tv Conversation With Gordon Wood CSPAN February 26, 2017 11:04am-12:01pm EST
society and culture, democracy. people,es of ordinary ordinary white people began to be heard as never before in the history of the world, and they soon overwhelmed the high-minded desires and high-minded aims of these revolutionary leaders who brought them into being. the founders has succeed -- had succeeded too well in promoting democracy and equality among ordinary people. they succeeded in preventing any duplication of themselves. thank you. [applause] >> let me start by asking what sparked your interest or passion for history? you grew up in massachusetts and
a number of historic sites. did not play a role? >> i was interested in stories. i read a lot. i had a terrible high school teacher, i must say. he was horrible, but it did not dampen my interest. i read history and enjoyed it. i had planned to go into the foreign service. i was going to surf my three years in the air force, as a rotc commitment and go to fletcher school. it is connected to georgetown, it was a foreign service officer training school. my experience and being arbitrarily treated by the federal government in the military soured me on working for the government, so i changed my mind in japan, to apply to
graduate school and i never graduated at all -- i've never regretted it at all. >> any book you found particularly challenging or found something quite different? >> i'm not sure i found something different. i had a sense of the outline of that we became a much more democratic society by the early 19th century and that this transformed our culture in fundamental ways. the emergence of a middle-class society in the north changed things, and we forget that people like martin van buren did not think much of the founders. martin van buren said we have to forget about those guys. they were aristocrats. we are living a democratic world.
van buren is the first man to become president with no credentials whatsoever, he had never won a battle or had been a .reat political figure he was a master politician. he was catapulted into the white house. vendor and represented a whole new generation that discovers the founders because they were aristocrats. when peoplen who -- talk about founders, they did not mean washington and jefferson, they meant william bradford, john smith, the founders of the colonial -- the 17th century founders. after the civil war and largely because of lincoln's celebration, the founders become the men that we celebrate. i think it is an interesting transformation. >> you have written on this point.
it has been said about you, time and time again, that a lot of historians found the founding to be kind of l and not worth artie beenut, it had explored, especially post 1776. you devoted half a century to studying the founding. what made you see it differently than almost every other historian of the time and see that it was not a dull period after 1776, that it was just a first inning? >> when i came to brown, there were only nine -- in the history department and we did not have anyone teaching the colonial period, or the revolution. the next one was at the end of jackson's administration. i felt it upon myself to teach a course in the colonial period and the revolution and the earlier republic and i'm working
on that course, i saw the whole period from 1750 to 1820 as a whole. i saw transformation taking place that was extraordinary. the specialization of training in graduate school, you are either a colonialist and you stopped with the revolution or with the founding of the constitution, or you were an early republican and you started with 1789. most people were not trained to think of the whole period, and having to teach that course forced me to think of the whole. -- of the whole period. >> you and i talked about one of the alarming things happening on college campuses as we are no longer focusing on the founders while the american public in general because of the sales figures of a lot of the , a lot of thes
public seems to be enthralled with the founders. not so much on college campuses. would you let folks know what is happening in terms of the lack of teaching? >> many of the leading institutions, i have not been replaced and that is true at harvard. princeton as far as i know has no senior person teaching the american revolution. freeman wrote a book on hamilton, but her interest have gone to the early 19th century. i'm not sure if anyone teaches the american revolution. it is declining. these old white males, what we have to do with them? much graduate education is focused on race and gender issues. that is understandable, but it means the founders themselves are neglected. that is unfortunate.
fortunately, there are people who are a part of your program who have no academic credentials . there are dozens of others who are writing the books that you people read. joe ellis and i are academics -- that reaches out beyond the academy, but for the most part, most historians are ready for each other. they are like physicists writing papers and to try to read an article in the quarterly or one of the historic journals requires knowledge of what previous historians have said because they are talking to each other. they are trying to expand the discipline and good things to come out of that, but it means they neglect their responsibility to reach out to the public. physicists do not have to do that. the proof of what they are doing comes in a new nuclear weapon.
