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A COLYUMIST HISTORIAN
CYNIC, regarding the recent agitation for more accurate writing of American history, and remembering the futility of similar movements for other ends, might well have applied to it the Horatian epigram, "Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus." But not even the most pessimistic of cynics would have been likely to anticipate the birth of a mouse quite so ridiculous, and withal so pernicious, as that which has actually appeared. It would, for very shame, be more agreeable to pass by in silence so gross a reproach upon American scholarship and letters were it not that fatuous friends have insisted upen touting into conspicuousness a work concerning which its author should have no desire save that for charitable oblivion, and that men of supposed discretion and authority have placed upon it the cachet of their high approval and have commended it to public confidence. The widely blazoned declaration of the publisher that it is "the one indispensable work" and "the most remarkable book of the century" may be passed by as a characteristic "blurb." But when the Children's Librarians Section of the American Library Association awards its first medal of honor to Dr. Hendrik Willem Van Loon for his "Story of Mankind" as "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" written during the year, more serious attention is prescribed.
ITH the actual work named I shall not here concern myself at length, because it purports to be a universal history, and my present theme is the history of the United States. "The Story of Mankind" has indeed been adequately disposed of by the discriminating editor of the New York "World" in reprinting it as a serial in connection with the comic supplement of his paper. It will serve the present purpose for me to cite two sample passages from that limited portion of it which relates to American history. One is his reference to the Pilgrims of Plymouth as "a sect of Puritans who were very intolerant." The other is his criticism of Emerson's "exaggeration" in writing of the first shot at Lexington as the "shot heard around the world," because "the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Russians, not to speak of the Australians and Hawaiians, never heard of it at all." In this amazing utterance he displays the lack of imagination and of humor which seems to be one of his salient characteristics. may almost wonder that he did not say that it would have been impossible for them to hear it, because the wireless transmission of sounds, which has since reached from America to Hawaii, had
1 The Story of Mankind. By H. W. Van Loon. Boni & Liveright. New York. ...
not then been invented. His lack of accuracy is shown in his verbal misquoting of Emerson's famous line, and in his attributing to Lexington the poem written specifically for Concord. He also in the same place refers to the Australians and Hawaiians as having "just been rediscovered by Captain Cook, whom they killed for his trouble." Cool: did not discover Hawaii until 1778, three years after Lexington and Concord, and was not killed until 1779.
ORE pertinent for consideration in connection with the demand for revision of American history is the later work which Dr. Van Loon has brought out upon the strength of his medaladorned "Story of Mankind," and which has been widely disseminated by a newspaper syndicate as a daily serial. This is entitled "America for Little Historians;" it purports to be a children's history of the United States, and
there is much talk of securing its adoption as a reading text-book in schools in place of the American histories now in use.
It will, I assume, be generally agreed, as a basis of critical consideration, that a work of history should be accurate in statements of fact, just in its judgments, and serious-not solemn-in spirit. It need not be overladen with dates and names of places, the bane of many histories; but those which it gives should be given correctly. It need not be a critical commentary upon all the incidents and processes which it records; indeed, there are those who advisedly hold that a history should be a statement of facts alone, and not of opinions; but certainly so far as it does express opinions these should at least be rational, judicious, and honest. It need not be dry and dull; indeed, it should, if possible, be vivacious, entertaining, and even touched with humor; but it should have a spirit so serious, or perhaps I should say so earnest, as to cause the reader to regard it as a veracious narrative and not as a burlesque composition. Moreover, there is the greatest need of these three qualities in a history designed for children, because they have not the knowledge and discretion necessary to protect themselves against errors which their elders would promptly detect and reject.
Now it must be said that in every one of these three essential qualities "America for Little Historians" is greatly lacking. It is replete with glaring errors as to concrete facts of record; it is profusely marked with implications and judgments which are perniciously misleading; and it frequently manifests a flippancy calculated to inspire contempt rather than respect for the history of the country, and better suited to a news
paper "colyum" or comic supplement than to an informative book of reading, reference, and study.
HE inaccuracies of statement-to describe them with courteous euphemism-are of two major kinds. There are those which are misstatements in themselves and nothing more, their errors not affecting the general purport and teaching of the narrative, and which are presumably due to mere ignorance or carelessness; and there are those which, whatever their source or cause, almost inevitably lead to a misunderstanding or misconstruction of historical forces or tendencies far beyond their own literal limits. To cite a few samples of the former class:
"The West Indian Company bought the island of Manhattan from the Indian tribe... and built a fortress called Fort Orange. This was in the year 1621. . . . It made New Amsterdam (the town which had grown up around Fort Orange) a hustling little city." Here are three glaring errors. Fort Orange was not built on Manhattan Island, but at what is now the city of Albany, a hundred and fifty miles away; and it was built, not in 1621, but in 1623 and 1624; and Manhattan Island was purchased and New Amsterdam was founded, not in 1621, but in 1626.
