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To: John Saillant <John.Saillant@wmich.edu> X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 4.72.3110.1 Original-recipient: rfc822;email@example.com Dear colleagues: In response to John Saillant's introspective comments, I have the following thoughts. (1) I consider the portion of Arming America for which I am most familiar with the sources to be "fundamentally flawed and erroneous." It does have the merit, however, of raising interesting questions and bringing new sources to light. 2) Several recent reviewers have accepted Bellesiles findings for the portions of the book where they know little of the sources while pointing out the significant flaws in the portions where they know the sources well. I'm thinking of Jackson Lears and Daniel Justin Herman in particular. 3) If you put these spheres of expertise together, the value of Arming America diminishes rapidly. 4) Concerning the censoring of the list, it seems to me regrettable that we have not seen posts from those calling for an end to the discussion. As someone who is interested in the ideological underpinnings of recent historical analyses of the second amendment, I would very much like to see these posts. I imagine that their reasoning and language is fascinating. 5) To post them while censoring those who "state or imply" that Bellesiles falsified data would perhaps strike Professor Saillant as unbalanced. Such is the insidiousness of censorship. 6) One can with some justice refer to Bellesiles' use of the Vermont and Providence probate records as "falsification." When one adds Bellesiles failure to detail his sample, and questions raised over whether he claims to have used records that don't exist, the sphere of potential malfeasance increases. 7) Professor Saillant puts this questions off limits but asking "how would we know?" It seems to me that he intends this question to be rhetorical--in the asking he implies that we can't know and hence should not discuss it further. My question in response is this: how are we to find out if the subject is off limits and all discussion of it is censored. And if it is not our responsibility to find out, whose responsibility is it? I ask this question in good faith. 8) The council of the OIEAHC has denounced "personal attacks upon or harassment of an author." Falsification of evidence is necessarily an act and that reflects upon the character and reputation of an author. How can a discussion of any author's potential misconduct in the use of evidence proceed in accordance with the council's statement? Again, I ask the question in good faith. 9) If it is the position of the profession, or at least of its leading institutional voices, that no public discussion of these matters is appropriate or ethical, how can any of us complain when the Boston Globe or the National Review undertakes the responsibility. Those are my thoughts. This post reflects my attempt to discuss what I see as relevant issues in a "rational manner" while not ignoring the five hundred pound elephant in the middle of the room. Sincerely, Robert Churchill Princeton University PS: John Saillant has asked me to reconsider #6 above. Rather than self censor, and because I am satisfied with the statement, I choose instead to further explain it. There is a point where the discrepancies between original evidence and its presentation are sufficiently systemic that they necessarily suggest, though they do not conclusively prove, conscious intent rather than error. Such systemic errors, in other words, suggest falsification. I would distinguish falsification from fabrication, in which the original evidence does not exist or has never been consulted. I believe that a reasonable observer, and indeed a reasonable historian, could fairly conclude that the point has been reached with Arming America that the statement in #6 above is reasonable, through I would not expect every member of this list to agree with Statement #6. That is to say, I think that the point has been reached where Bellesiles has forfeited the trust Peter Hoffer rightfully notes that we need to have in each other. The necessary corollary is that it is no longer appropriate, if it ever was, to censor posts that state or imply that Professor Bellesiles has falsified data. To those who say that this is unfair because Professor Bellesiles cannot reply, I must point out that he has posted to this list whenever he thought fit. Furthermore, his most helpful response, and indeed the response that he is ethically compelled to make, would be to for him to give a detailed account of the composition of the probate sample on which he relied for Arming America, giving the specific years for which he sampled in the 1765-1790 period so that his empirical claims can be properly and independently evaluated. If his work is valid, this will silence his critics. If they errors are as systemic in the whole sample as they are in the portion that he has revealed, we will then have a sufficient picture on which to decide whether it is time for the profession to call Professor Bellesiles to account.