware, Robert Stack passed away yesterday at 84. Intrigued by the lack of certain data in his obituary, I abused my lowly position position at a major library to read as many of his obituaries as I could. Of the over 15, all mentioned his parents, first screen kiss, his role as Eliot Ness, and his gig on Unsolved Mysteries. Some vaguely mentioned his job during WW II, and his participation in the sports of polo and golf. ONE mentioned that he enjoyed shooting skeet.

There is a big different between "enjoying" doing sometime and being one of the very best to ever do it. During the late-1930s Robert Stack held the 20 ga. National Championship in skeet, ran over 350 birds, and was on both the National and U.S. Olympic Skeet Teams. Arguably his skill with a gun influenced both his assignment in WW II, and his film career. Today the "cult" is much smaller.




Josh Greenland - 5/16/2003

Richard,
The US tried to help Allende's electoral opponent win, but turned to the coup ops after their election ops failed. From my understanding, the necessary elements (the Chilean upper-middle class and the military) were not ready to pull a coup, and needed the year or two convincing that Kissinger & Friends gave it between the election and the coup. If you remember, the US created the "truck owners strike," a campaign by Chilean truck owners to sideline their vehicles - in a long, thin country that absolutely relies on trucks for commerce. The aim was to create and/or exacerbate negative economic conditions, and that's what happened, resulting in increased social tension. The CIA also bought Chilean newspapers and turned their coverage toward anti-Allende ends. Eventually the CIA was pumping so much money into Chile for anti-Allende operations that the dollar dropped in an obvious fashion versus the Chilean currency. There was also the kidnap/murder of Gen. Schneider, which seems a little harsh for "not much pushing."

Whatever you think of the Chilean political system and the way Allende became president, I hope you are not suggesting that that justifies our country's Chilean coup operation.

But if you are, that's your opinion and I respect that. What's happening here is that Benny has changed tack recently and is now trying to split us one from another, including left versus right, and socially liberal versus socially conservative, and is using non-gun issues to do that. I think it's a tribute to the strength of the case against Michael Bellesiles that people with differing politics such as ourselves can agree on the pervasive and profound falsehood of Bellesiles' work on firearms, and the social implications his work would have if it is believed.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/16/2003

"It was quite well-known at the time that the CIA pushed different elements in Chilean society to overthrow that country's democratically elected president Salvador Allende"

I'm not sure the Chileans needed much pushing -- certainly Pinochet and others had a green light fromm the US. I understand the emphasis on "democratically elected" Allende, as opposed to "democratically governing" Allende, since he shortly after "election" took up the practice of governing by decree (see Pipes latest book on communism). For those who have trouble with GW's election as "undemocratic", Allende's election poses much more of a problem -- he never got even as close as Bush to a majority of the vote. He was elected, instead, by the legislature.


Samuel Browning - 5/16/2003

What is really unfortunate is that if Benny would pick his battles and use facts he could provide a much better defense on individual issues for Mr. Bellesiles. Someone else on this board for example had to come up with the argument that Michael's low weapons counts could have been influenced by British Army weapons confiscations. Of course Michael would have trouble using this argument because even if he did look at some probate records as he claimed, by his account the only placed a hash mark on a legal pad instead of recording things like, name, date of death, exact language discussing weapon possession, ect.

I know you don't like Tim Lambert's position on gun control Josh but he was a good example of what Phil called a dissenter. He used his own name when he logged on this board, was usually quite willing to share facts and provided specific information. One becomes a troll when one walks totally away from providing facts to support their arguments over multiple posts as Benny has done.


Josh Greenland - 5/16/2003

"The issue with Clayton Cramer's research is not just his homophobia, as you call it."

"Homophobia, as you call it"?? Yeah, Benny, you're the Great Straight Hope, friend and (respectable) spokesman for "homosexuals" everywhere. Yes, "the homosexual" is so grateful to have you speak up for him against the Cramerite evil! (And of course "the homosexual" is always male, right?)

You pretend to give a damn about the rights of gay people but only to attack Clayton Cramer on yet another IRRELEVANT issue. You've shown your true colors with regards to "homophobia, as you call it." People who are opposed to discrimination against gay people know what that word means. It isn't new to them. It's only strange and worthy of remark to those who have no problem with negative attitudes and actions against gay people.

Don't do us any favors, Benny. Gay people don't need you around. Go "help" someone else, closet bigot.


Josh Greenland - 5/16/2003

"I can readily discern by your inflammatory anti-American rhetoric where you are coming from."

Benny, or whatever your real name is, the US fomentation of the Chilean coup by the murderous Augusto Pinochet is HISTORICAL FACT, not "rhetoric," anti-American or otherwise. I was following the news during the early 1970s when this was being reported on. It was quite well-known at the time that the CIA pushed different elements in Chilean society to overthrow that country's democratically elected president Salvador Allende, and Henry Kissinger was the figure most often associated publicly with this operation. Again, Benny (or whoever), I'm talking about things that were KNOWN AT THE TIME. This happened about 30 years ago, so it's well-documented history. If you want to smear someone for slinging rhetoric, do it to someone who is actually slinging rhetoric. On this forum, that would be you.

What do you have against historical truth, Benny? Americans owned guns in great numbers and were skillful with them before the 1840s, there were very few gun control laws before that time, the militias armed themselves and were often effective in combat. Bellesiles chose to lie about all these things, even though they are heavily documented facts. Outside of Clayton Cramer's work, Bellesiles was called his lies on most comprehensively in the William and Mary Quarterly in Jan or Feb 2002, where two of the three critics are outspokenly pro-gun control and the other one said nothing about the issue.

You can try to manipulate people on this board against each other, as with your attacks on Clayton Cramer for past posts on subjects unrelated to Bellesiles, or by trying to upset conservatives (by attacking "left wing" and "anti-American" expression) and liberals (by attacking "right-wing" thinking), but other than Mr. Hayhow, we all know what you're doing.

Now what were you trying to say about Clayton Cramer's catching of Michael Bellesiles at date fudging and misquoting with the clear intention of creating a false impression of the historical record?


Josh Greenland - 5/16/2003

Samuel,
Thanks for posting this URL:
http://philelmore.com/profiling/fieldguidetotrolls.htm

According to it, Benny is a classic Contrarian Type troll. He fits 4 of the 6 characteristics mentioned, VERY closely. #1, the need to insult, fits him to a tee.

I think we need to acknowledge that Benny is only here to stir things up. He adds no information or insight to the discussion. The benefit of his participation is that he stimulates us to dig up information and to develop new insights into l'affaire Bellesiles and inform one another about these.


Samuel Browning - 5/16/2003

Hi Benny:

I was reviewing your letter of May 11, 2003 and noticed once again that like your hero Mr. Belliseles you have a major problem with selective reading. Your argument is that Clayton is an irrational conspiracy theorist therefore his work on Arming America can be dismissed out of hand. When Michael issues his next version of Arming America we at this board will have to consider whatever new facts he presents regardless of his previous errors and deceptions. I disagree of your characterizations concerning Clayton, but your refusal to consider the facts in his presentations does him a disservice that at least I will not replicate upon Mr. Belliseles.

In your letter you said that the date change from 1628 to 1630 "was inconsequential to the point of being irrelevant" ... "if it is indeed an error". If you once again look at http://www.claytoncramer.com/columbia.18apr01.htm You will notice that the date of this Massachusetts Bay Colony document is provided on the very page that lists various weapons that this group has, or would like to purchase. How you missed this date which was in plain view on this scanned document is beyond me, but I do not believe you can argue in good faith that that Michael did not make an error here at the very least.

Now this is not an inconsequential error because this date change allowed Michael to assert "There were thus exactly one hundred firearms for use among seven towns with a population of about one thousand." The bad date allowed Michael to make a claim that the document respresented the number of firearms colonists had in the wilds on Massachusetts as verses in England. It was also Michael's brainstorm to describe an equipment list as a firearms census which could not be done without forming an intent to misinterpret the nature of this document even independant of the discrepancy with its date.

In another side by side document example Clayton shows in his presentation that Michael misrepresented the minimum number of guns in America by reporting only the number of weapons in the hands of the militia forgetting number that was in the hands of the Federal Government. Notice that Michael did not say the number of firearms in private hands, which would still have provided an undercount but would have been further along the path of honesty. The reality that Michael provided inaccurate and misleading census type information about the number of firearms in Massachusetts and then the United States on two separate occasions shows intent to lie about the central thesis of his book.

As long as you keep ignoring facts like this Benny I will keep bringing them up whenever you post on this board. I hope that you will consider mastering the facts of this case so you can provide Mr. Belliseles with a more worthy defense rather than simply acting as an internet "troll".


Frank A. Baldridge - 5/15/2003

"Who's lying now?"

Who is, Sara, err Benny?

P.S. Having just last night finished my last class for my MA, and feeling sooo much smarter as a result, allow me to inquire about getting in on this grant thing. Are you capable of providing useful imformation?


Samuel Browning - 5/15/2003

Hi Benny:

Thats a pretty poor attempt at manipulation Benny, telling me that I am making inflammatory anti-American rhetoric and that I need not respond to your allegations. I believe what you are saying is that you have no facts to counter my Kissinger and Nixon example and so you are trying to cut me off. That approach may be successfully used by a few professors but it doesn't work here.

I find that lumping my example into the politics of the right wing shows some real deficiencies in your reasoning. Secondly blaming Clayton Cramer for using rhetoric that inspires anti-government extremism in the form of Timothy McVeigh and Al Qaeda is laughable. I notice that you smear Clayton and then waffle by saying 'extremism like' that of Clayton Cramer. You are covering him with paint even though you know that there is no way to blame Clayton for the actions of these people. Do you even know that Al Qaeda is motivated by a narrow and extremist interpretation of the muslem religion and hate not only the United States government but also western culture in general? Facts have never been your strength Benny.

I also discovered a wonderful website that describes you very accurately though I should encourage others to draw their own conclusions. go to http://philelmore.com/profiling/fieldguidetotrolls.htm I hereby dub you "internet troll" for 1) your intellectual dishonesty, use of insults as to Clayton Cramer, and referring to the other members of this board as being monolithic, ie hard core right wing militants. I'll have to reconsider my vote for Ralph Nader for president in light of this revelation :) Back to you Benny.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/14/2003

"Timothy McVeigh . . . who also happened to be a member of the NRA."

You mean like Michael Bellesiles, who also claimed to be member of the NRA? Now it all makes sense. Bellesiles was put up to it by the gun lobby, in order to discredit the anti-gun crowd. Yeah, that's the ticket!!


Benny Smith - 5/14/2003



I can readily discern by your inflammatory anti-American rhetoric where you are coming from. And where you are likely to continue on. As we have discussed here prior to your arrival to this particular issue, anti-government extremism like that which Clayton Cramer espouses inspires terrorists like Al Qaeda and Timothy McVeigh . . . who also happened to be a member of the NRA. When I observe that the responses to my latest series of posts are suggestive of left wing and government conspiracies, it is rather obvious that I have been correct all along in my assumptions. This campaign of intellectual character assassination against Professor Bellesiles has been fueled by the hard core militants of the right wing and the gun lobby.

Thank you for your contributions, Mr. Browning. I wish you luck on your upcoming exam.


