tv The Presidency CSPAN January 1, 2015 12:55pm-2:01pm EST
thank you. thanks. you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter. after the american revolution and before he was elected the first president of the united states, george washington retired from public life. up next washington's journey's to inspect his western virginia land holdings during his retirement and how it contributes to western expansion and propelled his over thes tolinking the east and west. >> thank you so much.
i wish my parents could have heard that. it would have made my father very proud and my mother actually would have believed you. so there you go. for me as you suggested, this lecture concludes an amazing year that began just a year ago when the library -- the fred w. smith library for the study of george washington opened and i was able to take a seat as one of the inaugural fellows. during that year, i learned what a treasure always of you have in mount vernon led by kurt brands and with library led by doug bradburn the staff here is simply extraordinary. they are extraordinaryily loyal. for 150 years, the mount vernon
lady's association has kept this place special. with the new library the orientation and education center, no crop of those women have done a better job than the current one, at least since martha did it alone. among those remarkable women, of course let me thank gay gains and ann petri. well let me begin tonight with a question. retirement. today we think of retirement as golf. let's see if i can get these things to move. there. we think of retirement as golf, bridge, a condo in florida with no grass to mow. but what would it mean to george washington? he used the world often in 1783
as the revolutionary war was winding down and he prepared to resign his commission as commander in chief of american forces in december. mount vernon would be -- i'm quoting here -- the seat of my retirement from the bustle of the busy world, washington wrote in one typical letter. yet what did he envision? what did he envision that retirement to be? he was only 51 years old. and the most celebrated man in america, if not the world. the master of one of virginia's largest plantations and both deeply committed to and profoundly concerned about the future of his newly independent country. if by to retire one means to rest, he knew that would not be the case. first he had plenty to do on plantation. "an almost entire suspension of everything which related to my own estate for near nine years
has accumulated an abundance of work for me," washington observed in 1784. he was a hands on manager by nature. but conditions at mount vernon accented this trait. "i made no money from my estate during the nine years away from it," washington explained and he needed to right this situation. he rode the circuit of his five farms, which i think we can see there. famous map of them. he rode those -- the circuit of those five farms that surround here and are all the subdivisions around here every morning, monday through saturday observing his 200 workers, most of them black slaves. afternoons were spent planning ways to improve his livestock and soil productivity through new methods of scientific
farming. and entertained a study stream of visitors who arrived often unannounced to greet the celebrated general and inevitably stay for dinner and the night. unless someone pops up unexpectedly, washington noted in 1798 mrs. washington and myself will do what i believe has not been done within the last 20 years by us that is to sit down to dinner by ourselves. this period of course, covered his years at mount vernon following his retirement in 1783. second, no matter how much he hoped to unload it, he still carried the weight of a country on his shoulders. washington knew from experience that the articles of confederation did not confer enough power on the central government to preserve the union and protect the people. in some of his last major acts
he sent a letter to the states urging them to revise the articles and he offered a plan for a peace-time army. he never stopped championing those themes in public and private. a strong central government was needed to promote prosperity at home, gain respect abroad and expand westward. ongoing developments under the confederation, as the states pulled apart at the economy deteriorated, reconfirmed his fears. as early as 1782, he was complaining about the deranged state of public affairs to one governor and writing to another about expanding national powers. have i no fears arriving from that source but i have many and powerful ones which predict the worse consequences from a half starved limping confederation. in such letters he showed little signs of settling into a quiet
retirement. washington's two retirement concerns establishing his own estate and the united states combined in his vision for the american west. intent on securing his fortune and land, prior to the war washington obtained large undeveloped tracts on the frontier in western pennsylvania and virginia. with peace he sought to capitalize on that investment. like so many other americans, he viewed the west as key to the country's future as being both an outlet for individual opportunity and a source for economic expansion. thus, after sending -- spending first nine months of his so-called retirement trying to restore order to his plantation washington headed west to inspect his frontier holdings. this trip, it turned out,
crystallized his hopes and his fears for the country and drew washington back into the public sphere. in a sense, his long journey back from retirement to the constitutional convention and the presidency began with his trip west in 18 -- in 1784. now, i will talk about washington's role at the constitution in the first federal election during my next two lectures. tonight, let me focus on his grand western adventure. the trip began well enough. washington set out by horse back. he followed -- this is a map from the period. you can see mount vernon and the chesapeake and potomac. he will cross here towards pittsburgh and the west. washington set out on horseback on september 1 with three slaves or servants and his friend and physician james craig for a
