tv The Presidency CSPAN July 9, 2016 12:00pm-1:21pm EDT
delegates. live coverage on c-span, the c-span radio app, and c-span.org. >> next on the presidency. next, on the presidency. we will hear from adrienne harrison. and about how the first commander and chief inspired her. the good evening. you are in the >> of course i would like to welcome c-span here as well tonight. we are thankful to be sponsored
by the ford motor company. that is the mansion you see right there. it was built before that by the washington family. it expanded by none other than george washington. mount vernon ladies association has maintained this property at the highest level of historic preservation so that people every recommend about the life and lessons of george washington. and they have done this without seeking any government money. they are a privately funded astitution and it is part of our mission to help people everywhere learn about the principles of the founding and of course george washington's light. the topic tonight is perfect for what we do. we are really excited to have
this special presentation for you. today with the mount vernon ladies, please welcome aging harrison, dr. adrienne harrison. she is currently a fellow and consulting historian with battlefield leadership. she is a graduate of west point and later went on to earn her and a and phd degrees in american history from rutgers university. she has been an assistant professor of american history at west and. she served for 12 years as commissioned officer in the u.s. army, including three combat tours in iraq. so she brings a certain amount of experience to this project. i think she will talk you a little bit about how personal it is for her and exciting it is for her to explore the life of george washington in this way. she was there tonight to talk about her great new book, a powerful mind, the
self-education of george washington. and she is doing exactly what we like to try to do here at mount vernon which is make george washington into a human being. that is just a marble statue although we love the great icon of george washington. recognize that he was a human who lived in the world. one of the great ways to get at this man of action is through his reading. through his mind. often associated with those things, and adrian will talk much more about that. i do want to say after talk tonight, we live chance of questions from the audience. librarian andhief michelle lee, special collections librarian have made a special effort tonight to bring out some of the items from george washington library and you will have an opportunity to tour the vaulted see george washington's books that we have here. you will get a chance to get in
there behind the scenes, those of you are able to stay later tonight. it is a special evening and it should be an exciting one. please everyone give a big hand for adrienne harrison. [applause] adrienne: good evening everyone. it is a privileged to be here i wasn't expecting that so thank you for having me and allowing me to indulge you with what has become one of the biggest and almost all-encompassing thing that ever done in my life. i just say by way of introduction, that when i was invited to give this talk, about george washington's library my book. it so happened that i was on facebook. everybody's on facebook these days pretty much. so when i was on facebook, it is
about the same day that i received the very kind invitation for this talk. i saw a suggested ad pop up in my newsfeed. you know how you get there. it's like mark zuckerberg's minions are figuring out what exactly you would like to purchase aced stun who you are and what your interest are. as it happens, there was an ad for a clothing company. you have never heard of it, it is a company that makes military themed clothes. it was this particular ad that got my attention. it had a picture on it of george washington crossing the delaware river. underneath the screen printing, it said in one simple phrase, get some.
the t-shirt itself was funny. but the tagline for the ad is what caught my attention because it said if you insult george washington in a dream, you would better wake up and apologize. total stud. it struck me when i saw this, because this is really why i wrote this up. because this is how we think in these swaggering g.i. joe type terms, this is how we think of george washington. -- fails to be a real person to us. he is the smith. this myth. he is not to us two centuries removed, he is two-dimensional, flat, and he is far removed from us. there had to be a way to making a real person again. and for me, this was something that was intensely personal story. because i've had an interest in
washington going back to my childhood. it was something that has stayed with me all through my schooling from elementary school-age all the way up to when i was an undergraduate at west point i did my thesis on washington's tour of the south in 1791. it was something i carried with me after west point. it was a moment that hit me when i was a brand-new second lieutenant. i was 23 years old and in command of or leading my first platoon. so there i was. all army story start with the phrase so there i was. so there i was, a 23-year-old second lieutenant in the 82nd airborne division in what was become the first phase of a phase of operation iraqi freedom. and i had the lives of 27 soldiers in my hand as well as the lives of the soldiers that he transported in the back of our truck to and from the different missions we were assigned. where he in baghdad
ended up after the invasion, and it struck me after one particular mission that we had, it was an air assault mission that went all night long. that after we got back, we narrowly evaded an ambush, we had to fight our way through a traffic jam that was the very definition of the chaos theory. traffic in d.c. or new york city does not compare to what you see over there. experiencesf those that you are just drained afterwards. it hit me, how did washington do this? how did he experience armed conflict for the first time. i realized you them i feel strange that here i am in iraq in 2003 in my mind randomly goes back to george washington. you have to understand that in experience like that, everybody needs a bit of a mental escape the you need is going to get
you through. that will help you sort of reset normally so you can face the next day. for me it was reading. thanks to my generous friendly and friends and they extremely slow, but usually reliable postal service, i had a amy schumer book sense to me that i would read -- -- a steady stream of books sent to me. one of my old thesis advisors from west point, a guy named ron -- rob mcdonald sent me all of the latest books on george washington. so i kept his example always before me. even i was far from her academia at that point. i was thinking about washington and how he would do this. although he and i were separated by more than two centuries, vastly different circumstances, there were some similarities. we were about the same age. i was a little bit older than he was when he had his first troops , but he and i both had very
limited, home is professional experience at that point. when we were each given the opportunity to meet on our own for the first time. and so fundamentally i thought our emotional response to having to meet soldiers and having to give orders to people looking up for directions must have been fundamentally the same on some levels. but then the comparisons have to stop. because reality comes back into play. i at least had the benefit of four years of west point education behind me. i have been taught the fundamentals of how to lead people. i had extensive military training. i was an officer in the most professional, most powerful army in the world. so i had all of that that could undergird my confidence where my experience was not there yet. washington had none of that. years younger than me and he had some fencing lessons. that was it. when you look at my first expense compared to his, his actual mission -- first mission
did not go well. let's just say that. after leading his troops bravely with all of the brashness of youth out into the wilderness worst picked the absolute spot were you could possibly put a fortification. let me see if i can move the slides here. the worst place ever. he goes to an open clearing in depressed, higher ground around him, nothing but treason high grass that is very put his four. -- that is where he put his fort. so that was not going to go well. then he willfully went beyond the extent of his orders and attacked a party of frenchmen and diplomats and soldiers and basically started the seven years war. so his experience and mind are very different in that regard. so in that experience, we have the first lesson that he really
learned as a person on the public stage. positionhimself in a ready to not have the professional training or experience to set up the fortification that he did. he did not speak the language of his enemy. at all. and he did not have anyone within who could. so in this first firefight that descended into a massacre, he had no control when these poor frenchman that had been most of them mirrored in the wounded are sketchy data. death.ed to when washington's native american allies descended on them, they are pleading for their lives in french. washington cannot speak french and had no one but them who could. he lost control. he vowed at that point he was not going to make the same mistakes again. and he learned from experience. there was nothing about him at that point that said future father of the nation. nothing about that at all.
