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tv   In Depth Joanne Freeman  CSPAN  September 1, 2019 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

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can you understand them differently. so i put there because i don't want people to think but the founder as great men but as individuals in a particular climate doing smart and unsmart things, and how can we make sense of that. >> host: joanne freeman has been our guest for the past two hours, thank you for your time. >> guest: thank you for having me. >> if you missed today's "in depth" we are going reair it right now. >> now, booktv's monthly "in depth" program with author and historian, joanne freeman. her books include, affairs of honor, the essential hamilton, and most recently, the field of blood. violence in congress and the road to civil war. >> host: joanne freeman you're going to hating this opening question. >> guest: uh-oh. >> host: trace the arc of our
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nation's history from 1783 to 1861, the political history of our nation. i guess i want to say if you're looking at american politics from the beginning strawing through, past the civil war, you're talking about par dockses and conflicts improv. the period i tend to focus on more at the early part of that arc, and it's the improve vacational nature of that, that fascinated my more than anything else of. the nation was find founded in a world of monarchy and the united states was a republicful. what that means wasn't clear and people knew they were trying to do something that wasn't there.
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the president won't be a king but beyond that there was a lot of open ground. so there's a lot of improv in those early decades about what the nation is, how it functions, the tone of the government , and how this nation's going to stand up amongst the nation of the world that are other kind of nations. what does it mean to be a republic in a world of monarchies and how is the new nation going to get any degree of respect and equally, if not more significant as far as the inside of that nation is concerned, what kind of nation will it be? and that is true, that question is true on every level. there's a broad consistent of ideal level which that is true but there's a ground level, how democratic a nation will this be? who is going to -- how is the land going to be literally wrested from other people? what kind of rights will some people have and other people not have at all.
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a lot of the questions we're grappling with now, questions about equity and equality and right and race, those go back to the beginning of their republic and beyond. as a historian living in he moment we are living in now and thinking thinking in that broad arcing way, we deal with these big questions and these big legacies of undecideds things. we're still dealing with them and they good all the way back. >> host: were we inherently democratic to begin? >> guest: no. well, so, we weren't a monarchy, and americans had a very strong sense of -- certainly elite white male americans had a very strong sense of their rights, and they felt that they were creating a more democratic regime that what had been around before.
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so they their thinking but rights there's a reason there's a bill of rights attached to the constitution inch that sense they were very right-minded but by no means was the country founded with people thinking everyone will have rights and there will be equality. there were different -- i don't like to call them parties but two different points of view with the found, the federalists, hamilton and the republicans, which is jefferson, which is oversimplified but the two camps and they had a different view, each side, as to how democratic the nation should be. federalisted wanted it to be somewhat less democratic and republicans some would more but a limited view of democratic. so when i teach about the period and i tell my students, all kinds of words to think but the meaning of , democracy is a big one because if you see that word in the founding period it does not mean the same thing it means now. you have to rethink and recalculate what you're talking about when you look at the founding and seeing these word that now are kind of political buzz words.
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>> host: how many point of view were there back then? a sense today we are divided democratics, republicans and independents. was that the case back then? >> guest: i'd say more complex than that. they weren't thinking in the way we think about party. we think of party -- it's an institution, a party is aen institution, structure, an organization. you affiliate yourself with one. you beam yourself back to the mindset of the founding they were -- they were assuming a national part issue like the idea the nation -- they could get something that overarching and that many people would buy into, that would not have occurred to them. beyond that, they didn't think that a national party was good thing. they assumed that a republic meant a lot of viewpoints banging up against each other and that in the national center those viewpoints would bang up against each other and ultimately some kind of decision
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or compromise or something would be work out of that, and that was the point of the national center, was to how all of that banging up of opinions, but initially they weren't assuming there should be two or three viewpoints. there were federalists and there were republicans but even under -- i like to call them umbrellas of political thought. there were vast differences. federalists in massachusetts or a federalist in south carolina, that could mean something really different. so -- more a spectrum i'd say than categories in the founding period. >> host: what were the improvisations that did not succeed and some that did? >> guest: well, the improvisations that are fun to teach about are political culture improv. one of the wonderful thing because studying and writing about the founding is they put all kinded of things in writing that you don't expect them to
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put in writing. john adams, writing to a friend and saying, how should an american politician dress? i want to look monarchical, those sort of british or french european aristocrats the clothing have is from europe, a lot of lace. there is too much lace to be american? or washington, how many horses with a carriage would seep appropriately american which sounds really trivial and goofy and part of why it's so much fun to teach, but they're seriously thinking about the fact that those kinds of little seemingly stylistic decisions are really going to shape the tone and the character of the government and the nation, and when everything set as precedent, that kind of improv can have a big impact.
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it seems trivial. on the other hand it isn't trivial and that is really interesting. >> host: so, we had several hundred white male elites forming this country. was there buyin from the three-four million people who lived here at the time. >> guest: on the one hand there's small group of elite people that have power. on the other hand, the revolution was popular revolution, not conducted by 30 guys in a room. appointor to remember that whatever is going on in this time period, although the elite have power ander worried about maintaining power, there's a lot happening around them and part of the challenge or the -- i don't want to say difficulties -- the challenges or the tension of that period is the american people figuring out how to cinderellas what they want, how to demand what they want, how does the system work and if it doesn't work for them, what can they do to make it work
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for them better. so it's just at handful of elite guys who are running things the american people understood in a broad sense that they had rights in some way and different kinds of people had a different understanding what rights, but there was a brader sense that whatever the experiment was that was going on in this new nation, that rights were something that were still being work out and determined and that they potentially extended more widely than some of what had come before in europe. >> host: what was a whig and what did he believe? >> guest: a whig. you're talking -- i'll answer the question by moving ahead in time to whigs. so, this gets back to your earlier question but parties and categories, now people like to go back' thyme and draw straight lines between the parties of the present and the parties the past and like so say if your a republican, republican, republican, goes back to jefferson. there are no straight lines in
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history and there certainly no straight lines when it comes to political parties. so, parties bounce back and forth, names change all the time. the whig party, for a while you had the democratic party, which was it own thing. on the one hand and you had what was known more than anything as the anti-jacksonians. wasn't a people but people who aren't that. don't like jackson, don't like what they represent. that becomes the whig party and you end up in the mid-19th mid-19th century with essentially for a while two many parties and one of them is jackson, democratic, supposedly popular, supposedly the common man or the common white man on the one side, and then on the other side the whigs already mere centralize expelled big national government, and represent in a way two threads we can still see, but really represented a very different point of view.
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>> host: if you were governor of massachusetts or president of the united states, at that time, who held more political power? >> guest: ooh. at that time meaning the early -- the founding or whenever i want it to be. >> host: whenever you want it to be. >> guest: okay. well, if you go all the way back to the real founding moment, that's a good question. and there were people like hamilton and the federalists who assumed that the bulk of the power was with the states, and not with the national government, which was new, and who knew what it income passed really above and beyond a very skeletal constitution. the constitution really brief for what it does. so, hamilton and his ilk thought that the answer to that question would be, well, the governor of massachusetts probably, although on paper you might said the president has lot of power. the fact of the matter is for
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people, their loyalty to sense of belongingness and understanding of power will be grounded in their state. over time that shifts but in the 19th century, the first half of the 19th century, if you were to pick up a newspaper from that period, congress would be getting a lot more attention than the president at that point. so, again, we assume now that the president is all powerful and the president is at the center of the news, and that's not an mayoral -- early american way. >> host: in reading your books -- i don't he know if this is purposeful or i missed -- the president doesn't play a large role the president plays today in our world. >> guest: right. i would say that's partly deliberate and partly reflect mist interest, but it's true that throughout the period -- clearly the americans understood the pratt was significant, and the early founding period, trying to figure out what that
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means. congress as the people's branch, people understand that congress is really where the nation is being worked out in a ground level kind of way, and people felt that they had a direct connection with their member of congress. when members of congress stood up and vote, particularly when you get into the 1840s and 1850s, members of congress stood up and assumed they've are were speaking to their constituents and the press was creating that conversation back and forth. so congress mattered tremendously i think in ways that now daze we aremer focused on congress for different ropes but he 20th century we ten to focus on presidents, and that was not necessarily the case for much of the 19th century. >> host: would we recognize congress today as it was back then in the early republic? >> guest: well, in the early republic, no don't think we would recognize it in the early republic or the 19th century.
