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tv   The Presidency  CSPAN  January 11, 2015 8:45pm-9:55pm EST

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you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. >> up next on "american history tv," the correspondence between john and abigail adams and the correspondence between john quincy adams and his wife louisa adams. john adams and his son were some of the first to serve as terms of presidencies of the united states. the 45 minute program was cohosted by the massachusetts historical society and the abigail adams historical society . >> i will start by inter-and -- by introducing our first speaker, if in bullock is the author of "revolutionary brotherhood: freemasonry," and
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also the author of "american revolution." in addition to being a fulbright scholar in japan, he has also served at many venues, including on "good morning america" and "all things considered." our other speaker is a doctorate at the university of melbourne and has specialized training in editing from arizona state university, and neil was up until recently a editor at the adams papers and worked at the university of south carolina and earned a masters degree in public history from north carolina state. so i want to welcome steve, our first speaker. [applause]
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>> thank you. on the last day of march, 17 76 3 months before america broke free from britain, epic -- 1776, three month before america broke free from britain, abigail adams declared that john should have broken free. let me find my slides. let me try to get this going. here we are. john adams was then serving on the second continental congress in philadelphia, urging congress to do just that. abigail, at the family's house in braintree massachusetts fully concurred. her letter went on to denounce unlimited power and legislation without representation.
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, and to predict a rebellion. the latter -- representation, and to predict a rebellion. the new nation's law code abigail advise, ought to remember the ladies. john reminded her later that women already had power in practice. abigail completed the topic of discussion three weeks later. although john was not being very generous, she concluded, they could still not compete with men's absolute power. between abigail and john, it has long attracted attention. they discussed women's writes in the revolutionary. . remember the ladies -- revolutionary period. from ever the ladies remains carved on a stone statue. abigail's pitifully crafted statements continue to be
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problematic today. -- beautifully crafted statements continue to echo through today. the discussion itself is a relatively brief. the statement includes only 560 words. that is less than one and a half pages in printed work. furthermore, it was only a part of the letters that they sent each other. here is the first letter, with it marked at the bottom marked at the top, and there is the entire letter showing the relative portions of their. in all, the remember the ladies exchange totaled 80 less than 10% of the 8000 words that they exchanged. justin that five weeks. -- just in that five weeks.
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john rejected the proposal, and although abigail opens boldly, she concludes by praising female submission. yet abigail and john's discussions still prepay for the studies, and the 18th century discussion gives depth and dimension to the exchange. politeness as it used here does not mean simply good manners or following accepted rules and conventions, instead it is a specific set of attitudes ideas, and practices that first came together within the upper levels of society in the 18th century, and that spread across the atlantic in which has been called the refinement of america. the term polite had previously meant smooth or polished, a meaning that persisted into the
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early part of the 18th century. in his groundbreaking 1704 optics -- "optics," isaac newton observed that a service could be rubbed to make it more polite. but now it reflects humans and their behavior. a book published in 1702 reflects that honesty curiosity, and went were merely rough diamonds until they were polished by good company and conversation. politeness applied to leadership as well. it's not to discourage anger, cruelty, and lack of concern for other people, not just in gatherings, in governing. these ideals of politeness shaped the exchanges he between abigail and john in three significant ways.
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they exemplified polite performance, and finally, the discussion itself was about politeness phrasing directly the issue of how much the ideals of generous interaction affected social relationships. abigail's code mentioned "the new code of law which i suppose it will be necessary for you to make" where the husband is the sole representative, leading wives unable to vote, unable to hold property, or to protect themselves from their husband's decision, and this is rangers
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abigail reflected, since men were inclined to become tyrants. if power was not restrained, abigail threatened that women will revolt to read they had no voice in creating. having protested arbitrary power abigail celebrates published interactions, men wish to be happy, she notes and give up the harsh title of a master, for the more tender and in during one of friend, that women still needed to be guarded from the vicious and the lawless, just as god protected humanity, she argues, men should create the laws to ensure women's happiness. abigail's two paragraphs neatly divide her discretion, while they both advocate greater freedoms for women each paragraph uses different sets of
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categories. she first speaks of legality and rebellion against tyrants and representation without -- and having forced rebellion, what is called hard power, abigail turned to tenderness and happiness. this language of soft power was particularly congenial to abigail, who famously referred to john s her friend even my dearest friend. -- john as her friend, even my dearest friend. john would reciprocate. abigail's concerns here were not personal, her contrast between the harsh master and the tender friend taken from a british novel parallels lord chesterfield dissent into
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fatherhood. he stopped writing to his son as dear boy and began to write dear friend. his son, he declared, had become his own master. restrained use of power lay at the heart of the ideals. this was the desire to please people as the essence of politeness. thomas jefferson similarly advised his grandson in 1808 that people one could well i sacrificing their own convenience ease -- by sacrificing their own conveniences. jefferson noted that those who did not contradict themselves made them the most amiable of men in society.
