tv Joseph Ellis American Dialogue CSPAN December 2, 2018 8:00am-8:57am EST
here if you have them. >> we have copies of the book available at a register. please form a sideline to the right of the table and please fold up your chairs. thanks. [inaudible conversations] [applause] >> thank you very much for that wonderful, wonderful introduction, unsung we are. so thank you all for being here. by then listen to me i want to
jump in and get as many questions from this really deep dive kind of book as they can so we need to get your wonderful questions, to be phrased as questions. i've also told this is the first stop on your book to her, so that is both delightful and terrifying for me. [applause] >> that means i will not have heard this before so i will not be ready for them. [laughing] we are all about the catchy questions here. the beginning is a great place to start. like to talk about the title of this book, about how this dialogue is occurring, why the site you being one of the foremost experts come you believe it's open the middle we return to the truth, complexities and even contradictions of the founding fathers. >> that's a large question. i will try to give you a succinct answer.
we don't want to talk to each other anymore. we don't know how to argue with each other anymore, and at seen in my lifetime, the apps do that. you think that the internet would be a source of communication it's become a source of isolation. the more i i look at it, the me of the term better angels of our nature looks like a naïve idea. so we list any trouble time when we are divided and people watch box or msnbc and you listen to the different apps, and you have to be very mindful that you're talking to this audience rather than that audience. and the kind of civic center that this institution embodies is really rare, a place where
people of different persuasions and background and race and income can come together on equal terms. so in some sense the title of the book means we need to learn how to talk to each other, but we need most to learn how to argue with each other. in the end the founders succeeded in part because they were a diverse group, not racially diverse, but intellectually and temperamentally and ideologically diverse. the picture of the american revolution of the american and is not a simple portrait. it's a group portrait, a collective. if jefferson alone was in charge we would've ended up in an anarchy. hamilton were in charge we
would've ended up in an autocracy. in the same way there's checks and balances allegedly built into, really built into the constitution, checks and balances built into the generation and they could argue. the greatest example of this is the final correspondence between adams and jefferson between 1812 and 1826, the north and south poles of the american revolution. begin by saying you and i ought not to duck into we've explained ourselves to each other. so there's a model back there -- ought not to die -- the founders went back, i'm going back to jefferson, madison, hamilton -- not hamilton. i know, i should do hamilton would be commercial advantage. my granddaughter said why not?
washington, who is the of the person i -- jefferson, adams, madison in washington. historians are not supposed to do this, okay? historians are not supposed to subconsciously pose questions of the past formed in the present. it's called presentism. that's a sin. everybody is doing it, and i'm joining them. [laughing] >> i'm very happy you did. let's go back to the figure you mentioned. it's always auspicious we have historians of this time in philadelphia, perhaps you particularly. thomas jefferson wrote the declaration of independence at seventh and market streets. he and that document are such
quandaries to us. i keep going back to the same words when you read the book paradox and irony and all you think so. >> at that is what comes to come on winning, yes. >> will you discuss the paradoxes of jefferson in that document at length in the book. can you elaborate on what confounds us so? >> that's a biggie. on seventh and market street on the second floor apartment on a portable desk built by a former slave in the middle weeks of june 1776, jefferson wrote the magic words of american history, one that begins we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable right and among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. this is the american creed.
it is the cataclysmic foundation for the liberal tradition in the united states. it is the reason why, you have supreme court justices especially when testifying say that i'm just an umpire. i just call balls and strikes. i say to them comfortable, baseball that exist in 1787. second, the strike zone has been expanding over the last 200 years, and it has been expanding in terms of what those words mean. gosh knows we could talk a lot about that. that's a whole seminar. but jefferson simultaneously firmly believed that blacks and whites could not live together in the same society, and the reason why he couldn't lead america towards a gradual
emancipation policy and had the opportunity that when he was president with the louisiana purchase is he genuinely believed that once the slaves were free they had to be sent somewhere else. he could not envision a biracial society. any biracial society, in his judgment, would become a society that corrupted the purity of the anglo-saxon race. that's what he thought and he never assumed a leader position on slavery because he played that until we could come up with a plan to support them, initially thought the american west company said no, that's not good. that's what we will put native americans. liberia may be the best, the craving, santo domingo probably.
