tv Most Blessed of the Patriarchs CSPAN November 25, 2016 7:00am-7:51am EST
clinton look as their role model to bobby kennedy being the one they want to model after. as we and i would like to say one last thing, in introducing me bill jumped i wrote books on strange topics including superman and i would like to present this shirt to build green. i won't make you put it on site, can we give him a wonderful ground of applause if for nothing else, reading the book. thank you very much. [applause]. >> he could not have known that that's what every one called me when i was mayor.
thank you for beg with us on this beautiful night. i want to start with the title of the bill, "most blessed of the patriarchs", which you talk about in the presence of the recovery from a letter that thomas jefferson writes in 1773. he's in paris and he's playing to go back to monticello in virginia and he's writing a letter to angelica. he's ready to angelica schuyler church in london talking about his plans to québec to monticello and reads: i have my house to build, my field to form and to watch for the happiness of those who labor for mine. they live with me. 's other shall be as fortunate
in due process of time i show imagine myself as blessed as the most blessed of the patriarch. annette gordon-reed, why do you talk a little bit about it was in that seemingly a knock with-- a knock with this paragraph. what was it about that language that in intrigued you and made you think about this is the title. >> the title was somewhat controversial. we had to fight drug quotes because this was a jefferson quote about himself and we did not want people to think we were calling him the most blessed of the blessed. >> because on the most blessed of the patriarch's. >> peter might be able to get away with that work i could not get away with that. but, we thought it was intriguing because it is so different from the idea of being the apostle of liberty, a republican, a person who saw himself as an avatar of the
enlightenment's, calling himself something that calls to mind an ancient patriarch, biblical, ancient times in another letter he refers to himself that living at monticello as a patriarch, so he at the same time he views himself as a patriarch, so we thought we would try to unpack that as they say because we have sort of come to a point where there is a set picture of jefferson and a lot of what people are doing and writing about him is writing about what they wish he had done or that they are angry that he did not do and we wanted to try to figure out what did he think he was doing, sort of unimportant thing, we think, to try to cover. >> you are trying to get inside
his head as much as you can. >> we wanted to draw attention to what seems to be a paradox because the past as is well-known as a foreign country and our ideas that jefferson studies have been distorted by the need to make him speak to us now and we won't be able to draw anything from jefferson until we can put him in his place and that was our goal. >> how do you think he interpreted that patriarchy he is talking about? >> he wasn't embarrassed to use the term and i think that's something we need to explore and that was the point of this. how could he say this and what does it signify and the point of departure for us is that the world he created for himself at monticello is fun-- foundational to his career in american
history. 's public life is not disconnected from his private life. if you want to understand jefferson, you have to put those two things together. >> and seeing himself as a patriarch is accepting this position in the world. this was a person who was born at the top of the hierarchy of virginia. he was white. he's male and the first son. he's tall, intelligent, well-educated and he sees himself as having a special role. it's interesting to think of someone who's sort of in the mill of nowhere who decides he's going to be a mover and shaker in the world, that he will sort of make his mark and he actually aims to do that through a force of a personality that is very self-assured, confident, you might say arrogant anyway, but certainly believing he has a special place and patriarch to us is a negative thing for most people, maybe.
it's a problematic concept, but it was not problematic to him at all because he thought he was doing this the right way and that's the thing that people forget. >> it's important keep in mind that jefferson's career is to eradicating aristocracies speaker. we think the 030 words. jefferson saw himself in operating a new regime and did not reject this fundamental notion of the centrality of the family and the household for the future of the republic and that's what he is celebrating is the role he is playing in his household. >> does that notion of patriarchy extend beyond the household, beyond monticello, his family and his workers to how he approached the presidency >> he did not think of himself
as a patriarch. >> that was washington. >> he may have thought he was really the father of the country , the real father of the country, but i don't think he-- he did not see himself as a patriarch of the people, of americans, i mean, the people were supposed to be the rulers, but i think his understanding of family and how people should relate to one another was central and came from his conception of what family was like. he conceived family was supposed be like that at monticello. >> remember the nuclear family and most americans lived in nuclear families and some of you probably still do, but jefferson thought it was natural and that was a keyword for him. the family comes together naturally and he imagines the republic is the most natural form of government, in self-government, chu to the
nature of him being and therefore the united states will be the kind of model to the world. >> let's talk about the structure of the brook a bit because you approach it in an interesting way. you are not focused on his political life in his time of president. give chapters on music and privacy and how vital privacy was to him. talk a bit about how to you-- you came to that approach and why you approach it that way? >> we wanted to try to show what we thought was important to shaping jefferson's life and he was born in chadwell and then one thing happened and then the other thing happened in another thing happened. the idea was to have things that were important to him and sorted key to his personality. we start out with patriarchy and unpack that and how he became a patriarch.