planned six-week over land trek. craig's son and washington's nephew joined them. washington knew roughly what to expect. he had crossed the territory several times as a young surveyor during the 1740s and as a militia officer fighting the french in the 1750s. on those trips, he sometimes traveled light and often slept under only a blanket. not this time. although the party planned to stay in public houses or private homes where possible, for nights without lodging, and there would be many, they carried an officer's marquis or grand tent for four gentlemen and a horseman's tent for the attendants. other baggage was bedding, sheets silver cups and spoon ss, port wine for the gentlemen, two kegs of rum for the frontier
folk, all manner of cooking equipment, assorted spices, extra horseshoes and washington's fishing gear. the party's route followed the pa potomac river in a westerly direction from mount vernon to cumberland maryland. and then leaving the river took a more northerly tack across the allegheny mountains towards pittsburgh. the potomac, which cuts through a parallel series of low ridges before turning south at cumberland, marks the upboundary between virginia and maryland. washington favored the virginia side where he owned tracts that he leased to farmers. trotting at his horse at five miles per day, he reached cumberland on the tenth day. open for settlement prior to the revolution, the potomac valley below cumberland had become a
part of the eastern states by 1784. many settlers had cast their lot with the patriot cause in 1776 and now gave washington a hero's welcome. his tenants, strained by a decade of war and recession, paid what they could toward their long past due rents and cheered him on his way. to this point, the trip went well. the troubles began after he left the settled lands east of the allegheny and began ascending into southwestern pennsylvania. as a colonial militia officer serving under edward braddock during the french and indian wars, washington had helped cut a pathway through the wilderness to supply and support a massive british assault on french positions in the ohio valley and had retreated in terror across it after braddock's crushing
defeat. 12 days after leaving mount vernon, the road took him past great meadows, which washington had surrendered to the french in 1754 and later privately acquired as investment property. the rains had begun by this time, turning the road into a muddy trough. his tenements here, washington noted was little improved though capable of being turned to great advantage. in reality it was as much aed soen then in 1784 as when he surrendered to the french 30 years earlier. washington had posted it for lease but so far no takers. with his baggage bogged down in the rain and mud, washington rushed ahead with a single intent to reach his larger tract at a place called washington's bottom.
in time for the scheduled auction of a grist mill we can see it there, old picture of it, that he owned with gilbert simpson. since 1772, simpson had been washington's agent in managing this 1,644 acre tract and his partner in developing a farm and mill, this mill on part of it. washington advanced the capital -- this will sound familiar to some of you investors. washington advanced the capital. simpson provided the labor. and they would share the profits. but there were no profits or none that simpson ever reported. rarely charitable when it came to business by 1775 washington dismissed simpson as "a man of extreme stupidity." but he was soon -- he was too preoccupied by war to wind down the partnership. by war's end, washington suspected simpson of something
much worse, fraud. more than anything resolving this long festering dispute with simpson prompted washington's trip west. in july washington advertised the farm for sale its stocks and slaves for -- his farm for lease, the stocks and slaves for sale and the mill, this mill, for auction. he went to see those matters through. accustomed to having his way washington's frustrations only mounted when he encountered his partner in simpson's home turf. on inspection the water mill built by simpson with washington's money, without washington ever seeing it or approving it lacked sufficient water power or head even to operate. the plots leased by simpson as washington's agent to individual settlers, while washington was at war, offered little promise. the tenants struck washington as
people of a lower order. he collected what he could in rent and arranged new leases. when he tried to auction the mill, there were no bidders. it was worthless. simpson tried to get him to invest more and make it better. washington said, i will not throw bad money after good. washington wanted to get out of this place as soon as possible after the auction. but a settled rain forced him to stay with simpson for three more nights. if this seemed like washington's perg tory, then hell awaited at the next stop. a foretaste of the coming torment arrived while he was with simpson. it came in the form of seeders -- they were seeders from washington's 2,813 acre tract at millers run. here is a picture of some of their descendents. the american frontier always attracted more than its share of
religious groups seeking their zion in the wilderness. members of one band, the seeders, a poor but ernest secretary of scotch irish, had had the misfortune of staking their claim to the frontier on land already claimed by the father of their country. having known for a decade that washington claimed the land where they squatted, upon learning that he was on his way to assert his rights, they sent a delegation to deter and dis dissuade him. the seeders came to set forth their pretensions -- he under lined that. he wrote in his diary about this meeting and to inquire about my rights. he saw through their pretext of reasonableness and would not concede anything without visiting the tract himself. when the two sides met at
millers run, both asserting their rights, the trouble ensued. such conflicts were common at the time. at the time, claimants to undeveloped land could base rights on a government grant, survey and some improvement or on occupancy, whichever happened first. washington, and most speculators used the former method. the seeders and many frontiersmen used the latter. for the millers run tract washington had purchased a warrant, then hired a local agent to survey the land in 1771 and build a small cabin, unoccupied cabin on it in 1772. the tract being otherwise empty the seeders moved in in 1773 and claimed the land by occupancy. one of the cabins they built was built to close to the previous cabin that you couldn't open its door. washington's cabin.