and that's the last word. he never changed his mind on this. that's the reason he's so important because we are encountering in this moment a society, and american society in which the significant minority of americans share the same prejudices that he did. the arc of the moral universe said, martin luther king, tens towards justice. that's true, we don't live in the moral universe. we live in the united states. and in my judgment, i devote to chapters to this, the chapter on race is called fighting backlash, so the pattern according to the liberal view is gradual improvement over time. that's true but this is the real
path, and we are in the moment. we are down here. a a significant portion of the american populace has never accepted full implications of the civil rights movement. not just people in the former confederacy, and this is ripe stuff. as we approach 2045 and the white population then is scheduled to become a statistical minority, even though we retain the bulk of the economic and political power, we can fully expect demagogues, this is little ground for demagoguery. trump is just the first. in the end he was right, but getting there will be hard. and the struggle.
and like cancer, will keep getting better but we will never cure it. >> this leads to my next. you know it's can be something -- that starts with the last line from a great gatsby. it's populated by great thinkers, great minds between then and now. the one i i was most fasten it with you citing, it's james baldwin. how do you see him as the most important, i want to say, i was trying to phrase this as a counterforce but that doesn't sound quite correct, but how do you the in conclusion of -- >> baldwin is a weird choice. he's been dead for generation and in his time he was dismissed as an uncle tom and at from
whites as a radical. as as a gay guy also dismissed n those grounds and he was an ex-patriot. he lived in paris last or lastf his life although actually we hired him about mount holyoke for the last five years of his life. the three black eyes of the most interesting on the race question were baldwin, wb2 boys and a sociologist at harvard -- w.e.b. du bois, william julius wilson. what baldwin does it say something that i think was truly prophetic. this was in one of the notes of the native son in 1955. he said well, the great achievement and challenge of american history has been the creation of a democracy and a
continent sized population. that challenge pales in comparison to the challenge still faced of sharing that democracy with black men. he should have said it -- what he's saying is the belief in the interracial, biracial, interracial society is reasonably recent. it's an mid-20th century american idea. none of the founders could have imagined. jefferson included, most specifically and given the fact he was having this relationship with sally makes it even more hypocritical it seems. but baldwin, partly because he was gay and he could occupy
different sides of gender and the racial identities, and because he was an ex-patriot, these to say things like blacks going back to africa is crazy blacks are americans and the americans assault the racial problem before the french will. go back and read notes of the native son and it's got stuff in there that really speaks to us. >> let's talk about john adams. >> my favorite guy. >> i know it. it shines through. so precedent, so canonized by us. speaking as one of the 99% so much interesting material to say about income inequality knew something i don't think we necessary think about. he said it was ludicrous to believe that all men are
actually created equal, and you mentioned the irony of a slaveholder from virginia lecturing a farmer son from massachusetts. can you discuss this irony, the discussion they had and what he saw as a problem? >> yes. adams has come back in a scholarly work in the liquid because his papers coming out and he's selling himself to be most interesting and fully revealed founder. in the washington diaries, it's about the weather. so the last day of his presidency and you think he's leaving public life, what are the great thoughts he's got? washington. april 2, 1770 -- 7096, a day like day like all days, 25 degrees centigrade, you know? that's it.
for adams the ellis talks about whether inside his own soul, about the storms inside himself. that's the major reason he has come back, plus the barter fees and all that but there are other reasons we should find it interesting and that's what jason is referring to. he's the only one of the founders that are dicks the gilded age. -- predicts the gilded age parties on one of the found this has equality in the market place will be to inequality socially and politically. he's based on reading adam smith and he thinks the scottish philosophers are more important and more interesting in the french philosophers who are jefferson's guys. the french philosophers are dominated by ideology, which is a term that they coined.
