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tv   Discussion-- Founders  CSPAN  December 15, 2013 4:15pm-5:16pm EST

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there are shared, social platforms that enable ideas to travel from one person to another through networks of people connected by social bonds rather than having to squeeze through the privilege bottleneck of broadcast media. that said, mr. standage, social media has a portion contribute less public discourse. mr. answer to that? >> guest: well, one man's trivialization is another man's democratization. every time as the technology to make it easier for more people to publish us. half of it was later restated. before the alphabet, is very complicated and hard to learn. every time there's a way for people to publish, the people who used to be in charge always complain that the wrong people will use this to say the wrong things. the contemporary says this. he's very worried because they
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were reading the pamphlets loser is writing. the very short and easy to read. this means nobody is reading the classics anymore. the greeks and romans. and then we get this time and time again. we get it with twitter now the people say it's terrible. anyone could say anything. this is good because it's broadening access to publishing to more bald people in democratizing publishing. clearly what happens each time you have one of these expansions as it initially appears to be completely unmanageable and it takes some time to work up mechanisms in the stuff you want to see from the stuff you don't. and the printing press made it easier to publish books, there was an explosion of publishing. people felt really overwhelmed. there were complaints of information overload in the 1500s. but what happened in the centuries after that.
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people came up with technologies, tools for dealing with it. conflict book reviews, table of contents, index. they work out which books may be relevant to and which particular book is what you're looking for. those were invented in order to make books easy to navigate. were going to see the same process. initially we had yahoo! then we have search engines, which let you put in keywords. no worries in social filter. we get our recommend the interesting bit to us. they relied on their friends to tell if it is to parse all the relevant data. filtering stuff for them is whoever going next. we're going to see hybrid with all these documents to emerge. so this is how we are dealing with the fact that lots and lots of studies being published and they don't want to read all day.
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that's what i'm expecting to happen. the good thing of course is that i regard is different from what you regard as a signal. these allow us the particular things they want to read from an enormous churning ecosystem. >> host: tom standage is the author, "writing on the wall: social media- the first 2,000 years" is the book. thank you for being with us. this is "the communicators" on c-span. >> nicks on booktv, historian myron magnet recounts a personal public lives of america's
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founders. treatment and feminization of their home. this is about power. >> well-adjusted, rick. >> myron, you have written a sumptuous book, some shoe is also very rich in terms of its content and something quite surprising. let me start with the devils question. we've had a ponderous revival for 20 years. big books on all the big guys. we are getting books on the lesser-known figures. why do we need another one? >> well, first of all as beautiful as you say. you will see the 32 pages of very good color plays.
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but it seemed to me that one of the things people had looked at, that as carefully as possible that the founders is very ideas. they were brilliant, very thoughtful guys who have some of them very widely. some of them had a very wise experience. the founding came on as a worldview. i mean, if i wanted to tell this story as a biography. i want to ask the question not just what these guys do, but who are they, what do they think, what was driving them? i was impressed that they really were sorted three large themes that they were concerned about. one was they had a thirst for liberty, the way that, you know,
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the way that people know concretely what a flake. the way the eastern europeans who had finally escaped from communism understood that liberty was. and that's because so many of them were descended from dissenting protestants. the pilgrims were for 150 years. there are presbyterians, baptists, quakers coming from europe. the protestants in europe were escaping persecution of the catholic church. is very much a living memory. they knew they had come here
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seeking -- they work in a let go of it. then, you know, there's that tragic paradigm that you will now come watch as the america, they live to mid-slavery. >> that was everywhere. >> even jon jay had a couple of slaves as he was president of the society. so, -- >> how many people are doing something they're not doing anything about today? i just had to respond to that ripple of laughter. >> that even the slaveowners, as you well know, and you knew how obscenely unjust that was, the
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smart ones, thomas jefferson said that an avenging god would take action and show the world does not govern by blind chance. in a passage that your writing will be another great book about lincoln right now. you just told me you were writing about the second and 90, just as lincoln vilified jefferson in the gettysburg address, talking about how all men were created equal. >> host: jefferson didn't often think about avenging gods or god at all. just don't know, but if there were god, this is something he
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would be concerned about. that's for sure. so when now comes to be george the third, this 28-year-old martin has who has succeeded his grandfather, george the second for 30 odd years. he starts messing with his north american colonies in the way that, you know, the elder area, nobody messed with america. george washington in many other columnists looked out and talk, we know it's happening here. george washington said he wants to make a fast team in and check slaves as the blacks or you
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rollover with such arbitrary sway. in george washington database and it took george washington a lifetime to understand the full implications of what he was saying and free zones place on his deathbed. so they made a revolution for liberty and i wanted to make clear just how from the very, very beginning, from the finger trails in 1735. new york were so much of our history happens. from there on out, the columnists are concerned about liberty. they had huge this country out of wilderness and they were going to run it themselves. >> tell us exactly who you're focusing on in this book.
