tv Lafayette in the Somewhat United States CSPAN November 12, 2016 2:30am-3:16am EST
[inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. i had the honor of serving that -- as deputy to the library. welcome to the 2016 national book festival. generously sponsored by wells fargo. we at the library of congress are extremely thrilled to be presenting the national book festival where the 16th time. this event would not be possible without the friends that we have
supporting us, generously supporting like wells fargo and we are very appreciative of that. more important, we would not be here, but for readers like all of you who support the authors, are interested in them and come out, so we are extremely excited. thank you so much for being here today. [applause]. >> this year's festival is inspired by journeys. the idea that a book is a voyage unto itself, taking us to places that we might not be able to see in person, but we can visit by reading about it. it to gives us the opportunity to better understand our world and in particular why we are here today celebrating histories and biography, so reading to us is that ideal form of travel and it is really the best way for us to develop and encourage and
grow our mind. in addition to the author presentations that we hear-- have here on this stage for you today we have other events and i hope you will take the opportunity to visit the lower level of the convention center where we have as a family activities that. we have sponsors, aarp, wells fargo and also have the library of congress pavilion where i encourage you to visit us and learn more about your national library. learn all about the wonderful things that we're doing at the library of congress to make our treasures available to you whether you visit us in person or online. so, we have a great lineup. i don't want to take up too much time, so i hope you will welcome our first presenter who will kick things off before us, mr. carlos lozada, the associate editor and non- fiction book critic for the net-- washington post. thank you very much and enjoy your day.
[applause]. >> good afternoon. welcome to the 2016 national book festival. i review nonfiction for the "washington post", which is a charter sponsor of the festival. thanks again to the library of congress, which has hosted the festival for 16 years as well as festival cochair and many sponsors that make the events possible-- possible. i've never met sarah bell personally until right now, but maybe like a lot of you i feel like i have known her forever, whether her work, her delightful books into the side alleys of american history and in the role that most excites my moody six-year-old daughter as the voice and soul of violets from incredible's. sarah can basically do anything and make it seem effortless and
funny and profound all at once. if you have not read her obituary of john ritter and tom landry, you're missing out. we are here to talk about her book. she has written a history of hawaii and the puritans of presidential assassination sites and most recently a book on america's revolutionary. in her 2015 book, lafayette in the somewhat united states. there will be time for question after sarah speaks and c-span is covering that history and biography session, so be on your best behavior. sarah will sign books at 1:30 p.m., so please got one. it is my huge fan boy pleasure to introduce sarah. [applause]. >> hello.
hello, book lovers, people of c-span. i travel around the country so much and i only need to people who read books and i don't know if you have watched the news like the last year or so, but i would like to say that i'm cool with that. i like my little vision of america that i get from eating all of you. so, i'm feeling good today. if you are watching this on television we are here in washington dc and for me, i arrived in this city precisely half my life go, 23 years ago. i will wait for a second for you to do the math. i know that is not your strong suit. [laughter] or mine.
