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The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History

Bradford Vivian

Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Volume 2, Number 4, Winter 1999, pp. 551-572 (Article)

Published by Michigan State University Press

DOI: 10.1353/rap.2010.0054

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The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History

Bradford Vivian

Philosopher Michel de Certeau posits that history is not a mimetic representa- tion of the past, but is instead a selective process that actively creates the past. "The past" and "history," then, must be distinguished: the past occurred and was real, but that past is not contained by or equated with history; history, to the con- trary, is a reconstruction of the past—a creation of the past that takes place in the present. A willed forgetting thus occurs—according to de Certeau it must occur— in order to make the past lucid and uniform. What is forgotten, however, does not disappear. Rather, the forgotten elements constitute "resistances" or "survivals" that confound any effort to make history a linear and univocal phenomenon.1 Such "resistances" render history a contested field, comprised of competing interpreta- tions. Every interpretation, moreover, is shaped by its own historicity—that is, by the exigencies, conventions, and resistances of the time in which it is carried out. The contested and situated nature of historical interpretation reveals the rhetor- ical nature of history in general. To the extent that history concerns "understand- ing" and "forgetting," history is a way of knowing—a way of knowing about the past that is not to be confused with the past event itself.2 To the extent that history is a public, dialogic construct that enables different audiences to know the world in contrasting ways, history is also a rhetorical form. The association of rhetoric and history is hardly new to rhetorical studies. At one time, the rhetorical dimensions of history within such scholarship were reducible to discrete elements such as style, argument, trope, or "other devices of language."3 Recent work in rhetorical studies, however, has begun to explore the notion that history is rhetorical not simply because it relies upon style and language, nor because it is somehow addressed to particular audiences, but because it creates a public way of knowing. In Kathleen Turner's words, this conception of the rela- tionship between history and rhetoric views "the rhetorical process as the central epistemic function by which societies constitute themselves."4 In short, if history

Bradford Vivian is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Speech Communication at Penn State

University in State College, Pennsylvania.

© Rhetoric & Public Affairs Vol. 2, No. 4, 1999, pp. 551-572

ISSN 1094-8392


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functions rhetorically, and rhetoric may be said to operate epistemically, then his- tory rhetorically creates ways of knowing. In what follows I pursue this premise through a particularly successful instance of history's power as a rhetorical form. John W. Draper's History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science was the most widely read and influential work within a massive American "forgetting" that took place in the nineteenth century. First published in 1876, History of the Conflict was the most successful text of a polemi- cal nineteenth-century genre that chronicled the history of science and heralded science's triumph over religion. Draper's biographer, Donald Fleming, writes, "probably no American writer in this tradition was more read in the nineteenth century, in more parts of the world—at home, across Europe, and even in Asia and

Latin America."5 History of the Conflict went through 50 American printings in 50

years, 21 printings in the United Kingdom over 15 years, and was translated into dozens of languages throughout the world, thereby achieving an exceptional inter- national popularity.6 Draper's text was a chief culprit in propagating the familiar flat earth/round earth narrative, which is arguably the most pervasive and enduring case of history's power as a rhetorical form.7 Despite the ubiquity of contemporary scholarly and Schoolbook narratives that credit Christopher Columbus with proving the earth is round, this "historical event" never actually occurred.8 During the medieval period, scientists and theologians expressed little doubt as to the spherical nature of the

earth.9 Columbus, moreover, never had to convince church officials, King

Ferdinand, or Queen Isabella that his ships would not sail over the edge of a flat earth.10 In the words of Stephen Jay Gould, "There never was a period of'flat earth darkness' among scholars."11 Not until the nineteenth century, when science and religion engaged in what would be called a "war," did this tale become both con- ventional wisdom and historical fact. Nineteenth-century scientists and scientific historians characterized the medieval period as an age of scientific ignorance, dur- ing which Europeans assumed the earth was flat. Such scholars also championed Christopher Columbus as a pioneer who risked his life for science in order to prove the globe was round. The massive "forgetting" initiated by such scientists and scientific historians made possible a historical narrative that endures to this day.12 In his popular book The Discoverers, no less a scholar than Daniel Boorstin writes of "a Europe-wide phenomenon of scholarly amnesia, which afflicted the continent from A. D. 300 to 1300," while "Christian faith and dogma suppressed the useful image of the world that had been so slowly, so painfully, and so scrupulously drawn by ancient geogra- phers."13 Despite copious evidence to the contrary, even contemporary intellectuals such as Boorstin take what Jeffrey Burton Russell calls "the Flat Error" to be true.14 The argument of Draper's History of the Conflict was hardly unique; other widely read treatises of the same period propagated "the Flat Error" as well.15 More gener-

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


ally, though, Draper's text is only one of many different nineteenth-century dis-

courses that grappled with the question of religion in light of scientific progress.16

Aside from its unmatched popularity, then, what distinguishes History of the Conflict as especially noteworthy of study? Russell provides a direct answer to this question; he writes, "History of the Conflict is of immense importance, because it was the first instance that an influential figure had explicitly declared that science and religion were at war."17 Indeed, as I shall demonstrate shortly, Draper was

already an esteemed scientist and popular historian when he wrote History of the Conflict, Draper thus held the public ear like no other advocate for the triumph of

science over religion. Indeed, the International Scientific Library series, for which Draper was invited to write History of the Conflict, was intended "to contain the best

work of every important scientific thinker of the day in all countries."18 History of

the Conflict, therefore, was a pivotal and highly public declaration by a particularly esteemed thinker—a declaration that drastically intensified an epistemological cri- sis whose effects are still felt today. According to Russell, Draper's text "succeeded as

few books ever do. It fixed in the educated mind the idea that 'science' stood for

freedom and progress against the superstition and repression of 'religion.' Its view- point became conventional wisdom."19 History of the Conflict \s particularly signifi- cant, then, not because it was artistically superior to contemporaneous discourses, but because the text itself forms the rhetorical plateau of a larger epistemological transformation that might not have taken such deep root without it. To study Draper's History of the Conflict, in other words, is to study the most potent rhetori- cal mechanism by which the nineteenth-century war between science and religion

was shaped and intensified.

In what follows I argue that the rhetorical dynamics of History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science created a way of knowing—a highly persuasive worldview—that not only rendered hostile the relationship between religion and science but, more significantly, installed in the modern episteme a discourse that continues to shape knowledge about religion and science. Examining Draper's text is ultimately essential to understanding the rhetorical means by which science was made into an epistemological ideal and an unrivaled cultural force in Western


In order to demonstrate this argument, I will first discuss the manner in which history constitutes a way of knowing and, as such, functions rhetorically; in this sec- tion I will also outline the rhetorical features peculiar to nineteenth-century histo- ries of science and establish Draper's significance as a scientist and historian. Following this discussion, I will examine how the rhetorical dynamics of Draper's History of the Conflict helped induce a persuasive cultural "forgetting" by depicting science as the savior of Western civilization and religion as its doom, for such a depiction was crucial to the establishment of science as a principal source of knowl- edge in the modern world.


