Skip to main content

tv   QA with Stephen Puleo  CSPAN  November 14, 2016 6:00am-7:01am EST

6:00 am
q&a with author steven pule yo. then we open our phone lines and take a look at the headlines in "washington journal." announcer: this week on "q&a," author stephen puleo discussing his book "american reasures." mr. lamb: author of "american treasures." you begin your prologue by saying, secret service agent harry e. neal stood alone on the platform at union station and watch the train disappear into the darkness. ho was he? mr. puleo: he was one of the great secret service agents in
6:01 am
the second world war and later on in his career as a secret service agent. he was responsible for transferring some of america's most priceless documents, declaration of independence, constitution, gettysburg address to fort knox in the aftermath of pearl harbor. so this date was to summer 26, 1941, the day after america's pearl harbor crisis. mr. lamb: how did he get involved and why did they go to fort knox? mr. puleo: the secret service gets involved when the library of congress needs help. he is kind of responsible for these documents and he wants the top law enforcement agency in the country at the time, the secret service to help him. fort knox was chosen because it was america's most impenetrable location. it was the gold union depository, had been open several years prior with a lot
6:02 am
of gold already transferred. and a so the secretary of the treasury gave permission to use a portion of the depository for these documents. mr. lamb: which documents? mr. puleo: the declaration of independence, constitution, gettysburg address, articles of confederation, the gutenberg bible, lincoln's second inaugural address and a copy of the magna carta, which the united states was holding onto for safekeeping for britain. the british had sent to to united states for the 1939 world's fair and when war broke out in europe, asked us to hold onto it for protection. mr. lamb: he came over to union station, how did it get to fort knox? mr. puleo: it got there on the baltimore-ohio national limited train overnight which goes out to louisville. there it is met by other agents, secret service agents and a military, group of military vehicles and they transfer to fort knox. mr. lamb: what was the thinking
6:03 am
of it needing to go there? mr. puleo: tremendous concern, brian, in washington at the time of a bombing attack or sabotage on the nation's capital. it was a harrowing time. there were guards everywhere, gun placements on the roof, the white house windows painted lack, even some talk about painting the white house black. the oval office is fitted with bulletproof glass. fdr and his staff are given gas masks. he keeps his on the arm of his wheelchair because of the potential of attack. there was great concerned by the president by president roosevelt and others that the destruction of the original declaration, the original constitution would have disastrous impact on the country as a whole. mr. lamb: the are going to show some video after she was the librarian of congress just so
6:04 am
we can see what he looks like and what he sounded like. >> this has always been the policy of the american people, and peace is now the necessity of the american people. if there is another war, there is another aggressor, the united states will be the first target of that aggressor's actions. mr. lamb: he was in the state department at that time. what were his politics, how close was you to fdr and who got interested in saving these documents first? mr. puleo: he was a very staunch, anti-fascists. he was really concerned that some of his intellectual returns come other librarians, a man of the arts, he was concerned those folks did not take the nazi threat seriously. this is a man who wept when they marched into paris. he believed it was the duty of all librarians to take an
6:05 am
active role in protecting documents, speaking out in writing against the fascist threat and he did that. it is one of the reasons fdr kept him in 1939. they are running rough shop in europe, are going to run roughshod in europe, or making threats, so one of the reasons he taps and is because of his position, anti-nazi, anti-fascist position. fdr initially has the idea about the documents. he is quite concerned. he feels himself a real steward of these documents, very important. and he brings him on board come he shares his concerned with him, which he shares as well. by 1940 they are aware that the british have lost many, many documents during the blitz, the bombings of london, and the ermans have destroyed many
6:06 am
documents, a lot of books potentially, particularly by jewish authors and others. there is a real concern that these would be a target. mr. lamb: what about all of the other documents number in the library of congress or the national archives?, what happened to them at this point? mr. puleo: this movement of the declaration of independence, begins the safekeeping of documents in american history. other boxes are moved from the library of congress to university repositories that are somewhat inland. the university of virginia, charlottesville they are moved there after the library of congress staff people examine around 60 locations in the area that would be somewhat inland, somewhat protective of potential bomb attacks and had all of the requisite means to
6:07 am
protect documents. humidity issues had to be dealt with, the leakage, water issues have to be dealt with. or they are taken from mites and vermins? that begins the process where they are moved totally in secret. mr. lamb: how are they moved? mr. puleo: they are moved by truck, tractor-trailer, if you will. the boxes were first unpacked in the library of congress, stored in the basement and moved at night, late at night to these different repositories as i said around genia and ohio. mr. lamb: how many people were involved getting these boxes ready? mr. puleo: it was quite a task, and amazing cast. 700 library of congress staffers devoted about 10,000 hours of their time assessing, collecting, packing these documents and getting them ready.
