Friday, December 11, 2009

Mutiny in George Washington's Army Endorsed in History Channel Program

On Sunday, December 13, The History Channel will air "The People Speak," a program narrated by Howard Zinn and based on his seminal work A People's History of the United States.

The program features actors reading letters, accounts, etc. from actual people in American history. Zinn's focus is on "ordinary people," as opposed to the "Great Man" approach, which would focus on luminaries like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. And his focus is almost always on "ordinary" Americans suffering in the shadows.

In this clip from the forthcoming film, we see what amounts to an endorsement of the mutiny in George Washington's army...

"From 'The People Speak' -- Mutiny in George Washington's Army"

For my own part, having read of this incident in the American Revolution, General Washington had little choice but to clamp down hard on this mutiny. That he sympathized with the plight of his army is proven by all his letters and appeals to Congress, governors, and private businessmen for aid. But in order to keep his army together and win the war, Washington couldn't allow disorder and mutiny to go unpunished. He had to act.

And this perspective - Washington's perspective - gets short shrift from "historians" like Howard Zinn. That the spotlight of history should, at times, shine on everyday Americans is commendable. For that, Zinn has done some good. But to put the spotlight EXCLUSIVELY on the "ordinary Americans" who are often suffering, and then caricature their leaders as their enemies is only accurate in some occasions. To do so on a regular basis, as Zinn does, is frankly reprehensible.

To anyone who watches this program, which comes from one of the most anti-American "historians" on the stage today, I urge caution.


Anonymous said...

Brian, this is an excellent post. I've been hearing about "The People Speak" from others (I don't have cable myself). While I can see the value in the project, I don't think most people even realize the agenda that historians like Zinn can slip into their work.

This particular clip, if it appeared without any context, is simply ahistorical nonsense. I just posted yesterday on my blog about crime and punishment in the old army. The “Rules and Articles of War” of the Revolution prescribed death for a surprising number of crimes.

Harsh to be sure. But by the standards of the time, the U.S. Army’s courts-martial were far more lenient than their British counterparts, which routinely assigned death and punishments of 500 to 1000 lashes for serious crimes.

Thanks for speaking up. Your post was very interesting.

Anonymous said...

interesting perspectives all. I wouldn't necessarily Zinn has an "anti American" agenda. He certainly does have a clear bias in his writing and he tends to focus on the negative, but to say he has an "anti American" agenda is a bit much.

I had my students analyze the video clip and primary sources related to this event and make an analysis on Washington's leadership. They were divided on the issue, but like everything else it is always nice to look at something from multiple perspectives before making your own decisions.

Anonymous said...


CPTG said...

History is a practical joke that society plays on senial old men who should know better!!!

There is no such thing as history--that is why the Ancient Greeks refused to study it.

Oh, so I have offended all you Psydo-History Majors out there. Ahem, let me enlighten your stupidity. Take WWII, for example.

If you were to ask Sir Winston Churchill to explain what WWII was all about, he would clear his throat and thunder: "WWII was about GOD, the forces of GOODNESS, the British Empire, the Americans, the Dutch, Sometimes the French and the Russians vrs SATAN, the forces of darkness, the Germans, the Italians, the Japanese, Sometimes the French and the Russians". And guess what? He would be 100% correct!!!

Now ask the same question of Ho Chi Min. "WWII was about the Japanese Imperialists, kicking out the French Imperialists who were kicked out by the British and American Imperialists who restored the French Imperialists who re-armed the soldiers of the Japanese Imperialists to occupy and rule my country, VIETNAM". And guess what? Ho Chi Min is also 100% Correct. Two divergent interpretations of a single, historical event and they are BOTH CORRECT. See why I hated History in high school so much?!!!

Me, I relish the filth of history---you know, the stuff people conveniently forget in history. Quick, name THREE American Traitors?
1. MG Benedict Arnold, Savior of the American Revolution and not so bright Real Estate spectulator
2. MG Lee who wrote a brilliant battleplan on how to defeat GEN Washington while in British Captivity. Fort Lee, NJ is named after him
3. MG Wilkerson, Zero of the battle for Washington,DC (1814). HE was receiving an ARMY PAY CHEQUE at the same time receiving a Pay Cheque from the Spanish Crown. He Courts-Martialed 1LT Winfield Scott for calling him a Crook in front of his men!!!

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