Josh Greenland - 5/13/2003

" As far as Mr. Cramer's research on Arming America, he claims to have documented evidence that shows that Professor Bellesiles altered dates and quotes. But look at one of the examples you have given here, the inconsequential date error, if it is indeed an error."...

I can't believe it, Benny, are you really trying to respond to a criticism of an actual passage from Arming America??

"Are you really willing to trust all your confidence into the work of Mr. Cramer, who throughout has shown a pattern of extreme prejudice, selective evidence gathering, faulty reasoning and conspiratorial, hatefully drawn conclusions?"

Benny, that doesn't describe Clayton Cramer. It describes you.


Josh Greenland - 5/12/2003

"But I suppose only the murder of Ameicans count Mr. Smith, in your definition of whether some American officials are pitiless and capable of murdering "anyone to achieve their goals" I will let others more knowlegable then myself argue Waco and Ruby Ridge with you. I'll write again soon."

I think Waco and Ruby Ridge speak eloquently for themselves. As far as our government arranging the murders of Americans, consider COINTELPRO, FBI's Counter-Intelligence Program running in the 1960s and early 1970s, that among other things fomented conflict between violent gangs and politicals groups the FBI didn't like. The fomenting bore fruit, and members of the Black Panther Party were murdered, I believe in Los Angeles and Chicago, if not other places as well. The FBI also arranged to have an agent drug a Panther member to sleep in Chicago, and manipulated the Chicago Police Department into bursting into the building where the Panther member was lying insensate and shooting him to death. There was much more to COINTELPRO than this, but these are some highlights that bolster the assertion that the people who run this country are "merciless, pitiless, evil people prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals" for those who only count murders done to Americans.


Samuel Browning - 5/12/2003

Hi Benny;

I will be able to write in more detail on Wednesday evening (I'm studying for a midterm) but let me see if I get the picture. You who call Clayton a "crackpot" are now lecturing others on being rude? LOL

As far as calling the people who run this country "merciless, pitiless, evil people prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals". Unfortunately Clayton does have major support for his position, I would recommend that you review Christopher Hitchen's book "The trial of Henry Kissinger" (Verso, London, 2001)Chapter 5.

In this fun filled episode of American foreign policy "Super K" (Henry Kissinger) under the supervision of "Tricky Dick" (Richard Nixon) make friends (through the CIA) with two groups of extreme right wing Chilean military officer groups. A plan was developed was to kidnap General Rene Schneider who as chief of the Chilean General Staff was opposed to his military interfering in his countries electorial process which was about to place Salvador Allende in power. The funny thing was in the American cable traffic no one, American or Chilean, was planning , heck even mentioning, any details of how to hold Schneider in captivity so kidnap was probably a term for murder from the start.

The US government through the CIA supplied tear gas granades and machine guns to one of the two groups, (called the Viaux group because of its leader)for the "kidnap" attempt. This group was also planning a general coup to prevent Allende from assuming office. The US govenment then decided that the time was not right for a coup attempt but strangely enough never told the Viaux group not to go through with the kidnapping which they carried out with members of the other group (the so called Valenzuela faction)

The U.S. has claimed they they are not responsible for Schneider's resulting death because he was not actually killed by one of the machine guns turned over to the Viaux group and subsequently shared by both factions. The evidence however indicates that the U.S. goverment was an active conspiritor in a kidnapping that lead to a murder. I would bet, though I am not a prosecutor, that Mr. Haskins could obtain a capitol felony conviction if he could establish the facts that I have detailed in front of a jury, and his court had jurisdiction in the matter.

But I suppose only the murder of Ameicans count Mr. Smith, in your definition of whether some American officials are pitiless and capable of murdering "anyone to achieve their goals" I will let others more knowlegable then myself argue Waco and Ruby Ridge with you. I'll write again soon.


Josh Greenland - 5/12/2003

"Hmmm, do we know anyone else from Chicago??"

Garry Wills teaches at Northwestern University, which is in Chicago.

Probably a search against Yassky Brief contributors, Chicago-Kent attendees and Potowmack Institute members might discover some more individuals.


Don Williams - 5/12/2003

The Joyce Foundation's website indicates that the Joyce gave out almost $3.2 million in "gun violence" grants in 2002. My understanding is that the Joyce can be so generous because it's annual income on $800 million in assets is tax-exempt --and that it's income is tax-exempt because the Joyce's officers attest to the IRS that the Joyce does not engage in political lobbying.

Benny's high moral stance has inspired me -- in a glow of admiration it occurs to me that maybe I should emulate him in some way -- e.g., by asking the IRS how the Joyce Foundation's tax exemption works.

The Joyce Foundation is in Chicago. Bellesiles took refuge at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Hmmm, do we know anyone else from Chicago??


John G. Fought - 5/12/2003

Be specific or be quiet.


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/11/2003

I guess what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If there is a gun lobby, then the Joyce Foundation, which funded the Chicago-Kent collectivist jamboree, counts as a charter member of the anti-gun lobby. Of course, the item would have to mention that Bellesiles' sponsor at Stanford, Rakove, who cited him effusively before publication, now thinks his work is flawed. And then there is Roger Lane's change of heart. And Edmund Morgan's. And Garry Wills'. All, no doubt, brought about by the unbearable pressure of the NRA. Perhaps too an item on why Bellesiles resigned, rather than take his case to the AAUP. I can see a growing list of additions to the chronology.


Benny Smith - 5/11/2003



If this thread is to suggest new items to include in the chronology of the Bellesiles affair, my vote would be to include the NRA's recent generosity to those who have participated in the Arming America author's intellectual lynching. I have previously revealed the NRA's $1 million donation to George Mason University, the sponsor of HNN, which has been far less than sympathetic and objective in its treatment of the former Emory professor. Now comes word that gun lobby darling and effusive Bellesiles critic Clayton Cramer has received an NRA grant as well. However, just as the NRA went through the back door in giving its $1 million to George Mason's law school, Cramer says his NRA grant is for civil rights research. Like the $1 million grant to George Mason University, it's just a coincidence that the NRA grant comes on the heels of Bellesiles' departure from Emory and his loss of a literary prize for Arming America.

Although Mr. Cramer in his web log does not reveal the amount of his NRA grant, he says it will be used to fund research, including air travel, for two books. With that in mind, here is a statement Cramer made to mollify his critics who had complained that he was just a paid NRA hack: "Unfortunately, one of the most painful discoveries of the last few months is that all the whining that the gun control advocates make about the NRA's deep pockets funding progun research work is, indeed, lies." To paraphrase the old country song, "Who's lying now?"


Benny Smith - 5/11/2003



We have enough petulance here without you becoming uncivil as well. I sincerely thought I had explained my position clearly enough. Mr. Luker seemed to comprehend. However, I am willing to make one more attempt to try to define it further for you and anyone else who might have missed the point.

The issue with Clayton Cramer's research is not just his homophobia, as you call it. Maybe you missed my earlier contribution which had to do with his opinions on our government leaders. Although this post was also made in the early 1990s, he reaffirmed it here. Mr. Cramer stated in a discussion group: " Make no mistake about it. The people that run this country are merciless, pitiless, evil people prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals." I do not believe this is a rational conclusion any more than his conclusions on homosexuals. And if you had delved further, you would have seen this pattern of 'Cramerian logic' continue on other subjects.

As far as Mr. Cramer's research on Arming America, he claims to have documented evidence that shows that Professor Bellesiles altered dates and quotes. But look at one of the examples you have given here, the inconsequential date error, if it is indeed an error. Whatever the discrepancy, it is inconsequential to the point of being irrelevant, unless you subscribe to Cramerian logic that it somehow underscores a plot among Bellesiles and others to, I guess, overthrow the second amendment of the Constitution. Although Cramer claims this is one of several "altered dates" and uses it as evidence to condemn Arming America, the errors more than likely resulted from a lapse in copyreading, proofreading, printing, computers, transcription, peer review, note-taking, note-checking, an error in source material, or any one of a dozen other more plausible yet innocent explanations.

There is no question that there are errors in Arming America, as there would be in the first edition of any work of its size and breadth. Bellesiles readily admits errors, and I have not seen him try to blame others for them. I put more trust in scholars with that attitude than someone like Mr. Cramer, who insists his evidence, interpretations and implausible conclusions are sacrosanct. Or like Professor Lindgren, who when I pointed out an error in his own 'attack scholarship' sought to put the blame elsewhere. So, Mr. Browning, it all comes down to whom do you trust. Are you really willing to trust all your confidence into the work of Mr. Cramer, who throughout has shown a pattern of extreme prejudice, selective evidence gathering, faulty reasoning and conspiratorial, hatefully drawn conclusions?



Frank A. Baldridge - 5/11/2003

With all due respect, are we not drifting off course here? The personal views of folks that do not pertain to Bellesiles works are irrevalent.

Personally, based on the observations of Mr. Browning and Sherlock Holmes, plus his inability to come to grips with reality, I believe Benny Smith is Sara Brady, trying to pump some life back into the dead horse she bet on.


Josh Greenland - 5/10/2003

Poor Benny. He saw Tim Lambert help to call into question John Lott's credibility, and he wants to do the same to Clayton Cramer. Unfortunately, he hasn't found anything that reflects in any way on Clayton Cramer's credibility or on the credibility of his revelations of Michael Bellesiles' many falsehoods in Arming America. Benny can only point to views held by Clayton Cramer that Benny thinks are unpopular, and then try to link those views - somehow - to Cramer's well-documented and easily checked research that so thoroughly discredits Bellesiles. But Benny's logical linkages between Cramer's "unpopular" views and his Bellesiles research are so tenuous that they are laughed at by virtually everyone who reads them. Poor Benny....


Josh Greenland - 5/10/2003

"Benny, You may have identified the quality about what Clayton Cramer says that caused him for so long to be ignored by the academic community."

I don't know that Clayton has been ignored totally by the academic community since he's written academic articles unrelated to Bellesiles that may not have been ignored, but I think you're right as regards Clayton's statements and writings about Michael Bellesiles. The "quality" that got him ignored in the Bellesiles matter is the same one that got academic historian Joyce Lee Malcolm ignored. They are both pro-gun rights.


Josh Greenland - 5/10/2003

Actually, I think there should be a way to tease the very little we know about the OAH convention Bellesiles chatroom into some kind of Chronology item as well.

And perhaps the notice that AHA gave that it will no longer investigate possible instances of plaigarism and other types of academic misconduct, in great part because of the Bellesiles affair, as noted on a link on HNN's home page, perhaps belongs in the Chronology, too.


Josh Greenland - 5/10/2003

This seems at least as newsworthy as that bigotted little New York Times cartoon.

Do any of you know who I might write to here at HNN to request that Don's news item be added to the chronology?


Samuel Browning - 5/10/2003

Hi Benny:

What you call "a position" is certainly poorly thought out so a quick review is in order. You have discovered that Clayton made some homophobic posts in the early 1990s. Therefore your first line of reasoning is that his present work is unreliable and unworthy of consideration. Your secondary position is that you have compared his research on homosexual behavior to the point where you claim it "rivals the research he claims for his criticisms of Arming America" and "in both cases that he has selectively gathered his evidence and misinterpreted its findings in order to reach inappropriate conclusions".

