tv The Presidency CSPAN September 20, 2015 10:45pm-11:50pm EDT
trade center. follow the a store trip to the u.s. -- follow the historic trip to the u.s. on c-span and c-span.org. >> coming up next, authors david and jeanne heidler talk about their book "washington's circle." it is a look at the president's closest friends and appointees. the authors explore the roles of politicians like james madison, alexander hamilton, thomas -- in the 1780's and 1790's. they seek to understand the first president's leadership style. this hour-long program was hosted by mount vernon.
david: jeanne and i are delighted to be at mount vernon. it is a treat to come back to the home of george washington which is a monument to him. they have preserved his home and the ground on which he walked. it's always a pleasure to be in the company of good people who are dedicated and diligent and the good people here at mount vernon combine that admiral admirable bull -- trait with a gracious hospitality that makes everyone who comes here feel warm and welcome. stephen macleod has smoothed the logistical edges of our journey here. in the book, we acknowledge mary thompson, who is one of the historians here on staff for her invaluable insight and great scholarship. the staff here, whether it is the knowledgeable docents or the master craftsman or the
, historians in the abundant archives have turned john kennedy's description of washington, d.c., on its head. mount vernon is a place that has northern efficiency and southern charm. [laughter] david: that in itself exemplifies the character of george washington which was orderly, disciplined and , benevolent. i think he would be most pleased with what goes on here. now we did actually do a little work in preparation for our caper here. this evening, we would like you to consider with us the stress that can befall the stress of -- the best of relationships. our title is from samuel johnson's observation that a gentleman should keep his friendship in constant repair. it seems like good advice. but unfortunately the circumstances, for different reasons and different people, it
-- with washington, the friendships between him and three virginians did not follow this course. so, this evening, we will try to see why. jeanne: in our book, "washington's circle," we have attempted -- david: this is the shameless plug part. jeanne: i believe it is my term. [laughter] david: get us back on the beam. jeanne: in the book we have tried to understand george washington and his presidency or -- through the eyes of the people closest to him. friends, his family, and his close associates. we realized virginians were people he would want to bring into his government, the people he was closest to before the presidency, and two of those
virginians, james madison and edmund randolph, played crucial roles in first convincing washington to participate in the constitutional convention, and then convinced him, or at least helped to convince him to accept the presidency of this new government. we found it was strange then that washington would gradually grow apart from these men. and in breaking with them altogether, which he ultimately did, it was at first hard to understand why that would happen. as a result of him breaking with those people, he wound up with an entirely new set of associates toward the end of his presidency, a new circle in effect, by the end of his presidency. his estrangement from these virginians is oftentimes attributed to alexander hamilton, and it was certainly
true that some of the people who ended up breaking with alexander -- i mean with george washington attributed it to outside forces. certainly hamilton chief among , those. in that view, people whose vision was diametrically opposed to the one held by james madison, edmund randolph, and thomas jefferson came to command washington's attention. his dependence and eventually something akin to his affection. in this view, hamilton is an evil genius. an evil genius, a bundle of artifices, and someone who worked his witchcraft over an increasingly befuddled george washington. but as we point out, george washington was not befuddled. and in fact, in the two and a half years remaining to him after his retirement from the
presidency, his hearty manner, his obvious mental acuity demonstrated he was anything but befuddled. as we all know, george washington at 67 did not die of old age. he came down with an illness that would have killed a much younger man, especially after the physicians got a hold of him. [laughter] david: how then can we explain what happened to drive washington away from these virginians, who should have been with him throughout his presidency in a close capacity? well, in addition to washington let's meet our cast of , characters. first of all, there is james madison. edmund randolph, and thomas jefferson. we could have chosen others. but we chose these men because they are notable either for being close to washington or being men he greatly admired and
came to rely on. it is important to remember these people were much more than personalities and egos. they were children of the enlightenment. in that, they were not just of the idea that you had systemized guides informing policy. they believed in a philosophical belief system that shaped character in its essential se nse, character as the basis of all honor and integrity. it's what that generation called the genius of a person. by that, they meant something other than a highly intellectual gift. they meant someone who had the character to embrace integrity as a purpose, and by that, to learn the truth and form a sense of proper virtue, which you see in the language of these men
