tv Election of 1796 CSPAN January 18, 2015 9:00am-10:21am EST
ave been the federalist orbit. the two parties were defined by the constitution. so now that the question to keep the constitution is out of the way, they find new issues to fight about. the new parties fall along different lines. a split in the cabinet between jefferson and hamilton, madison is firmly on jefferson's side of that split. looks like no more questions, thank you, everybody. applause [ applause ] >> watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span
history. next on american history tv historian and author jeffrey hadley talks about issues and the media wars they waged in newspaper ms. the election of 1796 was the first time the voters had to choose between candidates between competing political parties. discussing the tactics used and the democratic republican party to sully the reputations of john adams and thomas jefferson. the talk is about an hour and 20 minutes.
>> i'm doug brad burn. welcome to mt. vernon, fred w. smith national library for the study of george washington. i'm the founding director. this is our ford evening book talks. the ford motor company has been a great supporter of mt. vernon since henry ford donated the first fire engine to the estate. we want to make sure that the mansion does not burn down. that's been a long-time concern of ours and an ongoing issue. we're really thankful to ford, ford family, ford motor vehicle for their continuing support for all of our projects. mt. vernon doesn't take government money. all supported by private funds so we depend upon people, patriotic citizens around the world to support the mission of educating people about george washington's life and legacy. great to see everybody out here
tonight and great to welcome c-span as well and c-span's audience to this lecture. welcome, guys. a great evening. this is our book talk. december, the end of the year, this is the end of the first year of talks that we kicked off in january of last year. for some of you may have been here at that time, we had a diverse group of scholars and talks and we began in january of last year for a book called where the cherry tree grew. it was about george washington at the farm in fredericksburg. about washington's boyhood. people remember the boyhood over time. it's fitting that we're ending the year tonight looking at a sequence of events that are really partly about george washington's last great public moment when he's leaving the
presidency. gone from his boyhood to his retirement essentially. it's a nice similarry that we like to see. now, we have an excellent speaker tonight who i am going to tell you a little bit about. jeffrey l. paezley -- passley. this is an old picture. i've known jeff for a while. and an old pick i've had. last month denver brunsman, the valedictorian. in this case we have jeffrey l.pazley who was not the valedictorian of carlton college. the great enemy of st. olaf's. this is nice. denver did graduate. i know he graduated. he did well. got the master's in phd. in harvard university. he talked with the great
historian vernon bailen who's one of the giants of early american history and established millions of debates in the field. so tremendous lineage that we would say. he moved well beyond the shadow. drains graduate students and undergraduate students. he researches political history. he's won a number of different fellowships and awards including the national endowment for humanities scholarship, the scholarship in the arts and the history division book prize as well as other things. major book that tyranny printers is all about the role of journalists in creating the early politics of america. he has an edited collection
that's of some significance. let him talk about that if he wishes. the first presidential concept. the election of 1796 and the beginnings of american democracy is one of the finalists of the george washington book prize which as you know is a tremendous achievement in and of itself. so will all of you please give a nice warm welcome to jeffrey pazley. by far the most elaborate system i stood behind or in front of. this is a power point just like class. i did not design for this. don't expect emotional images. it's just me. and i'm not at all sure what the
resolution of some of these images is going be. i hope it's good. for all of you apologies to all of you and the viewers a it home, i hope this looks reasonably well. in case you all didn't know c-span, they kind of tell you, they don't know weeks in advance when c-span is coming. like last night. so i -- i'm slightly nervous about that. this is really national tv ready. so give it a try. i was interested that doug couldn't speak the name of my edited book because it's called "beyond the founders" where we talk about political history. what political history would be like not without the founders, really, but beyond them and other things alongside it. the current book is a return to the founders.
i guess it's not exactly a come to jesus moment. but i guess it's close. any rate most americans are proud to be americans. but not of their political system or the government that runs. i'm speaking to the present day. congress' reputation is an all-time low for instance and keeps going lower, really. the two-party system is so unpopular that 1/3 of americans claiming part of it. more practiced that attitude by not participating. the founders continue to ride high on our esteem. seems to be the great dream of every washington journalist to publish a book about them and talk about popularity and gravitas. john adams got to be a tv star once upon a time. this is an illustration that i wrote a column complaining about john adams mania as it existed back in the time when dave
mccullough's book was a best seller and the hbo series was on. this is a cheeky illustration someone made for me to illustrate what i was saying. i've been a part of this because the founders are so popular that john adams got to be popular. he was never popular in life, right? he was never popular at anything in life, even when he won. americans still look up to the founders. regularly polls the question of how the founders would feel the united states turned out. and as of 2013, 71% said their early american heroes would be disappointed. i'm not here to support -- i'm not here to dispute the american love of the founders. that would be foolish to talk about it and talk about how they shouldn't love the founders. it might be illegal. i'm not sure. for the most part, they were admirable, common courage
committed to fresh and highly progressive ideas. though in their day, it's a big -- it's a big proviso. so mired in a social economic system predicated. one group of people in the appropriations of the other. founders compared favorably to people on cable news and those of you who can stand to do that. i don't include myself in that number. the founders started the government but we put them too far up in the clouds and cloud our vision. here point this in the right direction and -- there we go. i don't know what's going to happen if -- interesting. well anyway, the example of --
just to say they're putting the founders up in the clouds is not me that's not me high hyperboles the rotunda of the u.s. capitol. that's, of course, the one on the right. you can't see it if you have vision but if you're getting close up, that's what it looks like, i'm told. politics was always politics. many things we decry about american politics were things that were present from the beginning or before the beginning. if there is one message to my work, it's that. other aspects of the political system, political parties, the founders thought they could do without, but turned tourt be very, very wrong. my book tries to explain what happened in the first contested presidential election.