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The Rhetorical Dimensions of History

Modern academic history is guided by a sometimes latent, sometimes overt logic of objectivity that strives to catalogue and interpret the factual events of the past. This conception of history, though, is largely a late nineteenth-century develop- ment.21 Indeed, history and rhetoric have shared an affinity since the Greek classi- cal period.22 The history of history itself encompasses a diverse narrative tradition that has never been uniform in method or language and has only recently become a predominately empirical study.23 At one time, scholarship on the association between rhetoric and history was dominated by considerations of style, argument, or arrangement. Hayden White's influential Metahistory, for example, examined the role of the four major tropes in the construction of historical narrative.24 According to E. Culpepper Clark and Raymie E. McKerrow, studies such as White's relied upon "a perception that rhetoric can be divorced from history, thereby making history the plaything of style and pre- sentation."25 A more fulsome conception of the relationship between history and rhetoric, however, has begun to take shape in recent rhetorical scholarship. The current attention to this relationship may be characterized, in James Jasinski's terms, by a movement away from an "instrumentalist framework," which attempts "to assess textual influence on the immediate audience," toward a more "constructivist approach" that "explores the ways discursive strategies and textual

dynamics shape and reshape the contours of political concepts and ideas."26 Clark

and McKerrow, as well as Bruce E. Gronbeck, share similar assumptions, arguing that history is a discursive practice that actively constructs its objects of knowl-

edge.27 Rhetoric, by this account, no longer forms an artistic counterpoint to the

intrinsic factuality of history. To the contrary, Turner asserts that what comes to be known as historical fact cannot be separated from "the rhetorical processes [that]

have constructed social reality."28

Taken together, these "constructivist" frameworks point to the epistemic nature of the relationship between history and rhetoric. Despite the many varieties of history specific to different historical periods, all of these varieties are unified by their efforts

to generate knowledge of the past.29 Knowledge of the past, however, should not be

confused with the past itself: history does not hermetically preserve the essence of the past so much as it makes the past by making it known, by making this knowledge in

the present.30 So too is rhetoric a way of knowing, a way of making reality known.

Robert L. Scott argues that, through public debate, we do not give voice to a pre- existing truth; instead, the interactive process of debate itself is formative of what comes to be known as truth. Scott explains, "truth is not prior and immutable but is contingent." To the extent that "there is truth in human affairs, it is in time; it can be the result of a process of interaction at a given moment. Rhetoric may be viewed not

as a matter of giving effectiveness to truth but of creating truth."31 Scott thus demon-

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


strates that rhetoric—as a means of creating what is known as truthful—is epis- temic. This conception of rhetoric as an interactive, truth-producing art resonates with Dominick LaCapra's assertion that history must be understood not as a recon- struction of the past, but as a dialogic enterprise that constructs larger networks of knowledge-production.32 In this conception, rhetoric is the very "interaction" by which history is made. There is, moreover, a historicity to every historical interpretation, to every "mak- ing" of history, since every making occurs in a particular time and place. "While these discourses speak o/history," de Certeau explains, "they are already situated in

history."33 The historicity of every interpretation thus indicates that history is made

in accord with a certain exigence; that the making of history results from the con- straints of existing human relations; and that knowledge is never an end unto itself. According to Ronald Carpenter, discourse accepted as history not only "shapefs]

attitudes" but "actions" as well.34 History is therefore a strategic, purposeful endeavor tailored for multiple uses in a given context.35 If history is a way of know-

ing employed for strategic and purposeful ends—and is constituted, moreover, by a dialogic process—then history is indeed a rhetorical phenomenon, for history is only accepted as such when persuasively communicated and affirmed as truthful by

an audience.

History in the Nineteenth Century

The significance of history to American culture during the nineteenth century is difficult to overstate. Allan Megill and Donald N. McCloskey call the nineteenth century "the historical century par excellence," while John Higham argues that "the historical movement of the nineteenth century was perhaps second only to the sci-

entific revolution of the seventeenth century in transforming Western thought."36

Across all disciplines, the nineteenth century was characterized by a faith in the pro- gressive spirit. Whereas Enlightenment deists believed that the universe could be known through its intrinsic design—a design much like that of a finely tuned watch—nineteenth-century thinkers came to believe that with every sweep of the watch's hands human society improved. In the nineteenth century, history became the scientific observation of such ineluctable progress. Leopold Von Ranke and Auguste Comte articulated influential conceptions of history that operated by virtue of a scientific method and docu- mented the laws that determined the course of human events.37 Ranke argued that history has "an inner connection all its own,"38 while Comte envisioned a positivist history that revealed this inner connection to be the steady momentum of human

progress.39 Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was equally influential to nine-

teenth-century historians, who reasoned that if nature improved in successive stages by natural selection, then society must likewise evolve over time.40 Documenting the


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various stages of social improvement in a scientific manner thus became the task of what was dubbed "scientific history."41 Scientific historians generally were not professional or "guilded" scholars, but "amateur" historians who used the enormously popular genre of historical litera-

ture to generate public support for science.42 Toward this end, religion became an

obvious target for scientific historians. The modern image of the Middle Ages as a seemingly endless night of theocratic darkness is largely the result of a fervent his- torical forgetting induced by the rhetorical strategies of nineteenth-century scien- tific historians.43 If science represented the irreversible progress of Western civilization, then the story of such progress had to originate from a period of benightedness. Identifying this dark origin as a religious age served a strategic nineteenth-century purpose by providing a foundation to the argument that theol- ogy should be toppled from its privileged position in Western culture and replaced with science, lest darkness reign again.44 Ultimately, then, the image of religious tyranny in the Middle Ages also served a nationalist aim of demonstrating the tri- umph of distinctly American ways of knowing over those of the Christian Old


Replacing theology with science did not amount to a scientific argument against

God, for scientific historians were not atheists.46 Instead, scientific historians used

their interpretation of history to argue that scientific law—the hidden design of

progress—was divine and that theology was founded upon a false epistemology.47

Only science, it was argued, could disclose God's blueprint—scientific law—and make it known. According to Draper, science "has given us grander views of the uni- verse, more awful views of God."48 The nineteenth-century "war" between religion and science—so coined by scientific historians—was thus a thoroughly rhetorical battle: at its crux was a clash between diametrically opposed ways of knowing—a crisis of episteme.49 Such ways of knowing, moreover, were garnered less from his- torical fact and more from the rhetorical production of history conducted by sci- entific historians like John W. Draper (1811-82).