you have other nice qualities. 23 years ago i arrived in this city onto the train from montana. my parents drove me up to shall be, montana, where i cut the amtrak into the cross north dakota. that took a while, changed trains in chicago, saw the buildings of louis sullivan and that i would live in here someday and i ended up doing that. when across pennsylvania. i remember the conductor, we were passing the river and he said get a load of this scenic wonderland and i arrived here in dc for my smithsonian internship and i think it was the next day yasser arafat shook revealed his hand on the white house lawn and it was a hopeful time in america the library of congress is sponsoring this event, you know, when i was an intern at the smithsonian the first work i
worked on that had the number of the library of congress catalog number two things like art philadelphia in the archives of american art tort-- that was the main one. italian american art history and i was seen earlier that for me as an author, every time i get one of my books and it comes in the mail the first time the person i do is that catalog number because, as we all know life is short and the library of congress is forever. [applause]. >> so, take that, great britain, anyway being here thinking about when i was leaving home to come here i realize that is the story that i have been writing all of these years through so many
books. it's always the story of the misfit leaving home and that is the story of our country. i think earlier this year they said this is the story the united states, a kid walks away from home with a song and nothing else and covers the world, so for me that is always the story i am writing whether it's theodore roosevelt leaving new york city to mourn his wife and mother and head out to north dakota, to be a cow man and as one of the biographers said he was the only president who ever read and occur in and while on a three-day search for cattle. or our friend abraham lincoln, who when he left springfield to come here as president and took the train to philadelphia to independence hall and he said that the political sentiments i entertain have been drawn from the sentiments, which were given
to the world from this hall and he said that the goal of his presidency was to save the country invented there and he added ominously, i would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it. obviously, the person who did assassinate him is another misfit who left home from baltimore. [laughter] >> and then i have written about new england missionaries who come to hawaii, like so many church folk of the early 19th century who saw the new map from expeditions like that up captain cook and resolved to spread the gospel to all of the places where cook sailors had spread the clap. [laughter] >> or to their forebears, the new england puritans such as the
massachusetts who unlike those hippies from plymouth were trying to prevent english government that they were not separating from the english and that they were going to america where they would remain as english as beheadings and even wrote a letter to charles the first in 1630, called a humble request in which they said they just wanted to remind the king that we shall be in our poor cottages in the wilderness whereas in private john winthrop , their leader, would tell them the opposite. we shall be at the city upon a hill. so, misfits leaving home. my latest misfit leaving home as a french teenager, marquis de lafayette and of this book tells the story of him leaving home and his pregnant teenage wife to
come to america to throw in with george washington's continental army and so i will read for a bit and then i will take questions and he wanted to read the section of his voyage to america and his early time and then i will read a little tangent about a whole wrote bookseller to pander to the subject the proceedings. [laughter] >> 1777, lafayette has absconded to america, but his own ship to come here. the king of france is trying to keep him at home. his wife's family is trying to keep him at home because as i mentioned she is pregnant and once he makes it onto the ship he has purchased across the atlantic he starts sending his wife-- writing his wife adria these letters to try to explain why he has abandoned her.
her and their forthcoming child. i believe i say in the book that while history might be full of great fathers recorded history is not where to find them. [laughter] >> addressee, lafayette unveiled the grandeur of his mission to his wife audrey and to include her in it he wrote: i hope as a favor to me you will become a good american. sheet is a teenage french aristocrat from one of the most illustrious families in france. she lives in a mansion in paris when she is not living at the mansion inverse side, so asking her to become a good american is sort of baffling. he really was in a position to ask her any favors. [laughter] >> nevertheless, he proclaims to his wife the welfare of america is intimately bound up with the happiness of humanity. she is going to become but deserving and sure refuge of
virtue, of honesty, but tolerance, of equality and of a tranquil liberty. to establish such a forthright dreamland of decency, who would not sign up to shoot a few thousand englishmen as long as mr. bean was not one of them. alas, from my end of history, from our end of history there is a big file cabinet blocking the view of the sweet natured republic lafayette, we are told, and it is where the government keep the folders full of indian treaties, the chinese exclusion act and nsa monitored electronic messages pertinent to national security, which is apparently all of them including the one in which i asked my mom for advice on how to get a red stain out of couch upholstery. lafayette confided to offer my services to this entry republic
i bring to it only my frankness and my goodwill, no ambition, no self-interest in working for my glory. i work for their happiness. disregarding the inherent contradictions of proclaiming his ambition of self interest in the same sentence he reveals that obtaining glory was one of his two stated goals. he was an only child. [laughter] >> the phrase coming as a friend close on the page because it turned out to be the truth. it's appropriate to deem lafayette for the casual cruelty with which he abandoned his family, rolled the eyes a bit at his retro quest for fame or envy his outlandish optimism, but none of that negates the fact he turned out to be the best friend america ever had and i'm not only referring to his youthful battlefield of another eastern seaboard. i'm also referring to any number
of his kindness is later on in assisting thomas jefferson, the united states mr. to france in opening up french markets to american goods. lafayette's lobbying secured nantucket well years the contract to supply the whale oil that lit the streetlights of paris. because of lafayette, the city of lights glowed by new england boiled blubber and forgetting him-- and to say thanks for getting them all nantucket rallied its milk cows to send him a giant wheel of cheese. that's gratitude. [applause]. >> so american, let's send cheese to france. [laughter] >> finally, after his two-month
voyage on his ship, the victory, which he called floating on this dreary plain, they came ashore in charleston, around midnight june 13, 1777. waking up the households of major benjamin cukor of the south carolina militia and that's where they stayed and lafayette wrote later, i retired to rest that night rejoicing that i had at last attained the haven of my dream. he went on to gush the next morning was beautiful work everything around me was new to me, been room, the bed draped in delicate mosquito curtains, the black asserted to came to me quietly to asked my command, the strange new beauty of the landscape outside my window, the luxury and vegetation all combined to produce a magical effect. in other words, it was a buggy swamp chock full of slaves.