also shining some light on what has and has not changed in 220 years of american politics. a word about myself -- not about myself, my approach. i would venture to say, not something i disagree with at all, that most professional historians tend to emphasize the idea that the past is a foreign country, far removed from us. and like i say i don't necessarily disagree with that. but dealing with the founders, it's useful sometimes, sometimes, to treat the american politics of the past as something that didn't happen in a foreign country but happened in our country as the one that we still live in. find the connection that go across time and see -- try to include it all in the same mental space. that way we can hold the founders above ourselves only in the case where is that is warranted. which may be a lot of cases.
there's america. that's a sort of a contemporary map of america as from the time of what the united states -- how far the united states went in the 1790s. that's sort of one that's from the time. here's a later one that still is sort of crude but shows the same -- shows the same places. you can see that's one that is trying to show population, not just where the united states is, but as you can see, it doesn't go very far. one thing about american politics is it's changed very little and makes a good place to begin is geography. and, of course, there were a lot fewer states in 1796. nashville, tennessee is as far west as you could have been. but the basic structure of the electrical map was more or less the same as it would be in barack obama's two presidential elections as it was when john adams was elected.
so, getting the hang of this. so that's john adams. that's 1796. and i'm on a separate -- avoid having to work as much when i catch up to this when i have a separate one in here. that i don't have to look to the left. it only goes so far. but the basic structure is new england on the one side, the lower south on the other. those are the two extremes with the states in between making the decision. and basically it boils down -- until ohio came along ohio will be added to this. and then indiana and missouri where i'm from when missouri exists, gets added to this. but in the old days, this is pretty much new england on one side, the lower south is on the other. and it was pretty much a decision between new york, pennsylvania, and new jersey.
two of those three, you won -- you lost two of three -- you lost. and, of course, obviously 3-3 would have been better. go to 2008. i should have -- i should have -- oops. i did it on mine, not yours. see, this is what's going happen. there's 2008. you have to avert your eyes. you can see it's some of the same thing. where you've got, again the lower south, especially the two to look for are south carolina and massachusetts -- south carolina and connecticut. south carolina and connecticut never inhabit the same space. whereas it's the states in between go back -- are the ones that decide. just quickly.
you can see that it's more or less came out the same. in 2012. you can make it more details than that. pennsylvania is the classic twin state that in 1796, the real decider, one of the real deciders was the area we're in right now. northern virginia. always a place somewhat apart from the rest of the state. even the dc suburbs where i had a more detailed map, you could see helped push virginia to obama in 2008 and 2012 and made virginia a kind of a swing state for the first time. in 1796, northern virginia was not yet the dc suburbs but it was a less remote and more commercialized va plantation district. some of the more ambitious landowners were developing towns and canals and looking forward to profiting from trade routes between the interior of the
continent and the eastern seaboard. this is predicated on the idea that the potomac would be a great highway to the interior which did not pan out. but they thought it would. they thought it was going to pan out. they got the capital instead. with most of the state going heavily for jefferson. one more map that i forgot to -- forgot to do, which shows you what happened in 1800 is the illustration of what i was talking about. is when pennsylvania goes to -- when new york goes to jefferson in 1800 and it's cleaned up. one of the land owners, colonel levin powell, military contractor. there's another one. i was amused to see that northern virginia electorate in 1796 was a military contractor.
it was like interesting. with most of the -- a flour manufacturer and the founder of virginia. he ran as ane welcome tore of jefferson and shaved off one crucial electoral vote of adams' and it was one third of the margin of victory from northern virginia. you can see on the previous map, the state legislature switched to the now familiar winner take all system in the electoral votes. so vvwas on a district system in 1796. so leven powell, colonel powell was able to shave off one vote, one of the three that puts adams over the top. but later in 1800, it goes to winner take all. it's no longer possible. it's the state majority.
