The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 28, July 1924 - April, 1925 Page: 95
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The Amateur Historian
For instance, Henry Watterson: Not until Watterson is over
eighty does he tell us Texans casually, almost accidentally, that
in his boyhood he sat on Sam Houston's knee in Washington
City and heard the story, or stories, of the San Jacinto campaign
over and over. I write to him to tell it again and have stenog-
raphers take it down. Mr. Watterson's secretary writes me that
Mr. Watterson is so old and feeble, the excitement of the recital
might end fatally. So one window closes down forever.
The amateur has some great advantages over the professional.
He can more often think what he pleases and say what he thinks.
The professional is limited by his public position and his repu-
tation as a scholar. Surely, he can think what he pleases, and
he does. But he cannot say what he thinks in frank striking
words. He is bound to weigh his evidence and qualify his words
to fit his facts exactly. He is also bound to respect public opin-
ion and sentiment, sectional feeling and state pride. I do not
mean that these sentiments subvert his own thinking. I mean
they limit and determine the statement of his thought into
something often innocuous and jejune. Of course, this is boldly
and frankly so in state text-books, because of the large public,
the conflicting interests, and the great financial reward. But it
is true otherwise, also. A real historian will be assailed by
trained specialists for an organized special interest. For in-
stance, no North Carolina historian has told the truth about the
Mecklenburg Declaration without suffering financial loss and
great obloquy from the pens of trained historians who are de-
scendants. Besides, the professional historian is usually fight-
ing for some concrete institutional enterprise, a state library, an
historical commission, against great odds; that is, indifference
of the public, miserly appropriations, and frequent hostile demo-
gogic movements to abolish the very institution itself, for econ-
omy or to increase the general school fund ten or twenty thou-
sand dollars. One must choose the relatively important. Why
tell of a particular fact or truth, if an infinitely greater cause
must go down in a consequent storm of senseless popular clamor?
From all these limitations the amateur should be free. But
while the amateur may tell the truth when he knows it,--that is
just the rub. How can he be sure that he knows the truth? He
is limited by his deficient training and his consequent wrong
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 28, July 1924 - April, 1925, periodical, 1925; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101087/m1/99/: accessed September 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.