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tv   Alexander Hamilton and George Washington  CSPAN  November 20, 2016 8:57am-10:06am EST

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>> true in 2000, true in 1876. >> that's right. >> thanks, michael holt. >> ok. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2016] captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption contents and accuracy. visit >> up next on american history , steven knot offer of alexander hamilton and george washington. he argue that is the two had different personalities but collaborated on the federalist agenda to create a stronger central government, often in opposition to the views of thomas jefferson and james madison. over an hour.
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>> tonight we are delighted to have stephen knot. a professer of national security affairs at the u.s. naval college in nurport, rhode island. prior to accepting his position, he chaired the presidential oral history program at the miller center of public affairs at the university of virginia. his books include the reagan years, and alexander hamilton,. and with that, i would now like to welcome stephen to the electric turn. [applause] -- leckturn. >> [applause] >> thank you, jackie. and thank you, everyone for being here. it real sli a privilege to be speaking at such an historic site. this is my first time here. so i'm thrilled. let me begin by -- and thanks to all of you for coming out
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tonight. i know there was a little rain earlier. let me begin by noting that the broadway block buster hamilton $10 alexander hamilton ond bill and has transformed this founding father -- and transtransformed this unlikely founding father into something of a celebrity. but while hamilton is currently seen as an heroic figure it's important to note that throughout much of our nation's hivesry hamilton was seen as, quote, un-american. a closet monarchist who probably hated the great beast. the american people. and a man whose dictatorial ambitions were checked by the champion of the common man, thomas jefferson. to make matters worse,
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and to make matters worse, his alliance with george washington has already been distorted or slighted in favor of the more poetic alliance between jefferson and james madison for the moving tale of reunification between jefferson and john adams. many historians and biographers who are inclined towards a progressive interpretation of the american experience have also contributed to downplaying the importance of the alliance between washington and hamilton. these scholars, unfortunately, echoed the distorted account of jefferson and his lieutenant, all of whom engaged in what it believed is the first american example of the politics of personal destruction. jefferson believed that hamilton favored a monarchy and that hamilton had betrayed the spirit of 1776. hamilton was in essence a british agent. and this cunning immigrant from
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the caribbean repeatedly manipulated an aging, somewhat dimwitted george washington, president of the united states. hamilton's premature death in 1804 at the hands of vice president burr, presented jefferson -- with a chance to further distort hamilton's principles and practices. john adams, who also despised hamilton, partly for good reason, would later join jefferson in crafting a narrative which per trade hamilton in a most -- which portrayed hamilton in a most unflattering light. adams believed that hamilton suffered from an overabundance of secretion which led him to engage in unbridled touring. -- whoring. both jefferson and adams were nativists and it perturbed them
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that this creole bastard, as adams referred to him, who was not quite american, held such sway over george washington, whom, by the way, they also resented. the civil war and the rise of the anti-slavery republican party provided a brief respite from populist hamilton bashing. a series of republican presidents, including james garfield, rutherford b. hayes, all deeply admired hamilton and to some extent for his antislavery stance, which stood in contrast to jefferson. hamilton's reputation peaked at the dawn of the 20th century when theodore roosevelt invoked
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hamilton and his embrace of energetic government to provide a further progressive agenda. one of roosevelt's left and progressive predecessors also -- harding also revered hamilton. mellon's embrace of hamilton was guaranteed to offend progressives and populists. and when the great depression came, alexander hamilton was held almost in culpable as melon and herbert hoover. other than thomas jefferson, no american did more to contributive the negative image of the of -- of hamilton in the
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american mind than franklin roosevelt. the only book review roosevelt avril wrote was " jefferson and hamilton, the struggle for america
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argue that hamilton would have opposed to the nazis. in 1943, 1 of the leading broadway shows was the patriot. the plot of this play revolved around alexander hamilton stomping around the stage all the while proclaiming that the american people were " drunken swine." franklin roosevelt invited the playwright to stage a command performance in washington and to attend the dedication of the jefferson memorial. this image held well into the 20th century, but began to break down partly in response to hamilton's status as the full immigrant among the key founding fathers. this status will likely secure his reputation, i believe, in an increasingly diverse america. hamilton's standing has also improved due to increased
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scholarly appreciation of the role of race and immigration in american society. while jefferson's role is one of the leading -- if he's become the largest slaveowner in virginia, it stands in contrast to hamilton's founding membership in the new york manumission society. and fair or not, it appears to be an iron line american history that come as one falls, the other arises. jefferson would have it no other way. what makes the previous count more disturbing in my view is, when you consider the fact that the most revered american founder, george washington, held hamilton in the highest regard. conventional was in holds that the epic confrontation of the founding error occurred between hamilton and jefferson.
