tv Book Discussion on War of Two CSPAN February 18, 2016 9:05pm-9:54pm EST
co-author thinks i think the most important element with good historical writing is contingency that they could have taken a turn. so i am all about contingency. >> had contingency plays out in the constraints of the institution in the economy and politics. and even with suspenseful moments and to try a to work
into the dueling ground is nine display on the front and we invite you to see that. although little appreciated we have come to believe more than any other single document it was the inspiration and that was inspired with the war of two and it was said that sedgwick writes eloquently in a delicately as an immigrant of illegitimate birth and equally brilliant
private and composed of contradiction may be held little too familiar with the speaker tonight he has written several books and articles of such publications and "esquire" and nominated for an award for the nonprofit organizations in in the number one. [laughter] [applause] if. >> think he very much. that clara appear is wonderful. [laughter] i feel terrific to address this multitude but then imagine the multitude of c-span is staggering. i am also reminded there is
a us davis savage i would much rather hear a lecture in had been then visit it in the hell. [laughter] said in the spirit is to say this is heaven the. but i will luger scorer the letter that is the source is did this just a marvel to see and i will talk more but told you the eric privilege of this institution that the documents are here to touch. nowhere else you can go to
make contact with the past desoto is spiry to pay tribute to this institution and all others. from all nonprofits still digest to elaborate it was years ago of is to read the in my blood but coming through the select papers in the sedgwick family would of the largest family collections in at the end to tell me that there is a
letter that i really should see. instead we have this one on display. with that conspiratorial way that of course, captured and held my attention. and brought me over and pointed so i just looked down at this letter howl all the e neck is brown because it has turned brown overtime so what you see is the age by its colorization. i ben dover in read new york july 10, 18 '04. my dear sir, i have received two letters from you since
he last saw each other the latest date the 24th today. had he and al long letter to you explain my view of our politics to the my intentions but my a plan embraced with so much avocation with a distaste for politics. and their right this now that it is not the cause of assignments. did to him and his last letter the night before he died. than in the event of the single most dramatic moment
of the early republic. is good friedan's legislative ally. end it is staggering. lead with migrate great-grandfather and a founder of the bridge of the sedgwick family is still owned by the family and a place i go regularly. it was nearly killed in the shays' rebellion but the lawyer was with the war detestable targets and helped to push the agenda to the house when he was a representative it rose to become speaker in the election of 1800 at he turned it over to thomas jefferson.
also with the anti-christ. much to his dismay he tried to steer that election away that he assumed would be more valuable. with timothy e. edwards had gone to live in stockbridge. a trusted friend of both men we will get back to that taken out of context in the ec but usual to defy a expectations and faced his
to been offering a better explanation with lettuce is to come than any of their single documents. i have always been interested in the letters of deadman and then to cross and come back to die the next day. what happens to the letter? who mails it? how? ten is he knows this is written by a man who was now dead? we do know this and there was no one to respond hands-on notations to the
next generation and. and with the same message that was the start. to be honest i did not take my god i have to write about this but it was said tidbit that comes across as the case may be. one another great man of our time. and nothing has come before? but had come down to the shore now i felt i was ready to swim. i already head of us feel
by that notion and with an assassination because in the garfield terrible to sort through history this way. but then i remembered the letter. with all that fame not just a sharp memory. before the famous musical led hamilton lived many people were not sure who killed two. in the essential public she questions obviously covered in the biographies but that
was just terrible ted. and i was intrigued powerful fascinating man to do it for ever of appalling violence. but not tell the head if tell was a zero letter sent to be and to explain little magical shoots connecting the present to the past. that is the whole purpose of this institution to make it immediate.
and that could be understood addend dinner party calling him dangerous. and those published in the shadow of hamilton's, they were posted and eventually at that point with two illegitimate children head constantly allude to for their support but he was still stalled over the trade is so he was stumped for that election pretty ticked 36 ballots in the house to a firm with the country intended for jefferson not aaron burr. if you would cut that often the second to say that
jefferson was the mayor and. and he let it go. the kind of guy he was. said he had sought to be governor of new york but hamilton politicked against him did he lost widest margin of gubernatorial history. he called out hamilton did what did dr. cooper read -- read? so to scarcely deny any the other day he did consider him dangerous.