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the early republic white -- might be what we assumed congress should look like, somewhat tamer. it is a group of men, white men in a room, above and beyond that they are debating and making decisions and passing legislation. those are the things we assume congress should do. over time the united states becomes a lot more violent and congress is a representative body, and congress becomes a lot more violent, and that case i think it begins to look in some ways we would not necessarily expect. >> host: from your book the field of blood, the tobacco juiced rugs of the house and senate are an apt metaphor for congress in the decade before the civil war there are soaring orator are on occasion and use there were union shaking decisions being made but underneath the speech fying
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pontificating and politicking was spit-spattered rug. the antebellum congress had its admirable moment us but wasn't an assembly of demagogues. was a human institution with very human failings. >> guest: that was an important point to make because my assumption what most people think about particularly congress in this time period, the period of clay and webster and the sort of great men, is a congress was a bunch of people in black suits being lofty. i have a lofty thought. another lofty thought. it was very important for me right off the cuff to say, no, this is a human institution and it's an unruly institution. it's a different world than you assume, and the book really is about this human institution and how it functioned and how that shaped not just the nation's
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politics but americans understanding of the nation. >> host: what is an affair of honor? >> guest: ooh. good question. so, that's another kind of fundamental thing in the early point of my first book, affairs of honor. talk about. so people think about duels, and i think that becomes an all-encompassing term. a duel and i think people i'm that's all there was was two men on a field facing each other and shooting at each. other part of the point i make in the first book is an affair of honor was bigger than that, and the point of an affair of honor, or even a duel, it's very counterintuitive. this assumption would be if you have two men on a field with gunners fating each other and shooting someone might want to kill someone. the point of an affair of honor or duel is proof you're willing to die for your honor. an afar of honor means it's a long ritualized series of letter
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exchanges and negotiations. very often that can take place two men can redeem their name and reputation and honor and don't have to make it tout a dueling ground. an fair of honor includes that riddualized negotiation. once you get past that point and you're own the dueling ground, that becomes a duel but even at that time that point death isn't the point. this point is the performance of it. the point, really, it's a terrifying thing to face someone with a gun, to stand there, and allow someone to shoot at you. that's the point of it. is to prove you're the kind of man and thus leader, who is willing to die for your name and reputation. makes no sense now but clearly made so much sense to them in this time period that hundreds of people ended up working their way through the customs. >> host: why are we taught at the beginning of u.s. history about the burr-hamilton duel of
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1804. >> guest: partly because sometimes history is about -- at least for some the ways in which some people teach history, good stories that seem to sum things up. you've get the burr hamilton child, the caning of charles sumner, dramatic stories. if people teach that, the tonight as this one and only instance, and it's a sign of this great enmity of these two men, and it is somehow typical of that period, that enmities were so fierce, and plus hamilton and burr are dramatic characters. does a lot of character work maybe more than anything else but i don't the -- not until recently has that been taught as a way of getting deeper and kind of understanding something about the guts of politics in that period and how they really work. >> host: what happened on that
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day in 1804 and why did it happen? >> guest: well, burr and hamilton had been opponents for a long time. hamilton was largely the fuel behind much of that opposition. he really distrusted purr. he thought of him has something of a demagogue because he was someone who came from the equivalent of new england royalty him fast -- someone who hamilton saw an an opportunist. hamilton says, i kirt my religious duty to oppose his career. that's serious opposition that you have going there. so he is pretty bound and determined to quash burr's career and that goes on for quite some time. in election of 1800 when it's a tie between two candidates from the same purr, purr and
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jefferson and hamilton does everything he can too to quash burrs chances. they came near to fight a duel and it was moved over. four years later burr is running for for of new york and hamilton steps forward to do everything he cook to stop that from happening, and as luck would have it, someone steps forward after that and says, have you seen there's a newspaper report of what hamilton said about you at dinner party, hands this to burr, and burr who needs to prove that he is a man, a ledder who is worth being followed since he is losing contest after contest, feels compelled to redeem his name and honor and reputation and acts on thatten and it happens to be hamilton's word. so you end up with burr being handed something that in miss hind is duel worthy and commences an affair of honor with hamilton. they exchange these ritualized letters. neither done -- doesn't go
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swimmingly. burr sends a ritualized letter. they say the same thing who. i've heard you said this about me. is that true or false, avow or deny. i deserve an immediate response as a gentleman and man of honor. you got one letter like that you knew you were in trouble and had to think how to respond. hamilton writes uses 18 words for one word and writes a lengthy response and talks about -- supposedly he said something still more despicable about burr. what would you mean despicable and hamilton writes a grammarless letter and talk about the meaning of despicable between gentleman, is that bad a word? so that's insulting if you're an angry person who has just been called despicable and then at the end of the alert to show
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he's not afraid of conflict with burr, hamilton says by the way issue always stand behind all of my words and that's not an exception to that now so i will stand and i'm willing to fight for any words i utter. so that's a not a strategically smart fog for hamilton to send that kind of letter. it's offensive and burr gets it and is offend and basically responded by saying you're not behaving like a gentleman. it's not a gentlemanly thing to do, that letter. so now they're both offended, and so you can kind of see how things spiral to the point where a trip to the dueling ground. >> host: was dueling legal. >> guest: no. that was a state-by-state thing. so every state had its own anti-dueling regulations, a challenge might be against the law, the duel itself might be against the law. it varied the punishment was different. in massachusetts, you could be publicly humiliated in some way in rhode island there was a
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fine. so if youyear in massachusetts you would prefer to go to rhode island. if you got caught you paid a fine. but it was illegal but the lawmakers doing the dueling so the people making the law were the people breaking the law, which tells you a lot about the elite in this period and the kind of power they had. >> host: do we spend too much time talking about the actual duels and the setup to this rather than -- or is it's microcosm of what is going on in the country at the time? >> guest: people tend to focus on that story and particularly now we're in the land of the hamilton musical. that duel is front and center. a lot of dueling. i think the practice of dueling is worth looking at because it does tell you a lot about elite politics, bag politician, the political culture of the time. that can tell you a lot about the kind of emotional guts of some of the politics of the period.
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but the burr-hamilton duel is just dramatic and the vice president of the united states killed the former secretary of the treasury and it's a dramatic story so ifow focus on one duel, makes sense that's the one. >> host: aaron burr did not get elected governor of new york. >> guest: he did not. he -- i mean, hamilton was very effective at helping to smash various aspects of burr's career. burr has a reason to be ircanned. don't think burr wanted to kill hamilton. don't think that was his purpose. and first of all most duelists, unless maybe you're andrew jackson, most of them don't go to a dueling ground wanting to kill. and i don't think burr did. sometime before the duel he is asked about a doctor, like what doctor he normally -- duelist ways to dueling group with doctors and he said we don't
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need doctors. just get it over with. i think he assumed it would be a typical duel. you shoot at each other, prove you're a man of honor, shake hands and leave. but tragically it has become a veil lab for killing hamilton and i don't think that was his, sad to say, aim. too many gun worded in english lang but not his purpose at the dueling ground. >> what was his life like after that. >> guest: not easy. he flees because at that point although dueling is common enough, all of burr lazy enemies -- he had a lot of of them -- gang up after his killing of hamilton. he's vulnerable which is one reason why people didn't try to kill people in duels. it's a widespread practice but you become vulnerable for having murdered someone which is what happened to him. all of his enemies joined together and tried to squash him. he, his friends, his newspaper
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editors this boatmen who rowed them across to duel dueling ground, flee new york. he end up in south carolina and hides out. they weren't so upset in south carolina he killed hamilton. he ultimately is vice president. he goes back to washington. finishes his vice-presidency. he wasn't a bad vice president. kind of a good vice president but finishes his vice presidency, won't be stick around for jefferson's second storm he ended up kind of going out west. it's unclear what he is doing out west. appears to be marching around with young men with guns. think he thought something was going to happen in the vicinity of mexico and if he was there with men, somehow or other he could see the west as a literal new frontier where he might be able to have a different power. we're not entirely sure what he was doing but is tried for treason because what looked like treasonous activities out west.
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he if acquitted but what frontier is left for burr. local politics, national politics, the west. he ends up basically compiling -- exiling himself for a while in new york and hands out and has an interesting exile bizarre kind of life in europe, hanging out with intellectuals and then in his old age comes back to new york. kind of a tourist attraction. goes back to practicing law, an older man. people go to his law office and peer in the windows so they can say they saw aaron bury. her gets snubbed in the street. i'm a hamilton union and he doesn't have an easy time. a lot of accounts of members of congress who see and imwhen he finishes his vice presidency and shay say you seek the fatigue
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and the anxiety of dealing with what he is dealing with. you can see it about him. so i don't think he has an easy end of life or really older years. those are difficult years for him. i think he is one of only two politicians in period that i've seen ever describe politics using the word "fun." he actually said -- said he is engaged in politics -- almost a direct quote -- for fun and honor and profit. which is pretty blunt. pretty direct. but his knowledge -- i don't think he is the only one that found it fun but acknowledged that and you get that sense from him, that he is enjoying the game. just more honest about the fact that he is enjoying it. >> host: who was the other one. >> guest: it is charles pinckney from north carolina. the other person who says he considers politics fun, and there might be others floating around but i read a lot of
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18th century political correspondent and haven't come across it more than those two team time. >> host: you said year hamilton union. what does that sunshine doesn't mean i agree with hamilton. means -- i am someone who finds him -- always found him fascinating, so hamilton union -- hamiltonian in the sense i have spent time and energy trying to understand him and why and what he did and i would say same a hamiltonian scholar us a because i think many scholars find a question or a person or problem that sort of grabs them, and there were many that have grabbed me but he is someone who grabbed me at an early point. so i'm aham -- a hamilton-curious scholar. >> host: besides a ten dollar bell and a relative live well-known musical, what's his legacy.
