Skip to main content

tv   George Washington and the 1787 Constitutional Convention  CSPAN  October 11, 2015 2:00pm-3:06pm EDT

2:00 pm
to the mound and continues to bring to the city is very significant. people love to see the jersey, the material, and remember what it was like to see fernando. if you can't travel here, keep an eye on our website. over the next several months and years, we will post more and more content. at this time, we are just getting going. it's really just basic information to invite you to come here and give you directions to come here. any time, by visiting our website, >> coming up next, offer edward larson talking about george washington's role in the constitutional convention of 1787. the founding fathers crafted a new document to replace the articles of confederation, which was unsuccessful blueprint for the government. washington agreed to take part as the virginia delegate and it
2:01 pm
presided, taking an active role in shaping the constitution as we know it today. for me, this lecture, beginning with the last one and concluding a month from now, concludes an amazing year that began a year ago, last september, with the opening of the fred w smith library for the studying of george washington. during that year, as a library fellow, i finished my book on washington which came out this week and i was able to give a copy away. during that time, while i was here, i learned what a rich treasure, we all have, especially those of you who live near it, here at mount vernon. the staff here is extraordinarily dedicated, loyal
2:02 pm
and collegial. years, the mount vernon ladies association has kept this place special. with the new library that i got to enjoy and the orientation center and the education center, i would say that no group of women have done so better, at least since martha did it alone, and among those more -- remarkable women, you are able i want toem speak, mention them in particular for their wonderful generosity and how much they have welcomed me. with that, let me begin. americans generally recognize george washington's indispensable role as the commander-in-chief of american forces during the revolutionary
2:03 pm
war, and the first president of the united states. the know he presided over convention that drafted the constitution, but few appreciate his role in forging and framing that document. my last lecture, i was able to talk about the years from his retirement up to the philadelphia convention, when he had this magnificent trip west when he saw the danger of losing the frontier. when he worked on the potomac navigation process -- project. when he began to reengage in public leadership. people appreciate his role in forging and framing this key document. if james madison was the chief architect, george washington was its general contractor, in that he,
2:04 pm
more than anyone, got the work done. if any of you have built or expanded your house, you know the architect is important, but they do -- but that the general contractor is the one who is responsible. to retire did intend from public service following the war and leave the future to others. coastal states with the best western territories ceded by britain under the treaty recognizing american independence. 1783id as much in his circular letter to the state, during which he time -- during which time he despaired over the confederates being able to manage their troops and creditors. to inspect his western lands reinforced his conviction of the articles of
2:05 pm
confederation, then looping the 13 sovereign states into a loose alliance, that it lacked the power to tax or command individuals and must be revised to give the central government direct control over interstate commerce, foreign affairs, national defense, and its own revenue. to him, these were essential for promoting liberty, protecting poverty and preserving our very independence. the subsequent breakdown of public order in some states, printing ofreckless paper money and others, deepen his can -- deepened his concerns. to illustrate this, i could draw on his correspondence with dozens of different leading americans all over the country from the north to south because he was engaged in that correspondence trying to see what could be done with other
2:06 pm
leading americans. example, lettative me focus on his exchanges with the confederation's brilliant but beleaguered foreign secretary, john jay. jay sent an6, appeal to mount vernon, begging george washington to emerge from retirement long enough to lead an effort for constitutional reform. an opinion begins to prevail, he wrote, that a general consensus would be expedient, whether the people are yet right for such a major press -- whether the system proposed is only to be expected from calamity and commotion, it is difficult to ascertain. he added that if the confederation is called, i am fervent in my wishes that you favor your country with your
2:07 pm
counsel on such an important and singular occasion. washington do that to make a difference, he could not come out of retirement -- russian 10 new that to make a difference, he could not come out of retirement for a single occasion that to make knew a difference, he could not come out of retirement for a single occasion. the people might not yet be ready to expect -- except those radical changes. washington did not want to expend his political capital prematurely, thus he put him off. perfectly" i coincide in sentiment with you. my fear is that the people are not yet significantly misled to retract from error. " the issue onamed ignorance of the people regarding dangers to read him