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a sermon at the 1760 coronation of george iii called on god to unite king and people in the strictest band of affection. in his 1776 common sense -- "common sense," a work that deeply affected abigail, thomas paine wrote that a king was a sullen man lacking the affection of the people. the king heard of their death and feelingly. john's response, two weeks later, dismissed abigail's proposal. "as to your extraordinary court of laws, i. can do nothing but
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laugh." what would happen with indians and slaves discontented with authority? women were similarly uneasy. despite rejecting abigail's suggestions, john responded enthusiastically to her subject at her style. he filled his good-humored letter with long lists of specifics, including a dozen opponents of the american cause and a half-dozen forms of government, going from mob rule to more. john alternated between formal political science and response of interaction. he shifts to a different group of relationships. he called males little more than
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fury, and men knew that they needed to take women's opinions into account. in practice, you know that we are the subjects, having praised the ethics of restraint and leadership, he concludes mentioning equal rights and leadership. he says that he hopes general washington would fight for women 's effort to control men. john's failure to engage in a full argument regarding women's writes -- rights was mentioned again three weeks later. john conceded that the consent of the people was the only moral foundation of the government but he argued the precise
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application of that principle is unclear. no one, he suggested contends that everyone should be able to vote, yet some women and some children have as much ability as men. but raising the issue of qualifications at this point john warned, would create unneeded discussions and many troublesome new claims. abigail, however, was not seeking an extended debate. she clearly found john's response invigorating. despite expressing disappointment in his response, she excitedly describes the conversation -- discussion quoting or paraphrasing long passages of both letters. john's response had called abigail saucy. the term disobedient children was dangerous, even in jest, but abigail explains that john had
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also been saucy in her list of female grievances. again, mixing the language of personal relationships saucy with a list of formal policies, and making sure that john had not missed read his wife's tone. the british had just left nearby boston in march and had been a source of continuing concern for the safety of the family and property. abigail begins her march 31 letter -- i wish you would ever write me a letter half as long as i write you suggesting her message sought to have john remember not just the ladies but herself. responding to her call for further involvement, john offered a substantial character sketch of his barber in a mid april letter, calling the
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description a trifling subject intended for your amusement. abigail explained in early may that she delayed writing because dismissed the lethargy of massachusetts patriots, she had not felt enough humor to entertain you, and feared using unbecoming invectives. such attentiveness to the concerns of their partners was a cornerstone of john and abigail's relationship. they had began writing virtually from the start of the courtship, as we will hear next. john told abigail a few months before their wedding that he had thought of sending her a nest of letters, like a nest of baskets even though he knew the baskets themselves might be a more genteel and acceptable president. -- present. john may have realized he had found a friend who would
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appreciate letters even more. john asked her, is there no way for two friendly souls to converse together, although their bodies are 400 miles off? he answered his own question, yes. by letter. abigail's call for women's writes seems easy today to see as a policy prescription for a lawyer's brief. she was serious about her concerns. she was also taking a turn, offering polished remarks that would have been welcome in his sophisticated salon. john and abigail showed off, entertaining and impressing each other. each offered a polite, literally polished contribution for broader conversation they knew was essential to their relationship. before one of his trips to europe during the revolutionary war, john gave abigail a locket
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for training a woman sitting on the shore as the ship sailed away. at her feet lies and anchor, a symbol of hope that the long not to the ship, but the friend aborad it -- aboard, a connection she might've said held fast by their correspondence. you bid me burn your letters john had responded to abigail's request, but i must forget you first. abigail's final statement on women's rights in early may 1776 concludes by emphasizing that women themselves did not want for power. she first chides john for not recognizing that is you of liberty should extend to women -- his views of liberty should extend to women. although men's power was no absolute, there are butchery
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authority could be defeated by women's power to free themselves and subdued their masters. restraint and respectful authority would allow women some ability to sway decisions. abigail's letter follows the rhetorical pattern they had a devilish earlier. she first calls male rule absolute and arbitrary terms that had been long used to critique irresponsible power and call for responsive as well as responsible leadership. women had the power to destroy this mail control without violence taking men's natural legal authority and throwing it at our feet. abigail quotes alexander pope in shifting the discussion from legal and constitutional terms. women would gain power, she suggests, by accepting male authority, or excepting proper male authority. with abigail's concluding reference to women obeying.