throughout their lives. a virtuous citizen. these were people who carefully considered postulates and combined them with experience to apply the admirable trait with the enlightened, rational thought to make a better world. to improve the world. we were very fortunate as a country to have these men in charge of it at its outset. now if it all sounds kind of highfalutin, we can take george washington as a practical example of how this works. the american revolution was the defining moment in washington's life. more than any other event and experience, it reshaped his political philosophy as it refined his view of what america was and how americans behaved. in the book, we note how everything stems from those eight years in which he was in uniform fighting for the life of
his country. he met people from other parts of the country. he learned how they talked and how they thought. he learned how they farmed and how they built things and how they could cooperate to a common end, orperous and -- just as easily squabble and impede any sort of purpose to any progress at all. this last is quite important, because from it washington shed over those eight years his parochial sense of place is paramount. what might be called localism. instead he became a nationalist. for the practical reason state obstructionism during the war nearlyary destroyed the country. it established a federal government that was supreme in his fear, not merely the equal of sovereignty.
washington, accordingly was careful about preserving that sense of the constitutional experiment. and in that, he was seemingly obsessed with what we might regard as the cosmetic aspects of the presidency. at first this irked people and then it alarmed them, people who were afraid of the drift toward monarchy and centralized authority. when washington stood quite formally on ceremony as when he went to congress with an entourage or when he assisted -- insisted governor john hancock come meet him first when he visited massachusetts on the first official presidential journey to new england. he was establishing the executive as a coequal branch within the government in terms of congress and the federal government as preeminent and certain of its relations with the state in terms of his relations with john hancock. jeanne: like washington, james madison was a nationalist for the same reasons.
he had been exasperated by the actions of the states during the american revolution. he had seen this play out politically as a member of the continental congress during its most sclerotic days. and he and other nationalists within the congress, alexander hamilton among them, determined to do something about it or it -- do something about it. and that created the movement that led to the constitutional convention. at this stage, madison, his nationalism was a match for hamilton. and he believed this new government should even have a veto over state actions, and idea that took shape in what became known as his virginia plan. at philadelphia, at the constitutional convention, he and hamilton, as well as washington, all saw this as a
move toward -- not just a stronger government, but a more secure government. and again, his nationalism was going to be extremely important. of course, in some of the small states, as you all know, they were going to insist on changes, changes that weakened the original plan put forth by james madison. and he was chagrined by these changes, so he did change these or was willing for them to be changed during the convention itself. but his nationalism also hurt him in virginia. after the ratification of the constitution, governor patrick henry, an anti-federalist within the virginia legislature, blocked madison's election to the u.s. senate. and he had a very, very close run when he ran for his sauce --
house seat against young anti-federalist james monroe. he won that election to the house seat, primarily by promising to support amendments that would protect state and individual rights. as the new government began, washington and madison are very much on the same page and they are very compatible personally and politically. just as their partnership had been extremely important in securing the writing and of course the ratification of the constitution both expected to , continue that partnership in the new government and initially, both were not disappointed. madison was washington's pin, his liaison, and his advisor, a role that many likened to that of prime minister. david: in less than two years,
alexander hamilton was grumbling 'sout medicines madison obstructionism. it was a remarkable reversal. madison began opposing measures that he had heartily approved years earlier, months earlier in some cases. hamilton's plan to make public credit, to make the government solvent. the consequences of madison's change profoundly altered his relationship with alexander hamilton and it gradually did the same with his relationship with george washington. what before had been a comfortable direction of affairs with madison acting pretty much as a prime minister, this begins to change as madison realizes the clear direction the executive branch is taking. washington was perfectly agreeable with hamilton's plan to restore the public credit,
because he had always seen madison, however had growing concerns. what he now saw was the likely consequence of diminishing state influence and that he believed an unhealthy dynamic between the government and special interest were inviting corruption. rather than hamilton beguiling washington, the presidents reliance on hamilton stemmed from washington's belief that the federal experience could not foster, let alone survive, without diminishing the states' power in some degree. otherwise, the states doomed the new government in the same way they nearly doomed the revolutionary war effort.
