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tv   Joseph Ellis on The Quartet  CSPAN  November 26, 2015 8:48am-9:35am EST

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when the police officers get on the bus and asked her why she didn't move, she sends back why do you push us around? i do think rosa parks challenges in her body but with her voice the system of inequality in this country and she is arrested. >> host: the teaching of history, as children we learn rosa parks sat on the bus in the white section. this is what you write in your book "the rebellious life of mrs. rosa parks". the turn of the century reconstruction history tells us good black people as deferential and happy so too the incessant celebration of rosa parks as quiet and not a angry. >> guest: we learned about her. feet is celebrated and honored. on the other hand we hear about one day when rosa parks had a lifetime of activism both in
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montgomery but they have to leave montgomery in 1957 and she will spend the second half of her life as an activist in detroit fighting the racism of the jim crow no.. she will continue to do that, rosa parks will call malcolm x her personal hero, she will be active against the war in vietnam, she will be active against south african apartheid, showing a picture with my favorites in the book about an older rosa parks protesting outside the south african embassy, she will continue until the end of her by saying the struggle is not over, there is much injustice in this country and she will be resolved to keep fighting but yet the way rosa parks is taught is a problem we salt in the past but the actual rosa parks says there's much more work to be done. susan siegel >> host: how did you do the research on this book?
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>> guest: i had to do a lot of digging. i did all sorts of oral history interviews, in part because part of rosa parks's favors were caught up in a dispute over her stage, got the papers themselves, they languished in new york for a decade until this summer howard buffett made an incredible donation and gave them to the library of congress and in february they opened. they are remarkable. the library of congress is open to anyone who wants to visit, you could actually read letters between rosa parks and her husband and her mother and you can see her political writing, you can hear her voice talking about why she did what she did. i very much recommend that. >> host: spending more time at the library of congress. jeanne theoharis, "the
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rebellious life of mrs. rosa parks" is the name of the book. >> next joseph ellis provides a new look at the american revolution on booktv. [applause] >> we are very honored and privileged to have one of the leading authors and scholars of the revolutionary war period in our country, joseph ellis. joseph ellis is a person who grew up in washington, went to william and mary, then got his ph.d. at yale and spent most of his academic career teaching at college where he was dean of the faculty at one point and dow prof. and taught at williams at west point and university of massachusetts at amherst and on the side when he hasn't been teaching was writing best selling books, among them
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biographies of john adams, george washington, thomas jefferson, a book on thomas jefferson, american sphinx, won the national book award and his book on the revolutionary brothers, founding brothers, revolutionary generation won the pulitzer prize in 2001. he has written a book i have here, "the quartet: orchestrating the second american revolution, 1783-1789," for ten weeks on the new york times best-seller list, about what he would call the second american revolution, the revolution that began in 1787, not 1776 so let's get into that but before we do that, thank you for coming. why did you decide to focus your academic career and the revolutionary war period? you could have picked so many areas. >> i do seem obsessed, don't i? they asked willie sutton back in
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the 50s why do you rob banks? will be said because that is where they keep the money. the late eighteenth century is where they keep the ideas. the wellspring, the big bang, place where the values and institutions under which we continue to live as americans were created and in some sense they are like classics, what plutarch was to the founders the founders are to us. >> host: when did you come to this realization? college or graduate school? when did you say to your family i will spend my entire career focusing on these revolutionary war founding fathers? >> guest: i never said that. my wife says why i you doing this?