but as he reverses forces and -- fortunes in the seven years war, he was charged with aiding these officers as well as the soldiers who also had a drink. in 1755 he said something prophetic. he said having no opportunity to learn from example, let us read. he was exposed in the british army in that war through the professionalization of reading. you read to gain knowledge, background, requisite knowledge. so he did not have the benefit of a formal education, but he was going to go out there and do the best he could and he expected his officers to do the same. so that was something that stuck with me. he figured out what he needed to do and he would able to come back from it. that was something that the young officer myself, even though i had more of an education, was something that i took to heart. it was something that i tried to instill in my officers.
but this question of how did he what, how did he turn into would become the indispensable man. there is a reason why we remember him that way. there is more to it than just he was a tall guy who looks good in a uniform and he was in the right place the right time. so i carried this question with me to graduate school and i was so excited. i got to go back to school after three combat tours and i was going to make my mark on the world. and i went to my dissertation advisor and i said i have an idea for dissertation. i want to write about how george washington fashioned south. and he said that's a terrible idea. [laughter] it's horrible. because the challenge facing it -- there's a greater truth in what he was saying.
the challenge facing any washington history today is what else is there to say about this man. he is one of the most studied men in history. not just american history, but you think of world history where you travel anywhere else and you will go to a bookstore and you find something on george washington there. what else is there that's different. so i was told to go to the drawing board and try again. so i keptundaunted this idea. as going to figure out a way to convince them that this was a viable project that was actually -- i was expired just to the bookmark -- called reading revolutions. it focuses on a guy named sir william drake who during the previous century prior to washington's life, he was a political operative who learned the art and science of being a public figure, a political figure through reading.
and it was something about what sharp had argued that in talking about straight, sharp said that reading is essentially something that is political and is specific to times and places. ,e think about our own reading that is pretty much true for all of us. beliefs inform how we receive the things that we read. whether you are conservative, liberal, religious, not, doesn't matter. it somehow will inform the way you receive things. thealso sharp put forth idea that reading is useful. reading is practical. so i thought about that. i thought about a different book about washington by a historian named paul longhorn who wrote the book the invention of george washington. in that i found an opportunity. because he included an appendix of his book about washington's reading. hes is something that basically says that washington the reader was practical, but
not really all that bright. he's not that much of an intellectual. the appendix itself talks about the main topics that you will find in washington's library and sums it up by saying he's not really that much of an intellectual. and he left it at that. for me, it was my opportunity when i viewed as his shortfall -- that for me taking what sharp has said about reading being political and reading being and beingo a moment practical knowledge he cannot apply to your specific task in the ball thatith i viewed longmore had ingloriously dropped. there was my opportunity for the dissertation. i wanted to look at washington, how he did it, how he did this self fashioning, this out presentation through looking at his reading. that was something that aside
from longmore, you won't find a whole lot of viagra visa talk about it to any extent. most of them tend to be dismissive of his reading efforts. because he is not something that we see. we remember the guy on the charger. we remember the statue of the painting. the books are even under the table. him, he's nothing looking at them. it looks like you would rather not. if you look at the expression on his face. so that was my idea. i was able to sell that to my advisor. but the next question for me was how the approach that? i started with the 1799 inventory that was made as part of the estate inventory that was required by law when he passed away. when he passed away, there were differentolumes, 1200 works that were in the library,
everything ranging from history, to military science, to religion, math, political cap -- pamphlets, and the like. so 900 volumes, that is a lot. so of that, what did he read? so when you think about it, think about yourself and your own book shall pay whether or not your real bookshelves or if you like the number the kindle or i got experience -- ipad expatriate we all probably have books on our shop that we never read. you pick up a bookstore and just never get there. or as a book some person well intentioned gave it to as a gift and you assign it to the shelf never to be touched again. so bearing that in mind about ourselves, books will tell you just on the signs on the shelf, will tell you something about who you are. take me for example. my shelves are almost all history. i'm historian.
that's what i enjoy. so you will find almost all history, not a science fiction title on that. that's just me. it will tell you something about your priorities. minor history because i'm trying to make a living out of it. i have 99% history, less than 1% anything else. i thinkat is true -- the same could probably apply to yourself. that is true for us, so why would that be different for washington? so i looked at what is on his shelves as kind of a cursory look. what is it that is on the shelf? what is there and what is not there? because what is not there is also telling. a lot of history, politics, military, agriculture. all of the things that washington did in his life and that -. what is not there?
