tv Book Discussion on Most Blessed of the Patriarchs CSPAN May 7, 2016 7:30pm-8:31pm EDT
net gordon reed and jefferson scholar who discusses the intellectual maturation of thomas jefferson. after that charles kessler talks about the conservative publication, the claremont review of books basically amount college. at 9:00 p.m., former economic hitman john perkins uncovers corrupt practices. at 10:00 p.m. peter marks reports on a strategy to revive aig after the 2008 financial crisis. we finish. we finish up primetime programming at 11:00 p.m. with deana hoffman to provide a history of jerusalem with its contemporary architecture. that happens tonight on c-span twos book tv. first up, here's a look at thomas jefferson. >> welcome to the free library of philadelphia. i am representative jim roebuck. i'm happy to be here this evening. i am native philadelphia and
graduated from central high school but my particular -- [applause]. my particular focus is on the fact that i went to first college at virginia university in richmond from which i received a history degree of honors and then i did my masters and phd in virginia at charlottesville. i am a wahoo as they say. subsequent to that i taught history for many more years and i like to think about. depending on all the right points here. i worked briefly in the mayor's office as an assistant in a 1985 was five was elected to the state legislature were still sir. i am currently the minority or
democratic chair of the house of education committee. the free library is dedicated between advancing leaders see, guiding guiding learning and inspiring curiosity from its award-winning event series to its thought-provoking programs like the upcoming american presidential series which will present compelling programs through the presidential election season. it is now my pleasure and honor to introduce the preeminent scholar annette gordon reed. and the presenters for this evening. a professor at harvard, we see the 2008 book award and the 2009 pulitzer prize in history for the hemmings of monticello.
her other honors include the national humanities metal, goo in time fellowship in the humanities and macarthur genius fellowship. peter is one of america's leading jefferson scholars serving as thomas jefferson memorial foundation professor emeritus at the university of virginia the senior research is strain at the robert h smith institution for jefferson studies. his books include, the mind of thomas jefferson, and jefferson's empire. in their new book, most blessed of patriot, thomas jefferson, ms. gordon reed in they presented a character study the man from monticello who we thought we knew.
presidential historian john makem praises and i quote, with characteristic insight and intellectual rigor and an they have produced a powerful and lasting portrait of a mind of thomas jefferson. this is an essential and brilliant book by two of the nation's foremost scholars. scholars. a book that will, like its protagonist, into her. we are so pleased to have them here with us this evening. ladies and gentlemen, please please join me in welcoming and that gordon reed and peter, to the free library [applause]. >> it is wonderful to be here
and to be here with one of my best friends. we would just like to start by talking about our friendship. the the secret is, i would not have done this book if it had not been for her. >> the idea for this book and i would say it began sometime in the 1990s when i had written a manuscript about thomas jefferson, it looked at the way historians had treated the story of jefferson and hemming. i wanted to find people who had been skeptical or people who i thought would be skeptical of the story because i think it is always better to have people who will tell you what you do wrong
opposed to people who will just agree with you about whatever it is you are saying. >> i really let you down. >> and so i called him up and i set i have this manuscript that i have worked on. i called him because he was the thomas jefferson memorial foundation professor at uva. he was a successor to merrill peterson and so i figured that he would be hostile to what i was saying and i wanted to hear what he was saying and he agreed to look at the manuscript. he he read it and to my surprise he liked it. ashley not only liked it he wanted the university to publish the book. i had an offer from another trade publisher and i decided i wanted to go to virginia because it was jefferson's university and it was an academic press. because of the nature of what i was doing i doing i thought that it would be better to have
academics know that this was a book that had been vetted by other academics. usually when you submit book to an academic press at least two, sometimes three scholars are asked to review it before they decide to publish it. so i felt it was a better to go with virginia and i did. ever since then we had been good friends. we have been on a journey together, peter journey together, peter has been writing about jefferson from the standpoint of an intellectual historian and he writes about jefferson's writings what he read and how it affected and florence's life and he writes about politics himself. i do write about jefferson and slavery, his private life, some of the politics as well. so this was an opportunity for two people who had been looking at a person at a person from a different perspective to come together and see what we could say about jefferson. >> and till he came into my life i did not write about people but
that people don't interest me particularly. i'm interested in ideas. jefferson, because i came from from virginia i had to work on jefferson. and that a course she's all about people. it was a thrill for me as an old guide to find out that i could do the kinda history that we were doing together. the common ground we had is that we're trying to figure this guy out. we start with the premise that you can figure him out. he did did not want us to understand him. and now you are the first readers of world history to understand thomas jefferson. [laughter] >> the other thing is we've been having these conversations about jefferson all of these years. as you alluded to there is a notion that he is this inscrutable person, that he is so contradictory and still mysterious that he cannot be figured out.