them to faired to is such disparate -- with the desperate it is something to see. it is like the romantic courtship but it just goes the of their way is a very rich declaration requires a does the tool to the death in worse serious conversation by that intermediary handed is of little different in the two-party is are not side-by-side and close enough to see into each other's eyes.
and then the last word that one of them would ever hear. big bang. and then he pierces his liver and is done for leaving his wife and seven children greeting around his bed and in some ways it just began because light christ he rose from the dead but he never would have attained at age 80. but a triumph of spend to sell the idea ben ben mann said he was a victim and exactly hamilton was assassinated in a barter --
a martyr. his second to even retrieved a brooch over his head that was severed by his ball but convincingly he argued it was different. hamilton had thrown away as he said he would and remember three years before hamilton's son was killed using the very same gun and it could be argued he fell into despondency of vlsi depression that was a suicide by dual.
but he could not tell by the rules he could not fire again and tell birse squeezed off his round so he took his time and age and fired an unnamed. but he believed that level in his direction he is not named ed is the hero but as of murder and he was forced to flee the city and travel under disguise. . .
actually are welcomed between the officers because otherwise they would have to go through the judicial process of court-martial and it could be very elaborate and take forever so they'd dueled and it was fine and they were ferried good at it, these soldiers and on they went or one of them did. the duel required an underlying assumption that does not exist today now we are going to go one layer further to the question of why did they duel? that's a matter so long gone from contemporary life that we hardly even recognize it. some strange artifact dug up under a subway line for an anthropologist to puzzle over. honor, big adult dependent on something called honor. anybody heard of it? anybody seen on her in any city?
not too much. it's gone. no one i think it's fair to say has honored anymore, certainly no politician censored me not honor that he would die to defend that honor was everything to a gentleman of the political class of 1804. honor with pride, masculinity, reputation, valor, lineage and 100 other things. it was their brand except that it was the product of a lifetime , not the calculation of marketers. it was everything they imagined. they imagined what they stood for in life. they have center would have surrendered their manhood. he was impugning her's honor. no words can say how threatening that was. one julie paez called hamilton album and he was doing the same. it was time for an interview
essay called it at the dueling grounds. time for some water for me. now, how could these two can the inside players have gotten into such a sticky situation in the first place? not why did they hate but why did they hate so recklessly? why could they not help themselves. they knew where the tripwire wasn't yet they kept stepping closer to it. it took me almost 400 pages to explain but the short of it is the two words that point of maximum tension between sameness and difference. the difference is? hamilton was of course an immigrant from the west indian island. burr amir aristocrats the son of
aaron aaron burr senior the presidents of princeton and the grandson of the most celebrated theologian of the day jonathan edwards and the closest colonial america can could come to a rock star. and it goes on from there. the differences would have pushed them apart in a separate womb -- around with the somebody stop them together. besides being short about 5 feet 6 inches and slammed they were both brilliant extremely articulate, perfectly educated, politically minded ambitious handsome and immensely in attracted to the ladies. the difference is again, hamilton was quick to -- off a 10,000 word treatise in the afternoon and early transparent. he couldn't help himself. he always had to tell the truth. burr was covert a man of few words and few of them written down and many of those in code. he was the most hidden men imaginable. he wore a perpetual towel over
his head. it formed the basis of the first federal part of the federal ascendant inspired the anti-federalist and later the jeffersonians and then the republicans. burr was a man without any deeply held political philosophy at all leaving him open to a charge of demagoguery he could never quite dispel. and then there was this. politically the united states was a small place. it's amazing how small it was. if you were to look at america even as late as the 1800's most of it was green. little specs of it where they cleared land urban centers of which there were four and they were not urban centers that we would recognize. this was a liberal tiny dots in the wilderness. that was america back then and
these guys were like two of the greatest men in it. and they couldn't for that reason, they couldn't escape each other. where wherever they turned, there they were. in revolution or in law or in policy. because of their talents and their ambition they both rose in power and prominence but if it reaches our power are an inverted cone as they are narrowing towards the tip that perfect unique spot at the top called the president eventually there was not room for both of them. they could not escape each other. they were two wolves and a tight cage all things. then there's this other part which is that these were men who were for the first time in their lives both of them not own the rights anymore. first hamilton and ben burr. hamilton was never a politically
