tv In Depth Joanne Freeman CSPAN October 15, 2019 4:00am-6:01am EDT
history of our nation. >> wow, i will use the word hate. back is a little daunting. trace the art. i'm to do the historian thing and speak generally. i guess it would save your looking an american in politics, from the beginning straight through, we could even go past the civil war, you're talking about paradoxes and conflict and prop. the period that i tend to focus on is the early part of the arc, and it's the improvisational nature of the the really fascinates more than anything else. the nation was founded in a world of monarchy. the united states was a republic. what the means was was not clear at the moment and people knew the they were trying to do something the wasn't act. were not going to be creating monetary and the president isn't going to be a king but beyond the there was open ground. there's a lot of improv in those
early decades about with the nation is and how it functions, the tone of the government, how the station is going to stand up amongst nations of the world's and other kinds of nations. we mean to be a republican world of monarchy. how is this nation going to get any degree of respect, and equally if not more, what kind of nation is going to be. that is true on every level you can imagine being true. there's a broad kind of ideological level. there is a ground-level, how democratic a nation will be, who is going to open the land and how is the land going to literally rest from other people. what kind of rice will some people have and what kinds of rights will other people not have it all. a lot of questions that we are grappling with now, are questions of acuity and equality
and race in the let's go back to the beginning of the republic and beyond. as a historian, living in the moment that we are living in now and thinking in the blog, arcing weight, we deal with these pig questions and these pig legacies of undecided things. we are still dealing with them. the goal of the way back. >> where we inherently democratic. student no. [laughter] we were to monetary. americans had a very strong sense or certainly elite white male americans in a very strong sense of their white. they felt the they were creating a more democratic regime than what had been around before. they were thinking very much about life. there's a reason why there is a bill of rights attached to the constitution. so in essence, they were very
right minded but by no means was a country founded with people thinking everyone will have rights and there will be equality. there were different i don't want to call them parties but certainly two different points of views. hamilton the republics and jefferson is over simple fight. because of the two camps. they had a different view and each side how democratic the nation should be. federalist wanted it to be somewhat los democratic and the republicans more. even so, pretty limited view of democratics. when i teach about this period, and tell my students there are all kinds of weird you have to think about and meanings of. democracy is a pig one. you see the word in the founding. it is not mean what it means now. you have to rethink and recalculate what you are talking about when you're looking at the founding people. now this political buzz. >> how many points of views where there back then. and since today we are divided
democrats and republicans and independents. was that the case back then ? >> i would say it was more complex than the. they weren't thinking in the way that we think about party. we think a party, it's an institution right is a structure is an organization and you feel it yourself with one in being yourself back to the mindset of the founding's they were assuming the a national party like the idea the the nation could get something the over arching the the many people would buy into amongst all of these diverse states the was beyond the, they didn't think the a national party could seeing the public met lots of viewpoints banging up against each other ultimately some decision or compromise of the
the was the.of the national center of how the banging of opinions would initially they weren't assuming the there should be two or three viewpoints. there were federalist and they were parent publicans but even under i like to call them umbrellas of political thought even under those umbrellas were vast differences. federalist in massachusetts federalist in south carolina. the could mean something really different. in more of a spectrum, i would say than categories. in the founding. >> what were some of the privatizations the did not succeed as amended. >> really fun to teach about our for political culture improv. in other words, some of the wonderful things about studying and riding about the founding is they put all of kinds of things in riding that we don't expect them to put in riding. john adams riding to a friend and saying how should an
american politician rest. i want to look those sort of british or french european aristocrats. the clothing i have has a lot of lace on it, it it is it too much lace. could i strip some of the lace away. how many horses with the carriage would seem appropriate in american versus how many in another place. it sounds really goofy in this part of white's abridgment to teach. on the other hand, they are seriously thinking about the back. the stylistic decision on really going to shape the tone and character of the government and the nation and let everything set a precedence. the kind of improv can have a pig impact. on one hand, it's almost comical because it seems trivial on the other hand, it really isn't trivial and the in itself is
really interesting. >> we had several hundred white male elites forming this country with their buy-in from the three or 4 million people who live here the time. on the one hand there is a small group of people who have power. on the other hand revolution is a popular revolution and not conducted by a few guys in a room. it's important to remember the whatever is going on in this time. although the elite have power and are very rude about maintaining power a lot happening around them and part of the challenge for the what i want to call it, maybe the difficulties or challenges of tension of the. is the american people figuring out how to voice what they want and how to demand what they wa want, how does the system work forum and if it doesn't, at what can they do to make it work forum better. they had the power.
the american people understood in a broad kind of a sense the they had rights in some ways and different kinds of peoples had a different understanding with what rights but there was a broader sense of whatever the experiment was going on in this nation, the rights were something the were still being worked out and determined and they could potentially extend it more widely than some of what had come before in europe. >> what was awake and what did he believe. joanne: i'm going to talk about moving ahead in time about the wakes. about your earlier question about parties and categories. particularly now, people like to go back in time and draw state lines between the parties of the present and the parties of the cast. if you're republican, it goes all the way back to jefferson. there are no straight lines in history. there are certainly no straight lines when it comes to political
parties. so parties bounce back and forth in the name change all of the time. so with parties for a while you had the democratic party, which is going thing. and you had what was known more than anything else is the anti- jacksonians, it wasn't really a party but it was people who really aren't the. [laughter] we don't like jackson and we do like and what they represent. the becomes the whig party and become in the mid- 19th century with essentially for a while, two main parties in one of them is jackson and democratics supposedly popular supposedly the common man or the common white man on the one side and then on the other side you have the whigs which are more centralized and more sort of pig national government. represent in a way sort of two threads that we can see. really represented a different.of view. >> if you were governor of massachusetts or president of the united states at the time,
who held more political power. joanne: at the time, whenever i wanted to be. okay yes, if you all of the way back, to the real founding moments, that's a good question. there were people like housing in the federalists who assumed that the bulk of the power was with the state. not with the national government which was new and who knew what it encompassed beyond the very skeletal constitution. our constitution is really brief for what it does. the governor of massachusetts probably on paper might say the president has a lot of power, the fact of the matter is the for the people, their loyalties and their sense of belongingness and their understanding of powers is pretty much going to be grounded in their state. over time the shifts but in the
19th century, certainly, the first half if you were to pick up a newspaper, are met. congress would be getting a lot more attention than the president at the. 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 early american way of really thinking about it. >> reading your books, and i don't know if this is purposeful or if i missed it, the president doesn't play the large rule that the present place today in our world. joanne: right. i would say that's partly deliberate and partly reflects my interest. but it is true the throughout this. although clearly the americans understood that the president was significant, in the early founding. they were trying to figure out what the means. congress as the people's understand that the congress is really where the nation is being
worked out in a ground-level and white and people felt the they had a direct connection with their member of congress and when members of congress set up and spoke, particularly when the you get into the 1840s and 50s, they assumed they were speaking to their can stick stitch with spin the in the press was creating the conversation back and forth. congress matter tremendously. nowadays were more focused on congress for different reasons but i think the 20th century we can focus on president and the was not necessarily the case much in the 19 hundreds. >> when we recognize congress today as it was back then in the early republic. one in the early republic. joanne: i don't think so. maybe supposedly in some ways. it might be what we seem like it would look like.
somewhat tamer. it is a group of men, white men in the room, above and beyond the, there are debating and making decisions and passing legislation than those of things we see in congress. over time the united states becomes a lot more violent and congress is a representative body. they become a lot more violent and in the case it begins to look like maybe not necessarily the. >> tobacco use of, yes there were soaring yes the reunions shaking decisions being made underneath the speechifying and politicking, was a spit and spatter drug and antebellum congress had its admirable
moments but it wasn't an assembly of demigods it was a human institution, with very human failing. joanne: the was an important.for me to make in the early part of my book. my function the what most people think particularly about congress in the side. , clay and webster and sort of reach man is congress was a bunch of people in boxes the were being waspy. lofty. it's very important for me right off the cuff to say no. this is a really human institution number one and number two it is a unruly institution. it's a different world than you assumed. the book really is about this union human institution and how it functioned and shaped not just the nation's politics but americans understanding of the nation. >> what is an affair of honor.
