tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN August 11, 2014 11:20pm-1:31am EDT
interested in history they sort of look at you like what's wrong with you? why can't you get a life and do something useful but i like you have always enjoyed reading history. i've enjoyed american history and quite by accident, i became a scholar performer of john a adams and later alexander hamilton. yes, i wear a wig and tights. an unusual thing to do but it's a great, great medium. you know you can get people who hate history, really involved in whatever you might sacrifice in terms of accuracy you more than make up for in terms of audience participation and involvement. i've been to prisons and schools that feel like prisons. it's just amazing how excited people get when they actually have a chance to talk to a founding member of this country. but that's not why i'm here tonight. you heard in jennifer's
introduction that my wife and i are coming out with a book called founder's advice. i know this has been done before. secretary bennett did a number of years ago. the way he did it was considerably different than what we're trying to do. i have a background was a historian but i'm married to a woman who was in business. she was in washington d.c. working for a defense contractor and had the opportunity to go to seattle to work for a small start up company that had not yet gone public, microsoft. when she started with mike cros, when she started it was such a small company they could have employee meetings that small auditorium. a lunch time. she had an opportunity to listen to this man time and time again named bill gates who didn't talk about making good products or capturing market share but he talked about changing the world. i think for her that was such a
heady experience and the experience of being in a company like that at that point in time was so remarkable that she began to really take an interest in the whole idea of success. what is success? how does it happen? what is successful people perhaps have in common that people some of the rest of us don't have in equal measures. so with her background and mine, we reasoned that maybe, you know, we might be like reeceis peanut butter and find a way to merge our interests but perhaps it's even more important than that. some of this stuff is just down right timeless. when you see some of the advice that these founders are giving. it's most poignant usually when it's to a child or a grandchild. you realize that these are the kind of insights that they probably didn't go around sharing with the rest of the world. that's why we used the word
secret. one of the definitions of secret is something shared by the initiated. in a sense, these are initiated insights. these are the prime things that the older generation found useful in their lives either because they did them or because they failed to do them and that they wanted to give to their off spring and children's offspring in the hopes it will give them an opportunity in life to be successful. they gave advice on every topic you can imagine. how many of you believe in giving advice by the way? how many of you are dead set against the whole idea of advice? what's the old saying, a person convinced against his or her will is of the same opinion still. they thought advice was important. they sought it in no uncertain terms. we're like the founders in a lot of ways. we share a lot of things in common. one thing about them that was
incredibly different from us as a people not you as a group in this particular room, they thought you could learn a lot more about live from the ancients than you could by reading modern things. a huge part of their education was determined by how well they knew various ancient writers. a good education in the time of someone like thomas jefferson consisted of learning ancient languages, latin and greek, you're better off if you can learn hebrew along the way and you read ancient texts. you read them as the original authors wrote them. the more you mastered the eed t ancient texts, the more educated you were assumed to be. i had the opportunity a number of years ago to be at the boston public library and to hold john adam's copy of his book in my hand which is a really, really
neat thing. every time adams read that book it was a lifelong favorite of his, every time he read it, he wrote his name in it. his name was written six times in the book. all that he did throughout his life, all that he read and his library is massive, he went back again and again to this original text that meant so much to him. the founders learned enormously from the ancients. not just about war and politics -- by the way have any of you ever read or dabbled in plutarks lives. how many of you know about it? quite a number of you do. that was sort of the poor man's classicati education. if you didn't have the opportunity to read them in the oormg lanni
original languages, you could sit down and read the biographies of these incredibly successful people throughout ancient times. he is very good at giving you things that worked that made their lives particularly -- particularly successful and also occasionally showing that you could ruin your live by doing something that wouldn't be useful or constructive at all. the thing that's amazing is that these lessons stuck. they were incredibly important. general george washington said goodbye to his senior officers here. he was calling during the revolutionary war, the american fabiast. do you any of know who he was? well go to plutargs lives and read about fabias maximus. he was a roex an general who was considered successful because he
ultimately avoided fighting major battles against alexander the great because he knew if he did that he'd be defeated. he would always kind of avoid a major encounter until he got an opportunity to strike perhaps not decisively but to strike meaningfully. that was the model that george washington used during our american revolution. we did not have an army that was sufficiently strong to be able to fight the british. so we only did it -- actually, washington broke his rule a time or two. it was nearly disastrous when he did. but primarily, that was the rule of thumb to behave as fabius to avoid major encounters. keep his army intact. when the opportunity presented itself to strike. of course, he did that decisively with the help of the french.
with the incredibly strength of the french navy and army down at yorktown. absolutely amazinamazing. a military strategy in the 1700s being guided by a roman who lived well, well, in the ancient past. the founders were incredibly important -- to the founders the ancients were incredibly important. that's one way we're different. i think you can read ancient writers to your benefit. how many of you have been forced during your education to read plato or sasero or any number of people? did you find that there was benefit in there? >> yes. >> i think to the degree that we're open and that we believe perhaps that certain sort of things are natural laws and that they recur -- anyway. so that degree, i think we can find great benefit in the past. in any case, the founders did. a lot of their advice really
sounds like the advice of ancients but not all of it. a lot of it is incredibly personal. one of my favorite, absolutely favorite letters is a sort one written by john j. so his son in which he sends him a few seeds and tells him to plant these seeds at his uncle's estimate. he says whenever i walk around my place i'm sensible of the fact that i'm walking around trees that my father planted and i derive a wonderful feeling from that. something as simple as planting trees. that's the degree to which their advice extended. the founders are extraordinary. you've got one of these hand outs hopefully. if you don't raise your hand. i think we can get one to you. you know, it's hard to talk about a book that isn't finished yet but one of the wonderful
things that kocomes from living where i do about an hour and a half from richmond virginia is that i get to go over and visit the house of chief justice john martial fairly often who was an extraordinary american not as well known as he ought to be. how many of you know something about chief justice marshall? i think a lot of what worked in our judiciary system was really brought into something at this point in time and without him we'd be in a terrible state. he's really the one that initiated the whole idea of judicial review. i don't want to get into a political discussion but judicial review has kept us more cognizant of first amendment rights than anything else that would have happened. anyway, chief justice marshall writes this incredibly beautiful letter to his grandson. i don't know -- how many of you have had a chance to read it yet? while you were sitting here,
interesting. of course he makes the plea for reading the ancients that you might expect him to make given what i have just said to you but perhaps even more importantly he has this wonderful section on how to become a good writer. how many of you have been school teachers in your life any of you? a few of you. and you've read this as well? isn't that great advice? how do you become a good writer? do you have to have 30 students in a class and a teacher in front? no, he's saying you can do this yourself of you sit down with a page of a book written by an author that you find to be a good writer and he actually named someone that he thinks might be read to his grandson's benefit. sit down with it and then read it, digest it, read it until you've digested it and go try it in your own words. if you've written it in your own words compare it with the
original. if it doesn't measure up, do it again. a great, great platform for self-learning. it's an amazing thing. it strikes me as timeless. i'm not a teacher but it strikes me as a timeless thing that one could still learn to be a good writer using this particular formula. marshall was an incredible man. as was said in the little introduction written here that he had such a calmness about him. he never intimidated people. i should say accept for one. there was one that called him the gloomy maliingnity. that was his second cousin thomas jefferson. marshall got back at his cusses -- cousin by calling him the llama of the mountain. in any case he was extraordinary
at not giving offense. he's so common, they tell this little story about him. he's at a farmer's market in richmond, a woman has just bought a chicken that has just been killed. she offers him a quarter to take it home. he does it. he takes the quarter. takes the chicken. follows her to her house. presents it and then goes back. chief justice of the united states supreme court. he was a very common man but an extraordinarily gifted human being. this letter to his grandson when you know about marshall is an extraordinary look at how a successful man built his own successful life even though he nevertheless developed himself. that of course is what a lot of the soecrets of the founders ar built around, developing themselves. one of the ways the founders differ from us enormously though is that they loved to use guilt.
they loved guilt. how many of you were raised with guilt? hate guilt. how many of you raise guilt? you're in good company. the founders absolutely loved guilt. i'm going to read a couple of things. i will have to put on my glasses here. a couple of wonderful things they said about guilt or a couple of wonderful examples of guilt that they used. dr. benjamin rush, the philadelphia physician, an extraordinary man was considered in some circles to be the one responsible for saving philadelphia from yellow fever during one of the outbreaks. benjamin rush was a great advice giver and letter writer. he had a son who was away at school studying medicine and expected his son to be regularly
in touch with him. well, it appears after asking for a pair of boots, his son somehow fell out of communication with his parents. when the boots arrived, they arrived with this note. my dear son, hear with you will receive your boots. they will serve, i hope, two purposes. first to keep your feet and legs warm during the winter and secondly, to remind you that you have a father and mother in philadelphia who have never forgotten you for a whole week since you came into the world. i never knew an instance of a man becoming eminent, respectable or even wealthy in the profession of medicine who was deficient in punctuality in letter writing. you have parents who have never forgotten about you for a whole week during your whole life.