successful man for himself. he was elected assemblyman twice, tiny office but he was a kingmaker. he all of his people were losing. he just had this catastrophic affair with maria reynolds revealed to the nation and he had become an embarrassment and burr had been dumped as vice president and fondness governor. they were both men on the decline, men who had been rising are dangerous when they start to fall. that's another aspect to this. there is much more to it beyond that but i want to score into the present to answer the perennial question that authors face which is who cares? what does this story have to say about us today? the answer of course is everything. i don't know if you have been reading about this political divide, the republicans come the
democrats, the tea party republicans, it's a fractious lot that hamilton would have recognized very well and also we have the examples in some of our most glorious political specimens, people without any conviction whatsoever and it's the kind of person that hamilton would have recognized as well as being burr types. these are constant issues in a democracy. how much to trust the people to make wise choices. how much to insist that the real intelligence of society is concentrated at the top. it's always the few versus the many and for hamilton it was the few that he trusted, was the week that he trusted. he thought they were smarter and better and more sensible and now of course in a democratic age we have entrusted our society
correctly to the people but it seems at times that people can let us down, that they can either not vote or vote for people that others regard as credence and worse. these are familiar issues and issues that were very seeming -- seemly at the time but there's also something called hamilton the musical which i hope you have either seen or are about to see or you will see before the decade is out because right now credibly they are taking ticket orders or not this january, next january. so plan your life accordingly. but it's so interesting because it shows that hamilton is still very pertinent but it's a different kind of hamilton from the one that i recognize. this is the hamilton who is up from nothing, a scrappy immigrants. he's going to show them.
that's not really hamilton. hamilton timaeus hamiltonianism. such ideological person who is running countries in getting them all set up and he was a big thinker. he wasn't quite so scrappy. that said it's wonderful to see years of the founding fathers and the individual founding fathers so invoked as they are in a crazy wife by a hip-hop musical. it's this incredible inversion by which the lily white founders are portrayed by actors of color but they capture the founders better than any more literal portrait can do because the founders themselves white was the default color. everyone many with white. now whiteness as a political statement. it's about entitlement. it's about nostalgia and it takes a country that was all
immigrants. you get the sense of craziness and evokes it turbulent air when everything was new. too often we look at back at this time and we think this is all done in marble and everyone had the extreme compliments of the jefferson memorial and it was one big work. you don't have to read much in this. not to realize that's not quite how was. most of the revolution that everything was going terribly. success wasn't a foregone conclusion and one must not be duel is governments are made up of men and men are not always reliable. the founders were brilliant that but they could be foolish headstrong narrow-minded pain and everything else. hamilton could be all of these and even more so. if the individuals were in balance the group was not. i would say one of the recent
the founding fathers who were as successful as they were were george washington who is one of the most serene and nature individuals that i've ever run across in history. but for him all the squabbling children would have torn the place apart. i am always surprised when i talk about this book how few people ever ask me anything about poor aaron burr. it's like the hamilton show and there's no burr and it measured and hamilton's terms of political competition burr rates less than zero. i will confess i found him much more fascinating than hamilton. if there is a dinner party and i had a chance to sit next to burr or hamilton i would cuddle up to burr every night. he would tell you stuff that grows her hair.
is the one you watch, right? and corporate salt did not write hamilton, he wrote burr. hamilton can be too earnest, too clever and too bright to be much fun a slacker and shameless libertine like burr can become a welcome relief. trying to detach half the american landmass, that's just but afterwards when he is in exile in europe and down to his last suit sudan trying to decide whether to spend it on bread or a prostitute and deciding the prop did it. that led to theodore and i will close with this. just look at it. three things are striking. by all means do look at this.
one, it's amazing to me that he could have written anything that was the least bit coherence under the circumstances of going to state. his worst enemy had kind of -- come, the gun in the morning. second great penmanship. you've got to admire that and third it's unbelievably casual. the part that i read i have a little correspondence i mean come on. but as the letter goes on it gets deeper and this is what dennis was referring to the beginning. despite the circumstances hamilton did not refer to burr by name but be a lishan to burr's unmistakable when he declared it was break his heart if the country were dismembered. at the time to burr have been linked to the so-called northern conspiracy to break the new england states plus new york free of beginning as a separate country to be headed up by aaron burr.