literature. washington was not a major read for pleasure. he had no time for that. none whatsoever. maybe he wasn't all that interested in it whatsoever -- either. that by itself is telling. there is information we could get from that. there's conclusions we can draw. but then how do you get further? i had to have a method. that's what i want to spend the rest of my time talking to you about. i'm pretty confident you are mostly versed in his biography. my methods. and all at the volumes, right, what do you know? we know that washington did not read, write, speak, or understand any language other than english. so anything that was printed in a foreign language i excluded. for the purposes of my study. for things like don quixote that he had an english translation of, that's a good example copy.e he went and got a english translations are different and i took those with a grain of salt, maybe he did read them. so that was easy. then i got a little further.
after a guitar. because washing -- that's where gets hard because washington did not really talk about reading. he rarely recommended reading to other people. he made few literary alluded -- allusions and writings and speeches. so how do we know what he read and what he didn't? you approach the idea of book ownership itself and what does that mean? books in the 18th century are luxury items. they're expensive, they're hard to come by, especially virginia. even in williamsburg there is a printing press down there a post office, but it's not a bookbinder. they don't do a lot of bulk importing. washington is to order his books if you want them for the most frightening the colonial cleared . , yes to order them from england. the time to order, that means he intended to use it. i will just make that assumption. because he is not going to line his shelves with unread classics. he never invited anybody to us that he and mount vernon. ever.
so he was not trying to put together a nice-looking bookshelf to impress. so books are expensive and hard to come by. if he or it, he was going to read it. another assumption i made for the books that he owned that were clearly his i had to separate what was his arm up along to the people in his household. an estate inventory counted everything in the house. so martha washington's books, and other relatives that had either live there or were on extended stays were also counted. so if they had the markings of ownership of somebody else, martha signature, bushrod signature, anything about women's literature i kind of assumed washington the time for that and stepped outside. set that aside. for his book there is 397 volumes that have either as signature, his bookplates, or both in them. so you look at his signatures
and if you go on the tour later this evening, you'll be able to see an example of this right in front of you. even though he wrote with a quote 10 of varying qualities over time, there is not an ink smudge, there's nothing inc. blot anywhere out of speed -- space. this is very carefully done. spaces are perfectly centered in the middle of the page. they were not haphazard flapped on there. this was done deliberately and with care. if you take the time to do that, then again, that was something that was important to him. because there are other books in there, particularly in a lot of the ones that he was gifted over the years of his celebrity after the revolution entering his presidency and beyond, the gifted books don't really have marks of ownership in the print we know they were his because they came with the letter that is now is published paper saying this was sent to him by so-and-so. but if you didn't bother to do that, odds are he might not even
touched it. it could've been something that one of his secretary put on a shelf for him. i narrowed it down by looking at that pits and i have a smaller list. so now this is approachable. now what to do with that information. i had a choice to make. i could either take a somatic approach and look at the different subjects ever in the library taking what longmore has started. and carry that on and go into more depth. i could do that. or i could take a chronological approach. decided after doing some research and figuring out how and when he acquired these books over time, that i was going to do the chronological thing. sensee in order to make of what washington read and why, i needed to put him in a context of the wider world that he lived in. because he is not someone who left a ton of marginal notes. there's only a handful of books
we know that have his handwriting in them. he did not quote things verbatim in his writings. connect theable to dots tracer contextualizing it made the difference. i was able to see using the inventory of the books that he made over time, beginning the first one in 1759 when he married martha and was taking over the estate and of administering back, then he took possession of customers library and dividend or himself. i had that inventory, one made by his at his request cousin and estate manager. i had to compare against that the inventory that was made on his stepsons desk in 1782. i could balance that against the washington collections and make sure, what was his and melissa stepfathers. inventory that
was done in 1799. that is also a good one. , in to get further at this had the auction catalog from when the washington library went up for sale around the time of the civil war when the family -- descendents went bankrupt. because when those books one for auction, anything to do is watch of him is worth money. anything with his signature handwriting was worth that much more. and people even then were good at picking up mistakes. -- the fakes. so it was in everybody's interest to make sure this was right. so the auction catalog shows which specific volumes had signatures in them. which had marginal notes in them, which had other people signatures in them. and any sort of other notes that might have come at the book of the book was given to a very for example, some of the religious books that came from his mother were given to her son on
her death. it had notes like that. that was like my hand but going through this process. because it was able to help me find where washington's books were. so i could see them for myself. so i had a framework, and i had to go about now figuring out, let's put the books with the context of what he was doing. and in that i learned something, i learned a lot of things about the practicality what he was doing. so for example if you want to find washington's books now, besides what is here in this library or the library of congress, some are scattered all over the place. but the biggest single concentration is in boston at .h the members there pulled the resources together when the big
auction was going to happen and they try to collect as many of washington's fines as they could. they thought it was a shame that this was going to be split up and we will track of them for prosperity. so i have a catalog and i went to boston and i was asked to given after many permissions and archivist watching me like a hawk to make sure it in pocket these books i got to hand washington's real books that had. and i would give you a good example of the relativism of the m . i was reading this one book will do next position on the church of england. page turner. [laughter] it's a book about how the church of english is organized. as a church history and church structure book. i know that when washington came to possess the book and it was 1760's.arly so i'm reading this book with his signature on it and there's
really nothing else there. and i'm reading it and it's dry. and i couldn't find anything goes relevant that washington would abuse. i'm trying to approach each book as washington would have read it. what is it that he is going to get from this because that seems to be what he is done with the things we know about. so i'm approaching this book and reading it and i'm not getting anything. i started to have a panic attack like the whole thing was going to fall apart. i turn the page and keep going. and i see two glorious big thumbprints in the margins of the book. mine, clearlyan belong to hands are much bigger than my. there are smudges and their perfect. it was as if somebody was holding the book up to the light of either the window, a candle, maybe firelight, and as meticulous as washington was about book ownership, the oils on your hands, inc. stains,
smudges, dirt, people didn't wash their hands as much an 18th century. it's easy to smudge a page of one of those old books. nature of the parts for their printed on prints are looking at these thumbprints and i can't prove that they are his exactly. alrighte it was like these are here for a reason. somebody thought this page is interesting because they were gripping it. i was reading was on the page and is about the organization of dioceses within the church of england. when i took a back in the context of what washington was doing at the time when he might've read the book he was in the house of burgesses debating the twopenny act about paying the salaries of parish priests and the established church of england here in virginia and they were debating, it was a hot and heavy debate about whether or not virginia should petition the archbishop of canterbury from virginia. so understanding the organization of the church of england would have been immediately useful for
washington. so my theory seem to be holding, so i persevered. when it comes organization of the book, how did i approach it knowing that that is the kind of method of high went at it. so how did i write the book? going in a chronological method. i read a chapters down into isiods of time where there certain transformational things that happened to them. so starting out with his formative years, how did he enter into public life, what are some of the first things he read and why. and as trying to chart how was reading interest change over time. because even though he starts are reading military science things like caesar's , as soon as the seven years was over, he sets us up the side. he doesn't read it anymore. not until he is going to be a commanding general peers returns his interest to other things. what is it that was going on in his life that can -- could to this change of interest?
