Page 6, 4th June 1937

4th June 1937
Page 6
Page 6, 4th June 1937 — Evidence and History

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Evidence and History

Sre.—I do not wish to prolong this little controversy unless you consider that a principle of general interest is involved.

Professor Hogan contends that no historical evidence may be suppressed. Agreed, but I deny that a piece of ambiguous writing is admissible as evidence.. Every case. in the law courts gives us examples of documents or casual utter ances being refused as evidence. The historian should be as strict as a judge., and should not allow the jury, the public, to be influenced by what is not trustworthy.

Suppose that Professor Hogan writes to me: "I murdered my political opponent and was not found out." I know this for a joke, but realise that the letter may read otherwise a hundred years hence, when we are gone; so I exclude this from my edition of the Professor's writings. A sensational novelist, with no sense of humour, finds the paper a hundred years hence, and prints it in one of his books designed to shew the men o( today as void of morals. Is that legitimate use of evidence? 1 say no.

Now, I grant that in an extreme case, ambiguous documents may be revived and analysed; but only if they are handled gravely in their full context and with due warning as to their evidential defects. This is for the serious historian, not for the sensational novelist. Serious historians are content to abide by the ruling of Tone's editor, his son.

I am not objecting to historical candour, but to the modern sensationalism which impudently poses as candour. " The public must know the truth," cries every dishonest and vulgar Sunday newspaper, when printing scandals about the honourable dead.

AODH DE BLACAM. Ravensdale.

[No two people will ever agree about what does and what does not constitute evidence. The facts are now known, so the correspondence may cease.—E

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