that never materialized but burr did embark on a western conspiracy going after the land of the louisiana purchase for private empire and that was the most dangerous concessionary campaign until the civil war. that led to jefferson's charges of treason against burr placing burr now position of having killed the head of one party and possibly to be killed by the head of the other. hard to pull off. and in a letter to theodore hamilton in dade against democracy surely an awkward reference from a founder of republic but democracy was not the hollow would term it is now were universal franchises revered even if it is not always exercise but contains a specter of an ignorant electorate that was open to manipulation by the unscrupulous, rather like now i might add. he meant something closer to
demagoguery with burr who was the first to engage in door-to-door retail politics. he was the demagogue in question. he believes in nothing so that hamilton. this was so it offers an interesting standard account. it was a purely personal or a mono a mono. it was a battle that hamilton was waging against burr delhi stood for. to learn about hamilton and burr stolen about america but also about the emotions that are teaming under the surface of great leaders. jealousy, ego, and security, ambition and. these are the passions that make people who they are and account for what they do pay to identify them, to trace their stories and to see their consequence. that is i think the real work of history and what i sought to capture in my book. thank you very much.
[applause] >> i would be happy if there is time and you are interested in doing this, just take questions. easy ones first. the more difficult ones later when i'm sort of warmed up. you with a wonderful necktie. >> if he knew he didn't really want to try to kill burr and he knew burr was offended that man to try to give them to give them why wasn't the effect of suicide argument making a lot of sense? >> it does make a lot of sense. as you say i think one of things that happens in the duel is people in the heat of the moment don't truly think it through and i also think sometimes what can happen when you are deeply depressed or in morning is that you were incapable of making a sensible choice. there are many things -- can
people pick up on the set the mic down here? is that okay? is that better? i don't want the people in iowa and california not to be able to hear. but yeah i think he wasn't thinking clearly quite honestly and i think in some ways i hadn't thought of it until this moment that there's something delusional about the letter. hey, i got your letter. i have a few minutes here and i have two -- off a letter. he has no idea that this is a fateful time for him and of course history is unfair because we see it for what happened. he doesn't know what's about to happen but it does know it's going to be a bad situation with him and burr into guns. so to answer the question, i think clearly he can't enter a duel without a suicidal impasse
because it chances are decent beer going to get shot. that had to be in your mind. i will say and i don't want to monopolize this but i find it staggering, staggering that anybody could engage in this. if i had a copy of my book, which i don't have i would read a passage from it describing what it was like. the thing is they stood like this. they stood sideways and in order to minimize their outline they wore a cape to make it unclear where their actual body was. they put their shoulder up like this to try to protect their chin all to no effect. there are just 10 yards apart. it's only out of this wild anxiety which is natural in the
moment that people are unable to aim and shoot but the whole thing is just so crackers that it's hard to think of it in logical terms. anything else? you have to use the mic apparently. >> do you think thad hamilton giving away his shot thought that burr would give away his shot? >> you know i think that's a very good idea but you would think you would say something about it because it may just look like gunfire to him and it did. again, it's all about the craziness of the setup of honor gone berserk, people feeling such a monumental desire to defend something that it abstracts everybody else but them. i think that's a setup for
rather inconsistent behavior. again think about it. by what standard of honor can you kill somebody? it's not in wartime is not an actual threat to you? again you can't get in the heads of these people but looking at it from where we do, this is bizarre and it's hard for bizarre situation like that to untangle its logic because we just can't see it greatly can't grasp the fundamental motivation come at least i can. i can describe it and i can discuss it but i can't get it and i could never place myself in that situation and i don't think anybody in this room could be there. >> can you talk a little bit about --
[inaudible] >> well eliza or call betsy. i use use betsy in the book another's use eliza. she was the daughter of general skylar who is one of the great albany families that ruled new york and as well as being a rich landowner that he was heavy in the revolutionary army. when eliza appeared before hamilton and had a little christmas party in the wilderness during the war, he is absolutely transfixed. you don't know what he is seeing. assisi money or is he seeing beauty or is he saying kindness or what? it's not obvious and he had
written this odd letter that i go on about in the book to his great friend john lawrence who is a fellow aid in which he described in detail their characteristics of the woman. it's a particularly complicated letter first because it's so literal that it seems childish. it's almost like this inch bust in that inch hips but he also had written another letter to warrants that had all the earmarks of a heavy schoolboy crush, i in which he referred to his love for lawrence that went beyond the love that he had for anybody else and it's actually letter that groups have captured for the internet to show that hamilton