historians cannot just talk to each other. they have to reach out, it is a discipline that has to be spread to the general public and i just wish more than one attempt to do that. that is not how you get ahead in the academic world. you write to your peers and that -- >> given his lack of focus on the founding on college campuses and is someone who is writing about it and engaging audiences like this, what would you say is one of the things that the public gets wrong about the founders? what mistakes, what misplaced assumptions do we have? inthe greatest danger historical writing or historical reading is to assume that the people back then are like us. that is why i always quote that opening line of lp hartley's
great novel, the go-between. he said, the past is a foreign country. they do things differently, and i think that should be the mantra for graduate students when they start or anyone who is reading. don't expect those people to be like us, and if you do, you create anachronism. you read back to their behavior. it is hard to understand hamilton engaging in 11 duels. the only exchanged fire in one, which was deadly, but he was involved in dibbles. we don't have duels anymore, but you need to enter another world to explain why that was considered to be a necessary and rational action for him, to be involved in these duels. they usually involve negotiations and eventually they would resolve without the exchange of fire. to enter that world, you have to open yourself to a different
world, just as if you go to france or italy or england and immediately notice that they are not like us and start complaining, and you are missing the point of foreign travel. the same is true of going back into the past. go with an open mind and trying to understand why they do things differently. >> on that point in trying to get back into the historical mindset, i have spent my adult life studying the founders and i still feel like i don't understand george washington and i don't really know thomas jefferson. this is one of the topics we discussed last week with professor ellis. would you say washington and jefferson are difficult to understand, difficult to know and maybe they intentionally made it that way and how do you go about researching them and unmasking them and presented them to us? >> both of them are difficult
and very different people. washington was caught up in these values. he was -- he wanted to be the perfect gentleman, and he worked at it. the first document we have in his collection is the rules of civility. a 16-year-old kid cut these out from a french manners book, how we should behave. don't stick your tongue out when you are talking, a whole host of things. he was going to be the perfect gentleman. he had a disadvantaged background by his standards and he wanted to learn to be an aristocrat, as far as 18th-century america had aristocrats. he worked at it. jefferson had the same goal, what jefferson was by far the most knowledgeable person. he knew more things than
franklin and knew more about more things than any other single person. he has a sense of separation from his peers. apartd he built his house of every --as kind kind of a crazy thing to do because it was possible to bring water to it and he wanted to be above his peers, and he saw himself as different from them and was obsessed by that, he just wanted to be better than they were, smarter, he knew more, he read were widely. he was a connoisseur of all the arts and i think he tried to show off, a little bit. they all bowed to his judgment, even presidents begin consulting him for wine. -- began consulting him for wine. he knew about the world and told them about it and they respected
him for that. i think there is nobody else that came close. washington knew that jefferson was more eligible and intellectual than he was, but washington had other talents that jefferson respected. he was a born leader, he just exuded leadership. he had the gift of silence. knowing when to keep quiet and not make a full of yourself. -- fool of yourself. washington was extraordinary and by far the most impressive. we group's founders together and we had been a terrible thing by collapsing washington's birthday and president's day -- into president's day. [applause] he stood head and shoulders both literally and figuratively above them all. they respected him as their superior. i think we need to recognize that.