we think we can figure him out to the extent that you can figure any human being out who is not yourself. sometimes we can't big ourselves out. we are all very, get a people. the best approach was to look at him as a human being, just as we say in the book, when it it is reasonable to take him at his word with that caveat to take him at his word when he says that what his intentions are, what he believes in what he thinks is going to happen. we come to the conclusion that jefferson scholarship had sort of, his personal life and understanding had run into a ditch. it exemplified by one word, hypocrisy. even the headlines. >> that's last time that word will be mentioned. >> even the headlines for
writing about the book, book in which we say that hypocrisy is not the proper lens in which to view jefferson we use the word hypocrisy because it is so common. it. it rolls up people's tongue in thinking about him without thinking about the progress he of other members of the founding generation. he cornered the market on that. it is way for people to show that they know something about him by saying hypocrite. and that kid to two thirds of the way. we wanted to move beyond that say look, there is much more to writing about and thinking about him than this trope of hypocrisy that defines him. >> the first clue on jefferson is that he would put a wall around himself, oh wall around church and state and we think that metaphor applies to jefferson and the rest of the world. he insisted on his privacy in his sanctum sanctorum in his house. he would be all alone and nobody would penetrate that space. at
that very insistence on the distinction between private and public, between his life within his family, among his friends, with his slaves. and his wife as a state leader. his insistence that they are distinct domains is the first hole it in understanding him. why does he insist so much on this. this is where you get to the title of the book because the keyword that then and you will get it in the title and you can tell the book by its title, but not because of the beautiful art in the picture of jefferson but because that one word. patriarch. so help these people, this is an astonishing concept that the great icon of democracy, the man who wrote the words that then lead to the creation of this next slide that i am now wearing. >> it is a declaration. >> i do needed audiovisual thing. that he could call himself a
patriarch which has a sort of ring of the archaic, the pre-democratic you might even say that the anti-democratic. >> absolutely. he uses the phrase in the letter that he writes to angelica church, the people have seen the play hamilton it is the woman that is one of the scholars sisters that is looking for work and she says in the song. jefferson and she knew each other, met teach other when he was in france and they had a flirtation. people may think of jefferson in relation to mariah causeway when he's in france. angelica church was another married woman with whom he flirted and had a highly charged relationship. in 1793 he writes to her at the end of his tenure as secretary of state in washington's cabinet. he was beaten up a little bit by
alexander's cabinet. he is in competition with hamilton in favor of george washington. hamilton wins the battle jefferson is going on. he writes to her and says, he does not mention the sort of morph of hamilton but he knows all about this stuff because there are close. he writes to her and says, i, i am going back to monticello. one of the lines that he talks about going home to his field, farm, and books to watch the happiness to labor for mine, in other words the enslaved people on his plantation, he talks about his daughters and he says they come live next to me and they are married often do well then i will be the most blessed of the patriarchs. i will count myself as the most blessed of the patriarch. as said that is a strange word to use to describe a person who saw
himself as a republican with a small r,. he believed in the common people. a patriarch is is an autocrat. a patriarch is someone who rules over his domain, his family, sometime enslaved people. you think about ancient times. in another letter he describes himself as living like an anti- delivery and patriarch among his farm and family. so what we wanted to do was think how can these things exist together but it made sense to jefferson. >> he is the president who defines the right, he is the one who articulates natural rights one of the rights he seems most natural to him is to have complete control over his domestic domain, if anybody is
exercising influence in his society and his mountaintop plantation than his control would be severed, and if he is not secure then he cannot be truly independent, that word independent is resonant as a whole and for thomas jefferson and other american men, their independence so that they can form a government with consent with each other, we make the further move that people in the family should be equal to, and that's what he says all men and all women are equal and fundamental but the family unit itself is natural. and that is is the key to understanding this link that we are asked for a between the private and public,