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when i was writing about jefferson she said you don't really like jefferson, you are not like him. i said i have red hair, i went to william and mary. i don't -- >> host: you are not a descendant of him. >> guest: i am not claiming to be one of jefferson's descendants, but the way historians work is you don't know what you are going to do when you start out. i started out thinking i was going to be a southern historian. things just involved and the guy that converted me to the founders was adams. once i got into the adams papers especially the family correspondence between john and abigail there was a universe there, a world i found so fascinating that i wanted to keep living in. >> host: what is so relevant
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about the founding fathers in 2015? >> guest: what is relevant? some things are irrelevant that i wish were not relevant, like there are members of the supreme court led by justice dalian and justice thomas, the interpretation of the constitution, what they define to be the original intent of the framers. i think that is a crazy idea that none of love framers would actually agree with. it is ironic that one of the only intentions' the framers shared was the notion that their intentions should not be used in that way. they are the fixed object
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against which we do exercises. >> host: we have deified our founders did it, washington, jefferson , adams, hamilton, hamilton is really big. [applause] >> host: in most areas of human conduct we have advanced, smarter in technology, why is it in statecraft or government we don't have any more washington, averages jefferson, are these people so unique that it is a once-in-a-lifetime thing? >> guest: when i am on book tour i ask the question of the audience called the wilkes bar question. the population of wolves bar is quite the size of the population
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of the white population of virginia in 1776. if we go down to the streets we walk the streets and look carefully, will we discovered george washington, thomas jefferson, james madison, george mason, patrick henry and john marshall? the answer is no. the one answer is they are there in late form, but you won't find them. there is a kind of crisis theory of leadership, leadership only comes into existence in times of great crisis. problem with that is we can think of a lot of great crises that don't produce great leaders but while is impossible to argue that the late 18th-century was a time when there was something special in the water back then,
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it was a crisis that managed to generate the most impressive group of political leaders the united states has ever had. they are all flawed, let's get this on the record, they are all flawed founders and if you look back there for perfection or for them to meet all our standards of racial justice and sexual equality were going to be disappointed. but this is the greatest call apologies to the guy that wrote the greatest generation, tom brokaw, this is the greatest political generation in american history. i can hide behind the observation of henry adams in the grant administration, said if you look at but list of american presidents from the beginning until now, you got to believe darwin got it exactly
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backwards. [applause] >> host: who was but one indispensable founding father? washington, adams, jefferson? >> guest: if one person had existed? >> guest: they functioned so well because they are a collective and there is a kind of build in checks and balances in the personalities, idiosyncrasies and ideologies of the respective founders. if you just had hamilton we go towards dictatorship. if you just had washington or just have jefferson we are moving towards anarchy. but there was one who is the founding guest father of all, they would have all agreed about it. if you ask franklin, hamilton, madison, adams they would all agree, washington was the
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greatest. because of his judgment. he wasn't as smart as some of them, hamilton was the smartest, he got the highest grades on the ls 80s, jefferson the best red, madison the most politically agile, adams was the most thoughtful about government. please. so each of them had particular .. strengths but they all said washington was indispensable. and he was. the most indispensable thing he ever did, which is what marks him as so different from all those revolutionary leaders is you walked away from power twice. he was indispensable because he made himself disposable. think about revolutionary leaders in history. julius caesar doesn't do it, albert cromwell doesn't do it, napoleon doesn't do it, stalin doesn't do it, mallory doesn't do it, castro doesn't still
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hasn't done it. the only one who has done it was the south african leader, he walked away. washington walked away. most important act of power he ever committed was to surrender power. he did it after the revolutionary war, surprised everybody by turning in his sport in mount vernon and after he was present after two terms he could have served a third term or life, just to terms to go back. >> host: the premise of your book. we have a revolutionary war, 1776, finally win the war 1783, treaty of paris, everyone goes back to their respective states. did the people who were then operating under the articles of confederation expects to be one country or 13 separate countries? explain the articles of confederation. when did that come about?
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>> guest: the 1780s is a kind of dead sound, somehow we declare independence in 76 and win this war which is a big deal against the greatest army/navy in the world and then after awhile there is this interregnum and we come together again to declare nationhood in 1787 and ratification the following year. abraham lincoln gives credence to us at of assumptions which are historically on -- inaccurate. the first clause, the first sentence of the most famous speech in american history says four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation. no they didn't. they brought forth a confederation of sovereign states provision of the united to win the war and then go their separate ways which is precisely what they did.