Huh? We on this board have been collectively trying to get specific replies from you concerning Bellesiles's errors for months but you have provided no answers. You have also previously said that Clayton's research ON ARMING AMERICA is suspect and have been unwilling to provide specifics. you have just risen to the level of claiming that he is guilty of selective misquoting and inappropriate conclusions without providing any proof.

I have at least three questions in my last post which you have avoided addressing. I looked into what you had to say only to discover once again that you will not similarly consider another writer's questions. When will you actually do some historical as verses google research to back up your bold words concerning Clayton's research on Arming America? Where is your proof that his work on Arming America exhibits flawed research methodology, bias or irrationality? I could go on but it doesn't seem to be doing any good.

When you can point to evidence that Clayton's research on Arming America has any any problems, let alone chronic problems I hope you will share the specific details. Then just maybe I will trouble myself to do another Google search, how about Michael Bellesiles as the author, and Bennie Smith as his sock puppet.


Ralph E. Luker - 5/10/2003

Benny, You may have identified the quality about what Clayton Cramer says that caused him for so long to be ignored by the academic community. Despite having that quality, Cramer is capable of identifying some things accurately. Undoubtedly, Cramer's work was long ignored because his biases were so obvious and seemed to prejudice his findings. Probably, the more he was ignored the more irrate he became and the more irrational he may have seemed to people who were otherwise not inclined to believe what he was saying. Nonetheless, the fact that Cramer was biased does not mean that his findings were fabrications.


Benny Smith - 5/9/2003



Now that you have gotten the knack of Google searching, Mr. Browning, you can delve a little deeper if you like and perhaps better understand my position. Mr. Cramer’s flawed conclusions are not just based on his being , as you describe, "undoubtedly homophobic," although his biases there certainly matter. If you search more thoroughly, you will find that Mr. Cramer has done extensive research on homosexual behavior and posts many of his sources. The documentation he has amassed on gay behavior certainly rivals the research he claims for his criticisms of Arming America. But I believe in both cases that he has selectively gathered his evidence and misinterpreted its findings in order to reach inappropriate conclusions.

Try this search. Google search the usenet (groups) with Clayton Cramer as author, and pairing "homosexuals" and "pedophilia" as search words. Under the subtitle of "looks like Cramer must retract" there was this interesting line from a poster commenting on Cramer’s research: "The bottom line with both your posts (Clayton) and others, is that you do not like homosexuals so you will find any citation in literature to point to that." Change "do not like homosexuals" to "do not like Michael Bellesiles" and the statement applies to Cramer’s research on Bellesiles as well. If you believe that Cramer’s bias, irrationality and flawed research methodology are chronic problems, then it is reasonable to conclude that he is a crackpot destined to be forgotten in left field except for a few die-hard fans from the gun lobby.



Benny Smith's Nemesis - 5/8/2003

I know the real identity of "Benny Smtih." This anarchists name and location will be revealed on May 10, 2003!


Don Williams - 5/8/2003

Any of you who have read the Ackerman's Emory Wheel articles during the Bellesiles investigation -- and Benny's slavering responses posted on their site -- will
understand why the following will have him foaming at the mouth
and chewing the carpet. From http://www.emorywheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/02/25/3e5b2c5a95cff?in_archive=1

***********
Wheel wins regional award

By Jennifer Sutcliffe
Asst. Entertainment Editor

February 25, 2003

The Emory Wheel won second place for best college newspaper at the Southeast Journalism Conference last weekend in Pensacola, Fla. Several Wheel journalists received individual awards.

More than 30 schools from throughout the Southeast participated in the conference and the competition, which was held at the University of West Florida. The Louisiana State University Reveille received best newspaper and first place in the overall competition.

News Editor Andrew Ackerman won first place in news reporting for a series of stories on former Professor of History Michael Bellesiles. Editorial Page Editor Paul Forrest won second place for opinion/editorial writing, and Managing Editor Melissa Cheung won ninth place for news page layout and design....
******
bwaha ha ha ha ha --the evil black hand of the NRA strikes again


Samuel Browning - 5/8/2003

Hi Benny:

After spending a fair amount of time trying to track down what you were referring to I did stumble upon what are probably some of Clayton's posts from the early 1990s. I say probably because while some were probably from Mr. Cramer, (Clayton please correct me if I'm wrong)others contained quotes from people arguing with Clayton who were quoting Clayton back to him. If our Clayton Cramer is the same as cramer@optilink.COM, and the text is accurately reproduced, then in the early 1990s Clayton was undoubtedly homophobic.

"After all, being Jewish, black, female, ect. doesn't mean that you are a depraved person whose sexual compulsions require satisfaction in public restrooms and exhibitionistic displays." or "Hitler's propaganda aimed at the Jews was false. On the other hand, homosexuals are scum." http://www.google.com/groups/q=homosexuals+depraved+author:Clayton+author:Clayton+author:Cramer&hl

Now to be fair to Clayton, the context of his comments were frequently arguments over why the gay community allowed the North American Man Boy Love Association to march in San Francisco's Gay Pride parades. And I have to say if you allow a group to march in your parade (absent a court order)you are supporting their legitimacy at some level. Clayton blamed the entire gay community for such an acceptance rather than just the particular group organizing this parade, and the San Francisco gay community which tolerated such a practice. Which leads me to the counter question, Bennie, if you were organizing this gay pride parade would you allow NAMBLA in? I sure as heck wouldn't.

There were also arguments regarding a study regarding the percentage of Gay men who had more then 250 lovers, and even 1000 in their livetimes. I would have to read the actual study to evaluate it, but Clayton's error was judging gay people instead of passing a moral judgment to the extent that anyone who sleeps with that many people regardless of sexuual preference is pretty depraved. http://www.google.com/groups/q=homosexuals+depraved+author:Clayton+author:Clayton+author:Cramer&hl

But the bottom line Bennie is that you don't have to like Clayton, or even trust him. Historical verification is a contact sport. You need to show were Clayton has misread, or abused the historical record concerning Mr. Bellesiles. Think about it, if you go to a library and pull a volume off the shelf by any historian that is not our contemporary, you will be using the research of someone who probably holds some views, especially on race or gender, that most of us would probably consider disgusting. The question is whether these views poisoned the research at hand, and the quick answer is it depends on the historian.

You have never shown how Clayton's previous beliefs have leeched into his present gun scholarship. Given some of his previous intemperate remarks that should have been easy, but nope, he never said Bellesiles was depraved, only that he committed historical fraud, a conclusion caused in part by Bellesiles's own unbelievable explainations for his errors.

This brings me to my next point, previously I posted a link for you to consider. It was a link to Clayton's website where he had scanned two pages and placed them side by side. One page was Bellesiles's book and the second was the historical record Mr. B cited. One doesn't have to believe, like, or trust, Clayton's judgment to draw a conclusion over whether Bellesiles lied by making two "errors" by commission. But nope, you won't debate such points, or consider the facts of the matter. And if you won't consider the facts in the present controversy how can you snub your nose at Clayton? What you are doing is no more rational then his previous off topic judgments. (And Clayton if your posts are not accurately reproduced please tell us)

In the end Clayton is not writing "Conduct Unbecoming" a history adressing an aspect of the gay community. He is writing concerning the history of gun ownership in America, you've had since at least last September to dig up at least one error in his writings on these matters and have probably failed miserably. I am assuming you checked, did you?

Then you turn on Ralph for what appears to be the offense of not defending Bellesiles strongly enough. No facts, attack Ralph, there is some sort of weird psychodynamic here Bennie which makes me think that you have a familial connection to Bellesiles. I can't imagine why you would behave the way you do if not for such a factor. Please write with an explaination.


Don Williams - 5/8/2003

From UK web site http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/2002%20August.htm
---------------
Few would have seen the mark of greatness in the young Benny Smith as he was then, but his entrepreneurial spirit was evident when the thirteen year old was regularly seen out with his bucket, collecting the residue from passing horse-drawn vehicles, which were then still common on the streets of the capital. He used to sell the produce at a penny a load to keen gardeners, and was thus able to build up capital to start his first business, operating from mobile premises in London’s Middlesex Street.

Much of his early poetry has been lost to posterity, as it was published in the form of murals in various small rooms about the capital, but who can forget the poignant concision of those few works that have been preserved; such as the familiar couplet:

What is life if, lacking wit,
We have no time to sit and shit?

Pithy sayings were to become the trademark of his distinguished later career.

For an autodidact, his calculating powers were legendary and he could compute complex probabilities in his head from an early age. He was avidly sought as a consultant by small business men operating in and around the dog and horse racing tracks of North London.

There are unfortunate lacunae in the record of his career, when he seems to have disappeared from the scene for months or years on end, but admirers believe that it was during these mysterious periods of retreat that he developed his philosophy of business and life. One of his many business slogans at this time was “Quick in the head, quick on the feet.”

It was a surprise to everyone who knew him when he disappeared from London and turned up in rural Hampshire. It was at about this time that he developed his life-long interest in climate change, for he used to say that London simply got too hot for him. His transition to one of the great innovative spirits of academia occurred at this time, almost by accident. With typical generosity of spirit, he forgave an elderly woman a gambling debt and in lieu took over control of the Lillian Forsdyke School of Music, Dance and Drama, which was a well-known academy for young ladies operating from a barn in Over Wallop. His characteristic loyalty came to the fore when he sent for some of his old London colleagues to come and form what he liked to call his “negotiating team”. They were uniquely persuasive and became familiar and striking figures around the villages of North Hampshire, with their inevitable dark suits and dark glasses. One by one, local small educational and other establishments rushed to join the growing educational enterprise; and wise they were too, for many of them were to be the seeds that would grow into full-blown faculties. Miss Hale’s Afternoon Nursery Class of Kings Somborne formed the basis of a Faculty of Education. Joe’s Corner Garage of Houghton was to grow into the Faculty of Engineering. Even Fred’s Caff on the A30 just outside Stockbridge was the larva from which an imago, the Faculty of Advanced Chemistry, was to emerge.

It was about this time that he became a leading light in the campaign to end elitism in higher education. He was especially critical of the university establishment, whom he described in his typical down-to-earth language as “them stuck-up college tarts.” His sentiments found an echo in the policies of the new Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, which were to tear down the class barriers in higher education. Thus it was in the mid nineties that his creation, by then known as the Nether Wallop Combined Colleges, was at last able to offer degrees ratified by Thames University. He was not, however, a political zealot, and it has since emerged that over subsequent years he donated several million pounds to the New Labour project.

It is now common knowledge that he found himself the first Vice Chancellor of the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop, which offered a variety of new degrees with the emphasis on relevance to the community. He also received a knighthood in the first year of the New Labour government. “Surprised?” he would jest, “I nearly bought my own beer!”

He remained famous for his pithy three-word slogans. The new Research Block, set up in a disused hangar on the Middle Wallop airfield, sported the slogan “Scares mean grants!” He always claimed that his old mate Greg Dyke, of New Labour BBC, stole from him one of his best creations, which was “Cut the crap!”

He was characteristically modest about his achievements. “I am still in the same business I was at the age of thirteen”, he would tell the congregation at the lavish degree ceremonies, for which only a small minority of parents would decline to pay the fee.