what is ideology? adam says science is non-coppice -- what he says is its the delusion because you can imagine something in your mind, it's possible in the world. this is the delusion that leads to the guillotine and a firing squad, okay? he believes everyone comes into the world as equal in terms of human beings with rights, but they come with fundamentally different abilities, with different opportunities and, of course, that's true and that's going to lead in a way that jefferson can't anticipate to aristocracy of wealth. because the americans don't have natural aristocracy in the way that britain and europe does, the american aristocrats the will be a plutocracy. of it will take over the government and
once that happens it will be difficult to dislodge it. guess what. we are there again. he doesn't have an answer his answers are curious. you have all the aristocrats in the senate. they will be ostracized there he said. that's when they have power, for god's sake. but he says one thing is not an answer, what we would call supply-side economics. [laughing] trickle down will not work him as if we need to be told, right? although there are a lot of people in america that apparently continued to believe it, but once you income inequality in major ways, you will have a talker cpaa we have it. people in congress, both parties, those especially the republicans, but both parties,
their primary constituency is the voter. it's the donor. that's true. and you know, when the second amendment, they're talking about legislation after sandy hook, and 90% of the americans wanted limitations on handguns and stricter background checks. you can you can't get 90% to agn anything. it never had a chance. and are a money. never had a chance -- nra money. athens said sees that. adams is my kind of guy also because he's a contrary in. when things, and he said things like the greatest thing ever did as president was lose election of 1800. because i lost it because i did the right thing.
i avoided war with france. i knew if i did that i would lose the election. how many politicians today we do the right thing when it would cost him the election? i can't think of a single one, and even the one from north dakota, she was going to lose anyway, okay? but it is assumed that you as a candidate or as a congressman or senator have to have your own reelection as the highest priority. none of the founders would understand that all. they would think, if that's the case, count me out. none of them went for president in this congress. it's a prostitution, as far as they are concerned. >> one of my favorite lines in the book you say adams is most relevant when he is most irreverent. i truly love that. i could unless he spent the next hour talking about your
thoughts, welcome his thoughts as you have listed the near that there's a couple of the topics i want to get into and what is so incendiary and so of this moment. >> i know where this is going. >> the concept of originalism as it pertains to interpretations of the constitution in the bill of rights by our supreme court, which that's in the news. can you talk about this notion of originalism and especially as it pertains to one supreme court justice? >> you're not talking about really most recently appointed one, i hope? >> no. i'm talking about the gary departed one. >> mr. scalia. >> yes. >> i have two chapters on the law. the guy in the law, the founders
side is madison and i followed his grip of them to 85-1790 come his mental process as he is to finish concrete and defending and drafting the bill of rights. but nobody called the bill of rs then. it wasn't called the bill of rights until the 20th century. it was called the first ten amendments. madison didn't think they should go with him. he tried to put them in to the document come to kramden in and then he couldn't do that because he couldn't figure out where to put it. and he didn't believe in it. he said they have no affect on, if democratic majority want to do something they will override these paper principles. the reason i'm doing this is to encourage the people who are reluctant to join the new nation, confederation us or anti-federalist. that we're trying to fold them
in. they wanted the bill of rights. originalism is a judicial doctrine that was first created by robert bork at chicago in the '70s, and chicago is a school which believes in the great books, something i like, but this is an application of the great books philosophy to the law, and that the constitution is equivalent of the ancient greek text, and the eternal truths are buried there, if we can find them. this would be a judicial doctrine that would have enjoyed some brief measure of success in elite law schools for a period of time and can be replaced by some more fashionable theory. but it stuck because it became a weaponized, a weapon, a
weaponized doctrine to undermine the liberal principles of the presidents of the 20th century court. because the originalism claim, originally they claim that the original intentions of the framers have died and now their change it to the original meaning. the difference between those things is more verbal than real. what they're saying is they want to recover the mentality of the people at that moment. this to me is utterly preposterous. it's not sort of, well, i don't completely agree. this is like, are you kidding me? you are on my turf and you can't play here.