2:08 pm
and property from the excesses of democracy, and wickedness by some who sought to take advantage of those excesses. ignorance in design is hard to combat. improper jealousies and a train of evils which oftentimes interpublic and governments, -- oftentimes in republican governments, must be sorely felt." theemained uncertain at that -- that the time had come to act. he wrote that he scarcely knew what opinion to obtain of the convention being held. , butentertain no doubt what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. until theed to wait of theous consequences
2:09 pm
current course became obvious to people of all goodwill. virtue, i fear has taken a departure from our disability --ne disposition of justice is -- we can see from this that the anxiety over constitutional or collected in this exchange and in the other's washington is running at this time to dozens of other people, if the trade a far more fundamental concern than mere fears of losing the west, simple hopes for a national market economy, and a plane desired to repay government creditors and former soldiers. those issues weighed heavily on men, but, -- on both their letters discussed loss of public virtue and justice, and breakdown of the social fabric under the excesses of majority faction. liberty itself was at risk, both
2:10 pm
men declared, much is it had as it had been in 1776, but this time from within. 1786, with the debtors insurrection in massachusetts, wholesale printing of devalued paper money by rhode island and open rebellion in vermont, washington began to doubt if americans were capable of self-government. this is a picture of him from that time. who, besides a tory could have foreseen or britain predict these events he wrote to bostonian henry knox, then the confederate -- the confederate secretary of war. notwithstanding the boasted virtue of america, we are gone -- we are far gone in everything
2:11 pm
noble. to james madison, who was already thinking about a new national political structure, washington wrote in november, " 13 sovereignties pulling against each other and all typing at the federal head, will soon bring ruin to the world. where is a liberal constitution, well guarded and closely watched to prevent encroachment, right restored to us that degree of respectability and consequence to which we had a fair claim." march 1780 7, 3 months after the disturbances in martian -- in massachusetts died out, -- washington wrote about the of the -- of -- these disorders are evident marks of a defective government.
2:12 pm
indeed, the thinking part of the people in this country are now so well satisfied of this fact that most of the legislatures have appointed and will appoint delegates to meet in philadelphia on the second monday of may next. in general convention of the state, to revise and correct the defect to the federal system. by this point, virginia had picked washington to lead its delegation to the convention, and he was debating with himself and others whether he should go. his main worries was at the convention had been called merely to propose amendments to the articles of confederation, not to frame a fundamentally new constitution. the people might not be ready to accept the needed overhaul. he did not want to waste his time and political capital on tinkering with a failed system. a wrote to madison, "
2:13 pm
thorough reform of the present system is indispensable. with hand to heart, i hope the business will be in the future upcoming convention. " he reiterated his hope that the convention would probe the defect to the -- of the constitution to the bottom and jurors radical cares -- -- cures. by this point, washington had noxx, and toay, to k madison, requesting their advice. struck by the similarities of washingtones, prepared an abstract, a single paper comparing those three responses. envision a national
2:14 pm
government with separate legislative branches. all would divide congress into an elite upper house and a popular lower house. madison collaborated more than the others on the judiciary. he viewed national courts as essential to avoid local bias in expounding national law in deciding cases of citizens of different states. obsessed with reigning in the states. the national government should be armed with positive and complete authority in all cases which require uniformity." he wrote to washington. -- he regulation recommended placing state militias under national control and suggested that, as in colonial days, the central government should appoint state
2:15 pm
governors, recognizing the in expediency abolishing the states altogether, which is what hamilton wanted to do, madison called for a federal system, some middle ground which may at one -- at once support a new supremacy of national authority, and not exclude the local authorities whenever they can be useful. [laughter] at least in a areas -- in areas under its domain, he believed that the national government could act on the people, not just on the state. , andhree men, jay, knox madison, agreed on this point. in response, washington embraced the proposals and made them his own. " those enumerated in your ofters are so obvious and so sensibly so, that no logic can convert them -- controvert them.
