tv American Artifacts CSPAN July 4, 2016 11:03am-11:59am EDT
>> you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook @cspanhistory. >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic placeser where next, we travel to independence national historic park in philadelphia to visit the assembly room inside independence hall where both the declaration of unless and the u.s. constiegz were debated and eventually signed. this program featuring national parks service ranger matthew ifill is about one hour. >> we are in a building that is built in the 1730s, about 40
years before there was any such thing as the united states of america. and at that time, of course, pennsylvania was a british colony. and this was its capitol building. they would make laws for pennsylvania. each of the 13 colonies his its own governments. these are the issues that will lead to the creation of the united states, most of which is going to happen in this room because the colonies as time goes forward or at least many people of the political class in these colonies will start to grow dissatisfied with the way the british government is treating them, is affecting their lives locally and one of the other side issues is americans living in the colonies do not get to vote in british elections. when the parliament in london makes laws for americans, of course the most famous being various taxes and such that you all get to learn about in school, we're going to say this is taxation without representation. and it's that idea that you're not getting the voice.
thomas jefferson would write in the declaration of independence that government existing without the consent of the governored and americans are feeling like they're not getting that consent. when it starts disappearing locally as well as connected with the home country in london and britain, that they are really going to get this growing dissatisfaction. so this room is long in use by pennsylvania, but by 1775, pennsylvania will essentially be inviting the continental congress into their space. the continental congress met in philadelphia about a year earlier, although they chose not to meet here at independence hall that year. they met down the street at carpenter's hall. the first set of meetings, the first continental congress is the first real sit-down of these different colonies and this idea of expressing to the british government what would be under british sort of constitution bill of rights at that time.
this notion of redressing grievances that we'd have as british subjects and ultimately go right to the king and say, look. we're loyal british subjects in america, but these things are happening that we have grievances over. these loss of rights, loss of our connection with the government, the fact that they are taking away some of our local government, they are closing down our local courts. they are giving us these rules to follow that we have no say. so they write this letter to the king which perfectly within your rights under british law, and they also agree as a group on an association that these 13 colonies will kind of work together in future on these big issues. so what's going to happen is they go home after that meeting in the fall of 1774 because obviously communicating across the ocean in the late 1700s is going to take a little while.
so they're not going to come back to philadelphia until the spring of 1775. however, things have changed in those few months in the area of boston, you'll have battles at lexington and concord in april. so when congress is coming back here to philadelphia, this is sort of the news. they're actually finding out in some way about some of the conflict that has begun. suddenly things being a lot more serious leads to a lot more serious circumstances when congress starts to meet in this room in may. the first big thing they're going to tackle is this notion of working as a group, but the idea of maybe fighting for those rights of actually taking that militia minuteman army up around boston and making it an american army. the continental army. in june of 1775, one of the first really big steps as far as
changing the world is going to be creating this continental army. this american army. 13 separate colonies that have always run their lives separately and for years had not necessarily resisted working together but it never particularly worked out that they all wanted to work together at the same time. they'd finally create this army, june 14th, 1775, taking the beginnings of the army up in boston that had fought against the british already, making it the american army, and to me, most importantly, picking george washington to be the commander of that army. that is really one of the most important decisions made in this room. if you think about the way this war will go for the young united states, it's 8 1/2 years. george washington will be the only commanding general we'll have for all of those years. at the end, he will succeed. back in 1775, they are still
figuring out what they are fighting for. that leads to one last letter to the king. we call this one the olive branch petition. it began like they had done before. starts off with the idea that we are loyal british subjects fighting for our rights. again, going, following the chain of command in britain to the king to ask that he assist us in redressing these grievances. the other thing they'll write is a declaration of the causes and necessity of taking up arms. both of these will be written in july, again, essentially putting out there to the world exactly what we are looking to do, to basically correct this situation that we feel has gone against us and that our rights are being threatened or taken away. unfortunately, the british government in london will decide that they're not going to really communicate with the continental congress.