it's not just a way to get away from alexander hamilton, jefferson says he hates politics but he's lying, we do calm out occasionally. everybody has to say in you have to say a particularly in the founding. because if you are in politics for the sake of power it you would be the enemy of democracy, were were not supposed to have political parties, people don't run for office, they stand. you under understand your standing in office, they say we want you to represent us, so we think that as we began to explore that connection between how jefferson lives and what he thinks that both dimensions of his life become clear to us. >> but family is natural as you say and natural order in the
family with head of the family but his understanding of family, he was was born in 1973 in understanding what natural was as the head of the family, and for whom he exercise power but he also had responsibility. so there is a notion that jefferson has of himself that something that we have a benevolent patriarch and that's how he thought people were supposed to rule in the family, and the family being the basic unit of the community, you start with the family and you radiate out to the community at large locally and then up to the national government, but it was sort of a model of families which made sense to him but it gave him a particular view about who could be in the nation, who
could be a part of the people and that's what led him to believe that there should be an end to slavery, but african americans had to find their own country. he did not believe there could be a conflict free, multiracial the way we say we aspire to be a multiracial society with blacks and whites living together, whites would never give up the prejudice against whites, blacks would never forgive whites what they have done. there is no way he could not at that time argue for intermixed sure and says that was not something, it was a plan that could be adopted. so what had to happen is that african-americans, black people would find their own country, they did not come voluntarily, they would have to find their place so that they could have their own country and their own rights, jefferson could not have conceived of a society where
there were large numbers of people who were second-class citizens. republican nation would have to have first class for everybody, it's not what we had after the civil war were laws were passed and even whether laws were passed when there's a question you had to fight for citizenship and it's really interesting to think about jefferson and malcolm x. but he's sort of chiding king and other civil rights deming that saying why do you have to fight for your freedom, if you are citizen of a country why should you have to fight for freedom, it's telling you something there for you have to do it, so we condemned jefferson a great deal for that statement but it's the truth, we have had conflict and serious conflict among the races from the very beginning this is not to say that we cannot overcome them, but i have always thought it
naïve to suggest that he was being crazy when he thought this was a possibility. >> it is very easily to moralize about jefferson and very easy to use that word hypocrisy because for us the morally compelling issue of the founding era was the definition of the american people and for us that it did not include all of us then is very disturbing. the best way to understand it is not to start waking our fingers and condemning jefferson as if he fall short of a standard he should have had, the best way to get a jefferson slavery is to work through his mind. i think think this is one of the ways we developed our -- and that has retold the story and told the first time some of the people who lived at monticello.
that is the story we need to hear and it's very compelling to us. what was jefferson thinking. here it is important to bring up what might seem like an old, boring story to you, and that is jefferson and his revolutionaries thought they were changing the world by attacking monarchy, aristocracy, privilege, established churches. all established churches. all of these forms of inequality and second-class citizenship that annette was talking about. they were struggling against the tyranny of george the third. they were killing the king. his rule have become unnatural because he was making war on his own subjects. people who, in america, revert him until the crisis that led to independence. in other words, king george was a bad father. we get back to the notion of
fatherhood and what mobilized a lot of men, the very independent men of virginia who taught well of himself since still do in the first families, to think of george as somebody who challenged their own patriarchy, their their father and their plantations and families. there fatherhood was incompatible with the wicked fatherhood of george the third. this is all about men. we have to understand this because for jefferson the difference in gender which we take to be a social construction is the fashionable way to put it because we're all basically like. we keep discovering that we are not, it's very upsetting to me. [laughter] we do not think that this differential should really matter very much. we're struggling with it. for jefferson, for jefferson, it's nature. it's supposed to be like this. in the same way i think we can think of race in this way.