had there never been an alexander hamilton, that this man, thomas jefferson, the secretary of state, would find himself eventually at odds with washington over matters of policy. jefferson fundamentally opposed centralized government, centralized authority. as a matter of principle, because he believed that such authority was naturally intrusive and ultimately it would become to spot it -- despotic. jefferson saw government as powerful by nature. otherwise it was not government. and it had to be constantly restrained and sometimes checked. otherwise, it would naturally ooze beyond its salutary functions always under the guise of good intentions. government then would commit an incremental march toward increasing its power and its
control. at the time, it was not clear how much of jefferson's thinking about such matters influence madison's behavior toward the administration. the more cogent point probably is to remember that madison was already at odds with alexander hamilton before thomas jefferson even came back into the country, let alone came into the government. jefferson came into the government and was disturbed by what he saw in new york city as a sort of monarchical centerpiece of tory sentiment and centralized fetishes. washington's nationalist differences were not that far, but they were easily misread and limited government of ideals, the ideals of thomas jefferson would clash with washington over this matter. and it would be a factor, regardless of alexander
hamilton's influence. disagreements over how to handle foreign affairs, especially once the anglo- french crisis heated up, only exacerbated in already tender situation. jeanne: the affair involving edmund randolph is a bit more complicated. he began his service in the new government as its attorney general, a position that was considered ancillary, certainly not primary in the government, which is to say that it was not considered to be a cabinet level post even before they used the term cabinet. and yet, as attorney general, edmund randolph was going to provide some extremely important advice to washington. particular with regard to constitutional interpretations of presidential appointments and senate confirmation of those appointments.
for example, and i will not go into a lot of detail here, but when the u.s. mint was created as hence the head of the mint was created, the senate was in session because congress created the institution. but washington could not determine who he wanted in that position before the senate went out of session. randolph advised washington against a recess appointment. and his logic was this. since the senate had been in session when the position came available, it would not be advisable to do a recess appointment, because that could be used as a precedent that would allow future presidents if they wanted to nominate someone to a position that they thought they might have trouble with the confirmation to simply wait out the senate's session clock and then appoint the person. washington agreed, after
randolph explained this possibility to him. and in fact, washington saw this as a very good example of randolph's logical prudence. to washington and many other people who knew him, logical prudence defined edmund randolph. now, washington had known the randolph family all his life. and even though randolph's father had been a staunch tory during the american revolution, young edmund's uncle payton had been equally staunch patriot. randolph himself had briefly served on washington's staff in the early part of the american revolution. after the revolution, he became a rising star in virginia politics.