The Science and History of John W. Draper

In many ways, Draper embodied the distinctive qualities of nineteenth-century scientific historians. The first half of Draper's career was occupied with laboratory research. For decades, Draper taught chemistry and physiology at New York University. Draper was highly regarded by leading American scientists and, among other deeds, was the first to photograph a human face as well as the solar spectrum and the moon; the latter two accomplishments were the first instances of astro- nomical photography.50 Draper was also the first president of the American Chemical Society and was awarded honors by the American Academy of Arts and

Sciences as well as the National Academy of Sciences.51 Draper was inspired, more-

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


over, by Comte's theory that history is an orderly phenomenon, driven forward by

the machinery of scientific law and human progress.52 And like other thinkers of his

day, Draper was influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution, which raised many questions about natural history.53 A paper written by Draper even served as the pre- text for a legendary debate at the British Association meeting in 1860 between biol- ogist T. H. Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce on the subject of evolution—a debate

remembered as the opening skirmish in the war between religion and science.54

During the second half of his career, Draper began to feel overlooked by European scientists and decided to become a historian.55 Draper's most notable his- torical works prior to History of the Conflict include A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe (1863)56 and History of the American Civil War (1867), one of the first such accounts of that conflict. By the time Draper was asked to write History of the Conflict, he had established himself as a popular and important his- torian in addition to his existing reputation as one of the foremost American scien-


Draper regarded himself as a scientific historian and even viewed history as a branch of natural science.57 By documenting the history of science, Draper intended to demonstrate that the modernizing force of scientific progress led away from Europe and directly to America.58 "Europe," Draper would write, "furnishes us with the result of the influences of Roman Christianity in the promotion of civi-

lization," while America, he contended, "furnishes us with an illustration of the

influences of science."59 Though Draper rehearsed these arguments in a number of

texts, such claims enjoyed their most elaborate treatment in his enormously suc- cessful History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. In order to appreciate the significance of this text to modern Western culture, we must examine the rhetorical means by which John W. Draper rendered hostile the relationship between religion and science and in doing so induced, in the words of Stephen Jay

Gould, "the late birth of a flat earth."60

The Art of Forgetting

There are many examples of historical "forgettings" in History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. Although the limits of this essay disallow a systematic discussion of each one, I ultimately will focus on Draper's role in propagating "the Flat Error" through History of the Conflict. Not only was this narrative of a theolog- ically enforced belief in a flat earth crucial to the creation of an antagonistic rela- tionship between religion and science, but this particular subplot within Draper's text offers an illustrative example of the rhetorical means by which Draper brought about a vision of Western history that endures to this day. But first I will analyze the manner in which History of the Conflict persuades readers into a particular world view, a way of knowing that celebrates science and excoriates religion.


Prophetic History

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History of the Conflict is organized only loosely around an argument sanctioned by historical evidence. It is essentially a drama, unified by a prophetic narrative that compels readers to view science as the guardian of knowledge and religion as its most baneful enemy. Draper's text is prophetic not in the literal sense of the term— not because he claims to enjoy a covenantal relationship with God, in other words. The nature of Draper's prophecy, rather, is found in what one might call its opti- mism. James Darsey writes that "In remolding or reformation lies the essential opti-

mism of the prophetic judgment."61 It is this optimism that forms the prophetic

nature of Draper's ethos, for Draper professes an ability to foretell the course of future events. John Clive claims the great nineteenth-century historians "saw them- selves as prophets as well as historians." Such historians, Clive argues, believed "that their role carried with it the obligation to say what they thought about society and politics of the present and the future as well as the past."62 Based upon his version of past events, Draper argues much about what the historical conflict between reli- gion and science means for the present, and, more importantly, what it portends for the future. As we shall see, Draper petitions the reader to cast aside the evil ways of religion in order to await the reformation of science. Draper's text is therefore char- acteristic of this historical tradition, and features an argumentative structure sub- ordinated to a prophetic ethos. Indeed, James Darsey points out that "At the center

of prophetic rhetoric is the prophetic ethos"63 Draper's ethos is thus prophetic not

because he claims to be in communion with God, but because his scientific inter-

pretation of history leads him to perceive its inner design, and so foretell the com- ing reign of science. Draper's shift from scientific research to a dramatic rendering of history was itself a rhetorical tactic. Draper felt "[h]ungry for recognition," Fleming explains, and through a literary version of history Draper "could now get in touch with the unscholarly students at New York University and with the whole community of lay- men who knew an emotion" if not scientific data. Indeed, Draper sought "one of the great publishing houses" and desired "an extensive circulation" for his historical

work.64 Draper's choice to write in the popular historical genre of his day therefore

reflected a desire to reach a larger audience and to sway the public toward an appre- ciation not only of science but also Draper himself. Draper's preface to History of the Conflict makes clear that the text is a strategic use of what the author identifies as history, intended to mobilize support for science in the present. There is an immediacy to Draper's justification of his study: he calls the conflict between religion and science "the most important of all living issues." Draper contends that every individual must take some part in the conflict between religion and science—a conflict that bears enormous consequences for humankind:

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


Can we exaggerate the importance of a contention in which every thoughtful person

must take part whether he will or not?

The history of Science is not a mere record

... of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from

traditionary faith and human interests on the other.

Here Draper indicates that this is not merely an academic debate: "every thoughtful person" must choose a side—must choose between science, "unstained by cruelties and crimes" and those agents of religion that "have been steeped in blood!"65 At stake in this conflict, then, is nothing less than "the human intellect" itself, the advance of knowledge, which science would ensure and religion would repress for- ever. The nature of this conflict thus lies in the competition between two powerful ways of knowing. Draper's dramatic rendering of these competing epistemologies petitions the reader to make a choice between science and religion, between knowl- edge and ignorance, between good and evil. What Draper presents as history is not a transparent display of historical events but is instead a reflection of nineteenth-century values.66 Given the horror of "[t]he intellectual night which settled on Europe," the reader is prompted to affirm that "we live in the daybreak of better things."67 By adopting the scientific way of know- ing fashioned in Draper's text, the reader adopts and reproduces the values of that episteme, values that place science over religion, America over Europe, and the pre- sent over the past. Though Draper professed a love of scientific objectivity, his most successful work does not pretend to remain within the boundaries of the historical record, but functions instead to enlist the public at large in a war against the sup- pression of human knowledge—knowledge that can be safeguarded only by science. The first few chapters oÃ- History of the Conflict reved that, for Draper, there is lit- tle difference between the history of Western civilization and the history of the antagonism between religion and science. Draper's history is essentially a catalogue of scientific achievements created within the context of an ongoing war between scientists and theologians. As Fleming puts it, Draper's narrative is largely a "sort- ing out of heroes and villains, friends of science and enemies."68 History of the Conflict begins with the origins of Western science in ancient Greece. The first six chapters (half of the book) unfold in a linear chronology, chart- ing the history of science as it is sometimes encouraged, sometimes repressed throughout the early periods of Western civilization, including the Greek, Egyptian, and Roman classical periods, as well as the rise of Islam and the Byzantine Empire. An odious religious power emerges in these chapters—one that will eventually become personified in the figure of the Pope and cast darkness over knowledge in Europe for centuries.69 Halfway through the text, Draper's organizing principle changes. Draper contin- ues to chart the major periods of Western history in a more or less chronological