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>> guest: the reason for that is my wife barbara and i took a trip to virginia, just on a whim to see the founders houses. our advanced age you think we would dumbness times. we never had. it just knocked my socks off to go down there. you walk into those houses that like you're walking into the president's office. you feel that, you know, a place that monticello you feel you know the man who built it. wow, mike! is that it had to be somebody who had a house that open to the public because i wanted people to have some sense that these were not mythical figures, but
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they were living human being as the review and "wall street journal" said, we had more, which they couldn't always a zero so i leconte lane. so that was kind of where it made the cut and the other great cut i made was i left out john adams because he's been written about so many times over the years. so i wrote about william livingston who was a signer of the constitution and important because random magazine here in new york in the 1750s, you know, john adams who i left out of my book said that the american revolution -- the real american revolution have been 15 or 20 years before the shots rang out at lexington and
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concord. well, that's true. intellectuals remark. he said it happens in the hearts and minds of the americans. if you want to see how they changed their affection and their ideas, just look at the literature, the pamphlets are the servants even at the last 15 years or so. he didn't go far enough because the place where it really started was with living magazine in new york called the independent reflector. she wanted to model it on addison and steele spectator. >> host: >> is this a weekly, monthly quick >> he wrote with a couple of friends. he started making a fuss about establishing and then turned
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into the geopolitical, global political theory in which he taught all of america the ideas of government i can then. the right of the people to resist. well, as jefferson summed it up so beautifully, >> there is going to be a tax that everybody had to pay. the mackie said, you know what, most of us in new york aren't anglicans. why should everybody be tax for the purposes of -- and furthermore, the flood into the idea of free thought and how there must be any orthodoxy. he was like john stuart mill. he was like james madison and away in believing in james
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madison read when he was a student at princeton. so i stay with him. he is coming in now, the first great intellectual influence. this magazine, everybody read it. everybody got it, to describe to it. his fellow students at princeton were still reading it 20 centimeters later. so then i moved to the lisa strafford hall. it was the house. this house on a book cover. rick goes there. i mean, it is so beautiful. in fact, 15 of the british
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artist taureans said this is so architecturally sophisticated is designed. but it wasn't. it was designed by virginia born william wilkins. nobody knows anything about it. >> maybe my judgment of the houses affected by the oddity of the inhabitants. >> is an extraordinary? you have these four brothers who were there. richard henry lee, francis lightfoot lee and are thoroughly and from sisters. and then, the next owner of the town was seriously, the dashing commander in the revolutionary war who won the famous battle
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that's not jersey city. spend the character in its own right but the real estate speculator. >> real estate speculators. >> are real estate speculators come back. the herb robert e. lee. imagine that a man who tears apart and the ancestors made was born here. you'll see one of those cast-iron fryer packs in what used to be his nursery a couple of cherubs cast into the back of it.