at their confrontation, washington insisted that the seeders lease the land from him. they refused but offered to pay a modest price to, as washington put it, to avoid contention. washington favored renting over selling of his frontier property because he wanted to oversee its development. as the seeders recounted their hardship in clearing the land and explained the religious convictions against leasing it, at least from anyone who wasn't of a similar religious view washington softened somewhat. he offered to sell but then they could not agree on a price. rather than pay much, the seeders would fight the validity of washington's claim in court. washington devoted considerable time over the next two years to assembling evidence to substantiate his warrant and survey. both were shaky. in the end though thanks to a good lawyer, washington won the case and the seeders moved on with the frontier. it did not hurt that the judge
hearing the case was a signer of the declaration of independence and an old friend of washington. a former governor of two states. delaware and pennsylvania. from millers run, washington planned to proceed southwest to his largest frontier holdings. nearly 30,000 acres near the confluence of the ohio and the konowa river in what is now west virginia. word had spread of danger ahead however. there you see where the tract is. word had spread of danger ahead, however. washington wrote in his diary, the indians, it is said were in two discontent a move for me to expose myself to their insults. they were provoked by incursions into their land northwest of the ohio river which they claim as their territory and failure of congress to negotiate a peace
treaty with them following the revolutionary war. two years earlier, while leading attack on a native village northwest of the ohio, washington washington's then local agent was captured beaten, scalped and slowly roosted to death. washington did not want to suffer a similar fate or risk a kidnapping for ransom. his new local agent later informed washington that some of the natives had actually heard about his intended visit and were waiting to trap and capture him. think of how that might have changed american history. well the trip as we have recounted it disoriented and disconcerted washington. it was as if the frontier and
its people were conspireing to frustrate his plans. even before turning back, the cascading setbacks forced him to confront issues on his -- in his personal finance and in the country's future that he might have put off had he stayed home. on a personal level his plans for a comfortable retirement relied on energy from his land holdings at washington's bottom, millers run. with americans at peace washington had gone west to make these three assets profitable in the post-war economy. he found though no present potential for revenue from the first, obstinant settlers occupying the second and hostile native tribes restricting access to the third. any investor seeking profits in frontier would face similar obstacles. removing them, washington decided, would require government action. a lack of national power and
resources lay at the heart of the matter. a year had passed since britain recognized sovereignty over the region. yet british trips continued to occupy northwest of the ohio river. set aside by britain for those tribes by the proclamation of 1763, which you can see the line there, this district later known as the northwest territory remained under the control of pro-british tribes with virtually no funds or forces the united states government was powerless to secure this frontier. more over, virginia had seeded its claim over the region in 1784 making its defense a national problem. if congress could open sell and settle those lands, it could gain authority and revenue. if not it risked losing them to a foreign power and with them
america's future. this became washington's fear. as he saw it it the danger was not limited to the territory northwest of the ohio river but encompassed the entire frontier. he wrote shortly after returning from this trip the western settlers, i speak for my own observation, the western settlers stand as it were on a pivot. the touch of a feather would turn them any way. spain controlled the mouth of the mississippi. and the trans-mississippi west he noted. and settlers couldn't turn to it for access to trade. britain controlled the saint lawrence river. native tribes occupied west of the appalachian mountains. he detected little loyalty to the united states in settlers that he encountered on frontier. he wrote, the ties which are
weakening every day will soon be no bond. if then the trade of that country should flow through the mississippi or the saint lawrence, if the inhabitants should form commercial connections which lead we know to intercourse of other kinds then in a few years be unconnected with us all together. for the good of the country and his own finances he concluded america should secure the frontier. he knew that the -- this would require both military presence and tran-appalachian commercial ties. washington had one such tie in mind potomac river navigation. washington had dreamed of a potomac river navigation long before independence made it a cause. there you see where the navigation would go. not only could such a waterway
improve access to his frontier holdings, it would channel western trade through the mouth of the potomac near here, near mount vernon. both would increase his wealth, following independence, he promoted it on public as well as private grounds. little had actually changed in washington's thinking about the project since 1754 when he first suggested using the potomac river to carry supplies for the assault on the french forces in the ohio valley. after braddock operated for land transport, a subscription drive was launched to raise funds for improving navigation on the river below cumberland. with washington serving as a trustee for the enterprise construction began on a bypass around little falls by 1775. but the revolutionary war intervened to put the entire project on hold. now he wanted to revive it and
expand it. at the time no one knew if navigation could be extended beyond cumberland along one of the potomac river's upland tributaries to a portage to reach a branch of the ohio river. accurate maps of the upper potomac and ohio river system did not exist. accordingly, on the outward bound leg of his western journey in september of 1784, washington asked people along the way about the head waters of the potomac and the ohio. and of where they came closest together. although their answers conflicted, he carefully recorded all of them in the hopes of later determining the best transit route. to reach his frontier holdings however washington's party as i have noted left the potomac at the cumberland to follow braddock's route to the ohio valley, the standard method. his travels cut short before reaching his property at the
