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tv   1861 Washington Peace Conference  CSPAN  October 25, 2015 2:00pm-2:38pm EDT

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themunicators,,"," -- communicators," -- >> as the individuals become subjected to these breaches -- many people have -- they have come to realize it's not if you have your data breached, it is when. when is your data going to be breached? having a federal standard in exercising federal preemption and setting a framework of time that they have to inform consumers and set penalties for enforcement, those are appropriate steps that should be taken and those are the steps that are covered in the data security legislation that we have worked on at the energy and
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commerce committee. >> monday night, 8 p.m. eastern on "the communicators," c-span2. >> next, author mark tooley talks about the background and goals of various peace delegates who met in washington in 1861 to try to avert the civil war after lincoln's election. his book is titled "the piece that almost was." this talk is about half an hour. mark: it's great to see you all. i was looking for some to introduce me but i will just announce myself. here we are. i did not intend any remarks this evening, but c-span called us yesterday so i decided that yes, i would have something to
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say were some kind of performance to turn out for you all and for c-span. it is great to see everybody here. i have not had time to circulate or even eat yet, but the hotel assures me that even though the only plan for 100 people, and i think we had 120 rsvps. we are delighted by the crowd and pleasantly surprised on this labor day. i was worried we would not even have 45 here. the 80 books we had available or down to the final eight. we appreciate your interest and being here. the hotel has assured me that even though the books will run out, we have plenty of food in the bar will remain open the matter what until 8:00. you can take full advantage of that. i would think some people here, but there are so many people here i don't know who to single out. i will point my parents, without whom i would not be here in the book would not be here. david and joanne tooley. [applause] my father produced this painting of the willard hotel as it would have appeared at the time of the peace conference in february
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1861. when you have a chance, take a look at that. it is really wonderful. i expect all the people that i think all the people from the organization to help with this on in several of our board members are here as well. thank you. i was very excited that ron maxwell is here, the creator of "gettysburg" and "gods and generals," among other works. as soon as i complete my remarks, he will be announcing that he is turning my book into a movie. [laughter] all of you are invited to be extras in that movie. make sure you give him your name. i don't want to talk too long, but if you would indulge me with maybe about 10 minutes, and if you need to fortify yourself at the bar, sit down at the back,
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that is fine. i wanted to give an overview of what the book is about. i think i'm going to give you enough information that you will still want to read the book. it will tantalize and motivate you more to read a book after i give you some of the choosier tidbits of what happened in this hotel in february of 1861. think back to that time. lincoln was elected in november. he was elected only by votes in the northern states, less than 40% of the vote. by january, six states had already seceded from the union from the deep south. texas is about to go. the country seems to be falling apart. stepping forward into this crisis is a 71-year-old, john tyler, who was president 16 years before. he is a virginian. he is with a sense of patriotism and duty. he was born during the first term of president george
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washington. he had grown up knowing thomas jefferson and james madison and him and him and many of the founders. he thought this was his calling to attempt to save the nation if there was still time. he suggested to the virginia legislature -- well, he had preferred just the border states, but the virginia legislature invited all the remaining states of the union to come together for this confab in washington dc starting on february 4 to try to avert the crumbling of the nation and the strong possibility of civil war. 21 states centered -- sent their delegations here. the west coasts did not have
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time. neither did arkansas. you know arkansas. [laughter] the upper midwest, so republican, michigan, wisconsin, minnesota, said they wanted nothing to do with a john tyler democratic project. there were 121 delegates on paper were here starting on february 4. if you think back to that day,, the thermostat was just above freezing. two inches of snow on the street of washington. i imagine that washington could not handle snow back and any better than they can today.