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.. >> now, tell the story of how richd henry turned a disaster into great account, his terrible accident. >> oh. that was a terrible year for him. he was out shooting swans. the you go to stratford -- if
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you go to stratford, go to washington's birthplace which is about 4 miles up the road, pope's creek. the house is gone, but it is so beautiful. it's like going back to, you know, it's like going back to the america that the settlers came to. when you work through the woods, you know, you see the deer scampering away the way pigeons get out of your way in the park. and the potomac at that point is about 7 miles wide. >> uh-huh. >> so it's just spectacularly beautiful. and the potomac forms into these little bays. and when we went there, there were thousands of geese and hundreds of swans. and overhead, if you can believe it, a bald eagle. i mean, it was like it had been set up by hollywood. >> right. >> and when i set out to
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describe this, you know, i like to use adjectives, so i wrote that and overhead a fat, bald eagle, and i realized, wait, that doesn't sound right. [laughter] so he was out shooting swans, which i guess they ate just as queen elizabeth i used to eat them, and his gun blew up. the barrel of his gun blew up and blew the four fingers off his left hand. >> ooh. >> so, you know, i mean, so he had -- and this was the same year that his young wife died, leaving him with two baby sons. so he had a, he had a black silk glove made to cover his disfigurement. and he'd been a very, he'd had a lot of stage fright. but he learned to become a great
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orator, and he was a tall, aristocratic virginian, very gaunt with hollow cheeks. he looked like you. [laughter] and so he learned, he learned to gesture with this black silk glove as he got off his creek quotations when he was serving at the continental congress of which he was finally president. and he got to be one of the great or ray to haves of -- orators of all time. you know, though, but on the topic of his stage fright, he gave his maiden speech in the virginia house of burgesses in 1759. so now we're talking 100 years, 100 years and more before the civil war. >> uh-huh. >> and he gets up, and what does he say to his fellow slave owners?
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he says abolish slavery. he says it is, he says on prudential grounds it's not good for us to have other people do the work while we sit around. and furthermore, it's going to breed all kinds of strife in future. and furthermore, if we're christians, how can we think that our fellow creatures are not created in the image of god as well as ourselves? and entitled to liberty and freedom? so this is, you know, we have a complicated history here. one hundred years and more before the civil war here is one of the representatives of one of the great slave-owning plantations in virginia making statement. amazing, huh? >> uh-huh. >> then i have three paragraphs on the great george washington. >> a chapter, surely.
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>> three chapters. it will feel like three paragraphs, it reads so beautifully. [laughter] and i fell in love with him. and i couldn't stop. you sit there reading his letters and speeches, 1200 pages -- >> did anything surprise you about him? >> yeah. um, i had thought that he was kind of like a high-toned ventriloquist dummy. that he was a very handsome man who looked great in a uniform. and that all these much smarter guys, like madison and hamilton, were pouring the ideas into his head. and, you know, and he'd get up up there in his uniform, and he'd say his lines. and it's true, they did write his speeches, right?
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but the fact of the matter is when he was serving out there on the western frontier in the french and indian war in the 1760s and having to be, i mean, in effect the, you know, the government of this lawless territory with a savage indian enemy as he said and having to, having to requisition supplies at swordpoint from the very people whose interests he was trying to protect, already he was starting to think that we needed a strong central government to protect us when we had -- and we needed to be a unified country. so this is decades before the articles of confederation, decades before the
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constitutional convention over which he presided. he'd had these ideas. and so what i came to see about him is that he was -- and, you know, you wrote a book about this too, a wonderful book about how george washington is like a ceo. he had the, he had the capacity to make a large strategy, and then he had the self-confidence to pick out brilliant young men to flush it out and get the details done. so he wanted, he wanted a strong central government. needs a constitution? let madison do it, he'll sit there quietly, right? but he knew that's what he wanted, and he knew that's what madison intended to do. he knew very well that the might