great konowa. he decided to salvage what he could of the trip by working his way back through the unchartered wilderness in search of waterways. a gray haired retirements general, america's leading citizen, set off on september 22 from his land at washington's bottom for a ten-day cross-country trek across an unknown and unmarked route. he traveled light sending back most of his supplies and attendants with james craig. washington headed on horseback into the wild with his nephew, perhaps an attendant and at times a local guide. stands of white oak mainly covered the rocky hillsides washington noted in places there are walnut and crab tree bottoms which are very rich, he wrote. at some points the travellers followed broad trails cut by buffalo that still populated the
region. at others, they simply bushwhacked. the rain continued off and on throughout the trip. making the way miserable. over six feet tall broad in the hips and riding high on his horse, washington continually pushed through wet branched that soaked him to the bone. the route went over ridges, through glades and across rivers. roughly 35 miles per day in a southerly direction, traveling without a tent in a region labbing taverns, they ate and slept in private homes if possible, outside if not. imagine the surprise of an isolated local settler when the legendary general appeared unannounced at his door in the back woods. they could never have expected nor would they ever forget the encounter. at one remote cabin washington noted we could get nothing for
our horses and only boiled corn for ourselves. still, it was better than the previous night when he reported sleeping in a damp meadow "with no other shelter to cover than my cloak and was unlucky enough to have a heavy shower of rain." on september 29, having reached the south branch of the potomac, which he planned to follow north to rejoin the rest of the party on the main road washington again made a sudden decision to go his own way. sending his nephew north to tell the others, washington continued south over the next ridge to the shenandoah valley and turned east across the blue ridge to the piedmont and home. for much of the final portion of the trip washington traveled alone or perhaps with a single attendant. part of the route there were no settlers at all. the time alone gave him a chance
to reflect. "though i was disappointed in one of the objects which induced me to undertake this journey, to examine the situation, quality and advantage of the land which i own upon the ohio river," washington wrote in a long and complicated entry at the end of his diary, "i am well pleased with my journey as it has been the means of my obtaining a knowledge of the temper and disposition of the western inhabitants. despite their isolation these settlers could be brought into the sphere of american commerce and government by extending the navigation -- these are his words, as far as it can be done with convenience in their direction." his explorations proved it possible. washington assured himself and suggested a route up the potomac's north branch to the
head waters of the ohio. this became his cause. within a week of his return, washington sent letters to showers of letters about the potomac navigation to influential virginians and marylanders. the letters represented such a turning point in washington's activities that the modern editors of his papers introduced the first of them with a comment that "it marks his return to public life." in this set of letters, washington boasts of the profits that would flow from western navigation, warns of losing the west without it and reports of his finding of a feasible feasibility of using the potomac river route. appealing to the nationalistic concerns that motivated him, he hailed potomac river navigation as the cement of interest to bind all parts of the union
together by indissolvable bonds especially that part of it which lies immediately west of us. with a plan in mind, washington turned to getting approval from the virginia and maryland legislatures to charter a company to build and operate a private toll route on the potomac and secure investors for the project. if he had any doubts about his political clout, the next few weeks should have put them to rest. with both the virginia and maryland legislatures in session, washington shuttled between them. despite resistance from self-interested proponents of other routes he got his way. when it looked like the two states might pass different bills and not create a single company, washington urged that they appoint commissioners to agree on terms. no sooner asked than done. virginia tapped washington and two others, maryland named a delegation that included three
signers of the declaration of independence. washington chaired the meetings which quickly produced a bill granting everything he wanted. each state legislature then passed the bill within days of receiving it. doesn't sound like our congress. with washington drumming up interest private funds flowed into the new company. "men who can afford to lay a little while out of their money," he wrote to one potential investor "are laying the foundation for the greatest returns of any speculation i know of." within six months of the 5,000 pound sterling required for the potomac navigation, upwards of 40,000 have been subscribed and it is increasing fast. at the first meeting in that month, shareholders elected washington as the company's president. for washington, the presidency
of the potomac company became a consuming occupation though one he pursued while also managing his plantation and investment properties. he threw himself into deciding between cutting st. louiss or digging canals around them hiring supervisors and workers and even overseeing the means of operation. on field trips he frequently canoed down the river's wildest rapids in search of the best lace place for a channel or inspect work in progress. "retirement from the public walks of life has not been so productive as leisure and he's as might have been expected," washington remarked to benjamin franklin. by the fall of 1785, when washington sent there's remarks to franklin, the company had separate teams of about 50 workers each cutting channels through two of the potomac's major rapids.
