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If Only MacLean Had Read All the Way to Page 4….

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My former student Gayle Thomas sent to me this e-mail this morning (shared here with Gayle’s kind permission and with links added):

Hi Don,

I noted with interest your post on Buchanan’s birthday [2]. I have recently borrowed “Better Than Plowing [3],” his collection of autobiographical essays, and this morning read the following on page 4:

“…officer training school in New York radicalized me. Along with many others, I was subjected to overt discrimination based on favoritism for products of the eastern establishment universities. This sobering experience made me forever sympathetic to those who suffer discriminatory treatment…”

Of course, I immediately thought of the eminent scholarship of Nancy MacLean and her masterful reading of the psyche of James Buchanan. Had she taken a moment to read even the first essay in this collection, she might have had a better insight into his character.

Gayle Thomas

UPDATE: As Ross Emmett correctly points out, MacLean does note Buchanan’s expressed antipathy toward eastern-establishment elites. ¬†She does not, however, seem to think that this knowledge of Buchanan matters much for assessing his role in the intellectual debates.