think of the idea of race. it really means the same thing as people. it means the same thing as nation. thomas jefferson and his colleagues were nation builders, it was on the basis of these natural connections among republican families who came together to govern themselves because they had rejected a bad father, bad king. thing. this is the ugly side that we are contemplating. it is that families who come together in a democracy are held together by bonds of love. what what is the boundary of that great family of families? it it is those people who are not parts of your family. who are not here in america voluntarily, who are a captive nation in chains. how would you solve that problem ? how would you do justice to the enslaved people held against their will and
working for you? you don't have to agree with jefferson, and we don't in his solution that was talking about. a man's a patient expectation, country of your own. but at least the beginning of understanding is to see where comes from. it comes from comes from these ideas about what is natural and that is another way of saying what is right. what is moral. >> it is kit confusing because we think of the enlightenment, even the word as an evidently positive. you are in light and then you learn things. but the dark side was the racial hierarchy. classification, the tendency to put everything in place. i wonder what he would make with physics. if you can explain to him at the new level the world works this way but on a microscopic microscopic level all the things that you think aren't right and natural don't fly at all.
i walk off of that. the enlightenment fires jefferson's imagination and he wants desperately, the thing that's clear and i hope it hope comes through in the book, he wants just relieved to be seen as a progressive person. he is seen as a conservative person in his lifetime. during his lifetime he was seen as a wild eyed revolutionary. there are people in south carolina who thought-rectal atlanta. >> don't laugh at that. it was someone who is far out there, largely because of his religious views. the things he said about slavery, he was very afraid about how people were going to react to the words and of course this tells you how you never know what people are going to be
looking at. the parts of the state of virginia that says disparaging things about black people, that is what we fixate on. those are not throwaway lines for him but that is not the core of what he is talking about. he is making these grand pronouncements about the evils of slavery and he is concerned that his fellow virginian who he has tested out by trying as a young man he wants to have been emancipation to introduce legislation emancipating slaves. he totally rejected it. in he knows that there is not going to be a republican solution for the end of slavery. they're not devoted out. he gives up on all of that with these people. >> there is a path to this and we can sympathize with jefferson because the standard he held was that it takes an enlightened people to do the right thing for
this new form of self-government will enable people to see the light and as they see that light they will act against slavery. it will not happen now, maybe the nexgen generation. this is where nice point that turned toward jefferson's religion because this is a prayerful attitude, he praised that his children will see the light and do the right thing about slavery, the pathos of it is it gets harder and harder to do the right thing because slaves are worth too much, they are too valuable, just check the price of slaves, jefferson could actually understand his own portfolio to use a modern term. >> which he didn't. >> that's another thing that was
his capital, that that is whatever legacy he left his children and he had hope and thought and many enlightened anchors did that slavery was an archaic form and it would disappear here as if by the kind of magic that brought it to enlightenment. after all, free labor is more productive because the people have incentives, they are using their body to serve the interest of the people they love, their labor goes toward some good they can recognize and their own families. it is not true unfortunately. this is one of the things i think is important to know when we talk about jefferson slavery. it is a big discovery of the last couple of generations of historians. and it's a profitable institution. the fact that thomas jefferson never became an apologist for slavery, never said slavery was a positive good is itself a remarkable thing.
it was so easy to move in that direction. >> that's the thing we see in the book that if he had said that, if he had just said like the generation that comes after him that slavery is not a necessary evil, the generation after him would say it's a positive good. you could say, -- noel packer see there. it's good, the african race was meant to be enslaved and were enslaving them and isn't that great. he would be can assist in and that point. the difficulty is this is a person for whatever reason he thought there are certain things that science would get better. the world would would get better. he would believe that people were basically good and they could be trained to get better. >> ..