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[laughter] there is the home of lights overhead and smell of sulfur trying to keep the room more. they met in what had been an old presbyterian church which had been turned into a concert hall. that is where it's 120 delegates got together. they were quickly labeled by the newspapers the old gentleman convention, because like john tyler, there were a lot of old men who had been in government for 30, 40 years. it had been the succeeding generation from the founding fathers. maybe sarcastically and a little bit of an insult, but perhaps some reverence also that these old gentleman had kept the country together successfully to
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fight the issue of slavery for 30, 40 years. still have a few tricks left in their back that they could pull out at the very last minute. the major workers -- characters are president tyler and his beautiful young wife, julia, who is 30 years younger. the movie, when it is produced -- i -- [laughter] john tyler will be pretrade by christopher plummer and julia will be pretrade by drew barrymore. [laughter] he is taking notes. there is a wonderful story there, sad. tyler was president. he was on a war ship on the potomac river and much of official washington was on an official outing. the uss princeton. a brand-new artillery piece called the peacemaker was fired off and it backfired and blew up and killed several prominent washingtonians, including, i think the war secretary and a new york congressman, congressman gardner, whose
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27-year-old daughter julia was on the ship and she fainted when she got word that her father died. she fainted into the arms of president john tyler, who carried her off the ship and married her. [laughter] in about a year. there is a happy ending. as first lady, she had a special platform built in the east room so she could sit a little higher than everyone else. she was very regal, very stylish, very celebrated, 24 years old, and she had been stuck on the james river the last 16 years and now she is back in washington with her husband. the eyes of the nation are upon him and a set of shop at the brown hotel down pennsylvania
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avenue between the fbi and the capital, which was their favorite hotel. she is excitedly writing letters home to her mother in new york to send her dresses and they have great parties plan, but also as the daughter of a congressman, she is politically engaged in fascinated by what is happening at the peace conference. john tyler, julia tyler he would become secretary of the treasury under lincoln. yet been a prominent ohio governor -- he had been a prominent ohio governor. they would meet behind closed doors after the plenary sessions
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in the hotel to strategize. it was a former attorney general name viewings from ohio -- named ewings from ohio. him ewings from ohio. it was an officer who would become famous. there is a former congressman named jane sutton, who is described as waiflike, skin and looking like he is about to blow away, goatee and mustache and always wearing a skullcap, looking like a just what missionary in the 1600s, intense -- looking like a jesse what -- looking like a jesuit missionary and 60 hundreds, intense, black eyes. i picture tommy lee jones as him in the movie. [laughter] he goes on to be war secretary in the confederacy and was considered the best beaker at him and the conference. the ship story, the captain of that ship, commodore stockton, is a delegate from new jersey at the conference. he had this long association with the tylers. he is here. there is a man from connecticut, roger sherman baldwin, grandson
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of the great founding father who had been both at the signing of the declaration of independence and constitution. a great patriot family and anti-slavery people. he had been an attorney along with john quincy adams at the amistad trial 20 years earlier. if you saw the movie about the slaves over taking the crew of a spanish slave ship on its way to cuba, and are they slaves, are they free? the attorney, played by matthew mcconaughey in the movie, but that is roger sherman baldwin. a much older man at this point, but very articulate and forceful. there is a young delegate from vermont. he was there because when the delegate said we don't want any press, any newspaper representation, we are not even keeping our own journal. the notes are confidential. young crittenden stood up and said i will keep a journal. oh, you can do that.
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to his credit, john tyler told the delegates that we have no control over what delegates say or do, so mr. crittenden, you can do what you please. he kept an almost for bait him journal of what was spoken. he compared himself to james madison, keeping notes that the constitutional convention. in their mind, the gathering was almost like the constitutional convention. henry clay's son was here as a delegate, from kentucky, of course, and also a senator named william reeves from virginia. a former congress and, senator, and he was in france during the revolution.