6:08 am
he was very adamant that he want to documents that were utterly irreplaceable to be part of this effort, and so he asks them to break them into six tiers. moving down into important documents, maybe not essential for the preservation of the american republic. it was a very well thought out and it starts in late 1940. a year before pearl harbor. mr. lamb: you mean like, 1940? r. puleo: a full year before pearl harbor. mr. lamb: what were the requirements? r. puleo: they were put into the gold depository. the secretary of the treasury said you can have about 60 cubic feet which is about the size of a freezer, and so that is how much room we had because of the time there was a lot of gold and fort knox.
6:09 am
it was at its peak at about that time, 1941, 1942, so he has to make a decision, what documents are going to be there? the original engrossed declaration, definitely. the original constitution, definitely. the articles of confederation, pre-constitution, for sure. the gettysburg address, consider critical goes. he makes this decision very methodically come i think on what is going to go to fort knox. these are considered the most valuable documents in the country. the magna carta is the document that he has been asked to preserve for the brits. he thought jefferson would approve that the magna carter would be in that same area in fort knox. mr. lamb: talk about lincoln's gettysburg address. there have been five copies, including one at the lincoln bedroom, one in cornell, two in the library of congress and
6:10 am
another one in a lincoln museum. what is considered the gettysburg address? mr. puleo: the library of congress has the two original copies. the one that was considered used right on the battlefield, a battlefield copy and one that he copies over and gives to his two aides. the other copies are copies that lincoln did in his own and with close political advisers, friends and those of the ones you are referring to. the library of congress has the nickel copies. mr. lamb: collected the public know about the movement of these documents at the time?
6:11 am
mr. puleo: virtually nothing. they removed in secrecy. there were folks on the receiving end at the university who knew they were getting boxes from the library of congress. they were not sure what was in them but they maintained the secret. one of the things he marvels about in his report after is that everybody cap this a secret. truck drivers, packers, folks, library staffers, those who unloaded the trucks. you name it, it was not leak as part of this. mr. lamb: we did they return to washington? mr. puleo: september of 1944, so three months or so after d-day, use that as your point in history, this little concerned that the germans were going to attack the main lands because they were on the run, basically as the allies moved across europe and the documents were brought back. there is one exception prior to that. the original declaration of independence is brought back on april 13, 1943 for one week during the dedication of the jefferson memorial. fdr thinks it would be really good for national morale to have the original declaration
6:12 am
on display, so it is in thousands of people view it, under marine guard for 24 hours. it is put back into fort knox, nobody knows where it came from or where it was going back to. mr. lamb: of the people in your book, governor morris, what role does she play that you mentioned him on several occasions? mr. puleo: governor morris of pennsylvania, the man with the strange first name. some people think he was governor morris of pennsylvania, but that is really his first name. he writes the famous and eloquent preamble to the united states constitution, "we the people of the united states," which at the time was not a term that was used. morris i think explains the whole purpose of the
6:13 am
constitution and explains how the preamble is really the author of that preamble from beginning to end and one other thing i think he does during discussion of the presidency is he makes it very clear that the chief executive, this is during the constitutional convention in 1787, the chief executive would not be viewed as a king in this new government, more like the prime minister. the people are the king, he says. this whole notion of the people instilling the power upon government and not the other way around, he is one of the people that continues that to the constitution, the principle first articulated in the declaration of independence mr. lamb: a memory as he is 35 years old or something like that? mr. puleo: he is their
6:14 am
young. mr. lamb: where was he from? mr. puleo: from pennsylvania, a real patriot, a delegate and had other elected official positions in pennsylvania. he was considered an intellectual and a reputation as having a great sense of humor, the reputation of being a little bit of a philanderer. when the rubber met the road at the constitutional convention, i think is intellectual face show through. mr. lamb: two is timothy matlock? mr. puleo: he was the aggressor of the declaration of independence. we mean written in the calligraphy style with the forces, curlicues, underlines. he was a friend of jeffersons, a patriot, and the constitutional convention, constitutional congress -- i am sorry, the continental congress wanted to declaration engrossed
6:15 am
for all time and assigned afterwards. matlock is the in grocer, taking a couple weeks to do it. so the document now at the national archives, the document that americans may see hanging in the school buildings or government offices or may even have their own homes, that is the engrossed copy of the declaration and it is signed on august 2, 1776 by most of the delegates. mr. lamb: how many copies are recognized as a first-generation copies that are around? mr. puleo: the engrossed copy of the declaration of independence is at the national archives, the original. there is one copy. you may be referring to the dunlap broadsides which are be printed copies printed on the night of july 4, 1776 in hot type in john dunlap's printing shop, signed only by john hancock and his secretary at the time, charles thompson. that is it.