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of a nation depends on its wealth. >> honors have to be paid. >> and he knew that england was so powerful because it was this fiscal military state that had a bank and a great system of finance. is he knew -- so he knew he wanted a diversified economy. and he didn't want just farming, he wanted to be a modern country. with every kind ofville activity there could -- industrial activity there could be. let madison do it, right? >> hamilton. >> let hamilton do it. when madison objected, of course, he thought long and hard about, well, was this really the right way to go. but in the end he said, yes, let's, let's absolutely do it. so that, that surprised me. it's not simply that he was a handsome guy who looked good in a uniform, but he was a -- what
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i say about him in the back is that he was the visionary in chief. and i came to find that. >> all right. so after -- >> and then the case of choosing hamilton over madison's objections, he's going against what you would think were his proclivities. i mean, his virginian advisers, the people who were most like him, were saying, oh, this is wrong, this is a bad guy. but he goes with the new yorker, the immigrant -- >> he was a entrepreneur himself. i mean, he saw mount vernon as his business. he had, he had a -- everything was useful for him. so the potomac, yes, it's beautiful, but, you know, it's full of fish. so he built a fishing fleet. and he's exporting barrels of salted fish to the west indies. he builds a distillery, and it
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soon turns into the biggest one in the united states, and it's turning out i can't remember how many gallons of rye and bourbon a year, if you're allowed to make bourbon in virginia. you know, he -- as the, as the virginia soil became exhausted, he experimented with i think it was manager like 60 different -- something like 60 different types of crops until he realized that wheat was the thing to grow. so he was not, you know, lazy aristocratic planter. he was, he was an entrepreneur, and he saw that hamilton -- this illegitimate west indian immigrant in new york on the make, real, genuine new yorker -- that hamilton was in certain ways, well, it's like hamilton, this fatherless child,
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really was the true soul son of this childless founding father. and he saw that. >> uh-huh. okay. so we have washington and then hamilton -- >> and then we have -- well, before hamilton we have john jay. >> uh-huh. >> who -- >> now he's an interesting one because we all have copies of the federalist papers -- >> of which he wrote only -- >> he writes only five. but, so, you know, there he is forever with hamilton and madison. but we -- so we know the name, but he himself is a little pale. and i have to say that of all your portraits, maybe that -- his was the most interesting to me because of, well, partly because of what he was willing to do during the revolution. >> oh. >> he had a lot of tough assignments, really tough stuff.
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tough stuff morally. >> yeah, he did. he ran a spy ring during the revolutionary war. and he, he came to believe that you couldn't be neutral in this revolution. you couldn't just sit back and say, okay, i'll just wait and see what happens. and if england wins, i'll be english, and if america wins, i'll be american. you had to choose. and so he said, look, if you're not going to choose to be an american, then you have to be disarmed and put out of the protection of the united states, or you have to be exiled. and he exiled, you know, drove some of his best friends into exile. there was, there was a kind of -- it was a civil war with, you know -- war, you know? >> in new york state.
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>> and in new jersey to boot. so there were partisan gangs. there were the patriot skinners and the loyalist cowboy withs. and they were just gangs of thugs, is what they were. they were using the war as an excuse, but they were out there to, you know, steal as much as they could steal always saying, well, look, these people are rebels. so of course we're coming to confiscate for, you know, the king's own loyal subjects or vice versa. but they would kill people in doing this. >> uh-huh. >> and they did it to john jay's own father and brother and did not, thank god, kill them. but took everything. i mean, took everything except for the clothes on their back. so then there's john jay serving as the first chief justice of new york, and he's up there in albany, and he says now i'm doing the worst part of my job.