the king himself will announce there's this rebellion in america, and the british government will essentially issue this letter to americans that says if you're going to be involved in this rebellion, we're going to view you as a traitor. the crime of treason, of course, as serious then as now, could very well lead to a death penalty. so by early 1776, that news gets to philadelphia. so we're now half a year plus into the war, and it's getting very clear that negotiating, talking, isn't particularly solving anything. and you do have this very radical bent of men that are in this room that are pushing more and more towards this idea of independence. and finally you get the last big push which is thomas payne's book "common sense" published here in philadelphia, selling tens of thousands of copies
through the colonies. and payne's simple argument is we don't need those guys. we're better off on our own over here. we can run america better than the british ever could. and so this idea of independence kind of swells through that spring. by june, virginia introduces a resolution for american independence. but they decide to not address it right away in june. they are going to want to consult their home governments, their colonies or states, if we want to start calling them that because we're getting to that point. at the same time they want to put something on paper. so while they are each consulting home to see what home says they should do, they're also going to form this five-man committee. john adams of massachusetts, who is probably in a lot of ways one of the most significant guys in congress those early days. he's really pushing for that
creation of the army in 1775. also the navy in the fall of 1775. he's pushing in the spring of 1776 that each of the colonies write its own constitution which is again another step towards independence that each colony sort of getting rid of that old charter they had from the british government. their old constitution sort of speaking and creating a new independent constitution. he's one of the leaders in a lot of this movement. also on the committee is robert livingston of new york who goes back ten years to the meetings held over the stamp taxes. you have a man from connecticut named roger sherman who is going to end up signing not only the declaration of independence, but united states constitution, but also the articles of confederation. only two men can make that claim. he's on the committee. benjamin franklin from right
here in philadelphia, which is far and away the most famous american at the time. 70 years old. oldest man in congress. and then one of the younger guys in congress, our fifth member, thomas jefferson, 33 years old. with that growing reputation for his writing and his political thought. and the committee sit, deciding what to say, decides jefferson should be the writer. he works for about 17 days on the declaration of independence, and he will especially go to john adams and benjamin franklin for some of their ideas and critiques of his writing. but generally it's his work. he's building on a lot of other things that he and others had written. some of the grievances they'd already been talking about make up a big bulk of that declaration of independence. by june 28th, the declaration is sort of back here in the assembly room. but that's a friday. they'll wait until the next monday to start debating. july the 1st begins debate on independence.
the first thing they'll debate is not the declaration but the idea. they'll start discussing, is is this really the best thing for us to do. should we become these free and independent states? most of the men in the room are at that point they're ready to make this step. but there are others that aren't loyal. they'll not have loyalists in the continental congress. they wouldn't want to have anything to do with it. but they are men that are more conservative saying this may not be such a good idea. john dickinson is probably the most important of them. he was years earlier the author of the letters of a pennsylvania farmer, which is again against some of those various taxes and acts, stamp tax and so on. he's probably one of our best known political writers of the day. he's sort of pulling back saying the idea is how are we going to win a war against the british? this doesn't seem like the best idea to declare our independence because this completely cuts off
any chance of negotiating with the british. others might look at the idea we don't really have anybody helping us. britain is one of the great powers of the world. america is maybe 3 million people and certainly a good chunk of them remaining loyal to the crown. there will be battles in this war with just americans on both sides. so there's some saying maybe we should slow down but most of the men are ready to move forward. on july 1st, they'll hold a nonbinding committee of the whole vote. the vote is on the question of being free and independent states. here's how voting works in the continental congress. you have 13 states or colonies, depending on your time period. each gets an equal vote. one vote for state. they have different numbers of men at each table. some states allow their delegates to decide amongst themselves. some states will give their delegates specific instructions.
here in the room on july 1st, you're going to have nine of the delegations voting yes that we should be free and independent states. two will vote no, and two will be either divided or not voting. new york is still waiting for their formal instructions from home so they're not going to technically vote at all. delaware is divided. they have two of their delegates in the room. one for, one against, so they're divided. pennsylvania and south carolina are going to vote no. so on the rest of the first and into the second, because the second is the day they want to take the binding vote, the official vote, the politicking is we want to try to make this unanimous. new york they're going to sort of ignore because they haven't gotten any instructions. so new york is going, well, we have to wait until they tell us what to do. delaware has a third delegate. he's at home.
they call for him to get here. he rides overnight through the storm. if you did the state quarters, you would notice delaware's quarter has a guy riding on the horse. he's the guy who comes up from delaware, gets here on the 2nd to vote and break the tie in delaware to make delaware's vote a yes for independence. then pennsylvania and south carolina. south carolina has three delegates. we assume that it's 2-1 and they manage to get one of the guys to switch his vote. south carolina will be on board. and pennsylvania is more complicated. they've got one of the bigger delegations. when that vote goes south for pennsylvania, they'll convince two of the guys to sort of walk away when they're ready to make the final vote so it can be unanimous. they don't have to vote against how they feel. john dickinson is one of those who will not vote amongst the pennsylvania delegates.
