tv Book Discussion CSPAN January 10, 2015 3:40pm-4:41pm EST
constitution, collectively known as the bill of rights. author christa rose -- chris de rose explains why the bill of rights was a source of controversy between james madison and james monroe. it was a central campaign issue when the future presidents faced off in the race for a congressional seat in 1789. this event was recorded in 2011. it is about an hour. [applause] >> thank you for being here tonight. thank you to our gracious host. independent bookstores are a treasure and we should support them. that is why no one is getting out of here tonight until every copy over there is sold. [laughter] my book is "founding rivals." james madison versus james monroe. for those who showed up to see
the lead guitarist of kiss, that was last night. as important as this project has become to my life, i can scarcely remember the first time i learned about this historic congressional race between future presidents in 1789. i remember about reading about in a book. it was treated with the one or two sentences you would see about it. i thought come away to bury the lead. all of a sudden we are in this race between 2 future presidents. they are debating the most important issues with effort talked about. whether we should have a bill of rights, what union we should have. on the next page, they are in the first congress. way to bury the lead. i decided i would read everything i could. when no one had written anything about it, i decided i would tell the story. the book opens at the inauguration of george washington.
when he took the oath of office two of the 13 states are outside of the union. north carolina and rhode island did not ratify the constitution because of their concern it was missing a bill of rights. this was common for the antifederalists read the common denominator, they opposed the constitution. many came at it from different angles. some believe that you could not have the union that covered all these diverse states. they believed independence, but they didn't think that any government could ever be suitable to this entire continent. james monroe resident to the majority of anti-federalist opinion. while washington took the oath of office 2 states were agitating for a new constitutional convention. in the words of james madison and george washington they were
terrified of this prospect read the believed it would be in for traded by enemies and the -- prospect. they believed it would be infiltrated by enemies and the constitution would be scrapped and that are union would be fractured never come together again. the book goes into the french and indian war, a conflict fought between europe and the new world, between the french, english, and their allies. as a result english expel their opponents from the consonant. as a consequence what they did was remove a check that kept the colonists free from the threat of the french. they were not so reliant on great britain. great britain try to shoulder the enormous cost on the colonies. what followed was taxation resistance, followed by a passion, past the point of no return where we ended up in a
revolution against great britain. both madison and monroe played important roles. he wasn't excited by latin grammar. he was drilling with his compatriots. the governor of virginia, the royal appointee, seized the gunpowder of the militia but nobody bought his excuse, which was that he was fearing a slave revolt. when that ratcheted up hostility to the point where james monroe and his compatriots rated the governor's mansion. it is still there today if you have ever been to colonial williamsburg. monroe was sent north to new york to join with george washington's army. he would serve in many theaters of the war, like valley forge, germantown, the philadelphia campaign. most importantly, the battle of
trenton. we know this famous portrait of george washington crossing the delaware and going over to face the hessians. their job in the morning before the war to secure the town so that no one would be able to alert the british and the allies to what was about to happen. it was christmas. there had been some revelry and they thought fighting was done for the season. and the prospect james monroe and his men alerted a doctor by the name of riker. he thought they were british. when he realized the patriots you told them i am a patriot and if something is going to happen tomorrow, i'm going to go with you. i may be able to save some poor souls. that poor soul turned out to be james monroe, the future president of the united states.
during a credible moment, he charged the canon, was struck down by a bullet and would have bled out had it not been for dr. riker. us is one of two incidents in the book where james monroe narrowly escapes death. one of the things i focus on is how precarious everything that happened was and how small and minor and unrelated events inspired to make great events happen on the page of history. during the revolutionary war , james madison served in the u.s. congress. when he arrived in congress he found a ruinous state of affairs. nothing like you could imagine today. [laughter] the congress had taken an enormous crippling national debt when congress had exhausted revenue, and they started printing money and giving it out to people. [laughter] thank goodness our leaders today are too wise to do this. [laughter] i think it is telling that he serves on the board of admiralty.
this is a committee that ran the naval affairs during the war. one of the first things they do is to deny a three-month-old request for a sea captain for bread and flour. it was simply that they had no bread or flour or means to accurate. they sent him a note saying that he should keep up the good work. a gunboat was sitting in the dock instead of fighting the british. the trumbull was ready to go to sea. worst of all, the board of admiralty had to deal with the issue of several common criminals breaking into a warehouse and stealing all but a few bolts of the supply of canvas. one christmas night they broke in to most all the campus, congress had directed them to distribute this to the places where it was needed.