joanne: that's another fundamental thing in the early part of my book that i talk about. people think about an all-encompassing term, a dual, people assume the that's all there was to men on a field and shooting each other. part of the.that i make in the first book, is an affair of honor was bigger than the. the.of an affair of honor or even a dual is very counterintuitive read if you have to come in on a field and face each other and to someone. you're going to kill someone. one of my early points is an affair of honor or a dual is to prove the you are willing to die for your honor. it means it is a long sort of ritualized series of whether exchanges and negotiations very often can take place in two men can redeem their names and honor
and you don't even have to make it out to a dueling ground. an affair of honor includes all of the ritualized dual. even at the., the.is the performance of it. if you think about it, this terrifying thing to stand out of the ground and pay someone with a cap gun. instead there to allow someone to shoot at you. that's the.of it is to prove the you are the kind of man and thus leader who is willing to die for your name and reputation. it makes no sense to us now but clearly made so much sense to them the time. hundreds and hundreds of people ended up working through those customers. >> why are we taught at the beginning of us history about the bert hamilton duel of 1804. joanne: army because sometimes histories about good stories the
seem to sum things up. you jefferson versus hamilton, the dual, the paintings, dramatic stories, the people sort of moved to encapsulate the thoughts of things. i think people teach the. the teacher first of all as one and only instance. is a sign of this great unity of these two men and it somehow is typical of the period. inmates were so fierce. dramatic characters, it does a lot of storytelling work but not until recently has the been taught as a way of getting deeper and kind of understanding something about the guts of politics. how they really work in the time. >> what happened in 1804 and why did it happen. joanne: vernon hamilton
certainly have been opponents for a long time. hamilton was largely the fuel behind much of the opposition. he really deceptive or any thought of him as something of a demigod. because he was somebody who came from the equivalent of royalty, his family was an opportunity this, early on in a relationship of sort. back in 1792, pretty much a direct quote, i consider it my religious duty to oppose his career. that's some serious opposition the you have going there. so he is pretty bound and determined to squash birds career and the goes on for quite some time. in the election of 1800, when it ends up being a tie between two candidates from the same party, jefferson and hamilton steps forward and doesn't eat everything he can do to squash his chances. this does not make her happy. it got moved over four years
later, brett is running for governor of new york hamilton once again steps forward to do everything he can do to stop the from happening. as luck would have it, someone stepped forward after the and said have you seen there is a report of what hamilton said about you and a dinner party and hamza stupor. and brent this.needs to prove the he is a man and a leader and he keeps contest after contest. he needs to redeem his name and honor. he acts on the and it happens to be hamilton's words. so you end up with bert being handed something the in his mind is dual worthy and so he commences an affair of honor with hamilton. the exchange these ritualized letters. neither one, doesn't go swimmingly. persons a letter, it's kind of normal things in the letters. i heard you said this about me
is it true or false. validate or deny this. i deserve this immediate response as a man of honor. if you got a letter like this, you knew you were in trouble. you had to think very hard about how you responded. hamilton's response is not a deal. he uses a very lengthy response in which he talks about he supposedly called something more despicable. flaming despicable and hamilton gives this rather grammar lesson when she's talking about what is the meaning of despicable. is the a bad word. [laughter] if you're a person at the end of the letter, to show the he is not afraid. hamilton then said by the way, i always stand behind all of my words.
not an exception to the now. i am willing to fight for any words that i enter. that's a not a strategically smart thing to send the kind of letter. it's offensive in two ways. my guess is the and is offended. basically forms by saying, you are not behaving like a gentleman. this is not a gentlemanly thing to do. now they are both offended. you can kind of see how things spiral to avoid the a trip to the dueling ground is the outcome. dueling is not legal. state had its anti- dueling regulations. a challenge might be against the law the dueling in self might be against the law, the punishment was different. in massachusetts you could be publicly humiliated in some way. some places have a fine. if you in massachusetts anywhere prefer to go to another place, you could pay a fine a lot los
daunting. but it was legal but it was largely the lawmakers. the people making the law were the people breaking the law which the lead in this. in how they do this. >> duly spent too much much time talking about the actual duels and the set up to this rather than or does it a microcosm of what is going on in the country the time. the one people tend to focus on the story. there was a lot of dueling. the practice of dueling is worth looking at because it does tell you a lot about elite politics. being a politician or political approach or at the time. i can tell you a lot about the emotional guts of some of the politics of the. but the pre- shouldn't and it's just dramatic. the vice president of the united
states killed the former secretary of the treasury and it's a pretty dramatic story. if you're going to focus on one dual, it makes sense but if for too long it stood in for a lot of other things and hard with studying as well. >> we should note the he did not get elected at new york. >> very effective to help smash various aspects of her career. i don't think burke wanted to kill hamilton. i don't think the was his purpose. first almost duels unless maybe you're andrew jackson, most don't go to a dueling ground where you are wanting to kill. i don't think burke did. sometime before the dual is asked about a dr., what doctor emer says something along the lines of you don't need dodgers, let's just get it over with. i think he assumed it would be in a typical dual. you shoot at each other you
prove you're a man of honor at the nearly. but tragically, it has become the sort of villain of american history for killing hamilton. i don't think the was his aim. there are to be fun words in the english language. i don't think the was his purpose in going to the dueling ground. what was his life like after the. joanne: not easy. he flayed because at the the.although dueling is common enough, all of his enemies essentially gang up after his killing of hamilton. he is vulnerable. people didn't try to kill people duels, you become vulnerable or having murdered someone which what happened to him. various politics joining together and try to squash him. he is friends and his newspaper editor who run across to the dueling grounds please new york. he had self in south carolina
where he hides out for a while. i was a good place to be. he ultimately is vice president and he goes back to washington, he finishes his vice presidency. he was a bad vice president. he finishes his vice presidency and he is clearly not going to stick around for the second term though he ends up kind of going out west and it's unclear what he is doing out west, he appears to be marching around with young man with guns. i think he thought something was going to happen in the vicinity of mexico and he was there with men the somehow or other he could see the west is literally a frontier where he might be able to have a different kind of power. were still not entirely sure what he is doing but he did get tried for treason. he's equated red but now is pretty much, what frontier is lyft for her.