6:16 am
there are 17 of those that exist today, but the engrossed copy with all of the signatures of the delegates, there is one. of course it has been reproduced many times. in 1823 is when the exact facsimile of the document was produced and from that it has been reproduced millions of time. the original in the rotunda is one. mr. lamb: is there a story of how it got to a facsimile? mr. puleo: yes, john quincy adams, secretary of state at the time in 1820 asks engraver william stone and washington dc to produce an exact replica, there have been people that had produced certain replicas of the declaration, a lot of discussion about whether it was exact, who have the official replica version, etc. etc. john quincy adams asked stone, produce something that is exact and he does.
6:17 am
it takes him about three years to painstakingly do it. but the document you see now, the one that you may have hanging in your home or in a school classroom is incredibly exact and right down to the signatures, which is pretty amazing. mr. lamb: do you have an idea a dunlop broadside would be valued at today? mr. puleo: i do not. i know there have been assessments done by the library of congress of the range and the hundreds of thousands but i do not know the exact number. mr. lamb: do you know where the 17 r or some of them? mr. puleo: the library of congress has one, the historical society of massachusetts has one. mr. lamb: who was stephen pleasanton? mr. puleo: he was a real hero in american history.
6:18 am
they stormed the capital, the presidents house, public burnings in washington and the state department and he at that point in time things just before they get there, it is a good idea to save some of the documents and to save the original declaration and the original constitution. he does so. he stuffed them into a linen sack and drives them by wagon, 35 miles away and put some into an abandoned house. he does it against the secretary of war at the time who does not think it is necessary. he thinks they are not coming to washington dc, that baltimore is the target and he is correct. the secretary of war underestimates the potential value of the destruction of these documents. he makes the save and is again one of the people that have been stewards of these
6:19 am
documents throughout history. mr. lamb: where did this book come from? mr. puleo: this book comes, i read a small magazine article several years ago about the fact that these documents, the "big three" as i call them were moved to fort knox during the second world war. i had never heard of this. i was shocked to consider myself somewhat of the next were on the second world war and had no idea this was even happening. i said, i need to take a look at this. i need to research this. that was the beginning of this kind of genesis of the idea, and as i went through the library of congress documents and the primary sources on this move, on this massive move, i then said, wow, what is the why here? why did we go through so much trouble? what makes these documents so important? i realize i had to go back and look at the creation of these documents, the preservation of
6:20 am
these documents, the rescue of these documents and the ideas contained in these documents, so that is why the book reads and brings a narrative going back and forth between world war ii in 1776 or 1787 or 1814. that is why the book is written that way. mr. lamb: there is one line you wrote on page 236 and given what people are saying today, i found it interesting. "america's lack of interest in his history had trouble the aging founders." that is from way back there where they were troubled. today we have a lot of people that think a lot of people do not care about history. wasn't that bad back then? mr. puleo: i think there was a bit of amnesia. this was basically prior to the war of 1812. the worth 1812 kind of rekindles this patriotic fervor, if you will or spirit in the founders and that really comes to play in july 4,
6:21 am
1826. america's golden jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence, when americans really celebrate that day and that there is this kind of rekindling of patriotic fervor and on that day, july 4, 1826, two of america's greatest founders, thomas jefferson and john adams had both died. i think that raises the fourth of july and increases this patriotic fervor to a whole new level. yes, there was a lot of concern at the time prior to that. mr. lamb: how did you go about it? mr. puleo: doing the research? is that what you mean? the documents in the library of congress on this topic are there. the papers are there, lots in the papers and a lot in the move of documents, and in the national archives there is a substantial amount of documentation on this because eventually in 1952 these documents are moved to the
6:22 am
national archives, the declaration and the constitution. a lot of primary source material there as well so that kind of kicks the thing off. a tremendous amount of primary sources on these different times of 1776, 1787. ironically, the james madison's notes of the constitutional convention in 1787, those are saved in 1814 by madison who literally rescues them at the last minute from the white house, and i thought as i was going to prove madison's papers while i would not have madison's papers thanks to dolly madison. the documents on move our primary source documents, physical touching of the documents, many of the other documents from these different periods are used online, digitize. john adam's papers
6:23 am
are digitized so it is a wonderful treasure trove of documents. madison's papers are digitized. a lot of that of additional research from then you can do really in a digital way which is a fascinating way to do research. mr. lamb: here is some video of the transfer you just mentioned on december 13, 1952. as we watch it on the screen, why is there a transfer from the library of congress? mr. puleo: the national archives, which the cornerstone laid in 1943 and the feeling at the time was the archives were going to be a place where americans can view their documents, and of course the declaration and constitution were among the most prominent. there are a lot of fighting and peer credit fighting between the library of congress in archives at that time and it takes a while before the decision is finally made.