the orders were not heeded. the letter to the board of admiralty would have been humorous if it wasn't so serious. we have killed three of the men responsible. we think we know where to find the fourth. congress wrote back saying that's nice, but we just want our canvas back. madison and monroe fight each other in 1784 and they begin a lifelong correspondence that will stretch over five decades. by this point madison was back in the virginia legislature and monroe had gone to congress and dealt with many of the same frustrations that madison had. talking about the articles of confederation, 1777, the continental congress put together a plan to unify the states. before that the continental , congress existed to air grievances against great britain. now they had to conduct a war against the most powerful country in the world. in 1777, they sent the article
of the confederation to the states. the letter that accompanied it sounds with an apology. with good reason. it said this was the best that , can be adapted to the circumstances of all. not very promising. the hapless league of friendship was unable to raise revenue, unable to raise troops, unable to conduct any rational trade policy. even after the war the european powers would punish our merchants and producers, hit them with taxes and tariffs. because the national government had no capacity to create a revenue, a trade policy, they would play the states against each other. 12 states were rude -- 12if 12 states were to respond to great britain, one state would say we're going to lower our tariff and have them come to our state. it was impossible for them to do anything. the idea of some sort of north american union started in 1754
with the albany congress. that was benjamin franklin's idea. it was not created with the idea of independence in mind. it was created in response to the fears generated by the french and indian war. it was to be a body that could coordinate to the response of the pending war. this was attended by 17 delegates and one lobbyist. the meeting broke up inconclusively. that framework was later adopted into the articles of confederation. the national government was so we get one point it was laid low , by the sheriff of pennsylvania. to give you an idea of how weak this government was george , washington issued a passport to the british to bring in supplies to feed and clothe their prisoners of war. they are bringing the wagons in to go to the prisoner of war camp and the sheriff stops them.
under the pretense they they plan to sell it on the black market, he seizes their merchandise. congress was powerless to stand up to the greedy sheriff. one sheriff standing up to the national government of the united states. totally unequipped to govern a country like ours. at one point congress has to deal with a mutiny. with no revenue to pay soldiers the soldiers lose their , patience. as the war comes to a conclusion they are not feeling any better , about their chances of getting paid. once hostilities are done, they weren't optimistic about what might happen. they went to philadelphia, they are pointing guns in windows of congress, menacing members of congress. congress is inside trying to figure out what to do. [laughter] all they could do was to appeal to the governor of pennsylvania. he tells them it's not my , problem. it is one of the reasons philadelphia lost the capital and would only get it back for a temporary amount of time under
the new government. john dickinson, the governor wasn't willing to help the m out. but congress decided to do was they would fully like common debtors to new jersey in reconvened in james madison's old dorm at princeton. [laughter] one of the most important issues that madison and monroe had to deal with during that time had to do with the question of the mississippi. the spanish were of a belief that because they control the port of new orleans that they were entitled to the mississippi river. james madison pointed out under the international law that existed, free and peaceful people could move across international boundaries without impunity. why should american people who are not at war with spain be more restricted than any other place? imagine what losing the mississippi would have done to the united states. the westward expansion, the ports of entry create the growth of the american west. it is unimaginable.
had we given it to spain, we probably never would have gotten it back rate of there was a northern confederacy led by john jay, the minister to spain. at different times during this debate, the foreign affairs minister. john jay thought as follows. he thought he was a northerner this mississippi river was a far-off place. he uses it? who needs it? we are going to risk a war we can't win for a river we can't use? he was firmly of a mind that he was going to give this river away to the spanish. this gets at the heart of the problem. the continental congress and congress under the articles of confederation had no capacity to bring together the military might of the nation. if it had the spanish would have , never dared to provoke us into a war. but it is the quick thinking of madison and monroe that prevents the mississippi from being lost forever. we know about the problems of congress under the articles of confederation.
madison and monroe worked hard to alter them. number one, to pass and impose so that trade he comes into the united states could be taxed and the national government would have a source of revenue and stand on its feet and pay its debts, particularly its war debts for the brave soldiers who won the revolution. it never passed. it had to be unanimous. the second thing they wanted to do was to regulate trade policy. we have talked about that. the european powers were belligerent toward the united states merchants and producers. they wanted congress to respond in kind. another serious issue, there are 13 states, 13 forms of currency, at least 13 standards for weights and measures. currency was subject to dramatic fluctuation.
