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tv   Slave and Revolutionary War Spy James Lafayette  CSPAN  November 11, 2016 6:35pm-8:01pm EST

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preserve for the brits. >> sunday night on q&a. up next from the international spy museum, the story of slave and revolutionary war spy james lafayette. working for french general marquis delafayette, james lafayette posed as an escaped slave to penetrate war camps. the smithsonian associates and the international spy museum co-hosted this 80-minute event. >> good morning. good to see all of you here. i'm the museum's historian curator. i would like to welcome all of you to the third part of the
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national spy museum. the first two weeks centered on fairly well-known personalities. ben franklin is of course ben franklin. next week we'll take a look at the most infamous spy in u.s. history, benedict arnold. the relative obscurity of the man we'll hear about today is what will make this morning so interesting. he is someone we should know more about. his impact on world history is well known for historians, but historians are just now beginning to piece his life together, to find out new information, to understand his impact on the revolution, and to figure out how he fits among the great heroes and villains of american intelligence history. so kate gruber will help us understand who this enigmatic man is. she's been the curator at
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jamestown-yorktown museum since 2015. between 2009 and 2013, she worked at the colonial williamsburg foundation where she assisted with the research of the foundation's electronic field trip series. although she's a public historian and museum professional interested in early american consumer economy and material culture and how these aspects of colonial life translated during the american revolution, she considers herself an interdisciplinary historian in quantitative and digital history. without further ado, kate gruber. [ applause ]
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>> good morning. can everyone hear me okay? great. if you need me to speak up a little bit, just somebody wave their hand in the air. how about now? any better? okay. great. thank you. all right. let's get started. who has been watching a lot of this lately? i guess it's pretty popular. i have to admit i've never seen it. i'm about ten years behind on my own popular culture, so i'm still watching a lot of this. i figure i'll get to turn about 2023 or so. that depends on if we get this new museum opened up. how about either one of these? surely you know these guys, although i'd argue one of them does not belong in the same
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picture. or perhaps this is more your speed and what about her? well, if popular culture is any indication, tales of spies and espionage have always captured our imagination. there's just something about the romance and danger of covert operations, secret identities, quirky gadgets, ancient numbers, invisible ink, and fancy cars and martinis shaken but not stirred, which i guess it's a little too early for, but maybe later. thanks to our culture's fascination with the world of espionage, both past and present, these elements are part of our collective consciousness of what it means to be a spy. thanks to hollywood, i think we all think we have a pretty good grasp of what spies look like and the jobs they have to do and they have to be a little extra careful when selecting a stick of gum because when is a stick of gum ever just a stick of gum
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in those movies, right? it's important to remember that there are real historical figures behind all of this fiction. men and women who risked their lives in the line of duty. these are real people with real lives and real stories, and i'm here today to tell you as entertaining as all of this fiction is, the real truth, the real american history, is even more fascinating than the fiction. and that's a big part of our mission with the jamestown-yorktown foundation and the galleries of educational programming at the new american revolution museum at yorktown, which is a 22,000 square foot permanent exhibition, which will open on october 15th in america's historic triangle. obviously, that's just one of my many shameless plugs you'll hear from me this morning, and we tell the real, real stories of the ordinary people who lived in the extraordinary time before,
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during, and after the american revolution. personal stories unfold the relife drama of the 18th century much better than anything on tv. real people like you and me lived in that extraordinary time and made life or death decisions without the benefit of the hindsight that we enjoy today. their actions had consequences for better or for worse, and because of the extraordinary actions of a very ordinary man, we're here this morning. well, my lecture is titled "james lafayette, double agent." after being contacted by the spy museum, i thought this title would be reflective of exactly the content that i thought i would be delivering to you today. as a curator at the new museum, i've had the pleasure of helping to expand our museum's scope to include a variety of real life
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personal stories. james lafayette, as i'll explain later, is an incredible part of our story at yorktown, and we made the decision to feature him at our museum's inaugural exhibition, a 5,000-square foot exhibit opening june 2017. thank you. thank you very much. you're a lovely audience. the special exhibit, which will open next summer, will tell some surprising stories about the veterans of the siege of yorktown who walked off the battlefield to create a new world. we knew james lafayette was an important part of the story, so we knew we needed to do a little digging to get it exactly right. six months ago when i was contacted by the staff here at the spy museum, we had in our hands the traditional narrative of james. plucked out of his servitude by the marquis de lafayette to spy on cornwallis in 1781 and being
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so impressed with james ability, general cornwallis sent him on a mission where he became a double agent. james was the perfect spy, an effective double agent only caught during the days after the british surrender when cornwallis saw james among the marquis' entourage. you rogue. you have been playing me all this time. again, that's the research that i expected to present to you today. and this is why the title of this lecture is "james lafayette, double agent," but i must admit to you the research of these past six months, once
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we dug deeper, very little came to light to illuminate our understanding of his espionage for cornwallis. this aspect of his life still remains shrouded in history, but i think that's what any good double agent would want, don't you? what i'll present to you this morning is every bit of corroborated research on his life and times, including the time in which james was acting as a spy for the marquis de lafayette. here's your mission, should you choose to accept it. i invite you to join me this morning as we explore the life and times of james lafayette, invisible spy. backing up a little bit, i want to tell you more about this research project. we quickly came to realize that almost immediately after the revolution james was mentioned in countless tomes chronicling the activities of enslaved african-americans during the
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revolutionary wars and his exploits as a spy for the patriots have been recollected time and time again more often than not with little to no documentary evidence or basis in historical fact. like a 200-year-old game of telephone, the real factual details of james' life became muddled, misinterpreted, or just plain lost in the archives or in the fires that ravaged many of virginia's colonial archives. thanks to generous funding and the truly awesome and inspiring research chops of some of our noted historians at the foundation, including martha mccartney, the jamestown-yorktown foundation is pleased to own the primary research ever undertaken about this enslaved spy.