progress was sluggish. too slow for washington. in a boat we pass down the rapids to a place where the workmen were blowing rocks he wrote. to me it seemed as if we had advanced but little owing to the fewness and sickliness of hands. still washington remained optimistic. in fact in his work on the navigation washington had more success moving human obstacles than physical ones. the project was far from finished in 1789 when he resigned as president to take the helm of the new american government and the completed waterway never fulfilled his hopes for it. no one made a fortune on potomac company stock. the erie canal became the main waterway. physical impediments, falls, shallow rapids, steep slopes doomed washington's grand vision
for potomac navigation. if he could not move mountains, the project proved he could move men. before he stepped down washington followed up on his success in getting company founded and funded with a singular triumphant clearing obstacles to the operation with the adoption of the -- in 1785 of the landmark potomac river compact. the prospect of commercial navigation of the potomac brought to the floor a simmering dispute between virginia and maryland. under the articles of confederation, each state was a republic unto itself. it could have its own rules and regulations, taxes and tariffs and even currency. some states levied posted on goods from other states. unless they cooperated traveling along an interstate boundary could impose insol ubl problems for people and products. late in 1785, virginia and maryland appointed commissioners
to address political barriers to potomac river commerce. they convened in alexandria in the midst of a snowstorm for meetings. watchful over matters impacting the potomac company washington invited them to continue their deliberations here in the warmth of mount vernon. a gracious and interested host who liberally lube indicated his guests with good wine, washington made sure that the commissioners reached agreement. they also agreed on shared contributions for navigational aides, common fishing rights and cooperation in protecting travelers. known as the mount vernon compact, the legislatures of both states ratified the 13 klauss with washington's trusted ally james madison serving as floor manager for the bill in virginia. inspired by washington's vision, the two states realized that both benefitted from interstate
cooperation. those benefits could multiply if more states participated. we are either a united people or we are not, washington wrote to madison at this time. and if the former let us in all matters of general concern act like a nation. emboldened by the success at washington's urging madison called for a second convention on interstate commerce. at the time, trade disputes like those dividing maryland and virginia afflicted many states. pennsylvania, delaware and new jersey battled over their respective rights to use the delaware river. for example, while new york new jersey and connecticut clashed over new york harbor. within days after virginia appointed the -- approved the come pact, madison proposed they call a general meeting on commercial regulation with delegates from all 13 states. in response 12 delegates from five states assembled on
september of 1789 including madison and from new york, washington's former aide, alexander hamilton. even before they met madison, hamilton and some other delegates, feared that any convention limited to commercial issues could not resolve the problems facing america. only a revision of the articles of confederation could achieve that. when the meeting failed to attract enough delegates and so could not achieve even its limited goals, hamilton proposed that those present call a second convention and go home. which is what they did. some already charged the meeting could have attracted more delegates and achieved more results if washington had participated, as he can for the mount vernon accords the challenge became getting him to the second meeting which was called for the following summer in philadelphia. that's a story for another lecture, however.
for now, it's another enough to say that washington's great western adventure and the potomac navigation issues that it spawned led toward a new federal conty stugs and a government with washington at its helm. by looking west he helped to chart the future for our nation a future that realized his dreams of western expansion. thank you. [ applause ] >> now, we have time for questions. there is a microphone somewhere that anybody who has a question is supposed to use. so i invite you to ask a question. the only thing to go to is the same sort of rain that washington faced. you have a car. he was going to sleep in the meadow. i suppose stephen might let you sleep in the meadow to get the full experience.