instead of a one-vote loss, it becomes a one-vote win, and pennsylvania is onboard and now it's 12-0. we ignore new york at the moment. july 2nd of 1776, they will vote more or less unanimously with new york kind of waiting to approve the notion of being free and independent states. that's a day john adams would write to his wife and say, this is what we should celebrate with parades and fireworks and speeches. and so on. sadly for poor july 2nd is never gets remembered because the rest of that day, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th are the days of debating on the declaration of independence. the declaration in jefferson's draft is about four pages long. they're going to go through more or less every word. they'll make a significant number of changes, but they'll not change the basic nature of a lot of what jefferson writes.
they're going to add some words here and there. the most famous part for most of it is the opening paragraph or two. most of that remains intact. the early listing of grievances, the things we've been talking about for several years as far as what we're worried about the british doing. most of that remains intact. probably the most famous section that gets changed is the section about the slave trade. specifically slave insurrections is another part of that. one of the big arguments is virginia makes is their governor had essentially said in the leading days of the war that slaves should basically kill their masters and seek their own freedom, which for a slave holding state, is slave insurrection is a very frightening thing. that's very much on the mind of jefferson and other virginians. this idea of slave insurrections, bringing more slaves into america becomes more of that. we don't want more slaves we
have to worry about in these kind of days. so he goes after the slave trade, blames the king for importing these folks, and that is a bit controversial in this room. you have a fair number of slave holders and slave holding states that kind of don't want to talk about this. it does get put aside. it's not really an attack on slavery, so to speak, but slave trade and some of the things we're worried about the british doing that would affect lives in america. so at any rate as you get into july 4th, they are going through pretty well every bit of that declaration of independence, but they finally take a little out, adding words here and there. they get to something that all of the men in this room representing all of the 13 states can agree. and they are ready to vote. on the 4th it's 12-0 with again new york waiting and so july 4th
becomes, for americans, our day of independence because it's the day we literally had something concrete to hold up to the world. this was the day we say, here's what we're fighting for, right here. there's a long list. and again, when we look at the declaration of independence, we focus on that top, that opening section. all men are created equal. the idea of life, liberty and independence. for them, it's really that list of reasons why they were doing this. it justified independence. it justified a war against their own government, which essentially is what this started out being. and it basically said it's the british fault for this. this is all the things they did that are really not legal by the british constitution and british bill of rights. we're just acting the way we have to act because we can't stay under this rule anymore. they had something on july 4th they voted yes and voted right away to send it out.
we want this to go to states and the army. we want people to know what we're fighting for. that's really what they needed because if you pull back to the big picture in the summer of 1776, we're not winning the war. the british army is invading new york. that summer, massive invasions. hundreds of ships. tens of thousands of men, sweeping down through long island, mat hatten, into new jersey. by fall of 1777, the british army is sitting in this very room. they capture philadelphia, washington and his army spend their winter at valley forge. so those early years, those early days are not good ones for the young united states. but we had a declaration of independence we can hold and announce to the world what we're fighting for. and we had a general in washington that would keep going in those difficult days. an army that managed to survive those bad winters at places like valley forge and we managed to keep ourselves going. long enough that we can make
changes. before we get to that, one other thing about our declaration of independence about this room that people expect is that i will tell you they sign the declaration of independence right behind me on the 4th of july. sadly, they didn't. it probably, the simplest explanation is nobody thought about it that day. they hadn't gotten to the point of preparing a nice fancy handwritten one. they wanted the words agreed to. they wanted it voted on and they wanted people to read it. they sent it to a printer. technically, the oldest declaration of independence are printed on a printing press and have no names on the bottom. you jump ahead a couple weeks to the middle of july and one of the men in the room will make a proposal that we -- the word they use is engross the declaration of independence. make a formal written version and then it be signed by the delegates. i'm sure most of the men said, why didn't we think of that sooner?