After an account of Howe's capture of Fort Washington and his advance upon Fort Lee, we are told:
"When he arrived, Washington and his men had vanished. . . . Washington had gone to Hackensack. . . . Washington sent an urgent message to Gen. Lee to join him with the 7,000 men whom he had at Northcastle. . . . At last, on the 3rd of December, sixteen days after he had been ordered to start, Lee set off with his army for Morristown, a short distance west of Hackensack. But he had hardly arrived there when a party of British dragoons captured him. ... New York and the surrounding districts were now all in the hands of the British, and Washington began his fa mous retreat through New Jersey."
Here are four gross errors. Washing. ton had not gone to Hackensack, but to West Point; Morristown was not "a short distance" west of Hackensack, but more than twenty-five miles, a long distance for those days of primitive roads and transportation facilities; Lee was not captured at Morristown, but at Baskenridge (now Basking Ridge), some miles distant; and Washington did not wait to begin his retreat until after the capture of Lee, but began it long before, having got as far as Princeton before Lee started from Northcastle, and being in Pennsylvania before Lee was captured.
"A representative from Pennsylvania, David Wilmot, had asked for an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery in the lands acquired from Mexico," is the account given of the
famous Wilmot Proviso, which was a proposed amendment, not to the Constitution, but to a mere appropriation bill At the beginning of Lincoln's Administration and the outbreak of the Civil War, "Edwin M. Stanton was Secretary of War." He did not become Secretary of War until the early part of 1862, more than ten months later. Fifty years ago, we are told, there was little transatlantic travel. But the largest number of immigrants that ever entered this country, in proportion to its population, came from Europe in the year 1850; and the Cunard steamship line was started in 1840, the Collins and Inman lines in 1850, the North German Lloyd in 1858, and the French line in 1861.
Again: "A Civil Service Commission was appointed (1883), and ever after that day if one wanted to be postmaster of his home town he had to take a civil service examination and await his turn." The fact is that postmasters were not put under the Civil Service regulations until December 1, 1908, more than a quarter of a century later than "that day."
T would be tedious and needless to cite
I further the multitudinous misstate
ments abounding in this work which are of a kind plausibly attributable to carelessness or ignorance. No less numerous and much more pernicious are those which are calculated to create false impressions concerning men, measures, and the whole trend of affairs, and from which mischievously false inferences are likely to be drawn. Thus:
"The events of the fifty years follow ing upon the expulsion of the French seemed to put those pessimists in the right. . . . A grand and glorious game of mutual misunderstanding was inaugurated which lasted fifty years and ended only when the colonies had been recognized as an independent commonwealth." Now, instead of fifty years, as twice stated, it was exactly twenty years from the expulsion of the French in 1763 to the recognition of American independence in 1783. Obviously, much more is involved than a mere matter of dates. It made a very great difference whether the Revolutionary War was fought by the same colonists who had fought in the French and Indian War, as was, in fact, the case, or by a subsequent generation, as this misleading work pretends. That such a misstatement should have been made, even if quite inadvertently, is a matter far more serious than a mere numerical error in dates.
Referring to the "Intolerable Acts," which were among the provocative causes of the Revolution, we are told that in England "only one man spoke out against these laws. That was Edmund Burke, who afterward gained fame as the enemy of the French Revolution." It would be difficult to contrive a much more deplorable example of suggestio falsi. If it did so happen that in some one debate on some one act or group of acts Burke was the only
speaker against the oppression of Amer
ica, it is a monstrous perversion of history to ignore the thunderings of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham; of Lord Camden, Lord Chancellor of England; of Colonel Isaac Barre; of Lord Cornwallis who by one of the strangest ironies of fate was selected to be the last British commander in America; of John Wilkes,
United States." The treaty of annexation was, in fact, signed long before the war began, and not at all "hurriedly;" but it was never ratified, and the most significant and interesting feature of that annexation was that-like that of Texas-it was effected, not by treaty, but by a mere joint resolution of Congress.
HERE numerous other equally
Lord Mayor of London; and other Eng-flagrant errors, which it is difficult
lish champions of American liberty. Equally reprehensible is the sneer at Burke, who reached the height of his splendid fame long before the French Revolution. It is easy to see how read ily this passage might create the impression that in all England there was only one friend of America, and he an obscure and discredited person. Of a piece with this is the statement that "there was little enthusiasm in England for this war," which, while true enough in its way, practically involves suppressio veri-of the facts that British regiments threatened to mutiny if ordered to America, that Lord Chatham's eldest son, Admiral Keppel, General Amherst, General and Field Marshal Conway, Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Earl of Effingham, and other distinguished officers resigned their commissions rather than serve against America, and that the Corporation of the City of London formally commended Lord Effingham for so doing.