did he suddenly find that military boring? so i broke it down and look at it. yet moments where things would change. wouldit circumstances change, things that happen, new opportunities would open up. the first chapter concludes with the end of the seven years war where he knows once and for all there is no british commission waiting for them. it's never going to happen. so he's done. thatdone with the military point. he married martha, he is now the top shot a sphere. so he has to know what he's talking about because now he's a burgess. politics, history, religion are all important to them. as you get closer to the american revolution, is a leading revolutionary. i'm an opinion that ideologically's mark committed to the idea of independence early on that some of his fellow founding fathers.
certainly he does at least factor than benjamin franklin does for example. but when it becomes clear that he's going to be the commanding general of the continental army, he sees that he doesn't know anything about leading an army. there's actual records in his papers that show that he commissioned book buying agents in new york and philadelphia to go buy up every military but they can find. so he was buying field manuals, tongs you'd give today lieutenants and sergeants. he's reading them is the general. he gets the order of merit list for the british army said he knows his adversaries are going to be. he reads military science on the fly as he establishing kind of farming practices and doctrine throughout the war making time for where he can. then there is a political problem of the war. how do you get soldiers to join the military and stay in? perennial recruiting question.
back then they had to worry about pay. army?uld you join that you're not going to do for pay, you are going to do it for any sort of immediate benefits, you end up shoes, you will be well equipped are well fed. but please join us and stay in. so how do you do that? he starts using political pamphlets. he is thomas payne traveling with him in the continental army. that's when the americas -- american crisis and. he starts selecting things like hented sermons because -- uses the sermons as methods -- to troops. he were -- inquires that his divinego through the -- service every sunday where they hear these types of sermons that would reiterate from a different why this causes viable and why they should stay in and continue to serve. so he starts to leverage these sermons, these popular media for a lack of a better term to his advantage as a leader. how totarting to learn
harness the power of the printed word. that is something that really comes into play after the revolution between the confederation. and his presidency where now there is an interest in him personally, but there's an interest in what is going to confederation, government does not going that well. he starts advising people on how to pick biographers and people to commemorate the great occasion of the war. and what that says about the america's future and how the history is pulled. we have letters very telling lafayette cummings advising and what he should do. we see that he's starting to use books and media and print in a way that before it was about getting the knowledge that is ari there the page. to he is trying to start control the message a little bit. that was an interesting maturation of washington's intellectual use of reading.
as president he faced a unique challenge. who could imagine being the first president. a lot of people don't want to president now. look at the current election. and the way that a shaping up. washington and you had to be first. how do you do that? how do you establish the legitimacy of this office that this government under this new constitution that not everybody was on board with. how do you do that? that was all on him. if you read the section of the call about the presidency, it's written with him in mind. he had to make that into something that was legitimate, something authoritative, and something sustainable. he was setting the precedent for all that would come after him and he knew that. so how does he do it? he chose to use public ceremony, he goes on tour is. very carefully choreographed experiences so he's kind of charting this half that he
believes bridges the gap between the monarchical past of great britain and this new american republican future that they are starting to sketch out. bridge and hed of is using ceremony to do it. that is a way. any good politician knows, you have to know how the people think about what you're doing. and so we had to figure that out. in the 1790's there is no opinion polls. media move slow. so how do you figure out? of course you had newspapers. newspaper proliferated after the war ended. but during washington's administration, the media's -- some in new shaver outlet started to turn against him. and they started to turn against not just administration, but they turned against him personally. that was something is difficult to take. they were attacking him as an
individual, they were attacking his family, and i was something that he cannot take traits of the distrust the newspapers. if you're washington you're doing this thing, your job, you don't know how people think, you can't trust newspapers, where else can you look to gauge public opinion? he looks back to what he did the revolution, printed sermons. printed sermons were a way to gauge the way that people were responding in the smaller american communities, away from the cities, away from newspapers were the stories were being written and reprinted over and over again. because ministers of the time very much for voices of their community. one theits even american revolution ended, the pool but did not cease to be politicized. they were still talking about politics. so you see in washington's collection he starts amassing all these printed sermons by covering one way shape or form almost every policy of a ministration that anything to do it. everything from attacks on
whiskey to the citizens in a fair, to whether not we get into the war with england on the side of france. it's all in there. some are favorable to him, or to his administration, some are unfavorable. but they were more in his opinion that i think they were more balanced than what he was getting from the newspapers. so it was a way to see how people in all different breaches of these the united states were reacting to his presidential performance so to speak. so that i moved on. with thecern myself library -- the physical structure of the library and what does that tell us about what washington was doing and his approach to reading. having looked at the meeting he had done in life and how his interest changed over time, there is a kind of ok well where? and what did he get out of that?
