tv Lectures in History CSPAN November 1, 2015 11:35am-1:02pm EST
talk to, and only so many willing to say what they know or to develop their feelings or experiences at all. i was digging around for any scrap, any tidbit i've -- i possibly could. because the sons of dollars -- sons and daughters, most of them and younotes and aside, really have to dig to find out about them. >> tonight at eight. and pacific on c-span q&a. >> next, historian joseph ellis be -- lead a seminar for high school teachers about the early years of the revolutionary war through the letters of john and abigail adams. this class was hosted at amherst college. this is part two of a two-part lecture. we have abigail adams giving birth to four children, five really, over a 12 year. you is hown i asked
should be assessed her role in the coming of the american revolution? sexist ortent is it just the opposite of that to call attention to the fact that the dominant event in her life are biological rather than political. someone who wants to be true to the experience of women at this time, does that mean that you are going to be not interested in the political story? that the political story for them is the biological story. you know what i'm getting at here. a couple of comments on this if we possibly can. yes. where are you from? >> west chicago. 30 miles west of the city of chicago. >> that is really west. >> i think in the book "parlor
politics" -- >> she was a student of mine. >> that make sense, why i enjoyed the book. >> tell us what that is. >> it basically about how people like abigail adams and martha washington were working in other venues in political ways, whether it be in the parlors, through letters, through correspondence, to kind of make these connections. >> behind the scenes. >> making connections that were helpful to their husband thought political careers, and oftentimes making connections that would maybe be unseemly for their husbands to make. we read these letters about john, it was kind of on -- unseemly to be overly political and ambitious. but the women made connections. catherine focuses mainly on early 19th century presidential politics.
the dolly madison principle. every guy need the dolly madison . in'tail eight dolly -- a dolly. she is like adding -- she is like eleanor roosevelt. dolly is the one who really coined the term first lady. abigail is never a first lady. .he is a copartner in a sense and in that sense, i will tell you for sure, we could conjure her up, or even more historically legitimate, if we could just read her letters back to resistors and everything, but what is most important to her. her role as a mother. she does not think of that as constricting or anything like that. straddles the public world.
she is reading these newspapers that john is writing for, and at this time you can't get direct evidence of how influential she is. later on you get it and you have to assume that you did not get it because they were together at the same time. i read that she was herself part of the thought process that she was engaged in, and in fact, and let it -- in letters to certain women abroad -- there is a whig historian in britain, abigail has a slightly different take on british tyranny. it is operatic. it is like the forces of light and the forces of darkness. she talks about it in a more -- and for her, this is interesting. for adams the ultimate evil is
slavery. not black slavery. .he british enslavement of us for abigail, guess what it is? rape.-- that is what the ultimate horror would be, rate. she has got a feminist perception of what british tyranny feels like that is different than his. think, noticing that her life is dominant -- dominated by pregnancy and child rearing is not a disservice to women of the world or to the feminist agenda. it is a recognition that that is a central part of it. it makes me feel good about the fact that i am not crazy about this. kate. >> i mean, just in the miniseries we were watching last night there was a scene where she is talking about politics
and she says, politics is my empty shell. it is the fact that i am missing , i can't feed my kids. i mean, she was living a daily life, but she was intelligent enough to make the connection about why this was happening. >> question. who is in greater physical danger by the time you get to the middle 70's. i think so too. she is up in boston and the boston -- boston is occupied part of -- by the british army. there is a smallpox epidemic that probably had already started, but is now amplified by the presence of troops and unclean conditions. there is a wonderful book called americana."