in fact, he was the governor of virginia at the time of the drafting of the constitution. however, for all of his talents, randolph could not budget money. he was always in debt. sometimes alarmingly so. it struck everyone is strange that someone who had such logical prudence would always be needing money. it even struck edmund as somewhat illogical, especially when he had to importune friends for loans. yet his money problems did not damage his reputation for probity. and his reputation as a shrewd, though scrupulously honest attorney, that drew clients from all over virginia. in fact, when jefferson left the
law to enter public life, he turned over his client list to cousin edmund who jefferson believed to be the better lawyer. david: on the other hand, randolph's prudence was honed to an extraordinary pitch in political life. sometimes, to the bewilderment of his foes and the exasperation of his friend. in most men, a deliberate streak can immobilize them. in randolph's case, it was the office of deliberation that made him changeable. fluid, in fact. stories about his behavior
during the drafting and ratification of the constitution would dog him for days. he was a nationalist when the convention met in philadelphia in the spring 1787. he was chosen by james madison to present the virginia plan on the convention floor as the opening point of discussion. yet, as the convention progressed, randolph became unhappy with the course of the document and he, at the end of the convention, refused to sign it. he was one of three delegates refused to sign. one of the other was a fellow virginian named george mason, george washington's neighbor and friend. mason and randolph's alarm over the constitution were similar. mason was rejoicing and bringing this man into the anti-federalist camp with the hope of blocking ratification in
the richmond ratification the following spring. when randolph arrived in richmond and went into the convention, he gained the floor and announced he was going to support ratification. this stunned everybody. it stunned mason, especially. patrick henry who is leading the anti-federalist forces was dumbfounded. that this man was now going to support the ratification of the document in the spring of 1788 that he refused to sign in the fall of 1787. mason was so perturbed that he was heard to audibly mutter "arnold." now, the comparison of edmund randolph to benedict arnold was an exaggeration, but it is also an uncanny foreshadowing of randolph's career in the federal government. jeanne: edmund randolph did not
want to join the new administration, partly because he did not want to move his large family to new york city which was the temporary capital at that time. his wife had suffered a still born birth that had nearly killed her. and again, he had a very large family. and did not think that he could live off the meager salary that was allotted to the attorney general in new york with this large family. plus, he would not be separated from them. he was devoted to his family. only his complete devotion to george washington convinced him that he should join a government. but his hesitation to do so rankled washington. just as it would also rankle washington when jefferson hesitated to become secretary of state.
but after a time, they were all fairly convivial for at least a short time, and randolph, as i said earlier, proved a diligent advisor whose opinions were both timely and pertinent. washington soon came to be reminded of why he had always turned over his personal legal matters to edmund randolph, who never charged his hero a penny. a rather strange thing and certainly an inconvenient thing for someone who was always short of money. now, as i said, his work as attorney general was exemplary, and he proved to be indispensable to washington, as washington increasingly found madison to be distant and
jefferson to be disagreeable, particularly in the last year of washington's first term. this created its own subset of problems, as tensions mounted in the cabinet over disputes regarding different domestic policy, but also increasingly foreign policy, jefferson found himself increasingly besieged in the cabinet where secretary of war henry knox usually sided with hamilton and, since washington usually took the majority opinion, washington came increasingly to see randolph's support as essential to his positions. and yet, randolph tried to remain impartial, partly to create sort of a sense of harmony within the cabinet, but also not to turn to sort of reflexive partisanship when making his decisions. jefferson came to see randolph's
impartiality as weakness that he thought perhaps was abetting treasury. hamilton and knox simply saw it as weakness. washington, on the other hand, appreciated randolph's attitude and it increasingly saw randolph in much the same way he had earlier seen madison, with a great deal of affection, not to mention appreciation. jefferson, on the other hand, bitterly railed against randall's apostasy in letters to madison, for instance. and he finally either deliberately or let slip his feelings in a conversation with washington.
in this conversation in which washington told washington that he was now finally, after threatening for quite some time, determined to retire, they began discussing jefferson's possible successor. and washington mentioned to jefferson that randolph was the likely person that he was going to turn to. jefferson paused. after hearing that, and then sort of as a seemingly an afterthought said that perhaps randolph's financial problems could compromise his integrity in such a sensitive position as secretary of state. as we say in the book, it was a singularly rotten thing to say. and beneath thomas jefferson. but it probably planted a seed in the mind of george washington
that would eventually bear calamitous fruit. david: washington chose edmund randolph as jefferson's successor despite these warnings, and randolph accepted. again, they are reluctantly but from a sense of public duty to his country and a private devotion to his hero. he not only ignore the warnings of friends who warned him that the colleagues in the cabinet would become ferocious enemies, he also circulated what can be described only as a remarkable memorandum. to his colleagues in the cabinet, he communicated a desire for harmony, urging that all of the misunderstandings and suspicions should be put away and pledging that he would keep open straightforward channels of communication with everybody so as to avoid a repeat of the problems that had so plagued the administration.