he is pretty much local and national politics. he ends up basically enrolling himself in europe. ray hangs out with william godwin and mary ann has is very interesting exile bizarre kind of life in europe hanging out with intellectuals. then he comes back, to new york. these kind of a tourist attraction. people like to go back there for entertainment. he would go back to the law office. he kind of attempted to get snubbed in the streets. it's kind of a fad ending or sad ending. he does not have an easy time of it. actually, there are lots of accounts of members of congress who seen him. he comes back to finish the vice presidency and what they say about him as you can see the fatigue and the anxiety of dealing with what he is dealing with the you can see it about him. probably he doesn't have an easy
end of life. older years, difficult years for him. his one on only two politicians in this. i have seen ever describe politics using the word fun. he actually says the president engage in politics for fun and honor and profit. which is pretty blunt. [laughter] is pretty direct when he acknowledges the. he acknowledges the. you get the from him but he is enjoying the game. he is just more honest about the fact the he is enjoying it. i think at some place in his later years, they are not some fun. >> was the other one. joanne: charles from south carolina who considers politics fun. there might be others floating around about there. i don't think i've come across it more than those two times. >> professor freeman you are a
hamiltonian. joanne: i guess it means that i am someone who finds him and i've always found him fascinating. so hamiltonian in the sense that i really have spent a lot of time and energy really trying to understand him and why he did what he did and what he did. i have been telling and scholar because i really think the many scholars find question or the person of problem the sort of grabs them. and there are many the grammy. but he is someone who grammy at an early. so in hamilton curious scholar. >> besides a 10-dollar bill and a relatively well-known mystical, what is his legacy. joanne: one of the things the he was known for, and makes legacy,
that refers to a document i found at the new york historical society about the doctor turning his back so we can have deniability and when that line appeared, might i turned to my friend and i said that's my document. i know that document, that's my document so when i got to lynn manwell miranda, i said is that based on that topic? of course it is. i get to have my document sung in what i hit broadway musical so that was a mind blowing experience >> how accurate is the musical? >> 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 a lot of people weren't aware of and it does things that as a historian i think
are wonderful things to do. it reminds people about the contingency of that moment. people look at the founding and they see it as a series of courses but of course we won the revolution and of course constitution, blah blah and there are no courses when you're in that moment, there are no recourses and that's how the republic defined that period so the play reminds people about that contingency and also talks people maybe who hadn't thought about it before that these were real people and that's an important thing, what you're looking at are real people going through a process, not a bunch of rattle rousersmaking great decisions about great things . that said there are many things that are historically inaccurate about what is presented in the play . there are many things that are not discussed in the play in any major way like the institution of slavery, it's mentioned, it's not really discussed. to me going to see a piece of
musical theater, my response was more there's a lot of history in there, more than i would expect there to be. it's got a lot that's wrong in it, to me, that has made this the profoundly wonderful moment because i think so many people and particularly young people become interested in the time period and as a teacher, we can grab hold of that and you can say i know you're interested in that, let me teach you about what really happened in that time period, let me take teach you the reality about everything that happened around this or that happened in ways that aren't shown in the play so in a sense by being wrong in some ways it's created a great teaching opportunity . >> in a tweet that you sent out a couple days ago, you do tweet a lot. >> i do tweet a lot. >> it's interesting in my hamilton and jefferson, are i asked how many had seen hamilton or knew the music, to judge hamilton mania, feels like it. then i read applications for
the course majority mention the musical, maybe adding but it's had an impact. >> i did that's what happened . first i want to say all my code tweeters, look what they can do . it's on tv but it is true, i had my first meeting of my seminar and i do 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 adding and they nodded, we're not crazy about it anymore they, the classroom limited in size so even the ones who already preregistered, i'm curious what brings you to the course , a lot of people said well, almost sheepishly, i really liked the hamilton musical and it led me to want to know more. that's a wonderful thing and the course, it's great .
first of all, i guess it's not really advertising but it's a course i love to teach about the age of hamilton and jefferson, except for the first two weeks you read the biographies, after the first two it's all taught with papers and writing, there's no other history books that brought in and we look at for the first about what america was, look at revolution, look at them as party politics but it's all primary courses and it's very explicitly doesn't take sides and doesn't say that one is right and what is wrong but hand the raw evidence to the students and we grapple with it and what's fun for me in teaching it is different every time i teach it because it depends entirely on what the students find and focus on in those letters -teaching since the 22nd or 23rd year-teaching this course, it's different every time. it's fun and i learned things , i clearly have read those
letters times but you can always learn things depending on the questions we bring when you look at them so it's a fun class. >> on that same day, in response to a former student you tweeted out that about david mccullough's john adams book. yes, mccullough's john adams biography was the same thing that sends more people into my seminars and anythingelse . >> for years. and you know, i give students full permission to say whatever they want. i very explicitly i said this time, why are you in the course and the answer isn't because republicanism has always been meaningful to me, i don't want a gale answer . it was an old asset street that i was serious about or my dad loves this stuff and now i'm curious about it or i will a movie or i read a book
or i just never study early america but i give them full permission to say whatever they want and for a while, it was well, there's this john adamsbiography that david mccullough wrote or i read part of it . and i'm curious now. was the thing, then the hbo miniseries, sometimes people say this miniseries i was curious about, now i want to know about the time period. that's the part that became the musical for a time but this time i asked because it wasn't necessarily something that initially in conversation 's were bringing up . sometimes someone said on twitter maybe it's a point because younger people are interested in the musical that the older students don't want to be, saying they love the musical but there back in public because the younger people are more focused on it, i don't know but the fact of the matter is that about 30 people trying to get into the course and a lot of those are self-interest and in one way or another, one person
said i didn't like the musical and i'm here because i want to learn more aboutthe time it is great . it's an excellent reason and that's excellent teaching, love it, hate it, ask questions about it. >> once a month we invite an author to talk about his or her body of work . this month is yale professor historian and author joanne friedman. she is the author of a affairs of honor which came out in 2001. alexander hamilton writing, she has edited thatthe essential hamilton i should say is what she has edited . and the field of blood is her most recent book, came out last year congress and the road to civil war. she'll be with usfor another hour and a half .it's your chance to take time, to take a question, giveher a question . there's the numbers, we're going to put those on the screen. participate in our conversation this afternoon, 202 is the area code,
742-8400 for human time zones, 488201. if you live in the mountain and this time zones, we can also take your comments via social media, were going to scroll through our different only addresses. facebook, twitter, etc.. remember book tv is the essential part of that if you want to get a comment to us . how did you get interested in this mark. >> probably the bicentennial. partly the bicentennial. it was everywhere. if you're old enough to remember the bicentennial, this time, it was very everywhere. bicentennial minutes, bicentennial tv commercials, was a every day in the local reporter dispatch of your yorktown heights at a bicentennial moment and i was cutting out all the newspaper articles. i was just absorbed. also, the musical 1776.
at that time it grabbed me as well and i think all that came together to make that time to me. i think in some ways it was what hamilton has done is its given to me, it was real. these are real people. it didn't seem like a boring bunch of statues, debating great ideas, it seemed like people on the ground trying to figure things out which grabbed me and i was 13 or 14, maybe 14 years old but i started reading biographies and i actually think i sort of just went, i went to reading really early. a biography of john irons, i think i read those who love i think, maybe even which is not a biography per se but it's historical, i started reading and i started with a and at some point i got to hamilton at a very early point and i stopped because he was praying in comparison with the other people i've been reading about. not a lot of people had
written about him . he had this weird beginning of his life, was born relatively poor and legitimate in the caribbean, he died of a dual, both of those things were intriguing to me. i know that as a young person you want, was great things and i think on some level i probably identified the young person but wanted to go on to have an exciting life so i read a biography, i'm not going to tell you which one it was because i didn't like it and i didn't believe it and i wish i could reconstruct what in my 14-year-old lorraine read a biography. and i said that doesn't sound convincing but somehow i did so i went to the library and i asked the librarian what this writer had read that gave him the right to say what he said in the book. and she pointed me to the 27 volumes of the hamiltonpapers . and i pulled down the volume and looked at them and rented , it was not always the
easiest thing to read but to me, that was the real stuff that wasn't someone telling me about history. that was the history, that was someone putting on paper what they were thinking so to me, that was the most exciting thing ever. it was like, i want someone to tell me what they think, i want to read the stuff so i started reading hamilton papers, starting with volume 1 and i went through and started again and i did that for years and years and i didn't know that there, i never occurred to me, i didn't know there was a secession called historian and i had no outcome in mind. it was just the thing i like to do and so it was like decade later that i realized i had an interesting database in my head. i've gotten to know hamilton in a way that has not been told. >> when you put together writings, how did you compile that and what did you compile
in them ? >> that's an interesting story. it was when i was a grad student at uva and i was a teaching assistant with my wonderful graduate advisor. he was doing a course basically at jefferson hamilton course and it was nominally the age of jefferson, he made it jefferson in honor of my being but it was a library of america, wonderful body of jefferson's writings and there was no equivalent. and this is only going to be believable because of what i just said . in a weekend i pulled together a ruler at kinko's or whatever the place was, we photocopied the letters and put them together and it was a glossary of names and things to go along with the library of america volume but it was like well, this is
this. and we used it in the course. it was a huge mass of this thing that fell apart because it was so big that works wonderfully, was made to go along with the jefferson volumes and a fewyears later , it occurred to me that i had already edited what could have been a library of america addition of hamilton's writings though at that point i went to the library of america and said i'd created a volume which i would like to do with you guys and the library of america on their board is a wonderful nonprofit organization just about putting american writing or letters in print and keeping it in print forever. so it's near and dear to my heart because it's what i love and if the actual stuff of history so they created that volume based on this thing i pulled together as a grad student. it's a collection, it's not, it includes i guess what you would call who would report on manufacturers on public
credit but it includes a lot of personal letters that i selected sometime because they showed something about hamilton as a person, sometimes because they expose something about his politics, sometimes because they showed something negative about him as a person or a politician . it's meant to be a spectrum of writings that show you about his thinking and who he is as a person. i included memos in there, things he neverintended anybody to see sometimes that's the most revealing kind of stuff . soa favorite one i like to teach with , he wrote a few days within a week of the constitutional convention, very loyal thinker, released the constitutional convention, he sits down and on a piece ofpaper he says what is going to happen next ? let me think about this. okay, constitution is going to be ratified, probably washington will be chosen president, that will be good .
