tv Open Phones with Thomas Jefferson Portrayer CSPAN December 26, 2015 5:53am-6:31am EST
host on american history tv on c-span3. today, we are coming to you from colonial williamsburg. we are out today getting your questions and commentary about life was like for those in the virginia colony in the 1770's. joining us aboard the c-span bus today is president thomas jefferson. barker, who by bill
has portrayed him for 22 years, and he is in character today. we will be taking your questions as president thomas jefferson reflects back on his life in 1770's.burg in the mr. president, what brought you to williamsburg? jensen: leftist -- edging -- thomas: education. inas my father's eldest son a family of 10 children and i had three younger brothers and six sisters, but my father passed away when he was 49 and i but 14. i cannot inherit and to my majority at the age of 21 years in 1764, but before that, i was able to benefit by the greatest that this legacy is, not property but an education, so i came to attend the college of our former majesties, king william and queen mary in the 1759 and 1760.
i did not receive a degree that was baccalaureate at the time, but i left to read law with mr. george. host: how did that influence you, study law -- studying law? thomas: it was the finest i would ever know. i would put them against edward who, i was a gentleman understood the foundation of the law, of english law. there was a lot of the romans, he understood that law was living and leaving and a close as the people go, that is the essence of the english common law which i was taught and grew up. it is through the experience of the english speaking peoples and as we began to protest, we sought address of our grievances upon english law, that which i learned. upon?what did you draw what were your politics?
was simplypolitics to rest upon english soil, the right of an englishman to petition and address grievances. else,more than anything was able to bring 13 individual nations together. we found amongst ourselves different, distant and dispense from one another, but the common bond through our english law. the fact that we were all considered englishman. it was that right of an englishman, whether he was in massachusetts, virginia, the carolinas, georgia to argue his concerns before his government. columnist dear fellow nists say to you? thomas: will we survive as englishman in the country that is america, north or south, as
truly englishman or would we continue to evolve, to evolve as a people that which we have already come to refer to one and the others as americans? to realize it was not only the englishman but so many others seeking an asylum in the colonies of great britain. could the english law continue to substantiate our grievances and our right to argue on behalf of ourselves? could be as well be properly represented before the crown in the parliament. we were denied any representation in his majesty's parliament. host: what did you do next? thomas: it was in williamsburg that we began the protest with respect to the closure of the port of boston in the spring of 1774. the closure of the port of boston was the cause of that particular riot in boston
harbor, the previous december, the destruction of over 356 cases of tea thrown overboard of the eastern company by a band of indians. so it was, with respect to that protest, that we talked an alliance somewhat with a pamphlet that was published, a proclamation for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer to show our allegiance with our sister colony, though she was 700 miles away. the earl of dunmore considered this an imposition upon his authority as executor of the crown, so it was his royal prerogative to dissolve the representative body of the people, dissolve the house of burgesses in williamsburg but we did not remain disissolved. we continue to represent those who had elected us to represent them. we
to meet midway between the north colonies and the southern colonies, meet in the largest city in north america, philadelphia. we are talking to thomas jefferson on american history tv, but trade by bill paerker. coast,live on the east -- on the west coast out and had -- we are taking your text this morning. 71791864. you can also join the conversation on facebook, and witter, http://twitter.com/cspanwj. jefferson, let's talk about
the reaction from britain. considereds impolite, unjustified, that all of the colonies should come together with the united american representation. us torliament desired remain separate. they worried that if we came together, and two heads is better than one, 12 or 13 heads collectively would be of a greater influence, a greater safety and defense amongst themselves. the reaction of the crown was to pursue as many of the petitions we put forth of our grievances. host: talk about the declaration of independence and how you came to this and the writing of it.