It was at the recent degree ceremony (tickets £50, bring your own picnic) held in the Middle Wallop Community Hall that the Chancellor of the University, Baroness Euthanasia Gimbal, paid a final glowing tribute to Sir Benjamin – “If there was one man who summed up what modern education is all about it was Ben. His watchword was “Access”. He did not see why young people carrying a minor disability, such as being unable to write their own name, should be deprived of higher education, provided, of course, that they had the money or credit worthiness to meet the fees. He took a particular interest in the progress of young women. As he used to say ‘While I strive to maintain the Faculty, I still have a keen interest in the student body.’

He was totally dedicated to his work and always said it was his ultimate ambition to die on the job. His close friend, eighteen year old Melanie Topley, one of his many youthful protégées, confirmed that he achieved his ambition.

And so, along with thousands of graduates around the world (with their innovative degrees in such vital subjects as billiard table studies, corn dolly engineering and media studies), we bid a reluctant farewell to one of the great pioneers of education. And future generations will sing his praises, when they are saved from roasting in the hell of global warming by the work of his inspirational creation, The Phlogiston Research Unit. And, always remembering to begin our sentences with a conjunction and to inevitably split our infinitives, we salute a man who, more than anyone, represented the spirit of the age.


Don Williams - 5/8/2003

as appears to me to be your custom.


Benny Smith - 5/7/2003



Mr. Williams . . . I recall you stating here that you would respond to my posts when you found something of substance in them. Since you have been responding to me lately, I trust you have finally discovered the substance you have been seeking. I must, however, decline your offer to share a dialogue on the battle you described. There are a number of popular venues, print as well as web-based, where armchair historians like yourself are eager to debate their views on the nature, history and tactics of past conflicts. In fact, there is a site armchairhistorian.com which should indulge your views so that you do not have to impose on my limited time here.

Mr. Luker . . . Are you indicating that Professor Bellesiles told you in confidence that his book was "deeply flawed?" Indeed, if so, you should perhaps inform the editor of this site as that would be news. Of course, I believe it was Mr. Haskins who stated to you that "the surest way to destroy a relationship you have with someone is to betray their confidence." Somehow, I do not believe that Bellesiles used the phrase "deeply flawed." I believe it was your hyperbole along the same line as stating that I am the only person in the universe who does not believe that Arming America is deeply flawed. As you yourself have stated here, "Gross exaggeration never adds weight to your argument. It undermines it."

Did I also hear you suggest that by my speaking to Bellesiles I might be having a conversation with myself? I have heard that suggestion put forth by Bellesiles' critics here, but I am surprised that you bought into that fiction as well. Perhaps you have allowed yourself to be held captive too long by the gun lobby's rhetoric here. The Stockholm syndrome is having its effect. You are losing your perspective.


Misters Greenland and Browning . . . Mr. Cramer's views on the gay community can be learned by Google searching usenet (groups). For example, do an advanced search inserting Clayton Cramer as author and pairing "homosexuals" with "depraved" as search words. Admittedly, some of the posts are old, but I have seen nothing from him that indicates that he has repudiated his views. He does seem to have toned down his rhetoric lately, possibly so that his opinions will be more palatable to mainstream conservatives.

And Mr. Greenland, I am not trying to vilify Mr. Cramer here. Afterall, I am merely summarizing his own public statements. Besides presenting these items in response to yourself and Mr. Browning, I only want to show how his research and thinking processes cannot be respected by someone like myself. And why I cannot consider him trustworthy as a historian or scholar. Remember what Mr. Hayhow said here after I posted Mr. Cramer’s opinions about this country’s leaders. Mr. Hayhow stated, "I will never trust any post of his again as I believe there is a strong streak of irrationality in that post." I realize that Mr. Cramer has strong support within the gun lobby and from right wing magazines like The National Review, but I am not inclined to subscribe to his theories, whatever the subject.


Bryan Haskins - 5/7/2003


Dear Mr. Smith,

I don’t understand why you of all people would stoop to your current bouts of mean-spirited personal attacks on Clayton Cramer. Why choose to attack him personally on unrelated issues rather than address the substance of his arguments against Arming America?

I must say I preferred the kinder, gentler Mr. Smith of last year. Of course, you were on the lecture circuit back then, preaching that we of the gun lobby should repent our evil ways. Those were the good old days, Mr. Smith, when you at least had a consistent argument:

“Focus on the message, don’t demonize the messenger, Mr. Haskins.” That was the title of your December 3, 2002, reply to one of my posts, in which you criticized those in the gun lobby whom you felt were ignoring AA’s thesis to prosecute “personal vendettas.” http://hnn.us/comments/5386.html

On December 16, 2002, you went on to bitterly complain about the unfair tactics of the “gun lobby” by stating: “Although they may claim to want to focus on issues, this is merely a smokescreen….it’s really about attacking the messenger instead of the message.” http://hnn.us/comments/5796.html

Ah, but this harangue went further than these December posts. Why, even as far back as November 19, 2002, you railed against the heavy handed tactics of the gun lobby with: “Kill the messenger and the message will die as well. That appears to be their agenda.” http://hnn.us/comments/4960.html.

Well now, Mr. Smith, I have a few questions for you…. Did you believe in the morality of these complaints, or were they just politically correct catch phrases? Did you utter them because they sounded good at the time, or were they merely uttered with the same false conviction of an atheist attending the funeral of a friend, who tries to comfort his religious comrades by joining a halting recitation of the apostle’s creed? Are you so enslaved to your ideology that your defense of Bellesiles is in reality nothing more than a reflexive knee-jerk aimed at his critics with no memory for your own prior complaints? Do you really believe that the rules are different for you, and that you can engage in the very sin you have repeatedly denounced without having to answer for your tactics?

You wonder why I reply to your posts even though we both know you will refuse to acknowledge what I am saying? Well, here’s why: I know you read them, and I want you to understand just how far your ideology has led you astray from the mainstream of this debate. How can you expect to credibly challenge the anti-Bellesiles crowd with a “do as I say, not as I do” approach? Need you really wonder why no one takes you seriously, when you choose to publicly abandon your own convictions in such a sudden, Machiavellian fashion? This is not the only example of how your zeal to defend Bellesiles has allowed you to directly contradict your own message. There are certainly others.

So, you want to personally attack Mr. Cramer because you are afraid to address his research? That’s fine with me. It is not my place to defend him even if I felt inclined to try (In fact, I even agreed with one of your earlier complaints, even though I felt it to be irrelevant to our discussion of AA). Nevertheless, I do suggest that in the future you re-read your own advice here and remove the beam from your own eye before you again accuse others of personally attacking Bellesiles.


Bryan Haskins - 5/7/2003


I’m sorry, Josh. I wasn’t referring to Lott’s supporters as a group. I do feel that by and large the “group” has done a far better job reviewing and answering Mr. Lambert’s allegations than Bellesiles’ supporters have. However, I have read a few die-hard Lott fans in other forums (and I do not mean you) who have taken the Bennie Smith “kill the messenger so we can safely ignore the message” approach to Mr. Lambert. I find that as equally frustrating as Mr. Smith’s expositions here. My point was aimed at Mr. Smith, who once again either missed it or refused to comment upon it.


Don Williams - 5/7/2003

I double-checked Marshall's "Life of Washington". Like Henry Lee, Marshall indicates, based on conversations with Daniel Morgan and John Howard, that part of Pickens' militia ran to their horses and part of Pickens' militia formed on the right flank of Line 2 to support the Continentals.

My memory was in error in one respect however. The specific quote from Howard re militia on his right flank is not in "Life of Washington". According to Lawrence Babits, "Devil of a Whipping", page 196, note 84; Howard stated in a 1804 letter to John Marshall that "a part of them [the militia] fell into the rear of my right flank where they afterwards renewed the action." If I understand Babits' citations correctly, this letter is within the John Eager Howard papers, known as the Bayard papers, held by the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

Note that part of Pickens'militia who had retreated behind the left flank of Line 2 to reload were attacked by British cavalry and had to fight with unloaded rifles until some could reload and Washington's cavalry can to their relief. Babits indicates that some of those militia supported the left side of Line 2.

Note also that Picken's militia line in Line1 was only part of the militia --the Virginia militia units under Tate and Triplett were assigned to Howard, were a part of Line2 , and fought beside the Continentals throughout the battle.


Don Williams - 5/6/2003

The OAH Newletter guideline for letters is 300 words or less (which is not bad compared to the New York Times--the Times limits reader comments to 150 words). My letter to OAH was slightly longer (about 3200 words longer--hee hee) so I shortened it to meet their guidelines with hooks in to my H-OIEAHC articles. OAH didn't edit my 300 word version.


Samuel Browning - 5/6/2003

Hi Benny:

Once again your letter takes us on a journey which carefully skirts the facts at issue. Back on March 20, 2003 on this very forum I asked you to review two pages which Clayton Cramer had posted on the net. One page was a page from Bellesiles' Arming America. The other was from the historical records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Comparing the two pages revealed the following facts. 1) the record referred to was from 1628 not 1630 as Bellesiles had claimed in his book, and 2) It was not a census of guns owned in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, only a planned military equipment list.

It was my opinion that this double mistake showed an intent to deceive, but even if it somehow did not, you never responded by showing that the underlying facts contained in this example were wrong. For example, that some where else in the historical record there is evidence supporting Bellesiles "census" claim and he simply screwed up the citation here. I and others including Mr. Williams have provided specific examples and you have addressed none of them. You seem quite talented at researching Mr. Cramer's personal life, why do you refuse to attack his work head on? I cannot address Clayton's specific comments re the gay community that you refer to unless you provide me with a link or cite I can chase down. When you provide me with one I will be happy to discuss that issue. In return you could do Mr. Williams and myself the favor of a reply on the issues we have raised.

Clayton Cramer and Tim Lambert have successfully fought Bellesiles and Lott because they showed a mastery of the issues involved in both man's academic work. Until you similarly apply yourself you will be ineffective, and raise questions concerning your true intentions. To disagree with Cramer's interpretations of evidence you first have to discuss the evidence itself, something you have strangely avoided.


Josh Greenland - 5/6/2003

I'm guessing they intentionally devoted half of their letters column to Bellesiles responses as a balance to the pro-Bellesiles partisanship of Wiener's piece. They may have only gotten 2 letters along the lines of yours and the critic of Wiener, but I suspect they got more. Yours was very concise and informative, ready for a letters column. Was that the whole letter or did they edit any of it?


Josh Greenland - 5/5/2003

In my previous post, where I wrote "facility" I meant "facilitate."


Don Williams - 5/5/2003

Maybe they only received two letters and they needed to fill up empty newsprint?




Don Williams - 5/5/2003

In my above message, I gave a link to the Journals of the Continental Congress. That link doesn't work so here is an alternate:
1) Go to http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/hlawquery.html
2) In the first row of pull-down menus, go to the leftmost menu and select "Continental Congress, 1774-89". Next, go to the large box below it and enter "Cowpens", then hit search key
3) In the resulting list, select the entry for
"FRIDAY,MARCH 9, 1781"


Josh Greenland - 5/5/2003

"There is also a letter from moi re why I think OAH is obligated to correct the Bellesilesean history in US vs Emerson and Silveira v Lochyer. See http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2003may/correspondence.html "

[snip]

"Maybe Benny can explain why OAH prints a letter from moi -- one of those Benny describes as "gun lobby ideologues" and "conspiracy kooks"."