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>> guest: one thing at the time he was known for and has had i suppose in some ways in the long-term a mixed legacy but at the time he deserves credit for, he at an early point believed the national government needed to be strengthened, at a point where it wasn't strong. so, during the revolution, very early on, one of the loudest and most fervent supporters the need to create a stronger national government, helped pushed through the constitutional convention. that first term of washington's presidency, pushing to centralize, iy we can look bat and say some strengthening is good but at the time it mattered a lot that you had someone there who was pushing in that direction. so as far as part of his legacy, helping to create the national
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superstructure we take for granted. he played a major role in doing that. >> host: want to play a little bit of audio, and let you listen to this and tell us what we're listening to. [singing] >> host: what are we listening to? >> guest: it's very hard not to do this. restraining myself with all my power. >> host: i wasn't on camera. >> guest: so that is the ten dual commandmented from the hamilton musical. which is a song that talk about the rules of dueling. and it's largely taken from the chapter of my first back, affairs of honor, which tooks but the burr hamilton duel and the rules of dueling. >> host: did you have partner
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hamilton musical. >> well, they used my work when he was writing it and certainly as i discovered after i saw the play, he found that book, made use of that. what was sort of comic cal and bizarre to me is that i mostly discovered that the first time i went to see the play offbroadway. was in the audience, sitting with a friend, my friend richmond benzene is a colleague and friend and that song came on and i said to him dish leaned over and that it the dueling song is excellent and then it started doing guy sought, it's like the rules of dueling, even better. and then kept going on and i thought, wow, that sounds remarkably freemany, and i thought the book that the play is really largely by ad on the ron chernow's biography of
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hamilton, and i thought that must be freeman and church children chernow and can't be in the so a lyric in the song refers to a document i found in the new york historical society the that doctor turn michigan is back so he can eave deniability and i heard that line from the statement and i turned to my friend and i said, that's my document. i know that document. that's my document. so then when i got to talk to lynn manuel miranda i said is that song base on the chapter? he said of course it is. get to have my document sung and what became a broadway musical. that was kind of a mind-blowing experience. >> host: how accurate is the musical? there is license. >> guest: for sure. it's a piece of musical theater. so it did a lot of work to make people aware of people and a period that i think a lot of people weren't aware of.
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it does some things as a historian are wonderful things to. do reminds people about the contingency of the moment. people look at the founding and see it as a series of courses. of course we won the revolution and then of course we had a constitution and then of course the constitution, blah blah blah and there are no "of courses" in the moment. and that's part of what defines that period. so, i think the play kind of reminds people about that contingency and also taught people who hadn't thought of it before that these are real people and that's an important thing, too. what you're looking at is real people feeling their way through a process, not a bunch of blocks of marble making great decisions but great things. that said, there are many thing that are historically inaccurate but what is presented in play. many things that are not discussed in he play in major way like the institution of
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slavery, which is not discussed. to me going to see a piece of musical theater, my response was more, wow, for a piece of musical feet theater there's a lot of history, morn i expected to see. it's got a lot that's wrong in it to me. that has made this a profoundly wonderful teaching moment because i think so many people in particularly young people, have become interested in the time period and hamilton as, as a teacher you can grab ahold of that and and say let me team you what really happened and the reality of everything that happened around this or that happened in ways that aren't shown in the play. so so by being wrong in some ways, it's created a great teaching opportunity. >> host: and in fact in a tweet that you sent out a couple days ago. >> guest: oh, no. >> host: you tweet a lot. >> guest: i do. >> host: interesting in my hamilton and jefferson seminar today, i asked how many had seen hamilton or knew the music.
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to judge hamilton mania. feels like it's epic and then i read applications for their course and a majority mention the musical. maybe ebbing but had an impact. >> guest: that's what happened. all my co-tweeters, look at what they can do. they can read your tweets on tv. but it's true. i had my first meeting of my seminar and i tend to ask what brought people to the class. and in this case i actually explicitly said i'm judging hamilton mania and i said i think it's ebbing and the stupid noded. we're not crazy but the class its limited in size so students have to ask for a place, and even the ones who already preregister i'm curious what brings you to the course and a lot of people said, well, almost sheepishly, really liked the hamilton musical and led me to have a lot of questions. led me to want to know more.
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that's a wonderful thing and the course -- it's a great -- first of all i will -- i guess it's not advertising since you can't do this unless you're at yale but a course i love to teach called the age of hamilton and jefferson. the first two weeks we read biographies and then it's all taught with their papers and writing. and it's thematically arranged and we talk about what the two men thought america was, look at enemy revolution and party politics but all primary sources and it very exclusive live doesn't take sides and doesn't say that one is right and one is wrong but just hands the raw evidence to the students, and we grapple with it and what is fun for me in teaching it is it's different every time he teach it because depends entirely on what the students find and focus on in the letters. so i've been teaching it for
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22nd or 23rd year and it's different every time. it's really fun and i learn things. clearly have read the letters many times but you can always learn things depending on the questions you bring when you look at them. so it's a really fun course to teach. >> host: on that same day in response to a former student, you tweeted out that. about david mccullough's john adams book. yes, the biography was the same thing that sent more people into my seminars than anything else. >> for years. and i give students full permission to say whatever they want. i very -- i said it this time as well. why are you in course and the answer isn't, because republicanism has been profoundly meaningful to me. i don't want a yale answer. i want there was an old house down the streetes was curious about from the time period or my
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dad loves this stuff or i saw a movie or read a book and i just never studied early america. give them full permission to say whatever they want and for a while it was, there's this john adams biography that david mccullough wrote and i'm curious now. and that kind of was the thing. then the miniseries, sometimes students would say there was this hbo miniseries and then it became in the musical but this time i asked because it wasn't necessarily something that initially in conversation students were bringing um up. someone said on twitter maybe because younger people are interested in the musical that the older students don't want to be saying, like, loved the musical but they're backing away in public because the younger people are more focused on it but the fact of the matter there is are 30 people trying to get into the course and a lot of to the statements but interests in
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one way or -- one person said i didn't like the musical. and i'm here because i want to learn more but the time period, which is great, that's an excellent reason. as a teacher, excellent. love it, hate it, ask questions. >> once a month on booktv we invite an author to talk but his or her body of work. this monthing yale professor, historian and author, joanne freeman. she is the author of affairs honor which came out in in 2001. al alexander hamilton writings, she eated that it. the essential hamilton, and the field of blood is her most recent book, came out last year, violence in congress, and the road to civil war. she'll be with us for another hour and a half. your chance to take time to take a question, give her a question. here the numbers. if you want to participate in the conversation.