it still happens. the war of independence coincides with a huge smallpox epidemic. you have to believe that they you -- people bringing contagion in. the british army contains most guys who have immunity. the american army does not have immunity. one of the biggest things that washington does is to require all soldiers to be inoculated. ok. i do think she is in greater risk. where she leads a john quincy by the hand up penn's hill to watch the battle of bunker hill
in june of 7035. -- june of 1775. the battle was a big battle not just in terms of casualties. the political impact on both sides was really pronounced. what is the american effects? hey, we can beat these guys. we can kill a lot of them. miss, they over interpret this, the capacity to deal with the british army. british interpretation. .e cross the river this is now a violent struggle
and we can't compromise anymore. at this point george the third as we areiii release going to lay it to these guys. all these people come back into london and their lives are at the docks and covering it and it is like huge casualties. ok. you guys started this, we are going to finish it. it is at that moment that the prohibitory act comes, they close the american fork. debt, and hete all goes to the british ministry and says, i want you to raise an army to include at least 10,000 professional soldiers from prussia orsure --
in march of 7076 she writes -- 1776 she writes this letter, and i now understand she talked about this afternoon. i do think we should talk about it as much as we possibly can. ladies"e "remember the letter. what page it on -- isn't on in the formal reading? i take it as page 110. it is a letter about buying stop at the store, and all of a sudden she says, by the way. a piece of advice. whenever you get a letter that says, by the way, look out. [laughter]
coming.something is who hashe way, means -- it in front of them? anyone? marine -- maureen? read the part that says by the way. >> and by the way in the new code of laws which i suppose it will be necessary for you to make, i desire that you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them then your ancestors. do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husband. remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. if a particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not found ourselves bound by any laws to which -- in which we do not have a voice and representation. >> there are other letters after this that usually do not get cited. he responds to this, and my recollection is he says, let's
be serious. we know that women are the real tyrants, women control the family with matriarchal power despotism of the petticoat -- i love that. reach -- their -- there are several volleys here. she has a couple of letters to mercy ellen warren in the same time that basically says well, maybe you and i ought to write a letter to the massachusetts general court saying we don't intend to pay taxes, because we are being taxed without our consent. to reach sort of need some sort of compromise. john has to find a way to make this ok. he says, we can all agree that women do have a role, an important role to play, that
needs to be acknowledged in terms of education. therefore i am in favor because the education -- revolution is going to mean an increase in schools for women. can we agree on something here? there are two agendas going on here, her agenda and what she was really saying, and the context in the continental congress in the spring of the -- 76. let's take her agenda first. interpretation, plausible to me, she is kidding. banter. this is why if you look back at the early hours -- letters, they are always bantering. this thing that you objected to , his way ofrase
referring to her. they play roles. her role is to sort of stick it to you. this.not make too much of there is a great poem by a british poet. let's not take this too seriously. it sounds good, they put it the feminist ideologies, everybody thinks that she is a feminist. ok, that's fine, but that's really not what is going on here. these are people playing word getting a kind of shakedown from her. yeah.
serious.nk she is can you be bantering and serious at the same time? yes. >> that's marriage. >> that's marriage. these big for great experience? -- do you speak from great experience? she says that what we are seeing here is a recognizably modern marriage in which people are bantering but also trying to make a point about the nature of their relationship. if you say there is a serious dimension to this -- and i agree it seems to me that there is -- having lived through marriage and stuff -- [laughter] direct assault toward the patriarchy?
patriarchy is the western traditions believe that women are inferior and that property cannot be held by a woman in a householdand that the le is theil is -- ma leader of the household and defines the identity of everybody at it. i'm sure you can get even a fully definition of patriarchy, but male supremacy, female .ubordination is that what she is saying? what do you think? we will let you have a go at this. >> i don't know that it is so much an attack on patriotism. i almost wonder if it is not
just some of her frustrations? she is at home with young children. there is a theme in the series where she is scrubbing the floor very angrily. she is doing it in a sort of passive aggressive way. was -- if some of the bantering here is not necessarily an attack on patriarchy but almost to say, i am tired and kind of frustrated with my current role -- not because she does not want to serve in that role but -- >> it is an early version of betty friedan. i am sitting home eating of myate covered cherries life is not interesting enough? it sounds too pessimistic. >> but i almost kind of wonder about some of the things that
you hear from her. some of their playfulness, some of their relationship. >> ok. we agree that there is banter here, a very serious dimension. the fact that she says this does not mean she does not mean what she says. , is what asking you is she says a direct frontal assault on the central assumptions of patriarchy, which they were radical feminist position than say, we want the vote. in the 19th century the whole women's movement gets taken over by the right to vote. there are all kinds of other things going on that women needed to be paid attention to. i am saying she is deeper than just "give me the vote." this is a guy named after my son. michael ellis -- a mike for michael.
excuse me. you are over here. hold on. i would say that it is an assault >> on patriarchy. >> good. >> i was say her comparing men to tyrants is an example of that. that she is using her closest to her husband to lobby for women, to try to make change. i would -- the letter that she writes after she writes this letter is a telltale sign to me that she is going further than just banter. beyond just talking to her husband. >> you read that there really that i do. i read it as, she is talking to her buddy. she is the first person in america who writes a volume history of the american
revolution in which she does not feature john with sufficient significance and he gets all upset with her. ok. but absolutely, this is a frontal assault on page record. a need for radical restructuring of american society. i am enclosing this on you, what would you agree that the agenda of american revolution required fundamental change in gender relationships? she sees an opening. she tries at least. >> ok. we have to get to michael here. i will get it. up.'t screw a lot of pressure.
isi think i agree that this an attack, but i think it is more a flank attack. he is not disagree completely. you can send some men to the front and some men to the side. follow-up on that. this is good. this is good. i am so proud of you. [laughter] how does she raised her daughter? be a good wife. is a daily or she has, becauseshe married a -- she is a good wife and she married a shit.