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he became friends of the king him and queen and king became the godfather -- queen became the godmother of the newborn child. a refined gentleman of virginia, from piedmont. i met his great-grandson today. he gave a talk about his ancestor, which was excellent. interestingly, reeves had sold 114 of his slaves to james set in -- sutton, his fellow delegate. this is what the convention is all about, the issue of slavery. there are other characters at the convention that are playing their part. president buchanan at the white house desperately wants the convention to succeed. him he is described as hugging delegates and cheerful and pleading with them that the country is depending on you. he has been ineffectual during these few months since lincoln's election. wants to save the union, but does not think he has constitutional power to do anything meaningful. minis, harriet lane, is the first lady -- the niece, harriet
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lane, is the first lady. as they have final parties, it is awkward because most of their southern democratic friends have left town as their states seceded. buchanan is now the representative of the union, so, hey, we are with you, president buchanan. a lot of awkward moments at parties harriet lane was hosting. general scott was organizing security in washington and he has his office. he is 75 years old, very corpulent, but still very much in command of the army. his office is inside the white house in the still existing windsor building. there is stephen douglas, senator from illinois, who lincoln had defeated in the election. seward would soon become secretary of state, and was
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here. he was an agent of lincoln and the republicans. vice president john breckenridge, who was also a candidate against lincoln and would be calculating and presiding over the electoral college vote that would take place about a week and a half from this convention. some people were nervous about that. he would go on to become a confederate general the next year and he attacked washington in 1864. he was at the side with john breckenridge. at this point, he is sitting in the chair as vice president. the son of john quincy adams and john adams' grandson. him him he is a congressman. he has his own machinations himhe has his own machinations going under. the famous general who lost his leg get gettysburg. is a congressman from new york at this point. already notorious because a couple years before he had shot
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his wife's love her to death in lafayette park across from the white house in broad daylight. that lover was francis scott t's grandson. the lover had been waiting a handkerchief is a signal in lafayette square. so, her husband responded accordingly. [laughter] he hired a lawyer, edwin stanton, who was the attorney general of the united states and would become lincoln's war secretary. he got him off on the first time that temporary insanity was ever used in a murder trial. he is very involved with what is going on here. i have so many more anecdotes. i'm not sure which ones to share. a few that i will kick out. in terms of what the delegates are doing with their time in washington, they are in the hotel during the day. at night, there are lots of parties going on. one of the more interesting ones
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was stephen douglas and his wife, it must have been a large house over towards judiciary square, one evening, the second week of the conference, they had 400 guests and all the delegates were there. john tyler and julia tyler writes a letter to her mother. everyone is saying i don't look any different than 16 years ago as first lady. it is a homecoming week for her. offering a different perspectives henry adams, who is the son of john quincy adams and goes on to become the central historian and commentator. he writes a letter to one of the adams is saying that stephen douglas is a drunk and a beast, and his wife is beautiful and charming, but kind of dull. the crowds are swirling around john tyler and john crittenden. they are bound to be as
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appointed and the conference -- to be disappointed and the conference is going to collapse. that is the attitude of henry adams. there are two sideshows that were going on during the conference that i will share with you. first of all, there was the tabulation of the electoral college votes. there was political stratagem that would prevent lincoln's election from being ratified in the electoral college, but was tabulated in conference a week after the peas conference started. all the peace delegates adjourned and they had the patience to sit in the house gallery to watch the tag relation of the votes -- tabulation of the votes. typically you could walk into the capital but that day, special tickets were required. artillery pieces were located around the capital. mr. chittenden kept a journal.
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he makes his way into the gallery. it is very tense. someone next to him says he is there with other men with armed, ready to pounce if anyone tries to interrupt this ratification of lincoln's election. but, this mr. chittenden, a few days before, had been so concerned about what would happen on this day he had gone to general winfield scott at his office and said can you assure me that the electoral college vote will be tabulated successfully? winfield scott, who is 75 and 250 pounds and very melodramatic, young man, i assure you, i have the word of honor from the vice president of the united states. he will do all in his power to make sure this process goes forward smoothly. just as an added touch of drama, scott shares with him a quote
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that became famous. i didn't realize it gave from this meeting related research. general scott was from virginia, but he told chittenden that he would gladly see the fields of virginia manuered with the blood of its sons before he would see the end of the union. that was the level of his commitment. vice president breckenridge keeps his word. the votes are tabulated. some congressman tried to create a ruckus and is ruled out of order by the vice president. the congressmen are ushered out afterwards. a little bit of a right takes place on the capital and there are shouts to hang winfield scott, etc. by and large, it was mission accomplished. the president was ratified. the other incident going on during the police conference --
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three the -- during the peace conference is george washington's birthday is taking place in the month of figure. the killer, congressman sickles, says let's have a big parade to george washington. he wants to stick it to the big unionists. winfield scott organizes a military parade right outside the hotel at 14th and pennsylvania and march around the white house and back. john tyler, at brown's hotel, reads about it in the newspaper and recognizes what it is -- intimidation against the south and those who were unionists, and he contacts president buchanan the night before. you must cancel george washington's birthday. . buchanan, who is nervous about everything, who says yes, i will cancel it. the parade canceled but the crowds are gathered. the federal units are marched back to their barracks and the d.c. militia units go ahead and do the best march they can do. congressman sickles hears about this and is enraged.