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202-748-8200. for those in the east and central time zones 202-748-8201. if you police in the mountain and pacific time zones, now we can also take your comments via social media. we'll scroll through our different social media addresses. facebook, twitter, et cetera. e-mail. just remember@booktv is the essential part to get a comment to us. how did you've get interested in this period? >> guest: partly the bicentennial. it was everywhere. if you're old enough to remember the bicentennial this, time period, the founding period, was everywhere. bicentennial minute or tv commercials, every day in the local -- the reporter dispatch from yorktowning highs had a bicentennial moment and i was cut ought newspaper articles and
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i was just absorbed. also the musical "1776", grabbed me as well and i think that came together to make that time period to me. think in some ways with he hamilton musical has done it was human to me, real people. didn't seem lick a bering bunch of -- seem like a boring bunch of statues and debating great ideas. seemed like people on the ground trying to figure things out which grabbed me. was 13 or 14 years old si started reading biographies and i actually thick started at a, and sort of just went. i think -- i learned reading early biography of john adams and i reader village -- read erving started and astarted with a and got to hamilton at an early point and stopped because
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he was strength in comparison with the other people i had been reading about. not a lot of people hat written bow him. born relatively poor in on stewart, illegitimate in the caribbean, dies in the this duel as a 14-year-old both of those things were increasing to me. know that as a young permanent he wanted to accomplish great thing and i read a biography of hamilton and i'm not going name which one because i didn't like it and didn't believe it and i wish i could reconstruct what in any 14-year-old brain read a biography and said that doesn't sound convincing but i did. i went to library and asked the librarian what the writer read that gave hem the right to say what he said in the book. and she pointed me to the 27 volumes of the hamilton papers,
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and i pulled down a volume and looked at them, and grant, he -- not the easiest thing to read but that was the history. that was the real stuff, someone putting on paper what they were thinking. so to me that was the most exciting thing. i don't want someone else to tell me what to think so i started reading the hamilton papers, started with volume 1, read through and went back and start eidogen i did that for years and years and i didn't know -- never occurred to me to be a professor. didn't know there was a profession called historian. i had no outcome in mind. it was just the thing i liked to do. and so it was like decade later i realized, i have an interesting database in my head. i've gotten to know hamilton in a way that was not the goal. >> host: so, when you put
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together writings, how did you compile that and they'd ducompile. >> guest: that's an interesting story. it was when i was aggrated student at uva -- a grad student at uva and a ta, teaching assistant for a course with my wonderful graduate adviser peter, and he was doing a course basically at jefferson hamilton course, and he -- it was normally the age of jefferson, made it jefferson and hamilton in honor of my being there but there was a library of america, wonderful volume of jefferson's write examination there was no hamilton equivalent. so, this only going to be believable because of what i just said. in a weekend i pulled together a reader that we went and -- like, kinkos or whatever the place we was, photo copied the letters and put them together and i there was was a little glossary of names and took me two or three days because it was like we need
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this, this, this, and we used fit the course. a huge massive thing that fell apart because it was so big but worked wonderfully. made to go along with the jefferson volume. years later it occurred do me that i had already edits what could have been a library of america edition of hamilton's write sayings went at the library of mrs. and said i think i've created a volume which i would like to do and the library of america, full disclosure, i'm on their board, a wonderful nonprofit organization that is just about putting american writings and letters and keeping it in print forever. so it's near and dear to my heart because i love the actual stuff of history. so they created that volume based on the thing pulled together as a grad student. it's a collection, not necessarily greatest hits although it includes what i guess you would call greatest
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hits of hamilton. a report on manufacturers first report of public credit and includes at love personal letter is selected sometimes because they showed something about hamilton has a person, sometimes because they expose something but this politics or showed something very negative but him as either a person or politician. really meant to be kind of a spectrum of writings that show you about his thinking and who he is as a person. i included memos in there, things the never intended anybody necessarily to see because sometimes that's the most revealing kind of stuff. so, a favorite one i like to teach with, i he wrote up a fie days passion within a week of the constitutional convention, very lawyerly thinker, leaves the constitutional convention sits down and basically on a piece of paper what do i think is going to happen next? and he says, well, okay, constitution, going to be
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ratified probably washington will be chosen president, that would be good. people trust washington and because they trust washington they'll trust the people he appoints to office, and that will be good so that maybe people will trust the government and all of that bodes well. however, maybe he won't be made president somehow. maybe that won't happen. maybe other countries will sweep in and try and take over states. maybe the states well turn against each. other neighbor will be separate little confederations and draws this image of chaos. downfall, the government collapsing. foreign nations sweeping in. fascinating to read but the kicker of this -- this is a guy who has been pushing for this constitutional convention and a stronger government forever. has it. it's been created. and the end of the memo he says, having just created this apock lippic account of everything
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polling apart he says that's most likely going to happen. that's fascinating help had great hopes bus perfectly willing to assume and at that point kind of assuming he experiment is probably not going to work. probably not going to function the way it's supposed to function. americans won't bev willing in his mind to invest enough power in this new government for it to work well and it's probably going to collapse. that is fascinating to me and great to teach with because get yourself past all of the of courses. this gay at the convention and leaves and says i don't think this will work. that's not what you expect of that moment and certainly not what you expect of one like hamilton. >> host: before we get into calls, you're at the library at 14 studying hamilton. were your points history buffs. >> no. no. they were not. my grandfather was, but i don't think i knew that. he was a civil war buff.
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and i know he had these civil war books he used to read but i didn't really know anybody who was really interesting in history so i was off on my own little planet, and i kind of thought it was a weird thing to do. never talked to anybody about it. i never -- i hid the books under my bed because i was kind of embarrassed. sometimes my dad would make fun of me for reading these books oomph people had comic books and under their bed and i had volumes of the hamilton papers. so i was off in weird freeman land. decades later i discovered what i had been doing. >> host: where were you raised and what did your folk does. >> guest: i was mostly raised -- born in queens bus mostly raced in westchester county, mostly in yorktown heights. my mom initially was a kindergarten teacher, win on to
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do some work in interior design. my dad was a market researcher. first worked for like bristol mors and general foods and then market research in the movie industry. an early person applying market research techniques to film. so i grew up sitting and watching focus groups talk but movies or sorting questionnaires. give me and by two brothers a dollar and we would sort questionnaires. so it's interesting if grew up watching research, sorting through this creative process to come up with something that -- find a way to appeal to the public. so in some way or another might not have been history mind. but was research minded and maybe that rubbed off. >> host: let's hear from our caller. let's begin with david in rochester, new york. you're on with historian joanne freeman.
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hi, david. >> caller: thank you if want to say to professor freeman i loved affairs of honor and i briefly want to jump in and say, you are the greatest -- you would be the greatest teacher. i eave seen you once c-span many times and you get the excitement and the love and the interest going, and i wish all teachers, high school, college, had the same enthusiasm and thrill to give their students as you do. >> guest: that's very nice of you to say. >> host: david, what was it about affairs of honor that caught you? >> caller: well, i first heard about it when i saw professor freeman probably on brian lamb's show, and it just -- just the idea of it. i have some friended that are kind on the conservative side. i said i belong to a history group, said there's this book about the -- talk because the early congress and all these
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congress politicians are trying to kill each other. and they all thought this was the most wonderful idea. [laughter] >> guest: maybe that wasn't what i initially had in mind. >> host: david -- >> caller: quickly ask my question. you got in the hamilton's head better than anybody else in the country today. hamilton is a founding father. he was ambitious. and the first four presidents of this country were founding fathers. hamilton goes into the constitutional convention and he knows that the rule is, because he is foreign born and can't be president. do you think he would have liked to be president and what did power mean to him? >> thank you for the very nice thing iowa said. so two-part answer. first of all, there actually was kind of an exemption clause the constitution that if you were an american citizen the constitution what ratified you
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actually were able to -- you would have been able to be president. so he wasn't exempt. he could have been elected president but the second half of my answer is, i don't think he ever really assumed that. i think he knew very well he was not very popular. there are various points in which he was put forward for a position and was very blunt in stepping forward and saying i'll be problematic. for a while washington considers sending him to england and john jay is sent. and hamilton says, don't do that. i'm not popular. that will create problem for you. so i don't think he assumed he would be president ever. i think he understood that and as a market of fact i'll say -- matter of fact he kind of liked the idea he was unpopular because in his mind it meant he was being very virtuous and promoting ideas not because they would get popular appeal but because he thought they were the right things to promote.
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so, odd as it seems for someone who understood power, was interested in empowering this new national government issue don't think he wanted that or assumed he would have that kind of power for himself. >> host: rochelle from the bronx. >> caller: thank you for taking my call am quick comment. i was -- as a retired librarian i'm so pleased to hear you kudos to the library. you refer to the fact that the earlier republican party and so forth were not the way -- the same as they are today, and today's republicans constantly refer to them as the party themselves as the party of lincoln. is this accurate? and number two, i win to a presentation at the new york historical society a year ago. a professor -- i don't remember his name -- out in oklahoma is writing a book and pursuing the thesis that hamilton was jew
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wish? any credible to this? thank you very much. >> guest: so, the first question, i've already frog then -- the republican party. the problem with drawing that kind of a straight line is that -- if you look -- there are wonderful 20th century political historians who have done this kind of track work. if you look what what the party he represent and stand for and their policies they change dramatically over time. so that you can track the use of a word like republican but you can't consistently say what a party stood for in 1850 or 1860 as what a party stands for now. so obviously politics of all kinds on sides have all kind of reasons to want to draw the straight line to the past. as a political historian i think you cringe when that happen because the first thing you think of is all the ways that's not true.