this year ever tried to vote? tried to vote?r what is ther say -- woman in france? the feminist. >> de beauvoir. >> does she ever leave her husband? here is what i'm getting at. abigail is so far ahead of she were to try to act this out now, she would single,become a alienated person. this would have to be what she decides her life is. she is not going to do that. reward comes from family, it comes from being a mother and a wife, and from personn active political
going toe is not agenda,to live out an sheuse she is rooted -- herself is a traditional new england wife and mother. she has. that is where she derives the bulk of her fulfillment. at least that is what she says over and over again. well, what this does make clear is, why is she having these ideas. the woman i was trying to think up with mary wollstonecraft. john reads her on the french revolution. he is reading are allowed to .bigail later in the 1790's he goes nuts. if you go to the boston public
library -- that is where his library is. his books. the margin of error is almost as many as in the bible. i'm not kidding. thou shall understand that are anyway,ind -- what the letter really is is a statement about how one woman bynking is being affected the values being described in the american revolution. is by thes saying way, john, all the arguments you are making about british tyranny have implications that you do not seem to understand.
john says, i do understand them, , we cannot take those into account now. if you allow that radical agenda our is implicit in argument, we will kill the revolution. that sheting letters received. he is in the center of a wind tunnel in philadelphia of current slaves and former slaves you know, they are heartbreaking. they're basically saying, it does seem to me that the tyranny unless an untilson you are willing to take slavery o directly, you are vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy. he did not have to think this
himself. this is coming into him on his e-mail account. the second group of people. artisans in philadelphia. philadelphia! way, we saying, by the are the major sources of support for the revolution. the quakers, all they will do is sit this out. and, we cannot vote because we do not own property. we are not farmers. will beave this guy who speak for us, and we would argue we have to and property qualifications for voting. so, we will end slavery, we will end the property qualification to vote, and now, abigail says, by the way, we also need to end patriarchy, and at least begin
to recognize that the values we fall between the sexes. ok, let's do it slowly, be responsible about it. the american revolution has powerful, radical implications. abigail's job is to say, is, by thef them way, women. what is interesting is john's response. we would not have this family correspondence. john is a conservative revolutionary. let me tell you. if you want to have revolutionaries that succeed, you want them to be conservative. most revolutionaries are radical.
she must have said something like this yesterday. anyway. he is as there to be -- real radical on the issue of american independence, ahead of all the moderates. there a way to in 1775?s just before bunker hill. could we, in retrospect, looking real advance of the story has is hindsight. this is the biggest diplomatic blunder in the history of statecraft. they are going to lose a north american empire. they are going to suffer
30,000-40,000 casualties. it is not going to be fatal. the sun will not set on the british empire until the 20th century. their golden days are really still ahead of it. but it is a big loss. it was unnecessary. what do i mean it was a necessary? there is an answer to this problem. it is looking right at them. and they cannot grab it. william pitt tells him what the answer is in the house of lords in the fall of 1774. admin burke tells them what the answer is in the house of commons, shortly thereafter. this is a no-brainer. all we have to do is say, ok, you guys can tax themselves and legislate for yourself, you stay in the empire economically because it is in your advantage, and you're going to have to pay tariffs, but that is ok because
you pay them anyway, but you get the benefit of the market. this is a good deal for you. and you recognize that you are under a protective canopy of the british monarch. recognize legitimacy of the british monarch. guess what that is? that is the british commonwealth. they have figured this out when hundred years later. that is the reason why australia and canada stay in the empire. india, for a while. they can't do it. not in 1775, why? two reasons. central to the british mentality is the political talk of blackstone, a great british jurist, who has said and everybody believes that this is
true, it is as true as a principal from aristotle on to the present, and every political unit whether it is a nation or in empire, there has to be one final, all-powerful source of sovereignty. a place where all critical and controversial questions can go for resolution. otherwise, chaos. what the colonists are proposing is multiple sovereignties. over here they get to decide, over there to get to decide that stuff. that is no good. it is a recipe for failure. what is the constitution but multiple sovereignties? some for this day, some for the fed. the great thing is blurring,
ambiguity. somebody smart. admin burke knew this. anyway, this was a missed chance, why did they not do it, because of blackstone and a sovereignty. the other reason -- we don't need to do it. we can just send an army over there and squash those son of the guns, like that. and that is what we are going to do. why should we compromise when we have the military power to resolve this decisively? and that is the reason there is no turning back after we get to the battle of bunker hill. they have moved a military direction. the troops are getting ready to come. and in the summer of 1776, which we are now entering, on may 15, 1776, just about six weeks after abigail since her letter, john writes this thing, this prelude, to a request to be sent to all the colonial governors.