the courts, there was no national judiciary. if you were a new yorker trying to buy something in virginia you would be sure you were be hometowned. what they were trying to do was to unleash an economic engine. it could unleash the productivity of the american people that has allowed us to become the most prosperous country in the history of the world. the states wouldn't have it. what they tried to do is create a convention. is the virginia legislature that is the first to call for a national convention of the states to look at the articles of confederation. james madison gives the job to john tyler, the father of the future president to pass. james madison is a member of congress suspected of having gone federal. john tyler, who had never served in congress had more credibility , to call for this national convention. that is what happened. unfortunately when the delegates
met in annapolis maryland the , states didn't send the best people they had. some didn't send anybody. nobody sent their full delegation. they meet for a few days in a tavern and decide the best we can do is to write up a letter of the problems we see with the confederations, distributed to the states, and degree to meet in philadelphia next may. that is the constitutional convention. james madison goes as a delegate. james monroe does not. the father of the constitution. he uses someone else to introduce his policies. it is something he always did throughout his career if he thought it was more likely to succeed coming from someone else other than him. imagine having leaders like that today who don't care who gets the credit but they care about getting things done and getting results. that was james madison. he has edmund randolph introduce the virginia plan, the first
substantive debate of the constitutional convention. it is the basic framework for our government today. the executive and two branches of the legislature, and the judiciary. all the characteristics and powers we associate with the national government today. there are some serious fights in the constitutional convention in -- convention. both sides nearly walk at different points. the biggest issue is one of representation. in the congress of the confederation every state had , one vote. bigger states got to send a bigger delegation. all that delegation could do is cast one vote at the end of the day. virginia has 700,000 people. delaware has less than 50,000. the virginians, not surprisingly didn't understand why someone in , delaware had it right to so much more representation. this is the big problem. the smaller states will not yield on this point. it is a question of yielding to them and a spirit of commendation. -- in the spirit of
accommodation or scrapping the whole enterprise. they did agree the house of representatives will be based on population and the senate will be based on equal representation among the states. from philadelphia comes the constitution. history books tend to gloss over this and history. it goes straight from the constitutional convention in philadelphia to george washington taking the oath on the balcony of federal hall. what transpires is a knockdown fight across the continent over whether to ratify the constitution. each state elects a convention -- a constitutional convention to sit in judgment. i focused chapters on the two virginia ratification convention. the largest, most culturally important, commercially important state, it is important virginia ratifies the constitution. >> the anti-federalist to try to gambit.
that completely back fired on them. they decided they're going to hold the ratification debate in june. what they figured is some states would approve it, some states wouldn't. that was what they thought was going to happen. the problem was they created a third party in the virginia constitutional convention. not anti-federalist. not federalists. but people who were so concerned about preserving the union that they were able to overcome their objections to that document and vote for ratification. none was more important than edmond randall. he was one of only several delegates to refuse to sign the constitution. there's a lot of suspense around what he's going to say when he first stands up in richmond, in the virginia ratification convention. and what side he's going to come down on. he says, these objections to the constitution haven't changed. my principles, my positions on this haven't changed. i have my doubts. but at this point, seven states have ratified the constitution. eight states had ratified the
constitution. excuse me. and i'm not going to be the one to separate us from our sister states. so at the end of the day, there's a lot of debate. it's fascinating. some of thement the leading lights in american history. monroe decides despite his frutions with the current government, this constitution was too dangerous. it was missing the bill of rights. he couldn't get behind it. there had to be a bill of rights. so he reluctantly comes out, but comes out full force, against the constitution. george mason is also in the constitutional convention. richard henry lee, some of the most important people in american hiers history are all there. at the end of the day, the anti-federalist try a gambit. they say why don't we stop what we're doing here, recommend some amendments to the other states and pick it up later? this would have had the effect of completely ending the process. the momentum would have stopped there.
the vote in new york was going to be so close that alexander hamilton kept writing madison saying, all is lost if you don't pass this constitution in virginia. no pressure. but everything is lost. [laughter] and in fact, new york only ratifies the constitution after more than a month debate after virginia ratified and only then by three votes. and only then because the federalists agree to this unanimous declaration that they're going to call for a new constitution unless and until there's a bill of rights that comes out of the first congress. so what the anti-federalist do, they said let's set this aside. that measure fails by 88-80 votes. just eight votes. james madison didn't even know if he was going to participate in the virginia ratification convention. if the anti-federalists had simply scheduled it earlier madison probably wouldn't have been able to make it. he was up in new york. in fact, he gives his first speech, in a long career in public service gives his first
speech in support of his candidacy to be a part of this ratification convention. and aren't we glad because the constitutional gets out. following the virginia ratification convention is a legislative convention dominated by patrick henry and his anti-federalists allies. it's a chapter in my occupant -- in my book called "the terrible session." a number of things happened right off the bat. virginia called for a new constitutional convention. second, patrick henry, who could be very petty and personal in his politics, took a supporter of james madison's, came up with a pretense for him not to be eligible to be a legislature. then it was referred to the committee on privileges and elections. the committee said of course he's eligible to be a legislate tur. this doesn't make any sense. it was reported to the floor. it said he was eligible.