life that was in love. so, he and his men basically start out in characters and in upon horses and by the end they are basically like walking to philadelphia, where he is going to what became independence hall and, you know, to announce here i am. you know, he expected a warm welcome. the moment lafayette recalled was peculiarly unfavorable to strangers. don't get that at all. the americans were displeased with the pretensions and disgusted with the conduct of many frenchmen. consequently he wrote the congress finally adopted the plan of not listening to any stranger. when lafayette and his friends called the statehouse, they
should them away snarling its themes french officers have a great fancy to enter our service without being invited. most of them, including lafayette had been invited by american agents in france hence the thrones of perks of frenchmen who have been washed ashore for months expecting to be welcomed with rankin riches. also i should mention europe is uncharacteristically at peace and so all of these european officers especially frenchmen come over in droves wanting a job and washington who was always in need of men wasn't excited about these particular men because he said they have no attachment nor ties to the country and he bemoans their ignorance of our language and he pointed out that american officers would be disgusted if foreigners were put over their
heads and so that's exactly what happened right before lafayette arrived was another french guy and he was a french veteran of the seven years or that he showed up in philadelphia month before lafayette did saying here i am. i'm, you know, a bigwig-- i'm paraphrasing, a bigwig of louis the 16th court and on the greatest renowned authority on artillery in france and what he was was a wine merchant's son who had maybe seen a few canons, but he shows up and said i deserve to be your artillery chief. so, it turns out that replacing the cotton of all armies beloved chief artillery officer was not as easy and arbitrary as bewitched casting a second darren because henry knox was the revolution. born in boston, in 1759, two
irish immigrants knox dropped out of school to support his mother and siblings after his father's death. he eventually opened his own bookstore, the london bookstore. after the course of action of 1774, this is really hard on pretty much all the colonists, but especially its merchants and especially knox, the bookseller. they closed the port and he could not get any of the books he was selling from england and of the colonists were boycotting stuff from england anyway, so those acts, the intolerant acts were supposed to serve as a warning to all of the other colonies and meant to slap massachusetts submission, but what happened was it further radicalized on already radicalized massachusetts and rallied the other colonies to
comes to its material and political aide. so, henry knox, meanwhile, he had glued the royal governor's daughter lucy flager, great name and had joined a local militia and shots were fired in lexington and concord in 1775, so knox lease is feeling bookstore and has his brother. throws in with the malicious and then when washington is appointed the new commander-in-chief of the cottonelle army and he shows up and he is telling the shoulders we should have no more sectional rivalries and we are all one country when privately he is writing to his crony back in virginia, these people are stupid especially the massachusetts men. it's still a work in progress. but, then-- and at that time, you know, boston was under siege
the british had occupied the peninsula of the austin and their navy controlled the harbor in their-- they were resupplied the city with provision ship down from canada. this is the map i am drawing in my mind. i just assume you can see them. so, the patriots had been surrounded, but to break this stalemate they needed weapons and then they got the good news that ethan allen and benedict arnold and their people had captured the fort where there were all of this artillery comic canyon-- canons and mortars and 300 miles away. henry knox, the bookseller is like 26 i think at this point goes up to washington and said how about i go get all of them weapons. 300 miles away.