that's what i'm talking about. this is a class power point. sometimes you have to wake up the students noises which would not be -- would not be appropriate on c-span. you can just image, you know, interstitial music, appropriate interstitial music, i guess, if any little noises go off. of course, the story of the one electors' crucial role suggests a difference. electors did something in 1796. the constitution as written gives them a completely free hand in making the president's special selection and provides no instruction other than each state needing to approve electors who gather and vote on the appointed day. neither jefferson nor adams or powell's first choice was on the ballot. colonel powell had to go through the trouble of purchasing ballot
in the newspapers explaining to the world that he would vote against thomas jefferson if elected. he did it most elaborately. this is something a lot had to go do. the nature will be more familiar, given the frequency it's been used against self-consciously or liberal presidential candidates every since. drawing on his own experience as an officer, powell used jefferson whose advocates powered him as a candidate as equality as a weak link. the confidence had let virginia be overrun by the british when he was virginia governor in 1781. faced with a british army powell wrote jefferson quote dwindled to the poor timid philosopher and another one wrote cut and run. that's one that made me drop out of my chair. they said that in a newspaper in 1796, that jefferson would cut
and run. a baby in its cradle said another writer could not have been more helpless than jefferson faced with the real military men. jefferson would surely lead the nation as exposed as governor jefferson would have left. as powell intended supporters around the country made the item go viral jumping from newspaper to newspaper around the country, they're repeated until it's common knowledge. powell became the toast of the conservative journalists for the rest of his life. i was voted as the person who voted for adams and put him in office. almost nothing shows the election system going as the framers of the constitution planned. nothing goes as they planned. parties were competing for the presidency. presidential electors were reaching out to the voters at large and campaigning for the national candidate. this is not what was planned. the founders hated political
parties. the last degradation of a free moral agent. in boston, they raised a glass to the toast near the kanninger worm of faction never extend the dim or blast the roots of the tree of liberty. so, water. they would do it with rum. they would have the banquets with the toasts like 15 long plus volunteers. so they could hold their liquor. balance of power one trying to overthrow the other usually with violence, revolution or one side, inviting a foreign power in to settle the matter. in 1790 the founders could read in current events in france, in poland where it happened several times including the end of the revolution that thadias pochusko
bled in one point. and in living memory, 1745, the competition party conspired where we think of great britain's opposition party had proved itself not a loyal opposition at all. conspiring with french and scottish rebels to put the monarchy back on the throne. that happened when washington was a teenager. they had no examples of parties working out. they had many examples of them competing for national power causing the end -- causing it to be a dreadful outcome. john adams dreading in so much as he quoted the division of the republic the two great parties each on the leader and methods of opposition to each other. the framers left the political parties out, framers of the constitution left political parties out of the document but set up the college partly by having the parties forming. by having an independent electors on the same day, the
framers hoped to keep both the presidential election away from the passions of the people and also to make it impossible for any parties or interests that you might try to influence the outcome to coordinate their actions on a national scale. they were counting on the fact that communication and travel over to a larger republic for them when you have boats and horses as the mode of power was a difficult flow and expensive. we'll say the electoral college the constitution has many great things in it. the electoral college never worked once. it worked when it was unanimous. it never worked once under any sort of stress whatsoever the way it was intended. acclimation for george washington was the one time it went smoothly. even then, there were problems. but the founders did not count on were the bitter differences that immediately grew up among them, almost the moment the new constitutional government was in place. not just personal rivalries, but fundamental policy choices arose
over what kind of republic would come, who would benefit, what the place in the world would be. people can complain that politics is too polarized today, with liberals and conservatives on talk show panels. if you want to know where polarization started, the hostility began. look no further than the founders. the people they tried to rule over and the complicated world polarization is us and it's always been. thomas jefferson alexander hamilton installed two main pillars of george washington's administration there we go? hamilton -- hamilton appeared. so jefferson, i hope i don't -- i don't need to label these guys
for y'all. so i didn't. jefferson on the left, hamilton on the right. with these two guys impaled -- impaled? installed as the two main pillars of george washington's administration, the founders' first quarrel -- the founders first quarrelled over hamilton's plan to refinance the bankrupt republic by putting the money in to hands of wall street, chestnut street in philadelphia where the original financial center was. i don't think i'm being -- not trying to be partisan by saying that. that that was more or less literally what he was trying to do. the united states created part of hamilton's program was a privately controlled institution that received the privilege, the vast privilege of holding the government's revenues and being able to make loans on the amount or a multiple of that amount. this generated a huge windfall profit and amassed potential