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so rhetorically that that usefulness but historically speaking that doesn't reflect the reality. as far as the book that's going to be coming out, i'm not sure, i think from oxford university press on hamilton being jewish, i haven't seen the manuscript. i've heard and spoken with some about it so i can't judge that credibility of it or not. now the scholar who has been working on it has done a lot of research. i'm really intrigued so see it if don't think you can rule anything out until you have seen thed and really gotten a sense of what leads to the conclusion. so not going to say it's not possible. the interesting thing is, hamilton is an interesting founder for this reason. comes -- there aren't a lot of records from his youth. you have to do research like this person did, to really find things out about his youth. because of there are a lot of
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blank spaces and people like to project different things. for a while people talk about him being somehow or other the illegitimate son of george washington. and stories and other creative things people applied to hamilton. some might be true but the fact of the matter is you need to get to the stuff, the evidence. so, i'm actually really looking forward so seeing that book bugs i want to see the stuff that builds the argue. >> host: what do we know about his life area on the islands of nevas and who was his mother. >> guest: his mother was named rachel fawcett. her parents were supposedly french, who were on nevas. if have done research on nevas. this this ultimate freeman vacation, i know, i'll go plant myself on nevas for a month and see what i can find and then the
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perfect vacation so it was in the morning hours i would research in the archives and then the afternoon i would lie on the beach and that was nirvana for me. so, his mother was there, his father was the fourth son of a scottsman of somewhat noblish burg but the first son inherits everything and the fourth son didn't inherent much and he went into the world ski thought he thought he would get rich quick in the caribbean. suppose itsly his parents didn't marry so he was born illegitimately, and they move to the island of st. croix. the father leaves and done come back. his mother runs a general store. not particularly well off. she dies when he is at a relatively young age so not well off, doesn't have much money, doesn't have any connections, an or fan and on this island --
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orphan and ends up in north america and beam into what has become the american revolution and he is a great writer and people put together a charitable fund to send him to north america so he can get an education and then ends up in new york -- first in new jersey and then new york. >> host: how would you describe his relationship with george washington. >> guest: i would say maybe the one -- the very, very short way would be conflicted. that's a crucial relationship for him. a very important way. he -- he of course no one knows during the revolution that george washington will be the president and how important he is, butly linking with him at that pearl point during the revolution he puts himself in this close relationship with the nation's first man, as many people called him at the time. that's crucial. >> host: he was an icon at that anytime a sense. >> guest: by the time he becomes president -- there's a wonderful
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diary by a pennsylvania senator named william mcclay and he refers to washington as the first man. just kind of awestruck. so he certainly -- kind of what hamilton means in he memo and says if washington becomes president we might be okay. people really did respect anded a hire and some way love washington as a different kind of a figure. he had -- one of very few americans that had a worldwide reputation because of the war, fighting and winning the revolution. so, that's crucial that hamilton is in contact with him and then being trusted by him and being given power by him. that in a sense makes hamilton's career. it add to the fact that hamilton is someone who is a strong thinker, aggressive, never doubts what he thinks or has to say, always shoving himself into situations, putting his thoughts in front of people. so the washington relationship is key.
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without it, it's interesting to imagine -- don't know where he would have gone without it. with it he puts himself in a sphere that allows him to have the kind of influence he wanted, but it's conflicted because he is not good with authority figures and he kind of chafed. during the revolution washington makes it clear that hamilton is a favorite. he doesn't want to be a favorite. wants to promoted or appreciated for his merit and doesn't like the fact that people see him as favorite. during the war, he and washington have a kind of a spat, and it's at a point where they're both clearly fatigued. he had been up working with washington. washington's aide. spent a lot of time at a desk writing things, either listening to washington tell him what to write or writing things and then correcting them after washington look at them. so clearly at this late point in the war, tired and hamilton is working with washington, leaves his side, runs dune staircase to
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deliver a letter, stopped by the marquee delafayette, lafayette has way of grabbing ahold of your lapels and talking with you in an illinois gauged heart and does that with hamilton for a few minutes. hamilton looks and at the top of the stairway is washington glaring down and says something along he lines of colonel hamilton you have kept me waiting ten minutes you've treat me with disrespect, sir, and hamilton is tired of being an aide, would much rather be on the battlefield said i've not aware of that, sir, but if you believe that we part and storms after and surrenders his position. washington sends someone out to apologize to his spade hamilton refuses to take that apology, waits until he can be reef placed and leaves. then writes a wonderful two alerts. one letter to his father-in-law in he says something like i need to tell you what happened. but i have to explain to you why it happened and please
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understand that it done -- don't think as badly of me as you might. and then writes a shorter letter to his friend, fellow aide and that's -- this is close to a direct quote -- the great man and i have come to an open rupture and he says this basically not in the first time he has behaved this way but it's the last time i'm going to take it and clearly seize -- sees himself as put upon and storms off. tells you but the relationship and hamiltons almost resentment he needed him so much in that way and he's impulsive and doesn't contain himself in ways that would have been useful, and washington is very patient with hamilton and comes back again and again and allows him back into his circle. >> host: next call for joanne freeman from margaret in fayetteville, arkansas. go ahead. >> caller: hello and thank you. i have a comment and a question.
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my understanding is that james somerset and an american slave working for his american master in england, sued for his freedom in 1772, and won his case, freeing himself and about 15,000 other slaves in england. the case was widely reported, and followed in the american colonies, and there was widespread concern among the slavemasters that they might soon lose their so-called property, their slaves, on which through wealth was based. a very good become on this subject is a slave nation, from 2005 by alfred and ruth, two
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professors at rutgers i prefer the sames somerset case in england in 1772 was one of the real causes of the american revolution, mostly it is not acknowledged as such, but my question then is, what are your thoughts on this and thank you so very much. >> host: thank you, ma'am. >> guest: thank you. certainly what you're touching on there is a point that is true through the period and beyond, and that is -- well, several points, number one, that in england there was some antislavery activity going on at a stronger pitch initially than in at the time the colonies and then the early united states. that had an impact on what was going own in colonies and the united states. but also obviously the institution of slavery was a long-standing kind of third rail that particularly if you were a southerner.
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it affected your political decisions, affected your understanding of what kind of power you had and how you needed or wanted to maintain it. so certainly you can say that's unconstitution of slavery in and of itself, even before the constitution, but throughout colonial and early america, plays a major, major role in pretty much shaping everything. i was something -- people who owned property of that kind, put that front and for most in what they considered the needed to be protecting, and institutions of government are about among things property rights. so territorially that's part of the mix of things that is constantly front and center in american history throughout its existence. hasn't always been that way and the way people tell that story, and some of what we're seeing in recent years, recent decades is people really being aggressive about restoring that vital central part of the story to how
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we understand who we are as a nation. >> host: next call for you comes from tom in chicago. go ahead, tom. >> caller: hi, prefer freeman, thank you very, very much. several years ago when the movie lincoln came out, like a lot of people i became fascinated with thaddeus stevens, tommy lee jones played him brilliantly in the movie and seemed like a very interesting character and probably admirable one as well. what i wonder is, the violence on the floor of congress that you write about in your latest book, given how easily provoked so many of this other congressmen were, especially the ones in the other party, and given how provocative stevens was in a brutally rhetorical way, did. the ever challenge item to a
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dual, paul knife, caned. was he on the receiving end of violence. >> guest: interesting question. thaddeus stevens, ferventer antislavery policy, and a character, was a really dry kind of wit, fun to study. i'm not ware of someone caning him but what was particularly wonderful about stephens is he was -- this is not surprising given everything you just said -- he was really effective at speaking up and smacking at any southerner who made any gesture in that direction. so, for example, after -- let's see. right in the later years of the civil war, when southerners are trying to find their way back into the union, louisiana, thaddeus stevens, among others, when the southerner's threatens violence stands up and says
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something like, you know, not a lot of you were here in the 1850s. was. i remember what i was like back then. not really like a lot of violence back then you remember these guys? i remember these guys. do we really want to let them back in? i don't know. that do you think. the person who would step forward and say that. it's interesting that people didn't necessarily want him. there's one moment in which someone threatens him and i think afterwards he referred to it as a momentary breeze. he said there was just a momentary breeze and everyone laughed because it wasn't a momentary breeze. someone kind of threatening him. he isn't at the receiving end but he is never afraid to speak his mind in the midst of it. there's a moment when there's discussion of -- there's voting on what i believe ultimately become thursday fugitive slave act. a lot of congressmen go and basically hide in the library, the congressional library so they don't have to vote hope to issue. when the voting is done, stevens
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says out loud you can send somebody to the library and tell them to come back, it's safe. he is that guy that steps forward and says that. he isn't physically attacked. >> host: let's good to may 22, 1856. a name that is relatively lost to history, and it wasn't until i reread field of blood, press preston brooks. >> guest: the king charles sommer. took my 167 years to write the field of blood, as old as my students. but one thing i'll say about that chunk of time. when if said to people, i'm writing a become but physical violence in the u.s. congress, most people, even if they didn't know names would say something along the lines there was that guy. like, yes so charles sumner. people have the idea there was
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one violence indidn't in coverage sumner, caned to the ground, sitting at his desk on the senate, by preston brooks of south carolina. >> host: a congressman. >> guest: in the house, comps across to the senate. sumner had stood up and me a a very aggressive antislavery speech and in it he had insulted, according to brooks, south carolina and a kinsman of brooks, so brooks comes into the senate and basically says to sumner, seated at his desk, you have insulted my part of the union, my state, my kinsman, and basically threatened to punish him for it and then with his cane, violent violently canes him. the desks in the senate were bolted the ground and sumner is trapped, seat he at the desk. ultimately in his anxiety to get away from the caning, wrenches
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the desk from the ground but brooks continues caning him until his cane breaks. what is interesting -- a number of interesting thing about the caning. one is that although there was a lot of violence in congress, deliberate attacks like that are supposed to take place in the street. ravens erupts all the time in the house but if you're going stage an attack in that way, it's supposed to happen in the street and brooks for two days tries to catch sumner outside on the capitol grounds because that's the proper way to beat a congressman. why? well, you can see why because of what happens when he confronts him in the senate chamber. a southerner confronting a northerner, an abolitionist in the senate chamber and beating him to the ground, that becomes the south beating the north into submission in a deeply symbolic kind of way, that has national rep pea discussions in -- repercussionness a way that --