washington is like yeah, sure, go ahead. bookstore owner. and he did it. hayne's brother, henry knox and his brother set off for new york in november, think it was, and the night i think january that had returned with 43 canons, 43 mortars drag across frozen rivers and over this-- over the snowy mountains by oxen. this is the old yankee proverb that if you can sell a book you can move 60 tons of weaponry, 300 miles in winter. [laughter] >> then, washington like has all of this artillery on the hill and the british wake up and see all of these canons pointing down at them and they probably hightail it to canada and that's
how henry knox became the chief artillery officer of the cottonelle army. he got the actual canon-- he actually at the artillery and then he trained and recruited all of the other artillery officers, so everyone liked him. they thought he was doing a pretty good job and so when this french guy shows up and said i'm your new artillery chief, there was a big flip out amongst the men and officers of the cottonelle army that is sort of the continental-- that is sort of environment that lafayette walked into. luckily, the french i had the decency to-- crossing the delaware river and he drowned. the horse lived, so everything was fine and then-- it was a win-win. [laughter]
>> so that's what lafayette walked into. the reason that the colonists especially their leadership to congress and washington in his highest ranking officers are in this weird position with the french and these french nobleman, lafayette included is all they wanted to because they basically want what any self-respecting terrorist wants. they went to become a state-sponsored terrorists and they are just waiting for the king of france to give them money and guns and support and his army and navy and that's how they won the war eventually. so, they take lafayette on because then franklin sends this letter like again i am paraphrasing, this kid is a big deal, be nice to him. i haven't finished shrinking down the french government and so they make lafayette a major general, that's what he's called.
he's basically a glorified intern. until he proves himself and then so finally he gets his commission and a few days later he meets george washington and, you know, washington was six for -- six feet 4 inches tall and makes a big impression on lafayette. lafayette was so starstruck when he meets washington, he wrote: it was impossible to mistake for a moment his majestic figure in department, nor was he less distinguished of the noble stability of his manner, which is a sweet memory, but does get on my nerves how he needed tall people to make a good first impression. [laughter] >> unfortunately, because of a scheduling mishap we can't be at kareem abdul-jabbar's
presentation next door, so i will go out on a limb and say everyone loves kareem abdul jabbar. i do love kareem abdul-jabbar. so anyway, he joins up. washington, he fully grows on washington because he is so gung ho. the whole work, all of his men are deserting in droves and here's this french kid who is like put me in coach. when washington says okay you can join my military family, which was lingo of the day to basically washington is saying you can become one of my minions like the way alexander hamilton was described as a member of washington's military family, but remember lafayette was an orphan and when washington said family he meant minyan, but what
lafayette heard was son. then, hijinks ensued. so, i guess i will take some questions if you have them. there are these microphones set up here. yeah, let's get cracking. >> hello. i was wondering when i read the book if you have seen the show hamilton and what you thought of the portrayal of lafayette? >> if you did not hear that the question was about hamilton. [laughter] >> i seen hamilton and what i think of the patrol of lafayette i have seen hamilton. i obviously love hamilton, even there-- even though there is so
much hamilton in hamilton and you know who would love the lafayette in hamilton's lafayette who was just a publicity whore and the fact that he so comes up so charming and chivalrous and such a good dancer with such wonderful hair. lafayette was already going bald at 19. the last time i saw it there was an empty seat in front of me and for some reason i just kept picturing lafayette in it and he would just have been swooning the whole time. it's interesting, though, like when the about the show especially because of the casting-- this wasn't your question, but i was thinking about it later lately because people have some qualms about the founding fathers especially the ones who owned other people