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but in fact, it occurred between washington and hamilton on one side and jefferson and madison on the other. jefferson helped to foster this myth, celebrating his man-to-man confrontation with hamilton by placing busts of hamilton himself facing each other at the entrance of his plantation. over time, some jeffersonians came to see washington left as a victim of hamilton's machinations and more as a co-conspirator. this, by the way, was an accurate assessment of the situation. for hamilton remained firmly under president washington's direction throughout the over five years he served as treasury secretary. jefferson himself later testified to washington's hands-on control of his administration. the president, according to jefferson, was always inaccurate
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possession of all facts and proceedings in every part of the union. and to whatsoever departments they related, he, washington, formed a several -- a special plate for each branch. in their time and in hours, jefferson and james madison and their admirers have had to choose between two very unflattering options between george washington. he was either an unknowing accomplice of the faster from the caribbean, or -- of the bastard from the caribbean or a conspirator. to minimize the political repercussions, many jeffersonians in their ideological error, adopted the former position, in other words, that an elderly, doddering, intellectually challenged washington was unaware of the plotting taking place within the executive branch.
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as early as the summer of 1790, populist demagogues, such as william mcclay in pennsylvania, were claiming in private that "washington had become -- that washington had become "in the hands of hamilton, the dishcloth of every dirty speculation." to this day, critics of the federalists focus exclusively on hamilton to avoid blowback that might have accrued by attacking washington. remarkably, for a variety of reasons, tacking hamilton remains a far more palatable approach than attacking washington. it should be noted that washington believed that hamilton filled "one of the most
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important departments of government with knowledge, abilities and integrity and left a legacy where he had become "a conspicuous character in the united states and even in europe. the president went on to add that hamilton was enterprising, quick in his perception, that his judgment was intuitively great. on the occasion of hamilton's departure from government, the president observed "in every relation, he found his secretary's talons were -- talents were well-placed and proof of your title the public regard." in march 1796, a little over a year after this letter was written, washington wrote hamilton that he could be assured of the warmth of my friendship and of the affection of regard that he felt towards
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hamilton. in contrast -- and by the way, this is frequently downplayed -- in contrast, washington would go on to sever all contact with jefferson who had deceived him on multiple occasions. the unlikely partnership of george washington and alexander hamilton and the brief federalist moment that they presided over allowed the united states to build the institutions that launched this country on the path to becoming a superpower. but perhaps more importantly, the two men devoted themselves to convincing their fellow citizens, as hamilton put it in a letter to washington in april 1783, "to think continentally." as washington and hamilton noted in washington's farewell address, all americans citizens,
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whether by birth or by choice, are part of a common country. and that country has a right to concentrate your affection. the name of american, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt you just pride of patriotism more than any other appellation derived from local discrimination. these men urged americans to resist state or regional pisces -- regional biases and to reject the emotional appeal of parties and factions, imploring them to instead embrace a common good of the nation. in other words, they wanted americans to think of themselves as americans, not as new yorkers, not as virginians. what makes washington and hamilton unique from the other
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founding collaborations that get far more attention, even that of adams and jefferson, is that the bond between washington and hamilton was forged in the crucible of war, the revolutionary war. unlike many of their great contemporaries, washington and hamilton saw war up close and personal. they were brothers in arms in a sense. and as any combat veteran will attest to, combat is a bonding experience like no other. these two men helped form the core cadre of leadership in the struggle for independence from great britain. and by the way, won against overwhelming odds. they drove the national importance that would culminate in a more perfect union at the national convention ratified in 1788.