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he said, trying loyalist traitors. and he had a, he had a gang of cowboys in front of him as he writes in this letter, and they had broken into this guy -- this patriot's farm when his son, a continental soldier, was home on leave visiting, killed both of them and then got caught by continental troops. and john jay sentenced the whole gang of them to hang. so he said this is very disagreeable work, but it has to be done. and, you know, and the reason you don't, you know least about john jay or did know before this is there really hasn't been a satisfactory biography of him. >> uh-huh. >> so there's one by his son which is very good, but it's, it's kind of --
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>> [inaudible] >> yeah. and, of course, it's very partial. but there are letters and, you know, there's all kinds of documents, and there's all kinds of official correspondence. >> you love his wife. >> i love his wife who's like, i mean, she's like a jane austen heroine. as i say in the book, with sense and sensibility to spare. she's so, she has such, oh, when they go -- when they get ship wrecked on their way to europe and end up in the west indies -- >> this is as a dip to mat -- >> -- as a diplomat, they're on their way to spain, and so they're cast up on i forget what island, santa domingo maybe, and she comments on how beautiful it is and what she likes is what human activity has done to it. and how up to the very mountaintops they've planted
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coffee and sugarcane. and she writes her father, william livingston, the writer of that wonderful magazine in the 1750s, she writes her father there are two reice paragraphs -- precise paragraphs about how a sugar mill works. i mean, so she loved, she -- ah, she was fantastic. and when john jay was off making the jay treaty, she writes a letter to him and says, now, don't be mad at me, but, you know, we've been investing our money by lending it out. and so thousand all our -- now all our, everybody who knows us money has paid us back, and nobody wants to borrow money just now. so there's all this bank stock
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going. and, you know, it seemed to me hike a really good investment, and she gives a little kind of investment report about, you know, a kind of analyst report on why this stock would be, would be good to buy. so she said i took the money, and i bought it. [laughter] and she said it's already gone up x percent. so she was fantastic. now, the ting about john jay -- the thing about john jay that is most striking is that although we remember him as our first chief justice, in fact, he is most important for having made the treaty that ended the revolutionary war. and what's so interesting about it is that the congress under the leadership of madison's party had given him instructions to share everything with our french allies.
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and this treaty, after all, the negotiations all took place in paris, in france. well, john jay realizes that the french have their own ambitions in the new world and that, yeah, they're helping us, but not because they love us, because they have their own plan. >> it's not a nation of lafayettes. >> no, no, it's not. and so he completely disregards his instructions from congress, proceeds to deal quite separately with the english negotiators, and he says to them, you know what we have to do is negotiate a lasting peace because, well, we have to negotiate a lasting peace. this scares the daylights out of the english, out of the english negotiator. he thinks, a lasting peace? is that a coded word for how the americans want to be the arbiter of the balance of power in
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europe? and he goes to franklin who's officially but not really taking any part in these negotiations and says what does a lasting peace mean? franklin tells him that story from roman history, which one i don't know, but he spins it out. and he says, so a lasting peace is a peace that is fear and just to both parties so they don't go to war again and, hence, it is lasting. oh, says oswald, the negotiator. fine, then i think i can do what you want done which is recognize american independence, something the french did not want to happen. and also -- >> they wanted a small america. >> they wanted america to be small, hemmed in by hostile powers on all sides, at odds with britain, poor and dependent on france, right?
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well, that's not what happened, and the reason it didn't happen is because john jay, you know, with this stupendous geopolitical understanding and imagination and with this stupendous american initiative and entrepreneurship just said, wait a minute, you know? i know i'm here to serve my nation's interest, and i think i know what my nation's interest is. and i'm going to do it. so it was just miraculous, what he did. >> uh-huh, uh-huh. >> then comes hamilton, about whom you have written so eloquently. and you know that i've learned that you should tell the story of the founding through short biographies from you, because you've written a shelf of magnificent ones, and you've been my kind of model all through this. >> well, you were my editor.