we know a couple of things. we know that after he retired from the presidency in quebec into mount vernon for his final retirement, he was very concerned about what people would think about him and his legacy long after he was gone. who knewthe founders there'd be an enduring interest in him and everything he did long after he died. so you made an attempt to shape the record. he made time for the construction of a separate building here at mount vernon that was going to be the receptacle for not just his books but also his papers and all the copies of the different acts of congress, supreme court ofisions, any sort presidential proclamations, everything from the government that he led and the army that he led, he is asking his former cabinet officers still at the capitals serving in the adams administration to send him copies of it. he was completing the record. for what prosperity was going to see. we as historians would be the benefit of his books, papers, but then the official record. so you see what is there. but again i return to the idea
of what was not there. there's newspapers that he did not trust. you won't find this in washington's catalog. he did not keep them. sermons that were not altogether complimentary of his policies, but the newspapers he does not. so maybe he got rid of them himself. somehow they disappeared and one story that maybe washington set up and a bit of rage and toss them. another theory that i've heard some anecdotal evidence of is that martha could not bear to have her husband read this stuff so she burned them. we don't know exactly, but we just know that they are not there. it is a telling moment i think about washington's life and what he expected people to think of them. interest.ested
he understood that books in print and media were powerful things. were powerful things i would inform that just how people thought about him, but also what people would think about the efforts that he -- his public service as a country that he helped to establish and that he presently hope he didn't survive. so sadly he passed away before any of that building ever happens to so we don't know. it would have come out to be essentially the nation's first presidential library. too bad it did not get up. it would have made this place look very different. but that's ok. it's coming along now. i'm sure most of you have been to the mansion on a torso you are familiar with where the room is located underneath the master bedroom suite.
floor, there is a private staircase that connects that bedroom with the study below and washington's dressing room is off the library. martha's was on the second-floor. even the location of that library was in the house is telling, i think about washington's attitude towards reading and is made for concentration. and the need for privacy. because he did not want people to see that he was studying, reading as much as he was. he did not want to get drawn into intellectual conversations he did not. -- feel prepared for. he's a guy that has to lead the founding fathers. he knows he's not really in the same made by qualifications as guys like jeffersons, adams, randolph, all the rest of them. so he did not want to get sucked into this conversation of the library stayed hidden. leadsis no hallway that to that library. you go through a series of doors on the first floor to get to. it was a room that his step grandson george washington --
who was raised here said that no one enter without permission straight visitors to mount vernon never set foot in that library. if they were staying overnight they would be provided an assortment of newspapers and books and magazines but they were never allowed to just go in there and take a book off the shelf and discuss it with the great man. that wasn't going to happen. so everything about that room, its placement, his design of it, says that this was something that was for him. if you look at the furnishings in that room, it is very sparsely furnished. but when you look at him, there was a sparsely furnished work he would go there every morning before don. he was at before everybody else. he would return their efforts on progress in the afternoon and then again in the evening before retiring. he would do everything there from his reading to its accounts and managing his estate. that was his private space that meant a great hilton.
-- deal to him. between the placement of the room anyway it was furnished, reading his approach to it, whether you are talking about a book, letter, whatever the case may be, was something that was intensely private for him. because when you look at his life, he was always conscious of what he calls his defective education. so he did not want -- that was his achilles' heel. do isreat leaders can that they know how to protect themselves in a way that magnifies a place of their strengths, and mitigates or minimizes their weaknesses. it does no good for anybody else that was around washington that was working for him are serving , hishim to see his flaws nervousness, the fact that he always felt overall about the responsibility that he bore. what good would that have done? what kind of confidence would that have inspired? he was always kind of in
uncharted waters. he needed to give off the air of confidence. so you don't display the fact that you don't read or write in foreign languages. you minimize that. you don't show that you are trying to catch up on all the latest military doctrines so you can build an army. that is not good. if the commanding general out there with a book? that's not what you want to see and leader who is unsure of themselves. so this was something that was in his interest to keep private. bills in his interest personally, and his interest professionally. end, what's the so what of all of this? this project. what did we learn from this pair but that i learn what their i hope you if you read this book will learn from it? i think it teaches us that washington was a real person. this is a humanizing book. this is a way to get into his mind in a way that other biographers who tended to rely image ofnd of
washington, the iconic image of him being mounted on that white charger or standing up there, in total command of himself. and a lot of his greatness is just assumed. people don't -- never before and looked at that dimension of how he made him -- how he fashioned himself and his legacy. people have talked about how -- his ascendancy through connections and power relationships. a fact that he was -- in a lot of cases in the right place at the right time or as benjamin franklin quipped when he was being nominated the continental army commander, well he's the tallest man in the room, he is bound to lead something. there is that element to it. he's in the right place at the right time. he had the right qualifications for that and that he was a native born american with military experience. that, he had to have done something else. is thatreading
practical, deliberate, immediate reading helps him prepare for and deal with the responsibilities that he had in different parts of his life whether that was here at mount vernon as the integrative farmer, trying to get out from underneath the death -- debt of planting, to being a military officer, to being a political leader, reading is kind of how he did that. so i think we see the human washington. i think we see washington with nerve. we don't think of washington being nervous. about anything. he is there, he is in command of himself and that is all there is to it. he's steely eyed are ready to take on whatever comes at him. but he was a real person with real anxieties just as we all are take on new positions whether it's -- in whatever we choose to do. and our public or private life. he was just like us. he was real.