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these men breathed life into the constitution. the establishment of a national bank, the establishment of what hamilton referred to as an energetic executive, the retirement of the public debt, the response, their mutual response to the whiskey rebellion, and even the controversial jay treaty were all important steps of an american identity. washington was as devoted as hamilton in his desire to create a great nation. and this i think set him apart from his fellow virginians. that these two virginians, washington and jefferson were unable to see eye to eye on the great issues of the day is great revealing. washington in his parochialism
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envisioned a nation, the united states of america, and most often than not sided with the cabinet member, hamilton, with whom he had the least in common. jefferson remained committed to an agrarian confederation that was slowly but surely dying away. unlike his great rival, washington categorically rejected jefferson's flirtation with nullification and secession. jefferson's fierce opposition for a national bank and acceptance of the idea that a publicly financed debt had its attributes and, by the way, i would add his contrasting treatment of his slaves at the end of his life places him in stark contrast to washington.
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it is very tempting -- and you see this repeatedly, to portray washington as above the partisan fray of the 1790's. but he was as committed to the federalist agenda as was hamilton, who did his washington bidding. while the federalist moment was a brief one, lasting from 1789 to 1796, you can argue that it somewhat carried over through john adams's presidency, due to the influence of washington's cabinet, which adams kept in place until the last year of his presidency, it was this critical period that allowed the new federal government to secure its footing, stabilize the nation's finances, and to avoid war with the leading superpower of the day. interestingly, jefferson's
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devotion to liberty, to the cause of liberty, to which he was devoted, and which he believed was intrinsic to human nature and universally applicable, and which is frequently contrasted with the allegedly authoritarian inclination of hamilton and the federalists, this devotion to liberty on jefferson's part did not extend to the haitian revolution of the 1790's and early 1800s. the slave uprising that occurred on that imprisoned island was directed against french colonial rule as well as against the barbaric conditions experienced by slaves in bondage. the events in haiti terrified southern slaveowners, such as thomas jefferson. whose position on emancipation, along with that of many of his fellow virginians, hardened as the 1790's wore on.
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the fear that the haitian contagion would spread to the southern united states. while washington and hamilton of -- endorsed a cautious position to the haitian revolution, it ultimately divided federalist from the jeffersonian republic. while the federalist party contained abolitionist whites and free blacks, the latter party became the party of slaveholders and the institutions' northern white population. the federalists took a much more assertive -- to use a more modern term, a more progressive position than the democrats or republicans.
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the difference between a federalists like hamilton, who was a founder of the new york society for promoting the manumission of slaves, and jefferson, one of the largest slaveholders in virginia, who began to see northern opposition to slavery as part of a conspiracy to oppress the south, has to be factored into any honest assessment of this period in american history. by the way, i am not engaging here in what some historians call a present believed to what happened 200 years ago. the reason i say this is not a case of not engaging in presentism is that many of the federalists contemporaries and even jefferson himself, during his younger years, recognized as the hypocrisy of a nation
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founded on the principle that all men were created equal while, at the same time, enslaving human beings by the thousands. according to edmund randolph, who served her time as the attorney general in washington's administration and was no friend of washington, according to randolph, washington told him that, if it came to a conflict between north and south over slavery, and the fate of the union, the general, general washington, would join the northern cause. now let me make it clear. washington and hamilton were by no means abolitionists. and i do in fact think that both ron chernow and lin-manuel miranda, who has to and a tremendous job in reviving interest in hamilton, i think they overstate this alleged abolitionism. they were not abolitionists.
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but they were more concerned than many jeffersonians about the debilitating influence of slavery on the character of the american citizenry >> and they feared that the issue might ultimately destroy the nation >> in a sense, jefferson did correctly discern the dangers to the south peculiar institution presented by the federalists, who unfortunately, to this day, are portrayed as enemies of the common man. i would urge you to consider the fact that cometh that common man happened to be black or native american, then these accounts are complete distortions of the truth. so what i would urge you to consider tonight and after you leave your tonight, and i hope folks you might be watching this on c-span someday, will put aside the caricature accounts of
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early american history, which pits the suppose it champions of the people, jefferson, madison, and their party, against the forces of privilege and authoritarianism, washington, hamilton, and the federalists. if they do so, they will discover that, due to the exertions of george washington and alexander hamilton, the american people did begin to think continentally, they did take hamilton's mission -- message to washington seriously and help to create a strong union, which decades and then centuries later, helped defeat fascism and fat -- and communism, helped to explore the universe, and led to technological breakthroughs. and perhaps more importantly, that central government would go on to abolish slavery and jim crow, thereby securing the
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blessings of liberty for all there'fellow -- for all their fellow citizens. instead of keep talking at you, i will take this time to take questions from you. thank you for listening. [applause] by the way, i will confess that i suffer from a strain of jefferson during may and -- derangement syndrome. so if anyone would like to push back, feel free. [laughter] yes, sir. hang on for just a sec for the mic here. >> hamilton, he was going to be partaking in the de facto war against france. it didn't happen. i was curious how the relation with that emma with what was going on with haiti, how did that come to be in passing and his relation with france?