but i think in the guilt school, nobody beats abagail adams. she mastered it. in a letter written to her son john quincy when he was in europe with his father in 1780, she said that you need to attend constantly and stead fastly to the precepts and instructions of your father. both parents, she said, this is quoting, will i hope have a due influence upon your conflict. for dear as you are to me, i had much rather that you should have found your grave in the ocean you have crossed or any untimely death crop you and your infant years rather than see you an immoral person or a graceless child.
whoa. she had high expectations. of course both parents did. we've got a couple of letters from her in our book. we also have a couple that john quincy wrote in reply so you can see the affect of all of that guilt on a child. of course, john quincy is an incredible over achiever. at 14 he goes to russia as the secretary of our delegation. he serves in congress for sometime. serves as a cabinet member and of course becomes president of the united states. the most extraordinary thing about him is what happens after he serves a term as president. he becomes a member of the house of representatives and serves 30 years in the house. what an extraordinary thin fg f a president to do. i don't think it would have been quite as profitable then as
perhaps it is now but he didn't seek fame and fortune. what he sought was to serve the people of the united states of america. he does it extraordinarily well. he does things that he deserves our eternal tafrhanks for. he defends the would be slaves that were accused of rioting. that had the temerity to riot when they were being taken to this country against their will. he successfully manages their defense. he is an extraordinary human being and dies pretty much in the saddle as a member of congress. he learned his parent's lessons well. actually one of the things we have in this book is advice that he gave to his children. it's kind of collected. it it's pretty detailed about what sort of education they need and
what sort of people they need to become. we've used the word secret. i'd just like to ask any of you if you could think of one secret that the founding fathers might have believed was absolutely essential. what would be a secret piece of advice that you might give someone that you loved? any ideas? industriousness. that's big with him. actually, i think what i'll do right now is i think i'll share ben franklin's list of virtues with you. george washington, of course carried a list of 110 virtues with him when he was a young man. franklin came up with a list of 13 virtues -- it was actually 12 virtues. he determined each and every week he would practice one of them evident and of course keep a record when he was
successfully doing it. 12 virtues initially. let me name them for you. would you like to hear his virtues? >> okay. the first is temperance. eat not to dullness, drink not to pñóelevation. silence. speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. avoidç trifling conversation. order. let all of your things have their places. let each part of your business have its name. resolution. resolve to perform what you ought. perform without fail what you resolve. frugality. make no expense but to do good to others or yourself. that is waste nothing. industry. lose no time. be all employed in something
useful. cut off all necessary actions. sincerity. use no hurtful deceit. think innocently and justly. if you speak, speak accordingly. justice. wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty. moderation. avoid extremes. forbear recesenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. >> cleanliness. tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation. tranquility. be not disturbed at trifles, accidents unavoidable. chastity.
ev only use it for health or offspring. he worked at these so regularly and so well that he went and was talking to one of his friends one day, a quaker and he told him how extraordinarily able he was able to practice these 12 virtues. his friend said, benjamin, you need another one. humility. imitate jesus and socrates. that's what he said. franklin was probably the most extraordinary of the people who worked at self-improvement. i think many of the founders embodies that as a principal. they knew we needed to make progress in live. they knew if we wanted to be successful, it wasn't enough to have a dream but we also needed to have a plan and we needed to
work at that plan in order for it to come about. do some work all of the time. frankly, i think all of them did it. if they all had one secret what do you think it might be? what did they aim at perhaps more than anything else in their own lives as you think about them as a group. probably not giving you enough hints. >> apply yourself to your studies. >> apply yourself to your studies. absolutely. that's incredibly important, ma'am. what do you think would they claim is the chief reason for being here. >> serving others. if you read the little piece on the back stage there when i think if you all look at that as well. just a small quote. how many of you know about him. he was from elizabethtown right
across the river. elizabeth today. he was an extraordinarily capable human being. he was one of the founders. he was a trustee of princeton even though he hadn't attended it and later became one of the founders of princeton theological seminary. he was part of that remarkable congregation in elizabeth that had so many revolutionaries, people who made great contributions to this country and this was written to the son of one of those people. it's really wonderful. you read through what he says we're supposed to do. be a citizen of the world he's telling us. the more you do that, the mr or you will realize even as you go about doing your regular business that the great obligation we have is to those who were in distress and the happiness of man kind at large. there goes that word happiness.
it really is a recurring word in that period of time. of course thomas jefferson uses it in the declaration of independence. live, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which is really a twist on john loch who uses life, liberty and property when he's writing his thesis. happiness. happiness. what the heck is happiness? how many of you have pursued it somewhat in your life. how many of you know when you don't have it. i think happiness is huge for us but we aren't always aware of what it ought to look like. here again, a wonderful letter that i'm going to share a part of with you is by someone named philip skyler. is that a familiar name to some of you. it was to you. several of you. one of his descend ants is
sitting in the back there anyway, skyler writes this incredible letter to his son to whom he has just given estate aw things are going to be shared and what will happen when something happens to him and to his wife. what he has to say in here is pretty interesting. happiness ought to be the aim and end of the exertions of every rational creature. spiritual happiness should take the lead. in fact temporal happiness without the former does not really exist except in name. the whole idea of happiness was an incredibly powerful fi philosophical strain that runs through this generation.
they had so many different ways to address it. so many different ways to work at it. but they all believed that that was really the chief aim of h m human beings that we need to be happy people. i think they really needed that happiness is best achieved by working on yourself. by working on your relationships to other people and doing everything you can to benefit those who are in need of assistance. many of them do it in a very consciously religion way. others do it in ways that aren't particularly religious at all but are philosophically gleaned. happiness is our chief end in the minds of the founders in all that we do for ourselves and for others is designed to achieve it. let's suppose you're within a year of your death and someone
asks you for a letter of advice. for a child who has yet to be born or has just been born, what would your letter look like? let me share with you what thomas jefferson wrote under those circumstances. this is one of the most amazing letters i think he wrote. he was an incredible letter writer. this is written to someone named thomas jefferson smith. this letter will to you be as one from the dead. the writer will be in the grave before you can weigh itszm$çfvs something to you which might have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run. and i, too, as a name sake, feel an interest in that course. few words will be necessary
adore god, reference and cherish your parents, love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than yourself. be just, be true, murmur not at the ways of providence. so shall the life which you have entered be the portal to so shall the life you enter be one to eternal and bliss. this every action of your life will r beeg under my regard. fair well. extraordinary as that is, fferso jefferson includes canons for k observation in practical life meaning there are ten of them. number one, never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.t two, never trouble another for what you can do yourself.y. number three, never spend your
money before you have it. number four, never buy what you do not want because it is cheap. it will be dear to you. number five, pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold. number six, we never repent over having eaten too little. number seven, nothing is roubl troublesome that we do willingly. number eight, how many pain havs cost us the evils which have never happened? number nine, take things always. by their smooth handle. great image. number ten, when angry, count ten before you speak.
if very angry cover it. a letter to someone just born. i think the founders -- of course they realize a lot of what they said and did would be roared by posterity but i letter like that i don't think jefferson had any real knowledge that it might be the light of day or that it might continue to be an influence to people but they believed that advice was a benefit. they all gave advice certainly and a number of them -- a number of them really thought advice was worth taking.was one of the reasons that ns alexander hamilton doesn't ms w didn't like john adams was that he wouldn't take advice. in the mind of hamilton was he said, you know, the wisest of men may profit from it, lesser minds certainly need it. advice, one of the things
hamilton thought was so great about general washington was that he would seek the advice of those around him. then he would think about what needed to be done.then t he would then resolve slowly as hamilton put it but resolve surely. they believed that advice was absolutely essential to the world as they knew it.as we we live in a time today that's s conflicted on the subject of advice. have any of you ever heard the d saying advice is a form of abuse? ever heard had a one? heard that one t came to me not too lg ago. i don't think i was giving any advice at the time but i think for some people, the idea of learning that way from others is an incredibly unuseful thing. i think hamilton is probably closer to being right.being who among us can't benefit from
advice. part of hamilton's genius when he was a young person studying a at kings college not far away was that he would listen to peo other people. there was an little group that they had for self-improvement. it was their opwn little privat group. this little group wouldt presenl papers to one another. thereth would be bits of advicet to how to make them more acceptable, better. hamilton wrote some of the most incredible political pamphlets s of the time using that group getting more ideas, being told, well, maybe that doesn't work hamilton. it was absolutely essential. this little group for self-improvement. what do we knowho in our time. how many of you are in business. how many of you participate in master mind groups. master really successful people gather together to share advice and oge information withr one another.
i think highly functional people and the founders were among the most highly functional people in the world realize that the beste advice you can get will only make whatever decisions you neen to make better than they would o have been otherwise. so i encourage all of you to re rethink the whole subject of advice if you think it might bem a form of abuse.real guilt. might not be out of the realm of possibility. jefferson once said to his daughter martha, i will love you if you learn to read livy in thi original language. in you mean you won't love me if it don't? it was the world in which they loved but advice was critical to their world view and a lot of their advice was absolutely les. typeless. how many of youyou would not t a letter like john marshall hasa a place in front of young people who have their lives ahead of them? a lot of he's saying is date e
absolutelyd wonderful or useful if you've never looked through plutarg's lives. get ahold of you and use some of the pseudonyms that hamilton used when he was writing politically. look them up and see the peoplem hamilton is referencing. see who theyxñd3pp3ñi]r and wha did in the society in which thea lived and you will understand our political climate in this ve country perhaps you would have l otherwise. absolutely essential in the world of the founders. optional in our own world but i think i'm trying to make a case that advice is not a bad thing particularly when you think it'd the truth and you think it will be beneficial to the people witt whom you share it.whom i think as i look back on my own live, i rue having had to learn so many of these wonderful things so late in life. if i would have learned them later on wouldn't that have made al lot of difference?