you don't know what they were saying. you haven't read it. this is all a device. and i do a close analysis of scalia is opinion and d.c. versus heller, which he regards as his masterpiece of originalism and i suggest it's a labyrinthine trip through alice in wonderland. there is a kind of law school history that's interesting. remember, if you're a lawyer you are given your client. your job is to mount the evidence that supports your client and suppress the evidence that is a bad. that's what scalia does. historians can't do that. you are not allowed to do that here historians are on the one
hand, or on the other hand, and paradox and irony. doesn't have to come out about it, yes, no, guilty, , not. it should in fact. and so it's like debaters, who can land on a triple word score. and read the book and you'll reach your own conclusion with it. in my judgment the doctrine of originalism is a doctrine which claims to be the only detached approach to the constitution. and it is, in fact, the most ideological prejudiced of all. >> again, and irony that jefferson refuted that in his own lifetime, correct? >> yeah. a letter in 1860 which he says for you to try to do what we did or to use our words would be
like a man trying to wear a coat that he will as a child. the constitution should be redone every generation. >> i would like to get to one more of these figures before we get to your questions. who i think is so elusive, enigmatic, inscrutable and purposefully so by himself and that's george washington. one of my favorite things you write is there are no words written on the washington monument very tellingly. [laughing] he had his wife earned his papers and yet very few close confidants. >> just letters, not the whole papers. >> right. what i found so much, i think a lot of us who are interested in
this time of washington's farewell address but there's material in there that if you learn more about the context, takes on all of these new layers the first architect of american foreign policy was george washington. can you talk about how he is specifically addressing that in the farewell address and the experience that made led into ? >> the farewell address is a a document that achieves a certain level of iconic stature of the course of the 19th century as the prescription for american isolationism. america should have commercial relation with all the world but diplomatic relations with none. that the future for america is the west. it's not across the atlantic in europe. it's the opening up of this unbelievable continent which happens to be occupied by about a million native americans.
and washington thinks about that, and i'll answer questions about that, but that particular verdict was based on geographic and demographic considerations in the realist tradition. washington is a realist. jefferson is an idealist. washington believes that interest drives decisions. that's the reason why the jay treaty, he abandons the french. the french saved our bacon in the american revolution. that wasn't then, this is now. we sell them out, 1796. our interest has shifted. and for jefferson, ideals all the reality and, of course, once you pursue that far enough you end up at the guillotine. washington's prescription for isolation dies in the late 19
century and early 20th century when we move from a rural to urban economic power. as we walk away from global power status, what happens but the rise of hitler and mussolini, fascism. so we know as historians that that doesn't work but if you attempt to apply jefferson's realism to our situation now, the verdict i offer you and you can argue with this is that we are perfectly positioned as a superpower. no other superpower exists between the atlantic and the pacific can go both ways. and in an -- sorry, in a global world, isolation is impossible. it doesn't exist anymore. the question is not whether we will be a superpower, but what kind of superpower we were going to be. and on that score, and i will quickly come there are a couple
things washington has to tell us. one, remember, , we began as an anti-imperial power. people would ask what is on the road on washington biography, what would washington do about iraq? i said, first of all, he would know where iraq was. secondly, he would say how did we get to be the british? okay? secondly, we are the first republic with the democratic foundation, a republic believes that the ultimate answer is consensus. and empire believes the ultimate answer is coercion. a republic cannot be an empire. yet we sort of art. what does that mean? because we are a democracy, a a clock is one of all american
commitments abroad. and eventually they will lose favor. and exceptionalism to washington means exactly the opposite of what exceptionalism means to most people know. now it means god takes care of men, women, and children and the united states and we are the chosen people. washington said no, , precisely because we have a unique set of conditions when we started, the land that we had, the distance. our experience is not transportable to other countries. in his time he meant france, but in our time he would mean the middle east. anybody that thinks they will plant jeffersonian seeds of democracy in the sense of the middle east needs to have his or her head examined. that's not going to work. in certain places of the world that will not work and we should not try, and we should know