when jefferson calls himself christian, i sort of think that he is saying that, sort of always assuming that he was saying that just to -- it's not curry favor but to cover himself. >> you don't think ewan tearans are christians, do you? >> let me finish the story. let me finish the story. i had difficulty with a person who said he didn't believe in christ, didn't believe in the
trinity. i'm just talk can about my understanding of what christianity is from my training and the way i was raised and dismisses jefferson, and i was about to say that arguing with peter, a unitarian tradition convince me i was being too dogmatic. confessional moment. >> its good former. >> something like that. but i was not taking jefferson's religion, his statement that he was a christian, seriously, because if you think about it, there have certainly -- there was a council, people talk about what gospels would go in or come out. not like there was some tradition that came down
unchallenged through the ages, and so i've backed away from that and became convinced that he doesn't -- he can't call himself a christian. he was sincere, in his beliefs that he is a christian. >> one thing he says is that he wanted to hear the voice of jesus as a great ethical teacher who could speak to man find. the family of mankind, without the intermediation of all the interpreters, all the priests, all to them with a self-interest in interpreting him in a certain way. a miracle is simply speaking a violation of the law of nature, and then you're saying that god is not lawful and creation doesn't make sense. but isn't understanding -- trying to understand the laws that govern god's contraction a way of worshiping god. this is the deist religion which
doesn't involve a leap of faith itch think that's wrong. to believe in an orderly world to believe in the imminent life and enlightenment of the world she possibility that jesus is gospel of peace and love could become universal and that all peoples in the world would participate in that, you couldn't believe what was going to happen soon. it had to be something you can only pray for. wouldn't happen in your lifetime. it's that awesome faith in creation that deserves more respect than it has gotten from people who assume that their embrace of some miracle miss to simple teaching that is personal to them, this is jefferson's insistence and this is --
jefferson said, i'm the real christian. john calvin, you are an athiest. >> he believed that. and in thinking there would be religion he knew that religion would be part of american life forever, so he takes a razor blade and cuts up the bible, removing all the miracles, all of the things he thought violated the laws -- the rules of science, that kind of kept jesus' pure teachings intact, and he wanted this to be part of a civic arraign -- civic religion for the new society, and he named a bible the life and morals of jesus solve nazareth, was given out to the house of representatives when they were elected. can you imagine -- >> published by the government. >> something like that could happen. if you can imagine -- now you're picking on everything here. >> tell anybody you're from
texas. >> well, you know. so, he thought that kind of book would be a good book for the new republican society. religion was supposed to be important, but the ethical teachings of jesus, not the miracles and other things he thought had to be interpret by people who -- was explained by people who had ulterior motives. people connected to the notion of monarchy were connected to kings. in the cold war, the communist menace or a country -- some sort of system we think is opposed to us. his system was monarchy, and we talked about priest craft. people who are hooked up with this form of government that held down the common people, did not allow people to participate in government. >> he was looking toward a
future day when, now is the time for unitarians to declare yourself. every young man in america would be a unitarian. he is a visionary. he sees far into the future. >> way, way -- >> what he has seen -- this is important. comes back to a big theme. his spiritual quest is all about making sense of history. the course of history through time, and for him, people who are no longer constrained to worship in state-supported churches but freely choose what preaching to hear, they will become increasingly enlightened and through the competition of the religious marketplace that, that separation of church and state makes possible, what will emerge eventually will be a genuinely democratic religion of the people. that will shape their moral and ethical vision. we said before, if you have self-government, then an enlightened people will do the
right thing. jefferson didn't think it was enough just to let people, as they were, make these momentous decisions. they needed to be educated, enlightened. they needed to be taught. and a truly christian enlightened christianity would do that for the american people. i would risk saying that jefferson advocated the emergence of a christian nation. don't start pushing back at me because that's a term that is used in a very anti-jeffersonon group on the far right. the creation of nature's god there was an intelligent design. it made sense. and this was his quest to make sense of the world, in the face of his own ignorance, darkness, all the things he didn't know or couldn't predict but prayed for the lying.