anyway i'm going to keep talking right now. i'd be happy to answer questions right now.ing to i've got a lot mor qe letters te i canrs share with you.k me a i think you understand the whole thing is about happiness. ask me anything you want. thank you. [ applause ] any questions, yes, sir. >> can you talk about the t society of cincinnati and how it was formed and what it meant back to the romans. >> washington was also considered -- it was about the society of cincinnati which of course is the organization formed after the revolutionary r war ofev officers who had serve in the continental army. it's a who hehereditary society. there's only one hamilton, right? they have a successor member soh
there's two.t? there's kind ofind like a back plan with the older one. >> i think the church has an arrangement like that with bisho bishops. it's a hereditary society. it's been going on all of this time. it was considered a really dangerous thing by certain people after the war. of course thomas jefferson was really fearful of the society.lt he was fearful of any organization. he didn't like the military but he was fearful of any organization that seemed to him to be elitist and might become an instrument which would undermine the liberties of the american he was this great roman general. he was the only one in history with having put together had bi army and won this major campaig, left it and went home and became a farmer again. we of course washington is often
considered to be like since innatus. a lot of parallels made to him more than fabius in fact. he did exactly what he had done. he probably could have taken over this country if that would have been something he wanted to do. he was, of course, off limits politically. one of theas reasons hamilton w hammered so much during the washington injury when he was secretary of treasury because you couldn't attack george he w washington. he was off limits even if you didn't particularly like him you couldn't see anything negative about him because he was the ca symbol ofhe america. the noble virtuous person who does what's best for all of the people. the society of cincinnati. is one of those examples. here again there's a nice long biography of him in plutargs lives. the society of cincinnati there's like three missions in
there. one is to keep s the relationshs together but the second one was to never let the people forget what they fought. so it's kind of like the lessons learned from the war to promotee those arthings. war the third thing was to take care of the widows an the children that were there. >> yeah. there's a great guest book entry as some of you walked in past the guest gubook. there's a wonderful entry that someone had written about having and said by remembering what was and what happened, we will be better in the future. we will preserve our liberties.b you know, that's a great way t look at it. i think ignorance about our own history has cost us many things throughout the course of this country. sin sinceinnatus. >> when i was in high school or college, i read a great deal of
latin authors. though your talk was the first time i really understood why. i don't think our teachers knew latin well. that was not the problem but i don't think they understood thet significance of these writings. for the first time hearing you talk now, i do understand the na significance. >> nc i dabsolutely. they were reading -- they were ekwichi equipping you to read the same things our founders read and read to such benefit. here again, i don't think john adams sat down six times with that book just because he liked the sound of it in latin or like the way the textway flowed. he was refreshing himself with the themes of liberty and independence. transcendence. all of these things for them are so incredibly important.tably in
we're in a time where our time educational w system believes tb if it isn't looking ahead, if i isn't forward thinking it's wasting time and energy. and energy and of course, we do that i think at some peril because not only are we inclined to forget lessons that shouldn't be forgotten, but we're consciously ignoring a huge part of the curriculum that shaped the very people that created this country. we, you know, i hear people all the time when dressed up as hamilton talking about well, they were such great men and where are great people like that. why do we live in a time when people are just not so smart and strong and motivated? we're educated differently and we need to be. we need all of the technical sorts of thins that can help us compete. they lived in a three mile per hour world. they wrote with quills.
read by candle light. it was a different world, but i think we may have lost something by breaking so completely with that past. and i'd like to think that's part of what you're saying. but you're right, we should explain why we're asking them to read latin. >> we often talk of the need for technological education and this is true, but what you can wind up with is a slave society. they know their own jobs very, very well. they don't know much else and they're ruled by a tiny elite who does not something else, but is not necessarily ben ef lens. >> thank you, give you a hand. i couldn't agree more. you're absolutely right. >> i have two questions. did john and abigail adams ever
send conflicting advice to their children? zpl. >> not that i know of. they were of one mind in terms of how their children should be raised. she of course did a lot of it on her own and you know, they actually had the, they had the terrible burden of having a son that didn't turn out well. if you saw the paul giamat giamatta mini series, you get the sense of that where john turns his back on his son and never wants to see him. i don't think abigail did that. are you contributing to this or have different question? >> different question. >> just a second then. so, you had question number two. >> i don't mean to be funny, but ben franklin, his chassty, had an illegitimate son. >> we're asking to believe that
these founders actually pract e practiced what they preached. brilliant man if -- clay jenkinsson does it brilliant, but we were going through this one night in the program and suddenly, he came to that one as jefferson. never ask another to do something which you can dpo yourself and he just erupted in laughter. jefr owned slaves. the only reason he was able to do what he did is because everyone else doing the other stuff. it's great advice. a story that's closer to home in new york, there was an imminent theologian named knaver.
broke the serenity prayer. suffered a stroke. his later years were difficult and onerous and he confessed to his doctor he was just getting tired of all these happy letters from people telling them about how the serenity prayer changed their lives. he said, you know, i just, i'm glad they're feeling that way, but i can't feel it. his doctor said don't worry about it. everybody knows that doctors and preachers don't practice what they preach. >> read the letter from abigail to john quincy. she comes across in that letter as somewhat traditionalistic as opposed to the image presented of her today as the first women's liberation advocate. was there any element of advice she gave to her children that
could be views add more modernistic than traditional? >> not really. >> keep your nose to the grindstone, work hard, give it everything you've got and you know, remember god, be respectful and you'll turn out just fine. pretty traditional. didn't want us to remember the ladies. she wanted congress to remember the ladies when they were deliberating over independent ens from great britain. i think what she intended probably was that they gain some rights under law. they had none. they were property. i don't think she was saying we want the vote. i think she was sayi ining we'de not to be property. we'd like to have laws that would treat us with with dignity and respect. by and large, the constitution went along way to improving a lot of women i think. yes, sir. somebody in the back there?
>> yes. >> read the note to the grandson yet, but the last page, not really the last page, you mentioned that when he started the army, his feelings about patriotism, that's what i call, he's different from the virgi a virginians. i'm looking at the world patriotism, in your book with the letter, anything even in last paragraph, you had massive devotion to his country was m mirrored in care of his family, however, his devotion to his country, any wording that really cater to say this is a country. you know, how to serve. i'm saying -- that clear? >> i think you read a lot of his judicial decisions and you see how much he loved his country. within a year or two of the new
government after the constitution, it was clear we had two political factions. you had the federalists, trying to put together a new government under the constitution that would knit these 13 littinging states, knit them together and provide for the commonwealth, the preamble of the institution. it would provide for the common defense, the general welfare. it had the power to tax, a year before that had ond before reserved for states. it was doing something con pleatly different and we have thomas jefferson who's read the ancients so much and he knows that almost in any republic, there's somebody hungering for power, somebody who wants to be he's suspicious of everything. james madison, something of a federalist. i think interested in the entire
union over perhaps the interest of their own particular state. madison joins him and they become absolutely masterful political opponents and i think the federalists never really recover from their efforts, well, they don't recover from them, but they just become incredibly ab instructionistic. we think of the political system toews at obstructionistic, but read about the democratic republican party and federalists and all the terrible things they said about one another. it's incredible. i think we've been there before. and i think we were there in a way that was profound. the thing that made marshall extraordinary in virginia was that there weren't many federalists there. by and large, they were democratic republicans. jefferson people. and he paid no small price with his political views.
he was really helpful to madison in the ratification convention getting virginia to ratify the constitution, but i think he became lonelier in the years past with views that were federal as opposed to the jefferson point of view. he speaks magnificently of it. i've only quoted a little bit there. he never wrote an autobiography of himself, but justice story, who was a contemporary of his on the court, delivered this wonderful essay about him after marshal died and incorporated a lot of what he had been given earlier by marshal. i think the part that i quoted really gets it why marshal was different and why a lot of the federalists were different from democratic republicans. it was what they had done during the war. it was what they experienced. marshal was a virginian. he was a bit of a backwoods virginian, but he fought in a
number of the battles in new jersey. but he became part of something that was a lot bigger than virginia. and he got to know people from many different states, many different backgrounds, and it changed, it changed him and he began to think of the united states as his country. not virginia. and he became to think of the government as the government of the united states, not the government of virginia. and of course, this gets revisited in the american civil war. this is exactly what's happening. the secession begins. these states are asserting the rights that they retained when they voluntarily became a part of the federal union. the view of lincoln was that's not true. you can't leave. you're in it, you stay in it. but it's primarily over the belief of the southern states that they were the primary unit. they had given certain things to the federal government, but they
hadn't absolutely given up their right to be virginians or south carolinians or whatever. i don't know if i'm answering your question well. marshal talked about it in a lot of different decisions. i can get a biography. >> you're -- let me just say this. not in any of his letters of advice to get the sort of answers you're looking for. >> came out of the church with the american flag and a woman said patriotic. i have two flags. but i thought about it because i look up the word fascism. and i believe, this is me, i
believe that americans born, americans and immigrants -- first let's talk about born americans. it's the lack of love for the nation. i don't feel there's a love. it's like i have this flag, it's like people look at me like what do i have a flag for. and as a teacher i bought the little flags. there's no r more. this is sad. but that's me. >> thank you for being who you are, really. yes, sir? >> did these letters touch on slavery and attitudes on slavery? i shouldn't say that. i think george mason in one of his letters discussed slavery a bit. but i think for most of the southerners, slavery was a fact. they didn't see it ending.