6:24 am
orld war ii interrupts that in the documents go to fort knox. after that, finally, the ational archivists wayne grover in the library of congress get together and say, t is probably time we move these documents and put them in the national archives for americans to see. on bill of rights day, two days after the procession we just watched, harry truman presides over the enshrinement of those documents. mr. lamb: how far did you travel, besides washington, to get the story? mr. puleo: i did my research in the boston area, washington, mainly the predominant place i was able to do it, which was fantastic.
6:25 am
like i said, the number of primary sources available to kind of make this happen was great. yes, it was wonderful. mr. lamb: of all of the stories you tell in there about the documents, what point would you have liked to have been president, when they were discovering the documents were flawed in any way and had to be repaired? mr. puleo: where what i like to be president? 1814 when they were rescued, if that is one of the things behind your question. i think that must have been a fascinating time with dolly madison decided to get these things out and move them. there is one period in 1942 where harvard's james stout and his assistant are working on the declaration at fort knox. i think that would have been fascinating to watch them do their restorative work. i think anyone who writes history and enjoys history would have loved to open in philadelphia in 1776 and 1787.
6:26 am
1776 was just a seminal moment. july 1 through july 4 may be of the most remarkable days in american history. these days interest me as well because of the constitutional convention nearly breaks apart until the grand compromise when the small state delegates and the large state delegates reject compromise that the lower house of congress would be determined by population and the upper house, the senate, would be determined by equal representation. i think that must've been a fascinating debate. mr. lamb: if you go to the american history museum you can see the desk were part of the declaration of independence was partly written by thomas jefferson. where was it written, physically?
6:27 am
mr. puleo: jefferson writes his draft in a house not too far from independence hall in philadelphia. the decision on how to run it is kind of interesting. the delegates set up a committee of five, jefferson, adams, ben franklin and they are trying to determine who is going to write it. it was probably going to come down to jefferson or adams at the time, and adams recollects later that he says to jefferson, i think you should write it. jefferson says, why? adam says, there are three reasons. one, i'm from massachusetts and you are from virginia and we are considered much more radical. it is probably better if you do it from a more temperate point of view. wo, i am much more obnoxious
6:28 am
than you. i think the delegates would feel better if you wrote it. three, you are 10 times the writer i am. i think that was probably true. it was jefferson that pens the original draft of the declaration of independence and then adams and franklin, for the most part, make some amendments to that and then it goes before the full continental congress really on july 3 and on july 4, it is adopted. mr. lamb: so, when they say that thomas jefferson was the author of the declaration of independence, what do you say? mr. puleo: i say, yes. jefferson himself admits he used ideas from john locke, used ideas from his own contemporary george mason and one of the reasons he says, if i chose completely brand-new ideas, people without a hard time understanding them. what he does is he writes majestically, i think, particularly the iconic second paragraph. he puts those together. it is not that the issues are concepts of liberty, equality and freedom or brand-new, but a nation conceived in liberty certainly was. mr. lamb: was there a time when the declaration of independence, the actual document was in any kind of trouble and it needed to be
6:29 am
restored? mr. puleo: well, i think, yes. i think, particularly it is noticed for the first time at the american centennial in philadelphia in 1876. the document has been subjected to sunlight, hominis state department building subjected to sunlight in the same room as a fireplace, so it kind of subjected to that kind of smoke that would have affected it. there are great efforts to restore after that period of time and also decisions made to keep it in a drawer and it is after that for several years until really 1924 when it is moved to the library of congress and displayed in a shrine there. there are these steps
6:30 am
undertaken throughout. of course, 1942, when stone his assistant go to fort knox, so there is a great concern about deterioration. mr. lamb: what happened to it after that, when i got back to washington and eventually got to the archive building? mr. puleo: it is enshrined in the archives in the rotunda. but of course, the national archives beginning really in the mid-1980's brings in very high-tech equipment, computerized monitoring. the declaration is in temperature proof, humidity proof atmospherically controlled conditions. there is no a computer system that will allow them to really look at every square inch of the document's deterioration so there is a whole high-tech way of protecting those documents. mr. lamb: back in two dozen one, actually 2005, a program
6:31 am
called "saving national treasures" on pbs nova. you can see a little video from 2001 when they did restoration. how long is this process when they go through one of these? mr. puleo: we going to see it? mr. lamb: yes. >> the declaration of independence and constitution taken to a new building where they will be encased. for the purpose of security, special trucks and extra sensitive suspension will make many trips, sometimes carrying some of these documents and sometimes carrying empty packing boxes, decoys. mr. lamb: there is a lot more to it than that, of course. you're free to some of the new techniques they have. f something fades, do they try to, what is the language you