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manner, but this chronology is frequently interrupted by long descriptions of sci- entific inventions or processes, as well as random meditations on the abstract nature of science and religion in general. When Draper arrives at the role of science in the nineteenth century, his prophetic optimism drowns out any logic of organi- zation. Draper's descriptions of the "practical applications" that science has con- tributed to the overwhelming improvement of humanity are too protracted to

quote here; suffice it to say that Draper lingers over all that science lends to the "tri- umphs of the arts of peace—the industrial exhibitions and the world's fairs" and

claims that science "[i]n Russia

has emancipated a vast serf-population," while

... "in America it has given freedom to four million negro slaves." Draper completes his protracted celebration of the scientific liberation of the modern world with a terse


We have been comparing the spiritual with the practical, the imaginary with the real. The maxims that have been followed in the earlier and the later period produced their inevitable result. In the former that maxim was, "Ignorance is the mother of

Devotion;" in the latter, "Knowledge is Power."70

Draper thus reminds his readers that the conflict between science and religion is a thoroughly epistemological battle, a struggle against devotion to the ignorance induced by religion and an embrace of the power wrought by scientific knowledge. Draper's final passages offer a prophetic warning to his readers. "No one who is acquainted with the present tone of thought in Christendom," Draper cautions, "can hide from himself the fact that an intellectual, a religious crisis is impending. In all directions we see the lowering skies, we hear the mutterings of the coming storm." Draper counsels his readers that even though the ascension of science has been foretold, those theologians who would protect their power by keeping others enslaved to ignorance still desire "a revolt against modern civilization, an intention

of destroying it, no matter at what social cost. To submit to them without resistance, men must be, slaves indeed!" Readers must therefore take part in this battle on behalf of science in order to preserve "absolute freedom for thought." With the pre- science and conviction of a prophet, Draper declares, "The time approaches when men must take their choice between quiescent, immobile faith and ever-advancing


which is incessantly scattering its material blessings in the pathway of

... life, elevating the lot of man in this world, and unifying the human race."71 Only by swearing allegiance to science, Draper implies, will the battle with religion come to its just and prophesied end. The rhetorical success of History of the Conflict lies in the way that it creates an epistemic system by defining science and religion. Indeed, Draper's text establishes a distinctly nineteenth-century way of knowing science and religion that, within this discourse, cannot help but produce an evaluation between the two in favor of

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


science. "Science," Draper writes, "has never been an aggressor. She has always acted on the defensive, and left to her antagonist the making of wanton attacks." Conversely, Draper equates religion with death, either through the horrors of the Inquisition, or as a withering body resembling "one of those friar-corpses which we still see in their brown cowls in the vaults of the Cappuccini, with a breviary or

some withered flowers in its hands."72 Draper's ethos as a historian is thus garnered

not through exhaustive documentation but rather through his dramatic style. As I will now show, Draper's curious use of historical evidence is persuasive only because of the manner in which Draper frames such evidence within a prophetic narrative of the antagonism between science and religion.

The Flat Earth

On first inspection, one might be tempted to debunk Draper's flat earth narra-

tive—to uncover his misuse of evidence, indict his work as "mere" rhetorical

embellishment, and thereby prove it "wrong." Indeed, professional historians have often distinguished their craft by claiming that sound historiography relies upon hard facts, while rhetoric is at best ornamentation and at worst deception. In this section, however, I do not intend to evaluate Draper's flat earth narrative according to criteria of "factual" and "fallacious"; instead, I would like to explore the rhetori- cal nature of facts themselves, for the historical narratives in Draper's texts have endured precisely because they became conventional wisdom—unquestioned fact,

in other words. Rhetoric, then, is not to be shunned in favor of more factual histo-

riography; rather, the following discussion of Draper's flat earth narrative drama- tizes the notion that historical fact does not exist prior to its presentation, but is constructed—and comes to be known as fact—through rhetorical processes. Draper's polemics offer a version of history that would seem quite foreign to contemporary professional historians, primarily because of its inventive and strate- gic use of evidence and artistry. Indeed, Fleming points out that Draper does not even use footnotes.73 An overwhelming amount of historical evidence proves that Greek astronomical knowledge of a spherical globe was never lost to Europeans; that medieval culture never professed a heedless belief in a flat earth; and that Columbus's journey across the Atlantic was never forestalled because of fears that he would sail over the edge of the earth.74 How, then, could Draper preserve the ethos of a historian and argue to the contrary? There are two answers to this question. First, as indicated earlier, history in the nineteenth century was not expected to be a strictly empirical form of knowledge. Washington Irving's fictional works History of New York (1809) and The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1837) were precursors to the distinctly American history of Europe that emerged in the later nineteenth century—a genre that includes History of the Conflict as one of its landmark texts.75 Readers of History of


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the Conflict, therefore, would have welcomed a gripping narrative in favor of metic- ulous documentation. There is another reason, though, that Draper was able to effect a massive historical forgetting with respect to the flat earth myth: namely, that the dramatic energy of History of the Conflict deflects any appeal to documentation and, by virtue of its prophetic ethos, ensures that the only criteria for judgment are the harrowing image of religion and the liberatory portrait of science drawn by the

text itself.

