72BAILYN BESIEGED IN HIS BUNKER*Boom!... Boom!... What is that noise? Where is it comingfrom? Can anybody tell us what that noise
Maybethey're rehearsing at Lexington and Concord.... I'll tellyou what it is. It's the sound of cannon around the CharlesWarren Center at Harvard.1 Dirk Hoerder's paper—and otherslike it—have practically brought the place down. The growing assault is reducing the place to rubble. The rebels havereached Harvard, it's about to
and there's no money inthe budget to replace it. It's tragic. Bernard Bailyn hasretreated into his secret underground bunker, the one he hadbuilt back in '68 to protect him from those crazed maniacs,the STUDENT RADICALS. Look--there he is now, he's digginghis way out. Pauline Maier has him by the hand; she's leading him through a hole in the collapsed roof.2 Thank God Dirkgot out: he alone has survived to tell the tale.The foundations of Bailyn's bunker were actually laid in theperiod after World War II. While Harry Truman, the youngDick Nixon,
Edgar Hoover, and others were trying to readradicals out of the American present, historians were tryingto purge them from the past.3 But when the realities of the60's made this interpretation untenable, somebody had toupdate the old interpretation. Around here
theupdaters ran from B to
to Zobel. Most recently,in his Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson,
Bailyn has ascended toa celestial neutrality, what he humbly calls "an ultimatemode of interpretation" (Lemisch hums "Ode to
Inthis ultimate mode, Hutchinson is "savagely assaulted" byadversaries who Bailyn neutrally sees as "inflamed
"paranoiac," "the subversive party," "extremists," drivenby "passion," and "personal discontent."
And these sameloonies appear in Bailyn's version of Tom Paine, that "bankrupt Quaker corsetmaker"—can you think of anything worse?—"a bankrupt Quaker corsetmaker," a "savage" and "enraged""ignoramus," whose writing was "slapdash," "crude" and"slightly insane." Get that—slightly insane.
Bailyn's current detection of a lunatic undercurrent in theAmerican Revolution replaces an earlier Bailyn version inwhich the revolutionary crowds were united with their lead
and, like them, good eighteenth-century Commonwealthmen.This was most fully spelled out not by Bailyn, but by PaulineMaier. Opening her book with a Tocqueville quotation aboutthe Revolution being marked by respect for law and order,8she gave us a law and order crowd, acting out of an ideologyshared with their Whig leaders. It is in a way a new consensus interpretation, and the term consensus, which wethought was used up a decade ago, deserves revival here,just as Gutman has recently revived it to describe Fogel andEngerman's work on slavery.