the second section is traveler it talks about the influence of france and what happens to him when you leave monticello and goes out into the world and the last one is enthusiast and that's when we talk about music and visitors and things that are not-- sort of influences that shaped him, but not your typical -- not that not way and i do is to get inside his head in a fashion and not sort of just a laundry list of details. >> if we successfully integrate his private life into his public life, then we can show how the performances he orchestrated his house then appeals to him and in a way that microcosm of how he imagines the world should be, civil conversation, music in which everyone knows that part in the harmonized. there's a political meaning to all of this that is profoundly
basic to his political philosophy. jefferson is you can never know who he is and we think that's stupid, foolish. he has been called a sphinx. well, jefferson himself made a big deal about his privacy. that privacy is foundational to how he understands his public life. take this simple idea, in a republic citizens are equal and they have to consent to the laws that the majority decides on and that consent has to be truly voluntary and come from the self-determination of individuals, so how do you protect individuals from insidious influences? how do you take for instance the common person out of the mob?
how do you avoid the usual problems or path ologies of democracy because democracy was a dirty word. put a bunch of people together and they will get drunk and if they have a governments and they control the government, what would they do? you would pass laws and that means you would redistribute property, so how do you lift people up is a big challenge and crucial to the lifting people up is a new conception of consenting self and jefferson's project was a self fashioning project to make himself someone. he wants to exemplify how unenlightened republican citizen can become well-informed and become a part of a new kind of public life based on informed consent. >> he sees himself as an example of all this, there is an arrogance to this, this idea
that he is the national teacher and an example to people. that's what monticello is supposed to be. if you have been there you go into the indian hall in the foray and there is all kinds of paintings and sculptures and everything and the idea is that these are things he has brought back with him from france to show to people and he will show people how to be in bottled in civilized behavior, so it's an interesting idea to say i am an example of something that i want other people to see and this is how you model yourself in a way to be educational to other people. >> speaking of the consenting self and obviously a whole category of people-- >> what is she going to ask? obviously trying to rent the seminal book and spent a lot of time looking into the family,
the extended family of thomas jefferson, did you come to a different understanding of how he viewed slavery cracks you said 70 times there was the fatal state as he described it. spend time talking about how when he goes to france he said in france slavery became solely domesticated in his mind. what is that? >> before he went to france jefferson had a reputation as a being anti- slavery. of the first indication of this is when he is in his 20s any copies in his commonplace book price of a poem that talks about the evils of the slave trade and as someone yanked from his native land and brought across the ocean to labor for someone else and he as a young legislator wanted to introduce legislation of emancipation
plans, which was nowhere in virginia and he wrote about this and he's-- he had a reputation as being anti- slavery. when he goes to france, and he sees france society. you leave your country and you think there are bad things about your country and you go someplace else and you think, at least we are not like that. that was his attitude. he is in france during the pre-revolutionary period and people are starving. there's unrest, riots, all kinds of things and he said we have problems in america, but this place have a lots of problems and it's just on the road now to the able to solve some of those problems because he was in favor of the french revolution. it gave him a sense that we have
time to solve our problems as well and the other thing that happens is he's in france with jane and sally hemmings who are his wife's half siblings and he begins to treat them there in a way-- he pays them wages and he is starting a practice that he continues when he comes back home. whenever he is in a city and he's mixing enslaved labor and free labor he pays everyone. he's living there with these people who have an opportunity to be free because every person who partitions or freedom in france was granted, so like a pro forma thing, which jane and sally hemmings could've done and while he's there he's living with what will become the face of slavery for him in a way. jefferson and he continues this when he comes home, he sees himself as a slave owner through his relationship with the people
who are the closest him, but that's unrealistic because they are not the people down the mountain. they are not the bulk of-- this is his wife's family may have a completely different relationship to him than the others. sally hemmings brothers lots of times he did not know where they were, i mean, they had their own time and went out and kept money and he would call them back when he needed them for something, so that's a very different relationship that he had with them from over 700 people that he owned during his lifetime. this was a tiny group of people pulled out, so he sees himself as a slave owner through those relationships and we think france heightened that for him and they do come back with him. they don't to stay and slavery becomes domesticated. he's thinking about them as members of his household and how he treats people in his
household, but that as i said is very different. >> a sense of reciprocity than. they are not symmetrical, they are not equal, but like family members he has created what he thinks is a kind of family that extends and i think that's using the right word when she says this is how he sees or wants to see slavery and the other crucial thing to keep in mind is that jefferson earns urgency of doing something about slavery varies with the geopolitical situation. in the american revolution enslaved people could run the british lines enjoying the counterrevolution later on in the revolution and what becomes the possibility of uprising in the hemisphere could spread to the continent during the war of 1812.