yes. here cops a scomes a microphone. >> if washington and jefferson -- did they discuss their mutual plans for expansion to the west? >> oh, yes very much so. even back then when washington got back from his journey, of course, they were known that he was interested in the canal from before. but one of the first people he wrote was thomas jefferson, who was in france. he wrote to jefferson saying we have to do this. and immediately, a core -- a rich correspondence went back and forth between washington and jefferson. of course, long distance correspondence. on the canal -- the potomac river navigation. it's not the canal at the time. it only has canal bypasses, but the navigation project went back and forth between washington and jefferson. if you read the back study, you
can see the letters between madison and jefferson egging jefferson on saying we have got washington hooked. we have to bring him back into public life. this canal can do it. be sure to encourage him. madison is writing separately to jefferson. jefferson -- washington didn't need much encouragement. there's a triangular conversation between the three people. building the canal -- building the navigation system. but it wasn't just then. of course, if you look at the -- if you look at their presidencies, the feature of both of their presidencies was expansion westward. washington focused during his years in building an army and sending it west. it didn't -- suffer aid few defeats before it won. but he was committed to this idea. he called it progressive settlement where he would open a chunk of the west going part way through ohio and then another
chunk and making the states moving westward. jefferson followed the same route. they had very much the same hope and dreams for western expansion. that's one thing they always shared. jefferson was an activist in western settlement. it was adams who tried to slow it up. when he was president. but washington and jefferson saw eye to eye on that issue. they had differences on other issues but not on that one. they were very close at this time. excellent question. thank you. here comes a microphone. >> how much of washington's personal wealth did he invest in the potomac river project? >> some of it. washington -- what do they say about farmers, they are land rich and cash poor? washington had vast holdings but he wasn't very liquid.
indeed, a few years later when he went -- when he had to leave virginia to become president he was so cash poor that for the only time in his life he had to borrow money at interest because he didn't want to leave debts behind. he didn't have all that much money. but he did invest money in it. not only did he invest money in it but both -- but virginia invested money into it. and gave some of the stock to washington. so washington ended up having a significant holding in the company. but he also wrote to others -- he wrote to everybody he knew. everybody he knew with money he wrote to. they are wonderful letters to read how he pitches the canal. he really believed it. that's the key to a successful salesman. but my favorite was when he would plead with robert morris the richest person he knew as he called him to invest. robert morris was trying to -- was interested in philadelphia. he was trying to build a canal west.
they knew that's where money lie. he wanted to go up the susquehanna and across pennsylvania. he was leading an effort to build a canal there. he wasn't about to invest in washington's. but he would plead with him, this is so much better. or sometimes he would suggest, sort of balance your -- put a little in ours and a little in yours. see which works out. he did put -- to the extent he had money, he put his money where his mouth was. he just had somewhat limited liquid funds. but he did invest in it, absolutely. if somebody is closer. those letters -- as you are getting the microphone, the letters from washington soliciting funds are amazing letters. they are. but they both -- they speak at two levels, of the great wealth you can get but they all speak of the nationalist cause. how much this is needed to unite the nation. this is our future. they are beautiful letters. they appeal to both.
>> in the end when there wasn't any real profit in it was there any attempt through the courts to call back the money that had been invested? were any of the investors unhappy? >> no. because it didn't lose money. it actually did -- they did get some returns. but it wasn't the fortune that he was hoping for. so, no. it actually did work. there was a canal. goods were carried. it turns a profit and somebody here can correct me -- for two or three years. washington was long dead by then. it took longer -- it was after he had passed away. he gave the stock to what was it? washington college? he gave his stock to washington and lee to a college. there was return. so there was nothing to claw back. there was return. it wasn't a failure. it just wasn't the success they hoped for. even though it's further -- he did measurements. he would argue how much closer
it is from detroit to the atlantic ocean by way of potomac than erie. you can see this -- or by the susquehanna or by different routes through the mississippi. not just detroit but lake erie and ohio and different places. the distance was closer it's just the erie canal turned out to be a better route and then trains came. yes, sir. there's a microphone. >> how successful was -- they had two very good -- spanish had two good governors in new orleans who made something out of the place. how good were they at -- >> they were trying. washington was out there. there were efforts at different times. one of the reasons why spain best we can tell, closed the mississippi to commerce in the
west was they were using that as leverage to hope to get it all. and washington -- that was in the treaty that jay tried to negotiate that never got approved. washington actually supported that treaty, because he was afraid that if the goods went down that way, even though most of the south and west didn't support it he supported it in letters because he was afraid that if goods went down that way, they would get connected with spain. if spain wants to close it, well, that's just going to -- they are cutting off their nose to spite their face is what he thought would happen. of course, they were gambling bigger, that they could pull the whole area off. there were serious efforts. there were efforts later as well that become famous with the story about aaron burr later. one of the problems we have with that is that spain closed its records -- its private archives
so tightly back then and a lot of it isn't available that we know. that's what -- there were certain efforts. washington was convinced and so were some of the later u.s. governors out there that the territory -- that washington -- that spain had a real chance of winning that part of the west. of course, at this time we're talking about, britain is making strong efforts to regain something as well. they were working with vermont and they were playing in the northwest territories in hope to get that chunk. i think washington was right when he said, these frontiersmen are on a pivot. that was a phrase. he believed it and that was a driving force -- driving argument for a stronger constitution. back there. >> i'm a little confused about the canals. i know that george washington had a lot to do with the canal
that starts at great falls, virginia. i know about the -- you are talking about the success of the canal. i don't think there was any success of the canal in virginia. >> he was trying -- he was working all the way up and down the potomac the canal project had several teams. it wasn't -- he never called it a canal project. it was a navigation project. in most places it was blasting. you had shallow rapids. he would have to choose. blasting away to make a deeper channel, a channel deep enough to carry the ships -- carry the small boats, the low boats over. his goal was to make a stream that you would haul the boats up on -- through the stream. there were only a couple places where he it to make bypass
canals. he studied very closely -- he brought over books. he had experts from england and france. this was a time of massive canal building. any of you have traveled -- some of you may have traveled on the canals in england and france. they were building canals and making cities like man chestchester through what they would call canal projects. here, this was a navigation project. it only involved a couple bypass canals, most was blasting. they had the river -- we're talking about -- they had the river river navicable. it didn't go around great falls. you could bring down to above great falls by boat through the sloous. they had locks and -- they would use locks and build up the water and they then they would wait until you were close and open it and you would rush down on it. those would be the locks.
