tv Book Discussion on The Great Divide CSPAN May 23, 2015 7:00pm-7:51pm EDT
>> good evening. it's my pleasure to be back here. i was telling someone that for 40 years five times he year i came here. and so i have almost reverential feelings for this place. and i hope a similar motion will be developed for my book at the end of this. [laughter] washington versus jefferson the conflict that continues to trouble america.
the conflict between george washington and thomas jefferson? most americans are unaware that such a thing ever existed. but little has been written about the differences that have developed. martha washington told the visiting congressman the two worst days of her life for the day george died and the david thomas jefferson came to pay his condolences. [laughter] and little doubt. she also knew that jefferson's dislike of washington had become so intense he had avoided attending his funeral even though he was vice president at the time.
ultimately they became enemies. james madison's brilliant political theorizing on the admiration and was forced to choose between these two tall antagonists. during the eight-year struggle around independence independence washington became a man who lives to live dangerously. that phrase hit me in the head as i began the book and sums up so much. military defeat and attempted the trails of fellow revolutionaries rose to worldwide fame. he crowned this by rejecting
pleas to _-dash the bankrupt middle congress and become the knew nations dictator working. instead he instead he calmly resigned his commission and became a private citizen once more. his chief contribution drafting the declaration of independence the opening paragraphs every human being was equally entitled to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness but ultimately give america's revolution real transforming power. over 200 similar declarations were published in the next century and a half. the declaration was offered during the war for independence but congress added in the 2nd half of the draft and throughout the whole thing just about and issued it as they are saying jefferson was far better known as governor of
virginia. harry during this time by eminent bankruptcy and british invasion and revealed a dismaying inability to deal with crises and an almost morbid sensitivity to criticism. when a spokesman for patrick henry suggested governor jefferson's performance oriented reprimand jefferson told his friend he would never again hold public office. the contrast is between the two is striking. by 1783 when independence was confirmed by a treaty with great it became apparent that the continental congress and the constitution it created, the
articles of confederation were inadequate to the challenge of governing 13 contagious states. 1785 james madison begin visiting asked general washington to discuss the need for more effective federal government. absent from these conversations which would have a large influence was washington and madison's mutual friend thomas jefferson. persuaded him to come out of retirement and become the nation's ambassador to france. washington was 1st last and always a realist. take human nature as we find it. that was one of his favorite it combined this realism
with a surprisingly strong faith that america was destined to become a beacon of freedom for men and women everywhere. one recent biographer call them are realistic visionary jefferson tended to see men and events to the lands of evasive optimism. he believed that if left to their own devices freemen would inevitably find the path to get government. all they needed idealistic voice to inspire. experience convinced washington is happy outcome would only occur with the help of strong leadership. this was the missing ingredient in the articles of confederation which made congress the sole ruler of
the nation. a mixed body of wildly diverging opinions. washington put up with this for a long, long time 74 years as commander-in-chief. jefferson had found no fault with the articles of confederation. at the constitutional convention one of the 1st things they did was check the articles of confederation. the ex- general spent immense amounts of time not in the convention itself but afterwards that dinners and private meetings with the delegates he devoted endless hours to persuade that the federal government would never succeed unless they gave the government of president's powers were co- equal to congress. he got what he wanted.
as madison said no one signed the constitution with more enthusiasm than general washington. he subsequently played a central role in the debate over ratifying the constitution. at one time he said he had read every pamphlet written on the subject. he he was asked to use his influence to persuade neighboring states especially his own virginia. persuaded them very get help from madison to approve the knew charter. ambassador jefferson missed the entire struggle in france absorbed by another drama the 1st world ends
of whirlwinds of what became the french revolution. jefferson's reaction was totally different from washington. i must confess there are things and hit that stagger my dispositions to subscribe to it he told his friend john adams. especially critical of the office of the presidency. he thought it was much too powerful and saw tyranny in the footsteps. in fact he came up with a particularly insulting remark. it is a poor imitation of the polish king. i don't think he was prejudiced. i hope not. the polish king was elected by the people. but they elected and then he served for life. this is what jefferson predicted would happen. washington was the
inevitable choice to be the 1st president. when when he was officially informed he promised to bring what he called honest zeal to the office. those words are significant. virtually from his 1st day he made clear his intention to govern the nation. the school of historians that saw washington is not governing but merely presiding over the contentious group of. that is absolutely untrue. i think that my book will make that clear. one of his 1st acts was to send a letter that if they wish to communicate with the united states of america
they should write to him president washington and not congress. meanwhile in france jefferson was becoming a passionate advocate of the french revolution. when he returned and accepted washington's offer he was soon on the prowl for anyone. a vp. vice president john adams became the 1st target when adams published a series of essays predicting disaster. jefferson called him some very nasty names. equally serious was equally serious was jefferson's disagreement with the secretary of treasury alexander hamilton's plan to pay america's huge revolutionary war debt by creating a bank of the united states and selling shares to investors. jefferson noted the similarity to the bank of england.
