tv [untitled] May 20, 2012 9:00am-9:30am EDT
president. they were stuck at the willard. she -- she loved animals. she couldn't have them, and in that the coolidges were like the theodore roosevelts, they had menageries when they eat all t the people came to -- when she had to receive as vice president and all of this -- and -- they were already talking about a new vice president for the next term because coolidge worked out when their president harding die and suddenly she is in the white house. wait a minute, she's waiting outside the white house at the willard for mrs. harding to be ready to leave. the negotiate that when the president before has died and the widow is there and you want to show respect for the widow, they did that beautifully. the coolidges. mrs. harding wanted to leave and then decided not to and another week at the willard, if you can imagine. they were extremely gracious. as gracious -- looking at theodore roosevelt, how to handle when a president dies and
you come in because, of course, theodore roosevelt had that. what to do when she's there and we have her letters to her sorority sisters and said i'm like babe in the woods or alice in wonderland. pray for me, basically. paraphrasing the last part. then she rose to it because she understood this was not about her. this was about service. and when you see that it is a role and it is not about you -- that's all -- all right, and -- another tomb we are going to talk about how that clashes perhaps sometimes with your marriage, should i mention the thing we discussed this morning. >> go ahead. >> the coolidges, as all i imagine first couples were, individual cones. cone of chief executive, cone of the first lady. they had a terrible thing happen when they were president which was their son died. calvin coolidge. their son got a blister on the white house tennis court and died within about eight days. this was before -- >> 16 years old.
>> just before we got antibiotics. had it been 20 years, 30 years later, he might have been saved. so sudden. >> i was telling -- i was doing panel on first ladies. the new york historical society, a man stood up and an elderly man said because of this death, his mother had always told him not to wear dark socks because it was apparently -- his mother thought that the dye in the socks that had -- did end this child. a whole generation was affected by that. >> how do you mourn in the white house? >> right. >> how do you -- she knew that it was not -- she had to mourn for the public. she had to mourn for the president and the fact that she wore not black but white in mourning the following year. she -- she showed how to mourn in the white house. in that she became a most important symbol because in that period, many, many people lost their children and the mail was extraordinary. if you -- read the letters, you
know, the papers of miss randolph, her secretary, the letters you find that nearly every letter that came to the white house upon the death of calvin began i, too, lost a boy. that unified her with a great part of the country. >> given that, mike hoover -- they all called her sunshine. >> she was the extrovert to the introvert. they called him smiley. >> it was a joke. both of them were very constrained by the fact that they couldn't mourn as they might if they were not the first couple. one of her ways that one way they were covered and demonstrated leadership was they didn't cry in public. it was just a different conception. they did not go on any television show. they didn't talk in that way. she wore white. they got animals. she did many activities with children. both of them. the story that cokie and i --
what else did she do for herself? she did exercise. you develop ways. she had a secret service man who was in her cone with her, mr. haley, who had played tennis with her son. had been there for the tragedy. helped dig a spruce tree from the vermont and plant on the grounds. she likepled haley. he was important to her in her -- but president coolidge was a jealous man. when they were -- >> she was a beautiful woman. >> she was a beautiful woman. one of the most beautiful -- she could wear any color, her co compl complexion was like that. she and mr. haley went for a walk. they were an hour late. get got lost. the president, who always -- shoed scandal, transferred her secret serviceman away. he did that because he wanted to avoid scandal. he never let her do things that
he thought might bring scandal upon the white house. but that backfired on calvin because the story was that calvin was cruel. and -- everyone was appalled. there was nothing wrong. grace wrote a letter to his employer to help him career because now the secret service man had aspersions. that was the worst snapshot of their marriage. the best snapshot of their marriage -- it was an extraordinary marriage. was that all of his important friends came together, there was no presidential library law for president cool sxij said we will raise money for your papers. led by clarence baron of the "wall street journal." and calvin said all right, you can raise the money. but let it be for a cause that i want it to be for and they did. they raised $2 million and i -- it is about as much as raise for this -- large amount of money.