his colleagues barely concealed their contempt for this coming occasion date gauged as insincere -- that was the move of the administration as it entered the highly charged controversies that stemmed from the united states negotiations with great britain. the particulars of john jay's mission to london would distract us from our main topic here. suffice it to say that washington exclusively consulted edmund randolph about jay's work. this does not seem strange, inasmuch as randolph was the secretary of state, and washington would naturally consult his chief foreign officer over the activities of
his chief diplomat on a sensitive mission abroad. but it irked the members of washington's second cabinet. secretary of war pickering on secretary of treasury oliver wolcott were aware of the cabinet practices of the first term, the first cabinet in which washington consulted everyone about everything whether it was major or minor outside of their departments or wherever he took all opinions, engage them equally as significant -- and gauged them equally. yet washington does not seem to want to talk to these men at all. he did not know them very well. oliver wolcott was hamilton's handpicked successor. timothy pickering was just an unpleasant man. washington had been forced to a point because he could not find anyone to replace henry knox at the war department. a thankless task. a place with a lot of threatening wars and no army. so, the pickering appointment was one that was born out of a
compulsion. washington did not regard these men as close intimates and he really consulted them. they did not meet very often. these were two new englanders and arch federalist, which was strange because of washington's desire to geographically balance the government during his first term. but the arch federalists attitudes were to be the most telling every thing that happened to edmund randolph afterward. jeanne: in the overwrought atmosphere of discussions surrounding the controversy over jay's treaty, timothy pickering and oliver wolcott determined to prove that edmund randolph was a traitor. they did so with high conviction and seemingly damning evidence
that once it was shown to george washington convinced him that, yes, edmund randolph had betrayed his country. washington had encountered on treachery during the american revolution when benedict arnold whom he trusted completely made an arrangement with the british that could have damned the american cause. the accusation against edmund randolph was no less serious, given the time and circumstance for the united states seemed on the verge of war with great britain and randolph was accused of having bargained with france for money in exchange for information. the damning document was a communication from french minister to the united states to his government. aside from his possible motivations for writing
something unflattering of randolph, the document itself had a very dubious chain of custody. it came to pickering and wolcott through the british minister to the united states george hammond who despised randolph because he thought he was a pawn of thomas jefferson who hammond also despised. this document was naturally written in french. pickering and wolcott could not read nor write french. so they clumsily translated the dispatch, and because washington
also could not read french, he had to rely on their amateurish work. and then there was the toxic connection of money and the impecunious randolph, which was enough to suggest to george washington that this merrited investigation. david: the resulting series of events gives little credit to anyone. pickering and walcott's actions disappointed randolph but washington's behavior nonplussed him. when all was done, randolph thought washington had behaved in ways that were most deceitful and most vicious. randolph reacted imprudently and irrationally, probably for the first time in his life. he resigned in anger, then comported himself in a way that was, that could not do anything but permanently seal. washington's enmity. to a point all of this is understandable, predictable but
regrettable, the outcome of a massive misunderstanding compounded by wounded pride. we all must admit, however, that this is the last rupture with his last virginian strange, an event that defied explanations. washington and randolph were close. they were even closer than washington had been with madison, certainly more so than washington ever had been with jefferson. washington's reaction is puzzling. even bearing in mind the normal inclination to entertain an accusation precisely it is so serious that no one would level it, washington accepted pickering's version of the communication, a man he did not trust and did not keep in his confidence, did not like. it's strange that washington would behave for the better part of two weeks as though nothing
were wrong, never providing any indication that he suspected randolph of treachery. when he did begin the investigation, the inquiry that was to determine randolph's innocence or guilt, he did it with an awkward meeting that included randolph's secret accusers -- pickering and wolcott. and it resembled an interrogation of a man already thought to be guilty. certainly not the kind of investigation someone could have expected whose character and service should have guaranteed the presumption of innocence until compelling proof showed otherwise. jeanne: again, the break with james madison is understandable from the fact that madison gradually retreated from the nationalism that had first brought him and washington together.