people trust washington and because they trust washington they're going to trust people who he appoints the office so all of that bodes well. however, maybe you want to be made presidentsomehow. maybe that won't happen . maybe other countries will sleep in and try and take over states. maybe the states will turn against each other, maybe there will be separate federations and he draws this image of chaos . the downfall, the government collapsing, foreign nations sleeping in. it's fascinating to read. the kicker of this, and this is god's been pushing for this constitutional convention and a stronger government forever. i haven't has beencreated and at the end ofthis memo he says having created this apocalyptic account of
everything falling apart, he says that's not likely what's going to happen. at fascinating . he had grateful , but he's perfectly willing to assume that at that point kind assuming the experiments probably notgoing to work . probably was not going to function the way. it would function, americans will be willing in his mind to invest in this new government for its work well and it's probably all goingto collapse . at fascinating and it's great to see because it in capsules all the other courses but his guidance is that convention and you leave basically, i don't think it's going to work. it's not what you would expect that moment and certainly not what you expect of his life. >> joanne friedman, before we get into calls around the library 14 being hamilton. were your parents rebuffs? >> they were not. my grandfather, i don't think i knew that. he was a civil war buff. and i know he had these civil war books that use to read, but i didn't really know
anybody who was really interested in history so i was lost on my own planet doing my own thing and i thought it was a weird thing to do. i never talked to anybody about it. i had the books under my bed because i was kind of embarrassed. sometimes dad would make fun of me for reading these books and so other people had comic books under their bed and i had volumes of the hamilton papers. so no, i was off in dreamland doing whatever i was doing. it was decades later that i discovered what i had been doing . >> where you raise and what didyour folks to ? >> i was born in queens, raised in westchester county new york . my mom initially was a kindergarten teacher, went on to do some work in interior design. my dad was a marketresearcher
. worked for foods and went on to do marketing in the industry and it was a really early person applying market market research techniques so i grew up like sitting, watching focusgroups talk about movies or sorting questionnaires . you give my brothers a dollar and it's interesting, i grew up watching research sorting through this creative process to come up with something that finds a way to appeal to the public in some way so in some way or another you might not have been reminded but he was research minded so maybe some of that runoff in some way. >> let's hear from our colors, begin with david, you're on with historian joanne friedman . >> caller: you. i want to say to professor friedman and i love affairs of other and i briefly want
to jump out and say you are the greatest, you'd be the greatest teacher. i've seen you on c-span many times and what i love about it is you get the excitement and the love and the interest going and i wish all teachers , i school, college had the same enthusiasm and thrill to get their students as you do. >> that's very nice of you to say. >> what was it about the affairs of honor that caught you ? >> i first heard about it when i saw professor friedman possibly on brian lamb's show and it just, the idea of it. i have some friends that are on the conservative side and i said i belong to a history group and i said there's this book that talks about the early congress and all these congress allegations are trying to kill each other. they all thought this was a most wonderful idea.
>> baby that wasn't initially what i had in mind . >> quickly may i ask some questions. you got into hamilton's head better than anybody else in thecountry today . hamilton is the founding father. he was ambitious and the first four presidents of this country were founding fathers and hamilton goes in the constitutional convention and he knows that the rule is because he's foreign-born, he can't be president. you think he would have liked to be president and what did power really mean to him, thank you very much. >> thank you for the nice things he said. part answer. first of all there is an exemption clause in the constitution that if you were an american citizen at the time the constitution was ratified you were, 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 knew that. he knew very well it was not very popular. there are various points in which he was very blunt in stepping forward and saying i will be problematic. for a while washington considers tending to england and ultimately john day is sent in to negotiate, hamilton steps forward and says don't do that . i'm not popular. that will create problems for you though i don't think he assumed he would be president ever. i think he understood that and i'll go even beyond that and say he kind of liked the idea that he was unpopular because i think in his mind it meant he was being very virtuous and promoting ideas not because it would get popular appeal because he thought they were the right things to promote so honest seems for someone who understood power, was
interested in empowering this new national government i don't think you wanted that or assume it would have that kind of power for himself. >> rochelle is calling infrom the bronx . >> thank you for taking my call.quick comment, as a retired right librarian i'm so please to hear your kudos to the library and i have two quick questions. you referred to the fact that the earlier republican party and so forth were not 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 went to a presentation at the new york historical society year ago. a professor, i don't remember his name in oklahoma is writing a book pursuing the thesis hamilton was jewish. any credibility to this? very much. >> so the first question i've
already forgotten, the republican party. a problem with drawing that kind of a straight line is if you look, and there are wonderful 20th-century lyrical historians have done this track work is that if you look at what the parties represent, what they stand for, what their policies are, a change dramatically over time you can track the use of the word like republican but you can't consistently say what the party stood for in the 1850s or 1870s compared to what the party stands for now. politicians have all kinds of reasons to want to draw the kind of straight lines in the past as a political historian, i think of any historian, the first thing you think is all the ways in which that's not true so rhetorically speaking that has influence but that usually doesn't reflect a
reality. as far as the book that's going to be coming out, i'm not sure when, i think it's through university press on hamilton being jewish, i haven't seen the manuscript . i've heard about it. i've spoken with some about it so i can't judge the credibility of it or not. i know that the scholars have been working on it, it's done a lot of research. i'm intrigued to see it. i don't think you can rule anything out until you've seen the evidence and gotten a sense of what leads to the conclusions so i'm certainly not going to say it's not possible. the interesting thing, hamilton is an interesting founder for this reason. there are a lot of records from his youth and you have to do some research like a few others have done as well to find things out about his youth because of that, there are a lot of blank spaces regarding hamilton's youth and people like to project different things.
for a while people talk about him in him how or other illegitimate son of port washington and all kinds of other stories and things people have applied to hamilton. some ofthem might be true but the fact is you need to get to this , the evidence so i'm looking forward to seeing that book because i want to see that the stuff that filled the argument, it will be fascinating if it's true. >> what do we know abouthis life on the island of nevis and why was he born there ? >> 'smother was named rachel percent. her parents were supposedly french cannot who were on leave done research on regis, at some point this is the ultimate vacation. i'll see what i can find in a way and this is the perfect vacation so it was in the morning hours i was researching the archives and
in the afternoon i would lie on the beach and that was nirvana for me but his mother was there and his father was the fourth son of a scotsman of somewhat noble birth, but the first one inherits everything, the fourth one doesn't inherit much so he went out into the world and he thought he would get rich quick in the caribbean which is one of the things people try to do their area he's born legitimately to james hamilton, his father at a certain point they moved to the island ofst. croix. his father leaves the family at some point, doesn't come back . his mother runs a general store and they're not particularly lost, he dies when he's at a relatively young age so he's not well off, doesn't have much money, doesn't have any connections and on thisisland , he gets off the island and ultimately ends up in north america and feeds into what becomes the
american revolution cause he's so clearly gifted, he's a great writer and people put together a charitable fund so he can get an education and that's how you he ends up ultimately in new york. >> how would you in a short way described his relationship with george washington ? >> a very short way would be conflicted . that's a crucial relationship for him and a very important way, he of course knows during the revolution that george washington is going to end up being the president and how important he is but by looking with him at that early point, he puts himself in his close relationship with the nations first man as he calls in at the time. >> ..