explaining that is not easy, because how many battles did he win? what is it that is the secret of his appeal? i think it is a complicated story, but it can be explained and i think he is just the greatest of the residents that we have ever had. he should certainly be number one and he was the greatest of these founders. >> earlier, you and i were talking about world war ii and we were talking about the gifts and genius of general montgomery , the gifts and genius of general eisenhower and you had some interesting assessments that you made. >> i have been reading a biography of montgomery by nigel hamilton, a wonderful biography. i am defensive of montgomery, but critical, too. i became aware of his great talents as a field commander, but his inability to deal with
people, he lacked all political skills and if he had been the commander-in-chief, the thing would have been a mess. eisenhower with almost no field command experience or ability, but he was a genius for bringing diverse gigs together and satisfying a bunch of egos. what struck me as i am reading about eisenhower and montgomery is that washington combined both in himself. he was a field commander, out there in the field, dangerously so. ,e was able to make decisions but at the same time he had this enormous political skill. he knew how to mend political fences. he kept the congress on his side , and even though there were plots, not amounting to much, to kind of unseat him, in favor of gates who was the victor at
saratoga, nobody really pressured him to much because he was such a superb politician. in a good sense. he knew how to keep diverse interests together and i think he held that army together, almost by sheer personality. >> in addition to the accolades that professor what has we talk to historians and talk about -- one of the things that pops up is he is such a good guy and so humble. backstage where we were talking about this, before we exchanged our analysis of washington, based on the generals in world war ii, professor wood tells me let me qualify my comments, i am just a novice historian of world war ii and i said you don't need to qualify your segment. in terms of thomas jefferson, when you are reading jefferson, he is so complicated and complex and he sometimes seems as if he
is writing with an eye to history, as if he does not want us to know him. the other person that seems so complex is ben franklin, so could you share with us what pops out to you, when you read jefferson. in one of your books when you were talking about ben franklin might be one of the most complicated and complex of the founders. franklin's world-famous, by far the most famous american in the 18th century. made major contributions to ifence, or electricity and there had been a nobel prize in the -- in the 18th century, he would have been a contender. he was not an early version of thomas edison, he was a real scientist. the fact that he was american stunned the world because they thought of america as a on role -- mongrel people that were not
capable of any type of civilization. most western european history -- aristocrats. when franklin makes this achievement, he is celebrated as a great genius. the fact that he had no education, no college, made it even more impressive and of course he was ironic and sly enough to play that role to the hilt. single-handedly dropped the french in, to the war, extracted long after impoverishing the french government, greeting the background to the french revolution, since we buy playing this role of -- of the french aristocracy were head up and heels -- head over heels. they were singing songs in favor of america and liberty. franklin played that role, he
would show up at the court of versailles, which was the most protocol written court in all of europe, and he would show up in a plane that encode with no sword, none of the dress you are supposed to wear at first i -- at the court of versailles. it would be like showing up in front of queen elizabeth, today in dungarees and a t-shirt. the french aristocrats loved it, they celebrated it, and he played his role to perfection, and i think he was able to keep the french going, not just with their armies, but of course more importantly was the money. they loaned america enormous amounts of money. franklin came late to the revolution. he really wanted to hold the empire together. he spent most of his adult life in england, itself and his son
became a notorious loyalist. franklin comes very late and i think the burden -- if the british aristocrats had given him a big position under -- under secretary of state, and the american department, he might have been lost because he loved london. he loved england and it is only because they turned on him and i think angered him so deeply that he became an american. despite a brief. isdespite a brief period, he in england from 1770 four to 1775. he said empires cost money, he was stunned, he got a friend appointed staff agent in philadelphia that almost cost
his friend his life because the mobs attacked him. franklin had a hard time adjusting to american opinions. he caught up and became a super patriot is a consequence. ofn he first arrives in may 1775 and is elected to the continental congress, many people thought he was a spy. that is why he writes the famous letter to his friend, you are my enemy and i'm yours any circulated it but never sent it because he wanted to show that he cut his ties to england. he had to disabuse people of his loyalties to england, and so he becomes a super patriot, attacking the king and people were kind of stunned at how vicious he was. that is because he came so late to the revolution. >> in terms of jefferson's complexities, we talked about who can we learn more from, and i jefferson or adams think on this point, the two of
you have a slight disagreement. >> i just finished a book on adams and jefferson, which is due to come out later this year. i know these two guys as well as i know anybody because i never read everything they have written. adams is a realist, he is contrarian, he does not believe that all men are created equal. he says all men are created unequal from birth and he is all nature, not nurture. jefferson set forth the basic premise of americanism, which is all men are created equal and distinctions that emerge are due to environmental circumstances. jefferson takes that back when slaves, back to discuss but most americans have bought into that notion, that is why we spend so much effort and money on education. this sacredt forth
to americanism is this belief in equality, that we are all the same at birth, and that we all -- whatever distinctions that emerge are due to effort and circumstances. adams denied that. he also denied american exceptionalism. jefferson creates the idea of american exceptionalism. we have a distinct society, we are different from europe with a different destiny. adams denied that. he said we are just as corrupt and vice ridden as any society in the we history of the world and maybe more so. adams' message is not one that could sustain the nation. imagine lincoln appealing to adams to sustain the effort?