he had flaws, vulnerabilities, but he had strength and he knew how to play them. and this reading program that he had helped play to their strength. it shored up, i gave him the security, the knowledge needed to be able to do what he did which was improbable. everything about what he has a in his life, nothing said father of a country. nothing. but somehow we did it. that's what we learn from it. here is a look at the real person. this thing that had been overlooked for all these years, the library that was right here under everybody's nose the all-time. so with that i thank you and welcome your questions. [applause] >> we will open it up for questions. i want everybody to wait for the mic to come. recording this on c-span but we also want everybody to be able to hear.
i do want to correct one thing on the record, this design for this building is exactly what george washington had in mind. who wants to be first up? any clues about what was the first book he read as a teen or in his teens and secondly if he went and learned about agriculture how do you order books from overseas? you can't buy all the books available, how do you -- how did he ask somebody to select the right books for him/ ? >> as far as the first book that he purchased, we all know about the rules of civility and the fact that as a teenager he copied out all visuals by hand, committing them to memory. but the first book he purchased -- the late frederick
to go schomburg. what it was was a particular g of this guy frederick, duke of schomburg who was a huguenot military leader who had some acclaim over in europe. the eulogy, washington bought it and it's really interesting when you read it because it describes a lot of the qualities like frederick had were exactly what washington kind affords himself into being. someone who is a leader of character, someone with physical bravery, someone who took duty seriously, who valued virtue. it seemed like washington bought this book, we know it was about 14 years old when he bought it and it was something he clearly took to heart by the way he did it. in terms of the second part of your question about how you he went about finding certain titles, some of it we can discern through his letters that
he exchange with friends and neighbors about certain things for farming there is a book that one of the few examples we have of his marginal notes being a book is called to handles a book of husbandry agriculture. washington heard about this book specifically from someone. there's no written document about that that i've seen. he raced to his agent in london and specifically asks for that title and a certain addition. so he has heard about this from somewhere. if you are in a city like new ,ork or boston, or philadelphia there are bookshops and lists that of what is out what you can order. but in a place like this where you are removed from all that, it really relies on word-of-mouth or written recommendations. say things like that, agriculture you find him asking for specific titles. because it was something he felt very comfortable talking about.
>> just a quick question. as i understand, he did this school until his father died and -- when he was about 11 or so. did you find anything interesting in the schooling that he did receive up to that point. ? some mathematics with surveying or whatever. was that helpful? >> yes it was. we know washington was educated up to today and equivalents would be kind of like late elementary school, maybe middle school level. for a time when he lived with his older half-brother lawrence he did have a private tutor. so he was instructed in the fundamentals of the three r's so to speak. we know from looking at his schoolboy commonplace books that he had a clear gift for mathematics. he seemed to take to it quite well.
sounds and math problems right now that you can see him learning and applying this knowledge. a lot of that knowledge particularly with regards to math, he learned on a practical level when he decided to pursue an early career in surveying. he borrowed a surveying book colonel fairfax and had his father's old surveying instruments and he's farmed farmying -- that he grew up on an practice. we have those early surveys now where you can see him getting better and better added it as he applied himself. so it was a mental bit of the formal school i gave them fundamentals but a lot of it was really self-taught after that. >> in your research, but there a particular topic or topical areas that george washington seemed to most focus on?
>> i would say the agriculture is where you see him diverse -- the most focused and where it sees -- he is the happiest as a reader. it's where you see him applying himself of his duties. i mentioned one book. 1780's -- heo the enters into correspondence with some english agricultural reformers and describes to their books that are coming out. we have in his marginal notes as washington's efforts to take these books that are written overseas and do the conversion master make french measurement match virginia's. americans have always rejected european measurements. you really see him making that effort. you can match that with his journal here. he keeps very much a farmer's journal where he does all of these agricultural experiments and he applying it. it's very neat, deliberate, and
he does things -- besides the farming, he builds that unique six sided barn. it's all ideas that he puts together and there is evidence of these different agricultural books he had where he is taking notes. he makes his field manuals that he takes out with them. you're not going to take the expensive book into the field. what if he drops it in some a maneuveure?me so he's pulling specific things from these books. i think that as racy as passion come to the mix. >> those of you are going to do the tour is afterward, we pulled out exactly what adrian is speaking of. barlow visited mount vernon in the 1780's as an agricultural reformer. if you go to the bookstore in
front of ports -- ford's theater , you will see they stack up all of the books on lincoln several floors. you mentioned how washington is also been severely studied. i want to thank you first for your perseverance and actually fighting to eventually come to what your thesis is about and tonight we all benefited. you mentioned the importance that washington placed on relationships. it seems that they were important to him, and he read for military reasons, political and basically to persevere. while you also mentioned, he .ever shared what he read but did he ever inquire, did you ever find any evidence of pain
jefferson read or what items read or what others read? if so did that influence his? since you mention the political election -- presidential election, what would all the candidates need to know about washington today? [applause] >> i think they would need to know who he is for starters and what he did. i think that is a little iffy depending on which candidate we are talking about. so that is the short answer to your second question. as for the first question about whether or not he corresponded with any of the other founders about disintegrating, you don't find that. you don't find him asking, especially guys like jefferson or adams about what they recommend. because her member these guys are university trained scholars, attorneys, for them reading is
something that they were trained to do. these are their classically their way ofwho -- going about things is on for that, you don't find washington soliciting advice from them. where you do see him asking for advice is as a younger man, certainly about military science. he's asking his mentor, colonel fairfax. he talked to general braddock that he served under as a staff officer. if he was not asking questions, he was hearing conversations about reading and picking up on it. otherwise, he really does not. he tended just steer clear of the more philosophical conversations and stayed with those he felt very comfortable weighing in on. if he said, hey, what do you think about, and you recommend a book about, you know, political
philosophy of voltaire, because he has voltaire's works in his library, that would be a rabbit hole he could not get out of. as a matter of fact i have, what do you think about this passage? or or did you read thomas hobbes instead, what does you think about it? that is not something washington felt comfortable doing. so you don't see that the same way. it is the practical things he would ask about. >> you talk about his political books he was looking for. is there a track of those books that led to the ability that he gained to find the right people in the right organization to run the government? adrienne harrison: you mean in terms of setting up a presidential cabinet and that kind of thing? no, there really isn't. setting up a good team of
advisers was something that washington learned how to do kind of through experience. he does this during the revolution. he has what he calls his military family. his aides and his top commanders. through his experiences in the previous war, and his inexperience and this one, he was not good at personal command at the outset. 1776 is the lowest moment in his command. he personally takes over the defense of new york, and is a disaster. they almost lost the war. he learned value, something he applied before, but he strayed from, and returned to of having -- dissenting opinions. he would throw out an idea and get the opinions of those around him, whether they were his subordinate commanders or cabinet officers during his presidency. he would throw out an idea, listen to what they have to say, respecting the fact they were often more qualified for his position that he was. he would listen to their opinions, but he knew it was his job to weigh in with the decision. he took his time.