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>> yeah, but -- [laughter] >> i didn't have a hell of a lot to edit, you know? sometimes you'd get flawless copy, and that's what i got. and on hamilton, of course, you and i see it the same way. i mean, hamilton was the man who imagined an opportunity america. he wanted an economy which had, which had a niche for every skill, every talent, every ambition. and it's because he thought of economics as soul craft. yes, it would make people rich, and it would make the country rich, but how were you going to fulfill your own potential if you didn't have the opportunity to find something to do that would allow you to bring out everything that was in you? so it was --
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>> which he had had only by a combination of brilliance and luck. >> yeah. and, you know, and the luck, of course, was that he got a job as a clerk for bigman and krueger in the west indies. well, bigman and krueger is one of the great new york trading firms. >> uh-huh. >> so even when he was a teenager working as a lowly clerk in the west indies, he was already -- although he didn't know it yet -- connected to the great dynamo, you know, what was going to become the dynamo of the united states. but the economic dynamo that was the triangle trade which is what beekman and krueger were involved in. is he was, i mean, he was a year jus, he really was just a genius. and then i have chapters about the republicans as the progenitors of the democrats were called. one about jeff and his -- jefferson and his stupendous house. and if there's anybody who in
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this room who hasn't been to monticello, go. it's just, it's the greatest house in america. it's -- i can't tell you how beautiful. >> you write so movingly about the use of light. >> oh. here's this, it's got triple-hung windows, floor to ceiling window, you know, the kind you can open up and walk out onto the veranda, and it's got skylights, glass skylights with louvers. and it's got mirrors everywhere. and, you know, jefferson had his slaves level the top of the little mountain on which it's built with. so there's sunlight pouring into it from all these windows and skylights, and it's bouncing off all these mirrors. and it struck me that it was this perfect enlightenment icon, and it seemed to be crying out,
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more light. and you don't realize that right at first. but i remember you said when you looked at the pictures in the book, you were struck by how beautiful the pictures of monticello were and that, you know, was it, where are they take -- were they taken on a particularly sunny day, you asked me? no, that's what the house is like. the house is enlightenment. and all its amazing rooms, the demi-octagons and, i mean, they all fit -- >> which eliminate corners, right? >> which eliminate dark corners. there were peculiarities about it. there's a room that was always called will madison's room because -- mr. madison's room because madison and his wife would come and visit. so, you know, jefferson liked these alcove beds. so here's an alcove bed, and i always thought the madisons would come now when they had retired from the white house, and i thought which of the old
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couple slept on the inside? [laughter] and how did they -- anyway -- [laughter] it was, it was really a house built for a bachelor. and -- >> well, a widower. >> a widower whose wife died very young and who then most people believe, as i do, he then took her half sister, his slave sally hemings, as his concubine. and had children with her. so they had strange race relations on the 18th century plantation. >> and the slave corridors and passages don't partake of this light. >> oh, no, no. it's like there are these, you know, a regular 18th century house has wings with the kitchens and the various service
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parts. but the wings are like separate pavilions, and there are arcades. well, mount vernon is a case. >> right. >> and so jefferson did this too, but he inverted them. so he's got his wigs, but they're -- wings, but they're underground. and what you've got are terraces that you can walk out on. and it just looks like you've got these beautiful promenades, but underneath -- >> all the work is being done. >> all the work is being done, and sally hemings has her room. oh, and the wine cellar, of course -- >> the only man in america who knows a good bottle of wine. >> and who is it, rick, you remember this, somebody wrote, you know, jefferson came to dinner last night and bored us all with his talk about what the best wine was. so sometimes i suppose you can know too much. [laughter] then come two chapters on
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madison, one on madison the thinker and the brilliant, brilliant, brilliant creator of the constitution and the astonishing degree of political sophistication and historical understanding and knowledge of human nature. because these guys were not sentimental. he was making a government for real people as they really are and not for prodigies of virtue. >> not for angels. >> if men were angels, we would need no government, he said in federalist 51. right? but, you know, and then the last chapter is about madison's presidency which, which you and i disagree about. i love your madison book. i can't tell you how many hours of pleasure it gave me. but i think that madison's presidency was a failure. i think that it was not --
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>> i didn't think it was that good. >> i understand. but i thought it was that bad and that it wasn't necessary to fight the war of 1812, and it wasn't necessary to come so close to losing it as we actually did. >> we certainly came very close to that. well, men are curious, so i'm going to open the floor to questions now, and i want to instruct you all that if you want to ask a question, they've got standing mics in the aisle. before you ask your question, say your name and, please, only ask one question. and also, you know, don't give a speech with a rising inflection at the end. [laughter] make it a real question. and we have, there are two staff members on hand to help you with these arrangements, so i'll start with this side. >> hi, my name is peter goodman.