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he storms over to the white house and looking for the war secretary finds president buchanan. he says, this is a disgrace. you must resurrect the parade to honor george washington. oh, i don't know. president buchanan. he put that word they will have a parade that afternoon. [laughter] the marines were too far away at their barracks over and southeast. they reassembled and paraded around the white house. president buchanan, winfield scott, and others on the south balcony reviewing the. a little bit of the drama going on in february of 1861. i think i will just end. i'm not going to tell you how the conference finally concluded. i don't want to take away what amount of suspense there may be left. [laughter] i will say that the embodiment of the whole effort, either family, old john tyler, a patriot but still committed to the southern cause and to slavery, and even though the
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conference is his idea, he does not like how it goes. within 48 hours after it adjourned, he is down in richmond denouncing it as a terrible failure. he ends up becoming elected to the new confederate congress, to which some people call him the trader president -- traitor president. he is getting ready for the congress in richmond. he is in good health, but his wife, julia, back at the station, had a dream that he is going to pass away. she rushes to richmond and tells him of her dream. ha ha ha, i'm fine.
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several days later, he dies and her dream was to fill. she spends the rest of the war trying to say the plantation. the slaves run away. she demands that federal officers return the slaves to her, rightful property. she writes to president lincoln demanding property was returned. you can imagine how that was received. [laughter]
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she is a blockade runner. runs the gauntlet through union warships through bermuda and goes up to new york to stay with her mother. that creates a brouhaha to stay -- brouhaha in new york. she brings with her a bale of cotton on the blockade runner and sells it for a fortune in bermuda. she does just fine after the war and ends up moving to washington dc and demanding pension from the congress as a former first lady, which he eventually gets, and becomes friends with mrs. grant and mrs. hayes and other first ladies and puts one of her daughters in the georgetown convent school. so impressed by that, she becomes a roman catholic herself and is inducted by the bishop of baltimore. dies almost a revered figure. her grandson still owns the plantation down on the james river, so her grandson can say his grandfather was born in the first term of president george washington, which is very remarkable. i have so much more to say, but there's not time to say it. if you all have any questions, this is a great way to appear on
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c-span. [laughter] i think they really like to get the questions a little bit hostile. [laughter] [applause] thank you. yes, sir. >> what the john tyler think of the odds going in that the conference would be successful? i get that part a and part of the. was there any consensus among delegates about what the chance of success was? mark: i think he was hopeful. he would not have suggested it otherwise. yet you many delegates was the election of 1860 was an aberration. it was a minority. a new president elected by minority and the idea is the majority can come together and work out a successful compromise. the republican delegate plan was to delay until lincoln got inaugurated. anybody else?
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>> were there any lessons for today's contentious washington in this piece conference? mark: the public originally asked me to write this book. polarization then, polarization today. here is an example of an attempt to compromise and work together, and it is probably not a good example of how compromise should work. [laughter] we know how it ended. maybe the lesson is we may think we are so polarized now, the issues are so insoluble. they were 1000 times more polarized then that we are today. that is, in some way, reassuring. joe? >> very excited about the book. congratulations. is there a particular person who emerges as a real statesman in all of this chaos, and if so, describe his qualities, or her qualities. mark: the statesman who emerges
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is not a delegate, but checks in at the end of the conference, and that is abraham lincoln. the whole time during the conference, he is on his train, he leaves springfield, gives his famous speech. i know not when or whether i should ever returned to you. very noncommittal. not commenting on the peace conference. comes in on friday evening to baltimore to a vedic potential assassination attempt in the early morning hours. check into the willis hotel. the delegates are gathered together and setton, tommy lee jones, it would be his character, he has one of his slaves with him as attendant.