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the resolution for independence july 2nd which is always the date adam fought should be the national anniversary, july 2nd, 1776, the american colonies are and have every right to be independent states. think about the arguments we have been hurling against parliament for ten years. sovereignty rests with the respective colonial legislatures. the last thing the americans want to do is create a federal government separate from the states because that looks like a domestic version of parliament. they don't want to do that. the assumption most people have that there is this seamless natural evolution from 1776 to 1787 doesn't work. it is not true. you got to figure out a way to
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explain how you get from independence to nationhood, if in fact most people don't want it to happen. and they don't. if you took a poll, most people are born, live out their lives and die within a 28 mile radius. there is no, i know this is a surprise to some young people, there is no internet. they can't communicate. i am saying american history is headed in a particular direction after the war. it is headed for the european north american continent, headed towards a e.u. rather than a united states, is headed towards a confederation model. somebody changes the direction in which american history is headed. there is a reason lincoln has to falsify history in order to win
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the civil war for to justify because he claims the war that the union precedes the states, and the confederacy has a pretty good argument, mainly the confederacy chlamys the civil war is the second american revolution to win back their own sovereignty. it is in the end war about slavery. i am on that side with the confederate flag so don't get me wrong. we are not a nation in 76. patrick henry at the virginia ratifying conventions as opposing, he opposes the constitution. suppose we do this and virginia delegates in the senate and house all vote against a tax bill and it passes. then we have been taxed without our consent because he doesn't think that he is an american. he thinks he is the average union.
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jefferson fought that way too will he said i want to get out of philadelphia, don't want to write this document, i want to go back to my country, his country is virginia. so that somehow we got to explain how history is headed in one direction and changes and heads in a national direction. what happens is during the revolutionary war the colonies are governed by the articles of confederation which are put together to govern them through the war. the war ends, everyone goes back to their respective states, wash their hands of unity can the articles of confederation do not allow congress to tax. >> guest: states don't have to pay. voluntary thing. would you like to pay $1,000? i am sorry about that, that is the way it is. we are running a $40 million
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debt, someone said there are two modern miracles, one is einstein's theory of relativity, one is compound interest, and it is going to be $77 million by the time you get to 1787. we are a banana republic. we cannot pay our debts. there is no way we can do it and that is -- >> host: congress is not able to tax, there is no standing army and then recognizing this, a few people say this isn't working, two of those people with james madison and alexander hamilton and how did they come together to create something that would be different. what did they do in annapolis? in 1786, there is a recognition, needs to be coordinated among the states.
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new york is charging tariffs to new jersey and rhode island. wants to pay of money to expand the potomac, wants to get maryland and pennsylvania to contribute so they have this convention in annapolis with the limited purpose of trying to get some kind of agreement for interstate commerce among the states. it fails. five states show up. everybody has gone away by the time they get there. hamilton and madison have met each other before. they worked in the confederation congress together, hamilton from new york, madison from virginia and they are part of this. this, hamiltonian version of leadership is really great,
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dangerous as the dickens that really great. they have just failed even to get a quorum. hamilton writes a draft to be sent back to the confederation. all of us agree that we need to call a convention this second tuesday in may to address the larger question of rights and responsibilities within this large production of states that provides energy for a federal government. it would be as if a journeymen boxer had just been knocked out and had declared he was going to challenge the heavyweight champion of the world. that audacious form of leadership won hamilton's part. what happens, the triggers,
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makes more plausible such a convention two things. one, in my section of massachusetts, western massachusetts there is this uprising of farmers, really only 1800 guys who don't when to pay their mortgage and they want to vent that against boston. boston has always treated western massachusetts as a colony, they -- the whole water supply is like that. this is not manipulated, the serious crisis, madison thinks it is a conspiracy by the british coming down from canada to take over new england and blown out of proportion. and the need for reform becomes plausible again. the other thing, to join the