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stephen: i think one of the things that stun younger students that i taught is the extent to which foreign policy had an impact on american domestic policy. and so the fact that you are either considered an aglophile or a francophile, there didn't seem to be any middle ground. did drive american politics throughout the 1790's. hamilton was always accused of being something of a britsish agen.t his an case i antagonism towards france, urging washington to proclaim neutrality vis a vis the revolutionary conflict with the british that was also , suspect. so there is a long history in hamilton's advice to president
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washington in terms of dealing with the french, of seeming to tilt or seemingly completely lauding with the british. when john adams becomes president, you have this situation with the so-called quasi war john adams referred to as the half or with france -- so-called quasi-war, or as john adams referred to it, the half war. the french began to harass americans on the high seas. i'm sure most of you in the audience know that he basically is forced by his fellow federalists to appoint george washington as the commander of the american military during this quasi-war.
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and then washington insists that hamilton be assigned as number two, which i'm sure infuriates adams. but hamilton, i do think he sees this war as an opportunity to -- on the more cynical side -- unify the united states. wars sometimes have the tendency to do it. i don't think he had an opportunity to crash the jefferson democrat societies that were springing up in the south. he is constantly accused of that. hamilton was, in foreign policy, he is what we would call today as a realist. he viewed the british as a superpower of his time. he viewed the french as, thank you for helping us in the revolution, but we are not going to help you with yours because
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it is not in our national interest. this revolutionary government in france is certain to consume itself. they are killing people by the thousands. it is not in the national interest for us to throw in with the french in any way, in a trade relationship or anything else. when adams pulls a fast one on hamilton and negotiates a treaty, somewhat secretly, hamilton i think is upset. but interesting to note, he disarms the army that he is the defective commander of. -- the de factor commander of. people have accused him of wanting to use that army for dictatorial purposes. if he had wanted to do that, he would not have disarmed that
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military. that's a long-winded answer, but -- is that helpful at all? by the way, it appears that john adams sends the negotiating team to france to diffuse the quasi-war at the very moment it has become clear to him that hamilton is going to be the guy running the american military. here you have the commander in chief, john adams, handing his commander in chief authority over to a former president, george washington, who in turn hands it over to alexander hamilton. very strange situation. adams, by the way, was a very weak president. he did a great job during the declaration of independence. but he was a disaster as a president, in my view. that's why hamilton had problems with him. >> in your opinion, this is just
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a what if -- considering their relationship with washington and hamilton during the war and after the war, the what if it is, if washington had lived longer and there wasn't a duel, if hamilton had wanted to get back into politics and was considering maybe being president or something down the line, do think washington, if he had lived longer, he would have backed him? do you think that he would have washed away a lot of the scandals? stephen: that is a what if question, but that's ok. i do think, had washington not died in december 1799, hamilton would not have gone on -- he would not have made a number of mistakes that he made. for instance, circulating that letter undermining john adams's presidency and undermining adams's candidacy. washington would have said that's a bad idea.
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don't do it. the point being that washington was a moderate income a temporary influence on hamilton. hamilton was much more effective as a public figure while washington was alive. had washington not died somewhat unexpectedly in december 1799, i think he would have thought that hamilton would have been a good president. he may have -- i don't know -- he may have publicly supported him. but i think hamilton would have been a more effective candidate and president if washington were still alive. we still have to consider the fact that the extramarital affair that hamilton had with maria reynolds, which was exposed by the jeffersonian, by jefferson's lieutenant, had done a lot of damage, as had
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hamilton's 90-page response, in which he details -- typical hamilton -- everything he did was right down to the smallest detail, including -- beyond belief. but anyway -- so hamilton was -- this is why i am hesitating somewhat. hamilton was damaged goods. for that very effective -- you just cannot underestimate the effectiveness of that campaign of misinformation that i mentioned in my talk. i mean, hamilton, by 1800, was really seen in many quarters, particularly in the south in the mid-atlantic states, as a british agent. as a monarchist who was now not only a monarchist, but a friend of this growing wall street power outside the door here. who was not one of us.