that. for him, city on a hill is a good idea. perfection of our own society as a model of the world rather than attempt to promote it by military power. >> i have two more questions. very quickly and then we will get to yours. one, it's both a delightful anecdote and to think it's very telling to today that, and kind of leads to my second question about how we tend to a lot of since their death and an old-time of cast these meghan markle but it's important to note that george washington himself was a victim of fake news. could you talk about that a little? it is so crazy and raunchy and fun in the book. >> in the second term he was criticized, the major newspaper of the republican opposition was -- jeffersonian party, benjamin
franklin said washington, we have uncovered secret papers, which turned out to be forgeries, that he was a british spy throughout the war. [laughing] and that he was intending to turn on us, but benedict arnold beat him to the punch. these were actually british documents that they distributed to try to undermine washington. in his farewell address, it's called -- of a sick mind. we devoutly pray for imminent death. this is washington, right? there's all kinds of crazy things going on then as well as there is now. fake news. it's a bitter party warfare in the 1790s. it's a bitter party warfare.
the internet has made things more come has given greater range to this than existed then, but i don't think they would be that surprised at fake news. or what's called that. and in that sense what makes them helpful to us is while they are really different, they are not totally different. there's enough there for us to see ourselves in and to learn from. washington, what i just said before, is we can't stop being a world power. the current president will never have that happen. we are the number one economic and military power in the world. nobody is even close. our geographic position is --
but what kind of world power we are. >> man, philadelphians have never taken it easy on people. benjamin franklin's grandson. my last question before we get to yours, it comes up time and again in the book, and i was briefly mentioning it. the mythologizing of these men in their lifetimes afterwards turned into, you know, shown us in marble. adams and washington in particular a shoe that come and i think in this book you don't struggle. you very beautifully turned them back into flesh and blood peopl people. you can answer this question as an historian for you personally, why do you think important to turn these people back into flesh and blood?
>> because if they are really gods, what happens, what can we learn from them? if that's what they are, none of us, i've never seen anybody here who has and i know i'm not. the fact that they are flawed figures that what makes them truly important and relevant, and that people whose struggles we can learn from. it is probably inevitable that all the nation's create mythical heroes. rome has romulus and remus. england has king arthur and spain has el cid. the differences all those are fictional characters. these guys are real, and they cared so much about the fact that we would be thinking about them, they would imagine that the free library and october of 2018 would have a couple hundred people sitting there talking about them. they were the audience -- you
are the audience, we are the audience they were performing four. they didn't believe in life after death, many of them. washington didn't. instead. franklin circuit didn't. adams said if we can ever be shown, my advice to every man, woman and child on the plan is to take opium. [laughing] >> that is a wonderful time to take your questions, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] i believe the great majority of you know how this works. we have two volunteers, and with microphones. you raise your hand, i will choose this gentleman first and please keep your questions brief so we can get as many as possible. go ahead. >> you indicated that jefferson to did arrive late and a biracial society. if you would --
>> he created just the society at monticello. >> look at every president between lincoln and eisenhower, and do you any of them actually bleed in a biracial society, and if they take steps towards achieving? >> the only one is truman. that's the only one. >> okay. other hands? the cheltenham and waving his hand over there. do we have somebody over on deck, next question? over here first. >> i suspect you think citizens united distorts the political process. if you agree with that and given the new makeup of the court, what's the workaround to get us back on track? >> it's really simple. we really need 100 million frontal lobotomies. [laughing]
i think that citizens united is probably the worst supreme court decision since dred scott. it won't be overturned until we face a crisis that forces us to reconsider certain assumptions that are rooted in capitalism, which i believe in capitalism by the way, okay? and by the way, socialists, any use of government power is often described as socialist by specially people on the right. as casey single said, you can look it up. socialism is government ownership of the means of production. it means the end of private property.