Your excellent letter mentioned their Binkley-Stephenson prize and other Bellesiles-supportive action. Do you think they just printed your letter to air "the other side," or because they want to expose their old pro-Bellesiles actions, preparatory to undoing some of their past support of him? (I know I'm a hopeless optimist. :)


Josh Greenland - 5/5/2003

""we have the most polite and mannerly guy on any discussion on HNN (Bryan Haskins)."

"Why thank you, Josh. That was very kind thing to say."

You're welcome, Bryan. I think people deserve praise for the good they do, rather than be taken for granted for it. It seems that the squeaky wheels on HNN are the ones who get the mention, rather than those manners facility sane, informative discourse. That isn't the way it should be.

"Still, I think it unlikely that Mr. Smith will ever award me a gold star for my exercise of discretion here...."

I don't think Benny's capable of appreciating consideration or kindness.


Don Williams - 5/5/2003

The May edition of the OAH newsletter is out. See
http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2003may/

Several things for Benny:
a) http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2003may/integrity.html

b) In the Correspondence section there is a letter from historian
Andrew Heinze, whose admiration for Wiener's defense of Bellesiles seems ..er.. limited.

There is also a letter from moi re why I think OAH is obligated to correct the Bellesilesean history in US vs Emerson and Silveira v Lochyer. See http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2003may/correspondence.html

Maybe Benny can explain why --if Bellesiles was subject to a gross injustice -- roughly 12? historians out of 2500+ at the annual meeting showed up at Wiener's session?

Maybe Benny can explain why OAH prints a letter from moi -- one of those Benny describes as "gun lobby ideologues" and "conspiracy kooks".

Oh, I get it. I'm "Bullying" the OAH. I and my fellow travelers have gone from terrorizing weak-kneed administrators at Emory, Harvard, and Princeton to cowing the 11,000+ membership of OAH.

Gee -- I haven't even loaded my AK-47 yet.


Josh Greenland - 5/5/2003

"That his work was predestined to be a slap in the face to the gun lobby made it all the more likely that there would be legions of amateur critics nitpicking every errant phrase or miscounted gun, rather than just weighing the bulk of evidence."

Hence your attempts at vilifying Clayton Cramer. He's gone beyond simply picking out a few quotes or a narrow area of expertise to focus on in Bellesiles' work and has gone through more of Bellesiles' source references than anyone else has, and has come closest to being able to weigh the bulk of Bellesiles' claimed evidence. Thus, you have to try to destroy Clayton's credibility.

BTW, it was mostly professional historians, not amateurs, who proved Bellesiles' unreliability in probate counts.

"Unfortunately for academic freedom in this country, the gun lobby’s subsequent chants of "lies, lies, lies" compromised some academicians and bullied college administrators."

Please prove this statement. The fact that some groups urged people to contact academics and college administrators, and that Emory dumped MB and Columbia took away his Bancroft prize, does not demonstrate cause and effect.


Josh Greenland - 5/5/2003

"It is interesting that in reading Mr. Cramer’s collection of "facts" on other forums, you will discover that he believes his facts show that the gay community supports child molestation. He has used such "facts" and his interpretation of them to argue that it should be legal to discriminate against the gay community."

I think what's interesting is that you aren't providing a quote, a source forum or a date for your claims. The most recent thing I've read from Clayton Cramer on the subject is that he's asked a lot of gay people what they thought of NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, and he's gotten a whole range of responses, from no problem with NAMBLA to ".44 Magnum solution." He did not find majority support for NAMBLA within the gay community.

Going beyond this, I think he has spoken positively of Pink Pistols, a pro-gay, pro-gun rights organization, http://www.pinkpistols.org/ , and I know he has worked with a gay member of Pink Pistols on a pro-gun rights conference to the extent of being scheduled to speak at that conference. I assume he did speak there, but Clayton can tell you that himself. The conference was definitely not set up to allow promulgation of anti-gay opinion, BTW.

"If you believe I am within reason to disagree with him on homosexuals"

Ho-mo-sex-u-als, huh? Gee, I bet some of your best friends are ho-mo-sex-u-als! I'm sure you know a great many ho-mo-sex-u-als at the Detroit PFLAG chapter at which you're so very active! Yeah, uh huh, right...

"then certainly I can disagree with his and the gun lobby’s interpretations of historical evidence, which uses much the same pattern of logic."

Ah, guilt by association, trying to claim that the case for the overwhelming falsehood of Arming America is based on "the same pattern of logic" that one might use to argue against civil rights for gay people. Sorry, Benny, it doesn't work. You didn't provide any logic chain, just an attempted smear against one researcher for allegedly holding non-gun-related views that you think most people won't like.

That you may not like this or that non-gun opinion of Clayton Cramer has nothing to do with his work on gun-related issues, including his research into Arming America. You haven't challenged its validity. Sorry.


Don Williams - 5/4/2003

But let's try again:

In his opening statement above, Benny said re myself and other critics of Arming America:
"Their interpretations of historical records, statements of historical figures and events that transpired centuries ago are the "facts." Those of us who differ with their opinions and interpretations merely offer statements not substantiated by the "facts." And, of course, anything at all proffered by Professor Bellesiles is a lie "

1) Let's see if Benny can put up or shut up. Consider Bellesiles' description of the Battle of Cowpens (Arming America, page 197):
"The Battle of Cowpens in 1781 offered further evidence that it was still possible for the militia to fulfill their vaunted role. But that victory was the consequence of Daniel Morgan's careful planning in placing the militia in front of his Continental units, and his working out a deal with the militia whereby they agreed to fire a volley and then leave the field. Even then, Morgan repeatedly had to cajole and even beg the militia to keep their part of the bargain in the face of Banastre "Butcher" Tarleton's English forces, and most of the militia initially made to flee as soon as the English started to leave the field. It seemed as though the militia understood any movement as full-scale retreat, and Morgan and Colonel Andrew Pickens had to place themselves between the militia and their
horses, waving their swords threateningly in order to keep them from turning victory into rout. The militia kept blundering around the field, convincing the British that the Americans were in flight. At that very moment when the British confidently charged, Morgan had Lieutenant Colonel John Howard's Continentals perform a perfect change of direction, fire a withering musket volley at ten yards, and then charge the British with fixed bayonets. Tarleton's forces collapsed before the American bayonets, and the militia, which had
to fire only that single volley, managed to hold on to their guns this time. "

2) The American commander at Cowpens, Daniel Morgan, did place a line (Line 1) of militia units (under the command of militia Colonel Andrew Pickens) about 150 yards in front of a second line (Line 2) composed of Continental units and Virginia militia. However, the militia had orders to retreat to Line2 after firing two volleys because their rifles, while more accurate and with greater range than muskets, could take up to a minute to reload -- the British bayonet charge would overrun the militia before the militia could reload if the militia did not retreat. During the battle, the militia riflemen shot up the British line and retreated behind Line 2 to reload. Line 2 exchanged fire with the British but the British threatened to turn Line2's right flank. When Colonel Howard ordered the rightmost unit of Line 2 ( a Continental unit under Andrew Wallace) to swivel around and face the British on the right, Wallace's unit misunderstood and made an unplanned retreat to the rear. The rest of Line2, to maintain alignment, followed. However, Line2 was not in a panic --they reloaded
and reformed about 70 yards to the rear and --at the command of Colonel Howard -- gave a massive fire to British soldiers charging at them. Howard then ordered a bayonet charge which threw the British line into disorder. British commander Tarleton ordered the 71st Highlanders, his reserve , to attack Line2’s right flank, but Pickens’ militia, having reloaded, surged up and attacked on Howard’s right -- causing the 71st
to collapse as well. The entire British line broke, were surrounded and surrendered, with Col Tarleton and a few British officers fleeing on horseback.

American commander Daniel Morgan noted the following in his report to Congress:
a) When the British advanced, militia units under

"[militia] Majers McDowell and Cunningham gave them [the British] a heavy and galling fire and retreated to the [militia] Regiments intended for their support. The whole of Colonel Picken's Command then kept up a Fire by Regiments retreating agreeable to orders. "
b) "Colonel Pickens and all the officers in his corps behaved well". Morgan then goes on to note that he does not mention individual militia officers because he only knows some of them (Pickens' militia units had only reached Morgan a few days before) and he does not wait to praise those he know and overlook those he does not.

c) Daniel Morgan rightly praised the Continental officers under his command, led by Colonel Howard.
(Although Andrew Wallace was noticeably left out) However, in his description of Line 2, Morgan had noted that Howard’s Continentals were joined by Virginia Militia under Major Triplett and Captains Tate and Buchanan. Morgan cited those and other officers in the Virginia Militia along with the Continental officers (being mentioned in the commanding officer’s dispatches was customary praise for high performance in battle.)

2) In his book, “The Life of George Washington”, John Marshall ( first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)
described the Battle of Cowpens. Marshall noted that his account was based on conversations with
Daniel Morgan and Colonel John Howard. In his account, Marshall indicates that Howard remembered some of the militia units attacking on his right during the British collapse.

3) We don’t have accounts of the battle from Andrew Pickens but Continental cavalry under Henry Lee served with Picken’s mounted militia in the weeks and months following Cowpens. Two decades later,
Henry Lee wrote his “Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States”, including a
description of the Battle of Cowpens. Lee notes that after firing on the British, Picken’s militia retreated
to Line 2: “Here, with part of the corps, Pickens took post on Howard’s right, and the rest fled to their horses, probably with orders to remove them to a further distance.”

(Comment: Colonel Washington’s cavalry unit , which had been covering the hundreds of horses belonging to the militia, was charging Tarleton’s cavalry who had attacked militia retreating from Line 1 to Line 2. )

Later, Henry Lee notes “Morgan derived very great aid from Pickens and his militia, and was effectually
supported by Howard and [cavalry leader] Washington.”

4) Henry Lee also notes that Congress gave a gold medal to Daniel Morgan, a sword to Pickens, and silver
medals to Howard and Washington. Lee’s account is confirmed
in the March 9,1781 entry in the “Journals of the Continental Congress” --see http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?hlaw:1:./temp/~ammem_Lkbs:: . The Journal notes that Morgan’s army consisted of 80
Continental cavalry troopers, 237 Continental soldiers, and 553 militiamen -- and that this army
defeated a British army of more than 1100 British troops.

Note: As noted in Daniel Morgan’s dispatch to Congress, a major portion of Washington’s cavalry unit consisted of militiamen who had been added the night before the battle and given sabers.

5) Bellesiles’ suggestion that 237 Continental soldiers defeated and took prisoner 1100 British troops while
553 militiamen fled the battlefield is obviously false and misleading -- especially in view of the testimony
given above by American commanders. Congress would hardly have given a prestigious award and public praise to Colonel Pickens if his 553 militiamen had abandoned Howard’s 237 troops to 1100 British troops.

The accounts of Cowpens left behind by Daniel Morgan, John Howard, and the Journals of the Continental
Congress indicate that Bellesiles account of militia performance was false and misleading --unless Benny
wants to argue that those men were also pro-gun advocates and liars.

Does Benny have any FACTS to offer in Bellesiles’ defense?

6) Similarly, the accounts left behind by Andrew Jackson and his Chief Engineer, Arsene Latour, indicate that Bellesiles’ depiction of militia performance in the 1812 Battle of New Orleans was also false and
misleading. See
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-oieahc&month=0207&week=c&msg=PkrdkLRPluSObiMgdhAKPw&user=&pw=

Again, does Benny have any FACTs to offer in Bellesiles’ defense?