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the exchange seems rather disappointing at the end. her point makes more sense within the culture of politeness. pope's poem does not demand female servility. it instead celebrates its subject. in the couplet before, the one abigail quotes, the ideal woman is celebrated for acting with moderation. she near answers -- ne'er answers till a husband cools or if she rules him, never shows she rules. abigail's uncertainty about the rightful power of women makes her final sentence problematic. in an odd phrase, one that i misread for years she writes that once women had subdued their masters, they would flow through natural and illegal -- flow through natural and legal
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authority at our feet. the biblical vision tidbit -- depicted in william bake -- blake's watercolor depicted heavenly elders as in the revelation casting their crowns before jesus' throne. but these images suggest humbled men laying down their authority not women casting it at their own feet. abigail furthermore offers no transition into the pope quotation. the accepting and submitting in the first line had just been in abigail's protection the strengths of -- prediction the strengths of men. what is going on here is that this reveals abigail's uneasiness with the stock alternatives.
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although men had demanded too much authority, the picture of women triumphing was not fully satisfying either. women should not hold such power themselves. politeness had sought to create a world where such harshness was unnecessary. abigail's favorite novel was samuel richardson's, a book about seduction of a young woman driven away from home by parents trying to control to tightly their child's marital plans. abigail and john's eldest daughter decided she had experienced a very different sort of parenting in 1785. only 11 in 1786, she had spent little time with her father during the war and afterwards. when she finally visited him in england for an extended period nine years later, she found he was not the severe man she had expected.
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having feared he would demand her obedience she notes surprised in her diary that he left me to follow my own wishes in the most important concerns of life. since her father did not, like many other parents usurp the power nature had given them by acting as tyrants over their families he was worthy of every token of my attention. in their parenting, their correspondence, and even john's governing, the adams sought to balance the hard power of laws with the soft power of concern. sentimental 19th century americans would develop an almost mystical confidence in the power of [indiscernible] not coincidentally, the name of the first novel written in america. for all her faith and friendship, abigail had known better. her opening statement noted the
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need for laws to restrain vicious men deaf to the demands of tenderness. although john did not note it, abigail had used the principle that had inspired his own call for a republic. in the phrase that would become most closely associated with john abigail would call for a government of laws and not of men. over the next generations, americans often came to see power and politeness less as parts of a whole and -- than as differing categories. the french social theorist use this terminology of separate spheres extensively in his great study of american democracy in the 1830's. he also recognized the significance of the connections envisioned earlier in the ideals of politeness. his final work on the french
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revolution suggested the french aristocracy had become so dominant that it did not need to show concern for common people. the more constrained english nobility had been forced to treat common people generously, even to treat them as equals. while abigail and john could not have accepted the description of the english aristocrats, they surely would have approved of his lesson of building authority through polite exchange. stating that the french nobility had clung to its prerogatives, and failed. the english counterpart, who had treated people more generously had submitted that it might command. [applause]
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thank you. >> thank you. good morning. neil and i have been comparing the courtship correspondence of john and abigail and john quincy , and louisa catherine explored the idea of proximity and how the physical proximity of each
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couple really influenced the development of their relationship. i'm going to take that as my starting point today, and then i'm going to turn it on its head a little bit and expand beyond the courtship years. to that idea of physical proximity i also want to add the idea of a cultural proximity. certainly john and abigail had a certain degree of sameness. geographically they both came from coastal farming communities , and they also shared a new england congregationalist background. those are the views they instill in their eldest son. those are the values that john quincy tased to london in 1795 where he meets louisa catherine who definitely comes from a different cultural background.