6:32 am
use? do they try to cover it over or add ink to the document? mr. puleo: there are various ways they can do that. they may need to scrape away. they may need to restore in the new way you suggested. it is a very meticulous, high-tech process done by real expert conservatories. it is one of those things they take great pride in their work at the archives and i think one of the reasons they do, what you saw from that clip, these documents are so many things. they are artifacts, for sure, so they are cared for in this very, very delicate way. they are symbols. you go to the rotunda and you ee these documents under low
6:33 am
light and there are guards and people, even when there are a lot of children in the rotunda, there is some noise, but i think people try to keep it down. they understand where they are. the documents are also daily blueprints of how we run our government, how we make our laws and all of that. there are all these kinds of things in one. i really think that impacts the people that work on them. mr. lamb: today, does the glass touch the document? mr. puleo: it does not. you will see is removed from the document. there is a space. as i said, it is really wonderful to go there and check these documents out. mr. lamb: what is the temperature? mr. puleo: i do not know the exact temperature. it may change from time to time. i know it is low humidity and it is a temperature that is most conducive to keeping the documents dry, etc.
6:34 am
mr. lamb: how many people, and if you go to the archives and go into the rotunda, how many different documents? mr. puleo: the declaration of independence is there, the constitution is there, the bill of rights is there. the chargers of freedom as they re called, about one million people go to the rotunda every year which is when you think about it, a stunning amount of people that come to see these documents. again, i think they come to see the mostly because they are symbols. it is difficult to read, the constitution less so because it was never displayed. it has four separate leaves where the declaration is one leaf. people come to see these documents as symbols. it is really impressive to go there, i think. mr. lamb: how much time have you spent there? mr. puleo: i have been there many times, hours. every year i come to washington dc. my wife is a principle of the school where we take eighth
6:35 am
graders here every year. the kids really enjoyed, so i get to spend some time there probabaly tell these kids more about the documents than they are to know. mr. lamb: who wrote the constitution? mr. puleo: it was written by a number of delegates. madison does a good deal of the writing, of course and hamilton is a good deal of the writing. really, it is put together and then polished by the committee, if you will. morris does a lot of that polishing. we spoke of him doing the preamble earlier but he also does the polishing of the constitution, bringing these concepts together, the different articles and sort of hanging them together as one document. mr. lamb: what do they do about
6:36 am
the amendments? i know about the bill of rights but what about the other amendments? mr. puleo: they are at the library of congress. the documents that are kept as part of the declaration -- i am sorry, the constitution of the library of congress keeps those and eventually they did transfer them to the national archives week as they are part of the record of the united states. mr. lamb: you mentioned the gutenberg bible and the constitution and the declaration of independence and the gettysburg address. what else of importance to you consider, i mean, if you started the next rank? mr. puleo: the journals of the continental congress, madison's notes, the president's papers, washington's diaries, all of these get transferred during this time. the first telegraph from morris and 1824. queen victoria's message to
6:37 am
mary todd lincoln, her condolence message on the assassination of abraham lincoln gets moved out. these of the documents. the layout of washington dc was one of the original documents. mr. lamb: as we look back on a, who would you say, in order of importance, the persons that really made a difference. we spoke about some of them earlier, but who would you say, if it had not been for that person, we would not have these documents today in the archives? mr. puleo: during the world war ii move, if you want to use that, i think it is the secretary. he takes his direction from roosevelt but it is him who is really the driving force on making sure these documents, painstakingly, making sure they are organized properly, making sure they are packed properly, working closely with henry morgan fell , harry neal at secret service. it is really him that drives
6:38 am
that effort during world war ii and makes sure these documents re safe. i think his assistant werner calp goes out of his way on these trips to north carolina, virginia looking for these possible repository locations. it is the library of congress staff that works hard to make this happen. mr. lamb: you said there were some 60 places the documents were sent to? mr. puleo: that were looked at as possible places. really only comes down to three, university of virginia, washington lee, vmi and then they denison university in granville, ohio and then they realize in vmi there is too much dampness so they move all
6:39 am
of those documents to denison niversity. mr. lamb: washington lee and vmi sit right next to each other. mr. puleo: yes, and lexington. even though it was somewhat inland, protected by mountains it would be easy to get to. the library of congress staffers went to these locations relatively frequently to examine the documents, so they wanted a place they could get to. they did not want the desert in utah where they could not examine them so they needed to find a place that satisfied all of the requirements but then was easily accessible. mr. lamb: in the back of your book you have a huge bibliographic essay. what is it? mr. puleo: all of my books have bibliographic essays. i want my readers to know my sources and how i use them i try to use best organize the