>> it was one of very few americans at that time that had a worldwide reputation because of the war. fighting and winning the revolution. that's crucial that hamilton ends up being in contact with him and ultimately trusted by him and given power by him. that, in a sense, makes hamilton's career. it added to the fact that hamilton is someone who, a strong thinker. is aggressive. never doubts what he thinks or has to say. is always shoving himself into situations. putting his thoughts in front of people.
the washington relationship is key. without it, it's hard to imagine where he would have gone without it. with it, he puts himself in a sphere that allows him to have dental and certainly he wanted to have. but it's conflicted because he's not really good with authority figures. any kind of taste a little bit. during the revolution, washington makes it clear that hamilton is a favorite. doesn't want to be everyone's favorite. he wants to be promoted or appreciated for his merits and he kinda doesn't like the fact that people see him as a favorite. during the wars, he and washington had kind of a spat. at a point where they are both clearly fatigued. have been up working with washington. he spent a lot of time at a desk writing things. either listening to washington tell him what to write or writing and correcting them. so there were clearly at this late point in the war. tired. and hamilton leaves his side and runs down a staircase to deliver a letter. gets stopped at the foot of the stairway. lafayette had a way of grabbing
a hold of your lapel and talking with you in a very engaged manner. he does that with hamilton for a few minutes. hamilton looks up at the top of the stairway is washington, glaring down. he said something along the lines of, you've kept me waiting these 10 minutes. you treat me with disrespect server. hamilton went this point is tired of being an aide and would much rather be on the battlefield. he says i'm not aware of that, but if you believe that, then we part. and he storms off and basically surrenders his position. washington found someone to apologize. he refuses to take the apology. wait until he can be replaced and leaves. he writes these two letters .1 to his father-in-law in which he says something like, i need to tell you what happened. i need to explain to you why it happened. please understand, don't think
that badly of me as you might. then he says something again. pretty close to a direct quote. the direct man and i - - great man and i have come to a rupture. he sees himself as put upon parents that tells you a lot about that relationship and hamilton's almost, resentment. that he needed him though so much in that way. and he doesn't necessarily 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 in her circle. >> - - from arkansas. please go ahead. >> hello and thank you.
i have a comment and a question. my understanding is that james somerset, an american slave working for his 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 follow it and the american colonies. and there was widespread concern among the slave masters that that might soon lose their so-called property. their slaves, on which their wealth was based. a very good book on this subject is, slave nation from 2005 by alfred and - - to professors at rutgers. so i believe that the somerset
case in england in 1772 was one of the real causes of the american revolution. mostly it's not acknowledged as such. but my question is, what are your thoughts on this and thank you so very much. >> i'm assuming what you're touching on as a point that's true throughout this period and beyond. several points. number one, in england, there was some anti-slavery going on initially than what was going on in the colonies in the early united states. that had an impact. but also obviously, the institution of slavery was a long-standing third rail. particularly if you were a southerner. it affected your political decisions. your understanding of what
power you had and how you needed or wanted to maintain it. certainly you can say the institution of slavery in and of itself even before the constitution but throughout colonial and early america plays a major role in shaping everything. it was something, as you put it, people that owned property of that kind with that first and foremost. and institutions of government are about among other things, property rights. that's part of the mix of things that constantly front and center in american history. some of what we are seeing in recent years is people being aggressive about restoring that part of the story is how we understand who we are as a
nation. >> next call from tom in chicago. >> hi professor freeman. thank you very much. several years ago when the movie lincoln came out. i became fascinated with thaddeus stevens. tommy lee jones played him brilliantly in the movie and he seems like an interesting character and probably an admirable one as well. what i'm wondering is, the violence on the floor of congress you write about in your latest book, given how easily provoked some of these other congressmen were. especially ones of the other party, and given how provocative stevens was in a brutally rhetorical way. did anyone ever pull a knife on him or challenge to a duel. was he on the receiving end of this violence?
>> that's an interesting question. and that he is stevens - - a real character. was a really fighting, driver - - dry wit. i am not aware of anyone cleaning him but what was interesting, 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. for example, the actor, right in the later years of the civil war when southerners are tried to find their way back into the union. louisiana. that is stevens says something like not a lot of you were here
in the 1850s, i was, do you remember these guys? i don't remember these guys there do we want to let them back in? i don't know it was the first to step up and say that. i think there's one moment where someone threatens and and afterward, he referred to it as a momentary breeze and everyone laughed. but he someone who's never afraid to speak his mind in the midst of it. there's a moment when there's discussion where there's voting on what ultimately becomes the future slave act. a lot of congressmen go hide in the library, the congressional library so they don't have to vote on the issues. and when it's done, stevens says out loud in the
congressional record, you can send someone to the library and tell everybody to come back. it's safe. he's that guy. as far as i know, isn't physically attacked. >> let's go to may 22, i believe it was. 1856. a name that's relatively lost to history and it wasn't until i reread field of blood, preston brooks. >> it took me a long time to write "the field of blood". ultimately, 17 years. but one thing i will say about that chunk of time is when i'm writing about physical violence in the congress. most people would say something along the lines of, there was that guy. but people have a sense there was at least one violent incident in congress. charles sumner is the massachusetts abolitionist
senator. who was - - by preston brooks, a congressman in the house. comes across to the senate. sumner had stood up and made a very aggressive antislavery speech and and it he had invoked south carolina and a kinsman of brooks. so brooks comes into the senate and basically says to sumner seating at his desk. you've insulted my state of the union, my kinsman and threatened to punish him for it. and violently caned him. sumner innocence is trapped seated at that that spirit and his anxiety to get away, launches the desk from the
ground but but he continues until the cane breaks. there are a number of interesting things about the caning. deliberate attacks like that are supposed to take place in the streets. violence erupts over time, particularly in the house. if you want to stage an attack in that way, supposed to have been in the street. brooks for two days tries to catch sumner on the capitol grounds. but because that's the proper way to beat a congressman. why? you can see why it is when he confronts him in the senate chamber. a southerner confronting a northerner, and abolitionist, in the 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 repercussions.
in a way there would have been repercussions of it happened outside but the symbolism of that. the power of that happens in the senate, takes it off the charts.>> there was someone else, a cohort of brooks protecting, or making sure people didn't come to sumner's help collects correct. another south carolina in was there keeping anyone who wanted to interfere, away. the fact of the matter is, people were yelling, don't kill him. here's the interesting thing about some of the congressional violence it's kind of counterintuitive. there was a lot of violence throughout this period. 1830s-1850s. fighting was kind of a given if it seems fair. by that, i mean there were rules of fighting. if you're going to insult someone. only insult someone if he was present so he could offend himself. you are only supposed to attack if you are attacking an unarmed
man. you yourself are supposed to be unarmed. fairness was considered important. there's a - - from the late 1850s. where a congressman is writing to his wife and he sees a menacing looking stranger standing in front of his colleague with a clenched fist. his writing, this doesn't look good. i think it's going to be a fight. but he looks at the stranger and his colleague and his colleague is a bigger man. he says, it'll be fine. but when he thinks he spots a weapon, he thinks the stranger is holding a weapon, he immediately positioned himself behind that stranger, in case people the weapon. he lets the fight happen. but if it's fair, if that stranger reached for a weapon. it would have stopped it. some of what's happening in the case of brooks and summoner, certainly that seemed like an unfair fight in some ways.