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excuse me. there we go. i was hoping to save this incredible graphic of james' own signature for a big reveal later in this presentation, but i think it's important to address something here before we go any further, so please act surprised and incredibly impressed the next time you see this come up on the screen. no primary sources consulted for this research revealed that james ever referred to himself or was known as james armstead or james armstead lafayette. it's our belief that the armstead in james' name was added later by a biographer who assumed that he took the last name of his owner when he was enslaved. because the name armstead does not appear in any primary source connected with james, we've made the decision as a foundation to refer to him as he referred to himself, simply as james or james lafayette, and that's how i'll refer to him for the duration of this presentation. so according to his own recollection, james was born around the year 1748 enslaved
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and owned by the armstead family. by then well established in new kent county. in 1664, it became the 14th county created by the house of burgesss. the armstead family, who may have originated in what is now hampton, quickly became leaders in the community and held offices such as wardens, were elected to the house of burgesss, and ran mercantile establishments around williamsburg. the member of the armstead family most closely associated with james is william armstead jr., born january 25th, 1754, the sunday of colonel john armstead ii and his first wife agnes. colonel john led an active public life. the virginians reported his death after a short and painful illness. but it praised john for public service, adding that he embodied
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every public and private virtue which could render his life useful to his country. john left behind a considerable estate of which his son, 25-year-old william, was named executor. like his father john, william armstead also led an active public life, contributing much to virginia's efforts during the american revolution. for all of our research, we can't say when james came to be owned by william. james was six years older than william jr. james may have been originally been owned by his father, the late john ii or another relative. the armstead family was prolific
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in mercantile operations and maintained their position in new kent's upper middle class. enslaved african-americans such as james could do much to serve a family the likes of the armsteads. we have already seen through my big reveal that james could read and write. it's not outside the realm of possibility that colonel john william jr. or other members of the armstead clan that owned taverns or other businesses in the area would have taught james how to read and write. literate, james could assist in one of the various businesses own by the armstead family. if you're surprised to learn that armsteads afforded james the education to learn and write, this was not an uncommon occurrence in virginia and the commonwealth did not pass legislation prohibiting the literacy of slaves until 1819. they were both uniquely positioned and incredibly well
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situated to meet the needs of virginia during the american revolution. you see, not long after the shot heard around the world, in the now sanctioned war for independence. the shots were closer and closer to home. by the fall of 1775, virginia's royal governor, lord dunmore held them to the patriotic cause. he made it necessary that an additional number of forces be raced before protection and defense. there was one small problem. in 1775, colonial virginia did not have an army. they met in williamsburg to establish the means for funding a regular army in the colony. organizing up to six regimens for virginia. the convention made allowanced to clothe, feed and otherwise supply soldiers during their
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years of service. the convention insisted that each common soldier, not sufficiently provided in the opinion of commanding officer should be provided clothing at the expense of the public to be deducted out of pay and a hunting shirt, a pair of leggings, binding for the hat and required each soldier be furnished with a good musket and bayonet among other items. to accomplish this and oversee the goods, the convention ordered the committee of safety to appoint one or more contractors or common sars to use the dispatch for provisions as needed for the army. thus was born the williamsburg public store. they voted to have william armistead jr. to act as one of his assistants.
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see how this is coming together? armistead who had considerable -- may have been there as early as 1775. as the new kent county militia at the capital. nevertheless, he assisted him until he moved on to run the southern department in late 1777. at the ripe old age of 23, william armistead was given a promotion. william received a salary of 300 pounds a year, plus expenses and expenses for a servant. we believe that servant was james. realizing that james was the assistant for william armistead in the public store, which operated out of williamsburg in 1880, helped us understand how he may have come to meet marquis de lafayette. as he coordinated the move from
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the public store from the late spring to summer of 1780. they note that most, if not all of william armistead's family was living in richmond and had his slaves with him. the slaves were over the age of 16 and one of them may have been james. 32 in 1780. after armistead with the assistance of slaves and others moved the records to richmond. the eastern shore and peace and plenty. the business of the public store continued in richmond, virginia's new capital. the general assembly presumed them vulnerable for the attack. the british army began flirtinging with the idea of invating virginia. in may, they landed troops in hampton roads and sent parties to ports mouth and suffolk
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destroying warehouses and infrastructure to shut off commerce. governor thomas jefferson felt it was too close to williamsburg and moved up the river to richmond. the british followed. on january 4, 1781, benedict arnold landed at westover plantation with 1600 troops, including queens rangers to attack richmond. i'll give this a minute to pass. though jefferson called on patriot forces to repel the attack, they broke at the sight of arnold's defense. one witness wrote 200 virginia militiamen assembled on st. john east church and the lieutenant was ordered to dislodge them. without firing a shot, they fled
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in confusion when he reached summit of the hill. they described their role in it. to the right lay a steep hill, overgrown with brushwood, which they thought was occupied by riflemen. they said that's a task made for you. i deployed it once, farmed two ranks, well dispursed and climbed up a hill. the enemy left after a valley. in charlottesville, they refused the bribe to keep them safe. arnold set rich mond ablaze. it was a heavy blow to the already crippling economy. july 18, 1781, william armistead was accused of neglecting duties and nelson was quick to point outlet not least of the sufferers was marquise de