patrick henry said he was not eligible and envaid against the constitution. so he was expelled from the virginia legislature. kerrington wins a special election three days later. but this is what you were dealing with, if you were a federalist, in the virginia legislature. one of the problems, and the reason they were so outmatched is because the leading federalists of virginia people like john marshall and james madison, the people who had spoken out, weren't part of the legislature. but patrick henry, who stood astride this government of virginia like a closet and commanded the majority with absolutely obedience, was able to get these measures through the virginia legislature. at the end of the session, james gordon, who was james madison's seatmate -- went insane, from having to deal with the anti-federalist
backlash. enough to drive you crazy. two other very important things happened in this session. first of all, this is back when, under our original constitution, the state legislatures elected senators. james madison is offered up by the federalists as a senator. patrick henry talks about blood in the land. that there's going to be this great turmoil if we elect a federalist to congress and he'll never support your rights. and james madison loses the senate election to two anti-federalist by a majority. >> now, patrick henry didn't have the same fist sophisticated
voter data but what he did have were the results of the virginia ratification conventions. two delegates were selected from every county. because of the late date, delegates were more or less on the record with their positions on the constitution. so he created a district for madison that was probably 3-1 antifederalist to federalist. not a great start. a lot of supporters asked him if he would consider running in a different district. i think it's a testament to madison's high character that the only district he probably could have lost in in virginia was the one created by his enemies to defeat him. they even passed something called the residency law, which said oh, by the way, you have to live in your congressional district for a year before you can run. it targeted the federalists. they had a fight over whether to fight the residency law, and the federalists lost. so madison decides, you know, i don't want my election being
called into question. i don't want this to become an issue in a different district. the virginia legislature was one of the oldest institutions on the continent. it had a lot more credibility than this new kuption. constitution. there's a number of members in the house of representatives now who don't actually live in their districts. they live close enough that it's fine with their constituents. but madison decides, no, he's going to stand and fight for his corner and he's going to fight in the district that he lives in and the district he's always lived in. so the anti-federalists start shopping around for a candidate to take on james madison. they're able to convince his friend james monroe, to carry the anti-federalist banner. james monroe was a former member of congress, member of the virginia legislature extremely experienced and probably would have stood out head and shoulders above any opponent other than his friend madison, who also had a long tenure in
office. when monroe gets into the race however reluctantly, he gets into it full force. while monroe was in congress, he lost an election in virginia by a mere four votes, which his campaign manager kept writing him, telling him come back and campaign in person. he ends up losing by four votes. i this if you work with politicians long enough, you realize that they're losses are seeshedseared onto them like a hot iron. monroe remembered what it was like to lose that race, so he was busy writing letters to important people in the district. then is now. the candidates relied on local supporters in the various counties of the district to give them advice about the lay of the land, important people to reach out to, when to come to the court day and meet with them. and that's what they did. james monroe would write these letters. they would go to one of his supporters in the county and the supporters would go around and distribute them.
newspapers were a critical source of information at the time. some would call these essays. they were anonymous essays. they were written in the newspapers. one of the enduring myths, which i hope to dispel is that you hear at every election, this is the nastiest campaign ever. [laughter] well, i challenge you to read about the election of james madison and james monroe, which featured false and even negative communications. the anti-federalist -- and i should be very clear, james monroe had no part of this. but his supporters said james madison has said that not a word of the constitution should be spared. well james madison realized -- he represented the federalist opinion. he thought a bill of rights was dangerous. he said we have a government of enumerated powers. if we didn't give the government the right to regulate speech, why would we need a free speech amendment to prevent the government from doing that?
you might list some rights and forget others and thereby omit those rights to people. and it was premature. this is a vessel just launched. let's take it for a test drive see what happens and see whether or not we really need these amendments. james madison realized, and in the election of 1789, that there was a significant sentiment in the country, and these people would never, ever be satisfied until a bill of rights was passed and adopted. so in order to gape gain the confidence of his countrymen in this new constitutional government, which he saw as the last best chance for creating some sort of union that could work for the states, he acquiesced. he first announced his support for a bill of right as part of a campaign promise to george eve the most prominent baptist minister in the fifth
congressional district. the baptists were a very important political group. they were created like many political groups, because the government persecuted them. baptists were arrested in private residences for prayer, as we were declaring all men are created equal. people were being arrested in church. people were being arrested for preaching the gospel. and these folks were extremely concerned about this new national government. there was a unanimous resolution among the baptists in the fifth congressional district, the resolution that said that the constitution does not sufficiently protect our religious liberty. they actually deadlocked on a resolution as to whether the yoke of slavery should be made lighter. there's one baptist minister that goes to many different
churches. eve had quite a few comes he spoke to on a -- congregations he spoke to on a regular basis. it was madison to passed thomas jefferson's virginia statute of religious freedom. madison wrote this letter and said, if i am elected, i will support a bill of rights and among that bill of rights will be the freedom of religion. and during a really intense meeting, one of eve's congregations gathered to decide who to endorse in the fifth congressional district, eve was able to rebut the anti-federalist liars who were distorting his opinion, and eve did great damage to their cause in the words of one observer. so james madison and james monroe -- i've talked about some of the things that were similar in this election to elections today. one of the things we don't see enough of is that james madison and james monroe maintained an extremely high level of civility toward one another in the course of the campaign.