2:16 pm
is the public mind matured for such an important change?" he asked. he stated his fears that the will yet bechine much humbled and tossed and possibly wrecked altogether before such a system as you have defined will be adopted. jealous of power, state officials would give their weight of opposition to such a revolution, washington predicted. nevertheless, he wrote to jay that he wanted to try the convention route and find out what could be affected. it might represent, as he put it, the last peaceable means to save the union. should it devise a vigorous new constitution under his leadership, knox assured washington that he, washington, -- doubly double
2:17 pm
earned the glorious republican epitaph, father of the country. washington recognize at the center of constitution making. make no mistake about it, washington did not want to leave mount vernon. he now saw it as his civic duty and so he went to philadelphia. americans everywhere understood and discussed its significance. an article in the connecticut it isl of may 2 wrote, " with particular satisfaction that we inform the public that george washington has consented to serve in the ensuing federal convention. may note a consequence all the true friends of federal government process -- promise themselves." he was per trade as a roman island paperde
2:18 pm
printed a poem in may 5 about washington's much-anticipated arrival in philadelphia. i am picking these at random. i could pick out hundreds of similar comments. here is from rhode island. " the hero comes, each voice resounds his praise. no envious shaft can dare to chill his raise. all hail great man who for our country's cause, flew to her laws." protect its these and other certainly did accounts showed that even before it began, americans expected ures from the constitution. to the essential -- a schedule to the dignity of our national character, the maryland chronicle noted an article dated
2:19 pm
the very day that washington passed through baltimore on his way to the convention. philadelphia paper, when he arrived wrote a leading the proposal to give congress complete power over all things which are alike -- july concern of all states was the essential drive of what the convention was about. are bridge the states of their sovereignty, and the more supreme power we consecrate in an assembly of the states, the more safety, liberty and prosperity will be enjoyed by each of the states and all of the people." reflecting his commitment to serve, washington was one of the few delegates to arrive in philadelphia on time. he went to the state house on the appointed hour of may 14, to find only madison and the
2:20 pm
pennsylvanians present. they returned daily as the other delegates gradually trickled in. it took 10 more days to obtain a quorum. in the meantime, meeting privately, they virginians and pennsylvanians cobbled together the outline for the new plan of government. it became known as the virginian plan. little is known about the meetings, what letters from those present suggest that washington attended every meeting and supported the outcome. as one virginian depicted the still forming plan, nothing less than a revolution in government was brewing, he wrote to his son that the most prevalent idea seems to be a total alternation of the present federal system
2:21 pm
and substituting a great national council with full legislative powers upon all objects of the union. this sentence effectively summarized the virginia plan. people would replace the states as the building blocks of the national republic and congress would no longer go hat in hand to the states for everything. on matters of national interest, it would either dictate to the states or deal directly with the people. aen the convention obtained quorum, it probably chose washington as president and turned to matters of rules. this is a painting or illustration made of washington at the convention. those rules adopted at the outset provided that so long as it was represented, each state would have one vote. a majority of state representative. vote -- a majority of states represented would carry a vote and secrecy would remain
2:22 pm
throughout with windows shattered and doors closed. members met day after day, six days a week for over three months. individuals came and went, and states gained and lost representation. new hampshire did not appear until late july, by which time new york had left altogether. rhode island never said -- never sent delegates. throughout the entire period, only washington and madison attended. each meeting with secrecy in force, the only records come from madison's notes or minutes. also a scattering of personal letters and writings. the silence engulfing the convention, especially limited what was known about washington's role because as the presiding officer, as the speaker would know, he rarely
2:23 pm
spoke on substantive matters in the hall. he did talk privately with other members and voted, which makes him different from the speaker of our congress now. he consistently voted with the virginia deadwood -- delegation. he also called on members when they spoke. no one recorded those private utterings. the other members like they knew where he stood on significant matters but beyond his desire to create a central government with the power to tax, maintain an army, and regulate interstate and international commerce, positions on which he had 1783,ly championed since the record of his specific contributions to the convention for main public -- convention remain oblique. revealing,re especially his often decisive
2:24 pm
vote within the virginia delegation. his delegation was one of the most split. in the end, it was his vote that allowed virginia to endorse the constitution. two toe was three to support the constitution. his vote was decisive there. one day after the convention committed itself to secrecy, going back to the beginning, the virginia delegation dropped its bombshell, having participated in preparing it, washington clearly conspired in the timing of that delivery. to begin the business of the convention, as medicine turned it in his notes, washington called on admin randolph, the virginia governor then presented his delegation's plan for a new constitution. once he took the floor, randolph held it for most of the day and left no doubt about his state's radical intentions.