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lafayette. the governor ordered the agent of trade to procure for the marquise a hog head of spirits. note to self, complain about a barrel of whiskey and expect something better in return. burring the situation developing in virginia, general washington orders the marquise day lafayette in 1781 after arnold and the loyalists ransacked and burnt richmond. if you are unfamiliar with the marquise day lafayette, allow me to introduce him now. he was born to a wealthy family in 1777 and desired to follow in the footsteps of his family. his father died at the hands of a british cannon ball in 1759. some postulated that the lafayette's near obsession drove
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him to support the american cause, eagerness to serve washington, even without pay may have included a desire to return a cannon ball back to the british. the desire to aid american patriots was met with resistance in france. lafayette and washington immediately formed a deep bond. lafayette saw the battle in brandywine in 1777 and was shot in the leg. after he recuperated he joined the camp in valley forge. in march, france signed treaties with the united states. formally throwing support and soldiers behind the patriot cause. later, congress granted permission to return to france where he was given a hero's welcome. after being placed under house arrest for disobeying king louie, this gave him time to
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father a son, whom he named george washington lafayette. alls well that ends well. lafayette was hoping to convince king louie. this idea failed to manifest. lafayette turned his attention to securing soldiers and the general to fight in america. in march of 1780, lafayette boarded a ship and i'm sure none of you have heard of it before. he arrived back in america on april 27, 1780. lafayette languished in new jersey and new york with little to no attention so washington ordered lafayette to round up troops in the early months of 1781 with the clear directive to trap the treacherous benedict arnold and deliver a fate worse than death. actually, just death. after lafayette's arrival in virginia, an already bad
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situation got worse. by may, general charles cornwallis arrived in petersburg, 24 miles south of the capitol to join forces. as a result of the capture at the battle of saratoga in 1777. not 100% sure of benedict arnold's end game. they were sent to rendezvous in virginia. however, phillips became violently ill, but not before launching a campaign on the river and participating in the attack on petersburg. washington sent forces under the command of marquee de la fayette. not before turning all command of forces to the still alive benedict arnold. now, combined with washington's men, excuse me, cornwallis' men,
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the british army numbered some 7,000 seasoned veterans. cornwallis led this fighting force across the james river to purcey the marquee de lafayette to parallel cornwallis' movements to new kent county. if you are familiar with the area, it is now -- that action occurred in mid-june. by june 27th, lafayette was close by and camped at the plantation in new kent, 20 miles from williamsburg. the marquise wrote on june 23rd, he was at the courthouse and on their way to williamsburg. engaging at spencer's ordinary. received word cornwallis received it and grew concerned over the troop strength, which,
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once combined with forces only amast 1900 continentals and 3,000 militias. that's a far cry from the force under arnold and cornwallis. it's clear, if he wasn't before, lafayette was deeply concerned and wanted to maximize the resources at his disposal to give patriots every advantage and opportunity. lafayette considered raising a force of 150 armies to proceed the main lines advance, in addition to a core of 100 black wagoners. in addition to beefing up his own forces, lafayette was eager to learn more about cornwallis' movement and intentions. lafayette penned a letter to george washington. a correspondent writes in july his master, charlton and simpco
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are still in town and expect to move. his lordship is so shy of papers, my honest friend says he cannot get at them. we read the first accounts of the espionage he set in motion that resulted in the world turned upside down. i want to clarify something before we continue. going by just the facts, the historical record does not provide, as i said, much information about james' actual activities as a spy. what we know, we can only infer from a handful of documents that survive from the marquise de la fayette and liberty and support. i mentioned before, much of what we came to accept of james and his activity as a spy is based on 200 years of conjecture. what you will hear from me this while may sound like empty
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qualifiers like maybe, probably and could have. that's because, for a lot of us, we just don't know. we can never know for certain. we have the documentation and primary source material regarding james' activities. we need that to be more precise. bear with me as we explore him through the documentation we do have and explore him within the bounds of what might have happened. besides, how many spies really leave a paper trail? we can't say for sure when and where james and the marquee de lafayette were or in richmond, when william became commissary and worked closely with military personnel under the command of marqu marquee delay fa yet.
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he may have encountered the marquee there. james there. regardless of when or where they became acquainted, he was a willing volunteer to the cause z. according to december 4, 1784 petition, james was, quote, impelled by an earnest desire to gain liberty, so near and dear to mankind. if he rendered service to the public, that would be his reward. james volunteered services to the marquee day lafayette as a result. james received the permission of william armistead sometime before july, 1781 and infiltrated cornwallis' camp. we don't know the circumstances he was able to enter the british line. all we know, according to the documentary record is he did it. according to the petition for freedom, a slave belonging to
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william armistead of new kent county entered into the marquee de lafayette. again, while we don't know for sure, james may have entered enemy lines under the guidance of a forager getting food from the countryside and procuring it for the british headquarters. this alaws access to the british camps. similarly, he could have passed himself off as a run away slave and reaching the british camp. is soldier recalled by the time they reached yorktown, thousands of run away slaves reached their camp, hoping to secure emancipation. james could have easily blended into that population and may have had the freedom of movement to pass between the patriot and british lines. maybe referring to james or another spy, lafayette described
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an informant to cornwallis. it's not uncommon to have them in the field. he recalled every soldier has his negro that carry provisions and officers had three or four as well as one or two for a cook and maid. if james or another patriot spy spent anytime behind the patriot lines acting as a servant, the possibilities of gathering intelligence could be endless. a servant could have accompanied the general anywhere. the size and condition of troops, supplies and moral. in lafayette's letter of which he told washington of his honest friend, a clue as to how this fellow may have been gathering intelligence. after communicating information he wrote, my accounts are later than the fellows. as a servant has opportunities to hear, i thought it was worth communicating to your exlen si.