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he was an immigrant. he was not of good birth. that part, by the way, gets left out a lot in these accounts of jefferson versus hamilton. jefferson and john adams look down their noses at hamilton's poor birth than his lack of appropriate lineage. so you throw all of that together, john adams would have thought hamilton's -- what have fought hamilton's candidacy tooth and nail. it's a great question, but it's a tough one to answer. he was incredibly damaged goods by 1800. i will leave the author's name out. he contended that, had hamilton not been killed in the dual and
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had he run for resident in 1808 against james madison, that he would have wiped the floor with madison. that's nonsense. he was completely damaged goods. the only thing that might have made a difference is if washington were still alive. and still puts the mantle -- drapes -- presented him as his legitimate successor. that might have made a difference. great question. yes, ma'am, and then sir. >> i read recently that hamilton had done some undermining of jefferson a secretary of state, sharing information on beckworth that he shouldn't have. you been traitorous.
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stephen: yeah. i don't know why am laughing. serious stuff. [laughter] for the most part, when hamilton had an objection to a policy that jefferson was pursuing, he would confront him directly. that's one of the differences between hamilton and jefferson trade hat -- and jefferson. hamilton was in-your-face, whether you wanted him there are not pure not. he could be irritating. he was smart and he didn't shrink from a competition. jefferson hated confrontation. jefferson would routinely use lieutenants to do his bidding, his dirty work for him, whether they were in the media or in other parts of the government. this is an example were hamilton, either thinking that he had exhausted his argument's with jefferson -- and what we are talking about here is this notion that the united states should essentially warm-up to great britain, improve relations
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with great britain -- jefferson hated great britain with a passion. hamilton thought they had to be taken seriously as the lone superpower. so he did secretly, with george beckwith, the british envoy to the united states, jefferson and jeffersonian historians, like julian boyd, have made a big deal out of this. they view it as treasonous or near treason, undermining the secretary of state, engaging in these back channel negotiations. i'm going to stick my neck out here -- i may hear about this from jeffersonians who eventually see this tape -- i actually think that hamilton did this to -- the house of president washington. or best case and, hamilton
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believed what he was doing, washington would have approved. there's no smoking gun. there's no document i can point to where washington urges hamilton to open up with this back channel. but i don't think what hamilton was doing was that cause with the president's policy. if i were secretary of state, what i have been irritated by this? yeah, you better believe it. sure. >> [indiscernible] undermine the secretary of state's position? stephen: did any of the information undermine the secretary of state's position? possibly. i don't believe hamilton was giving away classified information. what he was tried to do is reassure the british that resident washington, in the end, was a realist, like cam, and had sort of a -- like him, and had a sort of realist mentality.
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i wouldn't say this was a high point of hamilton's time in office, but i don't think it was treason. i do think it was done for the best of motives. and i actually think the policy he was talking about was correct. thank you. good question. yes, sir. hamilton and madison worked really well together up until the constitutional convention. they were there and they were seen to be friends. papers ralist helped pass the eventual constitution. and then when hamilton became treasury secretary, the first thing he wanted to do was, the assumption, which i had always read that madison was in favor
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us, and then all of a sudden it seemed to turn 180 degrees. i could never understand why madison turns so vehemently against him. stephen: another great question. both hamilton and madison were later asked what happened. you two were key figures at the annapolis convention, which was the precursor to the constitutional convention that makes the call for the philly convention. that puts out the word for that. you two in the sense were part of this naturalist contrary, then you went to write the federalist papers. hamilton was the driving force, but he enlisted madison of 26 or so. i think it was 26, of the essay. when madison takes office as a member of the first congress
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under the u.s. constitution, he is kind of a de facto majority with president washington and washington's administration. he is the floor leader for all of washington's admissions. i attribute to break to the variety factors. one of which is the return of thomas jefferson from paris. the new government takes hold, washington is inaugurated a few steps from here in april of 1789. the new government takes in that summer. hamilton is confirmed as treasury secretary on september 11, 1789. madison is in congress. jefferson is still in paris. jefferson does not become secretary of state until march of april of 1790. there is a good chunk of time with the new government is up
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and running, there is a decent amount of unanimity as to look policies that should be pursued. senators were the exception. when jefferson arrives, i do think that has an influence, ultimately on madison. jefferson is -- let me see, is at least 12 or 14 years older than madison. he has used hamilton as brash, a little too much in-your-face, not a southern gentleman. there is all of the policy differences that we have talked about. i do think jefferson works on madison. i do think that contributes to the split. again, couples with some policy differences. i am not convinced, not that
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madison was a dupe of jefferson, but it did not help to have jefferson inside the convention whispering to people like madison, then eventually to newspaper editors about the debates that are going on within the cabinet and within the administration. there were legitimate policy differences, ultimately, it is jefferson that contributes to the split between madison and hamilton. it does not help, of course, when hamilton puts out his report on manufacturing. that raises alarm bells in the south. it does not help when hamilton seems to be urging a pro-british foreign policy. the whole of assumption in debt question did not help. i think it would have been a far greater chance of compromise had jefferson state in paris.
