tv [untitled] June 30, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm EDT
find him. he's all over the place. you can read what he did. why did you use him so much? >> well, the volumes he created are the bible. he was a scholar, i believe, at yale. >> yale. >> many years ago, beginning of the 20th century and he assembled madison's notes and put them in very responsible order and put an notation in to explain things. he then inter-lynn yates the notes of the other delegates available and he went out and collected a bunch of materials, correspondence from the delegates and newspaper stories, when he could find them from the era and he created this three-volume set, which i'll be blunt, 80% of what i needed to write the book. >> how long did it take you to read it? >> well, which time? i probably read the notes of the
convention it's a or ten times. so to sit down -- i read it one weekend, when i first was on this kick and got interested in it. but i've have been through them a lot. >> as you know, you're not dealing with a subject that hadn't been writ been before. scrutiny, i assume on this, is simon & schuster bought it? your first book. >> it is my first book. >> how did you convince them that you could do this? >> you ought to talk to them, not me. >> what is it that you saw them see that you had that nobody else had for a while? >> i tell you, i think they saw my passion for it but also they saw, you know, the last really good book on the subject is 40 years ago. there's time for a new sensible to approach these issues. that last book, a very able piece of work, and i've read it and enjoyed it, almost never talks about slavery.
it's interesting. and it's an artifact of that time. the author clearly just wasn't impressed by issue. within i read the debates i was knocked out over and over that slavery was making these people angry and that there was a lot of torment on the issue. >> who was it making angry? >> the southerners and the northerners. >> thinking differently about it? >> yeah, the northerners, and they were goaded several times, but there were abolition-minded delegates from the north who ultimately did try to draw some lines in the sand. they turned out to be not too strong but did something in na regard and the southerners were implacable, they had to defend slavery, tried to defend the slave trade and cut a deal that was the best they could do. so you know, it was -- there are
times when you read the notes i was persuaded that there were some very angry arguments going on offstage that we don't have access to. you know they live for four months in this town together. they had to run into each other a lot in the taverns, there was no place else to eat. >> where did george washington live? >> he stayed with robert morris' -- >> delegate? >> -- fally. the richest man in country at the time had a palatial home. >> what happened to robert morris later on in this life. >> things went bad. he was a land speculator. he owned the equivalent of the state of maryland in terms of land. most of the land speculators didn't make money on it and he got caught, overleveraged and spent over two years in debtors' prison and finally was bailed out by another former delegate who had been a colleague of his, governor morris, no relation,
and it was a sad end to -- he was known as the financier of the revolution, he had run the country's finances through the r revolution and was a patriot. >> what happened to him at the end? >> different story. he was on the supreme court, was recognized to be most learned justice, greatly regarded. and had a passion to be rich. just was almost demented on the subject. speculated wildly in lands. he had a program to build a wilsonville with mills and -- it was very visionary but he didn't have the resources to make it happen. he ended up terribly in debt. he ended up in debtor's presidenten himself in new jersey and his son bailed him out. he was on the lam from the law, ran to north carolina, close to another supreme court justice in
edenton where he was caught again and agreed to stay in his tavern, this one tavern where he had been staying and not leave. perverse situation we had with debtors at the time we imprison them so they could never pay anybody off. he got malaria, had a stroke, and died. really was an embarrassment. he was a sitting supreme court justice at the time. >> what happened to john rutledge? >> another very sad story. this is the fellow from south carolina, he -- this is speculation, but i believe it, so i'm going to go ahead and do it. there were two deaths of his mother and his wife within a couple of weeks of each other when in 1792 and by all accounts of his contemporaries he became a little erratic after that and seems to have suffered from a lot of depression. three years later, john jay
resigned as supreme court -- chief justice of the supreme court and rutledge volunteered to become chief justice. he was then chief justice of his state supreme court in south carolina. and to show you what george washington thought of rutledge, he got the letter from rutledge one day and by return mail the next day he wrote out a letter saying, yes, you're my chief justice. he had that high regard for rutledge. while the letters were crossing, the jay treaty came out, a treaty negotiated with britain, which is controversial, not terribly advantageous for the country but something we needed to make peace with britain on these issues, and rutledge made a rip snorting speech denouncing the jay treaty, a stoop thing to do, trying to get president washington to make him supreme court justice of the supreme court. so it was just a symptom of how uncentered he was and he tried
to take over as interim chief justice and actually sat for a couple of months in philadelphia, but the senate refused to confirm him, partly because they thought he was crazy, there really was the currency, and partly because of his opposition of the jay treaty. they just thought it was unthinkable he would be that treacherous to the president. >> it's a well-known story about hamilton. what about his son? what happened to alexander hamilton? >> his son was in a duel at age 20, was killed in the duel, promising young man but somebody at age 20 it's hard to say more than that. and then of course, hamilton himself died in a duel just a couple of years later with aaron burr. he -- he was really being eclipsed politically. as talented a man we ever had in the country but a sad end. >> how could these fellows have