capital for business ventures. a good thing by hamilton. he's trying to do this. though it seemed unfair even if it was unfair to those without the resources of the foresight to hold on to government security that had been nearly worthless for years. this was horrifying to jefferson and madison and their supporters who were not just supporters -- not just southern planters and western settlers, but eventually also a majority of the craftsman workers and poorer familiar farmers of the northeast. especially in the city. philadelphia area, philadelphia becomes one of the centers of the -- becomes one of the centers of jeffersonian politicalism in the north. a newspaper that jefferson and madison helps to broadcast the criticisms is a familiar one in the annals of the american west. the way the finance industry and the government policy that favored it were creating social inequality that would curdle
america's heart when liberties betrayed a democratic promise to the revolution. so this is what you have. on the right of the early american politics, a group of politicians who enjoyed the support of the wealthiest americans in the bulk of what we would call the business community. then we could be called merchants, stuff like that. these defenders of the washington administration policies came to call themselves federalists after the pro constitution forces in 1787-88 ratification debate. here, the party names are almost always either something someone else called you or an attempt to criticize the other side. so the hamilton supporters called themselves federalists. the message is that the other guys don't support the constitution. they're trying to overthrow it. if you're not a federalist, you must be against the constitution. jefferson's group on the left of
early american politics called themselves republicans in keeping with their plain that the inequality loving federalists secretly yearned for a monarchy. they used as the all person. sometimes talked about as a reality and sometimes talked about as an all purpose symbol of inequality. by calling themselves republicans, they were claiming that the federalists were monarchists, not republicans. the federalists in return had to explain how the names changed later on. the federalists taunted the republicans as democrats, a word that -- yeah as democrats. a word that then conjured scary visions of social levelling stuck with the preferred appalachian for the party of jefferson but were a long process to the next 20 or 30 years. and, again, something that comes out of philadelphia. adopting the word democrats. they're not insulting us, they're describing it. the terms left and right would not have been self-implied by
american politicians in the 1790s but not an anachronistic term. i've got -- this is the national gazette. i'm not going to talk about it too much. but this is the newspaper that jefferson helped start while jefferson was still in office. that's the incident where the editor of the national gazette hired as a french translapter in his office which is funny because jefferson was a fluent french speaker and writer. the last job he needed -- the last employee he need in the world was a french translator. he said what do you do on the side, whatever you have on the spare time is fine which ended up editing this newspaper. the terms left and right would not have been self-implied by the 1790s, but not
anachronistic. they described the factions of the revolution in an event that's unfolding across the ocean. the french revolution, the prop american response to it happened to be the other major issue uh that divided the founders. jefferson and his founders thrilled at the universal division of liberation, social equality and what they thought was progressive national government. ham i on the and his allies were horrified by the dangers of the revolutionary spirit posed to law and order. the christian religion and the existing arrangements of society, including a hierarchy of wealth, property, status. a hierarchy of wealth, property status, and life style that was far more pronounced then than it was now. something no one had to have a servant or a slave to do it for them. when servants were necessary to achieve what we now think are
basic levels of hygiene. you couldn't have clean clothes every day. you didn't have water all the time if you couldn't pay for servants or slaves. so most people didn't. when the first diplomatic envoy of the french republic arrived, the democratic society both celebrated the french republic and criticized the washington administration. federalists considered them the vanguard of the new revolution they were not in favor of and a tool for subversion. in reality, the democrat societies are more like the beginnings of the opposition party but nothing like the reassurance given the fears that existed about parties. for most federalists, periodic elections where all of the popular input where the
republican government required and the only constitutional form. they meant voting, not everything we know going in to an election. not a campaign, not constant criticism of a government by some group of people between enelections the things that marties do. -- parties do. consequences between elections was tasteful and dangerous. federalists hoped it would go away. many wished to make it go away. but to say that this phenomenon of people out of doors they said criticized the government all the time. they wanted to go away. they tried to make it go away when they got the chance later on with the alien and sedition acts largely aimed at the opposition party. in the meantime, in this period we're talking about the largest army ever fielded on american soil was put down the whisky rebellion which washington complained on the democratic society mostly unjustly. the competing attitude for the
french revolution led to the bitter debates over foreign policy. this is the slide there. out of order. chief justice john jay and his treaty is what you're looking at there. so foreign policy animates the policy of 1796 more than any other issue. had come to seek american support in the french war against the monarchies of europe that had broken out. to seek american support as an old ally as the french thought you had saved the american revolution back in the war. the washington administration responded by making a proclamation neutrality in the war and a commercial treaty in great britain. negotiated not too much bigever than a moonlighting justice supreme court john jay. the supreme court had a lot of spare time in those days. you could go off to london without causing anything to stop.
mass protests has erupted when the treaty was announced. a betrayal to this treaty that the trade treaty represented. the mass protests and followed by a drive to derail the treaty in the house of representatives which is constitutional suspect since the court has no role in preserving treaties. they were trying to innovate unsuccessfully. that effort collapsed in the spring of 1796. a candidate opposed. the election and the contestedness of 1796 comes directly out of the policy debates. it isn't something that's just about jefferson trying to -- jefferson or hamilton or jefferson and adams struggling with each other.