naturally, that's a really good idea. so they're going to have it handwritten and by the beginning of august, it's done, checked over. they make sure it's all right, and then they'll start signing. about 50 guys, we think, signed it on august 2nd. a few more over the next couple weeks. one guy might not be for a couple years because he wasn't here for a while as a member of congress. that's the one if you go to washington, d.c., national archives, that's the one most of us think of as the declaration of independence. but it's one that we, like everything they're going to do in this room is one that we get to by process rather than by some master plan at the beginning. in the long run, they're making it all up as they go along and figuring it out as they go. the other big thing that's going to happen in 1776 is benjamin franklin is going to go to france and he's going to be the guy that's going to help convince france to come into the war on our side. and while the british army is in
this room, in early 1778, benjamin franklin is signing a peace treaty with france. that's changing the whole nature of the war. the british suddenly find they have to worry about a french navy. the united states doesn't have much of a navy to threaten the british fleet, but france does. they have to worry about that. the british have to worry about being invaded. guys like benjamin franklin working with lafayette in france work on the king to try to get some invasion of england going. you'll have to worry if you are great britain about islands in the caribbean, you'll be fighting in asia, africa, all over the world. so a lot of resources suddenly aren't coming here to north america which makes george washington's life easier. we'll get money from france. we'll get supplies from france. we'll get french troops, plus that french navy. if you think of our victory at
yorktown, sort of our biggest victory of the war, we're probably not going to get that victory without the french navy. eventually the war slowly, and it is slowly, turns in our favor. 1783, back in paris, john adams and benjamin franklin sign a peace treaty. it's really back in 1783 that the continental congress can finally breathe that sigh of relief and know that we have achieved this american independence which would be nice if that's the end of our story, but of course, there's more to do. again, go back to 1776. each colony, each state, writes its own constitution. each one is different. each one has its own sets of government and laws. i'll use pennsylvania. this room was pennsylvania's legislature. pennsylvania decides to write a constitution that's so radical for its day, they basically get rid of the position of governor. they're not going to have really a chief executive for pennsylvania anymore. they'll have a fairly
democratically run one-house legislature as opposed to the standard two houses that most of the states are going to use, that the united states knows throughout its history. pennsylvania has a very different set. it proves to be too difficult to work. and our 1776 pennsylvania constitution is only going to last about 14 years. they have to redo it and go to the traditional governor, two houses of legislature set-up. in 1776, each of these states is going to start itself over. now the problem is, being all a little bit different, and one of my colleagues loves to talk about that today. we still have differences from state to state as far as speed limits and little rules for driving are going to be different. and so we still have some of those vestiges there. but the problem was in those early days they kind of manifested themselves in ways that threatened what someone like george washington is very much a nationalist believing
this idea of the united states would sit and go, hmm, that could really be bad for us because you have states that literally start fighting with each other over who owns what land. they don't particularly want to cooperate with each other. now what do we have in the way of government? state governments, very much hold the cards. there is our continental congress. now the articles of confederation sets the rules for the continental congress. that's an idea that comes into this room with benjamin franklin. at the very beginning of the war, it's an idea he dusted off from the 1750s during the french and indian war. he put together this idea of confederation between the colonies so they could work together to defend themselves against enemies such as france. he dusts off the old ideas. rewrites this first version of the articles of confederation. the day after they chose the committee to write the declaration of independence, they also chose a committee with
a member from each of the states to write the articles of the confederation. the main writer would be another pennsylvanian, jon dickinson. again, dickinson would be famous for kind of trying to slow us down for independence. at the same time he's making those arguments he's writing the articles of confederation. this formal agreement between the states of how the united states is going to operate. where essentially the congress would run the war, run foreign policy. the states would run their internal. they would cooperate with each other. you wouldn't have to pay taxes or tariffs if you went from state to state. the first problem with the articles of confederation and ultimately what dooms it, you can see from how it is signed. the signing will take place when the continental congress comes back to philadelphia after the british army has left in 1778. the british leave philadelphia in june. congress is back meeting here in july. and on july 9th, they are ready
to sign the articles of confederation. the way the signing of that one works is different. the declaration of independence is signed by the delegates and most of them signed it on the same day. the articles of confederation is signed as each state approves it. their delegates will sign it. they are waiting for their states to make their decisions. so about half or so are going to sign it the first day, and over the next week, mest of the rest will sign. now, ultimately, one state, maryland, will hold out for close to two years. so the signing will begin june 9th, 1778, and won't finish until march 1st of 1781. wour rr talking about two and a half years of time. for most of that time, it's maryland by itself saying no. technically this cannot go into effect until all 13 states have agreed and signed. maryland is feuding with mainly virginia, their neighbors, over land to the west.