had so much impact like alexander hamilton when he was 32? and madison when he was 37? >> it's a combination of things. great talent. i mean you just got to take your hat off to that. but also it was a wide open country. there were 4 million people. that's fewer than the state of maryland now. so if you had talent, if you had opportunity, you could make a difference. and these guys seized that opportunity. >> let me show you the number of slaves. you said it was 1/6 the population at the time. 681,000 slaves in the country at the time of the convention and 11 delegates from virginia and south carolina owned slaves. those are two very important states in the whole discussion. again, in the end, did the slave states get what they wanted? >> yeah. yeah, they really did. a great speech that general
pinkney, who was -- there were two charles pinkneys there, which confused everybody for generations, but the older one was general charles coatsworth pinkney, and he gave a speech to the south carolina legislature and detail wad they achieved. he said we got the slave trade for 20 years, i wish it was longer but it's not so bad we got it so they can't abolish slavery under the constitution, there's no right to do that and we've got the 3/5 rule for our representation in congress. you know, i wish it was better, but gee, we think that was a pretty good deal. so do i. i think they did real well. they got a ban on expert taxes which for the sought earners was important because economies were export driven. >> you start your book off with a situation that existed between george washington and george mason, both have schools in this area named after them. sitting out at mt. vernon, looking out over the potomac, talking about the problems between the states of maryland and virginia, explain more.
>> it was the time of drift when the articles of the confederation were in effect and national government didn't couch for much. virginia and maryland fighting over the potomac riv for a long time. maryland charter said they had control of the river to the virginia said and that meant virginia couldn't take a boat out, couldn't take fish. virginia said that's nuts, of course we can take fish, it's on our border. so they had been arguing about this for years. and there was an opportunity that both state legislatures set up to negotiate agreements on how they would share the river. and it was sort of a litany of blunders but ultimately they did get together and mason was the leading virginia delegate and he relied heavily on washington to make it happen because for
unexplained reasons, virginia state government never told mason that he was a commissioner. folks from maryland had to tell him he was a commissioner, so he didn't have his charge. he didn't have the legislation that established him as a commission somewhere didn't know what his responsibilities were, what his duties were anything about it. he went to his neighbor, general washington, who was a great man already, and said what do you thousand about this in what do you think i ought to do? and they sat there one night with the folks from maryland down at gattsby tavern wait on them and they figured what the heck, let's make it happen and brought the marylanders out to mt. vernon, the washingtons entertained a lot and put up the whole conference. there were six people staying there and negotiated the first conference, first agreement, and that led to the next conference in annapolis, we was also -- which was a failure but that led
to the philadelphia convention. so it really was -- i just love the symmetry of it, the process, the road to philadelphia started in george washington's parlor in you also say that george washington and george mason were friends had a falling out and there was a time when george washington sent a letter to george mason, unhappy he didn't fight in the revolutionary war. >> well, during the war, mason was a -- had some health issues over the years and also he just didn't like to leave home. he was a -- >> how many slaves did he have? >> a couple hundred. hes and a rich man. >> how many did george washington have? >> over a hundred. >> what did they do with the slaves in their lives. >> also a rich man. george mason held his slaves, he didn't do anything with them beyond working them. george washington, and there are some good treatments of this by other writers, through the revolution, through his time leading the government,
developed a conscience about slavery which there's no indication he had when he started out as a virginia gentleman, and in his will he directed that his slaves be freed upon the death of his wife. he couldn't do it directly, he felt, because the washington slaves and the custis slaves intermarried and they thought that would not be practical. as it worked out within a couple of years after his death all of the slaves of the washington and custis families were freed. >> any delegates that they had slaves freed in their lifetime before they were dead? >> yes. james wilson did. he was a pennsylvanian who had one slave and an impressive story. william livingston of new jersey did as well, before the convention. impressive story to me, john dickenson of delaware who had 37 slaves and the year before the convention he freed all 37 and
he not only freed them so, therefore, obviously there's a loss in his net worth, but he also had to post bond for every slave that he freed under delaware law to assure the community that they would not cause damage. and you know, i think it shows -- there was a rising consciousness at the time and that was something i hadn't been that familiar with. it was not wait it became in the 1850s but there were abolition societies, franklin wassed head of the abolition society in pennsylvania. hamilton belonged to an abolition society. there was an awareness of slavery as just flat-out wrong. and i think there was a lot of regret among the delegates they had not done more. >> go back to, again, when you started thinking about this, what year was it? in front of the supreme court when you were arguing a case? is that what you told us first? >> a case in the supreme court. i was just doing the briefing on it. it was back in sort of the mid '90s.