the british come again and it's another opportunity and moments like this jefferson says, my fellow republicans, we have to do something about this. i know slavery is a unjust institution. we need to act and the solution, of course, is emancipation. he never backs off from that and then we have to send them to another country, expatriate and is his. whenever, he thinks about maybe in the trans- mississippi, but we might need that territory. >> now, not there, california. >> there is a black republic. it's not recognized as such, but maybe after. he goes through all of these possibilities, but the important thing is that when the piece comes the urgency goes.
when the piece comes than he sees himself and i think this word is crucial. as a master he is a steward and has a responsibility just as the father in the family has responsibility and he has a responsibility to look after the happiness of those who labor for mind to borrow another phrase from that letter that we started off with in our title and then we have a kind of domestication that annette is talking about and that is we are trying to create a sense within this household of good treatment, he is wanting to improve things and rationalize things. there are ways, in other words, in which he can practice the enlightenment at home and make things better while we wait for his fellow virginians to see the lights to use that again and then come to the collective decision that we have to do
something to and this unjust as. >> because he does not believe that there is what he would call a republican solution to the problem. that is to say white people of virginia were not going to vote to do away with slavery. that's not going to happen during his lifetime. he prayed that it would, but he realized that would not happen at the time and would and by the time it was a crisis he realized it could and put in much the way it ended and that is with a war and that is not something he would have contemplated. jefferson and haiti is fascinating because when he first hears about it a writes a a letter to his daughter he's like the negroes have taken over the island and we-- he was sort of like is this the age of revolution and then all of a sudden he hears that lots of white people are being killed and then the tone changes. it's not-- it's one thing for
white people to kill for their freedom in france because he supported the french resolution by longer than people think he should have, but for the black republic at first it's okay, but then when they started killing then it's not okay. >> of course, that reinforces the idea of regional national difference and i think one of the key terms we play is the idea of race, which doesn't have a fixed meaning at this period. it's equivalent to nations, people, race in the modern sense ethnicity and if enslaved africans and african americans are a distinct people, nation, race then how could they possibly live with the people who had enslaved them? >> but there would be no peace and that's the thing that really gives people a problem because we congratulate ourselves and think, well, we are in better
and enlightened and living together in peace and harmony. yeah, right. >> oh, come on. >> we get along. >> i'm happy. you are happy. you're happy. >> we are kind of getting along we are getting along, yeah, that he doesn't have the confidence. how could blacks love a country that has treated them so poorly? this is him saying i know what i would do and he is transferring and basically saying-- >> that's the downside of what nation is a great big family. how long did it take for the laws to change on interracial marriage in america, i mean, we are talking about basic stuff for jefferson. what i want my daughter to marry black people, this is insane. that idea of the naturalness of
the races mixing. >> except it's interesting we talk about this in the book that it's a very very-- it's the attitude of the conqueror. white men have access to the bodies of white women, black women, native american women, but not the other way around and so really for jefferson in the state of virginia when he's talking about mixing, he's talking about the horror of the mixing of black men having access to white women. that's the problem. he didn't have any problem the other way around because he knows that in slavery, slavery is a laboratory for that kind of thing. in his own household. his father-in-law. people in virginia in general. it's clear that this is something that was a big part of life during that time.