2:25 pm
as presented by randolph, the plan called for the outlying -- outlining of a national government composed of a two house legislature, some sort of chief executive, and a judiciary with a supreme and inferior court. for america's woefully inadequate central government cited discord among the states, rebellion in massachusetts, the havoc of paper money and the congress's failure to pay its debts. randolph argued that the old confederation did not work and raised the prospect of anarchy. he also stated there were many advantages which the united states may inquire -- acquired which were not attainable under the articles of confederation such as the counteraction of
2:26 pm
regulation of other nations and the pushing of commerce. they hope, randolph said, lay in a national government with power to legislate on matters of general concern and compel obedience. one step at -- one skeptical captured the essence in a scribble of a note he wrote off. nation."t to be one its ground, staked forcing others to respond. no delicate could doubt -- no delicate could doubt -- no deli egate could doubt where washington stood. washington cited with virginia in its plan. in doing so, he helped hijack the convention. congress had endorsed this gathering as a meeting to draft amendments to the confederation. washington's virginia instead
2:27 pm
to scrap theg it existing government altogether and forge a new nation. that night, when randolph gave his speech, washington worked on a long letter he posted the next day to java's -- to thomas jefferson. the business of this convention is as yet, too much embryo to form any opinion of result that something is necessary, everyone here agrees. the situation, the general government is shaken to its foundation, and liable to be over stepped by every blast. any word yet, the confederation is at an end analysts remedy is soon applied, anarchy and confusion will inevitably ensue." these words echoed randolph surgeons -- urgent speech.
2:28 pm
the convention accepted the virginia plan as a starting point for its deliberations and never looked back. washington said little of substance in the hall, but surely spoke in private, persuaded -- he soon wrote to a fellow virginian. in the tenacity of that power which pervades the whole of their system, so long as the states retained independent sovereignty, he wrote in a letter during the convention, the country would falter. won, theyl battle warned outraged over the precise power, the nature of the executive, the establishment of inferior courts, the protection or state sanctions slavery and. other matters.
2:29 pm
-- and myriad other matters. he wrote, " who oppose a strong central government are narrowminded politicians or under the influence of local views." of all the delegates, it was james wilson and alexander hamilton, too pro-business nationalists with close ties to washington who most vocally defended an open ended grant of power to the central government. on june 18, after new jersey proposed a limiting list of powers in its alternative plan for a federal government, hamilton exploded. between the national and the state legislatures, he said, the former must have indefinite authority. wilson was more discrete,
2:30 pm
distancing himself from hamilton's extreme remarks. he argued that states should only survive as lesser jurisdictions or subdivisions of the nation. from start to finish, washington presided over the constitution without expressing his views on the proper extent of the central government's power. he did not need to. ever since his circular letter, which was then the country's best known public document other than the declaration of atependence, read typically all fourth of july ceremonies across the country, he stood as the personification of nationalism in the united states. spoke loudersence than anyone's speeches in the hall. he gave weight to the plan. a broaddolph draft enumeration of congressional powers that be virginia
2:31 pm
delegation back, it included every single power that washington had publicly endorsed. by the way, it dropped many that madison had wanted. no issue mattered more than washington that the new government's supreme power and sovereignty. some were so divisive as to nearly derailed the convention. others that every day get new would directly impact washington, should he become the first president. they would look to him on these issues, and he in turn help them shape the outcome. national supremacy matter the most to him. he wrote one day before the delegates approved randolph's list of enumerated powers in a letter back home, " the it is to look for respect from abroad or tranquility at home of the wisdom and force of the union can be more concentrated." evidence abounds for washington's influence in shaping various provisions of the constitution.