his hatred of britain was so intense he saw the plan as a virtual the trail of the ideals of america's. jefferson disagreed even more violently with hamilton's argument that there were implied powers in the constitution that permitted the federal government to create a bank. the secretary of state saw this idea as a possibly fatal step toward tyranny. president washington had no such antagonism toward great britain. right after the battle of yorktown he gave a dinner from british officers that have been captured. in the course of it pendulum raised his glass and said to the king. washington raised his glass and said out of england. keeping their. [laughter] he could be witty.
the constitution also influenced washington and made little attempt to define the powers of the presidency. washington welcome this opportunity. he saw the concept as a way to broaden the office. there's already a successful businessman. he also welcomed he also welcomed the idea of turning the united states into a commercial nation powerful enough to challenge britain for leadership in the not-too-distant future. the president was soon exalting hamilton's system restoring america's red credit abroad and create prosperity at home. jefferson argued the price of success was to my. it would breed corruption and the creation of a wealthy upper-class.
america should remain a nation of virtuous farmers. that was the only way to preserve the purity. secretary of state had an almost pathological hostility to life in large cities. he saw them as incubators morality and corruption. washington's approval soon persuaded congress. jefferson did not react well he sneered at he sneered at virginia's merchants when they rushed to philadelphia to participate in the booming stock market that hamilton had created. he said that they were rushing to acquire their shares of federal filth. when the bank of the united states announced plans to establish a branch in virginia jefferson wrote a raging letter to james madison telling him that any
virginian who did this -- did business with this bank which had been created by a foreign power he was talking about the congress of the united states created by a foreign power there would be committing treason against the native state and deserves to be executed. he have a great tendency to go to extremes. by this time jefferson had convinced madison that washington had become subservient to secretary hamilton. washington sided with hamilton about 50 percent of the time and supported jefferson's views and numerous other disputed issues. they decided nonetheless it was vital to warn the american people about the dangerous direction in which they saw the nation heading.
jefferson hired a a classmate of medicines at the college of new jersey which is now princeton as a translator for the state department and the two men help them launch the national gazette. issue after issue attacking hamilton and his program. assume washington was included as a target. in fact there is a cartoon in which washington was strapped to a board and being carried toward awaiting guillotine. jefferson somehow financed and encouraged this savage criticism of the president's administration in which she was supposedly a loyal member. events in france and the tensions. radicals seized control and had a lot to do with
guillotine and declaring war on the. he decides -- excuse me washington decides america must and would remain neutral. he he issued a proclamation urging all americans to refrain from acts of violence favoring other side jefferson objected vehemently. he felt because of the french help we had an obligation to join france in the war but washington is right. a a treaty with france that we sidetracked the revolution obviated us to defend them only if they were attacked by another government another nation. in this case the french were attacking the english. he saw and hamilton had no trouble agreeing that at
this time at the primitive state of america's economy will be a total disaster for the americans. but the fact that it was not a necessity. at any rate washington -- jefferson, excuse me told washington that he thought he should call congress and the session to find out whether he had a right to issue this proclamation of neutrality. washington said no. that will raise people's fears and anxiety to an unbelievably unhealthy level besides, the constitution gives the president the power to issue a proclamation like this independently. in paris tragedy gathered momentum. the committee of public safety was formed under the leadership of a fanatic named maximilian who
proclaimed a republic consists of the extermination of everything and anyone who opposes it. massacre became the order of the day. secretary of state jefferson remained oblivious to this collapse of the french government. he found it more difficult to ignore letters from his former secretary had remained in paris when jefferson returned to america. soon exploding into a rebuke the tone of your letter has for some time given me pain on account of the extreme world which you have sent to the proceedings. why didn't understand that jefferson considered them the same as the republican
patriots of america. the struggle to expunge jefferson continued innocent as well as healthy people died. he mourned the innocent. what enabled what enabled to tolerate the loss was the goal of the struggle for liberty was depending on the issue. rather than it should have failed i would have seen half the earth decimated. (. far better than now is. the only time before i got to read this the time i ever heard anyone say anything like this was a psychiatrist in belgrade i was touring yugoslavia. told me that he hoped the
service would get time bomb. if only one server or two were left alive after the war was over and will be worth it. at that time i thought this proves to me this guy is nuts. meanwhile, the secretary of state found himself face-to-face with the revolution and the knew ambassador for paris. private conversations, jefferson abandoned all pretensions toward neutrality. he did not at all conceal that secretary of the treasury had the greatest influence over the president's mind.