6:40 am
essay according to topics, chronology, whatever seems to work best at the time and to let my readers know how i use these sources that i use. i rest all of my books on very strong primary source documents, so i break it up by primary sources, secondary sources and articles and books that follow. mr. lamb: how long did it take you to put this together? it is very complicated. it starts on page 357 and it goes until 395. mr. puleo: as i say to anyone reads a book, i expect you to read the entire essay. it takes me a long time to go through it because i want to be -- when you write narrative history which is what i write, it is very important to let your readers know what sources you have used and primary sources. i consider them indispensable to any history. i tried to use as many primary sources as possible which
6:41 am
allows me to go back into the time period. it takes me to put it together right, takes a couple months. mr. lamb: who was caesar rodney? mr. puleo: one of my favorite people of the whole story, delegate from delaware. he is at the continental congress in 1776, and has to get called home because he wants to help in the dover area, a member of the militia. he gets a request from one of his fellow delegates from delaware that he is needed back in philadelphia to cast a vote in favor of independence. he was in favor of independence. the vote was going to happen on july 2, and a silly messenger is dispatched to him on july 1
6:42 am
to get to philadelphia as quickly as you can, and he rides through the night, a midnight ride of his own, probably a year after paul revere's through thunderstorm, lightning storm, has terrible asthma, facial cancer at the time, makes this heroic ride in the rights of the pennsylvania state house which is what pencil -- and dependents hole was called at the time on the morning of july 2, still in his spurs and mud to cast a vote in favor of independence. mr. lamb: first date? mr. puleo: first aid to adopt the constitution but a needed state. there were only nine states that voted in favor. delaware was split and brought me was going to break the split. south carolina tended to be opposed at that time. pennsylvania tended to be
6:43 am
opposed and new york had not gotten the ok from the legislature to vote in favor. mr. lamb: rhode island, they did not come to the constitutional convention and they did not sign it. what is the problem through all of this? mr. puleo: i think it was a problem that a lot of folks had that originally the federal convention was called to amend the articles of confederation and word got out pretty quickly, madison and some of the virginians wanted to do far, far more than that, to create a whole new document. rhode island did not want any part in that at the time, so that was really part of a controversy with the delegates first meet. mr. lamb: two was richard henry lee? mr. puleo: he makes probably the most momentous resolution and american history on june 7, 1776 when he puts forth the resolution that these colonies ought to be free and separate from great britain. he is a delegate from
6:44 am
virginia. it is a stunning motion, really kind of gives you goosebumps when you hear it. the continental congress makes the decision at that point that, you know what, this is so big, such an important resolution, we need the delegates to go back to their states to find out what the people think, and so that is the break between june 7 and really july 1 of 1776 when that motion is taken up. mr. lamb: who is your favorite founder? mr. puleo: boy, that is a tough one. of course, everyone says hamilton now with the play and all of that. i think for me it is adams, and it is not only because i am from the boston area. i think he is the strongest opponent of independence throughout. i think he has a great deal of integrity throughout the whole process. he is not well-liked, is controversial, a little bit of
6:45 am
obnoxious, but he speaks his mind, and i think he's a real truth teller, more than somebody who is interested in his own self aggrandizement, if you will. i think it would be adams, as my favorite. mr. lamb: would do you think he would've liked the least? or respected the least? mr. puleo: i do not know. there is no one that really comes to mind. if you even look at the framers. i think washington isn't remarkable human being. i think it is almost a cliché and so much has been written about him, but when you look at his service and his virtue throughout, it is really kind of incredible. madison for sure is the father of the constitution but i think, if you look at it from a political point of view, he does do a little bit of a big switch. it is originally to amend the articles of confederation and he very quickly puts together allies to completely rewrite
6:46 am
and then produce a new constitution. now, in retrospect, i think it is a good thing, but if you were looking at it politically in the moment, you might say that madison was a little the political. mr. lamb: you say your wife teaches eighth-grade? mr. puleo: she is a principle. mr. lamb: the last time you were here she had her eighth grade classes with her. what do kids in eighth grade think of hamilton? mr. puleo: well, it seems to me as a result of the play, that a lot of them are interested in the music and a lot of them become interested in hamilton, the man, i would say as a result of that and people will say to me, does it bother you that it takes a broadway play to get kids interested? i say, quite the contrary. i think it is great whatever gets kids interested in history and get some interested in the founding. i do get is a wonderful thing.