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the only slate mentioned being at the peace conference. the journal taker, chittenden, said this slave was one of the most distinguished-looking people at the conference. he was a stately looking figure. chittenden notices the slave brings in a note to setton and has sprawled across it, lincoln is in the hotel, and hands it to another southern delegate in response, he made it through baltimore? [laughter] chittenden, was kind of a conspiracists, interprets that is having inside information, but baltimore was a wild place. it was called mob town. lincoln is received in his parlor upstairs. one of the delegates had to check out. i don't know how that worked out. all the delegates go up. they marched into by twos, like animals to the ark -- in two by two, like animals into the ark. lincoln had not been in
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washington until he was -- since he was a congressman in 1840. he knows the history. he is charming in that way. quickly, get into it and some of the southern delegates and northern delegates are chiding him. he comes right back at him and says, the repeated theme is clear. let's stick to the constitution. we have the plan that we need for the republic to survive, and that is my responsibility as your president. afterwards, senator reeves writes a letter to his son. lincoln means well, he is charming and accommodating, he tells stories and jokes, and i don't think he appreciates the seriousness of our situation, which was obviously not true. that was just how we handle people. according to chittenden in his memoir, senator reeves made the comment that lincoln may not be washington, he may not be andrew jackson, but he seems to have
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some of the determination of both and will clearly be his own man. chittenden says many of the delegates were heartened by what he had to say and many of the southern delegates and hostile delegates in the north were a little bit intimidated by what he had to say. they were not expecting this rustic individual from illinois. yes? >> when ron makes the movie, which delegate do you want to play? [laughter] mark: that's a good question. give me five minutes. you have a favorite you want to play? >> i want to know you want to play. mark: senator reeves from virginia sounds like a very stately, dignified figure, so maybe -- although he is having financial problems in 1860. he sells 114 slaves. afterwards, i learned that after the war, there is a wonderful picture of senator reeves in a group with general ulysses s
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grant and admiral farragut and other figures. he became an agent of healing the wounds from the war afterwards. he had his good parts. he, like most of the southern delegates, could not see beyond -- even though theoretically they would hope slavery would go away, they were too politically and socially and economically invested to envision how it would ever go away. >> is that the original title, or do you have another one? mark: it is a little bit of a trick question. [laughter] it was not my title. that was the publisher's title. i think my title was "the last chance for peace," and they picked this title. one online reviewer criticized it as the actual story does not support the title, but i think the title can be supported in that many of the delegates, when arriving at the hotel, that is
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what they thought that is what animated there being here. maybe two more questions and we were returned to refreshments and if you were -- return to refreshments and a few more booksignings. >> knowing nothing about the institutes, could you please say with the institute is in a few words and how did you come to write the book? mark: another very important question. thank you for that opportunity. the institute deals with the interaction of politics and religion with the political witness of religion in america. i have always personally had a passion for history, but i have woven religion into this book. i devote a whole chapter to the person who came to give the opening prayers every day. they were all within blocks of the hotel and were prominent people and chaplains of the house and senate.
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the story is interesting in and of themselves. they admitted that the clergy were from the deep south, but they remained in d.c. throughout the war. they all remained prounion and either were or became anti-slavery. an interesting anecdote regarding that is the fiscal church on d eastern -- d street, the church of the epiphany, and that had been jefferson davis' church. they had bought a pew. the plaque says jefferson and marina davis. let's go ahead and put this plaque up. jefferson davis becomes the president of the confederacy and the priest feels morally obligated to put jefferson davis' plaque up and it somehow disappears.
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there are rumors about the priest because he is from the deep south and during the war, he goes to the war department and walks into edwin stanton's office and says if you have any evidence or suspect my loyalty to the union, please arrest me now, otherwise you are invited to attend my church. [laughter] edwin stanton ends up taking the pew of jefferson davis at the church of the epiphany. i will also share the story. lincoln was here speaking to delegates saturday night. sunday morning, seward met lincoln to the lobby and they walked together to st. john's at this couple -- st. john's in this couple -- episcopal. seward and lincoln sat in the very back of the church unnoticed and no one recognized
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to was lincoln was until the very end. seward introduces lincoln and he gets in the newspaper the next day. one woman said lincoln was a more attractive man than she would be. [laughter] i guess his reputation had preceded him. [laughter] thank you all. great evening. stick around. [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] >> with the 2016 presidential contest in full swing, american history tv to look at cap past presidential elections in give thearchival coverage of campaign trail. join us for the road to the white house rewind, sunday mornings at 10:00 eastern, continuing through the election


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