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a servant has opportunities to hear. that's a powerful line in our understanding of how james and others may have gathered intelligence for the patriot cause z. once a familiar face, james could have been present during countless meetings on strategy, overheard in formal chitchat between commanders serving wine and dinner or delivers goods and supplies who would have paid attention to anyone in the corner or the slave walking through camp. what's more? who would have suspected james was actively listening, memorize zing numbers, directions or concerns. who would have guessed he was literate and could record it over notes and conversations, glancing at important papers or charts, passing through a network of espionage, orchestrated as he wondered betwixted and between. we can't say for sure how james
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functioned in the british camp. he must have gradually become a familiar face or blended into the crowd hovering under even's radar. hence my talk, invisible spy. if he was beholden, what reason would cornwallis or any soldier, for that matter, have to question. even for a moment, james' own loyalty. what reason would they have to expect he may have been a spy and his presence in the general's corridors was anything other than innocent. so, we have explored possibilities of how james may have come by the information he fed to lafayette. the records do not reveal how he conveyed it to the marquise. it's possible that if he left for foraging or fatigue james could sneak out of the british
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camp and relay information by meeting with the marquise before returning to the camp. another possibility is james was an extremely important element in a larger espionage lafayette orchestrated in the fall of 1771 using white soldiers and enslaved armies for the british camp. james may have relayed information by passing notes or finding other ways to communicate and the generals that relied on them for intelligence. one may have been a soldier known in lafayette's papers known as morgan. the story appears as a footnote in the compiled memoirs, correspondence published in new york in 1837. he desired a faithful and intelligent soldier to send into the camp who could and feed him
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false intelligence. similarly, an enslaved african-american serving in virginia was sent behind enemy lines by his commander when cornwallis' troops occupied. james was the only spy for lafayette in the patriot forces. i think this makes a much more interesting story and i think hollywood should pick this up for a major action drama, don't you? james' 1787 testimony of his actions during war lends credence to the possibility he acted as a most -- completely lost my spot. talk amongst yourselves. let's try that sentence again. james '1786 testimony of the actions lends credence that he acted as a major player in a larger network. according to the document, he risked his life to frequent the
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british camp. he kept open a channel of the army of the state. further, at various times, he conveyed enclosures into enemy lines of the most secret and important kind. if discovered, it would have endangered his life. letters from the marquee delay fayette help us with the information. in a letter dated july 1781, the marquise wrote from his position on the hill. lafayette learned the greatest part of the enemy is embarked. there is a large quantity of negroes, but no vessel to take them off. his spies espionage, he continued to washington. should a french fleet come in now? the british army, i think, would be ours. further, on august 29th,
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lafayette wrote he received some intelligence by the service i have mentioned. a sensitive fellow is from him. i hear they began fortifying at york. lafayette went on to describe the position at yorktown enumerating the number and vessels sailed into the york river. the number of artillery and readouts at gloucester and the fact that a large number of soldiers were ill at ports mouth and information gathered from spies and deserters placed the able bodied fighting force. on september 1, lafayette reports to washington, the french fleet arrived and the rest, they say, is history. as cornwallis' surrender in yorktown in 1781 ended the campaign in the american
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revolution, it ended james' work as a spy. he returned to his master, william armistead jr. he was still in charge of the pub lib store. according to the census, then 28-year-old armistead was res e residing with his wife or sister, four slaves over the age of 16, three younger slaves and two horses. james almost certainly would have returned to the new plantation. perhaps realizing the institution of slavery was inconsistent with the battles in great bit tan, in 1782, they passed a law that had them emancipate the slaves. owners could free slaves by the quest or -- in october, 1783, virginia brought in the law to free slaves who served in the military.
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citing that anyone who contributed toward the establishment of the american liberty and independence should avoid the blessing of freedom. it's important to note for our discussion of james that the 1783 legislation only granted freedom to slaves who enlisted in any regimen raised within the state or those who served as a substitute for a free person. remember, james did not enlist in a regimen of virginia or milit militia. he did not wear a uniform and did not carry a gun. though he risked his life in the service of his country, the law did not apply to him. james was not eligible for automatic under this law. however, the law provided that slave could be freed by demonstrating they performed service during the war, which is just what james set out to do. if he was still acting as a personal ser vanlent, it's like
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he went with his master from october 1784 to early january. william was elected as one of two representatives to the virginia house of delegates after the war. it's likely james was in richmond november 21, 1784 when the marquee day lafayette visited. he wrote a testimonial on his service. he wrote, don't worry, i'm going to read this. no one's had that much coffee yet. this is to certify the bearer by the name james did essential services to me. his intelligences from the enemy's camp were collected and faithfully delivered. he perfectly acquitted himself with commissions i gave him and appears to me, entitled to every reward his situation can admit of. almost immediately, lafayette's testimonial of the service was
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received by the house in richmond. the journal of the house of delegates recorded the petition on december 4th. james, a negro slave setting forth that being held by the earnest desire of gaining that liberty dear to mankind and if he rendered services to the public that would be his reward. often, during the envacatiinvas the risk of his life and he conveyed in the utmost expeditious manner to the marquee de lafayette and playing an act may pass for his e man emancipation and compensation made to him. under the provision of providing service to the country, james was asking the virginia house of delegates for his freedom. get ready for a shock. in 1784, james did not receive his freedom. it's unclear why. either the delegates found a
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reason to reject the claim or the petition was tabled to move on to other matters before the house adjourned on january 7th. james had one option, to try again. this is someone's life we are talking about here. i really want to remind us of that. james submitted another petition in 1786. in october, the assembly granted james' freedom. be it therefore enacted that the said james from and after the passing of this act enjoy all freedom as if he had been born free. on february 7th, 1787, mr. william clayton of new kent county was appointed to ascertain and fix the value of said james and certify valuation of the auditor. sometime in the early months of 1787, an appropriate value and paid william armistead jr. out of the state's general fund. legislation passed, payment signed, sealed and delivered. and james was a free man.