remember, when the revolutionary war comes to an end, we go from our own colonial boundaries which theoretically would be about the appalachian mountains although the colonies each figured they kept going. now we end at the mississippi river. that's a lot of new land. think of all the states between the east coast and mississippi river. all the old states and colonies are looking at that land saying that would be great as part of my state. maryland and virginia are arguing over who gets the potomac river and things like that. maryland is going, i don't want to sign this until everything is settled. there's your issue that arises. and there will be others. there's a bill at one point trying to pass through this room to raise money on essentially imports. take money from imports, like a tax tariff and put that to paying the soldiers. seems logical. why would you not want to raise money to pay the army fighting for independence? 12 of the states agree, that
seems like a good idea. one, which happened to be rhode island, the smallest of the states said no, and the vote failed. the states individually have a lot more power and sometimes one can defeat 12. a lot of people start thinking, this isn't working so well, including members of the congress. by the end of the war, you have members of the congress writing letters to officers in the army as the war is winding down saying, you know, maybe the army should try to throw their weight behind putting something more strong together here in philadelphia because this isn't really working between the states. maybe we need the strength of that army. george washington, of course, is very much a believer in this idea of civilian control. that's one of the great principles we've embraced in american history from our beginning points and george washington is a big part of that. one of his greatest moments is
at the end of the war up in newberg, new york. he's going to call a meeting together of all his officers as this word of, you know, maybe the army trying to change government a little bit. and he's against it. he calls a meeting, puts some of the guys he feels are behind a lot of this talk in charge of the meeting. he's not going to be there. he wants them all to talk amongst themselves. then he shows up. washington is not a public speaker. this is not a man who wants to stand up and make speeches. if he can avoid it he's going to do it. he starts making his speech and wants to read this letter. he pulls out a pair of glasses and puts them on and said i've not only grown gray but half blind as well. he's talking about this idea of what they fought for together for eight years. and that it not be ruined by rash actions at the end. he's got guys in tears. and the whole thing sort of -- what we call the newberg conspiracy kind of goes away.
and even though the problems hadn't been solved, this idea of military intervention in our civilian government, fortunately, fades out of view. but still washington does believe that something stronger is needed, but he is one of those guys who is going to go through the proper channels. george washington is a virginian. his state is fighting with their neighbors in maryland. what can george washington do about that when he can have a meeting at his house and invite virginians and marylanders to sit together. he'll do that after the war ends. about a year or so after, he has what we call the mt. vernon conference. and they'll sign an agreement together solving essentially years of problems between maryland and virginia which then leads to a meeting in maryland, where they'll invite more states. they'll get five states to meet in annapolis. the annapolis convention. and again, the big result is it's going to lead to a bigger meeting.
they're going to go, and now our friend jon dickinson again is going to go to the continental congress with a letter he has written saying, look, we want to have a big meeting in philadelphia, back in the same room. we want to really talk about the future, and we want everybody to come. they'll sit down starting in may of 1787, what we today call the constitutional convention. they'll sit in this same room and address these issues plaguing the young united states. it's going to start with about 11 states. new hampshire will show up late. unfortunately, rhode island will never attend these meetings. this time, they're not about to let one state keep them from getting something done. the way they set it up is they're going to kind of pretend there's only 12 of them, and not only that, but when they vote, they're going to go to the people in each state, let the people vote on a special convention, and then the special conventions will approve or not
approve the constitution for each state, and then you need nine states, three quarters of them, to put this new constitution into effect. these are guys trying to engineer something because they know something needs to be done to hold these states together. they know as separate entities, you go back to benjamin franklin's design, the snake cut in pieces. if benjamin franklin put together during the french and indian war when he's calling for this union, join or die. a snake put in pieces is going to die. a snake together is dangerous. that's the idea that a lot of these men are embracing that summer of 1787. the questions they'll face in this room is what exactly is it that we want? so the first days of meetings are these very esoteric debates about the nature of federal government, national government, what's the difference, what do we want? they're getting deep into these things. they are saying we want this national government. and then they start saying,
well, then what is it going to be? well, virginia had come very organized. james madison is going to get credit for putting together a lot of the virginia plan that's submitted by edmond randolph, who is eventually our first attorney general. another virginian is chosen by nomination from pennsylvania to sit in the back of the room and lead the constitutional convention. and that will be george washington. the big hero of the day, of course, equal now to franklin as far as american fame goes, and so washington will take the lead in the constitutional convention. and the very chair in the back of the room behind me is the chair in which washington sat, which interestingly, is the only item in this room that we today have in this room that we know for certain was here as a part of those events. that chair was made in 1779 after the british left philadelphia. a lot of things were gone
between the americans coming and going, british coming and going. we just don't have all the contents of the building anymore. pennsylvania's government has to make new furniture, including that chair for the speaker of pennsylvania. so that was in the room on that spot when washington took that position in 1787. so the virginia plan, three branches of government, somewhat familiar to us today, here's some of the issues that are going to face that plan as far as when you start debating. other plans are going to get thrown out by other men. virginia's plan, to me, one of the biggest things is this notion of voting based on american people. sort of seeing the states as artificial. everybody in all the states is american. whenever we do things, we should just be american. why be virginians or somebody from massachusetts or delaware or anywhere else. let's be americans. well, naturally, the other side of that coin, as some of the
states would look, is that virginia happens to have more people than any other state. voting by people is definitely good for virginia. so a small state like delaware pretty much embraces one idea and that's that every state be equal. the way it's always been. every state get an equal vote. delaware is pretty much digging their heels in and they're going to refuse anything that doesn't involve equality amongst the states. you get the small states naturally liking delaware's idea. the big states, virginia's idea. that's an issue that will go on for the better part of a month off and on. virginia's idea is that we have these two houses. upper house, lower house. what becomes our senate and house of representatives. it's based on population. but as you start debating it, you have others saying, base it on states. so eventually when it seems like there's no answer to be found, it would be connecticut that would make the compromise.