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wish he had. that is neither here nor there. >> what would washington and hamilton have thought of the louisiana purchase? even jefferson thought he might not do. stephen: the federalist were far more restrained when it came to this question of expansion. hamilton did not share jefferson's constitutional qualms. in other words, hamilton had no problem with the constitutionality of a acquiring that territory. whereas jefferson did. even there, i am not convinced. jefferson is such a -- you have to keep peeling the layers back. there is a public jefferson, then you have to go years on and to find the real jefferson. i am not sure that the qualms that jefferson had about the
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constitutionality of the louisiana purchase was genuine or posturing to leave a legacy for his successors of presidential restraint, and a limited interpretation of the constitution. let's say he was serious about that. hamilton did not share that view at all. again, i have to qualify that by saying, generally speaking, the federalist, perhaps hamilton less so, were concerned about to rapid of an expansion. i think partly because they feared that the territories that would be acquired might well become slave states. and would tip the balance of power in favor of the slave states. which it did for a time. you go from jefferson to andrew jackson, with the brief
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exception of john quincy adams, then you have virginians and tennessee owners -- tennessee people who are slaveowners that dominate the presence. my guess would be hamilton would say this is in the national interest, but it is within opposition of his own party. but not on constitutional grounds, on policy grounds. does that answer your question? two folks up front. >> you speak to the policy differences between hamilton and john adams with the personal differences. stephen: i have often said that the failure of john adams and alexander hamilton to work together is kind of a tragedy of sorts, since i am a federalist. those two should have been able
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to work out their differences, because they did believe in military preparedness. john adams, i teach at the naval war college. john adams is seen as the father of the american navy. they had a more clear eyed view, a realistic view of foreign policy. they caught on to the fact that the french revolution was going into a bloodbath. jefferson never really accepted that view, that might be a bit of an overstatement. when you write a letter saying that every man in france was killed in order to keep species alive, that is ok, which is what he said in his -- adams was appalled by that sort of conversation. they had a similar view of the dangers from the french
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revolutions. both adams and hamilton were far less taken with the idea and the wisdom of the common man. not that they hated the common man or saw them as a great beast, but they were believers and republican government and filtering public opinion. you put all of that together, you would have thought the two of them could have worked together. one of the big differences of opinions between adams and hamilton was regarding finance, economics, and in particular, the place of banks in the united states. adams' disdain for bankers knew no bounds. hamilton's proposal for a national bank, and other financial matters under its
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treasury secretary leads him to see eye to eye with thomas jefferson. in their view, hamilton was trying to create some money aristocracy in the united states, and that that would warp the entire system. that was the big difference between the two. you would not think that was enough to keep them from working together on the other issues, but it was a major factor. i do have to at this as well, i apologize for this because this is not policy, it is personal. adams did not like working with anybody. [laughter] stephen: nobody, including his own cabinet. i love the documentary about the book that it is based on, but john adams was a standard for success for how many people were alienated today. in other words, if i am doing
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something that people are praising, it has to be wrong or it something has to be wrong. he could not work with his own, he was resentful of george washington, he came to resent and hate hamilton. again, perhaps for some good reason. he spent a good part of his time as president in his home in massachusetts. at one period he was gone for about eight months. he was an absentee chief executive. he had a cabinet he inherited from george washington and kept in place, which was a nice magnanimous gesture, but those were not his people. they were hamilton's people. you have an absentee chief executive, and they are looking for guidance in new york, were hamilton is practicing law. again, this is why i mentioned earlier that i think adams was a
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disastrous president. this is why hamilton writes that disastrous letter " circular" in the fall of 1800s condemning adams presidency as what he put out as a lack of system. there was no system. there was no structure. it was sort of organized chaos. that was appalling to hamilton who had a very structured, discipline, very hands-on, might even say micromanagement style. does that answer your question? if you really want to laugh, just read adams is quotations about hamilton. at one point he suggested, or hinted that hamilton was under the influence of opium when he participated in some debate over
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something. just absolutely crazy stuff. yes ma'am? >> is there any way hamilton could have foreseen the current state of our national debt? second question, i know in the general biography there was a lot of speculation about his constitutional convention speech, along with the bizarre speech he gave. i am wondering if you have any theories about those two things? stephen: let we start with the second one. that speech that hamilton delivers on june 17th, 1787, then it goes on for at least three or four hours. i think one account had it up to six hours. it is kind of like castro speeches, where it would go all day.