don't have an illustration of that. today we call that astroturf. in other words you have a message, a prewrittens me shaj sent out from a central place that's been filled in and sent back to sort of present at least the illusion of a public ground swell of support. tonight i'm going to skip over the slow process in which the various candidates emerged or flamed out. you can read about that at great length in my book. i don't know if they have it here. but it's a -- it's a page turner. but it's also a door stopper.
very wide margins. at any rate, lots of things i can't talk about including the nomination process which, of course, isn't a process at all. it couldn't even begin until no one could say anything until jefferson -- until washington's farewell address was released which didn't happen until september. at any rate, by september of 1796, former secretary of state thomas jefferson and john adams were generally acknowledged as the primary candidates. neither of them participated in the candidate campaign at all. both were home on the farms. james mad shjon did not communicate with jefferson at that time because he was afraid jefferson was going to resign from the race if he would talk to him. so he didn't speak -- didn't communicate with them at least in writing. their surrogates were quite busy mounting coherent but quite vicious campaigns using the biographies of writings of the
major candidates not unlike they used today. show how they devised opening up in politics including the beginnings of what they've come to call the culture war. so let me go ahead a couple here. there's john adams. john adams had a lot of free time as diplomat in the 1780s and vice president for 1789 to 1797. he had ample free time. he used that free time to write thousands and thousands of pages on political philosophy which he had published. and i should say thousands and thousands -- he'd write thousands of pages in some cases where he's copying because they didn't use the quotation marks the way we used them today. so a lot of adams' writings on political philosophy. others' writings on political
philosophy. it came around to get him. he's blamed by all of the monarchyists in the past had to say. adams' writings, the ones here the dispense of the government of the united states the most common law commonly discussed one, they were taken out of context. adams was a monarchyist and awrist awrist cat. thousands of handbills were sent out protesting the debate. you can't read that, but hopefully i can describe to you what that is. at the top it lists -- at the top it lists the pro jefferson electoral can't dates in pennsylvania. they had to do that because the federalists controlled the legislature in pennsylvania and passed the law saying you couldn't pass printed ballots.
you had to write every single elector dantd. it's a 1796 voter suppression tactic quite literally what they were trying to do. they put out and bills to make sure they could copy who the electors were and they attached a reading guide to john adams' writing. especially and these are page numbers, little pull posts with page numbers attached -- a guide to reading the defense of the american constitution to show you all of the terrible things that adams had said about how aristocracy was better. better to have rich people in austin, that aristocracy and monarchy was inevitable. half of the things they didn't say. but there were things in the books. books. it all proved he was an avowed
monarchist. he framed the first sentence that all men are born equal. john adams said it's a farce and a falsehood. which of those free men of pennsylvania will you have for president? and one of the 1796's only straight up statewide popular election campaigns for electors most pennsylvania voters towards jefferson. i'm not going get to the campaign where george washington was called an hermaphrodite. he didn't mean a literal
hermaphrodite, he meant a hermaphrodite personality. we can talk in the q&a about more important was william l. smith or william -- i'm not actually -- i've had different reads on how to pronones his middle name. we'll call him willie l. smith. a south carolina congressman hoping for a diplomatic post in the adams' administration. maybe the top one he didn't get that. smith was one of the major leaders in congress. he turned down a 25-part series of newspaper essays later packaged as a two-part pamphlet. you see one of the title pages
here that becomes a hit piece in american politics. the themes rolled out any time later a candidate was seen as progressive. smith made jefferson the original model the big populace in reality he was an elitist who squishy soft character showed him a naive train of thought. i wanted to label him a limousine liberal. i was playing around what we were going on instead.
smith argued it was an argument for his muttled thinking. the farewell address. extreme views on religious toleration, liberty of conscious like jefferson who said he didn't caray torically he didn't care whether there were 100 gods or one, break his leg or pick his pocket, they were depicted as a failure of leadership. great pillars of human happiness. the caution of conservatives, the firm props of the duties of men and citizens. smith suggests that was hamilton in the farewell address. may be a danger in the christian morals that the bible itself might be in some danger.
the charge that might come up later. taken together, it was the first attempt in american history to marshal christianity in presidential politics. might be the first time -- i can't say it for sure. it might be the first time anybody used religion in a campaign for office. there were arguments about laws it's the first time that comes a campaign issue. last thing i want to talk about tonight is the most serious part of smith's attack. it's probably the most surprising. these days, i can tell you from teaching students, most of what most people know about thomas jefferson at this point is that he was a slave holder and that makes him to a hip -- makes the democratic ideals and other talk about liberty the piece of hypocrisy that we can ignore.
