History is the backbone of a society. It is the foundation of civilization from which we learn the mistakes of the past and how to avoid them. Historians lay the image of the past like a weaver design on a loom. The historian has the power to change the details of any event and twist it until it is more to their liking. Religion and beliefs can effect how information is presented. Kings can demand that their misdeeds be left out and his achievements be the emphasis of a historic document. Churches and religious groups can demand that disproves their belief system be left out or changed. Events and people in history- President Lincoln, the Salem witch trials, Ben Franklin- details of these can be changed, either accidently or purposefully, and lead to the event being seen as a completely different event. And hundreds of years later, who would know the difference
Take, for example, on of the most basic questions in American History: Who discovered electricity Most, if not everyone, who answered would say it was Benjamin Franklin. We all remember the image of a man standing in a rain storm, holding a kite string with a key tied onto the end, surrounded by lightning. While this scene did take place, according to Franklins diary, all that was discovered that dark and stormy night was that Benjamin Franklin proved his theory that lightning was electricity, and had he been struck by lightning that night he would not have been there to tell the tale the next morning. In 1600, William Gilbert named the force that certain substances created when rubbed together “electricity”. In 1800, the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta constructed the electric battery (the “voltaic pile”), the first device to produce a steady, usable current, and he also named the electrical current “voltage”. In 1831, electricity became viable when English Scientist Michael Faraday created the first crude version of a generator, known as the “electric dynamo”. All Benjamin Franklin did was fly a kite, and yet he is credited with one of the greatest discoveries of all time.
Another example is the Salem witch trials. Most history books depict a young woman being burned at the stake, but there was never even one burning in Salem. Most of the twenty people, two men and eighteen women, who were tried and convicted of being witches were hung, with only one case of a woman being crushed under heavy rocks. In other towns, witches might have been drowned, hung, or stoned, but there is never a record of anyone of the total thirty one accused being burned at the stake in the United States. There were a few who were burned at the stake in Europe, but even those examples were rare.
President Lincoln was remembered for ending slavery, but was it ever considered that this was not his goal His main objective was to save the Union, no matter what the cost. In his First Inaugural Address, Lincoln said “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” And in his letter to Hon. Horace Greenley (editor of the New York Tribune), which was written as the Emancipation Proclamation sat in the drawer of his desk, “…My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.” Lincoln is celebrated for ending slavery and freeing the slaves, but it had never been his intention to do so. His personal feelings on the matter have never been made clear, but it appears that he didnt mind either way.
History, while full of facts and information, is also subjective. One person with a little information and a lot of discrimination, can wipe an entire even out of the history books and no one would be the wiser. Historians need to be fair and just, viewing all side with equal value and report on the findings completely and equally. No one groups history, past or future, is more important than anothers. Rulers, leaders, and religious groups should not have any say in what is written. This leads to a million different histories and those who firmly believe in their form of history can cause difficulties. Just as all people should have the right to speak what they want to and to live where they want to, and most importantly, to have the truth told to them by those who act in their best interest, shouldnt everyone have the right to know the truth about where we as a people have come from, where we have been, and what we have done, both the good and the bad History should not be censored, it should not be altered, and it should be a true account of what happened.
Many of the details of past events may be lost, but as new information is discovered about past civilizations and lives, the blanks can be filled accurately and histories can be completed. We as a people need to know where we come from to know where we are going and how to avoid the mistakes made in the past. As Michael Crichton wrote in his novel, Timeline, “Professor Johnston often said that if you didnt know history, you didnt know anything. You were a leaf that didnt know it was part of a tree.”