in the investigation, brooks is asked, did you at least warn sumner that you would do this. that would have made it fair. brooks clearly did not. he's reprimanded for not warning him. by congress. what you did was bad, but also, you should have warned him. which tells you about the culture of congress that somehow it would've made it better or be deemed it somehow. >> was preston brooks reelected? >> preston brooks was celebrated in the south. he was sent celebratory canes. he get some kind of a throat infection and suffocates and dies, very suddenly. what i write about in my book, much of the aggressive fighters are southerners.
people in the period when you look at incoming congress. they tried to break it up into fighting men and noncombatants. fighting men tended to get reelected because they were doing the ãhenry wise of virginia was a fighting man for sure. at one point he is reprimanded. shame on you. you've caused 12 fights already. you should be sent home. and he says, do it. you know what, they're going to reelect me and put me back because i'm here to do this. i am fighting for their lives. and he's right. to some degree for a period of time, people who fight in that way, southerners willing to fight in that way. maybe 10 percent of a given house would have been considered fighting men. they are put there because the assumption is they will use
that edge to fight to protect their interests. including the institution of slavery. >> next call his mother from atlanta. >> professor freeman, you are delightful, thank you. my question was about the conflicted relationship between hamilton and washington. you pretty much answered everything. so if i may, i will ask something else. what do you think were the prospects of hamilton. had he been i guess tasked a - - in new york as an attorney. would he have lived out his life that way? or would he have tried to get back onto the national stage? >> that's a really good question. we have a little evidence about
what he was thinking. first off, by the time the duel happened, hamilton's political career is not doing really well. even without the duel, he wrote a number of pamphlets he thought were logical. first, he defends himself against charges of using treasury funds and an adulterous affair. that didn't do his reputation favors. then he writes of pamphlets attacking his own party's presidential candidate, john adams in the election of 1800. that really didn't do him favors. supporters were backing away with what they call an indiscreet politician. he does not have discretion or control over himself. and he's a danger, liability. his career is suffering. as a whole. the nation is moving in a more democratic direction.
on that level too, he has much less power. in one way or another, i don't think he was going to gain political power again. the question is if the duel had happened, what would he have done. he left behind one-to clues about that. i think you might have become a political commentator. he was pondering another collection of essays along the lines of the federalist. he was the initiator of the federalist essays he broke with james madison, john j. in the later years, he was thinking about doing that again. he approached one friend and colleague and said, would you be willing to write for something like that. i think he would have been commenting on american government. he saw himself as someone that would stand back. with that said, he explained
why he feels compelled. the last paragraph of that is fascinating. he says something along the lines of, - - it's addressed to posterity if he dies. some of you may be wondering why i ended up fighting this duel. i don't support the willing. i should have just not agreed to fight this. here's the thing, at some point in our future, in the case of crises in our public affairs which seem likely to happen. he wants to be able to step forward in those crises and be useful. he needed to redeem his reputation so that he could be a public figure if needed again. this is along the lines of the memo i mentioned of things maybe not working and collapsing. i think he consistently thought
that the american experiment might not last. and if it didn't, he saw himself as someone who would literately and figuratively ride into that problem and in some way or another save the day. he never comes out and says i think there will be warfare. . [indiscernible] i think you wanted to be someone i would be prepared to fight and in some ways i think you meant that literally, as a soldier. five he thought that duel was to protect and retain his reputation for that. that may come. >> i read the federalist like a dissenting court.is that the right way to do it? collects people tend to use as an objective commentary on the
constitution. the fact of the matter is, it's an exaggeration but it's what i tell my students to think this way. it's kind of a commercial advertisement of the constitution. here's why you should like them. basically, the idea behind it was, hamilton and madison and jay thinking about all the ways in which americans were going to distrust this. what might be bad about it. they stepped forward and said, let's explain why this isn't such a bad thing. not only that, if we don't do this, this might happen, and that's worse. it really isn't intended to be objective. it is certainly intended to look that way. but, it's a document with a purpose. a series of documents with a purpose. a series of newspaper essays written to defend and promote this new constitution so that people will trust it and ideally the states will ratify it into existence.
>> next call from jane in california. >> - - yes sir. >> please go ahead. >> thank you professor for being there. i am in the midst of a dilemma. i am almost finished with the biography of. [indiscernible]. in the book, he goes into great detail on how terrible, devious, jefferson was. almost calls to treason. i am having great difficulty trying to calm to peace with this because he did write the beautiful declaration of independence and other papers. but his behavior, lack of integrity and all the terrible things he did is overwhelming me. how do you deal with this? >> that's a good question. there is a tendency,
particularly when looking at this. to take sides. nowadays, given that jefferson is getting this promotion. when you look over a long haul, typically when his reputation is doing well, jefferson's isn't. i would say, 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 from another point of view. in this case, this book has a strong opinion about marshall and jefferson billy detested marshall. i would encourage you to read a biography of jefferson which takes a different point of view. one of the things i do with students in my class. i think students generally come in maybe in ways they haven't
understood. one of the best things you can do is to really read some of the things these people have written. personally, i love that primary evidence. but if you read a jefferson biography that's favorable and presenting with evidence, you can then begin to evaluate what you think. you can pick books against each other. >> i almost wouldn't trust any book that is that one-sided without reading another book with a different point of view so that you yourself as a reader can evaluate and decide what you think. personally, i don't see good guy or bad guy. i don't think it's ever that clear. i think the important thing about their existence and others is that no one is absolutely right.
the fact of the matter is, is the banging of different ideas against each other that ends up leading to something functional. i think that's a more meaningful way to think about about the period. what's interesting is the blend of ideas. politicians and populace find ways to improve on what's, before. >> - - we will go back to your twitter feed. why do you use 1755? >> my twitter handle. okay, so, we don't know what hamilton was born. either 1755 or 1757. there's a piece of paper that
suggests hamilton was born in 1755. hamilton appears to have said himself, 1757. i went with 1755 because it's a document. i'm not strongly invested in 55 or 57, but that's where that comes from. i once had a great 1757-er with great disdain say, you are for 1755. >> i'm going to throw an idea into the twitter sphere and see what happens. what if there was a giant history valley with teachers, historians of all kinds, getting together to discuss what we can learn from american history to help us in the present. what was the reaction you got
to that? >> i was very honest in saying i'm throwing this into the twitter sphere. it was an idea i thought would be useful to have people think about american history. and not take a glossy look at the past. by looking at the ways in which we wrestled with things in the past. i threw that out there not knowing what would happen. i got a big response. i got a lot of email on it. a lot of organizations and public figures of various sorts contacted me about it. all of them saying, yes. let's do this. this is something i've spoken with a number of colleagues. this is something i'm eager to pursue and do ideally in the spring or late summer of next
year. i think it would be a wonderful thing to have a day where we can talk about, wrestle with, argue about american history, in all its complexity. not celebrate things. not a mythologized view of things but really it talk about the ways and how we struggled in the past and how we - -. i was so encouraged by the response. that i threw it out into the twitter sphere, expecting nothing and now i think, wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to have a day, in some way or another to create a day in which people on a local level get together to talk about history and some kind of a targeted way. come back in the next couple months and i will have a better idea. i'm a historian. i engage with scholars. i write scholarly history.