say, that the greatest influence that brought me to be able to draft our i will promise of who we are and who we desire to be and i will promise to the rest of the world. it began to that privilege of an education. i have always said there is nothing new or original in our direct duration of american independence. all of it has been written and you can find it in the elementary books. john locke, those works, authors, many were not familiar with them, so it was my charge -- explain it in clear and simple terms so that everyone might comprehend it. particularly, in the diversity of our population. the place before the world, the
common sense of the matter. waswar for independence being fought on behalf of the common man to provide the greatest good. just show the rest of the world that we understand the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs. right -- inherited burst forth from the chains of ignorance and the rains -- it is founded in the wisdom of the past. i consider it common sense but the profits of the future would be found in the wisdom of the past. ,ost: our first phone call christine from maryland. wondering if thomas jefferson could tell us that he journaled a lot about --
i think he had an earlier version of the koran. i think in our times today, maybe he could talk about what he journaled about that during that time, him and john adams. that iay i assure you, have always been a student of all of the world's religions. i was baptized in the church of england. on the --nstrumental church of england when the wall began to help form with became the american physical church. church.coble i have really missed a sunday. but i find that all religions are integral to our better understanding of the nature of man. i consider that the sum of all
religions is simply to do unto others as you would desire to have done onto yourself. love your neighbor as you should love yourself. this is what i believe has protected and defended, as an inherent right, of the statute of virginia. this is not a statute of religious freedom, which might suggest separating religion from our lives. virginia --atute of freedom for religion. whenever there is a freedom for religion, you will see the greatest civilization. yes, i have studied the koran and the preachings of mohammed. -- because my so charge was to negotiate treaties from trade. that only with the kingdoms of york, france and england and
spain and the italy's, but also algeria,oms of morocco, tripoli. i wanted to understand the people in those kingdoms on the north coast of africa. i wanted to understand their particular religion. the guarantee on to them, that our trade with them would remain open and free. we will respect them and hope that they would respect us as well. caller: i was just wondering, what made you decide to become president, instead of continuing to practice law? bill: i only practice law for seven years and that was in williamsburg, virginia. i gave up the practice of law once the monarchy of great britain closedown the courts of justice. that was 1774. i turned over most of my unfinished cases to my cousin. his father, my cousin, john
randolph, was the last attorney general of the crown before the war began. edmund was the first attorney .eneral in our constitution i had long given up the practice of law and pursued more of my interests and legislation. being able to put forth arguments and debates that would ls and laws that would create greater opportunity. not only for my commonwealth, before the nation and for the world. so much the practice of law, but the call of the people to become the president of the united states. i was invited to stand for that office. inas invited the first time 1796. i had been retired from the office, a good three years, as you remember with my arguments
with general hamilton. i finally decided not to continue. it would be wise as secretary of state if i resigned. the people dos, not desire me to remain retired. many found favor in what i had brought up in the president's cabin. they had read in the newspapers of my objection to general hamilton. therefore, i was invited to stand opposed to our vice president wants president washington retired. i had lost the presidential election in 1796. i suffered the office of vice president for four years. .he mind of man never came up the arguments did not end. they continued. they continued with my own president.
in the next presidential election, 1800, i was invited by the anti-federalist platform to stand opposed to president adams. we were not alone. there were several others who sought that office, even the federalist platform was divided by the southern federalist. my own anti-federalist platform was divided by a former federalist from new york. he saw a political opportunity and changed his coat, colonel ehrenberg aaron burr. in fact, it was not between president adams, but rather , 73een who opposed electoral votes in each for urr and thomas jefferson.
for many days, many do not know who would be the next president. could you imagine that happening? it was resolved and we follow the constitution. the election with into the house of representatives. they argued and debated. withouted 33 times breaking the time. finally, can you imagine? myentleman who had been nemesis and represented the complete opposite and political spectrum from me, general alexander hamilton suggested a compromise. that he suggested considered me to be the least dangerous of the two. if i were elected the third chief magistrate, i would not seek to cast out of office all federalist, but to provide equilibrium in the new administration.
he would encourage his constituency in the state of new york. to enter into my political arena. wouldised them that we maintain the principles of our nations. maintain an open government. do you know that presidential election of 1800 i referred to as the second american revolution? it was as much an american revolution than that of 1776, never forget the difference between 1776 and 1800. we overthrew 12 years of federalism. said in thet peaceful transfer of office. , it: on american history tv is your chance to talk to president thomas jefferson as we come to you live from colonial williamsburg.