>> you starred right then thinking about this book? >> well i thought about it. i can't say i started much. >> when did you start? when you had a contract with simon & schuster? >> three years ago, 2 1/2 years ago. >> by that time what had you done? >> i had to prepare a proposal. i read that a few times. i read madison's notes a few times, started to do research in other areas. and put a proposal together. >> how much do you trust madison's notes for being accurate? >> that's a great question. it's -- we're all in the position of having to trust him. >> it's not word for word, then? >> it is not word for word. we eaonly have some occasions where we can test them against notes of other people. there was a fellow from new york, robert yates who took notes for the first six weeks and i laid them against each other and it is reassuring,
taushging abo ining talking about the same debates, talking in the same language. there were differences. yates was pro-states rights and walked out of the convention. in his notes the nationalists, people like wilson and madison sound scary somewhere folks in favor of states rights sounded more coherent. but i did feel that one of the things that impressed me about madison is that he gave a pretty good rentization of the opinions of people he didn't agree with. and that is one measure. obviously, he was sitting there for four months taking notes, he missed some stuff, editorial decisions get made on the fly and we lost a lot and it's just we're lucky to have what we have. >> one of the facts that you point out in the book, they did go to annapolis after the mason/washington meetings, for that short meeting in annapolis.
>> september '86. >> 12 delegates came from 5 states? >> yes. maryland didn't send a delegate and it was in maryland. >> nothing happened there? >> nothing. they decided they would call for another meeting. and that had been focused on commercial issues and what -- the phrase i use in the book they decided to play double or nothing. they said, maybe this advertise small an agenda. this country has huge problems so let's make it on everything. so they issued a call for a convention on all problems facing the nation. >> go back to writing this book. where did you write it? >> the third floor of my house. >> you hadn't done that before. did that make sense to you to write it there? would you have liked to have writ continue somewhere else? >> i didn't think about that. it was a good place to write it. >> did you write it on a computer. >> yes. >> long? >> i've gotten used to writing on computers. >> when did you decide how long the book should be? >> i just sort of let that happen.
i didn't want it to be too long. i think it's intimidating sometimes and it's also a story, if you want to get readers through it, you give them 600 pages they may not read it, they may not buy it. i tried to keep it on the tight side. >> it's about 350 pages? >> that's with the notes. text is 260. >> and how many -- ever totalled up the number of hours you put on research on this whole thing? in no. i'd be afraid to. >> how many copies did simon & schuster print first run? >> they say 20,000, i believe them. >> how does it feel? do you think that's low or high on what you expected? >> i'm not what i expected. they assured me if there's more demand, they'll print more. >> go back to the convention, from may to september, how long in a given day did they sit? >> mostly it was 10:00 to 3:00. five hours. and they -- without
interruption. they would have a big breakfast and then dinner in late afternoon, which is late for them. the custom was to have dinner at 2:00. and there was about a week when they sat until 4:00 in the afternoon, six-hour day that was john rutledge, he was irate that it was all taking so long and he made them sit an extra hour every day and finally they had a rebellion against that and went pack to five hours. >> you've got a picture of the east room at independence hall. how do they sit at those tables? in other words, in what order? >> they had this interesting thing that they had done ever since the congresses had gathered in 1770s they sat north to south and voted north to south. new england on one side and go through the middle states and the southerners would be on the other side. >> how many votes did each state get? >> one vote. >> who determined that one vote? in other words, if you rhode
island didn't show up, but if you had five delegates from one state and one was there, who determined -- >> the state legislature in their commission of the delegation had to specify how many delegates had to be there. maryland was unusual, for example, they required only one delegate to be present. so one maryland guy if one maryland guy showed up he could vote the whole state. massachusetts required three delegates to be there. so they couldn't vote for three and you did get occasions where he had an even number of delegates present from the state and canceled each other state and that state would cast no vote on a resolution. >> you said madison was involved in 71 different issues and lost 40 of those issues. is that one of the reasons you felt he wasn't really the father of this constitution? >> yeah. there are others. that's certainly an interesting statistic, but the one issue he cared most about was he thought congress had to have a veto over state laws. he thought that was the worst thing that was happening, all of
these terrible state laws are getting adopted and congress needed a veto and he pushed it three or four times and it lost. it kept losing, and it was never adopted. i think if you hook at the virginia plan which he designed, the original virginia plan called for the people to elect a lower house of congress and that house would elect an upper house, and between them they would select the president and appoint the justices of the supreme court and now the government doesn't look anything like that. i think he was at some level certainly was the heart of getting it started. he was part of the agitation that caused the convention to be held. he was critical there because of his note taking, but if you're looking for the person who most designed the constitution, i would not put him there. >> a lot of odds and ends and actually they want to really know what's in the book they have to read it. there is a lot more than what we're talking about and we're running out of time.