if you read the request, it has certainly which in it that sounds sort of like the declaration of independence. we have been patient. prudence dictates. it says, each colony should now begin the process of rewriting its colonial constitution, from a colonial constitution to a state constitution. this, is the referendum -- a de
facto referendum on independence. adams goes to his grave, believing that he wrote the real declaration of independence. that jefferson's thing six weeks later, whatever, is like the thunder after the lightning has struck. ok? he, was the lightning. of course, it is can begin to to believenvenient that with john adams' attitude -- he has a pretty good case here. they send this to each colony. anybody from rhode island? rhode island comes through here. the only time in our entire story that rhode island is
actually doing what it is supposed to do. we have the documents that were generated and the response to this request. and they come in in june and into july. massachusetts, for example, we are there, so we think they are important. there is like 38 towns that respond to -- respond. the governor sent it to the assembly, and instantly send it to all the towns. in virginia they do not have towns, but counties. they send it to other counties. massachusetts has 38 towns. we have the response of all 38 towns. this is like, you don't get this very often in early american history. this is like a poll on independence. because they are supposed to say
that they support -- are they going to rewrite their constitution from akoni to a state. because, the resolution on which the condo congress is going to vote comes from virginia. it is written at about the same time as this may 15 document is written, and it is sent to the full continental congress on june 7. this is what they are going to vote on. that these united colonies are and have every right to be, independent states. that is going to be the vote. that is going to be what they vote for. notice, we do not rebel as a nation. we rebel as a series of states.
but, the request in may of 1976 -- 1776, from each colony from state is a request. are you willing to go with us? there are some historians who say that is really not what it is. that is what it is. that does not mean -- i mean john adams thought it was that. what do they say? i've read all of the ones for massachusetts. they all say, almost all say, the exact same thing. first of all, they say, this is the biggest thing that we have been asked to consider in a long time. we need to discuss whether the page -- the pigs can move on to the comments, or that sort of thing. and then they say, if you had asked us this question a year ago, we would have said, what
are you talking about? this would have been an unnecessary, ridiculous question. of course not. we have a loyalty to the british empire. but, everything has changed. you are asking us whether we want to essentially declare independence. we have no choice. he has already declared his independence of us. which, he has. and, he is sending -- they love to talk about the foreign troops. because they are famous for taking no prisoners.
and for raping our women. not totally justified, but somewhat justified. and so they got these scenarios going. there is one town in massachusetts of the 38 that says, we are not sure about this, and they are out on the cape. they are like, data, the british fleet is going to land here and that we are in trouble if we have taken the wrong position. it is a close vote there anyway, but everybody else basically says, we have no choice. that the british, themselves, are responsible for having created this situation. king george the third is responsible. if old historiography august the , back in the 19
century, then in the 20 century it gets much work obligated. in the end, it is really simple. it is george iii. he is try to recover his monarchy and the power of the monarchy. he has decided to impose a british rule on the colonies in a way that is unprecedented, and he thinks he can get away with it, and he thinks it is going to be easy. he thinks he's going to win the war, and he is wrong on all counts. the british ministry and the british house of commons pretty much go along with him, because there is no opposition. the real source of leadership for britain is from the top down. in london, people hate this. london is opposed to the war, and they enjoy american commerce and have a lot of american friends, and they will be a source of antiwar sentiment throughout the american revolution. but, that is how it happens.
how does the declaration get written? and then we can back to john adams. this would be a good essay question, just for a simple narrative. tell us how -- tell me how the declaration of independence comes into existence, and is written starting on june 7 and ending on july 4. why do i say june 7? june 7 is the data condo congress takes up the virginia resolution and puts it on the docket. that these united colonies are and have every right to be independent states. several of the colonies have
representatives that are under strict orders from their state legislature or governor, not to vote on independence until they come back and get the support of the legislatures there. especially in new york and pennsylvania. so, they say, recess. so that members can go back. while the recess is going on, we are going to appoint three committees. and john adams is going to be on two of them. one is a committee of five. john adams, bridgman franklin, jefferson, who are the other two guys? robert livingston or william livingston? i think it is robert. and, the connecticut guy. roger sherman. one of the most boring talkers in the history of american eloquence, but he is like -- if you look at all the scenes of early american history, he is in everyone.