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the new kent county tax assessor listed him as the head of his household. this morning, i am sharing with you for the first time some details of james' life as a free man, carefully uncovered by our research earlier this summer. he was listed in the 1787 tax assessment. now, he was responsible for paying personal property taxes on behalf of himself and those in his household. the assessment toells us it includes two slaves of 16 or older and one under 16. one year later, his assessment included four slaves over the age of 16. the document of record is silent on how james acquired the money to pay for taxes on the slaves. virginia laws stated that former slaves who failed to pay their personal property taxes could be
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hired out until their debt was satisfied or risk being reinslaved until their debt was paid. it is possible they were family. from 1787 until 1804, the number of slaves ebb and flow on the tax assessment. it's posz zable the members of the household were employed by whites who paid their property taxes. the tax assessor noted james 'household has 11 free blacks. indicating james was allowing others to live on his property. here is something that is interesting. in 1813, the tax assessor compiled a list. he included james lafayette and his wife. five years later silvia was the free black female head of
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household. you may be asking yourself if james was granted his freedom in 1787 and listed as head of household that included individuals listed as slaves, likely children, why not grant his children their freedom? it's complicated. bear with me. james' own occurr ered at a tim the window of freedom was open for a short period of time. the 1622 law that dick kated the status of the mother was the status of the child still on the books. therefore, any children that james and silvia had while she was a slave, according to the law, were also enslaved. the laws governing free blacks were strict and invasive. as early as 1792, all free blacks were required to register with local officials and required to pay 25 cents every year for a certificate of registration, which had to be carried on their person at all times.
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in 1806, the laws were more severe. the virginia legislature did not cease to allow private missions but require every enslaved african-american freed on or after may 1, 1806 to leave the state within one year being reinslaved. further, free blacks were heavily taxed and those who could not pay could reinslaved. these are the constraints in which newly emancipated james lafayette found himself. how free was free? in 1816, james appears on the records as owning 40 acres of land that had previously been part of the woodward estate. 30 of those acres were meredith
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hilliards mill pond, excuse me, abutted them. the assessed value of the 30 acres was $41.70. the remaining ten was $13.90. even though he paid taxes on his property, james is absent from the new kent county tax list from 1817-1820. perhaps because he was working for someone else who paid his taxes. not that new kent county isn't a bustling metropolis. from 18 -- domestic servant or skilled laborer or as close as the mill ponds adjacent to his property line. his farmland may have been -- the new kent county tax assessor described his 40 acres as light broken and much worn lands. on december 28, 1818,
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70-year-old james alie pl lppli state pension citing his service to lafayette during 1781, which he cited was valuable enough to earn his freedom, for which james' heart will ever be filled with gratitude so long as his blood runs warm. he was getting old. he continued that from a natural decline of bodily power. he found it hard to get moderate support and feeling the powers, he fears without assistance, he will no longer be able to procure the necessities of life. he asked for a small pension and signed james lafayette. they awarded him a pension of $3.33 a month or a lump sum or $20 every six months. james traveled to richmond to collect his payment of $20 every six months and signing his name
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for pension, james lafayette. in 1824, an incredible thing happened in the united states. an invitation from president james monroe, the american people welcomed back the marqui marquisede lafayette. they embarked on a farewell tour. a bone fied rock star in 1824, lafayette arrived to 80,000 screaming fans. because i never, ever, ever get sick of this, let's take a break for quick population analysis, shall we? yep. you are reading that right. statistically speaking, more showed up in 1824 than when the beatles showed up in 1964. who is the rock star now?
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you are probably wondering what this has to do with james. well, news of lafayette's tour was widely publicized and anticipated. he had tour stops planned in every major capital -- still, every major city in the country with a special stop at the site of yorktown. james desired to see his old friend one last time and word got around. in 1824, the richmond compiler ran an article under the heading of veteran negro and told the story of a venerable and free man named james lafayette who occasionally visits the city to receive his pension. they recounted how they attested to james' service in the late war and james expressed a great desire to see the marquise at yorktown but he was too poor for
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that occasion without aid. the article continued. would not -- at the scene of his most former glory be a spectacle worthy to remember. james got to see his friend one last time. the richmond inquirer reported during a parade held in lafayette's honor, james was recognized by lafayette in the crowd, called by name and taken into embrace. the marquise's visit, it tugged at the heart strings. you can go visit at the valentine museum in richmond. martin got hold of the
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affidavit. martin sold the handles and quite a few are floating around in museums and archives. like his friend, he became a folk hero. the public's fascination did not end there. four years later, in 1828, james heath wrote a novel of the american novel called "edge hill". he served as a state awe tor during the year james received his office may have met him. they struck up quite a conversation because he featured him as a main character in this novel. in the novel -- heath did include a scene where james is united with lafayette during the farewell tour. we'll never know how accurate is it. for fun, here are my favorite descriptions of james. link side.
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swift footed and patient of fatigue. shrewd and observing. ladies and gentlemen, my personal favorite, mighty sassy. for all of the public's interest in james during the later years, he died rather obscurely and quietly. he collected the final pension payment in 1830 and passed away august 9. april 1, peter, who the court described as a respectable man of color testified he was well a acquainted with james lafayette and said james died in the city of baltimore. we don't know how he died in baltimore, when he went there or why. someone was granted the balance on his pension, but we don't know who.