what we call the connecticut compromise or great compromise, would give us this question of how about a senate where every state is equal, house of representatives where we base things on people. both sides getting some of what they want. and eventually, that's exactly how it will go. but not everybody loves that. so you aren't sure if everybody is going to go for that, about but that's how they slot in for congress. now the president. there's another one. there's multiple ideas of president, of executive. the virginia plan, as they start working through it, is ultimately a seven-year executive elected by congress. so a little bit different system obviously than we're used to today. the -- another plan, edmond randolph of virginia, says how about having three presidents at once? he's talking about three regional presidents. then you have alexander hamilton of new york who wants a very strong executive.
he says how about president for lifetime, which needless to say, having gotten rid of king a few years ago, was not overly popular to these men. they settle on a president for four years at a time. then they have that level of electoral college. we get a lot of questions about that. why would they do that electoral college? probably several reasons. one is simple distance. the idea of having states that are days and days and weeks apart of each other from georgia to new hampshire with not a lot of great roads and travel can be difficult, so having this notion of sending people together to vote makes a lot of sense. mechanically. then also you have this idea that with the electoral college you're making sure the smaller states have a certain amount of say. you're trying to balance a lot of different things. and talking about that, again, one of the things that will plague the young united states
is something that does come up in this room that summer of 1787. this is the idea of slavery. is this the time to make that big step and do away with slavery? unfortunately, it wasn't. the southern states, obviously, are fairly attached to it. they don't particularly want to talk about it. the only slavery, the word doesn't even make it into the constitution. you have one little notion of the slave trade, which they talk about in 20 years, maybe we can discuss doing away with the slave trade, importing slaves from africa. but that's about all the mention you get. of course, anyone that's anti-slavery, which there are guys in this room decidedly so, is not very happy we put this off for 20 years. the entire discussion, let alone any action. and, of course, southern states would look at, in 20 years this is going to come up again. we're not real happy about that because we didn't put it away forever.
again, you have a lot of people who are looking at sections of this constitution who aren't very happy. now who writes the constitution? declaration of independence, that's easy. thomas jefferson was on the committee but basically wrote it. constitution, there's really not going to be that one obvious writer. you'll have a five-man committee called the committee of detail, which name is exactly what it sounds like. the guys putting in the details of what this government is going to be. three of the five will be on the united states supreme court. one will be our first attorney general. so that's the kind of men you'll have on there. the very much legal minded men. probably the main guy who puts together most much their reports is james wilson from pennsylvania. he is one of the signers of the declaration of independence as well. he'll end up on the united states supreme court. and more than likely, he came up with the three words, "we the people" at the beginning of the constitution. that's the beginning of the
committee report. we the people. nothing else that would be recognizable to us today but he does start out with "we the people." now, as they go through this committee of detail report, eventually, they get to a point where they pretty much worked out how they want it to be. they form another five-man committee. this is the committee of style. here's where some of your heavy hitters in early american history are going to be. alexander hamilton and james madison on this committee. the guy who probably will take up the pen and do most of the writing for them is a pennsylvania man by the name of morris, a man with a wooden leg. but another one of these men very gifted with the pen. and morris is a friend of george washington's. there's a story that comes from that summer with morris and alexander hamilton basically there's a bet made that hamilton makes with morris because morris says i'll just go up and slap george washington on the back
and say, how are you doing kind of thing. washington is this very formal guy who doesn't even like to shake hands. he prefers to bow, and he would kind of be a bit on the aloof side, especially in kind of public. so hamilton is like, you're never going to do that. i'll bet you dinner you'll not do it. of course, morris goes and does it and washington gives him one of his glaring looks. shrinks him down. i'm sure hamilton is standing in a corner laughing like mad. but anyway, morris is the guy who is probably going to write the we the people of the united states, and order to form a more perfect union, the famous preamble we know. you have this constitution. by september 15th, 1787, four pages. that's all it is, four pages. there's no bill of rights at that time. they kind of talked about it. alexander hamilton would say we don't need one. the whole thing is kind of a bill of rights. the government is only going to have the power we give it. why do we even need it?