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what i think hamilton was trying to do in that speech, and this is the source, this is the root of the accusation that hamilton was a monarchist, because madison is sitting there taking notes did when they break later on, he is feeding this to jefferson. he wanted a president, he hamilton wanted a president elected for life, still in good behavior. we would still be in the jimmy carter presidency today. anyone in senate elected for life as well. hamilton did have a proposal for the house of representatives that was far more democratic than a lot of proposers. i think a three-year house term with direct popular vote and all white males, of course. hamilton's goal in that speech
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was to pull the constitutional convention, and i am stealing this argument from other historians. to pull the constitutional convention as far as building in permanent instability, infusing instability in this new government as possible. he is staking out this extreme nationalist position. mcdonald argues, and i agree, even hamilton later in life says exactly what he is doing. it makes the more mainstream nationalists, or consolidation a list proposals, it makes them seem more reasonable. he is out there on the extreme, you do not get a president for life, but you get a president with a four-year term with three
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-- re-eligibility no term limit, which hamilton liked. that is my take on what he was up to. i would still say that even advocating a president elected for life and a senate elected for life, does not necessarily make you a monarchist. he is not talking about family, in inherited monarchy. the republicans used that monarchy to beat hamilton throughout the bulk of his public life. i have made this argument before, i know some historians have objected to it, but calling someone a monarchist in the 1790's is equivalent to calling somebody a communist in the 1950's. it was designed to finish you. it was not designed to encourage debate, it was designed to destroy you. that is why i do believe that hamilton was the first of the of politics personal distraction.
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-- personal destruction. regarding the debt, if you were to come back today he would probably say things are a little out of whack. what he talked about was a well managed debt. i really would be shocked if he were to come back and say what you are doing here is a well-managed debt. i doubt it very much. i think somebody else in the back. yes ma'am? >> washington was good friends with henry knox, what was the relationship between knots and hamilton? stephen: the relationship between knox and hamilton was polite, cordial, there were no problems there. you would have thought maybe there would be a deeper relationship than what it was, because hamilton started out here in new york city as head of a provincial artillery company, and knox is washington's
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artillery chief. they certainly dealt with each other during the revolutionary war. knox is not a first rate intellect. hamilton was a first rate intellect. some might even say a genius. i don't know if i would go that far, but i might. there is a kind of intellectual barrier between the two. that keeps that relationship from maybe progressing beyond what it is. it is possible that knox was the guy who brought hamilton to washington's attention. we are not sure. it occurs here in new york, during the horrible time in and around the battle of long island, which i don't think most americans are aware that within five or six weeks of the issuance of the declaration of independence the whole cause went down the drain. i think of a lot of new yorkers
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who are tuned into history, like you folks, but what a disaster that almost was. hamilton performs quite well during the battle of long island. i think he is responsible for recovering a retreat that saves washington army. if we have lost that army, if united states had lost that army during that time, the whole cause is down the drain and it is possible that knox is the one that brings hamilton to washington's attention. there is another theory that says it was general the daniel green. there is another theory that says washington itself saw hamilton drill his artillery company and was very impressed. >> back to the speech, if i am correct, hamilton said that great britain had the best government in the world at the time.