governor morris, how old was he? >> he was 35. terrific character. >> peg leg. >> yeah. >> what they called him in those days. you say he would speak more than anyone else. >> yes, and he wasn't even there for three weeks. when he was there, he was talking. >> you tell the stories, tall, at one time we had our cameras inside the constitution center but you said he was tall and at one time he walked over to george washington and slapped him on the back. what happened. >> the story is that washington gave him a look that would have frozen hell. >> why? >> he was she conscious of his dignity and was not a maty fellow, and he didn't want to be shown to be just some fellow you gave a back slap to and told jokes with. that story supposedly was a bet with hamilton and morris would
deliver the slap and washington's reserve would melt and it didn't. morris lost the bet. >> you say whenever they got in trouble in the convention they would appoint a committee and we have a list of the committees. what is the committee of detail? >> it is a misnomer, but it was the committee -- about two-thirds of the way through the convention they took a ten-day break. they were whipped frankly. it was hot. they left five people on this committee of detail to really take everything that had been done by then and make it into a constitution, and that was the first draft of the constitution, and i think in many ways it was the most creative thing that happened there and so i focused a lot on the men who made that first draft. >> the committee of detail had these as members, gorham, ellsworth, wilson, randolph and
rutledge, and you say rutledge was the chairman of three committees. >> yeah. >> he cast a big shadow at that convention. >> let's look at the other committees very quickly. i want to give you a chance to tell us about the committees. one of the other ones was the committee of the hold. >> that was a technique at the beginning where they all sat together and the notion was to get people talking and sort of get ideas working and it is the sort of thing now you say put ideas up on the white board and kick it around. >> and george washington wouldn't be sitting in control then at that point. >> he was not then. they had a massachusetts delegate, nathaniel gorham. >> same thing in the house with the committee of the whole. committee of style. >> that was the last committee. it really turned out to just be governor morris. he wrote the final draft. he took this really quite messy set of provisions, 23 article-long draft constitution and totally reorganized it and
made it coherent and did a great job and about two and a half days. >> what was the committee of five? >> the committee of five was i think right in the middle of the convention when they were trying to figure out how many congressman each state would get. what happened was they made this deal where the senate would go to get per state voting and so equal votes in the senate and the house would be proportional voting, and clearly the practical politicians in the room said, okay, this is great, how many did we get? so they then set up a committee of five to sort it out. at the actually had to do it three times before they got a system that worked. >> committee of 11. >> well, there were five or six committees of 11. it is tough to say. my favorite was the committee of postponed parts which was the one right before the committee of style and they got to the end and all of these things, they kept pushing thing off if they
couldn't figure them out and the committee of postponed parts got all of those. >> this is rather cliche question. if you could assemble four or five of your favorites based on the character of them more than anything else, or the interesting nature of them, who would they be to talk with? >> well, you would have to start with ben franklin. it is hard not to. certainly governor morris, just by all accounts he was a wittie, great companion, and i would want to talk to rutledge. i found him so impressive and probably james wilson. then i would be thinking about madison and washington. there was some great human beings there that did a lot. >> luther martin? >> there is a great quote i found and used when some guy said you should hear about luther martin but you shouldn't see him. he drank a lot.
apparently had really bad table manners. his clothes were usually spotted with food. i am not positive i need to see luther. >> edwards gary stuttered? >> that's pretty unanimous that he stuttered. >> anybody else have not very good speech? >> well, it was oratorical era so if you weren't good at it they noticed it. there was a fellow frlansing fr new york and there were several delegates who were put down as not speaking well and didn't speak that often. gary was unique in that he didn't speak well and he spoke a lot. >> is there another book for you out of some way or something you learned in this process? >> not directly at the moment. i am interested in my next project on the impeachment trial of andrew johnson. one of the things that i came away from this book feeling was
that the presidency had not been dealt with very well. it was an interesting experience we haven't had a chance to talk about, and the collision between congress and the presidency after the civil war, the stakes with the freeing of the slaves, and what the nation was really going to be after that incredible upheaval, just seemed to me a dramatic story that i would like and it has legal and constitutional element that is are important to me in the new amendments of the constitution were adopted. i am focusing on that right now. >> david stewart, author of 1787, the constitutional convention in 1787, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> for a copy on dvd or vhs tape call 1-877-662-7726.
for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. they're also available as c-span pod casts. this is the conversation we needs to have in this country that nobody is willing to have, okay? what role should the government play in housing finance? >> in recklessen dangerment pulitzer pliez winning gretchen morgan son detailed the 2008 financial meltdown and one continuing issue, government subsidized homeownership. >> if you want to subsidize housing in this country and we want to talk about it and the populous agrees it is something we should subsidize put it on the balance sheet and make it clear and make it evident and make everybody aware of how much it i