and the same is really true with jefferson as well. the break was over specific policies that emphasized nationalism over limited government, though, of course, it was certainly helped along by jefferson's feud with alexander hamilton that accelerated and then sealed the breach. but this last rupture with this particular man, randolph, becomes even more difficult to understand when we consider that eventually it was clear that randolph had done nothing wrong. the proper translation of the dispatch within the appropriate context of his conversations with randolph demonstrates that the talk of money was purely innocent. yet, there was something else in this dispatch that it was not mitigated by a better translation. and that was a section that discussed several conversations
that fouchet had had with randolph about the relationship of edmund randolph and george washington and the relationship between george washington and alexander hamilton. in these conversations, according to this dispatch, at one point, randolph described george washington as alexander hamilton's pawn. in another conversation, as outlined in this dispatch, randolph was said to say that he was george washington's master. now, whether these were actually exaggerated instances of idle gossip that fouchet included in this dispatch, or whether or not
randolph actually said something like that, which strains credulity to a certain extent, george washington could not have helped but be wounded when he read this section of fouchet's dispatch. and we believe that it was this part of the dispatch that essentially banished edmund randolph, not only from the presidency but george washington's affections. david: it would be a small flaw of vanity and an otherwise great man. no less profoundly important and its consequences. randolph's influence sustains the administration's even keel is it was beginning to tilt into reactionary postures against forces that it wrong perceived as seditious, forces that were coalescing around thomas jefferson and james madison. in the end, and for reasons other than policy or philosophy,
george washington was isolated from the last virginian who could've made a great difference in the closing months of his presidency, a difference that might've discouraged the excesses of the adams administrations that follow that did not tilt but plunged headlong into reactionary measures highlighted by this addition act -- the sedition act of 1798. jeanne: so ends our story on a cautionary note that reminds us that great man, after all, are mortals and that the titanic affairs of state oftentimes turn on the smallest of pivots. whether time and coincidence or pride and place. thank you very much. [applause]
>> thank you very much. is it on? i'm just very loud anyways. but that was fantastic. -- i'm -- it's really intriguing the way you framed this. their book is the general study of all the different people, large and small, virginian and otherwise, who helped create washington's presidency and in essence are creating washington. i really liked the way you looked at this particular virginian connection, because it is intriguing that so many others as well in his life that virginians he moved away from at different times. our good friend down the road gunston hall being an important one. now, towards the end of his life, there is also some strange
coming back into his orbit of patrick henry. and now i would love to get your sense of that relationship, because, of course, going back to the 1760's in the house of burgesses, patriots, henry is the governor of virginia. a governor a few other times as well. his great opponent and madison's opponent in the ratification debates, but then by the end of the 1790's all of a sudden henry is going to be running as a federalist against madison. is it the case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend? what is going on with washington and henry coming back together david: i think george washington always respected patrick henry as a man of principle, someone who believed what he said at the moment and was capable of evolution in his opinions and attitudes.
it's interesting because washington never seems to have held a position to the constitution or personal criticism as a public figure as a personal affront. george clinton was a committed anti-federalist but washington remained quite close to him. patrick henry the same. he offered henry the war department. one person that this is not true about is another virginian, a neighbor at gunston hall -- george mason. in the book, we talk about george mason and his relationship with george washington that was always somewhat odd, because the was a friendship frequently rocked by disagreement that would not ordinarily impinge on a
friendship. things that washington seems to have taken exception to that he overlooked and other people. and the only thing that we can think cause this is the fact that george mason was something of a didactic personality who tended to lecture rather than converse. that was fine with some people like thomas jefferson who like that sort of dialogue to occur. it seems like george mason's behavior was always tinged by not "ascension, but a presumption of superior knowledge and intellect. that we think is what happened in philadelphia. there must've been some interview between the two of mason'sterms of opposition to the constitution that turned nasty. feelwashington was made to stupid. he could be quite touchy about this.