he made deliberate decisions. that is something jefferson would deride washington, saying he had a powerful mind come --, but it was not of a first order. he was slow in making decisions, and this is why. it is a play on words i put in the title. but that is not really coming from examples. that is our reading example. it is coming from experience. english history would show him that kings always had councils. there was the privy council, the parliamentary structure. washington, as well as nearly every other american, who was a colonial, was well-versed in english history, was proud of it, proud of the english constitution. that was something that valued -- you had a head of state, but the head of state had advisers. so he is tapping into the british example. >> in your research, did you find that he had a lot of books
on british military tactics, or did he learn enough in the virginia militia under braddock? where did you get the idea that strategy, he did not have to win the revolution, just outlast the british and make them spend a lot of money and men, and that -- and then he could win it that way? which seems kind of unusual for the times. adrienne harrison: it is unusual, you are right. again, we have the intersection of experience with his reading. most of his military reading was british or were english translations of some french texts. the english and french armies were the most powerful, so look no further. he also had books of alexander the great, a staff organizer of the day. so he is losing all of that and what he learns immediately for military reading is how unprepared he is for this, and not just him, but the organization that he led.
he had two officers with experience, charles lee and horatio gates. the rest of them were like a bookseller who liked artillery. he read books, sounds good. he can do it. he is good at plucking out people with potential, but he does not have a lot of experience. he read these british manuals. he knows from the practical experience of being with the british army, listening to those officers talk about their reading about strategy and how you go about winning wars, what is expected of him or any general is a decisive win. you don't want to have a long, protracted war. that is not glorious. you want one big battle the decides everything, and then you surrender or you win with honor and everyone goes home. if you cannot have one take
battle, you capture the enemy capital. so he tries the big battle in new york, and he fails miserably. not only was he not really prepared for that task, he had nothing to work with. imagine defending new york city, you have manhattan, brooklyn heights, staten island, long island. you have staten island that is kind of out there that does not need to be defended, but it is there to consider it. you have huge rivers and a big navigable harbor that can hold the whole royal navy. how do you defend that? militia guys from massachusetts and new england, and he has no navy to speak of. so he is not dealt a good deck to play with. and he tries the big battle and he and his army failed. -- he is smart enough politically to know that the british don't want this to go on forever. he does not want to to go on forever either, but the british are going to have more stomach for it. they already have a massive war
debt from the seven years' war. they are not going to want this to go on. the british people are largely, -- in different or they are not in favor of waging an expensive war against people that are largely related to them. so it is not in their british interest to keep it going. he figures all he has to do is survive, and he goes against the grain of what is expected of an 18th-century commander in order to do this. so i think what the reading does it shows him where his shortfalls are, and his own lack of an education keeps him humble enough, although he was to be seen, needs to be seen as that big, commanding general worthy of the title, worthy of the rank, he cannot do it. he has to do it is necessary, has no other choice. he had the big military education his british counterparts had, it would have been harder for him. he is aggressive by nature, he wants that big battle. he wants to do it so badly.
it would have been harder if he had that education behind him, because i think it would have potentially blinded him as to what his army's weaknesses work. he would think the knowledge will take it all the way. so it was a weakness and a strength in the end. it worked out. >> as a military field commander yourself, i wonder if you could say more about the tactical literature that he read, and how well the lessons he was able to observe from literature matched any of his battle plans or thinking. adrienne harrison: i will give you a quick example. when washington took over the army and cambridge after being appointed commander in chief, he is a virginian that is going up north. he has been to boston before, but this was the first time encountering these troops.