anyway. roger sherman. and, this is a committee designed to draft this document that if we vote independence, and have to announce it to the world, this will be the document that announces that fact. ok? second committee, if we decide for independence, we sort of have to have a government that represents us after we throw off british role. therefore, let's appoint a big committee, 13 people, one from every colony to serve on this. john dickinson would be the chair of this committee. they say, we will figure out what kind of government we are going to have. they don't understand -- they think it is a civil matter, they will need a couple of times and figure it out. there is no way that this is
going to work. they are going to discover this. there committee, chaired by john adams. called the committee on treaties. we have to have a foreign policy. we are a nation. but, even more specifically, once we declare our independence, we have to get allies. european allies, primarily france. and therefore, what can we do to encourage french support and what are the outlines for our american foreign-policy? john adams writes this single-handedly. it is really good because he announces the basic principle of american foreign-policy, which will hold true until the 20 century. we are going to have commercial relations with everybody, but the diplomatically and otherwise isolated from the rest of the
world. that is in our interest. it sounds pretty simple. but that is the way. washington's farewell address is really a comment on what john adams had already decided. all right. this committee meets -- this five person committee meets a couple of times in benjamin franklin's chambers because he has the gout. he always has the gout. one of the problems is that because this become so important, everybody starts telling stories about it later in their lives, and john adams has a version, most of which is a lie, and then jefferson has a version that is sort of hypocritical commie --, and franklin has his version. i am offering you what seems the
most plausible version of all these gossipy stories. the natural choice for who is the chair of the committee -- adams says that it is me. they actually don't have one. they don't appoint a chair of this group. john adams ask as if you were the chair. because somebody has to do that. but natch -- the natural person to pick to write the declaration is benjamin franklin. the best pros stylist in america, and the most of eric -- famous american of his time by far.
the equivalent of a nobel he's price thing scientist. he has friends in england. he has friends in france. benjamin franklin says that he refuses to do it. why? i'm not feeling well. i have the gout. plus, and this is the great line -- i have made it a role never to write anything that will be edited by a committee. [laughter] prof. ellis: and therefore, no. adam says they then turned to him to write it, why, because he is the leading spokesman for the independent position in the continental congress and has been for the last year. he has been ahead of the game. history, as he said, was going
to happen. it is happening. breaking with england, impossible to imagine, now, inevitable. he says, i don't want to do this. i am on like 38 committees. i'm also serving as the head of the board of war and ordinance. that is a big deal. that is like secretary of war or secretary of defense. even though we have not declared independence, the war has started and we have this invasion happening. and so, i have a lot on my plate. plus, now he is the one who says this, i have made myself noxious -- of noxious. no one else calls and that, he calls himself of noxious -- obnoxious. because he has it set people i supporting a radical position toward independence.
he has written letters that have been captured by the british group and released that are not kindly letters about dickinson. later on he says, if you was john dickinson that if you john dickinson's wife and mother, he would have committed suicide. [laughter] prof. ellis: that dickinson is a victim of his quaker mother and quaker wife. he says no. what about jefferson? well, oh, ok. jefferson. it is like an afterthought. this is one of the most significant accidents in american history. jefferson has been the guy who does the drafting behind the scenes guy.
he never speaks in public. or even in committee. but, adams says that he is always there when you need him, and he is a loyal supporter of independence, no question about that. it's just that he has a really low voice and nobody can hear him. and he seems to compensate for his rhetorical deficiencies on his feet by being a pretty good writer. so, yes, jefferson. jefferson says, ok, the four i leave, before we end the second meeting, can we at least outline the document that we think you want me to write. so they do that. they say, there ought to be a preface to justify our cause on the principles and says that we have been patient and then it goes forward and we have plenty of miles. following the bill of indictment against charles i and other
british monarchs in history. if you are a monarch in british history and you see -- like i said before, you can see the sentence. by the way, if you are a monarch and you see a paragraph that begins with wherefore, get out of town fast. because, they are about ready to come for your head. and so, yes, you write that kind of thing. so, he spends a couple of -- it is hard to know, they meet -- this gets written in the third week of june. it is written on the second floor of an apartment on seventh and philadelphia. seventh and market street. nobody else in the room. he is writing it on a portable desk that was made i a former slave. -- made by a former slave.
did god appear? not to our knowledge. [laughter] prof. ellis: did fire appear? we do not think so. what books did he have? not many. he has got the copy of the virginia constitution that is being written, mostly the preface by torch mason. that is where you get pursuit of happiness. what is the document that he is referring to, implicitly, when he says, life, liberty, and -- what does locke say? the second treatise on
government says property. life, liberty, and property. he drops property. you can build an entire arsenal on the implications of this change. because, what does property protect? slavery. you knock out property, then slaveowners will not be able to say that they are protected. and therefore, in the virginia constitution, it says, life, liberty, property, and the right to pursue your happiness. jefferson drops property. is this a conscious act to make the revolution and anti-slavery movement?