7) In an earlier post, I noted where Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” directs contradicts both Bellesiles’ primary thesis as well Bellesiles’ description of Tocqueville’s account of guns in America -- does Benny have have any FACTS to offer in Bellesiles’ defense?


Ralph E. Luker - 5/4/2003

Let's, see, Benny .... I own up to having had conversation with Michael about his book after his resignation from the Emory faculty. Do you? Or would that be like talking to yourself?Among the things that I said to him were that he would be a fool not to take advantage of the massive criticism of his book to correct it at every discrete point that he can see his mistake.
The point of a second edition of _any_ book is to correct mistakes found subsequent to the publication of a first edition. Scoffers here are likely to believe that Michael would have to start over from scratch. I doubt that.


Benny Smith - 5/4/2003



"Josh, I would not want to associate myself with the "intellectual assassination" of anyone, including and perhaps even especially Michael Bellesiles. His work was deeply flawed. Even he acknowledges that. Benny Smith may be the only person in the universe who doesn't."


I am not aware that Bellesiles ever characterized his own work as on Arming America as "deeply flawed." Do you have a source or cite for that? I believe that Arming America’s problems, whatever they may be, derived from the author’s overly ambitious attempt to review and encapsulate the extensive historical record having to do with guns and the gun culture in this country. At a time when the work of many prominent historians is narrowly focused on a single character, event or phenomenon, Bellesiles’ attempt to be comprehensive certainly opened himself up to charges of bias and error. That his work was predestined to be a slap in the face to the gun lobby made it all the more likely that there would be legions of amateur critics nitpicking every errant phrase or miscounted gun, rather than just weighing the bulk of evidence. Unfortunately for academic freedom in this country, the gun lobby’s subsequent chants of "lies, lies, lies" compromised some academicians and bullied college administrators. However, I believe the evidence more than bears up the author’s theses. And I believe Bellesiles believes this too. Otherwise, what would be the point of a second edition.


Benny Smith - 5/4/2003



I have found it peculiar the way members of the gun lobby use the word "facts" in this forum. Mr. Williams speaks of them often, as does Mr. Cramer and Mr. Browning here. It has become rather predictable, actually. Their interpretations of historical records, statements of historical figures and events that transpired centuries ago are the "facts." Those of us who differ with their opinions and interpretations merely offer statements not substantiated by the "facts." And, of course, anything at all proffered by Professor Bellesiles is a lie. It is a world of logic onto its own. There is no need for more research , debate or study. In the realm of the gun lobby, it is as if theory has unequivocally evolved into the law and anyone who casts disparaging remarks must be tortured and burned intellectually at the stake of heresy.

It is interesting that in reading Mr. Cramer’s collection of "facts" on other forums, you will discover that he believes his facts show that the gay community supports child molestation. He has used such "facts" and his interpretation of them to argue that it should be legal to discriminate against the gay community. Although I agree that some of his "facts" may contain shards of truth, I do not believe I am wrong to disagree with how he gathers his evidence, forms his conclusions, and how we as a society should therefore react? If you believe I am within reason to disagree with him on homosexuals, then certainly I can disagree with his and the gun lobby’s interpretations of historical evidence, which uses much the same pattern of logic.


Ralph E. Luker - 5/4/2003

Josh, I would not want to associate myself with the "intellectual assassination" of anyone, including and perhaps even especially Michael Bellesiles. His work was deeply flawed. Even he acknowledges that. Benny Smith may be the only person in the universe who doesn't. Bellesiles denies any intentionality in the flaws. His critics believe otherwise. It is difficult for me not to agree with them, but I cannot know to a point of absolute certitude what was going on in his mind.


Josh Greenland - 5/4/2003

" I don’t see how this is any less predictable or disappointing than reading Lott’s supporters attack Tim Lambert without addressing his arguments."

Just to disagree on a small point, Bryan, I don't think it's true that Lott's supporters as a group attacked Lambert and ignored his arguments. At least among the web commentators and gun list emailers I've read, I saw little or no attacking of Lambert and at worst some efforts to minimize or ignore the points he was making about Lott. I say this as the person who's perhaps spoken most critically to and about Lambert on this forum recently. The Mary Rosh and 1997 survey incidents canNOT be ignored by anyone who would like to use Lott's work to support greater freedom to own and use firearms. I don't agree with Lambert's statements in his more hyperbolic moments that these problems have destroyed Lott's credibility, but I do think Lott's credibility is now an issue.


Josh Greenland - 5/3/2003

"Cramer, who serves as kind of a disinformation minister for extremists in the gun rights movement"

Benny, what disinformation can you point to from Clayton? And what is your response to the claims from many different people that Bellesiles lied on many different occasions?

"with few legitimate historians joining in the campaign of intellectual assassination against Bellesiles". If by practicioners of "intellectual assassination" you mean public critics of Arming America, I'd include in the count Joyce Lee Malcolm, Gloria Main, Ira Gruber, Randolph Roth, James Lindgren, Jerome Sternstein, Garry Wills, the three members of the Emory external committee, the historians at Columbia who were part of the decision to rescind Bellesiles' Bancroft prize, and Paul Finkelman and Ralph Luker for standing up to Jon Wiener at the OAH convention. That's twelve plus an unknown number at Columbia, and I can think of more. That looks like a lot of historians to me! Tell us, Benny, how many "legitimate historians" are involved in defending Arming America?


Bryan Haskins - 5/2/2003


OK, I’m confused. Why the continuing focus on a man you deem “Mr. Irrelevant” because he is not a “real” academic historian? Either he says things that deserve to be commented upon, or he is truly the raving non-academic right-wing gun-hugging lunatic you claim him to be. Which is it? If the latter, then why don’t we just ignore him? If the former, then how about telling us what he has gotten wrong? Seriously now, wasn’t “personally attack Clayton Cramer” last year’s theme? I don’t see how this is any less predictable or disappointing than reading Lott’s supporters attack Tim Lambert without addressing his arguments.


Bryan Haskins - 5/2/2003


Ah, there is a lesson to be learned here. Curiosity lacking in smugness or condescension can get you answers to your questions. Thanks, Ralph. Oh, Mr. Smith, I mourn for what might have been between us….

I don’t blame him for wanting to keep his powder dry until the second edition hits. After all, it wasn’t rain drops that people were sprinkling over his reputation while deconstructing the first edition.

So it involves a possible quote from good old Ben….That gives me an idea. We could do our own HNN fundraiser. Everybody involved could ante up $20 for a “name that quote” contest. The winner would be the first person to post a correct guess at the quote in question, to be verified once the second edition ships. The winner would then split the pot with the HNN. All we need is some form of e-payment scheme like Pay Pal. Of course, we would also need an anti-collusion clause to keep those who are already in the know (like Mr. Weiner) from participating.


Samuel browning - 5/1/2003

Hi Benny:

Care to inform the gathering of one factual error in Clayton's work concerning Arming America? Oh, I forgot, you don't do facts. "intellectual assassination"? you seem to not have read any of the sources surrounding this matter. Lets see, large vocabulary, lasting hatred of Clayton Cramer, no understanding of the facts of this case, and I didn't get a officer position in your club after implying that you were Michael, a family member or a close associate. (God, I'm still bitter:) I'll now narrow my prediction to specify that you are an immediate member of Bellesiles family or a close relation/personal friend of the family. I can't see why else you would act the way you do. Yeh thats right, you are defending freedom. Its funny, my liberal friends generally have a much greater command of the facts in any dispute then you display, which also leads me to suspect this is a family oriented grudge towards Clayton. He "hurt" someone you care about.


Ralph E. Luker - 5/1/2003

As I recall, Bryan, it was some relevant quotation from Ben Franklin or some such thing. I assume that Wiener had had word directly from Michael about it. In light of plans for the 2nd edition of the book, however, I imagine that for the most part Michael is keeping his powder dry until then.


Ralph E. Luker - 5/1/2003

I'm sorry, Josh, but I don't have anyway to know the answer to your question. I assume that the editor of the JAH has been considering what -- if any -- appropriate response to the matter the journal should publish. Her time there is limited, apparently however, as she will be moving to Yale at the end of the next academic year.


Benny Smith - 5/1/2003



Clayton Cramer, a self-promoted ‘internet scholar’, whose criticism of Michael Bellesiles’ Arming America has been among the most effusive, has struggled in his attempts to achieve some measure of fame for his attack scholarship. Most recently, on his web log at instapundit.com, Cramer complained that nobody is interested in publishing a book he wrote on the Bellesiles affair. There is no market, he says, for a book that contends that Bellesiles’ work is a fraud. So he says he is spending a great deal of time rewriting the book "so that it barely mentions Bellesiles at all."

Cramer, who serves as kind of a disinformation minister for extremists in the gun rights movement, has long attempted to gain some respect among legitimate scholars, while trying to collect some buckage on the side. Yet despite his self-collected research which he publishes on his website, he remains largely ignored by academics in the mainstream, something that clearly rankles him. The Emory investigative report on Bellesiles does not mention him. He complained that he tried to secure a spot on a panel which was to discuss the Bellesiles matter at a SHEAR (Society for History of the Early American Republic) convention only to be told it was already "full." He wrote a long article for the History News Network, saying that he saw what other historians did not in part because history departments are rife with left wing ideologues who conspired to ignore his criticisms of Bellesiles’ Arming America.

Cramer himself is a self-described "narrow-minded bigot." However, with few legitimate historians joining in the campaign of intellectual assassination against Bellesiles, the gun lobby and their right wing allies have been forced to embrace Cramer, warts and all. Cramer only hopes more of them would contribute monetarily to his "research." His blog whined recently that he had not received many contributions of late. Some while back, he personally launched a fund-raising campaign for himself on usenet, where he has been a fixture for many years. He told me later on an Emory Wheel forum that his campaign had netted him a few hundred dollars, which he later characterized as nothing (I’ll leave it to Professor Lindgren, the quantitative expert, to determine whether a few hundred dollars is nothing). Most recently, Cramer put up for sale his Chinese SKS rifle with a folding spike bayonet. Apparently, when nobody’s buying your scholarly shtick, it must be time to sell the guns.


Bryan Haskins - 4/30/2003


Well, I am not a historian and certainly had neither the invitation nor the time nor the money to attend the meeting. I was just curious to see how it went, and your recent summary satisfies my curiosity. Thank you, Mr. Luker.

I do have one further question, however. Can you or anyone else give us a “sneak preview” of at least the general nature if not the specifics of the “additional evidence that Michael has uncovered which will be a part of the 2nd edition?” Mr. Weiner apparently referenced this material at the meeting, and I am curious to learn what it will turn out to be.


Bryan Haskins - 4/30/2003


"we have the most polite and mannerly guy on any discussion on HNN (Bryan Haskins)."

Why thank you, Josh. That was very kind thing to say. Still, I think it unlikely that Mr. Smith will ever award me a gold star for my exercise of discretion here....


Josh Greenland - 4/30/2003

"The OAH and the _JAH_ did send representatives to the chat session. I assume that they were there in order to keep their officers apprised as they make judgments about how they are to proceed in future discussions."

Is this something OAH and JAH did with every chatroom, or just with the Bellesiles one and maybe a few others?