we have a tweet from one of our viewers who asked, when did you meet benjamin franklin, and what was your impression of him? also who decided franklin would go to france? bill: i met dr. benjamin franklin for the first time in williamsburg. dr. franklin was postmaster of the crown. who better to survey the postal roads that brought all of the colonists together? to make sure that the postal offices were even efficient and properly managed? who better than a printer, an owner of a newspaper? williamsburg in his capacity as postmaster. i was a student at the overall college of william and mary. he elected to everyone on his experience with electricity. him inher -- i later met
the conference of 1775. i was unable to attend the first conference of september 1774. dr. franklin was in england. returned and seated in the second congress, as i was there seated and we met one and the other and became fast friends. what impressed me was his open mind and extensive knowledge. particularly, his knowledge of human nature. his grasp of common sense. his ability to take concepts and bring them to a general understanding. a sage in many ways. friendship, it was natural that we proclaimed our independency -- dependency that as the two of us were on the drafttee of five men, to the declaration of american independence. dr. franklin had already been in britain, hereat
would be an opportunity for him to return to england, but to france. i would be important -- ambassador. my home had become a new commonwealth, they called me to return and help draft our constitution. , iher than go to france returned to virginia. friend --ally, my accompanied dr. franklin to france. host: we will your next from bob in new york. welcome to the conversation. caller: hello, greetings to you from new amsterdam. it is a pleasure to speak with you. my question is, in light of your experience dealing with various
royal family members, be they queens.d quitting -- how important do you feel the personal life of a candidate running for office being president or any other position, that would be able to provide guidance and direction for the people of your day? and even into the future. how important do you feel the personal life of that candidate should be when considering them for the role that they are running for? bill: thank you for that question. it is a question that has commanded the interest of political economy from time. someone's private life is that which is first and foremost, reviewed his constituency, by his neighbors, by his friends. they are the ones to suggest
that he might stand or she might stand to represent them. -- a system of government where the women were the ones suggested who should be chief and provided the vote. as franklin considered that a study for american parliament. the nose better than men, then betteren -- who knows than men, then women? your life is no longer your home. you are called upon constantly by her constituency. it is thee also know greatest honor to receive that approbation from your neighbors, friends, and the public. privatee, never do in what you would not do in public. i wrote that to my grandson when
he had interest and aspirations for public office. i think it will help guide you. it does not mean you will not suffer. that is one of the circumstances for standing for any public office. no matter what is said about you, you will be able to sleep more soundly, and walked more pathway ofgh the your family, friends, and constituency. lincoln town, north carolina, you are on the error by thomas jefferson. caller: thank you, i love your program. it has been said that mr. jefferson was invincible and invisible war. i just wondered how he answered his critics to discharge. this charge.
bill: i would say one of my critics and also my closest compatriot, patrick henry. i met him when i was making my way through williamsburg to attend the overall college of william and mary. he had become well known as an attorney. we commenced to work together in our disagreements with government. with theorated proclamation for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. as he would want to criticize me theng the time that i was second elected governor of the new commonwealth of virginia, he was the first. at a time that we had oversold the safety and protection of virginia, in the light of the invasions by general benedict arnold, let alone general cornwallis. we were hardly prepare for the invasion. , together as governor
together for the general defense of virginia. militias appeared and disappeared with the seasons and the crops. i was chastised when we had to retreat. we had already retreated from williamsburg. were vulnerable on the high ground in williamsburg with the james river and the south and the york river to the north. we retreated to richmond town for much better defense. nevertheless, we were attacked and retreated to charlottesville. do you know the enemy discovered where we had retreated? and try to capture the members of the delegates and the governor of the commonwealth. i escaped with only moments of a warning, captain jack who broke thatight long to inform me
the british were seeking my capture. do you know that as i continued to serve as governor, there were accusations hurled against me that i was a coward and resign from office? even in instant -- investigation was brought against me for cowardice. there were no facts. i continue to serve, continue to put forth commissions for the safety of our commonwealth. the other governor, who took charge after me, general nelson, did so legally as the election was held to do so. you might say that that 1781, i willar, never forget, perhaps one of the most lamentable in my public life. i am happy to say that our actions, the actions of our
retaliate contest and against the insidious attacks made by those pirates who want to sneak up upon the high seas to our innocent voyagers. .hat they might not attack also, i would not tolerate that. takinga few weeks of my office as third president of our nation, i ordered a retaliation. i influenced congress to proclaim officially a warm against the kingdom of tripoli. they toured out our flag, the 15th day of may. atlaring war on us, we wore best -- the geopolitics warm, and the jeffersons war. repulsing the front insidious
attacks upon our merchant vessels. never let us forget the extraordinary valor of stephen who sailed into the harbor of tripoli. read our sailors held as slaves. never let us forget the battle .- and our marines the very first time in our history that we commissioned our troops to fight on foreign soil. never let us forget their victory on the shores of tripoli. host: gary from california, you are next. caller: hello president jefferson. i was wondering what i should tell my grandson about if you believe in the golden prayer and that all men are created with equal rights? why you owned slaves?