-- the light. >> i think with that we're supposed to take questions. >> this is a revival meeting. >> just wanted you to know that. he's going to be taking the -- >> raise your hand and we'll gate microphone to you. >> thank you for that provocative, interesting presentation. could you say a word about both jefferson's mentor, mr. wyeth, and also what role, if any, did the henry adams work have in your understanding of the empire of the imagination? >> well, we quote henry adams at the beginning because he creates the line --
>> henry adams' family had long had ambivalent relations with jefferson, so enormously influential. george wyeth was jefferson's law teacher, studied law with him longer than most people studied law. maybe almost five years. he said his dear friend -- when he is murdered later on -- he was of incalculable importance to jefferson as a mentor, and he was antislavery. he, too, was a fig of enlightenment. we talk about williamsburg and jefferson being there and suggesting his relations with and others, the governor, that these people were his teachers and set him on the path, and he would say to himself, he told his grandson later on, because he thought that young people, until they got be a certain age, were not really fit for making their own decisions. you should model yourself after
other imminent people, imminent men, and with is one of the people he suggested. he asked himself, if he was in a difficult situation, he's say what would mr. with do as an answer. >> you might say the mentor for jefferson was a culture hero. it's his model of the relationship between the generations. of passing on the wisdom and the light. that's why he is the professor's favorite founder because he is one of us. >> playing off the idea of culture hero, can you both address his fascination with and the importance of music to him, which you address in the book. >> we have chapter on music. it's not a typical soup to nuts biography of jefferson, we have -- >> starts with -- >> stop it. sets up his life and then the
second one is traveler, when he goes overseas, and the last one is called enthusiast, and music is the first chapter. he said music was the favorite passion of his soul. he played the violent. some evidence he played the cello. he liked to sing, sang when he was by himself. isaac granger said he was always singing, and his granddaughter remembers him singing all the time. his wife, martha, was an excellent harpschordist. and instead of making families, music was an integral part of that. singing together, playing musician with his daughters -- his daughter was not as enthusiastic but tried to please
him. the sons of sally hem, were violinists and the youngest one made his living as a musician, violinist in ohio, and his signature tune is one of jefferson's favorite tunes, a tune called money musk. so, music, the thought, attached you to people. a sentiment -- very important way to have sort of a meeting of the minds, and the meetings of the heart. it was very emotional to him. so this person who is seeing -- contribute described as a distant chilly person but more shy, i would say, because people said after a while he warmed up but music waltz the way of making connections to people. >> it's the model of an ideal conversation that everybody brings something to it, but you have to be well train and you have to play together. it's a vision of democracy. and of course, completely unrealistic, but something that
he and his family could practice in his home, and he could imagine for the american people. think of american history as a really good extended jazz riff. for jefferson it would be harmony, civil, it wouldn't rank curious. it would be one beautiful song inch his activities he was performing and acting and thinking about what matters most to him in his family and in society as a whole. >> there's a gentleman in black hat. >> what do you think jefferson would think about our freedoms of today? i mean that all the freedoms
from monarchy and freedom for slaves and freedom for women. women actually did not get the vote until 50 years after male slaves got to vote. what do you think he would think about it today? >> she says that with a smile on her face. you want to start? >> i think emancipation of women would be more difficult for him than what has happened on the racial front. i think women -- >> not natural. >> it's not natural. it's not natural. i think -- he says, i venture a vision only that blacks or intellectually inferior to whites and he believed that and most of them people in his time believed that and most believedded it to but would never venture a suspicion that women were different -- that would have been clear, a bedrock principle.