but i also believe fervently want to communicate with the public but i think scholars and historians are among the people that should be offering this to the public. some of us do, some of us don't. this sort of feels in that vein. what a great thing to take part in and help create a public conversations about the complexity of american history. >> so we can get you on record that c-span cameras can be at this event. >> i would love for c-span to be at the event. >> marilyn from kansas. >> hi, how are you? i wanted to ask. i didn't come in at the beginning of this talk so perhaps i missed this. but it seems to me that hamilton's greatest contribution was his economic
ideas. that he was for banks, for the assumption of the state that's. when so many of the other founding fathers distrusted banks, jefferson thought we should all be farmers. it seemed to me that paying our debts from the very beginning made such a huge difference in this country. and in our success. would you talk about that? >> marilyn, what do you do in kansas? >> i am retired. >> from? >> i worked in business insurance. >> thank you ma'am. which are level of interest in history? >> i've always loved history. always been interested in
history. i think the way things are now, when you go back and read history, it's comforting for one thing. >> thank you ma'am. >> that's a good question. let me grab a slug of water here. i think you're absolutely right. that hamilton's financial plans, i spoke earlier about hamilton being a powerful nationalist. a vital part of his legacy in a fundamental thing he did was to step in as the first secretary of treasury when there really wasn't a national structure for finance in any way. and to really create that kind of a structure. he was in some ways the perfect person for that job. this is what i write about him as a person. i talk about the fact that he was - - in his personal life and as a politician.
he was the perfect person to say i will confront this problem. revolutionary war debt . you are right, he is a three-part plan where he wants the national government to assume state debt. those are crucial. particularly for the precise reason you say. and he said, our debt is the price of liberty.we need to step forward to prove our credit as a nation. he remains in the broadest way possible. to prove we are a nation with credit. that we have reputation. that we are trustworthy and we have financial credit. we need to tend to our debt. he says, i think in his first
report about public credit, it's an entire thing. that's a direct quote. by that he means, it's not just financial. it's who we are as a nation. you're absolutely right. as far as a concrete thing he did in his public life. stepping forward and creating that three-part plan and pushing it for and standing behind it at a point where there were many people. i would say that jefferson were more complex and wanting people to just be farmers. but you are absolutely right that there was an ideal war on one side and a more urban and i suppose you can say, finance oriented ideal on the other side.hamilton is stepping forward and doing that kind of work on the ground level. it's tempting to look at people and think about them as a sort of, ideologists. thinking on a broad level. one of the interesting things is how good he is with the nuts and bolts work. for example, he takes office. he doesn't know much at all on
a national level about the nation's finances. he creates a sort of questionnaire that he sends out to masters across the country. asking them to check boxes. tell me about trade. only about customs. so he can collect that information and get a national view of finance in some ways is wonderful in a variety of ways and his plan is a part of what he does. >> nina is responding via twitter to your history idea. your history teach and or get together. >> if held, it must include native american histories and crafters. >> absolutely. absolutely. after this i said yes, let's talk about history. then it comes to be about how
broadly. but you are absolutely right. nothing given the long arc of american history is about fighting for rights and having rights be taken away. in one way or another, you have to deal with all sides of the equation. deal with people whose rights are being violated and how these people are fighting for their rights. that has to be at the center of the story among other things. again, i literally have had two conversations about this so i haven't progressed beyond it's something i want to do and now i have to figure out how to do it.i am with you. >> before the flood out of time, we've got to talk about benjamin brown french. >> yes. wherever you are, i thank you. when i was writing one of my recent books, "the field of blood". it started about physical violence in congress. i ended up finding roughly 70
physically violent incidents in the house and senate. each one could be a chapter. part of my challenge in writing the book was, how do i tell the story and how do i investigate the violence and how do i figure out what it means? early in the process, i found this minor congressional clerk. benjamin brown french. many have used them before when writing about lincoln. he is at being important in the lincoln white house. he left behind in 11 volume diary. he had a newspaper column. an extensive correspondence. he's a poet. he's amazing. what's wonderful about what he left behind is he's in the circle of congress from 1833-1870 when he died. what he allows me to do, he kind of acts as a guide.you look through his eyes and confronting the violence in congress. and you see it through his eyes. what's wonderful about him is he, he's from this small town in new hampshire.
he's a minor clerk. he arrives in washington and his eyes are this big. wow, i'm in the nation's capital! but when he comes to congress, everyone likes him. he's collegial. people of all parties like him. he's trying very hard to is what was called a dough faced democrat. he starts out as that guy, doing anything it takes to appease southerners to promote his party and protect the union. by the time of the civil war in 1860, he talked about this in his diary thank heavens. he goes out to buy a gun that he will carry on his person at all times in case he needs to shoot southerners that seem threatening. my thoughts in writing the book was, if i can explain how the person who enters washington wanting to appease southerners and the a guy who buys a gun and is ready to shoot them.
i call it the emotional logic of the union. how emotionally did that make sense to him and many others? that's an interesting thread to add to the way we understand the coming of the civil war. benjamin french allowed me to do that. it took me forever to write the book so i lived with benjamin brown french for at least a decade, if not more than that. what's fascinating about him is that is kind of a forrest gump of the. i write about. when i was making the footnotes, lots of footnotes that say over and over, no really, he was there. if something significant happened, somehow benjamin french was watching it happen. someone tries to assassinate andrew jackson. french is right there and sees it happen. john quincy has a stroke, not long after, there's french holding his hand. the gettysburg address, abraham
lincoln gives the address that was up on the platform standing beside him? benjamin brown french. the assassination. who's at the bedside by lincoln the side and standing beside his corpse at the white house after he dies? benjamin brown french. he's there for everything. is this incredible eyewitness was very generous in the way he puts his thoughts and feelings down on paper. he really ends up i think showing to some degree what it felt like to be in that kind of an extreme, polarized climate. and how americans learn to turn on each other to the degree that they did. >> where did you find his papers?>> there's a published, very abridged version of his papers that came out from the library of congress many years ago. people write about lincoln tend to know about him because
he adored lincoln. they have these great anecdotes. for example, one of my favorite ones being, someone gave him a pair of socks to give to lincoln that had a confederate flag under each foot. i sort of love that anecdote. or a better anecdote, he's in a room with lincoln in the white house and lincoln says out loud to a room full of people. anyone in here know how to spell the word missile? and french writes in his diary, what kind of a man is that? what kind of a president is willing to admit he doesn't know how to spell that. as a room full of people with no shame. he just loved lincoln. the 11 volumes of his diary and all these other writings, was poetry. when i was finishing the book and i got all the way to the epilogue and i'm trying to figure out - - 17 years in. i can't figure out how to end it. what do i do? french, give me something. and i'm shuffling through
papers and i'm agonizing but what do i discover? the year before he died, he wrote a poem about what congressman to him. it was like she smiled down and said here. have a problem. he says - - a poem. his is i'm sitting in the office, my home for all these years. he was a remarkable - - remarkably generous in the way he gave me evidence. and the book wouldn't have been possible without him. >> next call is joseph from new york. from mamaroneck, new york. sorry, i'm a midwesterner. >> thank you very much professor friedman for correcting him on the correct pronunciation of mamaroneck. thank you very much. i want to commend you on your earlier comments but also being
an 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 divide . i'm really interested in your comments. i love the idea that you want to create a whole new cultural thinking. i really appreciate that and i will wait for your comments. >> thank you. i wonder what i'm going to say in response to that question too. you know, i wish - - i think people often look to historians to, with a solution to the present.and boy, is that something i can't do. what i can say is the times in which our government has functioned best have been moments people listen to each other in some way or another that the idea that our government is grounded on
debate and compromise. and sometimes debate is nasty. we've had extreme polarization many times before in history. sometimes extreme polarization. but there needs to be a willingness to debate, however feels that debate can be. right now, we are in such a polarized moment that people are - - to such an extreme degree. it's not helping us at all. easy to say that in a pleasant studio talking to you. i don't have the solution for how to change that because obviously, congress is reflective of a larger popular will. part of what we are talking about is, it's a cycle. congress influences the public and public influences congress. i have no brilliant solution on how to promote that atmosphere. but othering and you are
un-american is not a useful way to find our way out of the moment we are in. how we get beyond that, i'm unfortunately not the one to offer that answer. >> email from stephen. i was wondering if she found leaders. i wonder if her students believe the political violence ended at the civil war. the reason he has is because in his research he found a 1908 fight between a tennessee senator and a constituent. a political opponent, a block from the state capital. >> it doesn't end with the civil war, so that's a good point. it doesn't happen on the floor of congress the way it did before. you can do that - - see that when the louisiana is trying to get back into the union. two violent incidents happened within the capital not long after louisiana tries to start this process.