there are very few socialists, including bernie sanders and the united states. what they're talking about is regulating capitalists. i think that leadership only emerges in crisis. that doesn't mean it will emerge if there is a crisis, but it won't what one. and the crisis i see is climate change. and i think that's coming faster than we knew and it's going to force us to face things that will make citizens united look like something that is obviously the wrong direction. but if i was to predict, i've never said this before and i just realized i think this. [laughing] i think we are going to respond
to climate change the same way we responded to slavery. it was way to end it if we caught it early by the early 19th century, by 1820. once it got past that, the cotton kingdom was too valuable, too many slaves. and then that meant the war. i think that's what's going to happen on climate change. we are going to know too late and then it's really going to be evacuated the coasts. and i don't know how that plays out after that. >> you thought my questions were tough. there was a gentleman there with -- >> i made that question up on his question what i hope he doesn't mind that. okay, thank you. >> thank you. i wish everybody could listen.
you mentioned these gentlemen were addressing us as an audience. i'm not sure that's accurate in context because you can't talk jefferson without calendar. could you comment further with that getting all the way down to fake news? >> yeah, he's talking about people that wrote about them at the time. what i'm saying is that they left us a legacy of writing. because they knew we would be here, they preserve their work, their writing and letters and with almost no other political leaders and record history has done. we had the fullest record than any other group in recorded history. the adams papers are in 87 volumes. washington papers, 70 some i think. we know much about them. they can't come to us. they are busy being dead.
[laughing] but we can go to them because they left it there. okay? and so a a woman can go back ad read abigail adams arch 31st, 1776 letter and start to think about feminism as something that's serious and wishy feminist. in that sense they still speak to us. they speak to us in the documents they left us, and that's really important. >> speaking of that perspective i would like to get -- right there. >> i wonder if you would speak a little on how you wrote this book? obviously, you are a contemporary aspect of it is a little bit different than your historical one. it you just sit and room and think about it, or did you go out and talk to a lot of people involved in the more pressing
contemporary issues? >> i wrote it in this way. [laughing] with a pen, not a quill pen. i don't write on a typewriter. you're right, there's a difference between the chapters, then chapters are with material are well known, , i mean, i read all of the founders papers i'm writing about. when you move into now, you are into journalistic territory. and what i try to do is write about them historically to see the patterns of race over time, the patterns of the law, for example. and so i wrote, attempting to write about the present with a historians assumptions. i talked to a lot of people who are journalists, friends of mine
who worked on the "new york times," the blog of the new republic which no longer exists. but mostly i read stuff. if you want to know about what's going on out there, a new yorker book called the unwinding. that's right, george baker, is it? packer, excuse me, yes. i have early alzheimer's another new yorker writer, dark money come is really -- that's just, but then a lot about this and there's bibliographies in the book on what i read. but i but i struggled with it. that is, my process of thinking is i digestion process that comes with reading and then
trying to write and then going back to read more at it's a struggle. this is a struggle for me in a way that some of my other books were not. you know you're working with stuff that is very contemporary. even though our nose is up against the window and land right now, i want to step back and say trump is important because he's an airburst in the night that is showing us who we really are here and i started working on this before trump was a name throughout the land in 2014. so that the racial problems, the economic inequality problems, the problems with the law. i mean, i didn't go into stuff like let's get rid of the electoral college. they would have been amazed we still have the electoral college. they thought it was a disaster the day after they did it, and
it was a compromise. let's figure out a way to equalize voting in the senate. north and south dakota have four senators. the total population in north and south dakota is less than los angeles. figure that out. we need a second constitutional convention. the founders would be a maze that this thing has lasted as long as it has. madison said, writing in 1829, the last for another 100 years it will be a miracle. i think if it ended in 1929 like during the depression. though it's impossible to imagine a second constitutional convention almost everything i want to have happen is impossible to imagine. okay? i want to have mandatory national service for everybody between 18 and 25.