adams has nothing to say about our nationhood. he simply is a realist. he is contrarian, but he does nourishment,any for our sense of nationhood. jefferson does, and that is what lincoln saw and i believe that for that reason, despite the criticism, and jefferson has been horrendously criticized, mostly because of his slaveholding and his inability to do anything about it, fundamentally, i think jefferson will survive. ords were jefferson survives but that is technically not correct. jefferson had died's dutch had died about five hours before on the same day. about fiven had died
hours before, on the same day. he will continue to survive as long as the republic exist, because his message is the basis of our nationhood, and adams has nothing to say to that. is jefferson look to as the architect, but in reading, even though adams was a flawed person and was a contrary person and so forth, you like him. >> everyone did. jefferson tries to explain -- explain to medicine who does not like adams, once you get to know him, he is lovable. polite, ins utterly , jefferson does not like any disturbance in a personal relationship and he is
quiet and he puts up with a lot from adams. adams will insult him or he will insult one of jefferson's heroes and jefferson just swallows it because -- and this is in their correspondence. the relationship is so important to both of them that jefferson does not react the way most human beings would, because jumpssays things, he just on jefferson's fumes. jefferson loved the french revolution and believed in it to the end. adams cannot help but say, practically, i told you so. you were wrong. jefferson puts up with that, simply because he knows beneath the surface, adams loves him, he is a wonderful person. i think that is the appeal of adams everybody who gets to know
him, they realize that he just andthis capacity for love that impresses jefferson. jefferson's closest friend is medicine, but you never feel the relationship with medicine is as close in some sense as it is with adams, even though they views,, major political i mean they differed on religion, slavery, the nature of the united states, equality, the only thing they shared, jefferson and adams was the commitment to america and the revolution, and yet it is enough to hold it together, although i think the correspondence is a little more tricky than most people have said. adams writes about four levels to -- four letters to every one of jefferson's and he exposes himself. all of his inner feelings, and
jefferson is very composed and reticent. he never lets you know what he really thinks, and that is part of his notion of politeness, and he says this to many people. don't tell people what you think andt, because it is rude, they are not going to appreciate it. or treatingice people, but it does lead to hypocrisy because privately, he would say this guy is a scoundrel. in the presence -- in their presence, he would be very formal and correct. when you do that, you can be accused of hypocrisy, which is what jefferson was accused of. no one ever accuses adams of hypocrisy because he tells you these things to your face. that is what makes him -- redeems him and modernize, but in the eyes of his colleagues, many of them thought adams was mad, insane.
>> in the 1800 election, the two them against each other, and jefferson had been adams the p and that campaign in 1800 strain their relationship and the relationship had so many layers of complexity. did they prepare that relationship after that theicult 1800 campaign and way we know their relationship is through the letters. ,hen you read their letters they are almost trying to write for history, at least i get the sense. posteritye aware of a in the letters. adams forgets that because he is so free will. the election of 1800 was devastating because neither of them campaigned and neither said anything about the other, publicly.
it is their followers to do that and make all kinds of charges. jefferson is an atheist and adams is a nincompoop and a jerk and an authoritarian. it is the followers who say these kinds of things. neither of them are quoted, although privately they had damaging views about each other. it was difficult to repair. abigail adams writes to jefferson when she learns that his daughter died. she writes a very consoling letter, and jefferson responds very generously, but he makes a mistake. haveys mr. adams and i agreed in almost all things except for one thing. he appointed all those midnight judges. that is enough for abigail to sound off.