>> think about the implications of a abolishing artificial hierarchies among white people that is aristocracy, monarchy, all white people are created equal, but you can do that, but then you draw attention to the additions that you consider natural, not artificial. to have a king, what does a king do? it's just descended from a french bastard. there is nothing legitimate about monarchy, so you abolish all those things and we agree on that and celebrate the first great modern republic
he studied french and did lots of things, but his language skills were not there. >> he knew how to read french and speaking a language is different-- i mean, difficult. it's one thing to study thing-- a line which, but then actually speaking the language and their normal way of speaking and pulling it all together, he read french well and he could understand people, but he had difficulty speaking the language. his daughters and sally hemmings and james hemmings eventually learned how to speak pretty well, but he was older when he goes to france. he was in his 40s and it's not easily acquired at that time. my favorite story of that time is him going to a chess club in paris and getting beaten easily by people. he does not back. we think that's interesting because my husband who played
chess competitively said the only way to get better to play chess is to play with people that are better than you are and it's a sort of an interesting thing that we love to play chess, but we did not love it enough to get beat repeatedly until he got better and better at it, so he was a very thin skinned person. >> he's very anxious. >> you identify with that. [laughter] >> i'm a white guy. it's hard. [laughter] >> when he's in france, with most are called us, i think, be on the initial culture shock is his need to create a little virginia at home. he needs a comfort zone. instead danger he feels that works in french society to impressionable young people when he can barely resist the temptation himself, so young
people don't go to paris. >> they get women. >> in the streets, you know, messing in politics. >> that's why he celebrates the properly constitution republican family where women are-- they have their place and they play their role, but they are not doing politics. they are not influencing society. they are in their place and he's upset with this. it has a lot to do with sexuality in the tent tatian that he sees there and in one of his letters he suggests that if you come to france as an impressionable age two things will happen to you. you will develop a taste for hours and he will never learn to speak your language well because during this crucial period you will be speaking another language and having too much of a good time and what's really important is that you will have
to go back into the republic. the key art in a republic is persuasion, speaking well, so if you cannot speak the language well and if your proclivities sexually are developed in this abnormal pathological way than the very foundation of the republic will be subverted. >> i want to leave time for questions, but as co-authors of this book and i enjoy listening to your slight disagreements, when you really-- were there times when you really could not agree? did you go chapter by chapter. did you have to go by consensus? >> she will talk about religion now. i pray you do. >> i suppose the biggest dispute between us was jefferson's christianity. peter calls himself--
[inaudible] >> my thing was always how can you tell. i grew up in the united methodist tradition and jefferson calling himself a christian, i was not convinced about that. >> i was reduced to prayer at that point. >> he convinced me that i was perhaps being too judgmental and that i did because there's this suggestion that jefferson did not believe in the divinity of christ. he believed jesus was a great moral teacher and that you should live according to the precepts of jesus, but not jesus the christ and that's why he writes the life and morals of jesus of nazareth rather than jesus christ and he scissors out of the bible-- razors outs part of the bible that he considers
to be magical thinking, but he convinced me that i had to narrow a view of all of this, so that was an area that he persuaded me about. we have other small disputes and sometimes you just, you know you let it go. you know that movie, let it go? frozen or whatever. >> seeing that. >> no, not going to sing it. the basic understanding is that the different. we didn't argue about that. >> what was wonderful about this collaboration for me and both of us was that we brought complementary knowledge and skills together and i think the fit has been wonderful. we have enjoyed working together the only doubt-- downside for me is that i am now known as the biographer.
i don't do biographies. >> there are two microphones if people want to make their way for any questions that you may have. you are free to come forward. >> your some people. >> right here to this microphone >> i am so excited to be first to. annette, i loved your book, hemmings of monticello. it's been an interest-- inspiration for me. i'm writing the book and i'm interested in a question for you what are the biggest obstacles you have in trying to put together the sources you are using to create a narrative? >> well, the biggest obstacle is actually pulling it all together and trying to find the right way to craft i mean to have lots of information and know what should go in and what should be taken out.