yeah, maybe. what does jefferson mean by pursuit of happiness? again, we could write a metaphysical doctrine on this, but what he means, i think, is that property and wealth is not necessarily the only or the highest interest and source of the film and were human beings. so, in that sense, was anti-slavery? it was anti-capitalists. see how you can do that. this is like early karl marx and all that. about the slavery thing, you're going to ask about this later. let me say something. later in the document, among the things that we did, they beat
this is what you are going to say -- that the wrong paragraph -- give it to him. let him do it. there is a long paragraph deleted in the declaration that basically condemn slavery. and blames it on student: king george iii. prof. ellis: it's a great idea. we have this problem and we have to get rid of it. we are blaming him for everything else under god's green earth, we might as well throw that went right on the funeral pyre. so, blame it on him. they deleted. because the way he structures it, first of all, i do not want any mention of slavery in this document, the same way they do not want any mention of it in the constitution, but, secondly, the way you phrase that is awkward because he refers to the fact that the governor of
virginia, the kings are presented, has offered emancipation to all of the slaves in virginia who come to him at this moment. well, that is kind of weird. he blames it on george iii but then he says this and it confuses it. because it basically says that the british are the ones willing to in slavery and we are not. what he is really trying to say is their motives were doing it are not good. he finishes the draft. pasdid not test this out -- s this out. on the back of this -- passes around. on the back of this, i cannot move too far. pass these around if you would. there is a portrait. we have an artist coming in this afternoon who is the leading american -- world expert on the art of the american revolution. he really is.
let's hope that he is articulate. he is. there is a famous portrait by john trumbull, the original of which is now available in the congress of the united states, but you have seen it. and if you google this thing, it says, john trumbull, "declaration of independence", and a lot of places it says, july 4, 1776. wrong. you can get him on this. you will in jeopardy on this. it is june 28. everybody thinks that it is a picture of the signing of the declaration. they are coming up -- they have it in their heads. 1776. the end of the play. they are all coming up to sign their names. never happened. they never signed it on the
fourth. they never signed it at one time, together. most people signed it on august 2 and august 4, but there are people signing it in october and november. so, what is this? what is this picture? it is a picture of the committee of five, delivering the draft to the full congress. you have john adams, you have benjamin franklin there. you have jefferson, and then you have the other two guys. and the guy at the desk is john hancock. what happens, they deliver this
draft on the 28th. they have the draft, and they have the resolution. let's vote on the resolution. these colonies have every right to be independent states. john adams -- excuse me, john dickinson argues against eloquently, we have shreds of his speech. it basically says that this is suicidal. once we do this, there is no turning back. the chances of us winning this war are remote to extreme. if you do it, i am going to fight on our side. don't get me about that.
and he means, right after the vote to join the new jersey militia, which is rallying in defense of an attack coming. who gets up to defend independence? our boy. it is the most consequential speech he ever gave and everybody, including jefferson, says that it was brilliant and we don't know what he said. [laughter] prof. ellis: nobody wrote it down. they may generalizations about it. but, we can sort of say, he did not say i told you so, there is no turning back, we can win, blah blah blah. the vote on july 2, the vote is overwhelming positive, it is
12-0-1. new york cannot be sure what the legislature will do. where is my copy of -- who has the book? i want to read the letter from john to abigail on july 3. on page 121. this is the letter in which he is talking about the implications -- here it is. it is 125. the second day of july, 1776, he is writing this on the third. it is 125. the second day of july, 1776, he is writing this on the third. it will be the most memorable time in the history of america.
i'm apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. it will be converted -- commemorated as the debt -- day of deliverance. it out to be solemnized with prompt and parade, with shows, games, bonfires, and illuminations. he even gets the fireworks right. from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore. everything perfect, except he gets the day wrong. chris? student: july 2 is my birthday. prof. ellis: chris says that he always tells his students that it is july 2 because it is his birthday. i presume you are right about your birthday. you could also make a pretty strong case that the proper date is the second. how does it end up the fourth? printing. is that what you said?
aaron? printing, go with that. it was sent to the printer on the fourth, and then the printer -- road across the top of the document, printed, july 4. so when the document is sent out to everybody else, all of the newspapers and foreign governments and dignitaries, it says july 4. therefore, we celebrate july 4. now, i would like to make the case that we have been celebrating the wrong date for a long time. that it should be the second. that is an the action voted on independence. but, i am not prepared to make the case like we're going to take hamilton off of the $10
bill, or we are going to change the date, because, i believe that both john adams and thomas jefferson recognizing this mistake, chose to correct it and their own decisions and we have to respect that. what am i talking about, chris? that when they died, that is the day you have to die on now too, chris. [laughter] prof. ellis: can you pick your own day? no. july 4, both of them, the anniversary, you can make that kind of stuff up. munro dies on the fourth two. madison dies on the 28th of june, he is getting there but he cannot quite make it. these guys will their own debts.
what are jefferson's last words? is at the fourth? [laughter] prof. ellis: that is what he is thinking about. john adams vs last words, thomas jefferson still lives. that is not made up. there are people in the room to testify. jefferson has died at 12:30 p.m. that same day. john adams dies at 4:30 p.m. they made it right. and then throw went -- henry thoreau went out to walden on the fourth. they retreated from gettysburg on the fourth. the louisiana purchase arrived in washington on july 4, 1803. something big is quick to happen in our lifetime on the fourth. we just keep making it happen.