science. on the other hand how that can comport with jefferson's anti-slavery views. but there's another reason -- he was from south carolina and the federalists were trying to get southern votes. another candidate, main vice presidential candidate and the main vice presidential candidate is thomas pinkney. in south carolina later on in south carolina, they nominated another for president. they intended to be a national party. that meant bringing in votes from the south.
endangering the south by freeing the slaves. and he then goes on to attack and use it as an example jefferson's famous letter to benjamin baniker, the black surveyor and almanac maker. one of his almanacs. jefferson, of course, an exchange of letters. and they changed the letters and send off alarm bells. he calls it the fraternizing episode that jefferson was willing to lower himself to write a letter to a black person he might be willing to lower all of the other barriers as well. so jefferson was damned if any slaveries.
actually allowing the electors to cast separate votes for president and vice president acknowledging the fact that there were going be national organizations. it was easy to come up with the national political party that a slow communications with no problem at all and polarization is going to be the norm in american politics from here on out. so that's the -- that's -- i think i've taken enough time. thank you for listening today. >> one comes to mind. you describe a situation in which polarization, frustration, a real sense that the political system isn't working the way people wanted it to work being basically there from the beginning in american politics.
why does this succeed in the 1790s and not so many countries that create an independence in the midst of war. try to set up governments falling into anarchy, revolution, breakdowns. what about the american political system as frustrated as people are with how they perceive it should work and whether it does work. what aspect allows it to sort of persist in that early period. people just kept on despite the
fact that's committed to this system, despite the fact that it was broken. i think if i had to really give a serious answer -- a serious all-time answer to the other question, i would say that don't think that it's a structural reason. i think that american elites were perhaps not as far apart as they sometimes thought they were. when it came down to it, there are several moments where things happen that would not carry as far as they could. federalists do pass the sedition act, right? partly because of the election of 1796, they almost lost power and they wanted that to they don't allow the defense and do various things that are abusive. they don't get to the point of running everyone out right? they follow the law, they put people in jail for six months. they harass them with legal
proceedings. talk about my other book, this is turned into a plug from my other book. they didn't shut anything down. more newspapers appeared after that than the beginning. the electoral tie of 1800. flalists could have -- they could have blocked jefferson from being president. right? they could have done that. they could have put in aaron burr. a civil war would have sparked that, right? virginia was ready ready to go to war if they put someone besides jefferson on the -- on the -- i'm sorry, in power. in the end of the election of 1800. in the letter of the constitution the federalists wouldn't like to.
>> they had a revolution if they did go to war on the principles as they understood them. it is something i think your book helps to highlight -- there may be a more -- there's a certain stability and continuity in american politics but there is a certain fragility as well. that the rhetoric is real. people do mean it. they do get impassioned about it. there has to be at some point a shared understanding of the rules of the game, right? >> there is. i think i'm not sure it's always a self-conscious act. if we go in that direction we
tend to just -- that tends to be the line of thought that leads us to sort of set aside the -- set aside some of the conflicts that i'm talking about to say, oh, this is great. they got along in the end. they found together as founding brothers. you may have heard that term, in the end. to help us through these troubled times. i think that takes away from some of the -- it doesn't allow us to see some of the things that we have in common with it. >> excellent. fantastic. >> open it up, one thing because c-span is here. microphones are around the room. as a way to speak. who's first? what do we got. yes, sir, right here up front. wait for the microphone. >> thank you. you sort of tapped into the sectional differences that were
ultimately resolved. in the attentive breakup of the union. what were the key policy issues of 1796? what were the issues looking to the future that they were sort of battling? >> as i tried to address in the middle of the talk, it was a financial system, basically if the government policies were going to lead to capital development and building financial industry and led to rapid economic development. hamilton has kind of finance the plans behind his financial system, and the other one was foreign policy, basically if america was going to try to operate within the british colonial system independently, but sort of reach an accommodation with the british or if we were going to join -- you know, join with france against the monarchists. 1796, it comes down to straight
up britain versus france to the point that france is actually -- one of the things i did not say in this talk that i sometimes they is that the french actually gave us democracy. the french spent time and money in philadelphia trying to urge americans to have democracy. you should decide to vote yourselves, right? if you like france, you should vote that way. in fact, the text was leaked because the french paid a virginia senator to do it. it's not clear weather it was a bribe or just they were paying for the printing costs. those are the policies. >> it was a mason, wasn't it? >> from right around here. >> right down the road. >> good evening. is it fair to say that in the run-up to the revolution that that first introduced the political party system in a way maybe just regionally as well as
socially that in 1796 and then 1800, our forefathers and the colonists -- they were not novices to the political system, so this was just a new structure now because we have a president -- is that a fair statement? and then maybe george washington's presidency was the anomaly where everybody came together, and that was not the reality. >> i think that is probably right. the tendency of polarization was there. the there was no national structure in it because individual colonies had had their miniature party systems and ongoing battles, but they tended to be a bit more structural, and they would also be much more localized. in terms of the run-up to the revolution, the patriots and tories -- whatever you want to