that's the biggest thing. there was a lot there, i think, but we don't have a lot of evidence or any evidence from sally hemmings herself, but you have to sort of research around the situation. it's funny because i didn't perceive it as a problem. it was fun. i mean, i think i'm a natural detective. love to write, but i like to research if not more, but certainly as much. i would say if i would say what a problem would be it would be learning how to take the material and turn it into a narrative and to know that i have a file, the old saying, killed your darlings. i never killed them i sort of exiled them. it's called outtakes and you
just take stuff and put it away and may be able to come back to that later on, so it really is just parenting down is the biggest problem. >> thank you for your question. >> annette and peter, the biggest thing in new york today is hamilton and if you look out -- i read your book. i read a lot of books. there's a big emphasis on the fighting that went on between jefferson, hamilton, adams and then madison joined with jefferson and others and then, you know secretary of state leaving and i don't know whether it was a temporary perspective that jefferson had during the washington administration. washington is from virginia and i was so surprised to see after reading your book how jefferson
turned out to be evil. and my crazy? >> did you just say evil? >> evil because he was against the washington's approach-- >> how many times have you seen "hamilton"? >> i have the cd and also miranda's broke. no, no, no, but looking at the book he takes it into perspective. >> could i start an answer? >> go ahead. >> annette will set me right. first of all, the idea of political opposition is absolutely illegitimate. party, faxing, no good. we have been talking about love at nausea. it's supposed to be that people do recognize common values and commitments and they don't and of course love always makes
failed love always makes things worse as a freud would tell you about love and hate. the second thing is to get back to the real world, there's no guarantee that the american union will survive. there is no guarantee that the united states should ever cut up in world affairs. from a world historical perspective it's the odds against it are tremendous work in other words, there's so much at stake and with the image of planting the seed in the tree starts to grow in one direction that could be forever. they know they are starting something and if they start it wrong they will fail, so everything is at stake. i'm a little hard on jefferson when we write about politics. i don't know. i think-- i understand what they are both doing. they make a lot of sense to me, the fiscal military state, he's
got it. all that makes sense. they all made their contribution, but you can see what the stakes are and why they would be at each other's throats and all because washington is listening to hamilton. >> we only have a few minutes left. >> i have two questions if you will allow it. >> fast. >> first of all, when i went to monticello one thing that occurred to me was what to jefferson was doing was he relied a lot on his ability to spend time on the things he wanted to spend time on and clearly he relied heavily on slave ownership to do that. yet, you are also saying that he saw his lifestyle as a model for people to live by, so in a sense he thought that the model of the republic would have had to rely
on the institution of slavery for people to continue to try to model that, so was he conscious of that? how would he deal with that in terms of his idea-- that ideal republic. >> we will have to leave it at one question. >> i think he felt that eventually-- he did not think the model would be slaveowning because eventually slavery would go away and what he wanted was to have family farms. they would take over, but what he wanted people to model was his ideas about finance, his ideas about art and those things. i don't think he saw plantation life as that aspect of his life. it was the exalted things and not just the institution that he thought would leave.
>> one way of thinking about is his educational system by the university is very narrow apex of a crate or amend that begins primary education. he doesn't think everyone will reach the top, so he's not modeling in that sense. you might say that was a characterized admit-- american middle-class society is aspiration, blu can be. be enlightened. everyman can participate in an enlightenment and i think that's idea, so anyone could be educated and enlightened by visiting monticello and pearls of wisdom falling from the great man. >> one more question before we have to break. >> i would like to go back to this issue of writing joint historical study like this and perhaps you could tell us a bit about how you got the idea of working together on this book and then how you corrugated
different sections or different aspects of the book. >> well, peter said he was going to retire-- >> i did. >> he did retire and i got the idea-- i did not want him to sort of ride off into the sunset yet and i asked him to write a book with me. >> so beautiful. nearly dead white guy. >> it's what i could do. i did what i could. [laughter] >> that's how we got the idea of doing out-- it. we've been talking to each other since 1995 and i thought we should do something together, so instead of having-- our editor wanted us to have one voice where we would each write a chapter and have someone responsible for different sections, so we tried to write
sections and send them to each other and we skype every week for a period of time. then we went out on the road and talked about this quite a bit before we even began to write and we wanted to craft as much as we could i mean there are some things in some sections that are more him or more me, but we both went over and approved it, moved things around. there are little quarks or whatever that i could recognize a mine and some from him, but a lot of times-- >> and they are still talking. [laughter] >> we have time for one more question. we are over time. annette gordon-reed, peter onuf, thank you very much. [applause].
>> on his website, hugh hewitt's stock, radio talkshow host hugh hewitt chooses a selection of books he thinks is necessary to read. here's some of the books on his virtual bookshelf. the looming power. explains the rise of islamic fundamentalism and the events that led to 911. cnn host jake tapper reports on the war in afghanistan and specifically on combat outpost. in the forever war, dexter filkins of the new yorker chronicles conflict in the middle east and historian bernard lewis explores both political and militant islamic theology in the crisis of islam and also on hugh hewitt's bookshelf is america alone,
where our author mark stein emphasizes american self-reliance over government independence. the radio talkshow host also recommends to british authors, the history of english speaking people by winston churchill and historian paul johnson's comprehensive history of the jewish faith. finally, hugh hewitt has on his bookshelf a book about the world war ii spy and mark levin's liberty amendments which explains 11 ways to restore the american republic to the framers vision. the full list of book recommendations is available at hugh hewitt.com. >> i think the trend has been in the wrong direction on both sides. congress has not been assuming its responsibilities, which has forced at least this president's to do more things by executive order. there is no question that they