The chronology of the flat earth myth enjoys an ethos all its own in History of the Conflict. Draper assigns this supposed controversy a crucial role in the development of Western civilization and asserts that it comprises a "great philosophical problem" in the history of science. The belief that "the earth is an extended level surface," Draper writes, was "the belief of all nations in all parts of the world in the begin-

ning of their civilization."76 Recall here that Draper's version of history was one in

which immutable scientific laws generated human progress with each passing age. History of the Conflicts narrative of medieval belief in a flat earth thus dramatizes the universal ignorance of past civilization and demonstrates the march of scientific progress by magnifying the enormous improvements science has produced. This narrative of medieval belief in a flat earth, however, not only dramatizes the ineluctable development of scientific knowledge, but also personifies religion's vil- lainy. "On the basis of this view of the structure of the world," Draper writes, "great religious systems have been founded, and hence powerful material interests have been engaged in its support." Draper adds that the errors of religion were not only ludicrous, and as such without defense, but agents of the church "have resisted, sometimes by resorting to bloodshed, attempts that have been made to corrupt its

incontestable errors."77

Draper makes clear that the conflict concerning the true nature of the earth was an epistemological conflict. "The authority of the Fathers," he writes, "and the pre- vailing belief that the Scriptures contain the sum of all knowledge, discouraged any investigation of Nature." Concerning St. Augustine, Draper claims that "no one did more than this Father to bring science and religion into antagonism" by diverting "the Bible from its true office—a guide to purity of life" and placing it "in the per- ilous position of being the arbiter of human knowledge, an audacious tyranny over the mind of man."78 Ignorance thus reigned for centuries, Draper declares, because of the church's insistence upon an unscientific source of all knowledge. In order to end this reign of ignorance once and for all, Draper offers his readers another way of knowing—a scientific way of knowing not only history, but the design behind all natural phenomena as well. Draper concedes that there were ancient scientists who relied upon the Bible as a scientific authority. The medieval church invoked the ethos of these scholars, Draper contends, in order to enforce the supposed Europe-wide belief in a flat earth. Draper cites Lactantius (c. 265-345), a professional rhetorician who con-

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


verted to Christianity and wrote several texts about his faith.79 Lactantius is remem-

bered for his infamous rhetorical question concerning the shape of the earth: "Is it

possible," he asked, "that men can be so absurd as to believe that the crops and the

trees on the other side of the earth hang downward, and that men have their feet

higher than their heads?"80 Draper also mentions Cosmas Indicopleustes (c. 540),

whose Christian Topography was, according to Draper, intended "to confute the

heretical opinion of the globular form of the earth."81 Because of such "ignorance

and audacity," Draper claims that "the works of the Greek philosophers"—the ori-

gins of true science, in other words—were abandoned for centuries. Throughout

the ensuing night of scientific ignorance in medieval Europe, Draper contends that

any "passing interest" in "some astronomical question" was "at once settled by a ref-

erence to such authorities as the writings of Augustine or Lactantius." "So great was

the preference given to sacred over profane learning," Draper concludes, that by the

sixteenth century "Christianity had been in existence fifteen hundred years, and had

not produced a single astronomer."82

As is conventional wisdom today, Draper claims that Christopher Columbus was

the first in over a thousand years to pierce the darkness of European ignorance

regarding the shape of the earth. Columbus, not scientists, finally proved the round-

ness of the earth, according to Draper. Indeed, "the inciting motives" of the scien-

tific reawakening, Draper tells us, came not from any scientific community but

from "commercial rivalries." "The circular visible horizon and its dip at sea, the

gradual appearance and disappearance of ships in the offing," Draper explains,

"cannot fail to incline intelligent sailors to a belief in the globular figure of the

earth." Draper provides a now-familiar narrative, including Columbus's plan to find

a faster passage to the Eastern spice trade because of the roundness of the earth, a

plan whose "irreligious tendency was pointed out by the Spanish ecclesiastics, and

condemned by the Council of Salmanaca." Draper declares, however, that despite

such resistance Columbus managed to gain sponsorship for his voyage and dared to

sail on August 3,1492. When "Columbus landed in the New World" the following

October, "[t]he controversy had now suddenly come to an end—the Church was

found to be in error." Through his narrative of Columbus's daring, Draper not only

celebrates the exposure of religion's duplicity, but also links this renaissance of sci-

entific progress with "the discovery of America."83 Draper's narrative of Columbus's

voyage thus dramatizes the length to which the church will go in order to safeguard

its fatuous claims to knowledge, while at the same time illustrating that the currents

of scientific progress lead away from the shores of Europe to those of America.

Although Draper's story of medieval belief in a flat earth is commonly accepted

as unquestioned fact today, the tale has virtually no resonance with the historical

record. Edward Grant reveals that medieval theologians generally "did not allow

their theology to hinder or obstruct inquiry into the structure and operation of the

physical world



texts were not employed to 'demonstrate' scientific truths


Rhetoric & Public Affairs

by blind appeal to divine authority."84 Russell adds that "During the Middle Ages

Christian theology showed little if any tendency to dispute sphericity


Among the

uneducated a variety of vague ideas seem to have been common, but among the

educated always existed a consensus that the earth was spherical." In fact, the writ-

ings of Lactantius and Cosmas Indicopleustes were not representative sources of

medieval views regarding the shape of the earth, but wild deviations from the

medieval scholarly consensus. Lactantius's works were "condemned as heretical

after his death," which meant that his writings were "not widely heeded." Cosmas's

influence on the Middle Ages, moreover, "was virtually nil": "The first translation of

Cosmas [from Greek] into Latin, his very first introduction into western Europe,

was not until 1706," and for this reason Cosmas "had absolutely no influence on

medieval western thought."85

A plethora of texts spanning the course of medieval history contradicts Draper's

account. The following is only a sample of Russell's remarkable list of medieval

thinkers who unambiguously attested to the sphericity of the earth: Isidore of

Seville (d. 636), "the most widely read encyclopedist of the early Middle Ages ...

believed that the earth was round"; Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) "also affirmed

sphericity"; Roger Bacon (1220-1292) "affirmed the roundness of the earth using

classical traditional arguments"; and "the greatest scientists of the later Middle Ages,

Jean Buridan (c. 1300-1358) and Nicole Oresme (c. 1320-1382), even discussed the

rotation of the earthly sphere." Clearly, then, "[e]ducated medieval opinion was vir-

tually unanimous that the earth was round."86

Draper's claim that Columbus proved the earth is round is also contradicted by

the historical record. In Columbus's own time, "astronomers, geographers, philoso-

phers, and theologians, far from disputing sphericity, wrote sophisticated treatises

based on Aristotle and the 'Geography' of Ptolemy of Alexandria." Although Church

officials contested Columbus's plan on several counts, none of their objections con-

cerned the shape of the earth. Instead, Columbus's "opponents, citing the tradi-

tional measurements of the globe according to Ptolemy, argued that the

circumference of the earth was too great and the distance too far to allow a suc-

cessful western passage." Columbus met great resistance on the subject of these

measurements, not those of the shape of the earth. In the end, Columbus gained

approval for his voyage by "cooking" his measurements: in short, "he estimated the

voyage at about 20 percent its actual length."87 Consequently, proof of the flatness

or roundness of the earth never hinged upon Columbus's efforts.