in fact, they traveled together stayed in the same hotel room, engaged in long, very heated debates, one of those debates at a church that's still there, the lutheran church in culpeper, virginia, which is the oldest one in the united states. they stood out there for hours in the freezing cold. in fact, madison got frostbite on his way back. >> so both madison and monroe would both report that their friendship never abated. even while they disagreed passionately even while they fell out over very important issues, they were civil to one another, even if sometimes some of their most zealous supporters weren't civil, they were always civil to one another. that's reflected in their numerous public appearances they had. sopso madison by co-oping the most powerful issues that monroe has
is able to take the wind out of his sails. one of madison's biggest supporters wrote him and told him if this had happened a fortnight sooner i think you would have lost. so what are the consequences of this election? besides being interesting for featuring two future presidents for the first and last time in american history, what is important? we've already talked about the federalist opposition to the bill of rights. in the first congress, the federalists win lopsided majorities. virginia and new york are agitating to for a new convention. only james madison seemed to appreciate the threat that was posed by the anti-federalist movement. he announced, there are going to be a bill of rights considered
and i plan to introduce them and we are going to consider them. in a nixon goes to china moment where only that strong anti-communist could have gone to that country and opened it up to the west, james madison is able to bring the federalist majority over to his side and pass the bill of rights. it was remarked among madison's many supporters that they have a new hero and it was an unlikely hero, james madison. it was because of the election of 1789 that the bill of rights passed, that the union was cemented and that we are all here today in the freest, most prosperous greatest country in the history of the world and this is set against a very unpromising contest. try to imagine, if you will, a crippling national debt, a government intensely paralyzed by partisanship, leaders that seemed inadequate. i know, you can't imagine it, right? impossible to think about. [laughter] and one of my favorite quotes, mark twain says history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes.
[laughter] madison and monroe found themselves trying to make this work against the most unfavorable contest that i think maybe any body of decision makers has ever faced. but they rose to the occasion. every generation in american history has faced challenges. the first generation did and every subsequent generation did whether that be pestilence or war or economic calamity or all three, the trifecta. but each generation rose to the occasion and passed on to the next generation in our great american tradition a country that was better, stronger, freer and more prosperous than the one before. we're in trouble right now as a country. but the founding rivals is an optimistic note from history how a previous generation rose to many of the same challenges we face today and how we as a nation can go forward. and we have to get out of this mess. we have to work together to do it. the final line of the book which i know is not something you hear very often at these
readings, is remember. what i want everyone to do is remember how in the past america has always risen to the occasion. i hope when you read "founding rivals," you'll have optimism about the way we're going as well. i'd be happy to take questions. [applause] any questions from anybody? danny? >> besides the creation of the bill of rights, what is another consequence of the 178 #89 election? >> there are two. as if the bill bill bill of rights wasn't enough, there are two other significant events happened only because madison is there instead of monroe, both of which i'm convinced, if madison had not been there, the country still may have faltered on the tarmac. the first of these is the question of -- it's called the
decision of 1789, when they introduced cabinet legislation to create the president's cabinet positions, there's a phrase in there that says there will be a secretary to be removable by the president. what madison had done is he had touched off the greatest constitutional debate of the first congress. some people said, well, the constitution is silent on this, so congress could grant this removal power, but they don't have to. others thought well, i think you need to use the impeachment method to get rid of a subordinate. some thought you could only use impeachment. others believed that you would remove these people the same way you appointed them with the advice and concurrence of the senate. well, any one of these scenarios would have been a dramatic blow to the separation of powers that we've created. and these are so critical to our government. madison called the constitution a sublime commentary on human
nature. he knew that the tendency of people in power was to coalesce and get more power. so we created three branches of government executive legislative and judiciary. the gratest of these, the legislative, is broken up into two houses. and they're all pitted against each other with checks and balances. it's important to maintain that system to avoid tyranny. and so madison engages in a long debate on the floor of the house. it's very uncertain as to what's going to happen. the first fire by the other side was an amendment to strike the language, saying to be removable by the president. later on madison will win this debate by getting behind that very same amendment, but not for the same reason that it's offered and put forward. what he did was, he struck that language from the bill, to be removable by the president, and then he added language that said there shall be a clerk of the department which shall serve as secretary in the event that the secretary is removed by the president or for any other reason. [laughter] so it's such an offhand
reference to that no one would ever mistake it for a grant of power from congress. but is the sense of the congress is that the president can remove his subordinates at will. it would be unimaginable today to think of a president who couldn't remove of a lesser official who wasn't implementing the agenda they were elected to work on. the second important consequence is the location -- the debate over the nation's capitol in washington, d.c. and the assumption of the national debt. those of you watching in washington d.c., you are there because of this debate and because james madison won this election over james monroe. madison emerged as the focal point of the opposition in the first congress. for the states, for the federal government to assume the debts of the states. hamilton realized that this would get every state off to a good footing. it would restore the public credit of the states.