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the sum bowlism of that -- symbolism, the power of that happening in the senate takes oft the chart. >> host: somebody else, co hort of brooks protecting -- make sure people didn't come to sumner's help. correct. >> guest: correct. another south carolinian named lawrence kitt was there keeping anyone who tried to interfere away. the fact of the matter is, people were yelling, don't kill him, don't kill him. here's the interesting thing -- vasely honever horrifying but interesting. some of the congressional violence. counterintuitive but there was a lot of violence, 1830s, 1840s, 1850s. fighting was kind of a given if it seemed fair. by that i mean, there were rules of fighting. if you were going to insult somebody, you could only do if it they were present. i if you attacked an unarmed man
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you were suppose told be unarmed. fairness was considered to be important and an example of that, there's an account from the late 1850s from a letter from a congressman, which he is writing to this wife and looks up and sees a menacing looking stranger in front of a kole leaning with his fist clenched and writing in is in letter, that doesn't look good. i think there's going be a fight. but he kind of looks at the stranger and his colleague and his colleague is a bigger man. probably be fine. but when he thinks he spots a weapon, he thinks the strangerrer is holding a weapon, he stan up and immediately positions himself behind that stranger in case he pulls a weapon. so he lets the fight happen but if it's fair he lets its happen. i if the stranger reached for a weapon he would have stopped it so the some of oft what's happening in the case of brooks
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and sumner, that seem like an unfair fugue in many ways. in the investigation of that afterwards, there's a huge not surprisingly congressional report about it. brooks is asked, did you at least warn sumner you would do this? that would have method it fair. and when brooks clearly did not warn sumner, he is reprimand for not warning him by congress. what you did was bad and you should have earned him, she chell us you something but the culture of congress. would have released it. >> host: was preston brooks reelected? celebrated in south, sent celebratory canes. reelected and by northerners providentially gets some kind of throat infection and such indicates -- suffocates and dies suddenly. what is interesting about the
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fighters i wrote about, the aggressive fighters southerners. people in the period when you looked at an incoming congress they tended to try to break the rank downed other -- their words -- fighting men and noncombatants. fighting men tended to get reelected because they were doing one henry wise of virginia, fighting man for sure, at one point repry landed. shame on you for what you. do you caused 12 fights already this session. you should be sent home. and he says, do it. you know what? they're going to re-elect me and put me right back here because i'm their do this. i'm fighting for their right, and he is right. to some degree for a period of time people who fight in that way, so-southerners who are willing to fighten and maybe 10% of a given house would have been considered fighting men. they're put there because the
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assumption is they will use that edge to fight to protect their interests, including the institution of slavery. >> host: next call for joanne freeman is robert in atlanta. >> caller: professor freeman, you're delightful. thank you. my question was about the conflicted relationship between hamilton and washington, and you pretty much answered everything so if i may, i'll ask something else. what do you think were the prospects of hamilton, had the duel not occurred and had he been just i guess cast adrift and in new york, as an attorney, would he just have lived out his life that way or would he have tried to get back on to the
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national stage? >> guest: that's a really good question. we have a little bit of evidence about what he was thinking. first off by the time the tuel happened, by 18 -- hamilton's political rear is not degree well. even without the duel he wrote pamphletted that the thug were logical but did nod do him favors he defends himself against charges of my using treasury fund bid admitting an affirm he then he writes a pamphlet attacking his own party's presidential candidate, john adams in 1800. didn't do him favorites to he people were -- his supporters are backing away from him as an indiscrete politics and does not have discretion, dot not have control over himself and he is a danger, liable. so, he -- his career is suffering. the federalist, his party, as whole, are now fading away.
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the nation is moving in a more democratic direction than the federalists preferred so on that level he has much less power. so one way or another, i don't he was going to gain political power. so if the question is what would he have done, heft behind one or two clues. i think he might have become kind of a political commentator. clearly was pondering another collection of essays along the lines of the federalist which he was the initiator of the federalist essays he wrote with james madison and john jay and he was thinking but doing that. had approached one friend and colleague and said would you be willing to write? i think he would have been commenting on american government. i think he saw him as one who is going to stand back -- going to weigh in probably be critical, but he might become a commentator of that kind of ilk.
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that said, in the final statement he wrote before the duel, in which he explains why he feels compelled to fog the duel fish last paragraph of that is fascinating. he says -- something along the lines of some you -- it's addressed to posterity if he dies on the duel. some of you may be wondering why i ended up fighting the duel. i don't support dueling cycle have just not agreed to fight this but here's the thing. at some point in our future there will be -- the case of crises in our public affairs which seem likely to happen, he wants to be able to step forward during the crisises and be useful, and to be useful i think he felt he needed to protect and redeem his reputation so he could be a public figure if this is long the lines of the me memo i mention about things not working and everything collapsing. i think the consistently thought
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that the american experiment might not last, and if it didn't i think he saw himself as one who would literally and tigertively ride into the mess, ride into the problem and save the day. he never comes out and says i think there will be warfare but i think if you asked him, he would have said might there be conflict of a war-like nature between americans at that crisis to come? he might have said, yes, and in that case i think he wanted to be someone who would be prepared to fight and i think he meant that literally, fight, as a soldier, and part of why he fought that duel was to protect and redeem his reputation for that period when that it might come. >> host: i read the federalist papers like dissenting opinion from the supreme court. it that the right way to do it? >> guest: well, so here's the thing. people tend to use the federalist essays as an objective commentary on the constitution. and the fact of the matter is --
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this is an exaggeration, it's like a commercial advertisement for oconstitution. the purpose of the iest says was here's why you should like them. the idea behind it was hamilton and madison and jay thinking about all the ways in which americans were going distrust this. what might they not like about it. what might be bad and the step forward and said you're kind of scared of this. let's explain why this isn't such a bad thing and not only that if we don't do this, this might happen and that's worse. so really isn't intended to be objective. i mean its certainly is intended to look that way as though it's an objective statement. about the constitution but it's a document with a purpose. there's a series of documents with' away. a series of newspaper essays written to defend and promote this new constitution so that people will trust it and ideally
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the states will ratify it into existence. >> host: next call from jane in port uenemy my, california? >> caller: eye neimi. >> host: go ahead. >> caller: thank you for being there. i am in the midst of del lamp half. i'm already finished with a biography of john marshall called without press tent and go -- despresent and goes into detail how terrible devious jefferson was and almost close to treason. i'm having great difficulty trying to come to a peace with this because he did write the beautiful declaration of independence and other papers. but his behavior, his lack of integrity, and all the terrible things he did is just -- it's overwhelming me. how do you deal with this?
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>> guest: wow. that's good question. there's a tendency, particularly when looking at this time period to take sides. and particularly when you're looking at hamilton and jefferson and nowdays winch that hamilton is getting this promotion, it's interesting. when you look over the long haul, when hamilton's reputation is doing well, jefferson's isn't and there's a seesaw and that's true. when you read a book that appears to be very one-sided in that way, the best thing to do is to go out and read another book that comes at you from another point of view. clearly this book has a very strong opinion about marshall and jefferson and marshall did not see eye-to-eye and jefferson deese marshall. hey very different political views i encourage you to read a biography of general cease-fire that takes a difference point of view. one thing do with my students -- it's very hard. students generally come into a
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class and maybe haven't even understood, have taken a side. one over the best things to do is to really read some of the things these people have written permanently obviously i'm a person who loves to read that kind of primary evidence, but if you read a jefferson biography that is favorable of jefferson and prepared you with the evidence to support that, you can then begin to evaluate what you think and pit books against each eye. other. i do -- a broad statement. almost wouldn't trust a book -- any book that comes -- is that one-side without reading another book with a different point of of view so you yourself as a reader eek valuate and decide what you think so. personally when i deal with jefferson i don't see good guy hamilton and bad guy jefferson. i just don't think it's ever that clear. i think the important thing about their existence and others, marshall and others, is
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that no one was absolutely right and most people were not absolutely wrong. and the fact of the matter is, it's the banging up of different ideas against each other that ends up leading to something that is functional. so, i think that's a more useful way to think about the period there are aspects of jefferson i'm not particularly fond of and expects an hamilton i'm not fond of. what is interesting is the blend of ideas and what happens and doesn't happen and the ways in which over time other politicians, public figures and the populists, find ways to build on and improve on what has come before. >> host: we are going back to your twitter feed. why do you use 1755 as your -- >> guest: my twitter handle. so, we don't absolutely know when hamilton was born. it's either -- well, it's either
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1755 or 1757. there's a piece of paper that suggests hamilton was born in 1755. hamilton himself appears to have said 1757. his wedding ring and his grave just said 1757. went with 175 because it's a document and i don't -- i'm not strongly invest net 55 or 57 but that's where they that comes from. >> host: you're 01755er. >> guest: i once had a 57er with great disdain say, you're a 55er. people feel very strongly about these things. i don't quite have that amount of personal investment in it. >> host: this is a tweet from 2018 and we know that for a fact. i'm going to throw an idea out into the twitter sphere and see what happens. what if there was a giant history rally, a teach-in with teachers, historians of all kinds, getting together to discuss what we can learn from american history to help us in
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the present. what was the reaction you got to that? >> guest: that was really interesting. that was dish was very honest and saying i'm throwing this into the twitter sphere. at idea i thought would be useful and have some real power to make people think but american history and its complexity, and not take a glossy look at the past and helpes wrestle with the present. i threw that out and it got a really big responsible. sometimes from teachers or historians, a lot of e-mail, a lot of organizations and public figures contacted me saying, yes, let's do this. so this is something i've now spoken with a number of kole leanings but the -- colleagues about the best way to move forward. i'm eager to pursue in the late spring, early summer of next
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year. i think it would be a wonderful thing to have a day when we can talk about, wrestle with, argue about american history and all of its complexity, not celebrate things, not tell a glossy mythologized view of thing bud talk about how we struggled in past and push through. it's vague. hay have just begun conversations with people but i was so encouraged by the response. the widespread response i through it into the twitter sphere expecting nothing and now i think wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to have a day and not just in washington and in the national center but in some way or another to create a day when people on a local level just get together to talk but history in some kind of a targeted way. ...