Scarcely less mischievous are the elaborate implications that one of the chief causes of the Revolution was the British Government's interference with the wholesale smuggling in which the colonists were engaged; the characterization of the colonial patriots as "perfectly good people with the souls of flunkeys;" and the explicit declaration that in the first Continental Congress, in the fall of 1774, "the Radical wing, under the leadership of Virginia and Massachusetts (represented by Washington and Adams), advocated a war for independence." In respect to the last cited statement, it is quite certain that, whatever Adams and a few others may have thought, nobody "advocated" inde pendence, but from beginning to end of that session of Congress not a word to that effect was spoken. On the contrary, the Congress adopted a formal resolution denouncing as a calumny the imputation that it was seeking independence, and declaring that, if America were permitted to enjoy the same freedom that prevailed in England, it would ever esteem union with Great Britain to be its greatest glory and its greatest happiness. It would be superfluous to enlarge upon the injustice done by these misstatements to that illustrious company of patriots.
to classify, whether as due to carelessness, ignorance, or misconception of the essential and indispensable spirit of true history.
I have spoken of a certain flippancy which frequently mars this work in a manner calculated to engender contempt for the whole subject of American history, instead of that earnest regard which is supremely desirable. Thus in an early chapter the author writes of "fishing smacks angling for whitebait off the coast of New Jersey (if whitebait grows there, which I do not know, being merely a historian and not a botanist)." It may be that some tolerant adult readers would be wearily amused by this feeble attempt at humor; but it is far more likely that the "little Americans" for whom the work is designed, and who are given to understand that it is an instruction book and not a joke book, would be unfortunately puzzled at the intimation that an expert on fishes is a botanist, and misled into supposing that people "angle" for whitebait and that those fishes are found in American coastal waters; while it is pretty certain that discriminating readers would feel a certain contempt for at least this particular history of America. Another lamentable attempt to be humorous occurs in connection with the account of the battle at White Plains: "So when the rainstorm came up, a battle was usually called off, and the contestants were doubtless given rain checks." That might pass muster in a comic "colyum." In a serious history it is as offensively incongruous as a jester's cap and bells on the bench of a court of justice.
Such are some of the errors of fact, of judgment, of taste, which are profusely scattered through a work which has in daily installments been widely issued to the children of America, for their instruction concerning the history of their own country, and for the determination of their mental attitude toward its eminent men and controlling events, and in a measure also toward the outside world. With the intellectual equipment or the conscientious motives of the author of it I am not concerned. Let it be conceded that they are both as high and as faultless as he would wish them to be thought. The work itself is its own most efficient and most convincing touchstone.
In its concluding chapter Dr. Van Loon recognizes the fact that it contains many errors; in attempted extenuation of which he says: "It is not easy to be a historian and a journalist at the same
moment, with a copy boy at one's elbow." No; and it is not incumbent upon any one to essay the task. His fault was in undertaking a work for which by both information and disposition he appears to have been conspicuously unfitted; in writing what purports to be serious history with the irresponsibility and in the fashion of a humorous newspaper "colyum;" in attempting to paint a panorama of a nation's life without background, without atmosphere, with
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The Santa Fe operates four daily trains to California. One of them-the California Limited-isexclusively for first-class travel and Fred Harvey serves all the meals "all the way." Spick-and-span new steel equipment on the California Limited.
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The men who operate the New York Central
HE character of the public service rendered by a railroad depends upon the character of the men who operate it.
New York Central Lines give dependable service over 13,000 miles of road from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi Valley because they have built up through nearly a century of operation and growth a recognized esprit de corps.
New York Central men are carefully chosen, rigorously trained in the lesser tasks for the responsibilities of the greater ones, advanced on merit, and encouraged in a spirit of loyalty to the institution of which they are a part, and of devotion to the public they serve.
New York Central men are proud of the fact that 200 of their number have been in the service for more than half a century, 700 from 45 to 50 years, 1300 from 40 to 45 years, 3600 from 35 to 40 years, 6000 from 30 to 35 years and many thousands for more than 20 years.
It is such a seasoned personnel, for example, that has for twenty years made possible the famous Twentieth Century Limited service between New York and Chicago.
The Financial Department is prepared to furnish information regarding standard investment securities, but cannot undertake to advise the purchase of any specific security. It will give to inquirers facts of record or information resulting from expert investigation, and a nominal charge of one dollar per inquiry will be made for this special service. All letters of inquiry should be addressed to THE OUTLOOK FINANCIAL DEPARTMENT, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York.
STOCKS ON MARGIN
HEN a man buys stock on margin, he puts up only a part of the purchase price and borrows the balance from the broker. If he should buy a hundred shares of Steel at the present time, the cost would be approximately $10,600. Possibly he would put up only $2,000 himself, and in that case the broker would advance the balance of $8,600 and the purchaser naturally would be charged interest on this amount, the rate being determined by the current price of money. Credited against this, however, is the amount of divi
dends paid on the stock. Two thousand dollars margin on a hundred shares of stock is twenty points. Every time the stock declines one point in price the purchaser's margin is reduced by $100, and if it declines twenty points his margin of $2,000 is wiped out. Before this happens, however-probably when the stock has declined about fifteen points-the broker will call for more margin. The customer then has the option of putting up additional margin or running the risk of being sold out, for if he fails to put up more money and the stock declines twenty
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He knows that his principal will be paid in full
He knows that his semi-annual interest pay.
The holders of bonds safeguarded under the STRAUS PLAN know that