and there are some people lately who want to disregard all of their comp insurance and i can understand that, but one way you get past that is make washington black, which i am definitely doing next time. [laughter] >> such a good idea. we should have done that-- that should have been our original cast. washington should have been black. >> in today's i guess mass recording that goes on in everyone's life is so archived, how do you think that will affect our look at today's events as a historian? how do you think that will change? >> everyone's life today is so archived? >> right, just like with television, social media, everything is out there and like very intermittent thoughts are posted for everyone to see. how do you think that will
affect your job as a historian looking back? >> i mean, i guess the nsa is archiving a lot of stuff; right? i mean, my bread and butter in a lot of these books is letters like letters on paper that you have to put on white gloves to look at. i think if things are being saved and that is good and one thing that has started is that for better or worse people nowadays are pretty forthcoming about everything. like sometimes it's really hard to figure out like what washington was thinking. i mean, his wife burned up almost all of their letters upon his death and they are a little cagey and tactful and they leave out private things because those are private. ike guess one-- i guess one advantage of this world we live
in, how people are documenting every omelettes and aspect of their day. i'm guessing. i'm not on social media, but i hear the jokes about it. i guess that would be helpful especially if you were some kind of social historian where your job was to figure out what people ate. just like look at all of these food blogs and twitter and everything and you can see, you know, like oh, people like goat cheese. i don't know, but i think because computer case-- communication is so constant maybe there is less of that grandeur, you know. like george washington was painfully aware that everything was doing was basically especially as president that he was inventing a presidency, so he wrote these letters with such care to-- he was ready to the person, but also writing to us
for prosperity and i don't really do that when i am e-mailing my friend. i think like with the letters because they were more formal, but also you have the best of these people and maybe we are not always at our best in our electronic medications. i'm not. yes. >> hello, sarah. i'm with the american friends of lafayette. we are 400 strong. >> oh, you people. >> yeah, thank you for bringing our hero to the forefront. >> that's why i did it. i would have done it for free. [laughter] >> we bought your book. so, lafayette is criticized for doing things for the glory of it, not for the their reason, the purest reasons, but back in the 18th century was that such a bad thing doing it just for
the glory? >> no, i don't think so. i mean, if we are going to condemn all historical figures who accomplished there, schmitz because what they wanted was glory, that wipes out everyone, maybe mother teresa, but she got a lot of press, also. i mean, if you are doing good things i don't really care what your motives are that much. i mean, there is something about lafayette. he is such a boy. he is 19 and, i mean, it is kind of bad form to abandon your pregnant teenage wife. >> there is that. >> so, i cannot overlook those things. i mean, his glory, the quest for glory was part of what fueled his account for schmitz and one of the reasons he was so valuable to washington and the american cause was that he was so gung ho, he was so brave. he didn't care about his own personal safety.
with he was wounded at the battle of brandywine he was supposed to be recuperating, but he gets up, wrapped his bum leg in a blanket and writes back to the front. i mean, it kind of reminds you of what lincoln said about grant for washington like he needed him. so, all of that glory whoring had a very very practical outcome. it wasn't just that he wanted the glory and he certainly loved it and when he came back as an old man in 1824, i mean, he just loved, it was a love fest for over a year of people talking about how much they loved him and so happy he was back, so he want to glory, but you know, as they say in "hamilton" immigrants to get things done. like he got things done. his glory was based on achievement, based on spilled blood and sweat and the old
college try. it wasn't like getting glory for i don't know-- what do people get glory for now? it has to do with twitter, i think. not that that isn't an accomplishment, but you know what, i mean,. >> i do. thank you very much. >> hello. >> you have written a lot about the historical folk heroes and also american rogues and it seems like you tend to enjoy the life of the robe more. >> the like-- life of the what to make rogue. >> rogue? >> yes the one going out on their own. history's bad boy or girl. i was wondering if you had a favorite. >> a favorite about anyone i've written about? i mean, i do write about the missed it-- misfits.