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they did, and in fact our democracy, even today is an extension of centuries of what happened in england. was it that at the time people could not say the truth, people could not handle that? what was their idea of what they were creating, rather than a continuation of the centuries of democratic ideas and justice? stephen: vary will question. question.ll put part of the problem was, for some folks, anything with the taint, with the british taint on it was beyond repair. -- beyond the pale. the hatred for britain was so deep, but it was deeper in certain parts of the united states than others. i would say it was deeper perhaps in the south, then it
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was in the north. although the war starts in the north. i think for a lot of new englanders, and new yorkers, they did have a certain respect for the brits and what led them to war was the sense that they're right that englishmen were being violent. i think most colonial activists felt that way. over time, in all honesty, jefferson's attitude towards the british was -- this is really going to get me into, i'm not going to say, it will all say it. it was almost trumpian, it was deep and abiding. i don't know if it was because of the debts he always owed to british banks. i'm not one who tends to put a
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lot of emphasis on economic forces, but he just hated the british with a white-hot passion. the only other group he seems to have hated with the pirates, then later hamilton and the federals. let me add this -- hamilton once said that jefferson had a womanish attachment to france. a passionate attachment. you could also say he had an emotional disdain for the british. i think hamilton's view of foreign policy was you have to push the emotion out of it. have to look at the world as it is an act in your self interests. >> what was the incident of democracy and cultivating justice, which was the whole idea? what was the parlance of where we got this from?
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stephen: all these guys, for whatever their differences, and they were all guys, they were children of the enlightenment. they read john locke, they red ad baron montesquieu, the scottish enlightenment. our sense of justice, our sense of how to erect a just government was derived from these great enlightenment thinkers. many of whom were british and scottish. absolutely. hands.saw a bunch of ok. >> i think it was at there river in new jersey that hamilton held back the british. where do you come down on the tom cat question? and i don't mean the fighter plane.
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stephen: it should be debunked. the great musical that we have referred to a few times tonight, which i love. my wife took me to see it last september for my birthday. the only thing that got under my skin was that there are two references in lin manuels 's musical is where they say martha washington named her tomkat washington. at one point, lin turns towards the audience and says that's true. it is not true. unfortunately, he got that from ron. there is a lot to commend in his book. he also put hamilton back on the
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map. this story that martha washington, of all people. i don't know how much you know about martha washington, but can you see her naming a horny tomkat after one of her husband's aides? like marthaund washington? it is not just wrong, it is everywhere. i have looked into it, they have actually wrote a piece about it. it got under my skin because it feeds to this john adams notion that hamilton was nothing but an abundance of secretions and was constantly sleeping around. yes he had extramarital affairs, to which he admitted to. but was he constantly on the prowl? i don't think there is a lot of evidence to support that. is one thing these authors do is able to the tomkat story of
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evidence that even martha washington knew he was out of control. if you look at the sources that people site for that, first of all they do not site is source, which is really unprofessional, to say the least. if they do site resource it will be some other secondary source. i have pursued this as far back as you can go. it was reported around 1860, it . it was revived in some history of the revolutionary war. that source points back to some wacky account written in great britain, where at the same time the hamilton tomkat story is mentioned, they say george washington had 13 toes, one for each of the independent colonies. it is clearly a satirical piece, designed to poke fun at the continentals and yet it has lived to this day. i think it is sometime in the
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1780's. it has somewhat contemporary account, but is clearly a joke. i don't think george washington had 13 toes. i don't think. how would we know? it is a great example of a myth being propagated, and hamilton is one of the founding fathers in which many myths are frequently propagated. thank you offer some terrific -- thank you all for some terrific questions. [applause] stephen: thank you. >> interested in american
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history tv? visit our website. you can see our upcoming schedule or watch a recent program. american artifacts, wrote to the white house rewind, lectures and history, and more. >> author eric wittenberg talks about the calvary action on july 3 at the 1863 battle of gettysburg. he describes the fighting on east cavalry field and argues against the theory that confederate general jb stewart had orders to get around the union flank. instead, he suggests he was supposed to protect the confederate flank. this is an hour-long event. >> we have six lectures today, or six talks. eric wittenberg's out-of-the-box with the 8:30 slot. most of you know him, he is such


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