call the loyalists and patriots of the revolution, that would be an example they had of a party system that did not work, in a task that didn't work -- that would be, in a sense, a party system that did work. in a sense that they ended up not only fighting, but taking serious actions against each other. going back to doug's question republicans and federalists when they were in power, if they had acted like patriots did during the revolution and took away property and exiled people and executed people, then it would have been over. that was a whole other example they had of how this could be handled. i actually think that is kind of in the back of their minds. they have been there and do not want to go there in this case. among historians, i tend to use the word party loosely. i would say party system or even party should be reserved for the idea of an ongoing thing where you are going to battle through votes and not necessarily come
to blows. >> i think you are being too harsh because there has been a social scientific effort to define party so rigidly. when madison writes the great essay on party, he is talking about what is about to become the third party system that he was about to start. the first is the patriots and the tories. the second is the federalists and the ratification debate. the third is going to be this majority faction that he wants to organize against hamiltonianism, which is going to be another party. when they thought about party, they thought about english history. they had a vision of two parties. >> ok, i will be easy on myself. >> in your research, did you find george washington formally or informally trying to
influence the 1796 election? >> i think, as happened a lot with him, he was not consciously trying to, but he went along with stuff. one section i dropped out mostly of this talk that i give sometimes is the farewell address, right? we read it as this great beacon of nonpartisanship, and it is actually a nasty partisan speech. if you know who is being referred to and what is being referred to, then basically saying parties are terrible if you are the opposition. who would do that? the other aspect is that hamilton gets washington to delay the announcement, like all summer. washington had wanted out in 1792, and he wanted to announce that he was stepping down for a long time. hamilton explicitly keeps -- first, he delays him by saying he does not have time to work on the final text and will get back
to him in july. finally, he allows hamilton to stall this over the summer, and hamilton was doing that specifically because he did not want to give any other candidates a chance to go. no one could say anything about being a candidate as long as george was in place. allowing his resignation announcement not to come out until three months before the election -- that is an act of partisanship, certainly. it is not pro-jefferson, for sure. otherwise, i think he mostly stays out of it, the policy, wise, he was obviously quite federalists by this time. >> we recently acquired in the auctions of the last week -- at christie's, there is a great auction of a letter george washington wrote in the spring of 1796, and he is basically saying he wanted to be known that this opposition to the jay treaty in the house where they are going to pretend they cannot
fund it is a way to stall its operation. he said it is against the intent of the framers -- uses those words -- and says it would make us all fools if we allowed treaties and allow the house to delay them. this is a political letter. he wants them to spread the word. he is a political animal, and that is the season where people are mobilizing around these issues that are going to have an impact on the presidency and presidential elections. he is definitely on the side of what he considered the right side of good government. jeff's book brings that out. he brings out the idea of getting away from anybody really standing above in that election year. it really is much more familiar to us than people have suggested. >> the other thing is appearing to be above -- that is the stance you were going for,
right? >> it still is, although not as useful. >> people still try that all the time. washington, that was one of the things -- these sometimes partisan tactics that he was very good at. >> here we are at mount vernon. the one thing that is so different, obviously, in the politics of then and ours is unanimity around washington's presidency. just kind of unheard of. although i guess monroe is pretty close. reagan does pretty well. at any rate, good question. yes, sir. >> wait for the microphone please. >> sorry, i forgot to say that.
>> i wondered if you could explain a little bit more about the ratification -- >> the jay treaty? it is quite strange. their argument was the treaty called for certain commissions to be created. one of them had to do with adjudicating american debts, pre-war debts, so the idea was that if you denied the appropriation for the commission to be formed, you could stop the treaty from even being implemented. and in fact, stop the treaty. the treaty has already been ratified, already been agreed to. they are basically trying to sort of mess it up and make it so that the british will get mad and reject it, is kind of their idea. but it is a shred. it's one of those moments though, when the constitution -- you know, the constitution is really being written in the 1790's. i really think the real
constitution is written in the 1790's and the early 19th century when things that are spelled out one way -- they could have easily gone -- republicans almost won that vote and could have established the idea -- i say it's lame, but you put it another way, and it sounds much better, which is democratic control over foreign policy, right? the branch of government that people can actually vote for what have some control over foreign policy, but constitutionally, the reed we are standing on is really, really thin. >> you mentioned that the states could split their electoral votes in the early days. would any of the elections have turned out differently? >> people love this. i don't know after talking for an hour that i can really
intelligently run too many alternate scenarios for you, but, totally, right? in essence, 1796 is an alternate. if virginia has winner take all in 1796, then jefferson does not lose that electoral vote. the fact that the winner take all system existed, i'm pretty sure jefferson does win. gives us the chance to track maryland, which adams won most of, then you add north carolina, at one from pennsylvania, at the one from virginia, you know, so that's the kind of thing you get into. a lot of them could have easily turned out different league. the reason i shy away from this question is there so many different parts of the things. you probably would not just change one. another thing sometimes people make up is what about the 3/5 clause -- had it not been for that, wouldn't adams have won handily?