6:47 am
to me, the play "hamilton" which i have not seen as fantastic in terms of teaching kids about history. mr. lamb: what do you say, this is really two books. you have the story of the documents and what happened to them and also the story of the content of the founding and the constitutional convention and all of that. here's is a question that people talk about today, how did these white men property owners write this constitution and not let women vote at the time, native americans vote at the time, black americans vote at the time, what was going on in their minds? how many of them were sincere about where they wanted to head, and why didn't they head that way right then? mr. puleo: that is one of the great paradoxes, particularly the slavery issue which confounds the delegates both of the continental congress during the declaration of independence and 1787 during the discussion
6:48 am
of the constitution. jefferson's original draft does contain a paragraph about the slave trade, gets struck because there's this feeling that there aren't going to be enough votes to approve the declaration of independence, particularly the georgians, south carolinians, maybe even the virginians wouldn't go along with that because slavery was part and parcel of their economies. quite frankly at the time, even places in new jersey and massachusetts slavery was still part of the discussion. in 1787, there is not a great deal of moral discussion about slavery, most of the discussion takes place as in, how are we going to count slaves for the purpose of representation? but there is some discussion about slavery. i think at that point the founders do put it into the slave trade and i do think that
6:49 am
the founders honestly believed that over the next decade or two slavery is going to die of its own weight, essentially. again, they make that decision that without the seven colonies, and particularly the southern states in particular, the constitution would not be ratified so they make the trade-off to ratify the constitution and not really deal with the slavery issue with the hope and the believe that it was going to die. now, that does not happen and primarily does not happen because of the invention of the cotton gin, eli whitney's cottage gin in 1820. it makes big cottonwood it is at the time. we are the devils with the whole slavery issue for decades right until the civil war. mr. lamb: why no women? mr. puleo: again, it is an issue. abigail adams even says to john, remember the ladies as
6:50 am
you go through this. i think again, it is part of at the time a society where women certainly were treated as second-class citizens and i think the issue of women does does not come up very much in the discussion of the declaration or the discussion of the constitution. quite frankly does not come up even after the civil war because we can look at the reconstruction amendments, the 13th amendment that allows black men the right to vote, it does not come up, a century from that even coming up, the women's suffrage movement and those kinds of things. you have some very powerful women, especially abigail adams and dolly madison. they were very influential yal during this time period. mr. lamb: where was it with the king george the third statue was torn down? mr. puleo: in new york. that was after the declaration was passed where there is a lot of that happening.
6:51 am
all kinds of shops are destroyed and once the declaration makes its way to the colonies, there is a great deal about that goes on. mr. lamb: you know lenin statues were torn down and in russia and saddam hussein was torn down in iraq. is there an equivalent with king george iii in the way he was treating the colonies? mr. puleo: i think there is. when you look at jefferson's words in the declaration of independence, this notion of self governance was totally unheard of during this period of time. this was a time of monarchs that ruled and everybody else did what they were told. this notion that taxation without representation, this issue that the people have the power and conveyed this power o government was something
6:52 am
completely unique and completely unheard of during this period of time and the americans, the colonies of the time grabbed onto it. mr. lamb: i know we will never know the answer, but what are the chances from your point of view that if madison and jefferson and hamilton ended george washington and all of these people could be here today, they would say, this is what we expected to happen? native americans cannot vote until 1924, we do not want the 13th amendment and women voting in the early 1900s, how many of them would say, this is what we wanted to happen and how many would say, whoops? mr. puleo: i think most of them would be surprised but pleased that it happened. mr. lamb: why? mr. puleo: because if you look at some of the writings of these folks and their dedication to these concepts of liberty. if you look at the federalist papers they penned into some of
6:53 am
the notions of freedom, equality and liberty, i think even if they personally at that point in time could not have envisioned it, i think if they came back here today, they would consider it a good thing. mr. lamb: but why did they write all of that flowery stuff about freedom and all of that and it really only the white males that own the prorpped got it? mr. puleo: i think what we need to look at and look back on is careful of applying sort of 2016 standards to certain periods in history. we are not talking about hamilton and white no property owners are talking about 70 years ago where we had a segregated army and that does not get the segregated until 1948. you could easily asked that same question. i think there are periods of history. be perfect? no, far from it. i think we are aspirational.