others would say, that's well and good, but we would like to see something like that there. so again, even by the time they are finished you have guys that look at parts or the whole and say, there's this i don't like, that i don't like. i don't like this senate because it gives too much power to little states. the president is too strong, not strong enough. we didn't deal with slavery. there's no bill of rights. at the end, you come in the last day and it's not at all certain that everybody is going to agree. remember, these guys are signing it to send it out to their states to vote on it. so it's important to the group as a whole to try to have everyone on board because these are the guys that have to sell this new constitution to the people, to that we the people, so they will then put it into effect. so you're going to have benjamin franklin come in the very last day of meetings. franklin is 81. there are days that he's literally being carried in and out of these meetings, can hardly walk.
fortunately he's still the great sage, the elder statesman. on the last day he brings in a speech in which he says there are things in this constitution i do not approve but then he said, at present, i'm old enough to know i'm not perfect. my ideas aren't perfect. nobody in this room is perfect. and we should all basically put aside our doubts and sign our names to this thing. he says we should all doubt a little our own infallibility. a typical franklin phrase. anyway, he says one of his great famous statements in the room, he says we should all sign because i do not expect anything better than this. in fact, i am not sure that this is not the best. and to me, one of the most famous triple negatives in american history. i'm sure some of the guys half listening are scratching their
head, saying did he say to sign it, not sign it? in the end, it's hard to argue with franklin. 41 men are in the room that day. 38 men will sign 39 names. okay, there's a little bit of a story to that one, too. jon dickinson, who actually refused to sign the declaration of unless, again, not that he was loyal to the british, particularly, but that he was saying this isn't the right time. this is a bad idea. we're rushing too much. he never signed the declaration of independence. he is sick the day the constitution is going to be signed. so he tells his fellow delegate from delaware, george reed, look. i want you to put my name on that thing when you sign it. so george reed signs twice. once for himself, once for jon dickinson. 39 men would sign the constitution. three would not. different issues. you have a man of massachusetts, who actually made a speech that last day saying that there was an excess of democracy, which he
called the worst of all political evils. fear of democracy at that point in history is made evident a few years later in the french revolution when the new government went to the point of government went to the point of renaming months and starting over at year one and cutting off 6,000 heads and that's the sort of fear of democracy that it leads to some kind of chaotic anarchy which ultimately in history leads to a dictator which is exactly what france does going up to napoleon. and they went back to rome and saw the same sort of things happen. so democracy was always a little tempered here in the united states and in britain which is where we get our ideas of having that mix. we have a mix of states and people. we have a president and a congress, we divide our powers. so this idea that there's no one place that has too much strength coming. so jerry is afraid the democracy will overrun because he sees the
potential for revolution in the future so he won't sign it. two of the virginians, edmund randolph won't sign it but he's one of those guys that always likes to hedge his bets. he supports it when virginia votes on it but he wouldn't sign in the this room because he's afraid like that guys at home like patrick henry will go against him because he knows patrick henry is one of those guys that doesn't think this is a great idea the other one, george mason is looking that the idea of a bill of rights that he wants to see that so he's not crazy about parts of it. a lot of the guys from the big states like massachusetts or virginia don't like the senate. so there's all kientds of issues but most men will put aside their doubts as franklin hoped and sign their names. september 17, 1787. at that point, franklin looks at the chair where washington sits and he says look behind washington's head at this carving of a half sun on the back of the chair. he says all summer i've been trying to decide whether that half sun is supposed to be rising or setting and i could
not make up my mind until now. he says now at length i have the happiness to know that is a rising and not a setting sun. he felt good. he'd been working for since the 1750s, this kind of unity of the american states and he finally sees it happening. one of the great stories that comes afterwards is he is supposedly asked what kind of a government they've created in philadelphia and he said "it's a republic if you can keep it." his last warning to the rest of us to make sure. but think about the united states. one of the things i like to finish with is this idea that we're still using that same constitution. we're still using that same government but it's also allowed us maybe not quickly but it's definitely allowed us to improve because ultimately slavery in the united states doesn't really end by the civil war. technically it's the constitution, 13th amendment. the 15th amendment will give
equality and voting by color. the 19th amendment would give equality and voting by gender. so through the years so through the years, maybe slowly, we have faced every issue that came up and our constitution has allowed us to solve things and continue to move forward so so i think back to franklin and his rising son and that's what we've seen through the years so this little humble room is really everything the united states has been and will be, is going to grow from the events that happen over about a 10 or 11-year period in this room. it's kind of amazing when you think of this humble place. and the men that sat here and the things they did, it's really incredible the things that have grown from this space. the pennsylvania statehouse is the real name of independence hall and it was pennsylvania's capital until 1799. pennsylvania then moves its government west to ultimately the center of the state to harrisburg.