2:32 pm
you can see it with how he voted in the various measures coming forward. and for securing the compromises that kept the convention on track. his role in crafting the executive office offers a good example of the part he played in philadelphia. since everyone presumed that washington would become the new governments first executive, no one could conceive of this position without thinking of him and it. within a year, south carolina stated that his colleagues at the convention " shape their ideas and the powers to begin -- be given to the president by their opinion of washington's virtue." the presidency was the convention's most creative creation.
2:33 pm
-- the king of poland, the councils of ancient rome and even the pope as examples of political leaders chosen by some sort of an elite electorate. none of these analogies really fit though. the american presidency was something new under the sun. having agreed to begin deliberations i working for the virginian plan, the delegates reached the plans does go resolutions on june 1. perhaps because washington was sitting among them with the delegates reached those resolutions, they all fell unusually silent. with the provisions coming from washington's delegation, no one seemed inclined to dispute them. washington would be the first president and the delegates seemed reluctant to cross him. who would follow him? benjamin franklin broke the silence.
2:34 pm
here is a picture of him at the convention. " observing the structure of the executive -- he urged delegates to deliberate before the question was put. these comments burst the dam and debate flooded the room. four days later, with the discussion still going strong, he could add with reference to washington, and the debate over the executive, franklin said the first man put at the hell would be a good one. nobody knows what sort may come afterward. the members debated the executive at length for three separate times during the convention. in june, the first of the occasions, they raised virtually all of the issues about the presidency that would later occupation -- occupy them. they had trouble resolving if even one person or a committee of three should hold the office.
2:35 pm
with washington in the room, a unitary executive should have seen obvious to all especially since every state had only one governor. fearful investing too much power in any single person, some delegates, including two from virginia, favored a executive triumvirate. denouncing a single executive as a fetus of monarchy, randolph said the people would oppose it. washington's neighbor said that executive trumka would better represent the country's three regions. they comments coming as did from old friends, surely vexed washington who pried himself on his republican virtue, public support and unbiased nationalism. every delegate who knew him must've understood that
2:36 pm
washington would never consent to serve as one member of an executive triumvirate, nor would he be suited for such a post. while he remained silent, others that washington's was so clearly qualified to fill. -- by fixingutive responsibility on one person served as quote the best safeguard against here in a -- against tyranny. a strip -- stressed that truck that would be especially troublesome in war. it would be like a general with three heads, he declared. while these positions came out in the course of a formal debate, delegates discussed them it on other occasions as well. some members regularly attended evening balls and tease where they could talk in semi private
2:37 pm
settings and none of them were finer than the ones that robert morris -- at robert morris's house. even those delegates who do not circulate in high society inevitably spent considerable time together outside of the assembly hall. most of them lived tightly packed into a handful of the city's best boarding houses and inns where they dined at common tables. more washington state in elegant mansions, reported to the the finest in the city, where he could dine in, he frequently ate out with the other members that were part of his political activities. -- first became a parent with washington debate, eight with date -- delegates at city taverns were the subject of the days heated debate likely came up and work on every buddy
2:38 pm
mind. now, later in that same day, as many of those delegates casually dined with the man who would be day,king, and in the same where they could not resolve whether there should be one executive or three, washington's presence must have reassured them. as a frequent guest at city taverns, pierce butler may have been present. if so, it would explain his latest comments that the powers vested in the executive would not have been so great and not many of the members cast their eyes to general washington as president. at the convention's next session, the very next session, the state voted by a margin of seven to 13 for a single executive. virginia, by a very narrow split
2:39 pm
vote with washington breaking the tie, joined the majority. week went for week after as washington successfully guided the convention to a historic conclusion in september when all of the states then present voted for the constitution, even the many individual delegates objected to parts of it. the convention been approved a cover level -- letter for transmitting the finished draft of congress. that cover letter stated the friends of our country have long that the power of making war, peace treating's and money and commerce should be fully and effectively vested in a general government. claimed,tors, it justified the consolidation of the union in which -- which
2:40 pm
our prosperity, safety and perhaps our national existence. this letter effectively opened the public campaign for ratification. the fact that a poor washington's signature -- that it bore washington's signature maze appear that the constitution itself -- made it appear that the constitution itself was from him. the company resolutions asked congress to for the constitution to the states and, if they ratified it, to set a time for choosing presidential electors in the date for a new government to assume power. washington's signature on these resolutions assured that they would command attention. they made it look as if the constitution came from him, which was there intent.