she comes in with charges against jefferson. jefferson does not know what to say, he comes back and tries to apologize and the exchange a few letters, but abigail is furious and comes in and more or less writes him off and he realizes it's over. it takes benjamin rush it was a , 1812, rush rips on both of them and manages to have each of them quoted, i love him. each of them says that in one way or the other and they hear it and that is enough for me, says jefferson. >> it brings them back together. >> adams makes the first effort, and he says i am sending you some products of -- artisan and jeffersonston being so liberal minded takes
this and goes on a long letter on manufacturing in virginia. what adams sent him is two volumes of his son's lectures that had just been published. jefferson finally gets the gift any rights in apologetic letter. the correspondence then goes on. they are aware that they are writing for posterity. jefferson in particular, they avoid any talk of slavery. jefferson makes one reference to it and then adams pounces and goes into a long -- and jefferson goes back and says no more. it is one of those subjects that they simply differ on and adams comes to realize that he can't really push it because that would just destroy the relationship. it is an interesting
correspondence, and not as revealing as you would hope, because jefferson restrains himself and adams doesn't and you get this one-sided kind of you -- kind of view. >> that is so typical of adams, to be constrained and complete put himself out there. you mention it like a comment because we are talking about fathers and founding mothers. abigail adams was a remarkable woman and some interesting things to say about yours washington, and you care to comment? >> abigail is a marvelous character. her letters are as interesting .s john's she is unique among the
founders' wives. there correspondence was it a destroyed like martha's with george or jefferson destroying his correspondence with his wife. they were private and that of those wives were like abigail. abigail was intellectually alert, she was right, she was well read. she had no education, which to her chagrin, she was embarrassed by that an angry and she writes that famous letter, remember the ladies. she is not a modern feminist, that of wood -- that would be a mistake, but she was well aware of her feelings that women should be treated more equally and jefferson comes to appreciate this. the exchange letters and sometimes jefferson was a little flirtatious and she in turn, because they knew each other in paris and the adams go on to become a minister in london, so there is an exchange of letters,
and a one point jefferson writes to her something and he says that is that i use the word people instead of men, mrs. -- mrs. adams. i hope you will appreciate that. >> obviously she had said in a long point, everyone talks about men, when they talk about humanity or people instead of just men? included, and so jefferson makes this comment which i thought was very revealing. he was very impressed by her, he never met any woman quite like her. his wife was not like that. he writes this to his daughters upon marriage, they had duties to look after their husbands and to acquire talents like knitting and french and reading things, but the politics. he could not imagine women, but abigail was as interested in
politics as john and she let her views be known. she took a harder line on the sedition act. she wanted them earlier, she was a hawk on so many issues. she wanted to go to war with france and it is her husband holding back. she is a fantastically interesting character in her own right. >> joe ellis asked me to ask this, would you say that the founders were pre-democratic or anti-democratic? >> i think of them as pre-democratic. created as aion is consequence of medicine's mind, too much democracy in the state. the state constitutions were inated in 1776, and nobody its wildest imaginations created anything resembling the federal constitution, which was created 10 years later.
nobody imagined such a government. the articles of confederation like the eu, each of the states were independent and had certain integrity. when jefferson talked about my country, he meant virginia. to create this national government required something awful to have happened in the decade following the state constitution making, which are far more important than the federal constitution because the constitution derived from them. medicines little working document called the vices of the political system, which is a working paper that he never published, he outlines what is wrong with the government. it is not just the weakness of the articles. everyone agreed that some amendments had been made. he analyzes what he calls excesses of democracy of the states.
the state legislatures were running wild, multiplicity, mutability of legislation and injustice. what he meant is the majority -- majority and tyranny that majorities and the states were pretty minorities. the minorities he was concerned about happens to be one little too much of, that is creditors. he was worried about majoritarian tyranny and he wants to curb those excesses of democracy, but he does not want to go, which is to the alternative which many people suggested, which is let's go to monarchy, sort of like what we did with the arabs rang. that is the -- the aaron spring -- arab spring. there were some fascinating
and important a lot -- alliances and relationships among the founders in creating what they did, arguably two of the most important which became partnerships would be the jefferson medicine partnership and the washington hamilton partnership, to the point where it is hard to understand one's contributions without the other partner. could you say a word on both those partnerships? >> they were by far the closest of any of the partnerships that we talked about. they just simply -- medicine heerred to jefferson and just respected him, all the medicine was by far the shrewder and more practical minded person. it is unfortunate that jefferson was abroad an 18 -- in 1777, because he would have screwed up at the convention. he did not share medicines views states,mocracy in the he wanted an open convention.