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she has more cosmopolitan european upbringing rooted in the anglican church. that idea of cultural proximity and physical proximity really underscores how we can understand the development of these two couples' relationships. if we take john and a big ales -- john and abigail's first letter we can look at that twin idea of proximity in this letter. it is rooted in a culture of familiar letters. it reads like a conversation. it is light and loving, teasing fun, and the affection and devotion is evident in it and is
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certainly characteristic of the corpus of john and abigail's correspondence. if we take the final letter nearly 40 years later -- abigail gets the last word -- this letter is very typical of abigail adams. it is reading february 1801 from philadelphia as abigail is making her way from washington dc back to quincy. john has lost his bid for reelection to thomas jefferson and the couple's public life is coming to a close. in typical abigail fashion she writes of the political scene when she arrives in philadelphia. she reports the response to the election to john, and also comments on the honors being shown her as she passes through the town.
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throngs of people are lining up in the rain to pay their respects to the president's lady. it is the last paragraph that encapsulates abigail. she writes adieu my friend. i wish you well through the remainder of your political journey. i want to see the list of judges. i think in that you have abigail's affection and devotion to john. you have her consignor -- concern for jon husband, and john the public service. and then you have this deep intellectual engagement that she has with political life during that list of judges is the so-called midnight appointees of john. it is this wonderful, rich encapsulation of abigail's correspondence.
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the reason i showed the first and the last is that nearly 1200 letter span over the course of 40 years is available to us because that proximity change for the couple. going from the courtship period, where they are largely together and able to negotiate the bounds of the relationship through conversation, they enter 30 years where they spend more time apart than together. this is why we have a wonderful and rich historic record from which to draw. it is something historians dip into in particular ways to tell particular stories. you want to look at the revolution there's a certain span of course bonnets. you want to tell the evolution of john and/or abigail's political ideology, then you run
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the span of the correspondence or you can tell the story of abigail. as historical editors, but we bring to the conversation is a slightly different perspective. we work through the correspondence systematically and methodically. we engage with the correspondence and characters in a very intimate way to some extent. when you look at it at that microlevel, what really emerges is this idea that they were sharing these experiences over time, but their lived experience and their experience as couples is shared only through their letters. they have to write about those experiences in a way that brings them to their partner.
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there is one stunning example of this. i have a couple, if we have time. the one i really want to focus on takes place in 7077 -- 1777 and john is in philadelphia, attending the continental congress. he has been there since january. when he left quincy, he left abigail pregnant with her sixth child. the span of course bonnets picks up on 9 july, -- correspondence picks up on 9 july, ending on the 28th of july, when john receives this first letter. the first letter is abigail voicing some concerns that things are different with this pregnancy and she's worried that something has happened. people are telling her that perhaps that is unfounded, but she's a little concerned. in a series of four letters, she
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goes from a few concerns to describing a very difficult physical labor, and i have one quote from that. she has been in labor for 48 hours, and she writes, i must lay my pen down this moment to bear what i cannot fly from. now i have endured it. i reassume my pen. it is rather remarkable, just from a logistics perspective. more than that the only way she can share this really painful experience with her partner is by writing about it. this is an incredibly intimate detail especially for this time period and it is that kind of detail that really just grabs you and brings this experience home.
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for those of you who know the story, she gives birth to a stillborn daughter. she writes a letter on july 16th to say that the dear infant is numbered with its ancestors. in the meantime, john, who knows she is close to her time and is writing of his concerns for her well-being and his hopes that she's going to give birth to a daughter especially one that had abigail's -- who was good, fair wise, and virtuous as the mother, or if perhaps it was a son, had the mother's mind and heart. but other than an awareness that this is about the time, his letters are run-of-the-mill reports on congressional activities, reports on the progress of the war and when
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you read them in a series there is a jarring juxtaposition of the two sides of the correspondence. on the 26th, he starts to have an idea and he writes, i am anxious to hear. the more so because i had no letter from you, nor concerning you by the last post. that's really important. he knows that if anything is wrong, someone else would have written him. but they haven't, because it's not just there is the stillborn child, but abigail's health is in the balance and they can't write until she is safe or not. it is this void of information and all he can say is i wait with impatience for monday morning when the post is to arrive. it is just kind of incredible from this perspective.