note the phrasing. he already helped begin to look at washington with contempt. he began commissioning privateers sailing from american ports to seize british ships and conferred with jefferson. and that was most of the time. he said he had a plan to persuade kentucky to seize spanish held florida and create a new independent nation. secretary of state saw nothing wrong with fracturing the american union this way. president washington was appalled. the american commander in the west stationed troops.
after two humiliating defeats washington created and trained a regular army to confront the indians announced intention to drive the americans east of the appalachian mountains. washington soon revealed his ability to play an equally rough political gain. a new york newspaper chief justice leaked probably with the president's secret approval not only probably would almost certainly a statement that he was going to appeal to the american people over the head of this man he called old man washington. a huge explosion of anger swept over a.
mass meetings and cities and towns and villages. he was able to ask the secretary of state requests his recall. his defeat was a turning. he he decided to try to convince what is how to change the american government and do some version of a pro-british monarchy. three times the two men sat down and argued about this crucial issue. washington insisted jefferson and his followers for conjuring up a hobgoblin that never would have existed. tempers became strained. the president accused accused jefferson of having a low opinion of his intelligence. not too surprising a thought here he was.
he insisted he was the last man in the world the emergence of an american. jefferson realized he had lost the argument and resigned the secretary of state. out of office he wants more declared he was through with politics going on and on about how he hated the atmosphere, the politically charged atmosphere. meanwhile. meanwhile he is writing letters to the tenants, james madison and james monroe advising them on how to oppose president washington's policies. his followers began founding what they called democratic societies. these these american
versions preached opposition and even revolution against washington's government. soon there was a movement and western pennsylvania to secede from the union taking the western sections of nearby states such as virginia and north carolina with the. the pretext was the federal government's desk government's task on whiskey which the pennsylvanians denounced as unjust. converting it into whiskey was there only hope. they had a justifiable complaint but talk about going too far. wearing a uniform of a major general addressing a huge crowd in the field a few miles from pittsburgh and called for the formation of a rebel army and assured his listeners that they were ready and eager to finance their adventure which was undoubtedly true.
pres. washington's summoned 13,000 militia from nearby states and placed governor henry lee of virginia the most famous cavalryman of the revolution command. the president personally accompanied this from the warming to make it clear that they spoke to his determination to crush this threat to the union as swiftly as possible. any and all resistance evaporated which gave jefferson the opportunity to say that washington had march 200 miles the cows billion and cannot. the general had what an equally decisive victory. the two victories guaranteed that the west will remain open to american settlers. washington returned to philadelphia a satisfied man and in a no-nonsense speech he blamed the crisis
of the democratic societies. jefferson and his followers instantly accused washington of attacking freedom of speech. the democratic societies were soon extinct. no one passed a law against the about they faded away under the presence combination. he convinced the american people to join the most serious threat to the definition would face until the civil war. it was an historic example of what presidential leadership could accomplish. a few months later washington's commitment to a strong presidency faced another test. special envoy john j negotiated a new commercial tree that was far from perfect. about the only positive advantage was a promise to evacuate ports in the american west.