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team. >> they send this to congress under the articles of confederation. maybe they agreed for the convention. >> they replaced the articles the convention is charged with reforming the articles. they need to do something, coordinated foreign policy, massachusetts has its own policy. adams is over there as ambassador to the court of st. james, no one believes i can represent anybody because you don't have central government for me to represent. so yes, we clearly need to do something to reform the articles. there won't be a consensus about how much reform there should be but yes, reform we want to do. this is where what happens becomes close, the people who want to have the convention get
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together in the spring, washington, hamilton, madison and j. they say we will only be -- settle for not a revision of the articles but a total replacement of the articles which was a violation of their instructions. washington said i will not come out of retirement unless you promise me the we go for broke. if we don't go for broke is not worth it. risking my reputation and legacy and don't want to risk it for small potatoes and they promise and madison is the one who organizes the plans, the va plan which sets the agenda for the philadelphia convention. >> washington agrees by madison and hamilton to lend his prestige, they get to
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philadelphia, people show up, they have various times 55 or so delegates, they decide to have secrecy, no one knows what is going on. >> this is the rule, total secrecy, no press coverage allowed whatsoever, nobody can communicate with anybody outside the convention about what has occurred, can't write letters or anything like that much less twitter and one of the reasons a second convention can never work, do what this one did. 55 white males get together and decide the future of the country. you can't talk to them while this is occurring. >> they are in philadelphia, didn't know how long it would take but it started in may and went to september roughly. they are there for 90 days, madison and the virginia delegation have a plan to change the government. what is the essence of that plan? >> madison's plan, the va plan
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calls for a free prongs' government, the article isn't really -- it is that league of nations with congress that represents each state, every state has one vote. he says we take the model that each state has independently adopted of an executive branch, bicameral legislature, some states have single house legislatures and independent judiciary. that is the model for a national government. madison wants for there to be an article that allows the executive branch to veto all state legislation, and he also wants both houses of the congress to be based on representation, political, population rather than be state based.
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he loses both arguments. his notion of executive veto is dead on our arrival. the great compromise of the convention is so-called connecticut compromise for states in the senate by population in the house. hamilton, madison, and washington all regard that as a huge defeat. what they get is a compromise. one reason i find myself so insistently arguing a judicial velocity based on original intent impossible is nobody got what they wanted. that is to say that the intentions of both sides, those opposing the constitution and those supporting it had to be compromised and the result is a hybrid system that is part confederation, part nation.
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we don't become a nation in 1787. we have a foundation for a national government. as one historian nicely put it, the federal government they created is like the roof without walls. we still aren't a nation. i don't think we become a nation until the civil war. nationalism starts to reroutes head after the war of 1812. they create a federal structure which is partially based on states and partially federal and where that line is drawn, we can all disagree in peace about that. >> they reach an agreement after three months. they then have to send the agreement to someone to approve it, to the confederation congress to approve it, they ascended to the state conventions. what do they decide about the approval process? >> guest: in the document itself
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it specifies how they can be approved. it cannot just be approved by the confederation congress or the state legislatures. it must be approved by the elected ratifying collections selected in each state. that is their way of saying it has to go back to the people. it has to be ratified, a group solely there to vote on this. and late to this game, intractable in a place where massachusetts sens which is and quakers and crazy people, they are all down there in 1787 and won't even cooperate. nobody at the constitutional convention. they boycott the convention and ratification process. >> host: ratification means nine states.