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two days later the monday post has arrived and he receives the four letters. within the span of rating four letters -- reading four letters, he is moved from concerns, perhaps unfounded, to this very difficult physical journey, to the death of his child and the anguish of his partner which he is not there to assuage. it is one of those really stark moments that as an editor you get drawn in with the correspondence. i had a second example, and i'm going to keep it very brief. as editors we sometimes get caught up in the details. it is from our current volume, which is the first presidential volume. these portraits date to the beginning as the autumn's
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presidency. abigail, similarly, is in quincy when john assumes the white house. she again is dealing with death and reporting death and this time it is his mother's death she has to report, and also the death of her 21-year-old niece from tuberculosis. one is expected, and one is not. she writes these heart wrenching letters, oh, it is too much to bear. my heart is too big for my bosom. it rends my frame. she writes about paul -- hwo all -- how all these trials and jubilations, she has been -- tribulations, she has been without the comfort of her partner. john is writing these teasing letters about how his wife and mother are ganging up on him and that is in between abigail's
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letter about the death and john's response to learning the news. it is this glaring detail that -- it is one of the really remarkable and interesting ways that as editors we engage with the correspondents. i will turn it over to neil. thank you. [applause] >> good morning. john quincy adams and louisa catherine johnson's courtship correspondence was much more tumultuous than john and abigail's. john quincy and louisa exchanged twice as many letters than john
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and abigail, and throughout the correspondence, you see the issues that are going to arise later in their marriage starting to show up, their differences in temperaments and opinions and how these are going to play out later in their married life. i wanted to start a giving you guys a pretty good representation of what they look like when they were courting. as i mentioned, the actual miniatures they exchanged with each other and they have a delightful banter about, those were sadly lost. these are pretty close to the same time period. john quincy's was done in 1975 -- 1795. that is when he shows up at the johnson household in london. louisa's miniature was done in 1797, the year she was married. in the paper i gave you some examples of the types of
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arguments that arose during their correspondence, but another issue that came up that i particularly like is john quincy is writing to louisa catherine in the summer of 1796, asking her how she is spending her time, if she is spending her time wisely, what she is doing to better herself. he particularly asks her about her performance with the harp and he says, your progress on the harp, i am persuaded, is great. however, louisa writes him back and says i shall never make any proficiency in this charming accomplishment right --a combo schmidt. she has been saying i have been thinking a lot about you and it is hard to concentrate on the harp. john quincy writes back and says , that is fine. playing the harp is charming him up but it is also it should be accomplishment. he says, i hope your hours are
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employed in the acquisition of more valuable qualities. you can imagine that is probably not the response the louisa was looking for from her future husband. i love this letter that louisa writes to john quincy in march of 1797. this really gives you a good idea about where louisa is coming from with their relationship. the first quote that i drew out, she's talking about the separation, how her family is probably going to have to go to the united states pretty soon that is going to lengthen the amount of time they are apart from each other. she uses the word forced philosophy, and this is something i have to be contended with. that was a very particular word. john quincy is constantly writing about his philosophy that he has taken about the fact they are apart from each other and they are going to have to endure it and accept it until a time when he can come to london for them to marry.