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we want to communicate with the public. i think historians and scholars should be among the people who are aggressively dealing with offering this to the public. some of the students of us don don't. i think more of us should be doing it. what a great thing to be a part of and create a public conversation about this complexities of american history. >> so we o can get you on record to say the cspan2 cameras to be at this event. >> i would love the. >> maryland from kansas. hi. >> hi how are you. i wanted to ask about, i didn't come in at the very beginning, perhaps i missed this.
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and always seemed to me the hamilton's greatest contribution was his economic ideas. the he was for banks, a must for the assumption of estates depths. when so many. other of the founding fathersrs distrusted banks, jefferson thought that we all should be four. it seemed to be the paying our debts from the very beginning, made such a huge difference in this country. an hour later success. >> maryland, would you do in leavenworth kansas ? >> i'm retired and i worked in business insurance. >> thank you. what is your level of interest in history. >> i've always liked history.
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i have always been interested in history. i think the way things are now, when you go back and read history, it is comforting for one thing. to see long haul.ow >> thank you ma'am. back that's a good question. i think you are absolutely right. financial plans, i spoke earlier about hamilton being powerful and an important part of his legacy, the a vital part in fundamental think he did this to stepan as the first secretary of treasury. it really wasn't a national structureet for finance in any way, and to really create the kind of structure. he was in some ways the perfect personny for the job. he was a guy who thought in terms of plans. he was plan minded in his personal life and as a
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politician. he is a perfect person to step in and say, we have this problem, revolutionary war debt, individual state with their own sort of state dealing with their own debts. i will try to put things in power. it is a three-part plan. once the national government to assumeer state the. he wants to create a national bank where he was the national government to promote manufacturing and those are crucial and particularly for the precise reason the you say. he says, are paying our debts is the price of liberty. we need to step forward to prove our credit. he means credit in the broadest way possible. it was to prove that we are a nation accredits, we have a reputation that we are trustworthy and we have financial credit. we need to tend to our debt. he says credit is an entire
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theme, direct quote. he means the it is not just financial. it is who we are as a nation. you are absolutely right the concrete thing the he did stepping forward in creating the free part plan and pushing it through and standing behind it. this was at a point where many people, jefferson were more complex, just be farmers, you are absolutely right the there is a kind of a glaring idea on one side and a more urban and finance oriented ideas on the other side. hamilton is stepping forward and doing the kind of work. on ground level, it is tempting to look at people like hamilton and jefferson and think about them as sort of ideologist. people thinking on a broad level. a
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hamilton was good and it takes office and he doesn't know much at all about the national level about the nation's finances. he creates sort of a questionnaire the he sends out to people around the country asking them to checkboxes. tell me about trade and customs andm so he could collect the information and get a national view of finance in some way. he is wonderful and by riding ways. his plan is a crucial part of what he does. >> nina is responding via twitter regarding your history idea and history begins before the callers arrived, next year's history symposium, must include native american histories. >> absolutely. this is the challenge the as soon as i say history. how broadly and how
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chronologically. but you are absolutely right. i think it particularly given that the long arc of american history is about fighting for rights. having rights taken away and in one way or another, you have to deal with all of the sides of the equation. whose rights are being violated and how these people are fighting for the rights. the has to be at the center of the historian among other things.. i literally had to conversation so far about this. i haven't progressed beyond the. it's a thing i want do and how to do it. i am with >> before we've run out of time, we gotta talk about regimen brown french. he may be lost in history. joanne: wherever you are, you thank you. when i was riding the most recent book the field of blood. it's a story about physical violence in congress. i ended up fighting roughly 70
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physically violent incidents in the house and senate. each one could be a chapter. as a part of my challenge in riding the book is how we tell the story and how do i investigate the violence and how do i figure out what he means. early on in the process, i found this minor thing with benjamin brown french. many people have used this regarding lincoln and the white house. he lyft behind an 11 volume diary. in a newspaper column. he had an extensive correspondence. he is a poet, he is amazing. what is wonderful about what he lyft behind is is in the circle of congress in 1833 until 1870 when he dies. when he allows me to do is to kind of acts as a guide in my book, i kind of looks through his eyes. confronting the violence in congress and you see it through his eyes. what is wonderful about him is
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he arrived from a small town in new hampshire, the minor clerk and arrives in washington. his eyes are pig. we are at the smashing nation's capital. when he comes to congress, he is kind of this fellow the everyone likes. people of all parties like him. his trying very hard. he's northern democrat the appeases the southfa on slavery. he * said as the guy. not wanting to begu or wanting o do anything it takes to be police southerners and promote the party and protect the union. by the timeof of the civil war,n 1860 and he talks about this in his diary thanksgiving heavens, because that's my gun that is going to carry on his person at all times in case he needs to shoot some southerners who seem frightening. my thought in riding the book was if i can explain how the
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person who enters washington in 1833 wanting to appease governors and the being a guy who buys a gun in 1860 was ready to shoot them. in the book i call it an emotional logic of it. how emotionally did the make sense to him and many others. that is really an interesting thread to add to the way we understand the communists of war. so benjamin allowed me to do the. it tookwe me forever to write te book. i kind of lived with benjamin brown french. at least a decade or more than the, what's fascinating about him is he is kind of the forrest gump of the. i write about and what i was making the footnotes in the book, there are lots of footnotes the say over and over again, no really he was there. if say something significant happens, right there watching it happen. bridges right there, as it happens. adams hamza stroke and he goes
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back after the presidencies. french is totally pulling his hand. the gettysburg address. abraham taken is often the platform standing beside him, benjamin brown french. the assassination moves to the bedside, consigning them standing beside his corpse at the white house after he died. benjamin brown french is therefore everything. he is this incredible eyewitness who is very generous in a way he puts his thoughts and feelings down on paper. he really ends up showing what felt like to be in the kind of extreme polarized climate and how americans are wanting to turn on each other to the degree the they did. >> where did you find his papers. joanne: so there is a published abridged addition they came out from congress years ago. people write about lincoln know about a>>.
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he adored lincoln. someone gave him a pair of socks confederate flag under each foot. o he gives to lincoln and lincoln finds it very funny and i sort of love the antidote. or even a better one, he is in a room with lincoln in the white house and lincoln says out loud a roomful of people does anybody know how to spell the word mitchell. french writes in his diary what kind of a man is the. what kind of a president is willing to admit to ask a whole roomful of people about lincoln. eleven volumes of this diary and all of these other writings. the correspondence is poetry, he wrote itself i finished the book and got allto the way to the epilogue in trying to figure out of 17 years and, i know it's like the lesson pages and i
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can't figure out how to in it. again, in french give me something i'm shuffling through papers and i'm sitting there and when i discover. he wrote a poem about what congress said to him. he said here in which i wrote about i can see the capital for my office capital my home for all of these years. he was a remarkable generous in the way the he gave meaning and evidence and the book would've been possible without him. >> next call is joseph and moronic in new york. >> thank you for correcting him.
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i want to commend you on your earlier comments and also being immersed open-minded historian. my question is this what words of wisdom would you give to today's congress. what not to do and things to do to strengthen this nation of ours right now which is divided and i am really interested in your comments and i i love the idea the you want to create a whole new cultural taking our thinking. i really appreciate the. and i will wait for your comments. joanne: i wonder what i'm going to say into the the response to you as well. [laughter] i think people often look to historians to look for the solution. o what i can say is the times in which our government has function best has been moments when they have listened to each other in one way or another.