so one asked me when i was working on the hemings book, in 2008, people asked me would he be more upset about barack obama being president or hillary clinton being president? and -- >> he would be a republican. >> i don't think there's any question that he would have been more upset about a woman president. that would have violated nature, that -- there were men in other countries and sometimes a woman got to be queen if something went wrong, but men -- he in other words that men -- he talks about slaves and slave people revolting and rising up against their masters he is talking about men. women aren't in the picture. they're not an object for him. >> i'll just qualify that. i hesitate to quarrel once again with annett because i get in real trouble and we're going to be on the road for a while. the qualification is would make
is this, and i'm serious now. jefferson's notion of democracy isn't that we are all capable now as you find us to govern yourselves intelligently. he thinks you have to work for it. he thinks that -- the letter that gets people really upset that he writes to his daughter, martha, when she is 12 years old, about how she can please him, if you do this, i will love you. and anybody who has been raised on fred rogers or been in his neighborhood, i think most of you did that to your children and didn't happen to you, of course, mr. rogers, a good presbyterian preacher, loves you just the way you. jefferson doesn't, and it's not that he doesn't love his daughters but he wants them, as the marines want you to be, all you can be. but the point is serious, and what do you think about this? show me, and with female
education, with his granddaughters and their ability to learn the classics. >> i'm going to push back a bit. >> come on. >> no, i want to push back a bit. the letter he writes to palletsy -- patsy when she is 12, he is a middle aged guy who lost his wife. he has two daughters. he has no idea what to say to them. he is not -- he has lost the separate spheres of male and female. he is at a loss what to do. by the time he gets granddaughters he knows what to say and how to talk to young women. i'm not saying you're attacking him. i'm saying qualifying -- i'm qualifying this notion about what he -- he thinks he is being the dutiful father in all of that. you're right. he is somewhat didactic but comes from a place of panic. >> i would never argue --
>> panic, how am i going to do this? they don't have a mother. i'm now in control of this. and so what do i do? >> but even the idea of separation -- >> we should let someone else ask a question. we argue all the time. >> a fellow with the mic already and a man in the black hat behind him. >> you paint jefferson as such an idealist, at all times, always willing to accept the best and potential of everything. was there ever a moment in his life where he gave in to absolute cynicism and he maybe lost some faith in the potential of america or -- >> great question. the thing about optimism -- i don't want to sound too psycho analytic now. this is not buenos aires. the highest proportion of
psychoanalysts in the world is in buenos aires, and love and hate are close to each other. and optimism and pessimism only make sense together. you can't be optimistic unless on the other side of it is this fear of failure, that it won't be. this think he lived constantly with the fear of failure. i think that's one of the reasons he engaged in what i call a spiritual quest. he was afraid it would all fall apart. you'd pray, too. and this -- we talked about the spiritual quest, after he is in retirement. the jefferson speaking about religion at the end of his life is different from the young man who is sort of reeling against priests and so forth, and that may be a natural progression in people others lives when he is taking stock of things that worked and haven't worked. at the end, it is pretty bad because he ends up -- he is broke, and for a long time, it's pretty clear that this is not going to work out.
he keeps sort of fantasizing about ways to get out of debt. he has a development plan for milton, a town -- we think of charlottesville as his town, but for most of hi life, milton, which is nothing now, was the town, and he wanted to buy property there and develop it and do things. so he kept trying to do it, but near the end he is -- it's a pretty clear it's going to fall apart. >> he was nasty in politics. did a lot of underhanded things. don't worry, there's a lot of nasty stuff in his life. a lot of nasty stuff in politics. >> i have not read your books yet, nor have i had the benefit of reading any of jefferson's books, his letters to john adams
and so forth, but i have a problem reconciling hypocrisy of jefferson and the founding fathers as it pertains to slavery. my limited understanding, our understanding of american history at this time, i'm led to believe that when the founding fathers and the colonies were confronted with opposing the evils of the british monarchy, and the institutions that we inherited from the old world were evil, slavery being the foremost, that to get the colonies to unite, the two colonies that were insisting on having slavery, i believe in georgia -- am i correct?
>> no -- you're wrong. slavery was legal everywhere. >> well, but they -- >> it was legal everywhere. >> but they insisted on it being -- >> can you get to the kernel of the question. >> i find it hard where -- i guess it's easy to say as a white person that he was really being hypocritical. inherited the institution. my question is, helike it but he inherited it. >> we don't like the word, we told you not to say it. >> now, now. i mean, it's understandable. it's a difficult thing for people to reconcile. but you say about jefferson, people have a set of
intellectual beliefs we don't always have the strength to live up to, and it's a glaring flaw to us because we see -- we can look back and see, by not dealing with this at the beginning, or whenever jefferson was living, we see what happened. but if they had tried to deal with -- sort of standard answer is there wouldn't have ban union. >> no question there would be no union. >> no union if they had pressed. >> no america. >> that's my point. >> that's our point. >> that's it. they would not have come in and people can say, well, people suggest, well, let them not come in. and they could go off and make their peace on their own if they wanted to be, but that's not -- that isn't the way it went. people had some interests in creating a union, and they wouldn't have been able to do it if there had not been a compromise.