and president coolidge took that money and did not really use it for his papers. he gave it to laura's most -- that is -- gave it to grace's most important project which was the clark school for the deaf in north hampt northampton, massachusetts. they devoted much of that money to the clark school which she -- and all of the years after, he knew he might die soon and had a -- bad heart. he did -- all the years after calvin was gone, she had her project and an important educational institution backed by the friendship of the -- of the coolidges. amazing story of a gift. >> you know, the -- i was thinking as she was talking, the business of coming in after a
president has died, now, i don't think there was a worse example of that than for mrs. johnson. the sense of tragedy, maybe from mrs. andrew john son, but the sense of tragedy in the nation and handling that is not an easy thing to do. yet -- >> yet, she did it. i think that -- it wasn't -- the nation just 00 lost a president. they had lost a first lady that they were fascinated with. and with the possible exception of -- at least in the modern era, of best truman following eleanor roosevelt, i don't think there is a bigger contradiction in the public's mind between jacqueline kennedy and lady bird johnson. and yet, you know, the country
is lucky sometimes and i think that we were exceedingly lucky that lady bird was able to build on jackie's work but make it her own and expand it in a way that really helped the country. because what we saw was -- we saw the -- the gut-wrenching funeral. we saw john john's saluting. i mean, i turned 60 last tuesday. and i -- very well remember being pulled out of a remember republican, very evangelical school for the assassination -- to be pulled into the hallway, to be hold that the president had died. and as the only democrat in the school, it was, you know, it was hard for me both ways. especially in the south.
but to see lady bird who understood not how to be a grandmother but how to be strong and how to comfort and how to lead at the same time. and not just lead in the public but lead behind the scenes. i mean, if i could switch for a little bit and talk about the politics of the office, i mean, what she was so masterful at doing, remember, she's from texas! okay. i'm from memphis. so i say memphis the same way i say texas. okay. but we are in the biggest legislative battle of the '60s. and they are going to take the '64 civil rights act which i think never would have passed if john kennedy hadn't been assassinated and lyndon johnson wouldn't have been president. >> that's right. >> there's no doubt in my mind.
>> eventually. >> eventually. i think it would have been at least a decade, maybe longer. and lyndon johnson is knocking heads the way that only lyndon johnson can knock heads. >> can listen to on the tapes. it is so great. >> it is incredible. and he has lady bird and lady bird is doing the exact same thing with grace and tact. i mean, lyndon could, you know, do this. you know. and get them by the collars and have every piece of dirt known to human kind on him. you know. and then you have lady bird reaching out afterwards. and sort of calming the feathers. keeping her own tally on how the votes were going at the exact same time that she's knowing how to balance. she's knowing how to do head
start. she has tremendous relationships across the aisle. that's something i think we don't really realize. i mean, i -- i mean, i have always been struck by the affection mrs. bush between you and senator kennedy. and eleanor roosevelt was very close to john foster dulles. i mean, the reason we have the universal declaration of human rights is because of eleanor's relationship with john foster douglas. i mean, you have never -- you would never think they were friends. and so what lady bird was able to do, i think is to clearly say to the country without saying it, i am not jackie. and i miss jackie. and i mourn for you. but our country is in a crisis, we are in the height of the cold war, we just come down from the cuban missile crisis. we just barely recuperated from the bay of pigs. and now we have birmingham.
how are we going to deal with this? she was able to be political and policy behind the scenes like head start in a way that was nonconfrontational, that could help soothe the political feathers that her husband had in some cases not just ruffled but plucked, and -- sorry, mark, but he did. >> bess here. >> but i -- i just -- i think that there are times when it is just a fluke that -- >> we get lucky. >> we get lucky. man, i mean, she knocked it out of the ballpark. >> let's talk about the politics a little bit. because -- you -- you know, we talk about dolly madison bringing people to the and all of that. of course, she was also campaigning for her husband. >> absolutely. >> and -- you know, making clear that he -- he should be the next
personnelected and louisa catherine adams. she was a complicated person. she talked in her letters, after abigail adams died, john quincy adam's wife, he was an impossible person, and -- she would write letters to old john adams. so gossipy letters about what was going on in washington to -- to amuse him, make him happy. and so -- she wrote one letter saying it is my vocation to get john quincy adams elected president. >> yes. >> and -- you know, give a sense of how even at the beginning this was -- the politics was very much part of what the women were supposed to be doing yes. i have to also plug a book that's not mine. marjorie hefferon has done a beautiful piece of the first half of her life coming out soon. it is interest when we look at what the women are doing. it opens up a sense of what
political process, that's what i hear. both of you saying. that we understand this idea of process. and so with louisa catherine adams, it becomes very clear to us, for instance, john quincy adams begins running for president for the election of 1824 as early as 1818. >> if you think the last one -- or this one is bad, in 1818 james monroe was still there. >> yeah. but we -- he was going to have would terms. getting ready. there is a famous thing we will read about in the history books, corrupt bargain which, again, will be on the test after this. but it is this moment of right before the election of 1824 where apparently the very uptight and upright john quincy adams makes a deal with henry clay to give clay -- >> the election -- nobody has a majority. it goes to the house of representatives. jackson had won the majority of the popular vote.