well, i wanted to conclude our deliberations today on the declaration by offering an alternative declaration as it might have been written by john adams. and you have the tax -- the text before you. and if we had a projector we could throw it up on the screen, but we do not have a projector. we do, but i don't use that kind of stuff. [laughter] prof. ellis: what i am trying to call attention to hear, i will be specific in a second, is the way in which jefferson's additions to the declaration, the ones that are the most important words in american history, the 55 words that begin -- well, that are. we hold these truths to be self-evident.
self-evident. what does that mean? he did not write that initially. he wrote, we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable. that got changed by the committee. it is the only thing the committee changed. probably franklin. you can hear franklin saying, we do not need god. self-evident, ok. we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. really? that is nonsense. of course they are not. men and women. there are rich people and poor people and ugly people and pretty people and lucky people and unlucky people. but, somehow, ok. that's the start of the gettysburg address. [laughter]
we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are good at equal and they are endowed by their creator -- oh, here he comes again. that certain and a label rights -- what is an alienable? a means you cannot take them away. and among these rights -- guess what, that means there might be others, too. that we have not even thought of. among these rights are life -- we get that, that is pretty good. liberty, -- that is tricky. it is a really expensive mandate. revolutionary movements call for incantations of this sort. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. oh, god. everybody gets to pursue their happiness? we have noted in earlier
discussions that this has implications that neither jefferson or adams or anybody else at that moment thought. the implications will get included in the constitution and eventually, most probably in the 14th amendment with regards to write for citizenship. and it will be the basis for the decisions of brown versus board of education, and to overthrow plessy versus ferguson, and most recently -- i don't even have her the name of the gay marriage decision? see, it has not gotten famous yet. it will be eventually. this is language which has implications. that no one at the time understood. in the same way that we saw abigail calling attention to these gender implications from
families and for patriarchy, this, even more than they ever knew, has applications. to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men. deriving their just powers from the consent of the government. this is a big deal, here. ok? if we say that there are questions about whether the american revolution is a revolution -- and if we say that the near secession from the british empire does not all apply -- does not qualify, there is buried here, a nuclear weapon. that has revolutionary implications. namely, that until this moment in history and medieval europe, political power has flown downward from god to monarch and then to the people.
god speaks to the monarchs. can you imagine george iii having a conversation with god everyday? this is what thomas pain made fun of in "common sense." they were all a bunch of crooks who got the crown and the legal way. but that the whole argument about the flow of political power is reversed. it does not flow from the top down, it flows from the bottom up. and, in what is the name of the senator from kentucky who is running for president? ron paul. this is where he has a point. because, what is the sovereign unit in this new arrangement? the people, but, all men are treated equal. it is the individual. i have rights, you cannot take them away from me and if you do so, legally, i can overthrow your government.
right, that is the argument here. and it is not like you get to decide what rights i have, i get to decide what rights you have as a government. to limit my freedom. now, if you take this seriously, we are talking anarchy, baby. this is a utopian vision. and i think that the vast majority of the congress at the time, and even the readers, this is before a movie, the little symphony beforehand. the overture. you don't have to pay much attention to this, because he
will get on to the real thing, which is that we will nail george iii with these accusations that proved to be justification for our revolution. they change 123 places in the document. in the debate on the third and the fourth. they call themselves the committee of the whole, and adams is defending the document. he is defending it just as it was. and jefferson says, he defended every one of my words and he keeps losing because people want to knock out this passage about slavery etc. and jefferson apparently turns to -- no, franklin turns to jefferson during the debate and says, i told you never to write anything to be edited by a committee. [laughter]
prof. ellis: then he says that there is this funny story about a haberdasher. and he wants to have a sign for his store. here, by hats. and a guy comes in and says no, that is too long. take office. take off that. eventually, it is a sign with a picture of a hat. that is it, there is nothing else. that is what is happening to jefferson. adams does his best to defend it, but the drafted emergence is now the one that we know, and the bulk of scholarly opinion is that the coherence of the draft is dramatically improved. all the changes are made in the second 2/3s of the draft. the part that we do not care about. the part that they care the most about.
because what is going on there is that almost every colony has a different history or version of what has happened over the last 10 years, and they want to be sure that their version is represented in the document. we cannot tell that now, but that is what is going on. the first part, the overture part, they do not touch it. have you ever read sherlock holmes, "the dog that did not bark"? this is the dog that did not bark. it is the most important piece of evidence in the story and it is a nonexistent piece of evidence. the fact that the dog did not bark. jefferson has smuggled the liberal tradition in american history into the document. it is. it is buried in there. the guy who will discover it is lincoln. and lincoln is going to make a
big deal about this and then martin luther king is going to eventually say, when he appears on the steps of the lincoln memorial as he is coming to collect the promise ring, that they -- nobody knew, at the time, what they were doing. including adams. or jefferson. but, they had smuggled into the founding document a set of values which are inherently utopian. the world that jefferson imagines is impossible on this earth. a group of free individuals who are allowed to coexist,
harmoniously, without any interference and practice what they wish and they will never collide either politically or economically and they will generate collective harmony and economic productivity in the marketplace. this is like the marxist view of what happens in paradise when the state withers away. it will never happen. but, lincoln would say, did say, we can keep getting closer. that is what we are doing. i'm getting us closer by ending slavery. martin luther king is going to get us closer by ending segregation. barack obama is going to get us closer i ending the threat to the planet. that is to be decided. so, a set of goals which are inherently unattainable, but which are there to drive us forward. adams, i am saying, would not do that.