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was the jefferson/hamilton antipath think based on philosophical -- [audio difficulty] >> it was philosophical for sure. although he never noticed that his agriculture was done for him the idea of a diversified economy and a bank and a funded national debt were just plain evil. so that was philosophical difference one. philosophical difference two had
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to do with the french revolution, and jefferson -- who was minister to france when the revolution broke out, who edited the declaration of the rights of man and the citizen for his friend, lafayette -- absolutely believed the french revolution, and he said, you know, i look -- >> he never bailed out. >> he never bailed out. and so many friends of his were killed. and so many friends of ours, so many of our allies in the revolutionary war. he said, you know what? i just look at them as casualties of war. and if there were one adam and one eve left in every country and that a republican adam and eve, that would be fine with me. so, and whereas hamilton thought it was mere anarchy -- near anarchy is and that terror was terror. >> okay. next here. >> bob ulrich. a comment and a question. >> question, please. >> okay. [laughter] the question is in studying the
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revolutionary war, it became clear to me that one of the biggest reasons for the start of the war was the way that the war, that the french and indian war ended. washington had done a lot of surveying as a young man out west. he knew the property. when the french and indian war ended, a lot of the officers were given major tracks instead of money. washington went around, bought up those properties. the proclamation of 863 made it illegal to develop it. my question is -- [laughter] did washington have a we could agenda in saying i want to be commander in chief? he could no longer use those lands, could he? >> well, i understand your point. but, no, that is not why he went to fight the revolution. what really, what the real result of the french and indian war was as sensible
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geopoliticians saw at the time was that it ended french power in north america and, therefore, america had no these of british protection anymore. and, therefore, war with england, some people felt, was only a matter of time because why should we let anybody boss us around? be because we don't need 'em. >> thank you. >> i'm george shay, and i'm wondering why you couldn't bring in robert morris who was so wealthy and so important, and then he wound up in debtor's prison. >> well, i'm just fascinated but robert morris, and i really, really wanted to include him. but he did not leave much in the way of writings behind him. there's --
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>> that's the problem with sam adams. >> yeah. >> i mean, clearly a seminal, major figure -- >> yeah. >> but the papers are gone. >> -- are gone. and morris' accounts are gone. so here was this great finding -- >> along with all of his money. [laughter] and everybody else's money. >> and everybody else's. there was -- including $40,000 of lighthorse harry lee that he'd lent him. so -- >> i think the figure was he owed 20 times more than he had? >> and he had, and wasn't he just about the richest man in the colonies -- >> yeah, at his peak. >> at his peak. so i agree, he's a fascinating figure, and if you could suddenly go into one of these houses and find a dusty leather leather-bound trunk in the attic and open it up and there would be morris' papers, that would be, oh, that would be wonderful. and i'd love to live to see it.
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>> my name is jim macken. you're, obviously, very impacted by the houses themselves of these great people. um, would you give us a reflection on the notion -- and it's almost that lockeian notion -- that property is the rightful creation or value of what you productively do, and did they understand that, do you think, in creating their houses? >> oh, yes. that's a very good question. and for washington, washington was always being condescended to in the french and end grab war -- indian war by british officers with royal commissions. he was just a colonial, you know, hayseed. and they never thought that he was worth anything. so he had this great issue with trying to show that he was just as much a gentleman as they were. so mount vernon was the outward
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man testation -- manifestation in the beginning of his inward ambitions to be that kind of a gentleman. however, and this is a very important however, late in the war a british sloop of war anchored off mount vernon. and his cousin, lund, who was managing the estate in the his absence, the british sloop of war anchored, took a bunch of his silver, took a bunch of his slaves, and his cousin lund went onboard with a slave bearing a tray of refreshments. to say can i resupply you, can i help you out. but won't you, please, give me back my cousin's silverware and slaves. washington writes to him and says you have to think of