i have this soft spot for a lot of them even unlikable once maybe especially that unlikable ones. i subscribed to the digital "washington post" and i'm sure if you do you have woken up to an e-mail from them as we do every morning that has said the headline was is she likable. i'm not sure who they were talking about. [laughter] >> in my opinion, likable can be overrated and one of my favorite people to write about was roger williams who was a puritan theologian, likable already; right? and he comes to boston to the massachusetts bay colony and they offer him the job of being the minister in boston, which has puritan jobs ago, that's when he want and he turned them down because basically he found them not puritanical enough and
they kicked him out of massachusetts, basically because they just wanted him to calm down about religion. the puritans wanted him to calm down about religion. and he is just this annoying person who is constantly harangue them as so they booted him out and another misfit leaving home he goes to rhode island, and founded rhode island and for a lot of non- hippie reasons basically establishes freedom of religion in rhode island. not because he thinks everyone believes are valid, but he believes pretty much everyone except for his wife is going to hell for what they believe and maybe that should be punishment enough and so rhode island becomes this sebastian of misfits, jews, baptists, quakers, you know.
like roger williams .-dot quakers had to write to live there. one time he spent three days debating them to the extent that i think they wanted to kill themselves, but meanwhile, back home in massachusetts, quakers are actually being hanged. so, he is a very weird unlikable annoying person, but i found him sometimes hard to like, but easy to love. people can do great things and maybe you don't want to have lunch with them. [laughter] [applause]. >> i love that reading the books for the history and i love also the side jon's you take places like bruce springsteen's voice at home and what you learned in all you delve into and i was wondering if you are like writing people like lafayette and winthrop, do you know what
their theme song would be like you get that in your mind. >> what their theme song would be. >> if you could give them a theme song. >> i don't know about that, but generally the books has theme songs for me. like, this one for some reason i always wanted to put on pete seeger's version of shenandoah. like just adheres to that passage i read, what lafayette thinks america will be like and there is something in the way he sees that song. that's the one i would like to have been. when i was writing about the puritans i had three sons i would always put on because they were leaving home and they had these ideals and one of them was the-- what was it, the mormon
tabernacle choir version of sound for the promised land. you know, there was chuck berry's promised land and springsteen's promised land because it was all that promise and the future and it had this kind of biblical overtone. >> hello. i love the dude of history especially george washington. >> the dirt? is that which he said? >> yes. george washington was over a marginal general. his men hated him. so, what influence did lafayette have on him? >> what influence did lafayette have on washington? >> yes. >> i mean, i think-- for one thing lafayette just bucked up
washington for most of the war. washington was about to get fired and sometimes for cost. lafayette was always on his side and whenever these conspiracies arose to get rid of washington washington-- lafayette was the one thing that these people are idiots. your one for the ages, so there is that. i think it was keeping washington going and like washington keeping going was kind of the key to that war. like this is endurance and putting up with it, sticking it out and so i think there was that influence and also lafayette was a pretty fervent abolition. he couldn't influence washington's decision for washington to have some of his own slaves freed upon his death. i would save most it was moral support. i don't know if you have a friend like that who whatever when you are down they are the ones who bucks you up, and i
think that's who he was for washington. i only have time for one question because someone else is coming in here next. u2, which wendy zink has the better question? [laughter] >> he says you have the better question and that makes me want to hear his question, but ask me a question after. i just have to physically remove itself from this podium. yes? >> he talked about lafayette coming back to america in 1824, can you tell a little bit about the reason why almost every city in america at that time name something after lafayette? what impacted he have on america that did that imac in fact, great question to end on. i made the right choice. thank you. yes, when lafayette québec in 1824 and 25, that 13 month victory lap around the country
where he went to all of the states is the origin for how all of these states and not states, but cities and counties and warships and horses and babies and streets and parks got named after lafayette. and i think washington dc it's worth remembering that the most meaningful of any of these, no offense to lafayette ronald hubbard is lafayette park across from the white house because this is kind of our capital a protest. this is where we had-- as a people go to yell at our present i mean, i was kidding about lafayette being an only child, but one of the most only at child things he said was, he said i did not hesitate to be disagreeable to preserve my independence. and so i think lafayette park or lafayette square