it would cement the union and tie the union together. well, the southern states had more or less paid off their bills. the northern states more or less had not. the southern states wanted to know why they should pay twice for their war debts, when they, in their opinion had worked hard to pay down their debt. the northern states said, if you won't come to our aid, what's the point of being in the union with you at all? people were talking about -- a bout of influenza hit washington, nearly killed george washington. it's a very precarious time for the country. thomas jefferson runs into alexander alexander, hamilton, who is usually very well-dressed, clean shaven looking none of those things. jefferson says, what is wrong? what thomas jefferson is he brokered a deal over wine and food at his house, between james madison, the leader of the opposition to this plan, and alexander hamilton.
madison wasn't going to vote for the plan but he will not be too strenuous in his opposition. there's speculation that he and jefferson found the additional votes that hamilton needed to put him over the top. hamilton would then turn around and use his leverage with the northern states who badly needed this bill to select 2 the fight for the nation's capital, the first great compromise. and this kept the peace and this kept the country together. what would have different if monroe had been there instead of madison? number one aside from the bill of rights, monroe's biggest objection to the constitution was the power of the executive. he had gone to war and risked his life to destroy a tyrant. he wasn't about to elect a new won. he would not have carried the banner the way madison had. my belief, the people who believed that the president didn't have the power to remove the subordinates i think they would have carried the day. i think they would have upset that delicate balance of power
ows. and i think the country would have crashed on the tarmac. monroe also was opposed to the assumption of state debts, like everyone from the south. but he couldn't have emerged as the focal point of opposition the way madison did. madison was the leader of the federalist party in congress. it's important to note the difference between then and now. now the speaker of the house is the leader of his party, but in the first congress, the speaker of the house was largely confined to a ceremonial role. they didn't have a lot of authority. they weren't the leader of their party. james madison is the leader of the federalist party in the first congress. so with the leader of the federal party opposing the plan of hamilton, he was able to block this legislation in a way monroe would not have been able to. so i think these three critical things the bill of rights, the first great compromise and the executive question were all decided differently.
>> where did you do your research, with libraries museums? give some examples. >> i spent a lot of time in what was called the madison reading room, the room in the library of congress. it was fun to be able to research james madison in a room named after him. the library has fantastic resources. unlike the library of congress, they let me take home books that i had absolutely no business being able to check out and take home. [laughter] my primary source for "founding rivals" is the letters of the founding fathers themselves. i tried to let them speak for themselves whenever possible. madison cataloged every letter he ever wrote or received. monroe, not as much. but also, there was a lot there that i could use to get a sense of who james monroe was. so arizona state university was an excellent resource. the library of congress was a great resource. i tried to go to places like the
lutheran church, just to see what it would have been like when madison and monroe sat out there after a church service and debated the constitution. i got to spend a lot of time in virginia when i was writing this book. and it was wonderful to be able to retrace the same steps and even work an election in what used to be the fifth congressional district in virginia, work to support candidates there in the foot steps of madison and monroe. those are the two principal places. any other questions? >> why do you think this race was so overlooked by other historians? >> that's such a great question. the problem is it immediately jumped out to me as being historically significant. so if i have to make excuses for everyone who ignored it and allowed me to write this book, first of all thank you for not appreciating the significance of this race. i think, if anything, it's because this book ended by such consequential events on either
side of it. we go from the constitutional convention in philadelphia. next thing you know, the oath of office and all is well. one of the things i try to point out in this book is nothing is inevitable. the things you do have consequences. the thing that is definitely within your power is to never give up. madison and monroe despaired. they despaired of ever getting a government that was equal to these union states. in philadelphia, where it looks like both sides are going to walk out, when it looks like the ratification convention might not approve the constitution, it was desperate and it was close. but they didn't give up. and so that is such an important thing that we don't consider. it looks so inevitable the steady march of history. we established unlike other revolutions drk -- we established an orderly government, not a monarchy, but an orderly free,
republican government. that is without precedent in all of the human activity. this is important. this is badly-of-looked by history. when i first started just to read about this and not write about it, i went to the comprehensive three-volume life of madison written by reeves, who was a contemporary of madison, a little younger than him. i thought surely this will be a great firsthand account of the election of 1789. you know, we think of congressional elections as part of trends, reactions to financial panics, reactions to wars rebukes to unpopular presidents. so we think of them as trends, with the exception of the race between abraham lincoln and steven douglas. that is one race for congress that we do talk about. so places where they debated are well marked, popular tourist attractions. but if you go -- anyone here been to virginia? you can't go anywhere without seeing one of those gray and