he said journalists should be there. the convention to thousands secrecy and it is unbelievable today, but for four months they met behind closed doors and medicine said later, we could never have done this if the press were involved, because people make statements that would have been committed to and then they could not take them back and when you have that kind of -- that is the problem with the press. they come in and write up what you said on day one and then you want to change her mind on day five, will you have a consistency and it never would work. medicine was quite right. jefferson one of the press there, and he did not like the constitution. billion reason he comes around to it is because he had great respect for medicine, and medicine convinces him that it is going to be a good thing edison as he gets the bill of rights, is the things that -- he
had just two objections, jefferson. one was that the president was like a polish king and in many cases, they thought it was how it worked, the president would serve for life, then he would die and the vice president would serve for life and i -- and die. is why jefferson calls the president a polish king. it did not work out that way because washington retired at the end of two terms. no leader in the western world had ever done that, and that is what makes washington special. the other things yet objected to was the bill of rights. the reason he thought that she was upset was because he said my french friends think the bill of rights is wonderful, and every government should have it, so he is embarrassed with his french wrens. -- french friends.
finally, this letter that jefferson wrote to medicine, he also wrote to another person that the constitution lacks the bill of rights. the antifederalists make a big deal of it, patrick henry in particular, so medicine is forced to come around and say if we get this constitution adopted, i will work personally to get a bill of rights, which he does. he startsst congress, immediately amending the constitution and his fellow federalist are saying what are you doing, you want to amend it and he said i promised i would do this, and he does. we owe the bill of rights to j med -- james madison, but medicine almost did not get into the government because patrick henry hated it, so much that he controlled the virginia
legislature. the legislature or point of the senate in those days and madison says if i am going to get into the government, i have to go get a representative to be in the house, and henry reed districts his district and recruits this young war hero, his opponent, james monroe, to run against medicine. medicine has to make a speech, which he hates. the idea of having to make a speech. to descend tot this grubby practice of electioneering, of having to make a speech, but he does and that is when he promises his constituents he will create a bill of rights, if elected, and he does get elected and becomes the major figure in the house of representatives for the first two terms.
the other partnership with washington was with hamilton, and hamilton comes in with a program thatscal stuns james madison. they had been collaborative in the federalist papers and they both wanted a strong national government, but medicine had no idea that hamilton had this british model in mind, of a fiscal military state and that is why he goes and opposition. it has never been explained why you have medicine, a federalist stud -- suddenly becoming a states rights opponents of the national government in 1792 and i think it is explained by the nature of the fiscal military state that hamilton is building. hamilton is a modern man, in that sense, although he is really in 18th century to your. celebration we are getting
of hamilton because of the musical is a little misleading, because there is no doubt that hamilton is no modern american, in the sense that he is very anti-democratic. he thinks democracy is is a bad is a bad thing and he knows it is a problem of america, he says. he wants to create a modern state that could be able to take on the european states on their own terms, with a standing army, a large navy, a whole industry a military complex. it is so contrary to what jefferson and madison have in mind that they go into opposition and the election of 1800 repudiates almost everything of hamilton's views. people don't realize how little of hamilton's creation survives.
the bank survives because it was given a charter, but even then when the charter ends in 1810, there is no reach -- no restriction of the bank. hamilton's program is undone, almost completely by the jeffersonians, by jefferson himself. hamilton looks good to us because he would have delighted in the pentagon. a big powerful army with a million men and women. that was his dream, the most powerful state the world is ever known, that is what he wanted. that is not at all what jefferson or medicine wanted. they wanted a small, minimal state, a federal government that involves itself in foreign policy and leaves everything else to the states, a completely different view from hamilton. >> to you have a favorite founder -- do you have a favorite founder and on two levels, in terms of contributions to the forging of this nation, but also someone
you think you would like if you had the chance to meet. >> no doubt that washington is head and shoulders above all the others and without him, the thing would not have succeeded. he really holds the army together. there is that great moment in newburgh in march of 83 where he comes close to a military coup d'etat. 50 officers want to take over and march on the congress. it is a military takeover, which happens elsewhere in the world, even today. it does not happen because washington stops it with this impassioned speech that he gives and it is a kind of band of brothers speech. you, i didas with not go into winter quarters or live with -- live in the lap of luxury.