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he actually says about his philosophy, there is something pleasing and grateful in remembrance of a distant friend. that is how he is doing their courtship. louisa is not seeing it as being pleasing. she would much rather they were together than being separated. in the next part of the letter louisa gets gossipy. she's talking about david humphreys, who was the u.s. minister to portugal but is now going to be the u.s. minister to spain. she writes that he just got married to a british lady, and isn't it great they are spending a little bit of time with her family before they go off to the diplomatic post? this is something that louisa would like to happen. she hopes when they do marry she will still be able to spend a little bit of time with her family before they go back to the united states. this is an issue that comes up in their marriage. both of them were very close to their families. in 1801, when john finishes up being a minister to prussia and
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comes back to the united states they arrive in philadelphia. john wants to see his parents in massachusetts. louisa has got her little baby george washington adams, and she wants to go see her parents. they cannot agree, so they go their separate ways. john goes to massachusetts louisa goes to washington, d.c. later on louisa travels with john quincy to massachusetts. both of them when they were very committed to a point of view, neither one of them wanted to back down. in the bottom of this letter is where we start the correspondence talking about chesterfield's letters, and the whole debate on what is louisa rating, what should louisa be rating, is john quincy adams reading too much -- be reading is john quincy adams reading too much. louisa is talking about the time when finally he will be done
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with diplomatic service and they will be able to get married and spent time together. she says i shall see you divested of rank and shall prove the sincerity of my attachment by convincing you it was not your situation but yourself that i loved. that is really important. when john quincy adams louisa get engaged, the idea is she will bring a dowry. when they actually get married her father's finances have collapsed, so she does not bring any money to the marriage. this is an issue that comes up again and again in their relationship and in their married life. louisa feels like she can never complain or argue about financial issues because she did not bring any money to the marriage, so she doesn't have a foot to stand on. it doesn't stop her from lamenting the decisions john makes financially, like in 1803 when he decides to sell their
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house in boston and they are going to be living in quincy when they are in town. she much prefers to live in boston. she is lamenting to herself and lamenting and letters the fact that they have lost their boston home but she feels like i really can't say anything because it is his money and he is going to be making the decisions. i wanted to show you some larger portraits. this is john quincy adams in 1796. around the time when he is in london, courting louisa at the johnson family household. abigail really liked this image. she said that john quincy [indiscernible] louisa thought it was too flattering. here is louisa catherine painted in 1824 with her harp.
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john quincy like to go to the johnson household when he was in london and here the girls sing and play musical instruments. louisa was very happy with the fact that by the 1820's, the harp had come back into vogue. she was an accomplished musician. she decided to be painted with the popular instrument at the time. proximity did play a major role in the courtship letters, and the difference in background between the two individuals was also important. john and abigail spent a lot of their married life apart abigail's with the children, john was away. it gives you great exchanges between this couple. the difference with john quincy adams louisa is once they get married, they are spending most of their time together. when john quincy has different diplomatic roles louisa is following him.
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the difference is that their children are often being left in massachusetts to be educated and reared by family members. this is particularly hard on louisa. this is a constant argument between them. john quincy wanted the boys to have a really good education but louisa, especially when the boys got older, as she felt very responsible and wondered if i spend more time with them, with their lives have been different. particularly when john quincy becomes minister to st. petersburg, there are six years that she does not see her sons. she leaves those little boys and when she sees him again and london, they are 12 and 14 years old. they are almost strangers to their parents. that must've been particularly difficult to deal with in their marriage. i don't want to leave you thinking all is gloom and doom. i want to end with john quincy
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adams' diary. historians have said if you just look at john quincy adams' diary, you don't get a good idea about louisa because he doesn't mention her a lot and usually it's in passing. this particular entry, 26 july 1811, their wedding anniversary he is writing in his diary for himself and he's reflecting back on their marriage thus far. i want to read you part of it. he says, "our union has not been without its trials nor invariably without [indiscernible] between us. there are many differences of sentiment, taste, and opinions in regard to domestic economy and to the education of children between us. there are natural frailties of temper in both of us, both being quick and irascible and mind sometimes being harsh, but she has always been a faithful and affectionate wife and a careful tender, and indulgent, watchful mother.