Ralph E. Luker - 4/29/2003

No charge for the good laugh, Don. Enjoy your day.


Don Williams - 4/29/2003

Correction: I meant to say "The idea of traveling several hundred miles just to hear you discourse re "veracity, integrity, and trust" in historical scholarship struck me as hysterically funny."


Don Williams - 4/29/2003

One of the reasons I did not attend Wiener's session is that I was curious to see if you, Mr Wiener, and Mr Finkelman would show a strong committment to the integrity of the historical profession if Arming America's critics were not there to hold your feet to the fire. I guess we have our answer on that one.

The second reason ,as I noted earlier, was that I saw no reason to fly across country to attend a court ruled over by Wiener and Finkelman, whether that court be moot or kangaroo. Especially when I , and many others, have already "chatted" with you re the behavior of the professional historical community on this issue --to no avail.

The third reason is that I looked at how Wiener shaped the terms of discourse -- i.e., his stated purpose for the chat session. I am not particularly interested in "planning ways for continuing the discussion of the origins of American gun culture". I am interested in how OAH meets it's responsibility to undo the Bellesilesean contamination of two federal appeals court cases plus the legal textbook edited by Carl Bogus.

Wiener did state a second purpose for the session. However,
my academic training is in science/engineering and I favor an empirical approach. For that reason, I looked at the history of the Bellesiles affair and at your past posts here on HNN. Frankly, the idea of trying to engage you in discourse re "veracity, integrity, and trust" in historical scholarship struck me as hysterically funny.


Ralph E. Luker - 4/29/2003

You had your invitation to be there. You didn't show up. I think I'll take a pass on your interrogations.


Don Williams - 4/29/2003

From the program for the 2003 OAH Annual Meeting re purpose of Wiener's chat session
************
Chat Room: Triggering Debate About Sources, Integrity, and
the Craft of History

The recent controversy over Arming America raises a number of concerns. Some topics for consideration include planning ways for continuing the discussion of the origins of American gun culture and the broader issues of veracity, integrity, and trust in documenting historical scholarship. Hosted
by Jon Wiener, University of California, Irvine.
***************
So what "ways" did you guys "plan" for "continuing the discussion of the origins of the American gun culture"? Did you guys finally define what a "gun culture" is, by the way?? -- and whether it is good, evil, or morally neutral?


Don Williams - 4/29/2003

If not, why not?

Doesn't a fact stand on its own -- with value
regardless of who first pointed it out?

In almost a year of dialogue with people here at HNN, what facts have you received that you thought worthwhile to pass on to the historians at the OAH session?


Ralph E. Luker - 4/29/2003

I don't know that you should expect there to be any report on the chatroom session in the next _OAH Newsletter_. The convention had a number of chatroom sessions. The _Newsletter_ will certainly not feature summaries of the discussions which took place in each of them.
Jon Weiner basically summarized points which he has made in articles in the _Nation_. He had invited members of Emory's external review panel to the chatroom session. None of them chose to attend it. He also pointed out that Michael intends to publish a revised 2nd edition of the book and referred to some additional evidence that Michael has uncovered which will be a part of the 2nd edition.
Paul Finkelman took the lead in summarizing points already made in Jim Lindgren's articles, in the articles in the _William & Mary Quarterly_, and in the Emory external review panel's report. All of these documents are readily available to you, Peter, and Bryan.
I generally supported points made by Finkelman. I doubt that anything was said that would be new to you if you have kept up with the discussion. The OAH and the _JAH_ did send representatives to the chat session. I assume that they were there in order to keep their officers apprised as they make judgments about how they are to proceed in future discussions.


Josh Greenland - 4/29/2003

"Josh: What is the point of repeatedly asking a question which I have already answered here:
http://hnn.us/comments/10933.html? "

Because it wasn't much of an answer. Peter Boucher, Bryan Haskins and I wrote subsequent messages to that post asking if you could go into more detail. We're still hoping you will.


Ralph E. Luker - 4/28/2003

Josh: What is the point of repeatedly asking a question which I have already answered here:
http://hnn.us/comments/10933.html?


Josh Greenland - 4/27/2003

I guess we'll have to wait for the next OAH newsletter to find out what was discussed in the Bellesiles chatroom, since our one participant, Ralph Luker, hasn't been willing to tell us what went on there.

Why don't you want to tell us what was said there, Ralph?


Josh Greenland - 4/27/2003

"Subject: RE: NRA gives $1 million to HNN's university sponsor
"Posted By: Mike O'Malley
"Date Posted: March 18, 2003, 4:01 PM

[snip]

"For what it's worth, I have personally avoided the debate over Belliles here because of the nasty and partisan incivility."[...]

Mike, If you compared it to any other ongoing discussion on HNN, what would you say? Lately I've spent too much time in the other discussions and I think this one is at least an order of magnitude more civil than the rest. The guy who does most of the insulting (Benny Smith) isn't particularly rude, and we have the most polite and mannerly guy on any discussion on HNN (Bryan Haskins). If you see this discussion as full of "nasty and partisan incivility," you won't be able to stomach even a minute of the HNN's other ongoing discussions.


Clayton E. Cramer - 4/25/2003

"I have every right to criticize those sentiments." Sure you do. But it appears that your biggest upset is that I have said that the thugs that were running our government (which most people understand to mean the executive branch, because the Supreme Court doesn't have any law enforcement agents) were quite prepared to see people die to support their coverup of criminal wrongdoing.

Coverups aren't uncommon in city police departments. There was one with Abner Louima's torture, but it eventually broke open. You find it unbelievable that federal law enforcement agencies covered up similar wrongdoing at Ruby Ridge and Waco? (Is it a cover-up when you use a bulldozer to destroy the evidence? Or is a stronger verb required?)


Peter Boucher - 4/23/2003

Smith can't accept the overwhelming evidence of hundreds of "errors" throughout all areas of Bellesiles' book because he believes instead in a kooky conspiracy theory involving Harvard and Yale professors and the NRA.

You're a hoot, Benny.


Carl Naaman Brown - 4/23/2003

As far as Michael Moore: Documentarian goes, Mr. Moore responds to being called on facts by copping out and saying, hey I am just a comedian. Bowling for Columbine is about as much a documentary as the episode of South Park where MechaStreisand tried to seize all the power crystals to rule the world. Maybe that will be Michael Bellisiles' new defense.


Josh Greenland - 4/22/2003

"Unlike Mr. Cramer, Mr. Greenland and Mr. Williams, I do not infer conspiratorial motives from isolated tragic aberrations like Ruby Ridge and Waco."

Thank you for this compliment, Benny. I feel that I don't deserve to be mentioned together way with Clayton Cramer and Don Williams, who have diligently researched important areas of Arming America and made that research available to others.


Bryan Haskins - 4/21/2003


Finally, something Mr. Smith and I can agree on! “I do not infer conspiratorial motives from isolated tragic aberrations like Ruby Ridge and Waco.” Neither do I, Mr. Smith. “I do not believe that such events mean that ‘The people that run this country are merciless, pitiless, evil people prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals.’” Neither do I, Mr. Smith. “That such thinking is shared however by terrorists from Al Qaeda to Timothy McVeigh makes it all the more regrettable.” I agree, Mr. Smith. Now isn’t this much more civil than trading pot shots across this electronic no man’s land?

I note that my name does not appear on your list of “kooks.” Can I take this to mean that you do not think my comments here place me in this category? I suppose it could be due to your inability to find anything by “googling” my name yet. Well, keep trying, Mr. Smith, for I am out there.

But I digress. I have written this post in the fervent hope that our agreement on these side-show issues can point us towards reconciliation. With this in mind, I’ll leave it to others to make the obvious connection between your recent speculation that the NRA has somehow bought off the HNN, and your latest complaint that gun lobby ideologues “leap to extraordinary conclusions based on blind bias and a few disparate bits of information.”

No, I would rather return to the positives in our relationship, Mr. Smith. We seem to share a desire to “reach appropriate conclusions from the evidence.” In fact, I am sure you will agree that this should be the ultimate goal of this site, and I hope that your subsequent posts will flesh out this process

Do you remember when, long ago, I offered to work on this very process with you? I believe that I began by offering the scholarly evidence contained within the articles published in the William & Mary Quarterly. As I remember, you were right in the middle of complaining (correctly) that gun lobby writers were ignoring the facts in their rush to “demonize” Bellesiles. I suppose my unexpected offer to engage in a candid discussion of the evidence caught you by surprise. Nevertheless, your decision to run away and refuse to discuss the evidence was in my opinion the worst mistake you have committed here, for it merely served to inflame your most ardent critics (those whom you call ideologues). Surely you must admit that their number one complaint against you has been your refusal to acknowledge any of the facts against Bellesiles and AA?

Therefore, and in the spirit of friendship, I offer this free advice: Do the unexpected. Come out with me and discuss the facts and evidence both for and against Bellesiles and AA’s thesis. Just think what a mortal blow this would strike against the “gun lobby ideologues!” No more would they be able to gloat over your refusal to address the facts! Indeed, such a sudden turnabout would force feed them so much crow that they would spend the better part of a week just picking feathers from their teeth.

I say these things, Mr. Smith, because I would dearly like to hear what you believe to be the “few errors” in the first addition of AA. I would also like to hear at least a portion of what you believe to be the “vast evidence for his theses.” Come on out, then. I truly do not see how engaging in a scholarly discussion of these topics could hurt you. Why, if the “ideologues” respond by attacking you as you fear, then would this not in itself validate your argument that they act out of blind bias and attack anything that moves in the Bellesiles’ camp? Please, Mr. Smith, take this renewed offer to cut the support from the arguments the “ideologues” use against you. Show them that you are capable of addressing the facts against Bellesiles and AA’s thesis, and in turn force them (and myself) to confront those facts in favor of the man and his work.


Don Williams - 4/20/2003

Benny's idea of scholarship appears to be "my delusion is just as good as yours" --which actually is not a bad summation of postmodernism.

Benny ignores the huge mound of evidence that critics of Arming America have provided --evidence which refutes much of Arming America's claims.

Eyewitness accounts from American commanders like Andrew Jackson, Daniel Morgan, and John Howard contradict Bellesiles' description of the Battle of New Orleans and Cowpens.

Benny doesn't care.

Bellesiles indicates that the militia were worthless in the American Revolution and that they mostly turned and ran in the War of 1812. In direct contradiction, The US Army's history says that the militia's contribution to winning the Revolutionary War was great and that they fought as well as regulars in the War of 1812.

Benny doesn't care.

On page 348 of Arming America, Bellesiles says that Tocqueville mentioned guns once: " .. that great observer of early America, Alexis de Tocqueville, mentioned guns once. In explaining why democratic armies --'this small uncivilized nation' as he called it -- are dangerous, he wrote that the army 'has arms in its possession and alone knows how to use them...' . Earlier, on page 309 , Bellesiles states: "...Travelers saw wastefulness... restlessness, and many other traits, but somehow they just did not see the guns that were supposedly all around them".