[applause] if only we could control the congress we would get it through. there's a bunch of things like that, but we are in that kind of moment. i expect to see leadership over the next five years come from outside mainstream politics. martin luther king could are never been elected. anybody in mainstream politics now is going to eventually be swallowed up by the plutocracy. >> let's get a few more perspectives. towards the back. i saw you don't use research assistance so take that you lazy -- who recite on -- who rely on poor graduate students. >> i don't how to supervise them. they say what should i look at? i don't know what i look at it
myself. [laughing] one time i discovered come washington sent general howe his dog confound his dog from a greyhound on the battlefield and send it back. i thought if i had a research assistant they would have never found that sucker. they would have never noticed it. so there are things like raisins in the dough that you, that's what you read, that's what you do research for. >> to be fair that would've been the one tail i told you. >> i want to ask the question you invite about washington's view of the rest of the continent and the role of native americans and the future of thi this. >> washington was born into a world in which indians were a big thing. native americans were powerful. he understood native americans better than any of the other founders. when president, and this is
something a lot of people don't know, and i don't know how they can -- people right about the presidency of washington don't even talk about it. washington made a native american question is major domestic policy issue in the first term of his presidency. he wanted to negotiate a treaty with the native americans with certain tribes that would create a series of homelands east of the mississippi that would avoid indian removal. he thought indian removal was a violation of the values on which the revolution were based. his old artillery commander, henry knox, was prompting him on this. if you don't do it right, and avoid indian removal, it will be
a stain on your legacy and the people at the free library will not come to hear a lecture about you. [laughing] and so they created this treaty with a guy who was a chief was an amazing character. there's a scene where these native american chief come all the way up from georgia in europe and there's like 27 of them. they live next to abigail and john in vinegar and honorary creek indian. they sign this treaty and its arm to elbow and it's like the only moment of real possibility of american indian relations. and it doesn't work because you can't enforce it. the states of georgia and south carolina simply will not recognize the indian rights.
what washington foresaw was a series of homelands east of the mississippi that would be bypassed by an american settlers. you couldn't -- they would be protected by american troops and overtime those settlements would grow smaller and eventually over the century they would be assimilated. jefferson never thought that blacks could be assimilated. he thought indians could be assimilated. he made a heroic effort, washington did, and it failed. the biggest failure of his presidency and he regretted it to the end of his life. he said the only way to make it work is to build a chinese wall. before there was trump's wall there was washington's wall to protect the indians, okay, but you know, it failed.
>> we have time for one more question and since they were not listen to in that era, i would like the last question to be from a female perspective. >> there's a woman right there. >> raise your hand. >> we had a couple women's questions. >> we did. >> given your general pessimism, what makes you feel that the ark of the moral universe bends toward justice? >> there we go, , we needed that after tonight. >> given my pessimism on many issues as i articulated here, what makes me think the art of the moral universe bends toward justice? [laughing] my book inns with a quote from de tocqueville. it is his last lines.
i'm full of apprehension and hope. because i have to. because i'm going to die in 20 years i don't want to die and unhappy guy. because i think you want to hear it. [laughing] because maybe it's true. what happened in europe. read snyder on tyranny. there's a lot of precedence working against us. so i don't have an answer. i just hope. why do you believe in god? faith. i don't believe in god.
but i believe there is such a thing as morality and i believe the pattern over time in american history is towards greater racial acceptance. that's true. that makes me feel better. there is a basic pattern. anybody who doesn't recognize that is nuts. so all these reasons, but there's a pattern that suggests that's where, after this, after we finish this downturn, we are going up again. >> there we go. [applause] >> he may not have all the answers, no one does but it does some very fascinating questions. what a wonderful dialogue you had with me. i i appreciate with all these folks. ladies and gentlemen, one more round of applause for joseph ellis. la