quakes we all can. -- quakes we all can. [laughter] said hamilton was too stupid to understand them but he was perfectly capable of knowing what the administration was doing. that was one of the rare times he lost his temper, and it was telling. i think that's what happened to george mason and the reason he never had another communication with him, he was written out of his life. he did the same thing to edmund randolph we think because of dispatch number 10. cracks there never really was a break between them. as david said, washington always respected him. and henry after the ratification debate, he never tried to oppose
the government. back once want to go it happened. in other words, i lost, so we will just move forward. quakes we are recording this, so please wait until a microphone gets to use so it can get the essence of the question as well. quakes according to joseph ellis posner book, john jay was an ally of washington and hamilton and madison at the constitutional convention. i wonder about the ongoing relationship between washington and john jay. quakes they had been close back during the revolution when jay had been very supportive of the army. john jay himself was not at the constitutional convention, but even though his part was much smaller than that of hamilton and madison in the
so-called federalist tapirs in trying to get new york to ratify. most people believe that if new virginia did not ratify the constitution it didn't matter how many other state ratified because those were key states, and because of his efforts with that and his efforts essentially is the precursor to secretary of state running foreign affairs for the confederation congress, washington had tremendous admiration for jay and very much wanted to keep him in the government. once he appointed him as chief, washington continued to consult him and that's one of the reasons he trusted him with the british mission and he was sent over that of course resulted in his treaty. so he very much trusted and like
john jay. quakes i'm not sure he liked them so much after the treaty. talk to him and jay would not come to philadelphia. he went to new york where he had been elected governor on he was overseas. an irregularity that was mentioned at the time. both randolph and washington wanted very much to sit down with jay and ask how did this happen and what did this mean, and he wouldn't do it. i think washington was peeved as a result of that. quakes how much criticism does washington deserve for the selections in the cabinet of timothy pickering and all wolcott and maybe to an extent, henry knox.
there were certainly better qualified people. quakes i would say that henry knox was a leading light in the cabinet. often misunderstood and wrongly judged as a dimbulb because he was in a room where the pyrotechnic hamilton and jefferson. in any of us would find by thats overshadowed company. the problem with the second cabinet is that washington was having incredible difficulty filling the post. hamilton picked wolcott for it. unfortunately, wolcott and pickering and hammering -- hamilton remained in close correspondence throughout the closing months of the washington presidency and very much so during adams.
quakes he was quite competent. he had been trained by hamilton. he certainly didn't have hamilton's creativity but he knew what he was doing. i don't see how it possibly blame washington for a situation that he really had no control over. people saw the example of alexander hamilton, who nearly went broke as a result of his service to the government. hamilton resigned to support his family. the other leading lights were not going to go down that road. it was not just the cabinet. it was all sorts of people he had get in to accept positions of lower-level positions.
increasingly, people saw the government as the quickest way to go broke. so he had trouble finding people. david: how things have changed. washington got into the habit, when he offered somebody a post, that he would enclose a postscript saying, "if you do not want it, send it to this person." [laughter] david: yes? >> you say that washington's evolution on slavery played a role? jeanne: i do not think so. he did not -- even though he had determined that he was going to free the slaves here at mount vernon -- we do point out that half of the slaves here did not belong to him.