zero yeah. they have supplied them with weapons and encouragement to defeat to armies before they were knocked flat in the battle of fallen timbers. washington admitted that the treaty had defects but focused on its title, a treaty of amity. those words meant signing it would prevent the ruinous war with britain. the treaty was on its way to the senate with his signature on it. the president's decision triggered wild protest from jefferson and his followers. nothing less than an alliance between britain and the anchorman massey told the against the people of
the united states. the president delivered his annual message to congress. the jeffersonians expected another angry wrath of the democratic society. instead to there amazement president washington smiled at the astonished legislators and began by telling the wonderful news. years of negotiation had finally persuaded them to let western farmers should their grain and other goods down to new orleans and sell them there. it meant that they would be the end of the whiskey rebellion. then washington stood there on the podium and congratulated congress on the happiness that their country was experiencing the remaining at peaceful europe
was wracked by war. it dawned it dawned on his listeners that they were dealing with a master politician of his era. further evidence was washington's decision to forgo the 3rd term. instead he announced he would not seek a 3rd term. he announced also he announced also that he was going to write a farewell address to the american people. in it he considered the union of crucial value the guarantor of future happiness. he warned against excessively favoring or disliking foreign nations today we consider it a great state paper but in 1796
americans saw it as a searing critique of thomas jefferson. with washington's covert backing adams defeated jefferson to become the 2nd president. france began seizing american merchant ships and threatened an invasion. fighting what historians now call the quasi- war it looks like the threat of invasion was so serious adams asked washington to emerge from retirement. then congress passed the sedition act making it a crime to libel of president and other federal officials. giving adams and unbelievable beating in the newspapers. washington and others saw this bill as a justifiable
war measure. but it integrates jefferson completely. he persuaded medicine to write a protest to the virginia legislature that the state had the power to interpose its power and refused to obey such a long. in a statement for the kentucky legislature jefferson went much further asserting that the state could and should consider what he called section secession to protect its citizens right to free speech. he was planting a seed that would flower into the most god-awful were the country is ever had. they displayed washington saw these ideals and urged
patrick henry and other virginian politicians to oppose them as the argument raised he died of an infection. the political parties supported john adams. the federalist accidentally he was an inept and unlikely politician and abnormal men at any rate the enterprise faltered badly and jefferson became the nation's 3rd person. i was going to end this book and i would in this talk i thought maybe i had said everything worth saying. i began began researching jefferson's presidency and changed my mind. it is crucial to understand why and how this quarrel with washington became a
great divide. the opposite of washington's style and policy and the burst of somewhat probably reprehensible inspiration. i call him the on washington president. instead of addressing congress each year jefferson sent a message that was red. he received visitors in dc. i dc. they moved down they're when he became president. received visitors at his residence in clothes so old tattered one man thought he was a janitor. a janitor. he could not have gotten away with this in philadelphia on new york. but in washington dc there were only about 4000 people in the whole place. no one particularly upset
about it. instead of creating congress with words and ask he invited key congressmen to his residence and that private dinners persuaded them to give what he wanted this creating the illusion that congress was running the country. all all part of his desire to diminish the presidency. at times it revealed his basic dislike of the constitution. after he had been elected by a huge victory he attempted to impeach supreme court justice samuel chase for criticizing his a ministration. and the judge of the supreme court could and should be replaced by a majority vote of congress.
it was part of jefferson's favorite motto, the voice of the people must be obeyed. there was arrogance as well as ideology. the arrogance emanated from a great triumph of jefferson's presidency, the purchase of the louisiana territory. he bought it in 183 before he ran for reelection. the key player was not jefferson but a mosquito. the carrier of yellow fever. this tiny creature destroyed the french army that napoleon bonaparte had persuaded jefferson to let him send to santo domingo present-day haiti to regain control of the immensely valuable sugar colony on the island.
secretly planning to restore the french empire. he did not bother to tell jefferson and madison. he he achieved what the ambassador tried but failed to accomplish. the followings army took six weeks to defeat these covert africans. and they then had orders to go in the new orleans within the joint plan of the french army and surge of mississippi to create what bonaparte's foreign minister called a war of brass along the mississippi intimidating america and the total submission to the will of france. but his army is now a a ghastly growing and the disgusted french dictator sold louisiana to the americans.