2:41 pm
all that remained was for the delegates to ceremoniously signed the document itself. as the two larger-than-life leaders who sued -- whose support for the constitution and the convention made them credible, washington and franklin took center stage for the signing. they do so in the monumental painting of the event, the best-known by howard chandler christy that a later congress commissioned for the united states capital. the shutters in the background symbolically opened, they were actually closed, and the drapes pulled to revealed a bright -- to reveal a bright new day and then almost holy aura. franklin sits facing the viewer at the center, surrounded by the other signers. washington stands alone in your profile at the viewer's right,
2:42 pm
towering over the others as he first -- as he surveys the scene. christy invented this arrangement of characters and tinkered with the cast. airbrushed out the people who voted no. [laughter] added in people who voted yes and has others assigned on their behalf. despite these changes and opening the windows, the painting's spirit reigns true. washington oversaw the signing by supervising events from an elevated chair. he called on franklin first on the day of the signing. franklin gave his famous speech and said " i agree to this constitution with all its faults because i believe a general government necessary for us and
2:43 pm
there is no form of government which may not be a blessing to the people it well administered. and, i believe further that this one is likely to be well administered for a course of years." he said with a verbal nod to washington. unionalternative was this with the states only to meet after for the purpose of cutting 1 -- one another's throats." rule, this secrecy speech promptly made it into newspapers across the country alongside washington's transmittal letters. the great man had spoken for all americans to hear. at the time, they were widely credited as the constitution's drafters. the signing may have felt as historic to them as it looks in this picture.
2:44 pm
, aboveton signed first the rest enabled large hand, somewhat reminiscent of john hancock's already well-known signature on the declaration of independence. george washington, president and deputy from virginia. filedhe other 38 signers forward by state beginning with new hampshire and proceeding southward to abraham baldwin of georgia. while the last members were signing, franklin looked at the half son that adorned the crown of washington's chair. i have, he said to those near him, often in the course of this sunion, look at that behind a president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. now i have the happiness to know that it is a rising sun, not a setting one.
2:45 pm
madison chose this anecdote involving the sage of philadelphia and washington's chair to close his notes of the convention. elaborating somewhat, washington reported in his diary, " the members to jury city tavern, dining together and took a cordial leave." he then added that after dinner, he retired to meditate on the momentous work that had been executed. the product of that labor, the constitution, if ratified, which transform the rest of his life and his country forever. one step done, washington soon sorted -- short of america, more steps lay ahead with the general deeply invested in each. these are the subject of my final lecture, please come again next month.
2:46 pm
thank you. [applause and laughter] i believe we have some time for questions. won't havethat be you speak them into a microphone, though i will try to repeat them somewhat. [laughter] right in the middle and back, here comes the microphone. close did patrick henry actually come to the railing -- he was totally against everything as a member from virginia. >> he did not show up. please come back next week -- next month. patrick henry is a somewhat centerstage next month.
2:47 pm
patrick henry was two people. several delegates voted no, such as other bridge jerry and should -- and george mason. they would be leading and that federalists -- anti-federalists. york, one ofof new washington's closest friends, they were like brothers and patrick henry of virginia leading the argument. patrick henry had not gone to the convention. he was elected as a delegate but never showed up. it might have turned out quite differently. maybe that's what washington meant that getting the constitution through the convention was little short of a miracle. that miracle might have been the patrick henry did not show up.