6:54 am
this is what these documents teach us. when we have issues, problems, we may have to fight a civil war to deal with these problems by think we always try our best to get where we need to be. mr. lamb: as you know, if you come to the capital and stand in the rotunda, john trumbull is all over the place. what impact did he have? mr. puleo: he was commissioned to do the paintings after the war of 1812 during the patriotic fervor. he does his classic, legendary painting of the signing of the declaration of independence. i think it captures people's imagination at the time of this scene. i think he is a factor in this. mr. lamb: about the resigning of his commission, george ashington? mr. puleo: i think the same
6:55 am
thing. this is another case for washington, again coming see the virtues of washington. he doesn't there when he was kind of making the statement that the civilian government is supreme. he doesn't when he is president by deciding not to run for a third term. he probably could have been president for life but decided not to do it. mr. lamb: of all of your books, which one is for favorite? mr. puleo: impossible to answer. i love them all for various reasons. this book was a real labor of love because it is basically not only be history of these documents but really a history of the country which is encapsulated in these documents, so -- mr. lamb: what is next? mr. puleo: working on something that i prefer not to reveal at this point, kind of early but really excited about this next one. mr. lamb: is it history? mr. puleo: it is, of course. narrative history. mr. lamb: is it the last 50
6:56 am
years or the last 200 years? mr. puleo: it is prior to the last 50 years. mr. lamb: what was the hardest part? mr. puleo: i think the braided narrative. my first presented the proposal it wasn't braided narrative and i had an editor that said, you know what, wanted to try writing this book chronological from 1776 up to the 1952 transfer of documents? i said, you know what, i will do it. i wrote it, submitted it was pleased with it, and my editor said, i think you were right the first time, let's do the braided narrative. i kind the for the thing up and did it in that way. mr. lamb: define the braided narrative? mr. puleo: it is this kind of back and forth from world war ii to 1776, 1787, back to 1814 so the reader is kind of kept on the 1941 path but is brought back to learn about the documents and how they were
6:57 am
preserved. mr. lamb: last question, is the constitution or declaration of independence your favorite document? mr. puleo: i think the declaration of independence, you said my favorite, think the declaration of independence is the most important because it is that second paragraph upon which the entire constitution rests. the cod fakes of these laws rests on those principles that are articulated in the declaration. the constitution, i think for a short document, a really short, pocket-size document does an amazing amount of things in terms of the separation of owers and all of that. it is a terrific document, i think but the declaration is the preeminent document we have. mr. lamb: our guest has been stephen puleo and the book is called "american treasury airs."
6:58 am
he is also the author of "dark tide" and resides in the boston area. thank you very much for joining us. mr. puleo: thank you, brian. great. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> for free transcripts or to give us comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. programs are also available at c-span podcasts. faup you'd like this program, here are some others you might enjoy. in a previous interview, stephen puleo talks about another book he wrote, "the
6:59 am
canes," which talks about how an altercation was a contributing factor to the start of the civil war am a law professor and author mary sarah bilder writes about james madison and his thoughts during the constitution convention of 1787. and allen weinstein shares how government records are preserved, while talking about his experience as the archivist of the united states. you can find those interviews here on c-span this morning, "washington journal" is next. a look at u.s. infrastructure needs and efforts to modernize afternoon. at 2:00, legislative business for the house and votes to follow at 6:30. on today's "washington journal" we look ahead at the legislative agenda for the new republican president with francine kiefer
7:00 am
and niels lesniewski. later, attorney kenneth gross shows how president-elect donald trump might handle the management of his business to prevent a conflict of interest while serving in office. ♪ host: good morning. it is november 14. this is "washington journal." congress returns today for the lame-duck session. only do they have to work on policy issues and legislative issues, but now there is a focus on attempts to repeal the affordable care act and other changes made during the obama administration. president obama is overseas making stops in european countries. many papers highlighting the fact that the majority of this trip will be discussing president-elect donald trump. speaking of the

21 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on