black signs to denote someone famous who lived there. my favorite is the church of the blind preacher in albemarle county. i think it's great they take their history so seriously. but you will never find anything to note one of the spots where madison and monroe debated one another. hopefully some day we can change that. >> two questions. are we able to tease out any -- what parts of the district of the fifth congressional district of virginia were supported one or the other candidate? were there certain segments of society where one was more or less popular with? and what was any role at all of thomas jefferson and george washington, two big virginians of the age? >> great questions. to the first, that's a great question. why did some people fall on the federalist side of things, why some on the anti-federalist side of things. federalist were people who were engaged in the trades, people
who said hey, i can really see the benefit of having the same currency, when i go two miles north into maryland. i can see the benefit of having a fair judicial system when a deal goes sour in delaware. i can see the benefit of a national trade policy, so i can open up a worldwide market to my products. people who were not engaged in interstate trade, some of those folks said i don't know about this new government. i think it's going to invade my liberties. i don't see any consequence to the confederacy staying the way it is. and sometimes it isn't that neat. it's just the conclusions that people drew. they were in totally uncharted territory. it was a government unlike the world had ever seen and they came to different conclusions about it. madison and monroe, early inhabitats of the virginia colony, who had similar upbringings, both very well edge
indicated. monroe at william and mary. madison at princeton. and they came to different conclusions. they served on something called the council of states, which was a plural executive. the colonists once they became free americans, were terrified of the executives. they didn't want to have just one governor. they put him with a council of state. madison and monroe both served on the council of state with the governors of virginia. they both served in the continental congress and in the congress of the confederation. they had almost will exactly the same resume, but they came to two totally different conclusions about this. and then the second question, thomas jefferson is in paris as a minister to france during this time. he does receive the most complete post-election analysis from both madison and monroe. thomas jefferson was they're dear mutual friend. thomas jefferson once referred to madison and monroe as the twin pillars of my happiness. in fact, thomas jefferson
invests some time in "founding rivals" in trying to convince madison to move next to him in albemarle county. he says, if the three of us could live together, we could just hang out and retire to private life and we'd be really happy, talking about the big ideas of the day. and so he was pleased to get messages from both of them, saying our friendship was never set aside, no matter how passionate the debate went. i felt bad about having to run against my friend. this is what happened, but we're still friends. so jefferson is over in france. but george washington very much wanted madison to win this race. one of the first letters of congratulations that madison receives is from george washington. it was nothing that washington had against monroe. washington was responsible for promoting monroe through the ranks of the continental army. and who would ever help but see that person as a dear friend and a kinsman? i think i quote a different book in "founding rivals" where it
talks about valley forge. a name associated with misery since the 18th century. and indeed it was. they lived through some of the worst fighting in the war together. but it was because washington relied on madison, his advice his council. madison is really the principal advisor to washington. i think to some degree that role shifted to alexander hamilton. but in the beginning, it's james madison. one of the first congratulations he gets is congratulations on the majority, a respectable number of your peers. now, help me write my inaugural address. and that's what he does. james madison is the principal author of washington's first inaugural address. congress asks madison to draft the response to washington. and madison writes this response and he was like, wow, that was such a good speech, i don't even know how to respond! [laughter]
and then washington says, well, i have to send a reply to congress. will you help me write it? of course, madison was happy to oblige him. i offer that in "founding rivals" not just because it's humorous, because it's a test of the high standing that madison had among his colleagues in congress and the president of the united states. everyone wanted to be a part of george washington's inner circle, but only madison had the caliber, the trustworthiness in washington's estimate, to be his principal advisor during those critical early days, when washington is trying to figure out, what does a president do? >> was there a great detail of debate about what would exactly be in the bill of rights, or was it sort of generally understood that it would be religion, speech et cetera? >> there was an enormous amount of debate over what a bill of rights would look like. many of the state ratifications virginia included, sent
recommendations to congress, long lists, we think you should pass these amendments, in the first session. there were literally hundreds of different ideas. but madison focused on a few things. number one, he wasn't going to do anything structural. some of the amendments focused on weakening the executive stripping away important powers from congress like the power to regulate trade, we weren't going to go to anything structural. we were going to focus on fundamental liberties. madison here is trying to take the wind out of the sails of the anti-federalist movement. first you can look to the rights of free englishmen, the freedoms that people had as englishmen. one of the great things about living under a tyrant -- they had all been subject to king george iii. if you had a mad tyrant governing over you, what are all the things they would try to do if they could get away with it? when they were trying to tax the colonists in the aftermath of
