Friday, 28 January 2011

Scientific consensus and scholarly sheep

Think of this article, A Blot on Lincoln Historians as a parable, of sorts. For those who believe in scientific and scholarly consensus, it shows how easily it's possible to led and even misled by the zeitgeist.

The article begins:

These facts remain true: on April 14, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln sent a routine, one-sentence, handwritten order to Joseph Holt, the judge advocate general, pardoning a California soldier, Private Patrick Murphy, who had been sentenced to be shot for desertion. “This man is pardoned, and hereby ordered to be discharged from the service,” the president wrote.

The article concludes:

Shame on whoever tried to make of the Murphy order more than it is. And shame on all of us in the Lincoln studies profession for accepting it without question.

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