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the next year, the property had been transferred to james par kinson of richmond. the property continued to be attributed to park inson and his estate. with that, the record of james lafayette, the contributions to yorktown and special relationship with the marquise runs cold. happily, his legacy continues today. as i mentioned previously, thanks to the wonderful research we have about james lafayette, he'll be featured in the inaugural exhibition. veterans who started america. it will tell the story of the siege of yorktown and the contributions of the evolution after the american revolution. the exhibit follows closely the mission of the revolution at yorktown to tell the real life personal stories of ordinary men and women like james who risked
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everything. their countries, but often their own. gathered together today, all because of the heroism, patriotism and acts of daring committed by real people like james lafayette. through careful research, interpretation, we can make sure he, along with his contributions is no longer inviz zable. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> now the fun part begins. i want to ask you the first question, then open up to the audience. something i don't think you addressed during this talk. we need to make sure we touch on this. when does the museum open? >> let me make sure you can hear, october 16, 2016. >> that was my question. >> i'll pay you later for that.
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>> we have several mikes moving around. i'll cover the fronlt. >> i'll take the second question. great talk. thank you for the breaking research. it's fun to get breaking news from a couple centuries ago. we talked on the phone about the interesting thing, why not volunteer for the british if they are going to free you? that interesting point. then, instead stick with the revolution, the patriots and have to petition for freedom. could you possibly address that? >> i don't want to put words in james' mouth. we know he said in his application for it he volunteered to join the service of the marquee de lafayette. it would be his reword. there had to be an understanding that occurred there. i want to remind everybody, as we all know, the conclusion of
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this war, like i said before, you know, hindsight is 20/20. they didn't have that. none of this was a conclusion that the patriots are going to win. it could have happened either way, especially in 1781 when james gets into it with the marquise and the patriot cause. things are not looking super awesome. like i said, the british had 7,000. the american forces did not have that. it really could have gone either way. i think james may have had this relationship and may have had something to do with the service, the public store in williamsburg, then richmond, maybe an internal notion this is how he felt or his best bet at gaining freedom. the british suffered quite terribly the enslaved armies that ran to the british after the proclamation, they suffered
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horribly. many of them had smallpox, died of it and were turned out by the time it got to yorktown and as my quote from johan said, thousands fled to yorktown and they were turning them out. they couldn't support them better than their own soldiers. >> the british as a tactic in the war promised freedom to the slaves who -- the fact they were playing this game in the declaration of independence as one of the reasons we won independence. obviously, it led to the south joining the revolution. so, the question is, whether or not, this is truly, and this is before emancipation in enlang, in general, for slaves. the question is whether or not this tactic on their part is truly counter productive. it obviously was not enough to
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get james lafayette to side with the british. he was playing his angle to get freedom from the americans. overall was this tactic on a promising freedom, which led to lots of african-americans pointing to halifax and africa. this is a crazy story, but it was truly counter productive to play this game in the first place. >> wow. there's a really great book that talks about the patriot angle to that. it's woody holton, "forced founders" that talks about this. i wonder if he referenced the british side of it. the proclamation was instrumental in virginia. november 1 of 1775 any enslaved or endentured servant of a patriot would be freed. that's early, then the phillipsburg proclamation and,
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again, like i mentioned all the enslaved african-americans running to the british lines. you are probably right, it was probably counter productive because there's a huge supply problem as i mentioned before, by 1781, the slaves who reached cornwallis are being turned away or left and desserted to their own means. so, i'm not sure what the -- i'm not sure this was really thought out. how are we going to support this population? what are they going to do for us? are we going to treat them the same as our own rank and file? i think there's complicated follow up questions there. we'll have to see if we can find better answers for that. >> thank you. a wonderful talk. >> thank you. >> is there any record of comparable spying for the british by escaped slaves?
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surely this must have happened, but i have never heard of it before. >> i have to admit, that wasn't part of my research for this particular talk. i would love to see if i can find the answer to that question for you. i'm sure there were. but, again, a little outside the scope. i was more focused on how does james fit within the broader network and the patriot lines and how was lafayette using people like james for espionage. i didn't look that up. i would be happy to research and we can chat more about that. >> again, an excellent talk. >> thank you. >> thanks for the preparation. you mentioned his wife's name was silvia. at least for the first few years, their children were slaves. did they continue to be slaves or were they -- was he paying taxes on his kids because they were slaves? >> we don't know for sure if the
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slaves under 16 or over 16, we don't know they were children. we think they may be. but, just like with anything else, we can't say absolutely for sure. the best we can do is follow up with the tax assessors records and note that those, you know, how the numbers progressed for who he is paying taxes on and who he is not. like i mentioned, the numbers ebb and flow. at some cases the number goes down and in some the number goes up as far as those listed in his household. i'm afraid we will never know the answer to that. we do know or at some point the estate goes to someone. it says his legitese. whoever is managing his estate after his death. we followed up, tried to follow up with genealogy to see if he
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did have children. we can't find anybody in the record with his last name lafayette. he referred to himself as fayette. everyone else used the la. we searched to see where his descendents went, what became of them, if anything. like i said, the trail ran cold, unfortunately. >> yes. once again, an excellent talk. >> thank you. >> i may have misunderstood the name that you said. it sounded to me like the land that james lafayette had was adjacent to or part of the tire or -- >> william tiree. >> the plantation where marquee de lafayette was headquartered. did the marquise have any
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influence on, have you been able to find he had any influence on james lafayette getting that land. >> i can assure you, they are all fantastic answers that i wish i had the answer to. i can only respond to what the documentary record shows. we don't have that information. you are right, it's the same neighborhood, if you will, where the marquise spent a lot of time in the summer of 1781, 1780-1781. we think it was close to william armistead. there's others that suggest the property line abutted the plantation or the lots that james may have grown up on. so, i think we need to do more research into the lot lines. guess what? new kent county was a burned county. thank your civil war buffs for that. we don't have a lot of documentary evidence for a lot
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of things that would answer these questions. >> certainly seen during the civil war the confederacy underestimated the degree the blacks were sources of intelligence to the union side. to what extent did the british regard blacks? in other words, any conflict, somebody caught spying would be hanged. i'm interested, what do we know about the degree the british forces or british came to suspect blacks were spies for the rebels? in other words, he, as i don't know how he posed, but he was in there. black was repeatedly in there. why not fall under suspicion? it's a question that comes to you. >> the way i look at it, again, the idea of being invisible and the idea of being an officer and you are used to these people around you, serving you.