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yourself as my representative, and i can't believe you did such a terrible thing. he said, you know, i fully expect that before this war is over i'm going to lose all my slaves, i'm going to lose all my houses, i'm going to lose everything that was there at mount vernon, and that's the price i'm willing to pay. well, so that is a noble man. >> and there's one fact that sticks in my mind about mount vernon was the english architect, i'm blanking on his name, who came to america late in the 18th century -- >> latrobe? >> benjamin latrobe. >> right. he writes this famous description of mount vernon. he describes it as a neat country gentleman's house of about 500 pounds a year. >> yes. >> and, of course, this is at the same time that jane austen
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is writing the first draft of ride and prejudice and mr. darcy has, what, 5,000, and mr. bingly has 10,000. so, i mean, these houses are beautiful houses, and they're impressive. but compared to english standards of wealth and pomp and circumstance -- >> they're little. they're tiny. and alan greenberg, the really wonderful classical architect who's practicing now and building buildings as we speak wrote a book called "the architecture of democracy" about american architecture. and, and he's absolutely right. i mean, these guys were building houses for republican gentlemen, not grantees. and if you compare each mount vernon to -- even mount vernon to, you know, some english great country house like zion house or
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houghton, it's tiny. it's really tiny. and if you go up -- i hope everybody will get on the train and go up to 141st street and look at hamilton's beautifully-restored house. but compared to, you know, compared to an english gentleman's house, that's a tradesman's villa. it's a teeny, teeny, teeny, little house. so these guys did have their ambitions, but they were not to be lords. >> that's right. any more questions? well, let's keep talking then. [laughter] you know, are you, are they going to let you into boston for sort of stopping your survey -- >> you know, i think what i'll tell them is i felt i had to wait for everybody to forget mccullough's book and forget the movie and that i intend to devote an entire book, in fact, five volumes of it to john
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adams. i didn't think of that, rick, until you reminded me that, oh, my god, i was going to go to boston, and i didn't want write about any single -- i didn't write about any single adams. do you want to come with me? [laughter] >> well, and they, the houses that survive, i mean, i'll just say the last one, the most recent one in time was peacefield which was the one that john and abigail after they came back. and that stayed in the family until the 20th century. so -- and the adams, i don't think, ever threw anything away. so if you go to peacefield, it's like, it's like an attic of american stuff. and there's stuff that you've seen in textbooks and biographies, or whatever. >> yeah. >> oh, wait, that's there, and you turn a corner, and there's that painting, and there's this and there's that. >> it's interesting, so many of these houses are houses that
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stayed in the family. so john jay's house was a really quite a simple villa like thousands and thousands of others -- >> and that's where? >> that's in katona. so just up the road in westchester. and -- but the jay family prospered, and they added on to the house. and, you know, the house is filled with generations worth of stuff. i mean, it's wonderful. and jay himself never threw anything away. so he has his hugh not grandfather's green card. [laughter] and you can see it. it's this parchment signed by royal governor don -- [inaudible] who became lord limerick allowing august jay to settle and do business in the royal colony of new york. i mean, it's just -- and it's
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got a little docket on the back, my grandfather's permission to stay in america. in john jay's neat little handwriting. >> and just let's leave with this, this was probably the most moving thing to me in the whole book, was the letter that he writes hamilton's father-in-law -- >> oh, i can't repeat it, because i'll cry. [laughter] >> okay. all right. you'll have to buy the book to read it. [laughter] [applause] >> thank you all. >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much, mr. kaiser and myron magnet. good evening, everyone. >> we'd like to hear 3r you. tweet us your feedback, >> pulitzer prize winning author alice walker presents a
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collection of personal and political essays, letters and poems. ms. walker opines on a range of topics from health care to the obama presidency for about 45 minutes. >> i'm very happy to see all of you. it's a wonderful evening to be in this city which i know of, unfortunately, through so many of your disasters. but i was thinking looking at the fountains there's a little one you have for the children and a bigger one for the adults. i was thinking, well, you know, where water flows, so can peace. and so the history that is so vivid for me of the bombing of the move people, of the imprisonment of -- [inaudible] that history is not the whole story, a


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