Yet, in the very book which Bellesiles cites (Democracy in America), Tocqueville describes the typical pioneer cabin: "From time to time we come to fresh clearings; all these places are alike; I shall describe the one at which we halted tonight, since it will serve me for a picture of all the others. ...We entered the log house: the inside is quite unlike that of the cottages of the peasantry of Europe; it contains more that is superfluous, less that is necessary. A single window with a muslin curtain, on a hearth of trodden clay an immense fire, which lights the whole interior; above the hearth, a good rifle, a deerskin, and plumes of eagles' feathers; ...." (See http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/ap_u.htm )

Tocqueville's note that the typical pioneer cabin had a "good rifle" contradicts Bellesiles' primary thesis. But Benny doesn't care.

Clayton Cramer has a website pointing out similar errors/misleading citations in many of Arming America's footnotes --Benny doesn't care.

James Lindgren published several articles showing that other researchers looking at probate records found a high rate of firearms ownership --Benny doesn't care.

James Lindgren also published an article showing many other mistakes in Arming America -- Benny doesn't care.

To my knowledge, no historian has tried to defend Arming America or to argue that Arming America's narrative is true --but Benny doesn't care.

Benny Smith has shot off his mouth for almost a year -- casting slurs on the critics of Arming America. In all that time has Benny ever tried to produced ONE FACT to support his claims?

In my opinion, Benny's repeated refusal to address the facts --or provide facts -- means that he is NOT a deluded conspiracy kook. In my opinion, he is a deliberate liar.


Jerry Brennan - 4/20/2003


With slight alterations some of Benny's recent rant fits him quite well.

It is characteristic of Benny's rants to leap to extraordinary conclusions based on blind bias and a few disparate bits of information. The ability to reach appropriate conclusions from the evidence is one thing that separates true scholars and academics from Bellesilesian kooks.

Meanwhile, having failed to wish away abundant evidence of numerous fictions perpetrated by Bellesiles, both in his book, "Arming America", and in his subsequent comments relating thereto, Benny separates himself, and vicariously "historians as a group" (presumably a group of two, JW and MB), from such evidence. Checking his hero's sources magically becomes 'attack scholarship' relative to Benny's blind bias. However, his incantations are not working; the evidence has not gone away.


Benny Smith - 4/19/2003


Mr. Cramer and some of his comrades here continue to illustrate why I cannot buy their rationale on Bellesile's Arming America, or other matters, relevant and irrelevant. Unlike members of the gun lobby, I do not believe that a few errors in Bellesile's first edition work are enough to undermine the vast evidence for his theses. Unlike Mr. Cramer, Mr. Greenland and Mr. Williams, I do not infer conspiratorial motives from isolated tragic aberrations like Ruby Ridge and Waco. Unlike Mr. Cramer, I do not believe that such events mean that "The people that run this country are merciless, pitiless, evil people prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals." That such thinking is shared however by terrorists from Al Qaeda to Timothy McVeigh makes it all the more regrettable.

It is characteristic of gun lobby ideologues to leap to extraordinary conclusions based on blind bias and a few disparate bits of information. The ability to reach appropriate conclusions from the evidence is one thing that separates true scholars and academics from the conspiracy kooks. It is why I, as well as historians as a group, have largely ignored Mr. Cramer's anti-Bellesiles 'attack scholarship' as well as the ranting of other members of the gun lobby.


Jerry Brennan - 4/19/2003


A copy of the June 30, 1994 rec.guns post under discussion may be found at:

http://www.groups.google.com/groups?selm=Cs8G3q.JI9%40optilink.com

The portion of that post by Clayton Cramer which was recently posted here is:

"Let me try to be calm when I say this: the reason why you should support the NRA is because the alternative is going to be a police state where people get dragged off to windowless cells to be raped by trained dogs (as was done in Uruguay), beaten until eyes and teeth are knocked out (almost anywhere in the Third World), and forced to listen to their children die of thirst in adjoining cells to extract confessions (Iraq).

The people that run this country are merciless, pitiless, evil people prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals. Make no mistake about it."

Many of the subsequent related comments seem almost to pertain to some very different original post.

In the original post, Clayton referred to: "The people that run this country ...", and left his readers to surmise just which people he had in mind. But whoever he had in mind, they are, he asserted, "prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals", among other things. He did not limit the assertion with any qualifiers such as some, or a few. His wording implies that all of them, each and every one of them, are "prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals". So, to whom did Clayton refer?

It may be observed that the phrase "run this country" is at best quite vague, and the numbers of people to whom Clayton referred may be large, or small. In his subesequent comments, Clayton referred to actions of members of various federal government agencies, as well as to actions of members of at least one city government agency. Such comments suggest that to Clayton, the phrase "The people that run this country" includes members of federal, and city, government agencies. If city agencies are included, perhaps state agencies may be expected to be included. If all of those people are "prepared to murder anyone to achieve their goals", it would seem amazing that any of us remain to be having this discussion.

If, on the other hand, one were abritrarily to assume that instead of referring to those millions of people, Clayton had in mind only a few thousand people, who might be included? Well, the nine Justices of the US Supreme Court may be expected to be included in "The people that run this country". Have they all been dabbling in murder on the side? Has Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan been snuffing inflaters who oppose his goals?

All rather silly, but all among the implications of the original post as written. There is additional silliness in the original post as written, but having to spell it out seems a bit silly also.

It would seem that it might be preferable that those who choose to discuss it would do so based on its actual wording.


Don Williams - 4/18/2003

Mr Hayhow thinks that the world he reads about in the newspaper is the real world --it is not. He thinks that the view of the world given by the New York Times is complete --it is not. I say that as someone who worked on national intelligence systems from 1990 to 1999 and who was cleared for 4 areas of "Sensitive Compartmented Information" (SCI).

In 1996, Janet Reno greatly undermined our Constitutional checks and balances by asserting that it was illegal for SCI-cleared personnel, including government contractors, to go to Congress with concerns about actions by the Executive Branch unless the Executive Branch had granted permission to do so.

Note that Reno argued that not only could we not talk with our members of Congress but that we also could NOT talk with members of the Congressional Intelligence Committees set up to oversee the US government's secret operations.

Reno's assertion was only overcome by a law passed in 1998, the
"INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT OF 1998".
For more info, see the report issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI): a)Go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cp105/cp105query.html b) Go down to the menus for "Committees", go to the menu for the "House", select "Intelligence" then hit the search key c) From the list which comes up, click on the link to the "House Rpt.105-747 - Part 1 " associated with the "INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT OF 1998" d) From the list of links which appear, look at "Findings" and "Background and Need for Legislation"

Note that the Clinton Administration forced a compromise: SCI-cleared personnel can talk to the Intelligence Committees about concerns provided they notify the Executive Branch's Inspector Generals 60 days in advance. Most people would hesitate to destroy their careers and family's livelihood by standing up and yelling "I'm a snitch". Time and time again, events have shown that "Whistleblower protections" are a joke.

This situation is of particular concern now, with the creation of a Department of Homeland Security and an apparent dismissal of such fundamental Constitutional protections as habeas corpus. The Executive Branch now claims the right to arrest AMERICAN CITIZENS and hold them for 9 months without judical hearings or trial.

Congress cannot oversee the Executive Branch without the help of Executive Branch employees--but such employees risk much if they speak up.

I'm not going to spin sinister "Oliver Stone" stories about domestic operations. There are some interesting "observables" which crop up occasionally, however. Consider the fate of John Millis circa June 6,2000. Mr Millis was director of HPSCI staff and he severely criticized Clinton's CIA director.
See http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A4896-2000Jun6¬Found=true
and
http://www.newsmax.com/showinsidecover.shtml?a=2000/6/18/165743
and
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A6116-2000Mar3¬Found=true


Clayton E. Cramer - 4/18/2003

I am still waiting for Mr. Hayhow to explain what he finds so incredibly offensive and bizarre about what I said. I am also waiting for him to demonstrate that he knows something of the history of abuse of government power.

At the end of the Waco tragedy, there were dozens of people dead--and many pieces of evidence that might have clarified what led to this standoff had been "lost" by the FBI.

The FBI's claims that they never fired any sort of incendiary device were demonstrated to be false when an attorney went through the Texas Ranger's collection of recovered items.

The original BATF raid was clearly done for PR reasons, and somehow, critical video that BATF shot of that raid is missing.

The original search warrant is laughably wrong in several areas, and includes a long discussion of child abuse allegations which are outside of the federal government's authority (and were already investigated by local officials).

The FBI's "independent arson investigator" turned out to be a retired BATF official whose business card listed his address as the BATF office.

And Mr. Hayhow thinks that I am being irrational in regarding the people running our government at the time as evil?


Clayton E. Cramer - 4/18/2003

If you aren't aware of the abuses of governmental power that took place at Ruby Ridge and Waco, then I guess I can understand why you are confused.


Clayton E. Cramer - 4/18/2003

Why should I be ashamed? Are you saying that our government has never gotten out of control, and never will? And you call yourself a liberal?


Clayton E. Cramer - 4/18/2003

And when governments sometimes get out of control, how is that usually expressed? Police abuse of human rights.


Josh Greenland - 4/18/2003

"We must take some things on trust even when we read conflicting reports on the same question. I found Mr. Cramer's remarks as quoted by Mr. Smith (and not repudiated by Mr Cramer) to be profoundly disturbing and irrational."

Ah, Mr. Hayhow, you've fallen for Benny Smith's ad hominem attack against Clayton Cramer. The problem with ad hominem "logic" is the false notion that something unrelated to the argument the attacked person is making can undermine that argument. We all expect BS to use unethical debating techniques, since he simply won't argue the issues. But that doesn't mean any of us have to fall for his games.

But you seem to be saying that Clayton Cramer's 1995 post is so "irrational" that nothing else he says can ever be trusted again.

Is this how you handle political disagreement on issues that you feel strongly about? Everyone who disagrees with you on a hotbutton issue is crazy, or just wrong (factually and morally all at once)? You remind me of an anti-communist who would completely dismiss Herbert Aptheker's historical writings that are not related to Communism.

I understand your point about having to judge the reliability of an informant because no one has the time to check every source reference. But isn't it enough that amateur and professional historians who've bothered to talk about Cramer find his Bellesiles material reliable? Instead, you've decided that a person's views on good intentions of our government leaders should be a litmus test that, if answered wrongly, should "forever" disqualify him or her from being taken seriously about anything.

I think you're the one who's being irrational. Benny pushed your buttons, but you can't see or admit that. Do you truly believe you're too clever to be manipulated?

"I also found Mr. Cramer's response disingenuous as what he said in his post was not the equivalent of the original comments. On both grounds, then, he has seriously undermined his credibility with me."

It's up to Clayton to explain/justify his posts, if he feels the need to. It's entirely reasonable to judge a person's truthfulness based on how truthful they've been in the past.


John G. Fought - 4/18/2003

"I will never truat any post of his again as I believe there is a strong streak of irrationality in that post."
Now read my post to you again, and see if you can put them together.
Think about it. Don't bother replying.


Josh Greenland - 4/17/2003

"The third and fourth paragraphs of Smith's post are what I am talking about. Saying that the leaders of this country are evil, merciless, and will murder anyone to get their way are statements he should forever be ashamed of."

Why should Clayton "forever be ashamed" for writing what he did? I think these statements are true. What can you say to refute what I posted to Benny? Here're the relevant parts:

"I don't have any trouble with [Clayton Cramer's 1995 posted statements]. If they were actually made during the mid-1990s as you say, that would have been after Ruby Ridge and Waco. Especially after the