George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services

By Temple Bodley | Go to book overview

AFTERWORD: CLARK AND HISTORIANS

IT may be doubted whether any other American, credited with great services to his country, has been more cruelly misrepresented in history than George Rogers Clark; and it was the author's intention, in a concluding chapter, to show at length by whom and how this has been done. Because of the space required, however, and because this book is not intended only for historians, who alone are likely to be interested in the subject, it has been thought best to treat it in another publication.

Any one familiar with the facts about Clark shown in the unerring records of his time, will read with amazement what some historians have said of him. Misrepresentation of him has usually been attributable to ignorance of the facts concerning his career and character, but not always. It was his fate to be first portrayed in history by a malignant and adroit contemporary. This was Humphrey Marshall, whose untrustworthy polemic, entitled The History of Kentucky, has been heedlessly copied by a surprising number of later writers. Some of them display no less hostility toward Clark than Marshall -- for example, the latter's kinsman and violent partisan, Thomas Marshall Green.1 It has been left, however, for a living descendant of Colonel Henderson, whose Transylvania land scheme Clark upset, to go furthest in defaming the hero of Vincennes. In a recent work this writer lauds his ancestor as the great leader in the conquest of the South-west, and describes Clark as an 'unscrupulous,' selfseeking revolutionist.2 In a recent address at the dedication of a statue of Clark at the University of Virginia, near the spot where he was born, he said Clark'sullied his honor by selling his military services to a foreign power; and like Burr, Blount, and Wilkinson dallied with projects verging upon treason.'3

Very different was the estimate of Clark by one who knew far more of him. No man, living or dead, has been so inti-

____________________
1
The Spanish Conspiracy. As to both of them see Introduction to Littell's Political Transactions, Filson Club Publications, no 31.
2
Conquest of the Old Southwest, 257, by Prof. Archibald Henderson, of North Carolina.
3
November 3, 1921, Virginia University Alumni Bulletin.

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