well at that point the building -- you know, they're using space and renting it out. it's not capital building anymore but the city of philadelphia had started building buildings here on the block and by 18 -- the early 1800s, essentially the city will buy this building and this whole block is going to serve as our city hall so through the 19th century, this is city hall, the second floor of the building would hold meetings of philadelphia city council until 1895. but the first floor is probably one of the first places in the united states that becomes a historical place so by the 1820s, '30s, '40s, people are coming to visit, it gets the nickname "independence hall." probably this room, in fact, was independence hall before the whole building became independence hall. and one of the famous early incidences, the marquis de lafayette about 50 years after the revolutionary war return,
make this is trip through the united states, you're talking the 1820s, we have a very few founding fathers and soldiers from the army that are left but every town that lafayette visits you gather all the old veterans and anybody like thomas jefferson or john adams that's still alive and they get together and they celebrate lafayette. so it's this wonderful sort of exclamation of patriotic memory and it's probably one of the first times we're really kind of looking at embracing our history. it's that same time period when people are starting to purchase their copies of the declaration of independence and put them above the fireplace and we're actually celebrating the words and the actual document. so fortunately this room becomes a historic place before they've got on the the point of totally getting rid of the building and tearing it down to build something new. so we're really lucky in a lot of ways that it was in use long enough that it became important. so by the mid-1800s, this whole
thing is a museum. one of the fascinating things in this room, when the liberty room spent almost a hundred years in our bell tower cracked they put it on display in this room so they said where else will we put it? let's stick in the the room where the united states began. and one of my favorite days that's not one of those days of the revolutionary war comes 150 years ago this year in april after abraham lincoln was assassinated his body lay in state in this room. but there's back story. he came here to philadelphia, washington's birthday, 1861 on his way to be inaugurated. he actually said in this room that he would rather be assassinated on the spot than fail the ideals of the founding fathers. exactly the kind of strength that america needed at the time and then sadly four years later he comes back having been assassinated but having succeeded in saving the united states and they put his casket
literally almost next to the liberty bell and they ran about 100,000 people through this building in a day to pay their respects. and you had lincoln laying next to the liberty bell in the room where the united states was born and all the ghosts of the founding fathers present at that one time. that's the kind of thing that makes this room so great. and the park service comes in in the 20th century after world war ii and unfortunately the one thing that had changed, a lot of the walls, they kind of made them fancier. it's a little plain room and they wanted to have paintings up so they had that old-fashioned museum filled with stuff and our big thing was let's get it back to the way it looked so we kind of stripped it back down to the plainer walls that we see today. but, again, the main structure, fortunately, survived the years and we were able to figure out well enough the paint colors and everything else. so we were able to get it back to what we think is pretty close
to how it looked. the furniture is from the time -- it's not necessarily the original furniture because nothing was saved. the british army captures philadelphia, nobody's thinking about the history until we have some so -- and they kept using it for different things so we don't necessarily have all the contents of the room but we think everything here is a good match to what was here. so we think really as best we can tell from our investigation and our research this is pretty close to how it looked. the first vice president of the united states, john adams, once said about his position that it was "the most insignificant office that ever the imagination of man conceived." up next, author joel goldstein talks about the history of the vice presidency and argues that the office has grown in