or they would cut a deep area that was deep enough to carry the boat the canal boat and then they had just two or three places where they built bypass canals. so that went all the way up. yes, it finally worked all the way across. they were carrying goods across -- up the pennsylvania side, up the ohio and then crossing over and coming down. that was after washington died by the time it was all working. >> thank you. >> question over here. >> george washington wasn't the only speculator in the western land. his name, george mason and the ohio company were also trying to put money in there. >> yes. >> before george mason died he realized that the whole thing was collapsing. there was no way to police or oversee. i'm wondering if there was any
correspondence between george washington and george mason as he went through that same area and reported back to george mason that -- all the difficulties with tenancy and indians and getting settlers to have courage to go in there and try to establish farms. >> absolutely there was communication between washington and mason on those and with the other developers. mason, i believe -- my memory is that his lands were on the other side of the ohio. washington's were all on this side of the ohio river. i think mason was on the other side of the ohio. but it was directly across from washington's holdings in what's now west virginia. and so, yes, they talked often. they were very close friends at that stage. it was a shared concern to open this territory. it wasn't just mason. it was many virginians had
staked their future. these areas, including -- across the river was part of virginia until 1784. even after 1784, kentucky and west virginia remained part of virginia until 1792 before kentucky was split off. i think it was '92, '94. those territories mason was involved with. mason was serving as -- for part of the period, mason was a state legislator that represented washington from right here. he was in the state legislature. so they would talk about that. they would be involved. they realized that the future -- virginians felt the future was out on the frontier. but it wasn't just them. all americans even americans like ben franklin without investment, realized that the future of the country was in the frontier. that's where americans' future and greatness light. that was the outlet.
what made america work what made a person like franklin, a self-made man was that he was able to go to philadelphia. there would always need to be a pittsburgh or a cincinnati or somewhere working or cincinnati or somewhere working into the future. the very name cincinnati tells us how tied it was with washington because that obviously was named for washington. so they were closely connected and certainly george mason was as concerned as others and that was part of the inspiration that one of those things that built up toward realizing that we needed a stronger union if we were going to survive as a country, if we were going to have prosperity at home respect abroad and expansion westward, a future lie in a stronger union. washington used those three, those were the three he would say expansion west ward but you could say a future and they should -- and mason shared those concerns very much. any other questions? we've got what time? one more i'm told by the person who runs had whole place really
despite what other people think and he does an amazing job. >> what in the world was going on here? washington sounds incredibly busy up there on the map. what was he doing back at mt. vernon? >> he was restoring this place to profitability. what do they always say if you have something that needs to get done, give it to a busy person. that's certainly true with washington. i mean and think of the other founders like washington. madison, john adams, ben franklin all the things alexander hamilton i mean hamilton was keeping a whole law practice going while he was working on the constitution and going all over. well, washington was that way. i fear too many people, personally, maybe you don't here who know him so closely but i fear the general reputation of washington out there in the hinterlands is that he's like a wax figure. unlike a lincoln or unlike a franklin that people can feel they feel like he's this wax
figure up there that everybody idolizes and he doesn't do anything. it's very far from the truth. i mean, he's out there. i mean he's like a -- when he's coming back, i think the reason he left and went across to find rivers and ways back he wanted to go on this grand adventure into the wild. that's what he did as a kid when you think about what he did as an early surveyor, he chose to go out and go the woildest places and survey. i think he loved it just like our children love today to go in the wild. i think it was his one last chance to be a kid again going back across. he was a very able person. and able people can do a lot of things at the same time. and he was whipping this place back into productivity. you can read his accounts. he was getting the workers to work, which is people who ran the place when he wasn't here never got them to work very hard. he would later move in, of course, to bid the largest
whiskey distillery in america. he was having new ideas. he wasn't getting tired. he was willing to do new things. he would after this trip, he would go out you can follow his diary, he would go out and work on the canal and get them working and hire new people and pick where the route should go. i think we can use a sluice and lock and dam here. he could do all that still come back here and make the circuit of his plantations. he was a person and still write letter after letter after letter after letter calling for a stronger national union that led up to a constitutional convention. he could do all those things and he was not a waxman. he was very much a living, breathing able, vibrant human being with hopes and dreams and visions. and a vision for this country that he -- he was not a great speaker. but john adams said he was the greatest political actor he ever