In History of the Conflict we therefore witness not the transparent recital of pre-

existing historical fact, but the rhetorical process by which historical fact is fash-

ioned. Draper's text demonstrates that what is referred to as history is, on one hand,

always already a thickly textured work in progress, and is, on the other hand, hardly

contained by transparent evidence or faithful testimonials. Indeed, Russell observes

that, "fallacies or myths of this nature take on a life of their own, creating a dialectic

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


with each other and eventually making a 'cycle of myths' reinforcing one another."88

The dialectic of such a cycle explains the repetition of the flat earth narrative in

countless textbooks, as well as Daniel Boorstin's invocation of the same myth—a

tale that Boorstin presents as historical fact and, much like Draper, fails to docu-

ment any of the copious texts from the medieval period that would complicate its


Draper's omission of historical evidence that might refute his narrative and

emphasis of outlying texts that support his version of events is not an arbitrary

mishap that one can easily dismiss as scholarly irresponsibility. Draper's reliance

upon ethos rather than evidence is itself a rhetorical tactic—one that opens up a

space for a prophetically persuasive worldview, a worldview that creates its own

proof and therefore needs no external evidence. This observation confirms

Darsey's claim that "Whatever the motives of the prophet, his value lies in his

reception, the quality of the ethos presented to his auditors [or readers]."89 Megill

and McCloskey further explain that nineteenth-century historians modeled their

writing on "nineteenth-century novelists" who "strove to create an impression of

omniscience, of continuity, of unbroken flow. The 'voice' of professional historians

has traditionally been a variant of this novelistic voice." Marked as it is by this tra-

dition, Draper's text constitutes not so much a narration of events, but more sig-

nificantly the construction of an ethos, given that this prophetic style "exerts

pressure to produce a whole and continuous story, sustaining the impression of

omniscience, leaping over evidential voids." 90 In Darsey's words, "the prophetic ethos" eventually "becomes its own rhetoric."91 History of the Conflict thus demon-

strates that history is a cluster of vastly different ways of knowing and is, further-

more, constructed upon the basis of strategic "forgettings," to use de Certeau's

phrase. The prophetic nature of Draper's history confirms that these ways of know-

ing come to be seen as self-evident, as natural—as history, in other words—by

virtue of their persuasiveness or utility in response to particular exigencies, and not

simply because of their conformity to evidence.

Science, Religion, and the Modern World

The ideas in History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science resonate with

those of the current era. Common threads of optimism run through Draper's time

and our own: a faith in progress, a spirit of ingenuity, and, above all, an unwavering

belief in the power of science. These threads rend a division characteristic of mod-

ern Western culture—a division between the sacred and profane, between the spir-

itual and the empirical, between religion and science.

Draper was neither the first nor the last to prophesy the reign of science and to

author "the Flat Error." Draper was, however, "the great popularizer" of such ideas,

for History of the Conflict was the most popular book of its kind.92 Indeed, the sig-


Rhetoric & Public Affairs

nificance of this text became fixed in the minds of its readers, even well into the

twentieth century.93 Studying the rhetorical dynamics oÃ- History of the Conflict there-

fore amounts to studying the boldest discursive patterns of an unparalleled episte-

mological transformation in the shape of modern knowledge.

The arguments in History of the Conflict are not matters of abstract intellectual

opinion. To the contrary, Draper's text responded to an urgent crisis of episteme

during the nineteenth century. Draper's polemics were designed to enlist his read-

ers in an epistemological war and motivate them to take action on behalf of science.

A close examination of History of the Conflict therefore contributes to rhetorical

studies an awareness of the persuasive means by which public ways of knowing in

the late nineteenth century established an opposition between religion and science

that is, in many ways, homologous with modern American culture.

History of the Conflict vigorously argues that religion is founded upon a specious

criterion of proof. Religion, Draper claims, has no basis as a source of knowledge.

Hence Draper labors to create a way of knowing in diametrical opposition to reli-

gion. Toward this end, Draper castigates religion solely upon the criteria of scien-

tific inquiry: science in Draper's text becomes the singular arbiter of all knowledge,

especially religious knowledge.94 The logic of Draper's history thus debars the

notion that religion and science may comprise incompatible ways of knowing, and

that one cannot evaluate the other solely upon the basis of its particular criteria of


Ironically, though, the logic of Draper's argument inscribes a circular pattern: his

discourse on the virtues of science constitutes a faith not in method or results, but

in the essence of science itself, a faith in the intrinsic divinity of scientific law.

Consequently, even though Draper sets out to establish as much of a contrast

between religion and science as possible, his unwavering faith in the essential good-

ness of science creates a religion out of science itself: in short, Draper commits the

very crime for which he indicts religion. This observation suggests that any dis-

course—even one called "science"—that holds fast to a single criterion of knowl-

edge and judgment will eventually turn that criterion into gospel. As Darsey puts it,

"Faith is a nonempirical idea."95

Draper's belief in the divinity of science also provides a more general insight

concerning the prophetic tradition as it relates to nineteenth-century scientific his-

tory. Darsey observes that historically the prophetic role has been "one of submis-

sion to God's call": "the prophet presents himself not as hero, but as God's servant."

There is, then, an "element of subjugation in the call."96 Science, and not God, how-

ever, functions as the divine in Draper's discourse: Draper's deity is therefore alien,

cold, and faceless. According to Megill and McCloskey, the ethos of the modern his-

torian is not an ethos of subservience to a godly omniscience, but is indeed the

ethos of omniscience itself.97 Such omniscience is derived not from a supernatural

calling, but from the powers of all-too-human scientific observation. Gone, then, is

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


the element of subjugation in the prophetic ethos of the scientific historian, for the

scientist is the one who perceives all the inner workings of nature, and is beholden

only to the progress of the immutable laws therein.

Just as Draper expresses a faith in science, so too is there a faith in the public's

affirmation of what will be considered history. History will be known as such when

it persuades the public into recognition of it as important or relevant. This persua-

sion, however, may be effected in different ways. In a narrow sense, history may be

the transparent recital of the historical record. More generally, though, history is

important, according to Roger Wilkins, because "we argue a lot about who we are

on the basis of who we think we have been, and we derive much of our sense of the

future from how we think we've done in the past."98 Such a view of history empha-

sizes belief, not fact, which suggests that history has more than one function beyond

simply getting the facts right. In the words of John Higham, history "lend[s] itself

to all the cross-purposes of life."99 The lesson of this essay, therefore, is not that

rhetoric constitutes the manipulative jettisoning of historical truth. Instead, every

history justifies the remembering of some elements of the past and the forgetting of

others; every history thus labors to create its own complex way of knowing—its

own truth—and this way of knowing must be judged upon its means and objec-

tives, not upon its rhetorical nature.