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i have found in this connection a full conviction that my lot in marriage has been highly favored. -- favored." i think that is why they didn't stay married for 50 years. -- did stay married for 50 years. they both realized they had made the right decision in choosing their life partner. thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much. do you want to join us on the podium here? if anyone has any questions for any of the speakers, we have a couple of microphones that can be brought around to the audience. >> i have a question for sarah
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martin. >> yes sir. >> can you hear me now? >> i can. >> are there any surviving letters of abigail's before she married john, such as you can say how her writing style developed and what the influences were? >> yes, there are. she had several female and male writing correspondence, and it fits within the culture of familiar letters in that especially with the women, the letters were being used as a means of educating themselves, so they are discussing the books they are reading, they are exploring political ideas, and they're doing it very consciously in a way to educate themselves. and so one of the letters i can think of is to her cousin, isaac smith and she saying that
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proudly she is reporting that she has some familiarity with the french language. and she does so by -- she demonstrates her newfound prowess by translating a sample of french and including it with a letter. it is not a large number, and i can't give you a number of the top of my head, but there is multiple correspondence, male and female, and it is the same ideas that are reflected in her early correspondence with john. she is very much intellectually tentative. she had definite ideas, which is characteristic throughout her correspondence, but she's kind of finding her footing. certainly it is not the confident, intellectual abigail we would see in her later correspondence. >> i was so impressed by a
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letter that i did not realize until i read the paper that the first letter she writes to john is so extraordinary, coming from somebody like me who has a background in 18th century intellectual history it is the most unlikely place you would find it, isn't this the one she is writing where she says why didn't you come visit me last time, where were you, you said you would come, said you would only miss me if you were sick, which is the kind of u would hate to receive, even e-mails and texts. she does it so charmingly. that is sort of going backwards
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from a classic work of social theory at this time, which is thinking about the ways in which the netherlands and people's concern for each other extends outwards and eventually encompasses the whole world and universe. even from the very beginning she is the one bringing in the depths of using this deep intellectual history in ways that are not immediately obvious. >> i had a question maybe to all three of you, having to do with the change in attitudes or maybe evolution of john adams and john quincy adams, both married to strong and intelligent women. as you review the correspondence and diary entries, did you notice any change in tone or
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change in understanding that might suggest the john adams' view towards women in general, and the same with respect to john quincy adams, did you sense a change in tone, having lived with an experienced a long marriage with these two women? >> i will speak on john quincy. i think for him one big change was he had a 14-month engagement. as a young man he spent a lot of time with his father traveling around europe, being a diplomat, surrounded by older men spending a lot of time in a very male environment. when he marries louisa and they get to prussia -- they are in a country where neither one of them has the upper hand and they are on neutral ground, and then louisa starts to have a series of miscarriages.
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john is taking care of her. she did have a doctor. john quincy adams spending a lot of time taking care of her. that changes his views radically because he is spending time for the first time as a married man he and louisa are constantly with each other. seeing what she's going through and the hardships she's dealing with, that does a lot to influence his outlook. >> with john and abigail i don't know it is an evolution necessarily in how he thinks about women, i think you could discuss how he thinks about abigail. certainly there is a shift in the correspondence in happy intellectually engages her. -- how he intellectually engages her. in the earlier letters there is an instructional tone. in the later letters it is engagement with equals. both john and abigail are great advocates of public education.
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their advocates of both female and male public education. i think in a humorous exchange, i don't remember the exact -- i think it is late 1770's, he writes, oh woman i am writing politics to a woman yes. it is humorous. it is one of those things where he is commenting, the jocular aspect. there is very much of a teasing tone. the fact of the matter is part of abigail's attraction to john was that intellectual engagement she demonstrated, and certainly he fostered it and facilitated is growth in the beginning, but it was the respect and a mutual love for them. they are both in their later correspondence saying oh, have you read this?
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she is responding with ok but, but what about this person? well perhaps not intellectual equals, they were intellectual conversationalists. i think you do see that kind of shift in the quality of the exchange over the course of correspondence. >> i was just going to say, what i'm struck by is how well john and abigail get along with each other and the troubles that john has getting along with reasonably everyone else. -- presumably everyone else. he is so polite and sharing and fun, and you don't get that sense from other people viewing him in the 1790's particularly.
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i have a similar sense about abigail too. the younger abigail comes to visit john. the reason she thinks he's going to be this harsh kind of guy presumably, is because she has grown up with abigail making her think that john was a tough guy. it is sort of comforting to me one of the reasons i included it there, it is one of those speeds you don't think john adams had the very polite, very genteel, knowing how to treat somebody so beautifully. they write in their diary that night how extraordinary he was. >> do you recall any of the letters from any of the four celebrities, either describing their towns, their communities
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such as braintree, weymouth, quincy, or even boston? >> there are many is a very short answer. they are spending time in all those communities, certainly abigail and john are. frequently -- if you're talking about descriptions with the physical landscape, you get that through john's letter. he was always this hobby farmer. while he's engaged in very important political life that he experiences his longing for that rural field, and there are these descriptions. both abigail is providing them when she's in quincy because she knows they provide him a certain amount of solace while he's
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engaged in his public business and then i think one of the things that is new to me with this volume is it is the first volume where abigail is not rooted in quincy for the entire time. that is a first for me. we have these wonderful letters from her, and she's doing the same for abigail. she is saying today i drove by your house, and it looked so lonely. but then she goes on to describe that the clover is coming into bloom, and the strawberries are coming in in the garden. she has these wonderful, rich descriptions of the landscape. it is that kind of aspect of the question you are talking about. it is certainly there. they were very rooted to their home spaces.