>> it's important to remember abraham lincoln and the way he turns back to jefferson for the ideals and the principles that would justify a war for the union and ultimately an end to slavery. think it's a muir of our cynicism and disenchantment we can't find that in jefferson because we don't believe in progress. what lincoln believed in, the kind of progress he thought jefferson and his generation had initiated, not achieved, we continue to tell that lincolnan story that moved forward or do we turn back on all that came before and say it was cynical joke against mankind? take your pick. >> i have a question regarding sally hemings. why do you think that jefferson did not free her? >> we talked about this in the book. i give -- i talk about this in other books as well. our understanding is that when people in that kind of relationship, the think you do
is free the woman, he freed the children but not her. when jefferson died, in order to free her, he would have had to put her name in a document, he would have had to put her in the will to say i'm freeing sally hemings. everybody knew who sally was in relationship to jefferson. he last name was not really given but things wrote songs about them. told joke about the whole business. so he would have to put her name in a will, have had to petition the legislature, have her remain in the state because of a law in virginia says if you didn't get legislative permission, you had to leave virginia or you would be re-enslaved. the other thing is she was at the time -- she was 50 years old. she could not free -- you could not free an enslaved person below the age of 21 or above the
age of 45 without explaining how you were going to take care of them. how they were going to be provided for. so, sally hemings' name in a will, petition to the legislature, and him saying, this is how much money i'm going to leave her, or property i'm going to leave her, in order to take care of herself. we would never have argued about this question. if he had done this, that would have been an admission that everything he had been saying was true, and he did not want to do that. the most important person in jefferson's life was martha randolph, his eldest daughter, and this is just my speculation, looking at the facts of what he would have to do itch don't believe he would humiliate her like that, to make that admission on his death bed. the other thing, too, is i don't think that jefferson would have thought that it was a proper thing to -- she's actually 53 -- i don't think would have thought
it was proper to free a 54-year-old woman. a man -- even if he could -- he did free people who were older at the time and did explain how they were going to be taken care of. i don't think he wanted to admit this and i don't think he would have wanted to free a woman, 53-year-old woman etch had to free harriet, the daughter, because any child she had, the four oldest children, beverly and harriet, beverly is a male -- go off as white people and they don't want freedom papers because they're living as white people. if they're there are freedom papers people well know anywhere not out white. so he has to free her because she is young and can have children. if she has children in virginia or any slave society the children are enslave evidence because they followed what your mother was, the status. but sally hemings, for the ropes that this would be an admission -- we wouldn't be talking about him. we would not be here tonight talking about him.
if he had admitted he lived 38 years, had seven children, with an african-american enslaved woman, he would never have been up on mount rushmore. he would not have been president. just not possible. and he was all about -- very much into the notion of legacy. legacy, he thought he was going to live -- he wanted to live through the ages. who knew they had -- he knew they had done something special in creating the united states of america, and he wanted to be remembered for that. the white community would never have accepted him as a hero if he had done that. look at what happened now. look at what happened now. all of the re-evaluation of him, people are saying it's about his religion and about this. it's sally. that's what it is. and it would -- he knew that. he was not a fool. he knew his people. this is the thing.
people say, well, whatever jefferson says, the people will not bear this, the people are not ready. he was the foremost politician of his era. he knew his people and he knew that if he admitted that, they would never have honored him. >> unfortunately we have hit our time limit. please join me in thanking our guests. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
>> when i toupe in, it's authors. >> watching the knopp fiction authors on booktv is the best television for serious readers. >> on c-span they can have a longer conversation and delve into their subjects. >> booktv weekends. they bring you author after author after author that spotlight the work of fascinating people. >> i love booktv and i'm a c-span fan. >> now downs us is the editor of the chairman review of books -- claremont review of books. what is this. >> guest: the country's leading and possibly only journal of -- it's only conservative book review, essentially. it's a quarterly, and so you don't see it that often but it is on news stands and you can find it at www.clare.o