what he saw horrified him. he called new englanders dirty and nasty people. he was horrified by the fact they elected their own officers. that is completely different from the world that he came from where your connections, your birth got you to your position. he had to restructure this. so you see him reading field manuals, things that are directed at lieutenants and sergeants to read. he starts rewriting -- or writing for the first time, the doctrine about how to do fundamental things -- how do you keep accountability of your soldiers and equipment, how to keep the camp clean and sterile so you don't want to have open latrines near sources of water. things like that are the first immediate applications of that knowledge. and the terms of his strategy, he is really relying, the grand strategy he has got big ideas that he would have gotten of his knowledge of british military
history and those exploits that he got from reading things like caesar's commentaries and humphrey bland's treatise on military discipline which addresses the army at all levels. that is a blend of his reading and his goals and knowing what the expectations were on the -- on both sides. he is always aware of the fact that he needs to put this revolution -- for this revolution to work, it is a revolution for him, not a rebellion. for a revolution to work, he has to be seen as leading a legitimate fighting force, not a band of rebels. until 1776 when independence is declared, that is what it was to americans and british. this is about getting english liberties back. for washington, it is about something different. so this is a part of his grander strategy, making a professional force. you see him advocating for a regular pay, uniforms, things
that are not really a commanding generals problem usually. he is making a big deal because it is about legitimacy. as much as he needs to win for the sake of america, the british need to recognize they are fighting a real armed force. this is not just a band of criminals that should be crushed as in previous rebellions from british history. so i think that part of the strategy -- we think strategy is big campaigning. a key component for washington, political is a was merged with military. that is a big part of it and a direct application of that reading. >> first, i would like to thank you for your service, and second, a psychological question. in your research, did washington ever strike you as more of a visual, audio, or technical learner? adrienne harrison: i think he was, i will return to the agriculture. that is what you see him kind of
-- that is where you see him actively putting multiple things together. he is reading different sources, has his own creative ideas. he is putting them into action. i think he is certainly a tactile learner when you see him going out there. he is experimenting with crops, or even as a teenager, he is learning surveying by doing it. he has the book in one hand and the stakes in the other. he is learning as he goes and you can see his skills get better over time, his agricultural skills and the extent of the operations here at mount vernon get so diverse. it is so complicated. he is really trying to innovate ahead of what his peers are doing. so i think he is very much a tactile learner -- i think he is happiest, i will put it that way, as a tactile learner. >> one more question. take somebody on the other side. hands up.
>> i believe it has been said of the 19th century literary household that on the book side were two great works, the bible and plutarch. you talk about washington reading either one, and how that informed the periods that you talk about? adrienne harrison: i will talk about washington and the bible, since that is always a hot topic, washington and religion. it is a debate that continues to go on about what he actually believes. washington's relationship with the bible goes all the way back to his childhood. mary washington, his mother, read to her children on the -- from the bible and from the english religious book, the book of common prayers and sermon books every day. there was a part of his earliest education, growing up with that. it was very important for him, not just -- we will leave aside the question of faith itself. for someone like him, and aspirational young man that was
to make it in virginia in society, he needs to grow up a good anglican. going to church, specially the church of england, the established church in virginia is something that your place in society dictates when you enter the church, where you sit in the church, and when you leave it. how you perform throughout the service, and for those people who are not, were not episcopalians, there is active worship that goes on. there is kneeling, reciting, or following along in the prayer service, in the common prayer book. there is ritual that goes along that requires members of the congregation to participate. it is something that washington really, once the ambition really got going in him, which was from adolescence onward, it was important for him to learn how to behave the right way. you were on stage, everybody, the lowest socially ranking
person in the congregation to the leader of the pack, society wise, was on display. you did not want to make a misstep that would be noticed. so i think that was something very practical for him as a young man, certainly, politically, church and state are tied together, so he needed to understand that. so with regard to the bible itself, he makes biblical references throughout his life. -- throughout his public life. there are some prayers that are attributed to washington. he made mention of divine providence and different names all meaning god. he is familiar with it, even lafayette -- to retire under the the state of his own vine and victory, that is a biblical allusion. it is important throughout his life here it mount vernon, something taken seriously. martha washington was very
devout, it was something he participated in as well as the rest of the family. it was one of those books that was always with him and useful for him. >> let's give adrienne a big round of applause. [applause] thank you. >> stay here, do not go anywhere. that was wonderful. we really loved what you are doing. the great work you are doing, and particularly here in washington's library. some logistical concerns, we have books for sale. what better place to buy a book then after a talk about reading, for goodness sake. that should inspire you all to give books to people whether they read them or not. it is good for you to just get them purchased. we sell them right through the doors, and dr. harrison will sign them. we will not let her leave until she has signed every book.
the other logistical point, because we are going to offer vault. and we have 102 of his original volumes, versus duplicate additions that we know were in the inventory at his death in addition to our own research, and so i guess people in the book, mark, wave your hand -- the special collectors -- collections library him -- librarian right there, you will want to meet in the book out, and then you can tell them what to do. the reception area is right at the end of the hallway. with that, let's give another big round of applause to dr. harrison. thank you for going out. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
>> memoirs always you have to be wary of because not only are memoirs, just by their desk bound to be self-serving by a -- most of they also these people did not want to disclose too much and in some cases it may actually dissemble and try to mislead people. >> historians talk about andniques used by cia russian intelligence agents dating back to the cold war and since that has changed since the 9/11 terrorist attack. at 6:00, an examination of race relations. >> it really is happening, a full scale black uprising, and they panicked. armed withte men pistols and clubs formed spontaneously downtown, marched to the scene of the shoot out, ,nd begin shooting, beating
every black person they could find. >> the 1866 riot and the assault on freed women and their role of federal u.s. colored troops. just before 9:00, walter isaacson offers an argument on regimen franklin -- benjamin franklin's innovation. >> his view was that small businesses and startups would be ,he backbone of a new economy and indeed, one of the things was the club where they made a set of rules for how to be a good start up entrepreneur and innovator. >> sunday morning at 10:00 on "road to the right -- "road to the white house rewind." >> in the music of our children, we are told everything there is
a season and a time to every purpose under heaven and for america, that time has come at last. you know that every politician's promise has a price. the taxpayer pays the bill and the american people are not going to be taken in by any scheme where government gives money with one hand and takes it away with the other. [applause] >> the 1972 republican and democratic national convention with richard nixon accepting the gop nomination for a second term and george mcgovern accepting the democratic nomination. for the complete schedule go to c-span.org. >> each week, "reel america" brings you archival films that help provide context to today's public affairs issues. up next, an episode of "the big picture," a u.s. army documentary series. this 1956 film focuses on the firs50