you have northerners who steps forward and says, we want to let them back in? do you remember what that was like. the power dynamic has shifted. as you're suggesting with your question, that doesn't mean the violence stops.so you can say southerners are no longer effective in the deploying - - in the congress. it's an important point to make and i'm glad you asked the question. the violence doesn't stop. it just ships or prefigures itself. it's tempered in some ways. ships grounded in other ways. american politics has been violent in a variety of different ways. for a very long time. the broader question is, what we do or what have we done to
contain that violence? that's another question i wish i could offer the brilliant solution that i don't have. it's not as though violence suddenly ended at any given point. >> glen from new jersey. >> thank you to c-span for another wonderful program and thank you professor friedman for your wonderful research and work. i did see you actually back in 2004. you gave a presentation at the 200th anniversary in new jersey. so i really enjoyed that. my question for you is this. which her field of blood text. and you considered david broderick, david terry doolin california. - - was a senator from
california and terry was the supreme court justice and they fought a duel outside san francisco. broderick was killed. given the context of it being california. slavery splits within the democratic party. in california, particularly. was that something you thought about in your book? you mentioned there were dozens of other examples. i wonder if you thought about that specific one. >> are you an amateur historian or is this part of your profession?>> sort of indirectly. i'm a professor at john jay of - - [indiscernible]. and also, i'm very involved locally in passaic county with history. your viewers should know the new visitor center will be named after hamilton and patterson. it will be open in a couple years. i'm very interested as an amateur.
>> glenn, thanks for that. i did not expect that answer. >> certainly, the tool you are describing. the famous one in a dramatic one. what i end up having to do for the book, precisely because as you are suggesting. once you start broadening beyond washington. the field for violence, even between people in congress becomes exponentially enormous. i end up limiting myself to incidents that took place in washington. in the r on the streets when congress was in session. what i was interested in was how the violence was shaping what congress was doing what americans thought about congress and the state of the nation. i had to stop myself from getting beyond that. there are any number of incidents and that's a major one that i could have gone pursuing. i would probably be on your 57 on working on this book.
in the end, what i was really interested in was the mix of people in congress and washington, from different parts of the union dealt with violence and ways. have different understandings of justice and how it worked in different viewpoints and desires. what happens when you put those people together and forced them to deal with contentious issues. that was one of the initial questions that put me into this project. what happens when you have those populations in this very public venue with a national audience with nation making or breaking possibilities in their decisions. what happens in that kind of acclimate when there is that violence. >> john from right here in washington d.c.. go ahead. >> i'm a big fan of american nations by colin woodward. he relays an unflattering episode in the story of alexander hamilton. i will be quick about it.
during the revolutionary war, soldiers from appalachia in western pennsylvania. there was no money to pay them. the continental congress gave them ious. for years, they were able to use that to pay their taxes to the state of pennsylvania. and then this guy comes along, robert morris. and water describes him as a protcgc. alexander hamilton as a protcgc of robert morris. morris pioneers that people can no longer pay state taxes with these ious. because of that, these people are forced to sell this script for 2-15 percent on face value. friends of robert morris, he says, wind up owning about 50 percent of the outstanding script. and then shortly after that,
alexander hamilton and robert morris, with this idea that the u.s. government will pay all of this script in full. with six percent interest in hard currency, gold or silver. and they will tax the very people, these veterans who were forced to pay, forced to sell their script in order to get currency. washington goes and puts down the rebellion. but in fact, it's an unsavory - - >> we are going to leave it there and hear from professor freeman. >> that's an excellent point and it becomes a controversy in the early part of hamilton's time as secretary of treasury. he was at lisa's that there should be some way of discriminating between speculators who did just what
you said. brought up these ious. hoping that down the road they would be paid in full. but buying them up for minimal amounts of money. that there should be a way of discriminating between the - - and the veterans that are really owed the money by the government and hamilton doesn't step forward and say, no. there's no way to track how each eye - - iou has gone. they essentially become a form of currency that are worth whatever their immediate value is but that's how he wants to use them. his argument is if they're going to be practical as a form of currency, then their stated value needs to be what they're worth. that's inherently unfair to the people given those ious to begin with. so that's a total invalid thing to say. you can see hamilton's logic for it. you can see the ways that logic
is unfair to many people. and at the time, and not just in later years by historians. at the time, people said that it was one of the early - - people said, what are you doing? that's exceedingly unfair and biased. and it's going to benefit these speculators, these money men, that you seem to be eager to please and impress. because you want them to buy into the government.this is unseemly in many ways. but he had his logic. we can debate whether we agree or not. but certainly that would have been his counterargument. >> tom in denver. you are on the air. >> thank you for taking my call doctor freeman, i once saw you debate clay jenkinson. he played thomas jefferson and you defended alexander hamilto . >> that's a long time ago. [laughter] >> i hope i didn't have too much coffee. >> here's the funny thing.
clay jenkinson, i think he's gone on to do other things. i don't know what to call it, a jefferson reenactor. here's the quirky thing about that. i was already interested in hamilton. he was building a model of monticello. and i made a snide remark about jefferson. he looked at me - - [laughter]. he had no idea i was interested in hamilton and i had no idea he was interested in jefferson. i lost touch and then we cross paths later when he was doing
his jefferson work. we cross paths again and i think it was at the national gamut of humanities that we would have this debate. can't remember which state. but we did. i represented hamilton and he represented jefferson. i remember he made a and the weirdness of having end up where he ended up. he was teaching english at the time. he was -- i was an english major
in college and had nothing to do with history. a wonderful debate. somewhere i have that on videotape, like a vhs videotape which mean is can't plate but it was a wonderful event. >> host: maybe you can reenact it on your podcast. >> guest: or maybe not. >> host: what is your podcast. >> guest: back story. an american history podcast. four of user who co-host it and we basically do a deep dive back into history, of something happening to do with the current moment look to deeper path. so the recently was show about reparations over slavery. a show about black face. we -- for this week with labor day we did a show about the history of labor in america ask we have didn't cultural shows but collecting things in america. it's wonderful, it's very conversational, the four of us are all people with a strong
sense of humor. >> host: who are the four. >> guest: brian batow,ed aer, nathan connelly and myself. this is self-promotional about it's a fun listen and a historical listen. >> host: it's called. >> guest: back story. >> host: i want to close here with affairs of nor which you write in the note on method. this book approaches politics in an unusual way. it does not examine political events or personalities in isolation or reduce them to the level of historical an next dough. no does it took sol prod a theme as to loss sight of the participant's perspective, aiming rat other mid-point of prod cultural history and detailed analysis of the political anywhere -- anywherety. whoas the standpoint of
ethnohistorian. >> guest: when you write about the founders, people think of them also great men and my point there is what if you just think about an elite population of men in a particular environment, and look at what they do. so by ethnohistorian i meant looking at behavior of a particular population in a particular place. what happens when you look at the founders in that way, how 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 y