so the assumption was that jackson would win. but it came jackson, ad amount, clay. and so clay being the third drops out and it comes down to between -- no. i'm sorry. clay was the fourth. it was jackson, adams, crawford, clay. and so clay being the bottom man is out of the running. and he is a very powerful member of congress. >> the question is who will get his votes. the historians have been very puzzled by what they thought was a corrupt bargain. somehow john quincy adams promised henry clay in exchange for his vote. and it puzzled historians, how could this john quincy adams who spends all of his life disavowing any ambition about politics, i will not go show myself to be president, how could he stoop to this kind of well-based politicking. and we don't know the answer to that until we look at what louisa catherine adams is doing. we understand that from 1818,
she institute as social program every -- tuesday night. bringing people in to washington because she figures as many do that this election is going to end up in the house. and she talks to -- she twroys john adams is and says mr. adams, john quincy adams, goes over my calling cards every day as though there was a battle plan. when we look at what she is doing, this historical mystery is solved because we understand in an era when men could not run for political office, they had to be called upon, it was their wives who acted as campaign managers. >> and -- so what happens is we get to the house of representatives and ad amounams on the first ballot and they assume it is this deal with clay. the truth is all of those men had been entertained by louisa catherine adams. in fact, one of them went back to his boarding house where he had promised his mess mates that
he would not vote for adams on the first ballot and they won't let him sit down to dinner because they are very mature and he -- and he -- they write one of them writes to his wife, everyone says his wife made him do it. his wife was a schuyltyl schuyl. >> she instituted something into the subscription system. this is where a town where allegiance and attendance are equal. she would hold these parties every tuesday might but you would be invited for the season. so you would accept for invitation for every single tuesday night. you didn't have to go every night but you better not show up anywhere else at anybody else's party and in that way she acted almost as a wit to get on -- yes. >> she had the big ball for jackson hoping that -- you know, send him back to tennessee. >> and it did. >> i want to get to in a minute -- we are right on this
moment. franklin roosevelt, of all people, didn't want to go to the convention in 1940 because he, too, wanted to be drafted and named by acclamation and of course this was breaking the precedent, the third term. he sent eleanor. >> what happens is -- that -- it is -- they are pretty confident, in fact, fdr is going to be drafted for the unprecedented third term. if i can say this on c-span, when all hell breaks loose is with the vice presidential coalition completely unravels. the field team of convention are frantically calling the president. and the president says well, if i can't have wallace i'm not going to run. and he -- he's already -- he's sitting there at a card table riding out what he will say when he's going to reject a
nomination. and so they call elmore who -- her -- eleanor, which is her small cottage on the roosevelt estate and she flies to the convention and with no prepared speech, no speechwriter, no nothing, walks into the convention. it is absolutely pandemonium. you know. it makes today's conventions just look like everybody's, you know, falling asleep on cough syrup. >> well, they are. >> they are. you know. i mean, you know, there are four, five -- you know, they are not choreographed for tv. you know. there are no huge aisles. unless you are running over singing a song and trying to run over the person in front of you with the banner. and so this -- it is such pandemonium that the people that are with her want to pull her back off of the podium and, you know, she says no. so she goes up and in the shortest speech in the history of either the democratic or
republican convention says this is no ordinary time. that really calms the convention down and it is -- it is out respect for the president. it is also out respect for her. because if i could just tweak one more thing and i will say it fast, i'm watching the clock. but in 1928, when al smith, the governor of new york, is the -- first catholic to seek the nomination, and the party bosses have come to -- come to fdr and leaned on him heavily, heavily, to run for governor, which -- she's not really expecting to do for another couple of years. remember that -- you know, the nation still very much knows that this man is not only battled polio but cannot stand unassisted and then, in fact, you know, he has these ten pounds of steel on his leg.
what eleanor roosevelt did -- if i may inject to say if you remember one thing, remember eleanor was political before lucy. >> lucy mercer. >> lucy mercer. what eleanor did was help work with the women of new york state to build a grassroots campaign system which totally restructured the politics of new york. if i knock on your door, mrs. bush, you say well, i have questions about farm parity, okay, i'm -- going to write down on my card if i can't answer it. then i'm going to come back with an answer and i'm going to knock on your door again. and if you give me another question that i can't answer, i'm going to write it down on the card. they had note card systems for voters in upstate new york that were visited five times. i'm not talking robo calls. i'm talking -- respectful
one-on-one, what do you care about? and that says to al smith to say to his key aide, we must have fdr on the ballot in '28 because his wife is more well-known among the party fateful and upstate voters than anybody in the history of the state. so that -- they understand, you know, what they have to do you about they understand why they want to do it and they understand why it is important in a way that advances their house ban's careers. >> this sense of the -- being in the public, the public person, you know, i -- i was struck in reading about grace coolidge will rogers loved her and which says a lot. and called her public woman number one. public female number one. talk about that a little bit. >> always about helping.
