The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 45, July 1941 - April, 1942 Page: 325
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Three Types of Historical Interpretation
at all cost; to drill it as well as possible; and to be ready to
use it if opportunity offered. Looking backward with such
knowledge of the situation as I have, I must admit that I am
not qualified to condemn the General's procedure.,
Houston declared thirty years later that he avoided the enemy
until he was in a position to make one battle decisive. As a
statement of actual procedure, this covers the case completely;
but as an explanation of policy, it leaves something to be de-
sired. No sane human mind could have anticipated Santa
Anna's separating himself from his major army and dashing
with an inferior force far in advance of the Texan army.
Houston did not lead him there or drive him there. He set no
trap. He merely shut the trap that the impetuous Napoleon
of the West set for himself and marched into. The opportunist
was ready to take advantage of the opportunity. But, with the
colonies abandoned from the Guadalupe to the Trinity, what
would he have done if Santa Anna had not entrapped himself?
In such dilemmas the conviction of the historian varies di-
rectly with his boldness and assurance. For myself, I am not
confident enough to say what Houston ought to have done, or
what I would have done; and I am only mildly annoyed or
ironically amused when an armchair historian-commander tells
me now what he would have done then. In such differences of
opinion there is no danger.
The other two types of interpretation which I have mentioned
are not so innocent or amusing. As an example of the interpre-
tation that is more or less contrived to deceive, I venture to
cite the expositions that we have been reading in the papers
and hearing over the radio for the past few years of the origin
of the Constitution and the functions of the Supreme Court of
the United States. All of this language has not issued from
the historian, but he has laid the groundwork for it, and
in a measure is responsible, therefore, for the license of the
To destroy respect for the Constitution and all its works, we
are told first, as a portentous discovery, something that most
intelligent Americans have known for a hundred and fifty years
-namely, that the Constitution was written by fifty-five edu-
cated, experienced, and successful men. The average human
intelligence, for a space of six generations or so, saw nothing
sinister in that fact; but recently we have learned-had the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 45, July 1941 - April, 1942, periodical, 1942; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146053/m1/367/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.