My intention in this essay was not to debunk History of the Conflict. Neither was

it my intention to interpret the rhetorical dimensions of Draper's text as those

unfortunate elements of historiography that distort objective truth or fact. Quite to

the contrary, my motivation has been to ask how even the most transparent facts or

self-evident truths are rhetorically produced, for despite what today's professional

historians might call its rhetorical excesses, the contents of History of the Conflict

indeed became conventional wisdom. Draper's rather dramatic historical text,

therefore, ultimately points to the rhetorical nature of all history, even that which is

said to consist of pure fact.

History is rhetorical, moreover, not simply because it depends upon style, argu-

ment, or tropes. Rather, history produces ways of knowing, and these ways of know-

ing come into being by virtue of their public, discursive nature. History does not

exist outside of its expression, outside of public discourses that constitute shared,

ongoing processes of remembering and forgetting. Rhetoric is the very means, then,

by which history is produced—a process vividly captured in History of the Conflict

Between Religion and Science. Draper's work illustrates that the persuasive force of

history resides not simply in factual fidelity, nor even in a singular author, but in the

story itself as it is taken up and worked upon by the public, as it is refined and

molded into conventional wisdom, as it makes the world known.



Rhetoric & Public Affairs

  • 1. Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, trans. Tom Conley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 4.

  • 2. de Certeau, The Writing of History, 4.

  • 3. Allan Megill and Donald N. McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of History," in The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences: Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs, ed. John S. Nelson, Allan Megill, and Donald N. McCloskey (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 221.

  • 4. Kathleen J. Turner, "Introduction: Rhetorical History as Social Construction," in Doing Rhetorical History: Concepts and Cases, ed. Kathleen J. Turner (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press,

1998), 6.

  • 5. Donald H. Fleming, John William Draper and the Religion of Science (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1950), 140.

  • 6. Fleming, John William Draper, 134; see also Jeffery Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (New York: Praeger, 1991), 41.

  • 7. Stephen Jay Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (New York: Harmony Books, 1995), 44-48; Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 38.

  • 8. See Russell, Inventing the FlatEarth, 3-6,29, and 35 for a discussion of "the Flat Error" in textbooks.

  • 9. Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," in Dinosaur in a Haystack, 42; Russell, Inventing the Flat

Earth, 60-70.

  • 10. Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," in Dinosaur in a Haystack, 42; Russell, Inventing the Flat

Earth, 1-11.

  • 11. Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," in Dinosaur in a Haystack, 42.

  • 12. For an analogous example in the history of science, see Thomas Lessl, "The Galileo Legend as Scientific Folklore," Quarterly Journal of Speech 85 (1999): 146-168. Lessl's analysis of forty treat- ments of the Galileo legend, however, relies upon distinctions between "folklore" and fact, for famil- iar narratives about Galileo in Lessl's view are easily classified as "erroneous," as "mistakes," or "misinformation," whereas I am more interested in those very similar aspects of Draper's text that exemplify the rhetorical means by which historical fact is created and accepted as such.

  • 13. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers, vol. 1 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991), 152.

  • 14. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 1991.

  • 15. See William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences: From the Earliest to the Present Times (London: J. W. Parker, 1837); and Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York: Appleton, 1896). Whewell is credited with identifying the atyp- ical medieval figures who professed a faith in a flat earth, and whose writings would come to serve as evidence for the flat earth narratives of many scientific historians, Draper included. Whewell's flat earth account, however, never approached the popularity or influence of Draper's, even though it remained a formative nineteenth-century text in the history of science. White, on the other hand, benefited from the popularity of Draper's text, for White's book enjoyed a wide public reception. In the context of a war between science and religion, however, White's use of anecdotes such as the flat earth narrative is less hostile to religion than Draper's. While Draper used such narratives to demonstrate the villainy of religion—chiefly in the form of the Pope or Roman Catholicism— White argued against dogmatism of any kind, thus admitting the possibility of a religion not ruled by repression or ignorance, and therefore harmonious with science.

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History


University of Chicago Press, 1970 [1857]); John Fiske, The Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1885); Harold Frederick, Illumination, or, The Damnation of Thereon Ware (Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1896); Asa Gray, Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism (New York: D. Appleton, 1876); and William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (New York: The Modern Library, 1929).

  • 17. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 38.

  • 18. Fleming, John William Draper, 125.

  • 19. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 38.

  • 20. On this subject, see Steve Fuller, Science (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), espe- cially 40-76.

  • 21. A. L. Rowse, The Use of History (New York: Collier Books, 1963), 63.

  • 22. James T. Shotwell, The History of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939), 214.

  • 23. John Higham with Leonard Krieger and Felix Gilbert, History (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice- Hall, 1965), be.

  • 24. Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973); see also Ronald Carpenter, History as Rhetoric: Style, Narrative, and Persuasion (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995); J. H. Hexter, "The Rhetoric of History," in DoingHistory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971), 15-76; Hans Kellner, Language and Historical Representation: Getting the Story Crooked (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989); Nancy S. Struever, "Historical Discourse," in Handbook of Discourse Analysis, vol. 1, Disciplines of Discourse, ed. Teun A. van Dijk (London: Academic Press, 1985), 249- 271; and Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative, Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).

  • 25. E. Culpepper Clark and Raymie E. McKerrow, "The Rhetorical Construction of History," in Doing Rhetorical History, 34.

  • 26. James Jasinski, "A Constitutive Framework for Rhetorical Historiography: Toward an Understanding of the Discursive (Re)constitution of 'Constitution' in The Federalist Papers" in Doing Rhetorical History, 73-74.

  • 27. See Clark and McKerrow, "The Rhetorical Construction of History"; and Bruce E. Gronbeck, "The Rhetorics of the Past: History, Argument, and Collective Memory," in Doing Rhetorical History, 47- 60. See also David Zarefsky, "Four Senses of Rhetorical History," in Doing Rhetorical History, 19-32.

  • 28. Turner, "Introduction: Rhetorical History as Social Construction," in Doing Rhetorical History, 2.

  • 29. Rowse, The Use of History, 18.

  • 30. On this subject, Gronbeck writes, "History is not to be confused with the past, for history is a col- lection of stories and arguments about some set of events from before." See Gronbeck, "The Rhetorics of the Past: History, Argument, and Collective Memory," in Doing Rhetorical History, 48.

  • 31. Robert L. Scott, "On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic," Central States Speech Journal 18 (1967): 13.

  • 32. See Dominick LaCapra, "Rethinking Intellectual History and Reading Texts," in Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 23-71.