jefferson wanted to propose a constitutional amendment. there was nothing in the constitution that permitted him to do such a thing. of course there have been nothing mentioned about the bank of the united states. unfortunately he was told this provision would take months. napoleon was extremely impatient to get the cash. so jefferson was forced to invoke the implied powers of the presidency and buy it. his followers ignored this embarrassment and trumpeted the acquisition as a miracle and best of all said it was achieved without shedding a drop of blood. not very subtle putdown of george washington who had achieved the 1st half of the nation with quite a lot of blood.
jefferson, i regret to say soon began using the term he had already thrown around. he began calling his administration the revolution of 1800. there was a lot of truth. the immense popularity of this purchase enable jefferson to basically dismiss george washington's presidency. in his inaugural address here been praised. a very good diplomat but he omitted any and all recognition of washington as a political leader. over the next century washington's presidency all but vanished from the public mind well jefferson's fame
grew larger. only a handful of president committed washington's presidential example mostly because it suited their personalities. but reporters asked theodore roosevelt who inspired his dynamic style he said he was following the jackson lincoln tradition. but even this graduate was aware of washington's presidency. it is a vivid comment. the central issue about which washington and jefferson called the need for president with strength and talent to lead the country has refused to disappear. it is still with us today. almost 40 years ago i was
writing a book about harry truman who told me the american president of american presidency is the greatest office ever created by the mind of man. i. i agree but it takes a man with political talent to make this arrangement work when it is considered a co- mingled arrangement. that is why that is why an awful lot of presidents have not been able to do it. i hope readers will find enlightenment as well as wisdom in this exploration of the fundamental differences between jefferson and washington. they remain crucial to the happiness and prosperity of the united states. thank you for listening. [applause] [applause] >> if there are questions i
will take a few. >> i want to ask you how you recount jefferson's change of mind buying louisiana and even though the embargo is not a great idea why the exercise of presidential power? how did he suddenly decide this isn't so bad? >> every man in congress came to him and said if you don't buy this as fast as possible i don't know what we will happen. we might have to string you up. he was absolutely overwhelmed. yet even after the purchase he was talking about a proposed constitutional amendment and he command he was trying to figure out how to do that.
the ambassador to france where the frantic letter to america saying for god's sake don't say anything to create any idea you are doubting the purchase. so that was the end of the whole thing. contact with thinking indeed it is a revolution of 1800 indeed it was. yes, ma'am. >> the federal government. >> i can't quite here you. >> today they still don't listen to the federal government sometimes. >> two episodes in which there has been a
jeffersonian you might call revolution in which the congress basically overthrew the presidency and took over the country. the 1st was after lincoln was assassinated. the strongest president. he did incredible things suspended habeas corpus arrested the home maryland legislature one-time. he is the quintessential strong president of washington said we might need in a crisis. but he infuriated members of congress. after his assassination they announced from now on congress and the country and squashed flat mr. johnson vice president who succeeded lincoln. four years and told
congressional government ran the country up until theodore roosevelt. then jackson lincoln. and so was his cousin frank. wilson had some tendencies in this direction. wilson wrote a wonderful book the only good book you wrote. he was not a good historian, but it was a good president. this brilliant book: congressional government. i urge everyone here he shows how congress because they do not have a single mind they have very often conflicting and divergent minds you can't have a unified government.
that is all there is to it. he made the case so convincing. incidentally it was wilson who restored the tradition of the president making enable address to congress. for over 100 years jefferson had completely extinguished this tradition that washington had launched the president addressing congress which is absolutely the perfect way to play a leadership role. so this powerful presidencies growth during the wars and depressions of the 20th century, and then came watergate. there was another overthrow command we still are struggling with a semi- congressional government. and it is causing all kinds
of unrest because no one is quite certain just how much power congress should have. we we now have the only congress the only legislature that insists it is a major role a major role to play foreign-policy ignoring the fact that the original constitution for the only role he had was this in its right to approve treaties. they can talk and talk and talk. so they are in an uneven state of mind. that is why i think is a recommendation and maybe persuade a few people to buy my book it really is to go back and look at washington's presidency. see how he did it.
this could lead a long way toward solving the problem that is disturbing the country right now. let me thank you for coming. [applause] >> is there a nonfiction author or book you would like to see featured? send us an e-mail tweet us or post on our wall. >> next line the national world war i museum germany's violation of rules of war during world war i. several asked by several asked by germany including the dispersal of poison gas against french and canadian soldiers the submarine attack on the lusitania in the aerial bombar