2:48 pm
we will talk more about that next month. any other questions? he's going to hand you a microphone. thank you. the question was, how was the constitution written? it was written by committee. because the other states were late in getting there, madison -- washington, when the constitution was coming, he was committed to radical change, he did not want to just anchor with the articles of confederation. it was the john jay foreign secretary for the confederation, and henry knox, the secretary of war and madison. that is came up and stayed right here at mount vernon for a considerable period of time and
2:49 pm
they worked on formalizing the idea. then they went to the convention, washington and madison both arrived on time. the only other people there with the philadelphians who were presented as from pennsylvania. since the convention do not have a quorum for 10 days, for all of those days, that group -- we don't know who exactly was there, but it suggests that washington and madison were always there as more virginian showed up, they joined the group and the best historians of the convention argued that the key philadelphians, governor morris and wilson were there. they drafted up what became known as the virginia plan. that was then approved as the starting point for operations and then what happened was they literally spent three months tinkering with those various
2:50 pm
resolutions that were part of the virginia plan, adding this, changing this, creating rings like -- things like the electoral college or creating forsenate or two members every state because the virginia plan did not provide for that. -- the details of the powers of the presidency, working out all these details. they were hammered out repeatedly first with the committee as a whole, all the states voting, washington voting, and then taking it in the convention and reworking through those documents and then handing it off to a committee, first to pull off the several -- separate adopted pieces together , congress works in that and a large convention. then that came back and they sent it back to -- after that
2:51 pm
was tinkered with. they sent it back to a committee to polish it. that is when governor morris added the beautiful preamble which people actually remember as opposed to the rest. that was the handiwork, as was the electoral college. those with the handiwork's mostly of governor morris. the committee to the polishing, washington was serving as the president of the convention which was the perfect role for him. he was a wonderful conversationalist. people loved to talk to him. he liked going to parties. great retail politician. he was not a good public speaker because of his teeth and partly because of his nature. it was perfect for him to work the crowd in the evening and
2:52 pm
work out the compromises and work with the different people while he let other people speak. that's how the document was hammered out over three very , allmonths in philadelphia behind closed doors with the press never getting word from it. you can read what the press reported, they did -- they did not have a clue what was going .n inside it was published all around the country that the convention decided to call on the duke of secondo was the king's son to become the king of the united states. another one was that they voted to exclude rhode island. wild andts were probably as exaggerated as some news reports we get today. nobody corrected them by the way. that goes back to the earlier
2:53 pm
question the patrick henry had no clue what was going on. some of the coming with a microphone -- somebody coming with a microphone? could you give us some background on how george washington and james madison's relationship of all -- were -- lved?ionship evo this became close during time. madison became almost like a son to washington. madison was a member of congress at the end. washington was often the military -- off in the military. he began to trust madison who was not married in his mid-30's. if there was ever a policy wonk, it was james madison.
2:54 pm
they called him in -- they would call him a nerd today. he loved the details. he became convinced in congress that this, the articles of confederation were an utter failure. with majorityed faction. he became convinced that these states were petty, basic tyrannies and that they were taking away individual liberties and the property rights of the minorities. andum, it was religious summit was the creditors taking over. he saw the whole country being pulled apart and so he deeply believed -- he began to think about this i believe that there should be a separation of power within the government. his fundamental libertarian rationale for the constitution
2:55 pm
was that if you had -- the problem was that there was a small little entity like delaware or pennsylvania and you could get a little local majority whether it was religious or. based on economics and he thought those were the two big horses -- forces that tend create factions, economics or religion and they would form together and lord over the others and take away the freedom for other people. he thought if you had an extended republic and went all the way from georgia to new hampshire, it would be so big that you could not get any majority faction. ever him for the checks and balances within the government, which he believed in , and he saw that in some states and massachusetts and new york had pretty effective balance and say government, where things like pennsylvania and rhode island, you basically had total power and a single chamber of the legislature. you do not have an effective judiciary, any power as the
2:56 pm
governor, any -- an effective upper house. those, a lower house and he said, were passing laws that were taking away the freedom and power of others. he saw those two solutions and that he would later write about them in the federalist papers. ,hat was his libertarian view his protecting liberty view of the constitution. he was coming in explaining this to washington and washington became persuaded and spent considerable time, month after month living right here in mount vernon. about how it evolved and it did. when washington takes power, it was viewed that madison, who washington persuaded to run for , -- he did not like
2:57 pm
debating or campaigning. he liked being a policy wonk back in the background. washington virtually insisted that madison run for congress. he is narrowly elected, and then he virtually becomes washington's -- prime and mr.. he wrote the -- prime minister. he wrote the inaugural address. he likely did not support the bill of rights as washington opposed it. he was very influential, but basically, washington sort of tired event -- tired of his intrigues and hamilton, who was the second pick for treasury secretary, who had been his aid for a while during the he gainedary war, ascendancy and hamilton, by term, through the first becomes washington's closest advisor and washington pulls away from medicine.