the thing is, that's actually not quite clear what the alternative is. on the one hand, do you count -- are slaves of the south like the women and children of all the country who were counted as a full vote for purposes of representation even though they do not vote, or are they zero? the effects are actually quite different, whichever way you put that. alternate scenarios are very -- unfortunately, this whole thing about the statewide -- about the winner take all stuff, how the states doled out the electoral votes -- that is, like completely in flux for the first 30, or years. as maps and charts where they are literally deciding every election a year before, six months before, two months before. who is in charge of the legislature, and what arrangement do we think will win
for our candidate? >> what are the states that split? maine split right? >> that's kind of the thing that is coming back. federalists, when they wanted to fix the electoral college, they wanted a district method -- that was going to be their only chance to put a national coalition together in the foreseeable future. >> it certainly allows for more rights for the minority voting block. >> ok, yes, ma'am, right there. >> thank you. you mentioned that the democracy of the united states was fast established and worked pretty well in comparison to the french. my question is that would have to do with the political culture of the united states, of the
population, or how would you explain why it works so well? >> i don't know if i would say it worked so well. i would say it barely worked. the electoral system was broken immediately. it is sort of accidental. the idea that the american political system worked better than the french is -- compared to what, right? yes, the american system worked better compared to mass death and dictatorship, right? know what i mean? in other words, yes, we avoided the reign of terror and did not end up with a dictator, so good on us. i do not think i would say given the extreme gulf between the way they thought it would work and ended up working, i would not use the word well for how it ended up working. it keeps on, it doesn't break down massively until --
except for the part about keeping slavery together for almost a century and then having to have a bloody war to resolve that. even that is certainly an open question. >> i certainly think that the americans were -- they were familiar with the british system of popular government. the colonies had a form of popular government in which property was represented in government. there are some continuities. the french, the breakdown of the regime was a dramatic transformation of political culture, which they had really no experience of popular government in that same way. >> this is the jack reed approach, that the british learn most of what they do in terms of political culture and how to run a free government from the british and just did not get too far away from it. but i mean, i think there's a lot to that. like i said, my -- i just find i
am more comfortable with the idea of treating this all as contingent, that we know it worked, but they did not know it worked. some of the things happened just barely. we can look back, and i like to look at continuities, but i just do not think in terms of success or failure, i guess. >> ok. do we have one final one? if you do not, i have one final one. that would be -- you are a very smart guy. you have written about the political culture, the emphasis on political culture. what surprised you in putting
this book together? when you began the project, what were you after? what was the thing that you really came across or came upon that you said that was an interesting way you needed to rethink something, or was there any of that? >> there's definitely surprising things. the story of how the book came to be is i thought it would be a little pamphlet. i have written an encyclopedia. just a little book. just take a summer to write. i had already written an encyclopedia article on the election of 1796. i thought i knew everything about it, and it was just a question of writing it down. it turned out i did not know anything about it. i think the hardest part is there is really no narrative to it in the usual way. you cannot start, like, a year before the election and have it make any sense. there's no nomination process.
you are charged with making the election but it cannot have the ready-made plot that literally other presidential election book ever has. i did not have that. trying to figure out how to block it out was a challenge. i guess i was -- i tried to express a couple of times in the talk -- i was quite shocked by cut and run. by how familiar william l smith -- i was writing this during the 2008 election, in case you cannot tell. some of the things that were deployed in the 21st century presidential election, especially by conservatives against the democrats, were just, like, really reminiscent of some of the types of things that william l smith was writing that it just made me start to think more in terms of a tradition at least of conservative and liberal
rhetoric. certainly the people who were being conservative changes at times, but at least there is a certain constellation of ideas and arguments that gets directed. >> jefferson has the great quote that the two parties have existed throughout all time. the aristocrats versus the people. >> that is the one that the left turns against the right, which is that it is all about -- and there is some kind of aristocracy. these verses the people. without necessarily defining that very well. >> fantastic, edifying excellent -- all those adjectives you can come up with. let's give a big round of applause. >> thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> on the martin luther king
holiday, holiday programming. monday morning at 9:30 eastern on book tv, cornell west on revolutionary african-american leaders. at 4:00 vanity fair gail sheehy. at 9:00, allen west. he feels values are under attack by the far left. on american history tv, juanita jones abernathy. just after 2:00 in the state of the union addresses. at eight :00, historians talk about the history of race relations in ferguson, missouri. how policing and the criminal justice system have related to racial conflict. find our schedule at c-span.org. let us know what you think about the programs you are watching.
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