saw. he could -- he conveyed an image and power with his resolution with his letters certainly. he was a good writer. but his dignity and his sense of purpose, he was a -- he was an amazing human being. at any party he would talk with all the men and dance with all the ladies. he knew, he was a human being. and he could balance all these things. so he was very active here. changing the crops that were grown, bringing in new livestock. he was very active here. and so he was -- these were exciting times. this i always regret that in the great biographies of washington including how a six, seven-volume one by free man and then the five-volume one by flex nor and then the wonderful one by ron chernow they leave this period and they talk about his farming. and this was such a rich and vibrant period. he came back at 51 years old the
most famous person in the world and used to be active all the time. i love a letter that he wrote i've got to stop now. i love i an letter he wrote about two months after he got back from resigned his commission, rode back here about two months after here i think it was lafayette, he says, no, it was to henry knox, he says i wake up in the morning with a whole list of things to do and i get up and then i realize, wait i'm retired. he -- so you know he had been oh active and he continued that way. so thank you all for coming. i hope to see some of you again for the rest of the story. [ applause ]
>> here are some of our featured programs you'll find this holiday weekend on the c-span networks. saturday night 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, from the explorers club apollo 16 astronaut charlie duke, the youngest man to walk on the moon. sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. janet margea, president of the la raza. on c-span2 saturday night at 10:00 on book tv's afterwards meet the press host chuck todd on president obama's performance in office. and sunday at noon eastern on in-depth, our three-hour conversation with talk show host tavis smiley with your calls, e-mails and tweets. on "american history tv" on c-span saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern opening day war, by former house speakers tip o'neill newt gingrich dennis hastert and nancy pelosi. sunday night at 8:00 we'll hear
everywhere robert byrd, be robert baker, bob dole and george mitchell. find our complete television schedule at c-span.org and let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400. e-mail us at comments comments @c-span.org. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook. follow us on twitter. the c-span cities tour takes book tv and "american history tv" on the road, traveling to u.s. cities to learn about their history and literary life. this weekend, we partnered with time warner cable for a visit to austin, texas. >> we are in the private suite of lyndon and lady bird johnson. this was a private quarters for the president and first lady. when i say private, i do mean that. this is not part of a tour that is offered to the public. this is -- this has never been
open to the public. and you're seeing it because of c-span's special access. vips come into this space just as they did in lyndon johnson's day, but it's not open to our visitors on a daily basis. and the remarkable thing about this space is it's really a living breathing artifact. it hasn't changed at all since president johnson died in january of 1973. and there's a document down in the corner of this room signed by, among others the then acchivist of the united states and lady bird johnson telling my predecessors myself, and my successors that nothing in this room can change. >> so we're here at the 100 block of congress avenue in austin. to my left just down the block is the river the colorado river. and this is an important historic site in the city's history because this is where waterloo austin's predecessor was. water consisted of a cluster of cabins occupied by four or five
families including the family of jay carroll. i'm standing at about the spot where the cab bib was. this is war lamar was staying when he and the rest of the men got wind of this big buffalo herd in the vicinity. so lamar and the other men jumped on their horses congress avenue or it wasn't really the avenue but in those days it was a muddy ravine that led north to the hill capitol now sits. they stuffed their belts full of pistols and rode into the midst of this herd of buffalo firing and shouting and lamar at 8th and congress shot this enormous buffalo. from there he went to the top of the hill where the capitol is. that's where he told everybody that this should be the seat of a future empire. >> watch all of our events from austin saturday at noon eastern on c-span2's book tv and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on "american history tv" on c-span3.
>> coming up next former white house press secretaries from the ford reagan george h.w. bush, clinton and obama administrations. they talk about how the position has changed overtime and some of the difficulties they faced while trying to work for the white housen an be the press. the panelists include ron nesn, marlin fitzwater mike mccurry and robert gibbs. it was hosted by the national archives. >> in the words of young jeezy, let's go to work. you know i thought we would start this the way we usually end these things. by saying thank you. this is the week when we recognize the service of people who have served our country in uniform. our country in uniform. and all of you served in public service so i'm going to start by saying thank you. is that okaying? >> yo