it would have been neat if i could have gotten letters from somebody like robert king carter who freed all his slaves or edward kohls. he comes along a little later. jefferson writes him and coles says i want to free my slaves. jefferson says it wouldn't be a good idea to do that. for a lot of different reasons. and coles gets the idea he needs to leave. he actually moves to what was then the west. he becomes an early governor of illinois. but frees his slaves as they are crossing the ohio river from slave territory to free territory. there were people that did it. here again, i think that letter of edward coles is beautiful. i think he really understands that slaves are human beings. they are entitled to every right that a human being has. every natural right, which here again in the declaration of
independence is well specified. during the revolution, he said the people that yelped most about liberty are the ones that are have a whip in the other hand and beat the slaves. something to that. >> last question. >> last question, okay. >> what was your thought process of collecting these advice letters? and also getting the letters. >> there are a lot of letters that should be in this. and in fact, this could be several volumes. if the the first one is perceived to have value, maybe we'll do another one. we have the letters. we have lots and lots and lots of letters. reasons for selecting what we selected i think comes down to personal preference in many cases. making points that we think might be of interest to people.
and dare i state the commercial motive. we include a lot of people who have homes that are still standing because they have booksto bookstores and it's an outlet for selling books that are not being published through traditional channels. and i think that's just recognizing what is. i would love to have some letters who followed oliver wolcott, followed hamilton and the secretary of treasury office. other people, there are a lot of interesting founders that would be fun to include some of their letters. thank you very much. it's been a real pleasure to be with you. [ applause ] on the next washington journal, our guests include bob cusack, editor in chief of the hill newspaper. also karl smid from the aids
institute to discuss federal funding and his group's role. washington journal is live on c-span every day at 7:00 a.m. eastern. with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the senate on c-span 2, here on c-span 3 we compliment that coverage by showing you the most relevant congressional hearings and public affairs events. then on weekends, c-span 3 is the home to "american history tv" with programs that tell our nation's story including six unique series. the civil war's anniversary visiting battlefields and key events. touring museums to discover what artifacts reveal about america's past. history book shelf with the best known history writers, the presidency looking at the policies and commanders in chief. lextures in history with top college professors delving into america's past.
and our new series featuring our government and educational films from the 1930s through the '70s. c-span 3, created by the cable tv industry and funded -- watch us and like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. next history in american studies professor joanne freeman talks about the concept of honor and led to his death in a dual with aaron burr. the awareness society hosted this event. it's 40 minutes. >> i have the pleasure to have introducing joanne freeman. she's got a long history with the museum and an even longer one with alexander hamilton. now 25 years ago, john hersag approached a young woman working at the library of congress where
the papers are lodged. this woman not even a grad student had already cure rated an exhibit. that became one of our earliest exhibits and that was joanne freeman. her history with hamilton is extensive. we have many here in the audience, but how many of you have read all 27 volumes of the papers several times? joanne has, she started early reading them as a teenager. her research to the hamilton in scotland as well as in saint kroi. she immersed herself in the culture by living there for several weeks. she has so much experience that she went and fired -- she did this at a gun range calling this oddly satisfying, not much of a
kick, but a nice full pop and a dramatic smoke of puff soon after. joanne, we have a historian trying to capture the mood and moment of what it was like several hundred years ago, and this actually extends through her ph.d. work that was done at the university of virginia, of all places. so a hamiltonen in jefferson country. that's immersing yourself in a different culture. joanne pulled that trigger in research of her book, which won the best book award from the society of historians of the early american republic. it also received high praise from her peers. joseph ellis called that book, quote, unquote, a landmark work. and writings appeared atlantic monthly was published and ranked as one of the best books of the year. that's just a sampling of her work. she has numerous articles in
peer review journals, op-ed pieces in "the new york times," appeared in a host of documentaries on the history channel, a number of radio programs including the bbc and npr, lectures at the smithsonian library of congress, the treasury department and colonial williamsburg. so it's no wonder that joanne was ranked as one of the top young historians. in conclusion, i quote words from 212 years ago. it's my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be. that's very good advice for a historian and joanne freeman explains history not as it ought to be, but as it was. and who said those words? of course, alexander hamilton. it's my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, joanne freeman. [ applause ]
>> thank you. thank you very much for that very gracious introduction. i have to say i'm really pleased and honored to be here speaking to you today particularly at the end of what was an event-filled weekend celebrating and commemorating alexander hamilton's life and accomplishments and to be speaking here at the church where hamilton was raid to rest 210 years ago today. now my subject today is alexander hamilton as a man of honor. and i suppose rather i'm going to start by telling you what i'm not going to be talking about today before i launch off on what i am going to be talking about. i'm not going to be talking about what an honorable man hamilton was, although he certainly was an honorable man. but instead what i want to talk
about is what honor as it was understood in the 18th century meant to hamilton in a concrete way and how it shaped his thoughts and actions over the course of his life. and i want to do that in three parts. first, i'll talk about how the concept of honor shaped his sense of himself, particularly as a young man. then i'll talk about how the concept of honor shaped his politics and policies. and finally, i'll talk about how the concept of honor led him to the dualing ground and the dual that ultimately ended his life. now at this point, i'm very tempted to say that in today's world, we really don't understand or appreciate honor all that much. i see a lot of people nodding yes. it's not quite true, somewhat true, but it is true.gfñ that don't understand honor today as someone like hamilton did in the 18th century. to an 18th century gentleman,
his honor, his character was like a concrete possession. his most valued possession worth fighting for, worth dying for. it really represented the essence of who a man was. for politicians honor was even more important. in the 18th century before being a politician was seen as a job with job skills, men gamed political office space on their reputation on what people thought of their character, not based on job skills. so clearly a man's personal honor was even more important to someone who held or was hoping to hold political office. men who were viewed as honorable were trusted with power. now hamilton clearly em vibed this concept already as a very young man, even as a boy, as an early letter that he wrote shows very well. and i have to say, as a historian, i sometimes thank the
history gods when i find a particularly wonderful piece of evidence. i'm going to mention a few of them today in the course of my talk. and this letter i'm going to quote from is one of those pieces of evidence you thank the heavens for because it's the kind of evidence that brings a person or an idea to life in literally a sentence. and the letter is the first letter that we know of that hamilton wrote. it was written when he was a teenager, a child living in the west indys and yearning to get out into the world to make something of himself. writing to his best friend edward stevens, hamilton wrote, to confess my weakness, my ambition is prevalent that i condemn a clerk or the likes to which my fortune condemns me and willingly risk my life though not my character to exalt my station.
think about that last phrase for a minute. hamilton is saying he would willingly risk his life but not his character to assault his station, to better himself in the world. what he's talking about there is essentially honor. he would risk his life, but not his honor to better himself. that's something quite remarkable for a teenager to say. and it pretty much sums up a basic attribute of hamilton's life and personality. he was eager to make something of himself. he was willing to work hard, even to risk his life to do it, but he would quite literally guard his honor, his character, his reputation with his life. now that remarkable letter ends with an interesting sentence. at the end of the letter hamilton writes, i shall conclude saying, i wish there was a war. and as odd as that sentence may seenl, it makes perfect sense in the context of hamilton's letter. for someone without connections or money, fighting as an officer
in a war was a fine way to earn reputation and honor. it's hamilton's good fortune to come just as the revolution was getting off the ground and he became engaged with the struggle at an early point, a believer in the cause of the colonies who was well aware of the fact that he might very well be walking into the war that would enable him to make his name. and he assumed that the best way to make that name for himself was through an act of glory on the battlefield. now in the end, the most valuable boost to hamilton's reputation during his wartime career was not on the battlefield but at general george washington headquarters because working beside washington who even at the time was known as the nation's leading man, or as some people called him, the first man, working by his side was invaluable in countless ways as hamilton's later career would show. even so he was bound and
determined for his moment of battle field glory to really prove his reputation and, in a sense, to come away from the war with a concrete something in hand. so throughout the war whenever an opportunity for a field command came into view, hamilton put himself forward as the man for the job, but not until the battle of yorktown at the end of the war did e he finally get his moment of battlefield glory, persuading washington to let him lead a battalion to capture and supposedly when washington told hamilton he was going to have this opportunity, one anecdote has it that he rushed back to his friend, his second in command, yelling, we have it, we have it, which i love because it's one of those wonderfully human moments that show you people being people even in the middle of history unfolding. so hamilton was on his way but with the launching, honor took on an entirely new meaning for him. for the rest of his life in addition to concerning himself with the preservation of his
personal honor, hamilton would be focused on the new nation honor, on national honor, the reputation of the young united states in the eyes of the world. now as a brand new nation, the united states didn't have stability behind it. it had to prove its worth and status on the world stage. in the context of the late 18th century, there was no easy task. think about the world that the united states was trying to impress. the american constitution created a republic in a world of empires, monarchies and monarchs. the united states was something new on the world stage. although the fond e founders looked back for guidance, in essence, they were creating something new in the modern world. something untried, untested, and fragile. and i think it's really easy to forget how new and experimental
the young nation was during its founding years. you can certainly hear it in the comments in a lot of people at the time. so for example, here's james madison at the launching of the new government in 1789. he said, quote, we are in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us. here's george washington that same year, i walk on untrodenned ground. and here's a senator from that period, william mcclay of pennsylvania, who had the same exact feelings in 1789. he wrote, the whole world is a shell and we tread on hollow ground every step. now if you think about it, those are three remarkably similar statements. it's like these three people woke up and conferred. the shaky ground, that's what it's like to be founding a country. all three men are describing the exact same feeling. a fear that the ground is going to break beneath your feet at any moment.