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the idea the government is the grounded on debate. sometimes debate is nasty and people scream at each other and we had extreme polarization many times before in us history and sometimes extreme polarization. but there needs to be willingness to debate. however feast the fears the debate can be. people are alluring each other to such an extreme degree. it's not helping us. it is easy easy for me to say the sitting here in a very pleasant studio talking to you. i don't have a solution for how to change the because obviously congress is reflective of a larger popular will. the part of what we are talking about is congress being a representative. it is a cycle. right in the middle of it we are. i have no brilliant solution. sure wish i did.
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an american eating and i am american, it's not a useful way for us to find a way out of the moment. how do we get behind the, i'm not going to be able to offer the to you. >> dear students believe the political violence described ended at the civil war and the reason he asked is because in his research he found 1908, dual or a fight between a tennessee senator and a constituent political opponent the the state capital. joanne: no it doesn't end at the civil war. that's a good. it doesn't happen on the floor in congress the way it did before. you can see the when the louisiana members is trying to get back into congress and back into the union. they show up to two violent
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incidences happen. what is fascinating about that is unlike before the war, have northerners actually stevens is one of them in steps forward and says we want to let the backend. do you remember what this was like. the power dynamic has shifted. so once had power before, and congress no longer does. as you are suggesting with your question, doesn't mean that the violence stopped. so it is the you could say southerners are maybe no longer effective in congress. they are very effective in the house during the reconstruction era. certainly violence continues among politicians in a variety of different ways. it is make. the violence doesn't stop, it just shifts. it's tempered in some ways and shift grounds in other ways. american policy has been violent in a variety of different ways. long time.
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the broader question is what we do or what way have we done to contain the violence. that's another question i wish i could offer youdo. it's would be a brilliant solutn that i do not have. it is make. it's not although the any thing is ended at the.the violence. >> hi glenn. >> thank you to cspan2 for another wonderful program. thank you professor for all of your wonderful research work. i did see you actually in 2004, you give a presentation of the 200th anniversary of the dual. i really enjoyed the. my question for you is this, with your field to blood text, have you considered david broderick or david terry dual out in california. particular give broderick was a us senator for from california
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and the other guy was outside of san francisco. broderick was killed. given the context of the california, slavery within the democratic credit party. was this something you saw and included in your book. there are literally dozens of other samples the you had mentioned. sue maclin are you an amateur historian or is this part of your profession. >> indirectly, i am a professor in brooks broderick actually was a volunteer fire officer who moved to california. i also am very involved here locally to say counties with history and your viewers should know that the new visitor center
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will be open iner a couple of years. i am very interested as a man amateur historian. >> thank you for the. i did not expect an answer. joanne: certainly the incident the you're talking about is a famous one and a dramatic one. what i ended up having to do for the book precisely because of your suggestions, once you start broadening beyond washington, with field for violence between people who are inar congress become exponentially enormous. i ended up revealing myself to incident the took place in washington either in the capital or on the streets of washington when congress was in session. when i was really interested in was how the violence was shapi shaping. what is congress doing and what americans feel about them and what was the state of the nation. i'd stop myself after the. there are any number of incidents. that's a major one that i could have gone pursuing.
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i would probably benu on chapter 57 on this book i kept going the way. in the end, i was interested in a mix of people in congress and in washington from different parts of the unions who dealt with violence in different ways and had different understandings of justice and how it works. then in different political viewpoints and desires and interests.ofrk what happens when you put all of those people together, in the house wearing the senate enforcement to deal with contentious issues. that was one c of the initial questions the put me into this project. what happens when you have those populations in this very public menu with a national audience with a nation making or breaking possibilities and decisions what happens in the climate when there is some kind of violence. >> what john right here in washington dc. go ahead. >> i'm a pig fan american nations: winners,in he actually really two kind of unflattering episode in the story of
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hamilton, i'll be really quick about during the revolutionary war, soldiers were from his life. it's when you come there was no money to pay them. the continental congress gave them ious. for years they were able to use scripts to pay their taxes to the state of pennsylvania. the sky comes along, robertt morris and he later described him as a prot├ęge of hamilton of robert morris. robert morris engineers the people can no longer pay their state taxes with congressional script. with these ious. because of the, these people are forced to sell this script for two or five or ten or 15 percent of face value. friends of robert morrison morris, says he owns about
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60 percent of the outstanding script and then shortly after the, alexander hamilton and robert morris, come up with this idea the the us government is going to pay all of the script in full with 6 percent interest in pay in hard currency, gold or silver. and they are going to take the very people these veterans. who were forced to pay and forced to sell their script in order to get the currency. the rebuild, washington goes down and put down the rebellion. in fact, is the unsavory. >> were going to leave it there and hear from professor freeman. joanne: is an the because a controversy in the early part of hamilton's time of secretary treasury. he says there are people come forward in medicine is one who
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says there should be some way of discriminating between speculators who did just what you said, brought these ious assuming and hoping the down the road they would be paid in full. buying them up for very minimal amounts of money. there should be a way of dennis discriminating between the speculators and the veterans who are really holding the money by the government. hamilton needs to step forward and say no. it's not practical because there is no way to track how each iou has gone. you can follow his path. more than the, hamilton's argument is the ious are have become a forum of currency the are worth whatever their immediate value is. that's how he wants to use them. so his argument is, if they're going to be a practical forum of currency, than their actual stated value needs to be what they were hard work. that's inherently unfair. two people who are giving those ious to begin with. that is totally valid thing to say.
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you can see the logic for it and how it's also unfair to many people. at the time and not just not later. it's not the only thing the people step forward and said what are you doing that is seen seemingly unfair and biased. and going to benefit the speculative tape speculum leaders. you want to buy a into the new government. this is an seen mainly, a logic to the and you can see the. he had his logic. we can divide about whether we agree with it or not but certainly the would've been his counter argument. >> commented her, you're on the air. >> thank you for taking my call. doctor freeman, i want so you debate clay dickinson, he played thomas jefferson and you defended hamilton. the one that was a long time ago.
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>> i hope i didn't have too much coffee. [laughter]. joanne: clay jen dickinson i think on on to do other things. at the time, and jefferson reenacted, very well known for doing the. i think he has the jefferson our our radio show and he did a lot of public programs being jefferson. here's the quirky thing about the. he was my senior advisor five desert college. he was becoming interested in jefferson. my senior year in college and i was already interested in hamilton. i remember going into his office and my senior year and he was building a model of bonsallo, and made some snide remark about jefferson. he looked at me [laughter] he had no idea that i was interested in hamilton and i certainly didn't know the he was interested in jefferson. i was kinda getting him. we kind of cross paths at the little moment.
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he was beginning his jefferson career and i was already in well into my hamilton career. then we crossed paths later when he was doing this jefferson work and we cross paths again i think it was the national endowment for humanities. we decided to have a debate. we did, we had a debate that i represented hamilton, clay represented jefferson and it was a public debate. it was built. i remember he made a snide comment about hamilton. he said something like, it's taken me a lifetime to get to know jefferson but i think i could get to know hamilton the weekend. and he got booed. i remember he was very upset the. [laughter] i'm kind of shocked but i guess it meant the somehow or another i must've put in my 2 cents enough the they kind of stood up for him at the one little moment. i have no obviously what your memory of the event was but it was wonderful fun and one in on her right to be able to do the with a former teacher of mine.
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the weirdness of having us to end up where we ended up. he was teaching english at the time. we had nothing to do with history at all. it was a wonderful debate. i think i have the somewhere on videotape like a vhs videotape. which means i can't plan at all. but it was a wonderful event. >> maybe you could be on your podcast. >> or maybe not. >> what is your podcast. joanne: my podcast is the back story. four of us historians, sit. we do a deep dive back into history of something to havingh to do with the current moment. but we look at the deeper pass of it. the recently was a show about declarations of race slavery. there was a show about black face. on labor day we did show about history of labor in america. we've done all kinds of shows, cultural shows about collecting
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things in america, what's wonderful about it is it's very conversational. the four of us are all people with a strong sense of humor. it's fun toum listen to. who are the four. brian nathan and myself. obviously a self-promotional and it's a fun lesson and is a historical listen as well. >> it's called back story. on close here with the affairs of honor in which you write a note on method. this book approaches politics in anne unusual way. it does not examine political events or personalities in isolation. or reduce them to the level of historical antidote. nor does it tackle so broader theme as as to lose sight of the participants perspective. amy had a pig.abroad kit cultural history and detailed analysis of the political narrative the uses the vantage
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vantage.of an f no historian. which is what. joanne:: i wrote the partly because when you're riding about the founders, people think that's a new great man. what if you just think about an elite population of men in a particular environment and look at what they do. looking at behavior, and a particular population in a particular place what happens if you look at the founders the way. how can you understand them differently. if they. partly because i don't wantr them to think about the founders is great man but as individual in a particular climate who do smart and and smart things. how you make sense of the. . .


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