i did not go to mount vernon. i was with you at mount vernon -- at valley forge. i was out in the field, with you. we are a band of brothers. he has them in tears for the time it ends because he pulls out a letter to read from some congressmen who says we will do something for the army. he puts -- he pulls out his a gascles and there is because many of the officers had not realized that he needed reading glasses and he looks up with perfect timing and says yes gentlemen, i have grown nearly blind as well as gray in the service of my country. at that point they all break into tears. actor in thest presidency we have ever had. washington had a real sense of drama. he loved plays. there is no doubt this was a performance, but it was a
brilliant performance and it broke this crowd, this coup. we a lot to him -- we owe a lot to him. without him, the country would not have survived. people have been raised in monarchy. when washington takes over, when he is going from mount vernon to new york to take the oath of office, he was celebrated, long-lived george washington, people wrote to him and dead may so heign long over us and gets so conscious that they think of him as a cane that he writes an inaugural address, a draft for he says don't maria about me, i'm not going to be a king. i have no children. don't worry about me. he asked james madison to look at a medicine says you can't say that, take it out. the fact that he put it in shows
how conscious people were that he was a kind of king. i think he played that role as a surrogate monarch to these people who had been reared in monarchy. republicanism was new to them. he eased us, if you will, interpublic and is by behaving scrupulously as a republican president but playing the role that the people wanted, of a monarch that made the new government acceptable to hosts of people who were frightened of it. both as commander in chief and as president, he was indispensable. there is no doubt that he alone and jefferson admitted this, saved the revolution,. made it possible, -- saved the revolution, made it possible. [applause] >> i know we share your
enthusiasm for george or g-wish -- g-wash, as my son calls him. who doubt he had a flair for the trip -- for the theatrical from the physical size to the clothes he wore. unfortunately, we are about out of time. one more question. haveternal fascination we with the founders. two what do you attribute this eternal found -- internal longing -- eternal longing? england had this mythological arthur figure, we have real flesh and blood folks who were not that long ago and yet we are just continuing leak -- continually enamored with the founders. >> we want to know what they
would think. i don't think even if you talk about king arthur or alfred and england, no one says what would king albert think about brexit. americans want to know, and i understand it, what would jefferson think about trump's cabinet and? they want to know that and i understand. this people are closer to us and they are meaningful to us and i think it is wonderful, and the reasons for this, i think is represent our nationhood, in a way that we don't have a nationality. i think that is a saving grace for us. we can absorb immigrants. you know we have problems with immigration, but you have to be in france to appreciate how
little our problems seem compared -- seem compared to the ones they are facing. they just don't have the ability to absorb these foreigners. even when they are foreign, the arabs who have been living in france for three or four generations, we are talking over a hundred years. they can't believe they are french. we don't have that feud. we have someone who's irish grandparents came here in 1870 and they are thoroughly american. we just don't have that problem and the same will be true with mexicans and central americans and asians, 50 or 60 years from now. we had that ability to absorb different people, because we have no nationhood in a ethnic sense. to be an american is to believe in something and what do you believe in? these things the founders
created, the constitution, the declaration of independence, liberty, equality. that is why they are important to us, because they are our nationhood, they are the source of our oneness. we do not have anything else. mcdonald's and starbucks are not going to do it. adams did not have an answer for this. he said we are a hodgepodge of people. we have a lot of french and germans and spanish already, and scots and irish and he says how are we going to hold this nation together and he had no answer. jefferson has an answer. lincoln saw it and that is why jefferson will always live in our memory because of the notion of equality, that is where the founders are important to us -- why the founders are important to us. they are the source of our sense
of being american. there is no ethnicity in americanism. we don't know what it is. the whole world is here and why are they all-american, because they believe in these things and if they don't believe in them, they are not americans. us asecome part of lincoln said, to the point where blood -- andd and flesh in flash of the founders, themselves. [applause] >> in february, we have run journal coming in, in march and lynne cheney in april, please come back and join us and also please join me in thanking professor gordon would -- gordon >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every
weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation like us on facebook. c-span3's american history tv, an interview with dorothy height, who served as president of the national council of negro women from 1957 to 1998. recorded in 2003, this is from the explorations in black leadership oral history collection, a project codirected by university of virginia professors phyllis leffler and julian bond. we are currently airing five of the interviews with prominent african-american women. she discusses wednesdays in mississippi, a group eco-organized in the 1960's, and her work alongside martin luther king jr. on the 1963 march on washington. she went on to receive both the presidential medal of freedom and the congressional gold medal. she died in 2010.