the new nation had a constitutional framework, but no one knew what kind of nation was going to emerge from it. the stakes of this political experiment seemed extremely high to the people involved in it because they truly assumed they were deciding for all time whether a republic was feasible in the modern world. and i think alexander hamilton puts it best in the first paragraph in his essay, and i'll confess to you i read this photograph in some way in almost every class ateach at yale because it captures the mood and spirit so well. these are hamilton's words: it seems to have been reserved by the conduct and example to decide the important question whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on
accident and force. the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be rega regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made and the wrong election of the part we shall act may deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind. now think about the sense of responsibility that goes along with that statement. they believe they are deciding for all time if you can put a bunch of men in a room, have them calmly create a just form of government and put it in motion in a calm and deliberate process of ratification. could this new experimental nation hold its own? and if so, how? who were its friends? who were its enemies? what were the implications of making friends and enemies of different countries? americans assumed that world empires nations were hovering over the new republic nearing and licking its chops. the the best example of american fears about what the world thought of them in these early
years is summed up in a hamilton document that is little known, but i think it's a really fascinating one. and it's a draft. it never left his desk and that's probably a good thing in the end as you'll hear as i describe what it is. in 1796 with the french revolution raging, hamilton deci decided he would try to decide a national field for the united states. and as i said, i think it's a memo. he drew it up for himself and he did nothing with it. it's fascinating it's like a glimpse into the mind of hamilton and a lot of people. . this is the image he suggests for the new united states. he wanted a globe with europe on one side and america on the other and he wanted a giant with one foot standing in europe and the other hovering over north america. in north america he wanted a figure in armor with a shield and a spear basically doing this.
so a national, he's creating this image of america fending off this frightening, threatening europe that's looming over it. it's a remarkable image. not the most graphically wonderful image, so i will also say that maybe graphic arts is not hamilton's forte. when i went back to look at this again before i came to give this talk again, i found something i hadn't noticed before. it's a very complicated image and he talks about armor and shields and then he says at the end of it, if it's not too complicated, we should add nep tune in the ocean. he really was enthusiastic. but clearly what that's bringing to life is the idea that the the united states was well aware of the watchful and even threatening attention of the world. so given that context, you can see how the new nation's reputation, its national honor in the eyes of the world would have mattered. not only to hamilton, but to the
founding generation. you can see hamilton worrying about national honor right after the war. in a letter that he wrote in 1783, he urged new york governor george clinton to treat loyalists fairly as the war came to a close. not to penalize them because it was a matter of national honor. american treatment of loyalists after the war would say a lot about the character of the new nation and hamilton wanted the nation to start off on the right foot. so hamilton was thinking about national honor almost from the launching of the new nations, but he really concerned himself with the preservation of national honor when he became the nation's first secretary of the treasury in 1789. hamilton was the man responsible for dealing with the new nation's enormous disorganized gift, so he was responsible for establishing national credit. now hamilton's concern makes
sense if you think about the meaning of the word credit. credit is essentially honor in another form. credit, a person with credit is trust worthy, a person with credit has a reliable and upstanding character. a nation's credit represents all of those things as well as its standing in the eyes of the world, a nation's reputation. so credit and national honor are very much bound together. that's precisely how hamilton understood the idea of national credit. e he assumed that it was fundamentally bound up with national honor. to hamilton a nation with bad credit was a nation without honor. as he put it in an unfinished report that he wrote, defending his financial person after he stepped down, bad credit, quote, process pated the national honor. now given hamilton's utter conviction that bad credit meant national dishonor and given how
firm firmly he believed his policies were best for the nation, and given how much he tied his own reputation to the founding of the nation, imagine how he felt when his policies were tampered with. so for example, in 1795 when congress didn't follow his suggestions concerning the nation's unsubscribed debt, hamilton went wild. as he put it in a letter to his friend, the unnecessary capricious and abominable assassination of the national honor by the rejection of the proposition in the house of representatives haunts me every step i take and effects me more than i can express. to see the character of the government and the country so exposed puts my heart to the torture. how listen to where he goes from there. he goes on to say, am i then more of an american than those who drew first breath on
american ground? what is it that torments me? am i a fool or is there a constitutional defect in the american mind? now that's a remarkable statement and it really shows you how national honor was an intensely personal issue for hamilton. a deeply felt personal issue that he bound up his identity with. in fact, hamilton took the defense of national honor so seriously that he chose a really interesting word to describe the sacrifice of national honor. he called it suicide. at least twice, hamilton insisted that not defending national honor was suicidal. as he put it in the defense of his funding system in 1795, not attending properly to the national debt at the launching humiliated the united states before the eyes of the world, or as he put it, quote, it would have been an act of suicide in
the government as a very commencement of its existence. not defending national honor was an act of political suicide. it's an idea that he used more than once when discussing national policy. now that idea that sacrificing honor is suicidal brings us to the topic of the third part of my talks this afternoon. hamilton's defense of his honor in the dual that led to his death in 1804 and the logic behind it. over time people have suggested that he was suicidal and if you combine that idea with an understanding of how the code of honor and work in the period you find that his duel was not that -- before we turn to hamilton's duel, i want to turn for just a moment to the code of honor and duelling. now i have already said for an herbal national politician,
honor was more than just a vague sense of self-worth. it was proving he was a leader. among men who were touchy about their reputation and had to be, rules of behavior became very -- where the wrong word might lead you to the duelling ground, there have to be clearly defined rules and standards so accidental insults can be avoided. the code of honor set out clear standards of conduct. words you were supposed to avoid, actions you were supposed to avoid, and when a line was crossed and honor was offended, the code of honor offensed a regulated woi of settling the dispute hopefully with negotiations but sometimes with gun play on a duelling ground. for example, there were a number of what i suppose i call alarm bell words that you could never use in reference to another
gentleman. words like liar, coward, rascal, scoundrel and pup pi. which is really lost all of its zing in the 21st century. everyone knew insulting a man with one of those words was as good as challenging him to a duel. it was a dare that demanded a response. to i guegnore it would be to dishonor yourself. by hamilton's logic, to commit political suicide. once a man felt dishonored, steps were followed. the man who would include five basic statements. first it would say i have been told that you insulted me. second, it would repeat the insult precisely. third it would ask is this account true or false. fourth, it would ask do you have
an explanation. fifth, it would demand an immediate response typically by denieding the respect due to a man of honor. now that kind of letter really almost a form letter was an alarm bell signaling that honor had been offended and the person writing the letter was willing to fight. as soon as you receive that kind of a letter, you were engaged in an affair of honor and your every word and action could result in a duel. this is typically the point where each man would appoint a second to represent him. a person who acted as a kind of lawyer, negotiating terms for his client, hopefully finding a way to forge an apology without humiliating the other party. these negotiations allowed honor to be satisfied without any violence. the point of an affair of honor was to demonstrate your willingness to die for your honor. not necessarily to engage in gun play and not necessarily to kill your opponent, and it's counterintuitive, but true.
the point of the duel is to prove you're willing to die for your honor. you don't need to have a gun in your hand to prove that. you need to prove you're willing to duel. you're not trying to kill your opponent, you're trying to prove you're brave enough to be there and take part in that it duel. willing to die for your honor. now once you understand political duelling in this way and recognize all of the letter sending and negotiations as an affair of honor, you discover there were many more affairs of honor in early america than most people think. for example, hamilton was involved in at least ten of these affairs of honor, which are in a sense, duels without gunfire before his duel with burr. in new york city alone in the 12 years surround iing the duel, there were at least 17 other political duels, many of them interrelated. in other words, duelling was a larger trend. when you look at these political duels together, you notice some
interesting patterns. most of them took place shortly after an election and they were deliberately provoked and a common ploy was one would call a self-interested politician. there's only one response to that sort of an insult, which was you're a liar. in most cases the loser of an election or one of his friends would provoke the winner or one of his friends into a duel. so what we're talking about here when we're looking at these political duels are not impulsive, irrational events, not guided by suicidal impulses or murderous rage, they were deliberately provoked and strategically timed. in other words, many early political duels were like counterelections. someone who was dishonored by an election by losing an election tried to redeem his reputation with a contest of honor, a duel. so in essence, american
political duels were deliberate attempts to prove one self-eligible for future. leadership. to protect one's honor and prove one's self a proven leader. remember that idea as we turn now to the hamilton duel. the year was 1804. burr was vice president of the united states, but his national political career was looking grim. president thomas jefferson didn't trust him and cut him out of his administration aware he wouldn't have a second chance at the vice presidency and ambitious for a pgs of leadership, he turned to state politics and decided to run for governor of new york. now hamilton at this point was a practicing lawyer in new york city. he was not particularly politically active, but he became more active when he learned the man he most distrusted in the world was running for governor of his own state. by 1804 they had been political rivals for 15 years.
