History Intrudes Upon History

Discussing John Adams and the Revolution, Page Smith writes in 1962: 
"Under the stress of what was, at least in their view, a struggle for survival, the patriots were frequently harsh and cruel to the Tories, men and women who held fast to their own convictions under the most trying circumstances and often at great personal cost; yet the patriots had great provocation and, if they were overly severe, it is an easy enough judgment for historians to make writing generations after the events and weighing out praise and blame with meticulous scholarly care. These historians, sometimes inclined to rebuke or patronize the patriots for their treatment of the Tories, live in an age when a wretched remnant of domestic Communists, during peacetime, have kept a great nation in a fever of anxiety and apprehension ostensibly for its own safety."

 Page Smith

Page Smith

I find it fascinating when the history of the author's moment spills into the text. There's so much in this one moment that tells us both about Smith and his era. You can sense his discomfort with new trends in history that look critically at the revolutionaries. You can also sense his anxiety about living under some of the darkest times of the Cold War. It's as if he couldn't resist a moment to excoriate both historians and Communists while writing about events taking place generations ago. At the same time, it seems as if he is drawing a parallel between the Tories living within a nation in revolt and the American Communists (real and imagined) during his own time, which says quite a bit about his opinion of both groups. These are deeply interesting moments and I love taking the time to try and unpack them.