  • 33. de Certeau, The Writing of History, 20.

  • 34. Carpenter, History as Rhetoric, 1.

  • 35. Lee Benson, Toward the Scientific Study of History: Selected Essays (Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott,

1972), 1.

  • 36. Megill and McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of History," in Rhetoric of the Human Sciences, 235; Higham et al., History, xi-x.


Rhetoric & Public Affairs

  • 37. Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval & Modern (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

1983), 17.

  • 38. Leopold Von Ranke, "Fragment From the 1860's," in The Varieties of History: From Voltaire to the Present, ed. Fritz Stern (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1956), 60.

  • 39. Breisach, Historiography, 17; Fleming, John William Draper, 59.

  • 40. Breisach, Historiography, 17; Higham et al., History, 94.

  • 41. Harry Ritter, Dictionary of Concepts in History (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986), 397-401.

  • 42. Harry Elmer Barnes, A History of Historical Writing, 2d ed. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1963), 298; Higham et al., History, 6.

  • 43. Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," in Dinosaur in a Haystack, 42; Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 69-77.

  • 44. George H. Daniels, ed., Nineteenth-Century American Science: A Reappraisal (Evanston:

Northwestern University Press, 1972), vii; Higham et al., History, 238.

  • 45. Breisach, Historiography, 14-15; Jan Golinski, Making Knowledge Natural: Constructivism and the History of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3.

  • 46. Higham et al., History, 245.

  • 47. David Knight, The Age of Science: The Scientific World-view in the Nineteenth Century (New York:

Basil Blackwell, 1986), 17.

  • 48. John William Draper, History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton, 1897), 324. The use of the word "awful" here may seem pejorative to modern readers, but the Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) confirms that common usage of "awful" in the nineteenth century meant being full of awe (833).

  • 49. Breisach, Historiography, 14.

  • 50. Nathan Reingold, Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964), 253,252.

  • 51. Fleming, John William Draper, 138.

  • 52. Fleming, John William Draper, 58, 59.

  • 53. Fleming, John William Draper, 48.

  • 54. John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 34; Reingold, Science in Nineteenth-Century America, 198f.

  • 55. Draper was actually English-born, but emigrated to America with his family at the age of 21.

  • 56. A significant portion of this text served as a precursor to History of the Conflict. Indeed, Draper even incorporated some passages from A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe into his later work.

  • 57. Fleming, John William Draper, 58.

  • 58. Fleming, John William Draper, 63.

  • 59. Draper, History of the Conflict, 286.

  • 60. Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," in Dinosaur in a Haystack, 38-50.

  • 61. James Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition and Radical Rhetoric in America (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 27.

  • 62. John Clive, Not By Fact Alone: Essays on the Writing and Reading of History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), 34.

  • 63. Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition, 27.

The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History

  • 64. Fleming, John William Draper, 63, 75.

  • 65. Draper, History of the Conflict, vii, vi, xi.


  • 66. Brooke, Science and Religion, 36; Fleming, John William Draper, 78.

  • 67. Draper, History of the Conflict, vii.

  • 68. Fleming, John William Draper, 60.

  • 69. Draper is highly selective in his attacks on religion. Some religious figures, such as Martin Luther, are singled out as brave guardians of knowledge working against a theologically enforced intellec- tual oppression. Roman Catholicism, however, never enjoys a flattering portrait, as Popes both past and contemporaneous to Draper receive the brunt of his accusations.

  • 70. Draper, History of the Conflict, 323, 326.

  • 71. Draper, History of the Conflict, 327, 367, 364.

  • 72. Draper, History of the Conflict, 325, 260.

  • 73. Fleming, John William Draper, 76.

  • 74. Gould, "The Late Birth of a Flat Earth," in Dinosaur in a Haystack, 38-50; Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 1991

  • 75. G. P. Gooch, History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century, 2d ed. (London: Longmans, 1952), 383; Higham et al., History, 238. Higham et al. write that Draper "contributed to the end of show- ing what America was by investigating what it was not" (241).

  • 76. Draper, History of the Conflict, 152-153.

  • 77. Draper, History of the Conflict, 153.

  • 78. Draper, History of the Conflict, 157,62.

  • 79. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 32.

  • 80. Quoted in Draper, History of the Conflict, 64. See Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Books I-VII, trans. Sister Mary Francis McDonald (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1964).

  • 81. Draper, History of the Conflict, 65. See Cosmas Indicopleustes, The Christian Topography of Cosmas, an Egyptian Monk, trans. J. W McCrindle (New York: B. Franklin, 1967).

  • 82. Draper, History of the Conflict, 66, 157-158.

  • 83. Draper, History of the Conflict, 159, 160-161,161, 294.

  • 84. Edward Grant, "Science and Theology in the Middle Ages," in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Religion and Science, ed. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 69.

  • 85. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 69, 32-33, 34-35.

  • 86. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 15-19, 70.

  • 87. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 13, 8, 10.

  • 88. Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth, 76. Tuner makes a similar point, arguing that "accuracy" in cases such as this "is only one minor and rather elusive consideration; the power of such stories and images as symbolic constructions of reality for their publics is precisely the stuff of the rhetorical historian." See Turner, "Introduction: Rhetorical History as Social Construction," in Doing Rhetorical History, 5.

  • 89. Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition, 33. The power of this ethos, though, does not obscure Draper's rhetorical strategy. Indeed, as has been indicated throughout this essay, Draper's intent to gain a wide audience for his arguments about science and religion, and to petition the reading public into acting on behalf of science, were well-documented. Consequently, the power of the prophetic ethos that Darsey describes is, far from being contradictory to an apprehension of Draper's intent, actu- ally quite complementary to the execution of his rhetorical strategies.


Rhetoric & Public Affairs

  • 90. Megill and McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of History," in Rhetoric of the Human Sciences, 226.

  • 91. Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition, 34.

  • 92. Fleming, John William Draper, 1.

  • 93. Fleming, John William Draper, 135; David C. Lindberg, "Science and the Early Church," in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Religion and Science, 20.

  • 94. Curiously, the inverse is not true: in debates over evolution, for example, many theologians resorted not to the Bible, but to scientific argument. Bishop Wilberforce, who clashed with T. H. Huxley on the subject of evolution in 1860, objected to Huxley on scientific grounds. See Tess Cosslet, ed., Science and Religion in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 1.

  • 95. Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition, 206.

  • 96. Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition, 28.

  • 97. Megill and McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of History," in Rhetoric of the Human Sciences, 226.

  • 98. Roger Wilkins, "The Case for Affirmative Action," The Nation, March 27, 1995,410.

  • 99. Higham et al., History, ix.