both men were intense individuals, they were ambitious, they moved in the same social circle, they had many of the same friends. sometimes they even argued legal cases together as joint counsel. but according to hamilton, there was one central way in which two men were extremely different. hamilton was exceedingly ambitious so there was no de denying that and i don't think hamilton himself would have denied that. he felt he was guided by his search for honor and fame as it was understood in the 18th century. a desire to win glory in the eyes of posterity by serving the public good. so in a sense that man was self-interested because he wanted fame and glory, but he felt the best way to earn those things was through great acts of public service. he made no such claims. to me at the time, he didn't seem to be bound by any grand political. he seemed to feed on the politics of the moment to get things done.
many politic tigss were shocked at this. he didn't seem to have pesky political principles tying him down. he seemed to be an incredible useful person to have around during political battles for elections. now this is terrifying to hamilton. burr was talented, charming, just as ambitious, but in hamilton's view with seemingly no political restraint. no guiding star holding him back. to hamilton, that made burr a dangerous man. someone who had to be stopped. so hamilton focused on destroying the campaign. they were at a dinner party in new york. hamilton was there as well as another federalist who described the party in a letter. i'm going to give you a bad paraphrase of the letter. you should have heard talk about. he says burr was a dangerous man who ought not to pull the reigns
of government and i can detail to you a still more despicable opinion, which general hamilton expressed, but i won't because letters these days tend to get stolen from the mail by political enemies. it's stolen by political enemies so that happens in public. burr loses the election not necessarily due to hamilton's opposition, but he was humiliated by the loss. he began to feel desperate to prove he was still a deserving leader, especially to his supporters who were beginning to doubt him. why cling to burr as a leader if he couldn't offer influence? some supporters said this quite literally, burr had to fight back. if he sat down in silence, what
must have been the feelings of his friends? they must have considered him as a man to defend and unworthy of their support. so to prove himself a political leader, he to redeem his reputation. so he sent hamilton a letter on june 18th that included the five key phrases i mentioned. he said something still more despicable amount me. is this true or false? do you have an explanation? and reply promptly as i deserve as a man of honor. so this was a threat. and immediately hamilton would have known that he was now involved in an affair of honor and that there was the possibility that a duel might result. but hamilton was puzzled because he was accused of saying something despicable but there was no specific insult for him
to deny or explain. toham l tompb his insult seemed too vague and how do you apologize for something that vague? hamilton's response shows how torn hamilton was between his need to face burr's challenge and defend his honor as a gentleman and his natural desire to avoid a duel. trying to find his way out, he began his letter by debating the meaning of the word despicable, which burr took as an insulting grammar lesson and concluded by showing he wasn't afraid to duel if he had to. he wrote he would not be responsible for hearsay and would always face consequences for his actions. burr did not respond well to hamilton's letter. it revealed nothing of that sincerity and delicacy which you profess to value. in other words, hamilton was not acting like a gentleman.
it was a highly offensive insult that hamilton could not ignore. now hamilton couldn't back down. burr felt insulted. but before the duel, hamilton had one final decision to make. he wasn't sure if he would shoot at burr. to hamilton shooting at a man meant to do and for days he agonized about the decision and the night before the duel he made his choice. he would not fire at burr. as he explained, his decision resulted from what he called religious scruples and could not be altared. and hamilton was aware that this was a difficult decision for people to understand. for example, they might think he was being suicidal. so he decided to explain himself and defend his reputation one last time in a statement
addressed to posterity to be made public only in the event of his death. this is another one of those documents that as a historian you thank the heavens for. it's a remarkable explanation of his feelings at this moment of climax, of such a decision in his life. in his final statement, hamilton acknowledged all the reasons he didn't want to duel. his family, his debts, his religious and moral scruples and his desire u to live. he also explained why he felt compelled to fight. he had seriously insulted burr and he believed what he had said so he couldn't apologize particularly since burr had insulted him during the negotiations. but most fundamental of all, hamilton felt that as he put it, quote, all the considerations which constitute which men of the world denominate honor impressed on me i thought a peculiar necessity not to decline the call. the ability to be in future in
the public affairs which seem likely to happen would probably be inseparatable with public prejudice in this particular. which is a long way of saying hamilton expected a future political crisis of some kind and in his mind, if he did not satisfy public expectations of leadership, if he did not defend his honor, he would be dishonored, cast off and useless at the moment of crisis. not defending his honor would be self-destructive. you could say in a sense, suicidal. to be in future useful, he had to defend his honor. so on july 11th, 1804, hamilton in new jersey, hamilton was fatality wounded and died the next day. 210 years ago today, he was laid doors. it was a tragic end to a remarkable life. a product of choices that made
sense to him, although they might not make sense to us. that point, the fact that hamilton and actually every other founder made some choices that might seem flawed to us is where i want to close my comments today. because to really understand the founding generally, we need to understand and remember that they were people. sometimes flawed, sometimes selfish, sometimes selfless and farseeing. to deny that is to deny the meaning, and i suppose you could even say america's founding moment, these men weren't dem gods. they were real people, not sure what they were doing, sometimes on their best behavior, sometimes not. the human story of trial and error is the real story of our nation's founding. if these very human people could accomplish great things, perhaps future generations could do so
as well. it's the logic that inspired their greatest hopes for the future, the ultimate message that they hoped to impart. thank you very much. [ applause ] "american history tv" in prime time continues tuesday night with a look at jewish history. first the holocaust survivors of living in poland during world war ii followed by a passengers on the st. louis when leaving germany in an attempt to seek refuge from the nazis. and the lives of the american jews. all that tuesday night beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span 3. here are some of the highlights for this weekend. friday looking at the civil war. saturday at 6:30 p.m. eastern,
the communique tors visiting a technology fair on capitol hill. sunday on q&a, political commentator, author and former presidential candidate pat buck nan. then books on hillary clinton, barack obama and edward snow den. and sunday morning at 10:30 we tour the literary sights of wyoming. on c-span 3, the kansas city nonarks. saturday at 6:00 p.m. and sunday on real america at 4:00 p.m. an interview with president herbert hoover. let us know about the programs you're tching. call us or leave your comments online. join the conversation. "like" us on facebook, follow us on twitter. each week "american history
tv" brings you lectures from colleges around the country. next hus ri professor watson jen son on the significance of local uprisings against the federalist-led u.s. government in in 1790s and how the unrest led to the accomplishment of political parties. from greensboro, this is a little less than an hour. >> so today's class is the political unrest of the 1790s. we have the notion that everything was fine. but there was far more than what met the eye. there was continued conflict. continued divisions within america that pit different citizens over the fate of the revolution, over what the revolution should look like. there were different motivations for joining the battle against the british. people were opposed to the britt
irk, but they could come together through that. what the revolution actually meant, this is where we see the divisions. dividing what had been not a united block, but one in which the divisions were not as clear. the discussion on the ratification, the drafting of the constitution. what is most important about our discussion of the institution. what did we learn from that. what are two clear sides that emerged as a result of -- yes? >> you have the federalists who support a strong central government. >> great. so what we saw on the eve of the ratification and the eve of the
vote for the constitution, people were discussing the document itself. there were deep divisions. if you're an american, you believe in the constitution. everybody believes in the constitution. but at this time in the 1780s as we saw not every american believed in the constitution. indeed some americans saw it as a centralization of power. e we saw that some of these folks were what was the name of the group that opposed the constitution? the anti-federalists tried to mobilize forces to try to ensure that it wasn't passed. we do see that the constitution was passed and ratified, but it was in large part due to mullification that was undertake on the part of the folks who were in favor of the constitution. to placate the concerns of those people who saw the constitution as being something that would grow in size and take over power and centralize power.
what the anti-federalists required was some sort of amendments. and these amendments were added on to the constitution and eventually the first ten became the bill of rights and they were ratified in 1791. so what we saw was conflict. conflict that eventually led to the passage and ratification of the constitution. but it wasn't as though everyone was on board. we get a sense of the divisions based on the ratification vote alone. which states did not vote to ratify? north carolina. we remember north carolina and rhode island, two states that said we're not sure we're in favor of this. now eventually nine states did ratify and e eventually the constitution would become the law of the land, would become official, through there were struggles.