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>> excellent program. this could be for either sarah or neil. i love the proximity scene that you addressed. i was curious if you could comment on john quincy adams perhaps using that lack of proximity in his introduction of louisa catherine to abigail through the letters in almost this teasing and gaining independence and teasing his own mother, because he's finally on his own. would you comment on that? >> yes so you guys might be aware that john quincy had had an earlier relationship with mary fraser that did not work out. his parents were very involved with that, giving that feedback trade i think this time he is playing his cards closer to his chest. he was on the other side of the ocean, but that did not stop abigail from giving him advice before.
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i think he felt that i will, you know, do this at my own speed and make my own decision here. i'm a grown man. but he is very teasing and what he does tell her, and then abigail figures it out because she is abigail. she still is giving him advice, particularly not so much on louisa as a person but on louisa as someone growing up in london in a fine household, and what a shock it's going to be for her when she becomes the wife of a diplomat who doesn't have a lot of money, and then coming back to massachusetts where she had never been before. i think abigail is trying to tell john quincy that he needs to make her aware of this. he does. he's very explicit in their correspondence about this is the life you are going to have. louisa loves john and she's
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willing to accept whatever he comes up with. i think this is him asserting his individuality and the fact that he is a grown man and he's going to make his own decisions. >> as both a wife and mother, i find that both of their marriages were very unconventional in that i think for john and abigail, abigail is a very independent, extremely bright woman, but because they were apart for so long, she had her own domain. she had control. she had her own power and her relationship with john was more of an emotional and intellectual banter. he wasn't there through all those child-rearing years. on the other hand, louisa and john quincy -- louisa, while she
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was totally dedicated to john quincy, she was torn away from her children and so there was none of that being brought, the child-rearing is a family. well maybe it works for both of their personalities and their relationships, i find both of the relationships quite unconventional and very remarkable obviously, but they did not have the same kind of perhaps stresses in their relationship that perhaps they would have had had they been a nuclear family unit. i don't know what your thoughts would be on that. >> i would agree to the extent that we are dealing with none this is fairly common marital situations, but i think that
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especially during the revolutionary years, it's not necessarily that uncommon. abigail was certainly not the only woman left guarding the home front. we have been dealing with wars throughout the ages. we know more about it because the correspondence survives. you have to take that with a grain of salt that just as there isn't necessarily a one type fits all for marriage today that was true back then. and yes, we are dealing with incredibly independent people. you can see that. you can see that in the way abigail handles the management of their properties. she's very cautious and asking for advice early in the marriage , and then she's a little more confidence. by 1790, she's referring to them as her forms. -- farms. this definitely that evolution but i don't think it is that
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their relationship was founded on love and intellectual engagement. that is a critical component but they were very present in each other's lives. that is what the letters are. that is how they remained present in each other's lives. that was the means that they had. yes, john quincy adams louisa and they existed -- excuse me, their children were rooted here while they were off for extended periods of time, but so too were john and abigail's children at various times away from the home. john took both of his elder sons with him to europe and at one point he puts charles on a boat to come back to the united states by himself. abigail hears about it secondhand and in the boat doesn't arrive because -- she
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literally has no idea where in the world her son is. it's a differing degree than perhaps your idea of the nuclear family, but i think they had the same concerns, they just lay out differently. -- play out differently. >> thank you. we will take a short break. if you have any questions for the speakers, you can talk to them during the break. there are refreshments to the left. at the front of the church we have books for sale. there are restrooms at the back and down the stairs. thank you very much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] >> you're watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our
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schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. this year, c-span is touring cities across the country, exploring american history. next a look at our recent visit to austin, texas. you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> the capitol has a commanding presence in austin. it is at the top of the hill. capitol square is over 22 acres of park-like grounds. it has this beautiful renaissance revival style with sunset red granite. it is easy to see from almost any vantage point in downtown austin. we have a round dome, not unlike the nation's capitol, topped by the goddess of liberty at the top of the capitol dome. texans are proud of the fact that the texas capitol is actually taller than the national capital.


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