they belonged to the estate of martha's first husband. he did not make out a will that actually did bring that about until the summer of 1799, just months before he died. he did, during his presidency, keep slaves at the executive house, primarily in philadelphia. when one of those slaves ran away, we have a pretty lengthy section on this -- onie judge, when she ran away, he made not only strong efforts to find her, but have her brought back. he failed in that, and he was
probably trying so hard because she was one of those slaves that belonged to martha's first husband's estate, which means he would have to reimburse the estate for her. but he made a strong effort. so he was -- i will not say on the fence -- he was certainly against slavery by that point, but he still utilized slavery. there is no evidence in the correspondence i have seen that shows it was a source of strain between him and particularly jefferson. jefferson was the person in the cabinet who owned the largest number of slaves. david: those virginians were not a part of this conversation at all. there were others who were anti-slavery to the extent they
were neo-abolitionists. the problem is it was breaking him, he was going bankrupt over the slavery issue. he could not figure out what to do, because he was hemorrhaging money. he transformed mount vernon from the tobacco culture into a wheat-producing operation on five farms close to 10,000 acres. they were not growing tobacco. very minimally. it was too labor intensive. he had too many slaves to grow the crops he was growing. he would not sell them because he would not break up families. that were probably three or four times as many slaves as he needed to run the place efficiently. he entertained ideas of bringing in english husbandry to split up
the farms and have them rent or purchase with the idea of abolishing slavery on the plantation as a whole. he could not do this when he was president because he knew it would be such a political issue that it would likely doom the democratic experiment at its outset. yes, ma'am? >> you sort of talked about all these people being giants, talking about what kind of government we were going to have. but how is the average man looking at this? how engaged are they in this dialogue? david: the average american could go months at a time without thinking about george washington or thomas jefferson. lovely idea, but the government was so far removed from daily lives except for the times when
the excise men showed up. then they broke out their guns and the tar and feathers. they did not have a reach in to households on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. there were no direct taxes to bring people into contact with a federal presence unless you are importing something or smuggling something. or trying to avoid the tax on whiskey. jeanne: i would say that, by washington's second term, there were forces coalescing around jefferson and madison that did produce groups called the democratic societies. those were largely urban areas, where it was easier to communicate, where you had
newspapers that told you more about what was going on within the national government. people were starting to pay more attention in washington's second term. largely in the urban areas. david: and they did not like it. they did not like it. [laughter] david: i will wait for the various audio aids. >> you mentioned that washington's thinking always went back to the revolution. this idea of federalism, i guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that washington's army had a hard time getting supplies by the continental congress. i wonder if you see that as the crux of his thinking. david: very much so. the end of the revolution, as
you know, there was a plot that was ostensibly formed by his senior officers to overthrow congress. and install washington or someone like him as a military dictator. kind of cromwellian arrangement, because they were not being paid. the army had not been paid in some time. they tried to impose a tax to raise money, and it did not work. the states had been an impediment in the supply of men and materiel. men like washington -- governor morris went up from philadelphia to valley forge. morris was a sarcastic wit who always had something funny to say about any situation. he arrived in midwinter at
valley forge and got out of his carriage and cried. he had never seen anything like the bleeding in the snow because they did not have shoes. he went back to philadelphia and argued in congress to supply washington. the most unlikely pairing -- this pirate, morris had a peg leg, his leg was missing. he was a rake. and washington adored him. governor morris. no relation to robert. they are the new york morrises.
>> one more quick question? jeanne: yes? >> what happened to randolph? jeanne: well, he worked as an attorney for the rest of his life because he was a very good attorney. never really lived down the implication that he had done something wrong, something very wrong. but virginians embraced him. he did write a vindication of himself in which he attacked george washington. as thomas jefferson privately told anyone who would listen, it did not pay to attack george washington. that certainly hurt him.
but he was able to largely support himself. he was on the defense team for aaron burr, ironically during his treason trial, because he was such a good attorney. his wife, betsy, she predeceased him. that devastated him. he died in bad health. who doesn't die in bad health? he suffered a stroke towards the end of his life. never really recovered. david: he became a champion of unpopular causes. something that no one else would touch, he would go to. he defended george witt's murderer. randolph defended him. >> let's give them a big round of applause. [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]
quakes you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span three. to join the conversation, like this on face that -- on facebook at c-span history. quakes all weekend american history is joining our time warner cable workers to showcase the history of cincinnati ohio. to learn more about the cities on our 2015 tour, visit www.c-span.org/citiestour. historynue now with the of cincinnati. cori: right now, we are in the "freedom to slavery" exhibition at the underground railroad freedom center. it chronicles the history of slavery in america from the transatlantic slave trade through the civil war and into