struggles over its radification. not everyone agreed. now if we think about the constitution somehow the ratification of the constitution somehow smoothing out all the differences, what we read for today is it's clearly not the case. what we see is in the 1790s, many of the divisions, many of the concerns that people who viewed the constitution in -- these folks came to see this still as a problem in the 1790s. the ratification of the constitution did not do away with these divisions. instead they continued to manifest themselves. . and we can see them manifest themselves in a variety of ways. we're going to talk about three ways today that are two clear examples. examples that highlight the ways in which certain individuals, american citizens decided that they were going to rebel against the constitution and the federal government. in the 1790s we see two examples
where rebels decided -- perhaps they decide to try to form their own more perfect union, their own country. one of these events takes place, or both of them take place in 1794. the first of them that we're going to discuss is the whiskey rebellion, which takes place in 1794 in pennsylvania. as we'll discuss, it's a far larger protest. not exclusively to pennsylvania. the second incident that we see in which the -- a group of citizens decide to rebel. they decide to oppose the federal government. this occurs in georgia. it's called the transconey republican.
now these two examples highlight the divisions that were emerging, especially among groups in the west. the western parts of the states towards the federal government. these two examples, as i said, highlight continued opposition to the federal government. they said portions of the american public were not happy with the way power had been centralized in the hands of the whiskey rebels and the trans-ocone, rebels. on the one hand, it was about an excise tax, a tax they felt that was imposed upon them unfairly. for the trans-oconee republicans, what they viewed as the key problem to try to spur them to leave the united states is they didn't agree with the
federal government's ability to conduct diplomacy with the indians. in particular what they wanted to see was the federal government remove all of the indians of the southeast and expel them, push them west of the mississippi river. many of these rebels in the trans-oconee had fought in the revolutionary war and fought against the indian tribes that neighbored georgia, the creek and cherokee. during the war there had been brutal instances of combat, of warfare between the settlers in georgia and what we see as the indian tribe surrounding. after the war, after the pa patriots emerged victorious, what many of the republicans thought they should be pushed west and allow for white expansion, for american expansi expansion. so these two examples highlight, as i said, the wo fact that there are these divisions to
centralize power in the hands of the federal government. though they are different, they both demonstrate the precarousness of the american experiment. both of them demonstrate. we from our vantage point we look back and we know that america is going to be this great power. it's inevitable. they didn't know that at the time. in the 1790s this was just an experiment by a group of people who are on the other side away from europe on the over side of the atlantic. much of europe looks on thinking this is going to fall horribly wrong. it's going to go horribly wrong. this new experiment they weren't sure how it would turn. as the 1790s unfolded, what we see is them trying to uncover, trying to shake the events. now to give us a sense, i want to start off just to give us a sense of what kind of division we're talking about and how they
manifest themselves. we're going to see a map here. we're going to talk about the whiskey rebels first in kentucky. the whiskey rebellion in kentucky. it takes place in the summer of 1794 but it grew out of a disagreement that went back to 1791 and emerged as a full-blown crisis in the summer of 1794 but the origins of the disagreement that would lead to this blowup, this flare of the whiskey rebels emerges in 1791 and connected to the excise tax, the excise tax. in 1791 alexander hamilton helped to push through what was, as the secretary of the treasury, he convinced congress to impose an excise tax on distillers. he convinced them to impose an excise tax on distillers of
whiskey. he thought this would be one of the best means, one of the best means of keeping the nation together. he devised this plan as a mean to keep the nation united. he believed that we had talked about how the states had gotten deeply in debt over the course of the revolution in an attempt to try to pay for the war. we talked about the inflationary spiral. we talked about how the currency had become virtually worthless. that the continental congress issued currency and it had fallen apart. in an attempt to try to ensure that the nation that the experiment continued, what alexander hamilton believed is if the federal government purchased the debt, it would help the federal government and also help the states by relieving them of their debts. but it would also make sure that people outside of the government would have a stake in the government. part of the way he managed alexander hamilton managed to
not ensure but devised a plan he would be able to get support from many of the people he believed were necessary to keep the nation alive, to keep it going, what he devised was a plan in which the currency would be paid back in its full credit. the value of much of the -- if you were a merchant or trader, you could go out and buy this currency for cheap. for pennies on the dollar. that's how much it was worth at this time. when alexander hamilton implemented his new policy that would have the states sell back their debt to the federal government, we see much of the currency increased in value tremendously. if you were smart enough to purchase this currency at a low rate to pennies on the dollar and the federal government wasç% going to give you full face value, it meant an increase in what you were going to get. you were going to get a dollar
for the dollar that you made 70 cents on that purchase. what we see is that many of the people with money who were necessary to help fund the government would buy in, hamilton believed. he expected the creation of a new national debt would give creditors a stake in the economic stability of the nation. hamilton's program proved to be a boom to specklators, merchants and men from port cities. they accumulated large amounts of currency and much was purchase purchased at depressed prices, which meant that the policy would bring them considerable wealth. now the whiskey tax, we can see how there is a shift in the people who are actually going to have to pay it off. it's the financiers who are going to make money off this deal. but the government as it pays it out, where are they going to get the funds to pay back this money? they decided they would get it from an excise tax on whiskey. that meant that certain parts of
the country would bare a disp disproportionate tax to pay for the government's investment, to pay for the government's debts. i brought this map up here to give us a sense of the kinds of, enlarge it, what we can see herp that indicates where there's majority -- federalists and anti-federalists majority and evenly split areas. what we can see is that there are certain patterns that develop. we see certain patterns. look to pennsylvania, one of the places we'll see this playout with the concern of the excise tax plays out, we can see that it's very mixed. there are strongholds of federal support and strongholds of anti-federal supports and large areas divided. what we get a sense of from this map has we have been discussing, there was no unanimity surrounding the constitution and this would continue to play out. people who had been opposed to the constitution once it passed
they were not necessarily on board with the powers that would then be granted to the federal government. now, as i said, what we see is this new excise tax that is going to be imposed -- and this is really the spark that pushes the whiskey rebels to action. at first what we see is after the enactment of the law in march of 1791, we see that protests break out throughout the appalachian region, really from pennsylvania all the way down to georgia in the western section, the appalachians and west of the appalachians what we see are residents in these areas protesting. they're up in arms, many of these western farmers. the reason is that many of the folks that lived there relied upon whiskey production. whiskey production was a core part of what they did. now, many of these folks were grain farmers. whether it was wheat or corn, they grew different kinds of grain. and what they did with the surplus grain after they had use what had they needed, they would
make it into liquor and you would make it into liquor because it made sense. think about grain, grain is bulky and different to travel. it's difficult to transport. if you wanted to bring it to market, it entailed quite a bit of cost to put it on a wagon and bring it across. but you could distill down your grains into liquor very quickly and make it much easier to move. right? you could also drink it, as well. so there are these benefits that we see that come from distilling excess grains down into liquor. now, what the excise tax would have done would have charged these people, would have charged them, it would have imposed a tax on what they were doing. now, before many of these farmers had sup limited their incomes relying upon distilling liquor but now they found they faced a tax. and the tax was equal to about 25% of the retail value of the liquor, about 25% of the retail value of the liquor. which meant that the profit that would go to the farmers pretty much evaporated once the tax was
imposed. now, as i said, throughout the western sections of pennsylvania, maryland, virginia, north carolina, south carolina, georgia, all the way through these appalachian areas, what we see is there are unrest. expands into western part of kentucky and virginia. but of all the places where we see it really take hold the strongest, where we see the protests reach its most radical stage was in western pennsylvania. it was most radical in western pennsylvania. the opposition there was centered in the western section of the state and the counties of allegheny, washington, fayette and westmore land counties. you have to know that it's western. western areas. we can see that in the western section of pennsylvania, what do we see in terms of the support for the constitution? it's mixed, right? pretty significant portion of western pennsylvania once we get to the other side of the mauntss
is actually opposed to it. this is before the imposition of the ratification of constitution. so, this is prior but what we can see is that these long-standing grieve answers. they continue to fester and manifest themselves. imagine you didn't support the constitution, now you have a new federal government which now is taxing you. what does that seem a whole lot like? >> who? >> it seems a whole lot like the british, which is what many of the western protesters said. what they complained about was taxation without local representation in this instance. they didn't believe their local interests were being properly represented. they had no say in the passage of this tax. so, what we see is throughout 1791 and 1792 we see residents of appalachian who are opposed to the tax, they are protesting in a range of different way, many of the ways they were protesting was reminiscent of the revolution. we think about the various
ways -- what are some of the ways we saw protests conducted during the revolutionary era? >> riots. >> urban, riots, land riots, urban riots, proud politics as they were also known. we can think about the ways in which they sometimes expressed their intimidation. think about what holton saw? what did ann holton see in such graphic detail? tar and feathering, right? we can think about the tar and feathering which was not something like we saw on loonny toons. this was a brutal, brutal treatment, a brutal punishment. so what we start to see are similar actions that had been conducted in the 1770s and 1780s, think of shea's rebels. we can see the similar kind of activity being mounted, slowly but surely in western pennsylvania. now, many of the folks who are engaging in this sort of dissent, this opposition, they were revolutionary veterans. these are men who had gone off
and fought in the war, either served in the militia or the continental army and now they had come back home hoping to establish themselves, hoping to live life in the new republic they had helped to create. many of them now felt as though their sacrifice in some ways was being ignored as this tax was imposed. one of the militant factions, there are various factions within western pennsylvania, one of the more militant groups was named the mingo creek association. the mingo creek association. they led much of the organized resistance to the collection of taxes. now, at first what i said, what you see are the protesters followed the same basic script that had been provided by the revolution. they even used the same kind of rhetoric in their demands and complaints. they organized two conventions shortly after the passage of the excise tax. and they did this in pittsburgh. they did it to make their demands clear. they wanted to articulate their
demands. after organizing these conventions they petitioned the state government in philadelphia. they also sent a petition to the u.s. house of representatives. and for all of their efforts what they saw is that the federal government decided that they could work with the people. congress could work but they dropped down the tax by a penny, which was negligible by most of the opponents in their view. this meant nothing. it didn't change the outcome. what they needed was a serious revision. so, imagine we have these men in western pennsylvania who are up in arms, up in arms that their treatment to the federal government from this new tax that has been imposed from far away with the federal government. so many of them, it smacked of the same sort of issues they had fought against. the same sort of issues seemed to be coming back. when the conventions in other kinds of protests failed to bring about the response they had hoped for, the resistance grew more intense and violent in western pennsylvania.