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may have grown up that way. i think that just because of kind of the stereo type of his race and position, i really don't think there was a lot to give suspicion to his presence in a camp or headquarters or being close to cornwallis' papers. there's secondary research that suggests that maybe not james, but maybe somebody else, another african-american posing as a servant in cornwallis' quarters were able to rifle through some papers. we have a great quote that says he guards his papers closely. it's difficult to get at them. it leads me to believe there's somebody in cornwallis' camp trying to get at his papers. i'm not sure cornwallis would look to say i wonder if they are reading them or what they are looking for. i think the nature of who james was and people like him, he flew under that radar.
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but, that may be a broader question for espionage. it's outside my wheelhouse that we can answer. >> question on your museum. when was that opening, again? >> you think i planted these people in the audience. we have a soft opening on october 15 this year and grand opening festivities in the spring. it is the weekend before yorktown day, conveniently october 15 and 16. if i didn't mention, we are the jamestown yorktown foundation. we are state. we have a state arm. we operate the jamestown settlement in jamestown and have the recreated 17th century ships. the weekend of october 15 and 16. i hope we see you all down there. >> thank you. i have a general question about
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things that don't get sometimes seen. are we finally going to recognize the key contribution the french played in yorktown? that always seems to be down played. >> as in? >> there were 50% of the troops, 100% of the ships. >> i invite you to explore that more at the museum at yorktown october 15 and 16. yes, the french are an important part of it. we discuss that story and not just the lead up to the siege of yorktown, but french culture d and, what is the word i'm looking for? other contributions as well. i invite you to come see us and learn more about that. >> why don't we go right here. >> you mentioned that he had got permission from william
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armistead to work for lafayette. so, i'm wondering, is there any indication that william supported this bid for freedom? >> well, william did -- for james' freedom or -- okay, james' own personal freedom, not patriot? okay. the best way i can answer your question is remember that james was compensated, sorry, william armistead jr. was compensated for the loss of james. when james' freedom was finally granted by the commonwealth, by the state, they sent essentially an assessor to deem the appropriate value of james at the time of his emancipation and william, his former owner was paid out of the state general funds. so, whether or not he supported the loss of james on a more emotional level or maybe an intellectual level, he still
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paid for it. james was property. >> great talk. >> thanks, chuck. >> i want to borrow the beatles slide if i could. could you tell us the other individuals you are going to highlight in the changing exhibition coming up later this year. >> i swear, i didn't -- chuck is here on his own va ligs. oh, how did i know your name. we are opening a special exhibiti exhibition, the afterward. with james lafayette, we are highlights important veterans in the siege of yorktown. the marquee de lafayette is an important one. henry knox is an important one. why am i -- oh, i'm sorry, how could i forget, alexander hamilton. everyone in this room is welcome that i did not just try to sing that line.
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that just went right through my head. again, the story is going to tell -- the exhibit is going to tell surprising stories about the veterans you thought you knew and look at them through the lens of their lives as veterans because, what happens when you, you know, when you walk off the battlefield, your life is not othver, your contributions are not over. it continues to play an important role in your life and in the growth of our nation. so, something that we are really excited to do is expand our chronology as an institution. the gallery is going to take you to 1790, the first federal census. afterward, it's going to take it to present day and we are excited to talk about something called the lafayette. you may be familiar from world war i and make the connection from past to present and show the american lrevolution and th
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war that was fought, you are part of that legacy and we see that around us today. we invite you to come after you check out the soft opening in october. we invite you to come back and check out the 5r,000 square foo exhibit in june. thank you, good question. >> you mentioned 100% of the ships for the revolution were french but the continental congress did authorize a revolutionary navy during the revolutionary war. i was wondering to -- to what extent is the u.s. navy historically dependent on and grateful to the french navy for that at yorktown? >> i'm trying to remember where
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in my talk i may have mentioned other than they did bring his french ships. so, we have to credit henry knox for the real development of the united states navy after the american revolution and commissioning ships where the united states really started to become a naval power. we didn't have, i don't know if i'm answering your question well. we didn't have the naval power we have today. not a -- there was a -- oh, i think i know what you are referring to. i talked about the naval stores, we had ships, but not like the united states navy today. >> thank you. i'm sure you are aware and everybody in this room is aware, this weekend, we inaugurated the museum of african-american history and culture and an
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observation is whether you plan to share with them this research and have an interested audience there as well? >> we would love to, if you have a business card you could float in my direction. yes, we would love to. i think that collaboration amongst institutions like we are doing today with the spy museum is important for everyone. while we, you know, while we technically own this research, this is everyone's legacy. this is everyone's story. i think we are all mutually excited to interpret it and use it in our own interpretations of our own missions as well. be happy to continue the conversation with other institutions for sure. >> if they don't want to tell the story, we are happy to. >> right. that's a good point. i hope i'm not speaking out of turn that the international spy museum is going to feature james lafayette in their new installation as well. >> opening summer, 2018.
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>> late spring or -- >> got willing. >> amanda, i didn't hear, when was that? >> call it late spring. >> yeah, late spring, 2018. you and then come back here. >> the information that fayette passed on, would any of it have been written, coded or strictly verbal? >> i have to get back to that slide that says just the facts we don't know. there's some secondary source information that suggests things are written down in past and i can go back and read and who knows if i can find it as things are falling off the podium. but lafayette does say that james -- it was very likely that james could have been found with communication on his person. that leaves me to infer maybe he did have something written down.