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>> guest: is another illegality. according to the articles, for the articles to be modified it requires the unanimous vote. they say and they say this in the document, this will be approved if nine states ratify. to give them authority to do that? nobody. they know if it is unanimous it will never pass. it goes right out, the against everything and they make it nine the and the whole strategy for ratification, not enough americans know about this, there is a sequence of states that have their meeting this and they will vote, 1,638 delegates in 13 states will meet and argue about this, if we can get to nine there are certain states it is going to be tough, rhode island, new york, virginia is going to
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be tough because you have patrick henry on the other side but if we can get to nine it is over and they will have to come in. the other states have to come in so they're trying to get to nine and virginia looks like it will be the ninth state. >> at the end of the constitutional convention three delegates, two from virginia and one from massachusetts refuse to sign because there's no bill of rights. is that a big issue in the ratification? >> guest: it is the biggest critique, the document should have had some kind of bill of rights. every state convention concludes some version of this. madison -- madison, hamilton, jay wright the federalist papers which are the most important -- >> total of 85 of them? >> 85, madison wrote 29, hamilton wrote 51, jay wrote the others, j. got hit in the head
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by a rock in the beginning, defending hospital that was being attacked by at mob in new york because they claimed they were doing work on cadavers which people felt was the bad thing. he got hit in the head, couldn't cooperate but j. if you wear an investor in american statesman, go long on john j.. his reputation is going to go up not just because i have written about him favorably, but his papers are being published and all of a sudden we see a luminous presence, serenity, incredible correspondence with his wife and he is a formidable figure, when washington becomes president, he goes to jack, john jay, he says what do you want to do? any office you want is yours.
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everyone thinks he will go to hamilton first, no. he will go to jefferson first, he is that prominent a figure. >> didn't take y position. >> he wants to the head of the supreme court. big mistake. >> host: ratificatio o would have preferred to say we don't like the article and we liked them to be changed but we don't really like the full changes of the constitution. that option is not available to them. why? madison controls this. he says you can make recommended amendments but they cannot be mandatory. you either vote this up or down,
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yes to the constitution o are n. that's the only choice you've got. if you vote it down we are back to the articles. you can recommend amendments, if you do, this is what the bill of rights is going to get made, we will take them under consideration but you cannot make them mandatory. >> so the constitution is ratified. the ninth state was new hampshire and actually virginia came next but whenever ratified there was a requirement. why did madison feel that in the first congress he should go back and draft a bill of rights? >> great question. this is like a setup question. [laughter] the bill of rights, the american magna carta. partly because it comes at the end, it's a separate legal codicil if you will about the right. there's a lot of people, jefferson included, thinks the bill of rights is more important in a document called the
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constitution. a lot of americans think that way now, too. that's not the way madison thought about. madison thought we've got to add a bill of rights to take some of the recommended amendments that have been proposed by six states. there are about 128 amendments. a lot of them are repetitious. he takes 128 of them. there's some of those amendments, all six states that make amendments make the following recommendations in one form or another. we don't want to pay taxes and we don't want to have to pay. [laughter] he says, deep six about one. [laughter] we're going to just edit that write out. but for example, four of the states say we are really scared of a standing army and we need some legal protection from the possibility of that tyrannical
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presents. listen up. that's we get the second amendment. the second amendment is an attempt to assure the voters in those states that wanted this the american national defense would be in the hands of militia rather than enhance of a professional federal army. the right to bear arms, derivative rights from service in the militia. that's the way the courts have always seen it until citizens united, excuse me, d.c. versus heller 2008. >> in the first congress madison goes back and forth with the house and senate. they trapped these amendments. 12 amendments are agreed to by the house and the senate. they send them to the states. how come there's only 10 in the bill of rights? >> two of them don't make the ratification process. it's a super majority process in
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both houses of congress and super majority in states. it's really hard to ratified an amendment. it's really tough. it's almost impossible to get a constitutional amendment now. >> one other did get approved later. let me ask you two final questions people ask questions from the gas. one, what happened to the other founding fathers in this process? where is adams? where is jefferson and where is benjamin franklin? >> benjamin franklin is there in philadelphia. he's dying and he is carried by six very husky pressure so the philadelphia jail into a recession. he's one of the few delegates that makes every session. most of the things he says has to be spoken by his fellow delegate from pennsylvania, james wilson. and he is there any gives a very eloquent statement at the end