always about putting herself second at great cost. that's a little bit different. i'm thinking here about politics. mrs. adams, mrs. roosevelt, planning the next campaign, grace removed herself from that and calvin kept her removed to the extent that she -- absolutely wanted to make it clear she didn't know what he was planning ahead about running for that extra term in 1928. calvin come edge was enormously popular. so -- he could have run for another term in '28. we know that grace probably -- knew he wouldn't. she made -- she made a blanket in the white house that had a square for each month left. there weren't that many squares on it. that was on the lincoln bed. but she -- she was -- at pains not to show she was calling the shots or that she knew and when the president said i do not choose to run, a big surprise in the summer of 1927, a senator
was over for lunch and she said -- equivalent of knock me over with a feather. she really wanted to leave the executive to be free and that was a formal sort of -- a dance for her. if you look at her writings and she wrote a lot -- beautiful autobiograp autobiography, she said there was another mother she was thinking of. and that mother was the mother of charles lindbergh. someone's boy who was doing something truly dangerous. she never wanted to freak out her son. grace felt that way about calvin. she wanted to help but not get in the way. it is not a modern style. it is not what we would do but she did it well and for that we admire her and there are people that admire calvin coolidge very much for deciding likes -- washington that maybe it was -- helpful for the country to have a change in leadership after a
time. that this idea and we deal with it today, of going back and going back because we are important leader. coolidge didn't like that. he thought that rather let the country do without one and she supported him in that. a first lady supported another style of presidency. >> but she also, as i think every first lady has fell, this sense of tremendous duty and she said at one point this was i and yes not i. this was the wife of the president of the united states and she took precedence over me. >> in that she was similar to eleanor who said something like that and you go all the way back. you are playing a role. and it is hard and -- but it ises a value to the people, the presidency, first couple as symbol. and when -- when they were out of the white house, she wrote poetry about her son which was eventually published. she wrote a book and they were both very much happier they were
out of the prison at least to some extent. they were happier together. but during the period she -- they -- it is not -- i but not i. i am playing a role and it is incredible, wonderful work. >> this idea of the real woman and the charismatic figure. >> you know, but martha washington, even after george's out of the presidency and even after he dies, everybody still keeps coming to m vernon, right, and only has to entertain them all including thomas jefferson. she said terrible things about him in privilege at. and -- when one of the emissaries from adams comes to her and says we want to bury george washington at the capitol, she says i don't want to do that but i am so accustomed to putting my duty ahead of my personal desires that, of course, i will do it. it ended up she didn't have to do it. >> yes. >> i mean, do you think that's just -- that's -- that goes with the territory? >> yes.
i do. and -- we have a clock to watch. i wonder if you would let me say a little bit about why we study first lady. >> can i just say one thing really fast? >> i mean, eleanor carried a prayer in her wallet that i think really encapsulates this. and that is dear lord, les not continue in the complacent way, help me to remember that somewhere someone died for me today. and if there be war, help me to remember to ask and to answer am i worth dying for? that encapsulates. >> goosebumps. >> have you 40 seconds. >> here it goes. what have our first ladies given us? martha washington to laura bush, an alternative model for politics. one that centers on civility and that builds bridges instead of bunkers and we can draw on that.
just when we despair of the whole thing with the fighting and -- we can look to this model and be assured it was present right from the first. >> love our country enough to do it. >> you want to say a final word there, too? >> in different ways. >> okay. well, thank you all so very, very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. you are watching american history tv. where every week we feature the lives and legacies of the presidents and first ladies of the united states. sundays at 8:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. >> as the presidential campaign enters its final months and the political parties prepare for their conventions, american history tv will air c-span's
original series, contenders, featuring 14 key political figures who ran for president and lost but impacted american political history. we will air the series every weekend on sundays at 8:30 a.m., 7:p.m. and 10:30 p.m. eastern. all here on american history tv on c-span 3. join us as historians preview the series on saturday, june 2 at 10:00 a.m. eastern. >> in 1862 as the civil war was being fought, the 37th u.s. congress met under an unfinished capitol dome with confederate members absent. the lack of opposition proved productive as members passed the homestead act, the more am land grant colleges act and pacific railway act and revenue act. the 37th congress also created the department of agriculture and ended slavery in washington, d.c. coming up, "time" magazine editor-at-large talks ab