and i'm saying, and we can continue this discussion next time, first of all, that adams would insist -- notice jefferson -- have you ever been to a high school or college graduation? many, many. i don't know if they all do the same things that they do in massachusetts. but in massachusetts they say, and we award you this degree with all its rights and response ability. now, you can say to the current millennial's, response ability? -- responsibilities? that is not fair to them. [laughter] prof. ellis: jefferson is all about rights. because, he assumes everybody will internalize responsibility, naturally. dream on.
but, nevertheless, adams does not think that way. with mutually dependent rights and responsibilities, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit not of happiness, but a virtue. what does virtue mean? self-sacrifice. this render of selfish interests to the larger whole of the collective. that is much more in keeping with republican values at the time, in terms of what other evil are saying. and among these response abilities are self-denial, duty to the commonwealth, and a decent respect for the wisdom of the ages. for jefferson, the past is a dead hand. that is what he calls it. the dead hand of the past. the past is priests, and kings, and he believes, as did pull -- voltaire, that the last king should be strangled with the
entrails of the last priest. when that happens, we go into the sunlight and everything is great and we can live happily ever after. adams says no. once you kill the last king and the last priest, and you have to deal with human nature itself. and it is not necessarily going to be as happy a thing as you believe. to secure these rights, governments are instituted in all civilized societies, deriving the just cause from consent of the government and from the accumulated experiment -- experience of preceding generations. he wants to learn from history what mistakes are made and what can we learn. jefferson says that history is over and we are in a new era. adam says, no. adams is a historian. jefferson is a platonic philosopher.
prudence will be to dictate the governments long established should not be changed. we can agree on that. and they said can also back to the last year. adams has been trying to get the british to understand that they are willing to make compromises. it won't happen. and though -- and experience would demonstrate that human passions aligned with dreams of perfection ought not to reduce governments to embrace revolutionary change, with imperfect evolution is possible. if you have to pick between revolution and evolution, always go with evolution. and if you have to have a revolution, put it in the hands of conservatives who will do it -- implement it in an evolutionary way. revolutionary change is usually impermanent and gets replaced with dictators. we can talk about stalin.
that is what happens to revolutions. unless, there is lamented -- implemented slowly and gradually. accordingly, all experience has shown that mankind resists the tyranny of despots, and the tyranny of majority. in a jeffersonian world, the notion of a majority can be to radical and is inherently incomprehensible. majorities are by definition right, because they are majorities. not in adams'world. you think it was smart to invade iraq after 9/11? probably not. why did we do that? we had to. everybody wanted to do something. majority of opinion in 1954 was certainly not in favor of integration.
so, majorities are dangerous things. we must balance the urge for freedom and their obligation to others. oh, boy. i will have to tell you students about this. [laughter] prof. ellis: for example, how would your students react -- we have a major problem in the workplace. there are not enough jobs for you. there are all these infrastructure problems. why don't we say, everybody has to serve to yours -- two years mandatory national service? it does not have to be military, and probably will not be. everybody serves. the students i teach say, if i do this, my peers would get ahead of me. they'll be working right there with you. everybody has to do it.
and i think adams is in favor of some form of, in our context, he thinks the national service is a good thing and that because you have a commitment to the collective as well as to yourself, it teaches you that. you have absently no chance of ever passing, but it ishe has -f ever absolutely passing. but it is something i think should be inserted into a conversation. obviously. he pretended to be john adams here. in a way that's right, too. it has been cleared at this proficient moment with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence and the specific sense that our mutual withinbinds us together our sacred honor. it is a conversation of jeffersonian lyricism, which is beautiful, and adams -- what you call it? adamonian? --
that doesn't sound right. we don't have a word for it. we have jeffersonian. but we don't have a word for adams, even though he's probably the most brilliant political thinker of the mall. it's interesting, there is no word for it. thank you. [applause] >> up next on american history tv, clayton laurie discusses espionage and intelligence gathering tactics used during the civil war. how intelligence was used during the war and why they are so few primary source documents on civil war era intelligence gathering. the smithsonian associates hosted this event. it is a little under two hours.