the french revolution, smuggling went through the roof. to catch these smugglers, they decided we're going to be able to send soldiers into your house, without warning, without any sort of sanction from the judiciary, they're going to be able to go into your house and search to their hearts' content. so people knew what they needed to protect against in the event there was ever a mad tyrant again. so madison selects from these fundamental liberties that had a long tradition in the united states and some of the most grievous offenses that great britain had inflicted on its colonists. that's how he gets that list. the list more or less passes exactly how he introduces this. the bill of rights was originally 12 amendments. 11 of them had passed. one of them passed in the 19 1990's. in the 1990's, finally enough states ratified the amendment that says the following. if congress wants to increase its pay, that's fine, but the pay increase won't go into effect until there's been an
election for the house of representatives in between, so people couldn't just vote themselves a lavish salary and then retire. you're not going to touch a nickel until the voters have had their say. well, what happened was, it was a student, i believe, in the 1970's, at the university of texas, who wrote a paper about this. he said, this is still out there. states could pass this. and his teacher gave him a failing grade. he said this is the worst idea ever. [laughter] never underestimate the power of spite. he wrote a legislate to every legislature in america and said, in case you want to, you can still do this. and why wouldn't you? it's always a winning issue to go after congress. in the 1990's, finally enough states go ahead and ratify this. the 12th amendment would have guaranteed one representative, one member of the house, for every 10,000 citizens. you think congress can't get
anything done now? wait until there's 10,000 members of the house of representatives. >> what did monroe go on to do after losing the election? >> great question. well, it's a happy ending for monroe, not at first. you may be able to sense some familiar sentiments. monroe was a very frustrated attorney. he didn't necessarily enjoy the practice of law. at one point, you know, early on he says, i'm getting a law degree so i can run from office. it's going to be helpful in my political career. i'm never going to practice. as madison is championing the bill of rights, monroe is willing an indict for a man for stealing from his neighbor. hezhe's writing letters to irritate clients about the pace of litigation. some things never change. but what happens is there is a death in the -- one of the two senators from virginia dies and monroe is chosen to fill the vacancy.
so monroe gets to serve in the first congress after all. and monroe goes on to a fantastic career. he is ambassador to france. he helps negotiate the louisiana purchase, along with james madison, who was the secretary of state for thomas jefferson. the two of them will have a little bit of a falling out over who should succeed jefferson as president. some of the opponents of jefferson coalesced behind monroe as a possible candidate to go up against jefferson's chosen successor, who was madison. madison eventually brings monroe despite this, into his cabinet. and they will go on to be the best of friends in retirement when their public careers are over. they will serve at the end of their lives in a state constitutional convention in virginia. those two and john marshall. and all these young hot heads. and what they're fighting over is representation in virginia. there were very few slaves west of a certain line in virginia. so western virginia didn't have the representation that eastern
virginia did. similar to a debate we had at the constitutional convention. madison and monroe tried everything. they said, how about one branch, maybe the senate, could be based on -- it could be equal. and maybe the house, it could be -- you know, we're not going to take slaves into account. they said, you guys don't know what you're talking about. this is the danger of bringing old men into public life. these people they had grown up lionizing, at first they're so excited to have them there. then you're all wet old men. you guys have no idea what you're talking about. and, of course they didn't appreciate the fact that the union had once been so perilous. and madison and monroe knew what it was like to live in a time when it was a question as to whether or not america could live as one country. >> did madison remain in the federalist camp or did his time with jefferson and monroe switch
him over to the democratic republicans? >> i think it's clear that madison movedst moves out what -- moves out of what had been traditionally the federalist orbit. once madison passes the bill of rights you've really removed the source that divided the anti-federalist and the federalists. so now the question of whether to keep the constitution -- now that that question is out of the way, they found new issues to fight about. so the new parties sort of fall along different lines. i think you can see a split in washington's cabinet, between thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton. i think you'll find that madison was firmly on jefferson's side of that split. all right. looks like no more questions. thank you, everybody. [applause] >> on history bookshelf, hear
from the country's best-known american history writers of the past decade. to watch these programs anytime visit c-span.org/history. you're watching american history t.v. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. next on american history t.v., historian and author jeffrey pasley talks about the creation of american political parties the issues they disagreed on, and the media wars they waged in 18th severally newspapers. the election of 1796 was the first time american voters had to chose between candidates from competing political parties. mr. pasley discusses the tactics used by the federalist party and the democratic republican party to sully the reputations of candidates john adams and thomas jefferson. his talk is about an hour and 20 minutes.