Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Charge Number 1

Mrs. White’s “revelations” concerning the Civil War “simply told just what everybody already knew” about the causes of the war and the factors operating in connection with it. EGWC 112.3

This charge is based upon the presumption that even from the outset of the war “everybody” had a clear understanding of the issues involved, the trend, and the implications of certain courses of actions followed by different leaders in government. EGWC 112.4

The facts are that no period in United States history has been more debated than the period of the Civil War. The debate began at the very outset of the war, and central to it were questions as to the causes of the war and the objectives that the North and South had in lighting it. EGWC 113.1

A few years ago a committee of leading historians prepared a group work on the subject of how to write history. In this they discussed some of the difficulties that confront the historian who seeks to discover, amid the welter of facts and discordant claims that surround any period of history, the true picture in proper proportion and focus. The particular exhibit that they employed to show the problem that confronts historians was the Civil War, very particularly the causes of that war. We quote two sentences: EGWC 113.2

“Study of what historians have said were the causes of this particular war makes one skeptical of all simple explanations of all wars.... EGWC 113.3

“Conclusions about this particular historical problem have been constantly changing ever since the events occurred, as available data and men’s environment, techniques, and philosophies have changed.”—Theory and Practice in Historical Study (a report of the Committee on Historiography of the Social Science Research Council), p. 90. EGWC 113.4

According to the charge, all that Mrs. White said was “just what everybody already knew.” Great historians are less certain about the transparently simple character of the facts and information and conclusions possible to men even today concerning the Civil War, much less to men in the days of the war itself. A reading of all that Mrs. White wrote concerning the Civil War, in the Testimonies from which the critic has quoted, reveals that she was concerning herself very definitely with the causes that were operating in connection with the war, particularly the factor of the desire for abolition of slavery. EGWC 113.5