i have beens what indebted to tell my own children and the i hope they tell their grandchildren. that is very simply, never let us forget our history. never let us forget where we have been, that we might better understand where we are. thereby, continue to bind ourselves together more securely, that we might continue forward upon those principles in our declaration of american independence. , intoborn into a world society, as a owner of slayers -- slaves. my father was born into the same experience. my grandfather was born into the same experience. born, we had was gone several generations of only masters for those enslaved. how do you end a habit and custom?
you cannot. am a bad customs that been carried on one generation after another, cannot be stopped abruptly. , isone thing you must do not remain silent upon what you know to be a bad habit. what you know denies an individual their opportunity to be everything they possibly can be. that is secured and what i wrote in our declaration. we are in doubt in our creator with -- i altered that to the pursuit of happiness. the revitalization of aristotle's statements years ago. , anpursuit of excellence individual under the laws of nature to fulfill their capacity of everything they can possibly be. that is not going to happen overnight to everyone. ,articularly when i was born
when my father and grandfather were born. it can happen, so long as we bear hope and continue to voice our opinions freely that it is wrong to keep an individual down from having every opportunity to better themselves. it is wrong to continue to hold old habits that are not beneficial to the common good. collaborate and gathered together and assemble and make an effort to change the laws. if i were to free my people under the laws that i grew up in, i would be breaking the law. that would be the most detrimental that -- to them. it would not be mr. jefferson tarris family who would be ed and feathered, perhaps killed. it was -- it would be in the property of others that would be
captured. we should continue to change the law. i think i have made certain progress in that effort. had i done as best as i possibly could? possibly not. i must live with continued accusations of not doing as much as i can. wonder, what will they about future generations the generations that were well before them? did they make every effort they possibly could? i think history is our greatest guide. host: what does the second amendment mean to you, and how should future generations interpret it? bill: one cannot deny that one of the inalienable rights is to protect and defend themselves.
not a soul can take that away from another individual. it is not the purpose and duty of government to protect people from entry of another and that they might engage their own industry and improvement. , believe as dr. franklin did who realize that even an might not be protected in the dark alley, or at nighttime. dr. franklin encouraging a police force to be formed in philadelphia city. an individual still has the right to protect themselves. with good common sense, that ought to be protected and .efended and secured by society with good common sense, and individuals right to protect and defend themselves, does not mean they should be hostile with a weapon with another. that is not civilization. i think any individual who has
been brought up with the responsibility of bearing arms nosy responsibility of safety with those arms. knows the responsibility of protecting the common good of their neighbor, let alone themselves. of course, a well regulated militia must be well regulated through its commission by the government. otherwise, it is illegal. it cannot exist without a commission. a -- and it will write to be protected by well-regulated militia. host: we have been talking to president thomas jefferson betrayed by bill barker. what goes into playing thomas jefferson? bill: thank you. into betraying
anyone who is not here to speak for themselves, is an understanding of what they wrote ,nd eyewitness accounts particularly after so many years removed from their lifetime. that has been my effort to read jefferson, understand him and that as he grew older, he changed his opinions like we all do. -- we mightably understand that about him. if we choose to read him and care to read him. it is reading jefferson's history that remains the foundation of what i do and what we all do as historical interpreters in colonial williamsburg. get the facts right. host: you have been doing this for over 20 years. how often are you still to this day, stating thomas jefferson, to get into character? bill: almost every day.
jeffersonianre than c-span, keeping the people in touch with the government and recent i wanted to make certain i was on the mark there. host: we appreciate you taking the phone calls this morning from our viewers. thank you very much. appreciate it. we will continue our c-span'sion here on american history tv. up next, we are going to be talking with colonial aboutmsburg' african-americans there.