2:58 pm
it's an evolving relationship. when the federalist papers first come out, washington just writes the medicine that this is the best thing he ever read. it's the best argument for government and then send them around throughout the country to others, asking other newspapers to republish them. washington becomes very involved during the campaign for ratification about pushing madison's ideas of balanced the balance that comes from the reduced risk of a majority faction from a large country. long answer, good question. this seems like the role of secrecy at the convention was so important. to pass andt come what was washington's role in enforcing that or facilitating that?
2:59 pm
>> secrecy was very important for the constitutional convention. virtually all historians agree that they were would've never gotten where they gotten if they had not kept the doors closed. wasas jefferson thought it appalling. he said he don't understand the role of a free press in a republic. fortunately, he was off in paris. washington took it very seriously. he enforced it very vigorously. i can give a variety of examples, but practically one that is captured by one of the delegates from georgia who wrote extensive notes on the delegates. he wrote that washington came in one day absolutely furious and said that one of the plans that -- one ofistributed
3:00 pm
the proposals that have been distributed in the convention was being debated had been found outside in the hall and had been left outside in the public area now known as independence hall. it literally got quiet, it it had been brought to him, and he made this speech. washington had an incredible force, and he stood up there, and he said that how offended he was and how dangerous it was and how you were all sworn to secrecy, and he threw the paper down and said whoever comes back up and picks it up, and then he walked out of the room. fellow who wrote it down said no one, no one, no one went forward, and this delicate ran back to -- this delegate ran
3:01 pm
back to his room, and he was never more relieved than he found he still had his copy of the document, so washington let it be known where he stood on that issue, and as a result, he did not keep notes himself. he did write some letters back himself, which i quoted from. notes,dison cap detailed which he had valid to keep confidential until the last member died. conveniently, he was the last member who died, so it came out after his death, but that is how serious he was about secrecy. so worriedey were about ben franklin, who had a tendency to go to the taverns and talk that they would send people with franklin at all times to keep him from letting loose everything that was being said. a great question.
3:02 pm
yes, secrecy. i do not think they allow us to get away with it now. spoke of jefferson being in france. my question was, given they sent philadelphia,om was there any foreign influence? is there any documentation that outside of the country had any influence on this constitutional convention at all? larson: great question. was there any foreign influence? this country was going to lose its independence without this. britain had not abandoned the force in the northwest. span was looking to retake the southwest. british candidate was actively conspiring with vermont for vermont to join canada.
3:03 pm
they were sort of eyeing the different parts to break it back up. they would not have had a desire for a stronger national government, for sure, and we do have an incredible record of virtually everything that was sent out and sent back. that has been compiled over the years. was an amazing job done 100 years ago of pulling this thegether, and truly, foreigners in america, the foreign diplomats, they did not know what was going on. was being pulled off, they knew something big was afoot, but they did not know. washington was sending letters to jefferson very regularly. they were close. --er people were sent in sending letters, and the letters that they would not give away anything covered in the secrecy. they speak in general terms.
3:04 pm
there was no indication. and what is so impressive about the secrecy is so many members of the convention were totally aghast of what was happening, such as new york. the areas. they stormed off, left in the middle of the convention, leaving new york no longer represented. even they did not report what was happening. they felt round. sense of honor that prevailed in that day that even they, until the convention was over -- when the convention was over, they told the governor everything, but even they did not spill the beans, as it were. that really speaks to the sense of honor and commitment to their word that americans had back then. after reading through this, i have enormous respect for both sides, the way they dealt with it, and we're going to see in
3:05 pm
the next session how these bitter opponents, because washington insisted the ratification process be fair and open, and a fair debate, and this was to make sure they did not ramrod it through, that even the opponents recognized that been fairlyt had adopted and, therefore, we should give it a fair try. a sense, a wonderful tribute to that generation. 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] announcer: you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation,


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on