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i don't know if it was coded or in what manner it was written. that does leave me to tlbelieve there was some kind of physical -- that he was physically passing to other -- i don't want to say agents, to other actors or to other leaders. >> correction about, or just about the u.s. navy. >> oh, please. >> the coast guard was founded in 1790 by alexander hamilton. we're the second oldest continuous service next to the marine corps. >> i think you two should probably go have lunch. i encourage that conversation to continue. >> so we have time for one more. let's get alexis in the back. >> hi. that signature. what is that date from?
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it's later, right, in the 1820s or something? from one of the petitions. >> okay. let me find my transcription of this so i'm not steering you wrong, but i believe this is from when he collected one of his pensions. so after 1818. yep, there it is. right at the top. so that for you is an indication that's he was literate? >> yeah. >> and i just wondered how -- because that has bearing on his being a spy and what he might have been able to actually do. >> oh, absolutely. >> and so i'm wondering how unusual is that for this period, that he would have been literate? we know he could sign his name.
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we know by 1822 he was literate. i just wondered if you could talk a little about that and put that in context about how unusual that was. >> right. so, sure, it actually wasn't illegal for someone who is enslaved to be taught how to read or write until 1819. so it's actually not that uncommon for someone at james' age to be literate. we also know because we went back and saw that james was helping his master william in the public store. and i should mention that's my pet project i started years and years and years ago when it was still colonial williams burg. these two research questions just kind of exploded together. part of what i've done as a library fellow at colonial williamsburg was to start transcribing the records and records and records of the
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williamsburg public store. the paper trail for the actions of supplying virginia's troops during the american revolution is endless. i can stand up here and tell you it's endless. i'll never be done with this project. because of that paper trail, and we see that james is acting as a servant to william while procuring the supplies and writing receipts for supplies and taking care of -- there's a journal, a day book, a cash book, there's a ledger for every year that the store was in operation. so i think that james being literate is indicative of, you know, who he's working with and where he's working and how he's assisting his owner. the armsteads are prolif ic. go on to which is colonial williamsburg's website. navigate through all of that and find the virginia gazette and just look at all the advertisements and all of the
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notes in the virginia gazette from the armstead family. a couple of different branches there but just look at william armstead jr. prolific in the mercantile business. so we think again, if james wasn't originally owned by william, which we know that he probably wasn't. he's older than william. it's likely that he's assisting another member of the family who is involved in all of these activities which would really, really help if they had somebody that could read and write. so i hope that's enough of a contextualization for you and it's really at this time period, it's really not of that uncommon for him to know how to read and write. >> let me wrap this up by commending you and your colleagues for the kind of work you're doing there. it's hard enough to get current information even from the last 20, 30 years on intelligence operations. a lot of stuff is not written down and even the things that
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are may be misleading, et cetera. we've been looking at armstead for quite some time. it's nice to see there's some new information out there. this story is as sexy as it ever was. double agent or not. so we're happy to see that. so kudos to what you've done and what your colleagues are doing there as well. please join me in thanking kate for the time she's taken today. this work is not yet a book, so we'll hopefully see that at some point. if it is we'll certainly have it here. it may be a movie as well. sounds like it's made for it. but if you want to think about buying anything from the store, i think we have 20% off things at a table there. a lot of interesting revolutionary stuff we have available to you as well including the book for our speaker next week, hint, hint, ken dagler. other than that, we thank you all for coming today, and we look forward to seeing you all again next wednesday.
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this weekend on american history tv on c-span3 -- saturday night, a little after 7:00 eastern, kings college london visiting professor andrew roberts discusses the role of u.s. army chief of staff general george c. marshall in america's world war ii victories, arguing the general's skills as a strategist transformed the u.s. army. >> this pennsylvanian gentleman with beautiful manners was incorruptible, single minded and astonishingly calm considering the pressures on limn. at 10:00 on "reel america" the 1921 silent film created by the signal corps honoring the unknown soldier of world war i. >> it was tremendous. the streets of washington were lined with thousands of folks who waited for the casket to be
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removed and brought by the honor guard down pennsylvania avenue. and then across the bridge into virginia. and i think what i've read is one of the largest turnouts for any parade in the city. sunday evening at 6:00 eastern on american artifacts -- >> it's a beautiful building and from the moment it opened it was already too small for what it was about to face. constructed to handle about a half a million people a year, it ended up handling in 1907 alone, 1,200,000. >> we tour ellis island immigration museum to learn about the immigration experience. and just before 9:00, in 1916, president woodrow wilson nominated boston lawyer louie brandeis to the united states supreme supreme court, becoming the first jew to sit on the highest court. in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his nomination, the author of "louie brandeis" talks about his life, career and
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legacy. >> brandeis is trying to do here is limit the court to a very specific role. one that is defined by the constitutional network in which all government operates. and which limits or should limit any one branch from exercising power beyond its prescribed province. >> for our complete american history tv schedule, go to we have a special web page at to help you follow the supreme court. go to and select supreme court near the right-hand top of the page. once on our supreme court page you'll see four of the most recent oral arguments heard by the court this term. and click on the view all link to hear awl the oral arguments covered by c-span. you can find recent appearances by many supreme court justices or watch jfustices in their own words, including one on one interviews with justices kagan,
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thomas, and ginsburg. there's also a calendar for this term, a list of all current justices with links to quickly see all their appearances on c-span. as well as many other supreme court videos available on demand. follow the supreme court at up next on "the presidency," a discussion about first ladies during wartime. from martha washington visiting soldiers at a camp during the revolutionary war to eleanor roosevelt shaking the 00s of 400,000 world war ii troops. first ladies have had a long tradition of engaging with the military. the national archives hosted this event. it's a little over an hour. [ applause ] >> good morning, and welcome to my house. the national archives was


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