the protesters at this point, they began to evolve into rebels. but august of 1792, what we see is that local leaders of the movement decided to block federal agents, federal officials from conducting their business that is from enforcing the laws. they made it impossible for federal officials to conduct their official duties in western pennsylvania, which included, among other things, collecting taxes. they made it so hostile, the environment, that the tax collectors were fearful of traveling in this area because it was known that their presence was not accepted. local residents also organized themselves into committees of correspondence, like the kmees of safety during the revolution. and they targeted those who favored or disobeyed the law. if you obeyed the law. excuse me. if you were a propoen innocent of the law, you could find yourself like being a loyalist, tarred and feathered for supporting the wrong side.
usually they were agents of the federal government, but you could still face intimidation if you didn't belief it was that bad a thing or obeyed the law. these efforts, as i said, included tar and feathering and tax collectors and authority. with little to stop them, they became increasingly brazen in their actions. the official in charge of collecting the tax in western pennsylvania, a man named john neble. he admitted that he could not go into washington county, which was the center of the opposition. he could not go there just to see what was going on for fear of his life. he thought he would get killed by these whiskey rebels that were growing in power, they were growing in numbers and they were growing in their assertiveness. the conflict came to a head in 1794, in the summer of 1794, when u.s. marbles traveled to western pennsylvania to serve
ritz to 60 distillers who had refused to pay the tax. these are men who said, no, we're not going to do it. so these agents of the federal government, these marshals went to deliver ritz telling them not only would they have to, if convicted, pay a penalty, they would also have to -- this punishment inflicted upon them but they would also have to travel all the way from western pennsylvania, they would have to travel, of course, over land all the way to philadelphia where the federal court was. this was not only -- this was insult to injury in many ways. it was one thing to have to pay the tax and be forced into it, but then to have to travel overland from western pennsylvania to the coast, meant an imposition, a hardship on these men. not only would they have to stop working but they would have to pay for themselves to get out there. now, when the agents arrived, word quickly spread within these communities and very quickly what we see is a 500 man, 500 man local militia formed under the leadership of a former
veteran, a former revolutionary veteran a man named jack mcfarland. jack mcfarland. so, imagine what we see here, the situation. we have these marshals who are trying to hand out these ritz to these distillers, people find out about it and they start mobilizing. and they mobilize to confront these tax agents. that's exactly what they did. led by mcfarland, they went to neble's house and they attacked his house. this is a representative of the federal government. and they attacked his house and a melee ensued. it in midst of this me lay, jack mcfarland was killed. to many folks who were living there he becomes s a martyr to t movement. in the weeks that followed, support for these rebels grew among the distillers and among
poor people, among people who were landless and had anger towards the wealthy. people were coming together for a variety of different reasons because they viewed federal power as something that was growing too strong and proved positive was the excise tax. but it tapped into deep hostility that was there just simmering beneath the surface in western pennsylvania as society went through these changes. it wasn't only distillers by the end, it was also small farmers who didn't own stills. it was poor landless men, men who had grievances for one reason or another. at its peak, act 7,000 men formed this group of rebels. they were the core of this group of rebels. now, not long after they attacked the rebels attacked john neble's house, word reached washington. word reached president washington and he responded cautiously. he responded cautiously. he sent representatives to meet
with the rebels while at the same time prepared to move militarily against them. on august 7th, 1794, washington announced with quote his deepest regret the beginning of a military action against the rebels, a military action now against other americans. at the lead of a 13,000 man army composed of militia men provided by virginia, maryland, new jersey and eastern pennsylvania, washington moved to subdue the rebels. the first and only time an acting president has actually commanded the u.s. military from the front. we think about the president being the commander in chief. well, in this instance he was literally the commander in chief at the head of this army that was moving to the interior of and many in his cabinet and many others in his administration believed was an insurrection. it was an insurrection.
in fact, some of the people who were part of this rebel group, they were speaking act it in those sort of terms. they were thinking about leaving the union, leaving the united states. contemplating radical actions. they created their own flag even just to give us a sense of their seriousness. they had their own flag, which they hoped to begin a new country, six counties, five counties from pennsylvania and one county from virginia would form this new unit. but this is among the most radical of the rebels, not everyone agreed with this. there were some who were more moderate. they were radical rebels who were calling for a break. now, after mobilizing the army, washington led the forces to the center of the state, as i said. by the time the army reached western pennsylvania in october of 1794, however, the insur recollection had disintegrated as words of washington's forces reached the rebels.
this gigantic force of 13,000 men who was larger than the army that washington actually commanded for most parts of the american revolution for the war of independence. this was a larger army that he had under his command at this point than he had had during the war of independence. when the rebels heard about this overwhelming force they fled. they left. it didn't make sense to engage washington and the federalized militia. in the end, about 10 men were sent to philadelphia for this and put on trial. and two were convicted and sentenced to death but they were later pardoned by washington. so, the whiskey rebellion, what's the significance and importance of this rebellion? well, it set severe limits or at least the response of the federal government. it set severe limits on public opposition to federal policies. in the early 1790s, many americans still assumed it was legitimate to protest unpopular
laws using the same tactics which they blocked the parliamentary measures like the stamp act in 1765. by firmly suppressing this challenge to national authority, washington served notice that citizens who resorted to violent or other extralegal means of political action would feel the full force of the federal authority. what we see is a change. right? that may have worked in the 1760s. but the same sort of actions that they had acted upon in the 1760s would no longer be allowed in the united states. what we see is a change. now i would like to talk a bit about the trans-oconee republic and the trans-oconee republic is something dear to my heart. this is something i ran across when i was writing my book on georgia. it was this episode i had never
heard of. it involved a revolution hero much like we heard with mcfarland who decided he had enough of his country and was going to start his own country shortly after the nation had just begun and this startled me. this left me scratching my head. i had to dig deeper. what i uncovered was this amazing story. like the whiskey rebellion, the disagreement that led to the creation of the trans-oconee republic in 1794, the disagreement predated its actual emergence. it wasn't suddenfully 1794 the men decided we had enough and that's it, we're going to do something about it. instead, the origins of this disagreement between the federal government and these men from western georgia -- what's interesting here. i want you to see the map now. so, what do we see with georgia in terms of their support or lack of support? >> very unorganized. >> very un -- >> unorganized. >> this here is indian land. this is native american land.
i'll show a map. we think of this all being georgia. look what georgia claims. georgia claims all the way to the mississippi. they clearly can't do that. what they'll end up with is about this much. but in 1790, this was the extent of georgia. i have more maps to actually show many. but what do we see with the blue? what does the blue cig niffy? >> huge support for the federalists. in fact, what we know is that georgiaens very much supported -- they very much supported the constitution. they very much supported the constitution. yet they found that their support eventually proved to be misplaced in the eyes of many of the georgens. so, as i said, in 1787, 1788 the georgens ratify the constitution once it arrived and seasoned it back and do so for a variety of reasons. one key reason is that they have native americans that are surrounding them. they're also the weakest link.
they're at the very bottom of the nation. they're vulnerable to attacks from spanish florida or attacks from the water and they also have large numbers of slaves. they're very vulnerable in georgia. georgia was one of the last states actually to participate in the continental congress. they weren't sure if they were going to join the party, but once they had joined, they were the first ones, one of the first states to say we want in when it came to the constitution. and it had to do with protection or the need for security. so, they were quite surprised when they found that in 1790 president washington signed a treaty with the creek indians, the same creek indians with which the western farmers of the georgia had been fighting for decades. in 1790, washington, president washington, reached an negotiated settlement, a treaty with the creek indians. and he could do this because he
had been newly entrusted with powers by the recently ratified constitution. and with these powers, he negotiated this peace treaty with the delegation of chiefs that represented some of the creek indians. this treaty would be contested later on, but it was viewed as legitimate by the president and his administration. now, the creek indians were the most powerful indian tribes of the southeast with a group of over 10,000 warriors. for decades the creek indians had managed to successfully play the various european powers off against one another and to resist defeat. and the creek held the balance of power in the region up until the revolutionary war. president washington understood that the united states having just fought a war of independence was in no shape to take them on. president washington and members of his administration then, the treaty with the creek, this treaty of 1790 represented a major achien