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about what he thinks about what the constitution means. adams is in london, the first american ambassador to the court of st. james. supposed luther were appointed ambassador to the vatican, okay? [laughter] that's what it's like for adams to be in london, okay? [laughter] b and jefferson is blissfully present in paris at this time,ip american ambassador there. ambassador there. that is probably lucky because if jefferson were here based on everything he says later, he would have probably opposed the constitution. >> he thought a constitution should last 20 years in redoing every 20 years. >> guest: madison spend all those years trying to get it through in the first thing jefferson says is all constitutions should go out of
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existence every 20 years. >> host: if you could have dinner with any one founding father who would it be and what question would you want to ask that one founding father? >> guest: my favorite founding father is adams. not just because i have been a massachusetts man but because he is the most garrulous and outspoken. he will tell me the truth. he will tell me what he is really thinking and what he feels towards the other. the question i would ask him now is john, now that you are sitting up in heaven, what do you really think of from. .. this process was kind of come
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you said only nine of the 13 had to ratified. what did they think would happen to the remaining four states? did they say do their own thing? you said rhode island or whatever actions never joined. >> eventually all the states has ratification process happen. ener states. did they say do your own thing? you said they never actually joined. eventually a. >> eventually all this dates had it happen. they could do do it correctly with the pressure to join. if virginia hadn't ratified, even if nine states had, that would've caused a major problem. i don't know if the unit could have functioned without virginia. it is virginia. it is the largest staple the new land, economy, population. they assumed that if you get to nine. the pressure will build. new york was 321 opposed to ratification. george clinton was opposed, there's no way to win a debate,
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the only way to win was kicking and screaming because they had no choice. by the way, hamilton was part of the new york debate says, if you don't come in, i'm going to get new york city to succeed and join connecticut. [laughter] >> one of the problems was also that there's three delegates to the constitution, to work put in supporters and against the constitution. so hamilton had no influence, because every state had one vote he be outputted every time. >> as you mentioned the genius of the constitution is to change and deal with different issues at different times. do you think the founders would be shocked by the fact that today, we find it hard to pass amendments of the constitution and have to go through the supreme court for every issue. more often,. >> that's a loaded question.
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i think there is some consensus that the current legislation is dysfunctional. i think it is also pretty much a bureaucracy, i don't think the founders can be blamed for this. one way you could blame them, this this is where you are blaming madison although, we don't have a parliamentary system. that is to stay, you can have a president elected and you can have another party controlled both houses of congress, as it does now and that makes for divided government. there's a believe in checks and balances that seems to be somewhat a stumbling block. i would argue, the major reasons for dysfunction are not
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themselves and for the function of the structure of the constitution, it's what by and large, we have done to it up here in the 20th and 20% true. the filibuster is unconstitutional, especially the form in which it is taken, and the rule by the speaker of the house may not report a build if the parties. >> you may go into a little more detail but what would the founders think about the current state of the united states senate. with the popular election of senators but the role that says
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one senator creates his or her hand and now creates 60 votes to pass any item of substance. >> their differences of opinion back then about the role of the senate. i think if madison would think the way in which the filibuster has evolved in which you just described is a violation of what he intended and he should be put before the supreme court and rendered it possible the judgment, in keeping keeping with his intent in this case, that form, a silent filibuster is unconstitutional. >> thank you very much i have read a lot of your books. in page 185 you five you mentioned veterans in your new book to tea parties. basically with that in mind,
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when i think of the u.s. constitution, i also think think of the age of enlightenment. , do you think basically that we need a new style, a new change in government right now, i don't think we would be able to get it. you mentioned maybe today, your. >> your question is what. >> today's lobbyists and the executive orders do we need to do something today relative to the constitution and the way it is structured? >> oh. i'll pick something out of your question to answer.
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the larger answer is we are only 320 million from success in that regard. the tea parties real origins are not with the tea party of the revolution. remember the original tea party is protesting the fact that it doesn't have any right because parliament is taxing without their consent because they don't have representatives in parliament. the anti-federalist say, were being taxed without our consent even though we have representatives. the reasoning is they don't trust the big government. they don't trust any large federal government far from their own borders and their own neighborhoods. that is the real political origin of the tea party mentality which is a constant


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