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tv   QA David Mc Cullough  CSPAN  May 19, 2019 11:00pm-12:00am EDT

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questions is at midnight. experts tellpace senate lawmakers about policy challenges. ♪ >> david mccullough, your new book "the pioneers," why that title? david: because it is about a group of very brave and, i feel, noble people, americans, who went west in the last part of the 18th century to found the first legal community, settlement, in all of what was
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called the northwest territory. that territory north and west of the ohio river, which would ultimately make up five very famous and important states -- ohio, indiana, illinois, michigan, and wisconsin. it was an area as large as all of the original 13 colonies, 13 states, and there was nobody as yet living there, except native americans and wolves and bears and rattlesnakes and you name it. but there was also fabulous, deep soil. this was a group of people who were veterans of the revolutionary war, and they had been paid in what was then the longest war in our history, up until the time of vietnam, eight and a half years.
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they had been paid in what was called scrip, and it was virtually worthless, maybe $.10 on the dollar. this was a way to compensate that for the veterans. most of them at the start were veterans of the revolution. they were people used to hard work and adversity, not just in the war, but on the farms of new england, which were shallow soil, lots of stones. and here was the opportunity to start a new. with everything imaginable, but all of which would take an enormous amount of work and they would have to face adversity and setbacks and sufferings the likes of which they had never experienced or even imagined. to me, their courage and it is determination to succeed
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in the highly admirable american way of life, including, most importantly, no slavery, is one of the most important stories in our history and one which is a subject that has been virtually ignored. i knew nothing about it before i got going, and i only got going because of pure luck and accelerating curiosity. who were these people? how did they do it? why did they do it? what do we owe them? for what should we be ever grateful that they accomplished? lots of hard, beautiful, admirable accomplishments. in many ways, we are a bunch of softies compared to what they put up with and accomplished. brian: i want to read back to
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in you what you wrote in your acknowledgments. these were two of the best research days ever. material beyond anything expected in the libraries and the history specialists among the best i have ever worked with. the time spent has expanded my feeling for the subject in a way nothing else could have. who are you talking about? david: several people, but primarily linda showalter. i worked with a great number of marvelous archivists and librarians over the years in some of the finest libraries in our country or even the world, but i have never worked with anyone quite so skilled and devoted and pleasant spirited anywhere. i thought she probably went to wellesley or smith or something like that, then did graduate work at columbia.
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typical eastern areas that i have spent much of my life with. i said, linda, where are you from originally? she said, here, meeting marietta. i said, where did you go to college? she said, here, marietta college. i said, where did you do your graduate work? she said, here. where did you get your first job? here. and she is fabulous. it was a good lesson that you don't have to be in big time educational institutions to get a great education. marietta college, now that i have spent almost three years coming and going from there, i think it is one of the finest places anyone could go to college. i would be happy if any of my grandchildren were to go there, or anybody that has aspirations for almost anything.
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the town is infinitely interesting, history everywhere you look. it is one of the most beautiful locations imaginable, right at the confluence of the ohio and muskingum rivers. it also strongly evokes my boyhood upbringing in pittsburgh. brian: let me show you a map that we got to put on the screen here. pittsburgh. you see things like fort wayne. the name wayne pops up in your book. more importantly, the allegheny river at the top, the ohio river going the other way down to marietta. and the monongahela river. when you see that, what do you remember from your childhood? david: oh, my goodness. i grew up not far from the university of pittsburgh in what
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is called point breeze or the east end. we would get on a bus or a streetcar as kids and go down to the carnegie library, carnegie museum. it was very important, though i did not realize it at the time. the carnegie library and museum and art gallery and carnegie concert hall are all under the same roof, so it was all part of the same process of creativity and learning, so that you could go stand in awe in front of a skeleton of a giant dinosaur, then go down the hall and upstairs, look at some of the greatest paintings ever done, or you could go to the music hall and listen to a concert, or walk down another hall and you are in the library.
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it was a place of learning, and we could come and go as kids, on our own. a rainy saturday, down we go. as mark twain showed us in his work, river towns are story towns. i grew up hearing stories at home at the dinner table from my father or mother or grandmother about the terrible fires, the strikes, the floods of past times in pittsburgh. some of the weird characters in my own family. and i loved it. i did not realize that was history at the time. of course, it was. it was such an interesting time. world war ii was in full force
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and the mills were going night and day. the sky at night was red because of the mills. when you went to close your bedroom window in the morning, there would be what looked like black sand on the windowsill, and that was the grit from the mills. we didn't know that the air was foul, that the rivers were polluted. there were not many sunny days. in school, we were told pittsburgh is helping to win the war. we had what were called the junior commandos, where we collected scrap and fat. it was turned in to help the war effort. we were taking part in the defense and the potential. we were confident of the victory of our side in a way that gave
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us pride in where we were living and what we were doing to help the ultimately all-important cause. that wasn't something anybody had to teach us. that was just in the spirit of the moment. we had wonderful teachers. the principal -- i might be going on too long about this -- but the principle of our grade school, carolyn patterson, ms. patterson, who had a yardstick by her desk in her office, supposedly what she spank you with. i don't know if she ever did, but it was there as a reminder. she would come walking down the hall in her sturdy old high-heeled shoes.
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it was a marble hall. you would hear that coming down the hall and he would straighten up. that woman helped found wqed, the first pbs station in the country. she saw to it that we had a symphony in grade school, and the students who played went to see the pittsburgh symphony regularly. art and music and books were part of learning, not just arithmetic and spelling. she was marvelous. it continued on through high school, and i will ever be extremely grateful that i grew up where i did, where the monongahela meets and they formed the broad ohio. when i had the chance to have the ohio be a major factor, major character in a book i was going to write, i was thrilled beyond words. brian: let me show you another map that fits with what we are talking about.
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this is from pittsburgh, the ohio river across indiana, illinois. how did you find this story? the ohio starts -- we are looking at it from pittsburgh on. marietta is about halfway down --? david: the river is going south, not west. it is going southwest. right where it turns to go west is where marietta is. it is about 90 miles down the river from pittsburgh. i only came upon this incredible collection that the book is based on because i was invited in 2004 to give the commencement speech at ohio university, and they were celebrating their 200th anniversary. i knew very little about the university at that point. i am somebody who does their
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homework. i found out it was the first university west of the allegheny mountains. it was launched by the people who are in my book who went west as a group, and it was launched by a man named cutler. the oldest building on the campus was called cutler hall, which dated back to 1810 or 1804. i thought, who was cutler? i got interested and found out he was one of the most outstanding men, fascinating men i had ever read about. brian: where was he from? david: he was from what is now hamilton, massachusetts. he was a minister there. the church and the parsonage still stands. brian: did it matter to you that both of you went to yale? david: of course. i discovered he went to yale and
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discovered that two of his children, especially his oldest son, was born on martha's vineyard, where my wife's family have been part of for four or five generations. of course in order to get to ohio, you had to go through pittsburgh. i thought it was in the stars, i had to pursue this. but cutler was a classic 18th-century man. he was interested in everything. he had doctoral degrees in theology, medicine, and law and practiced all three during the course of his life. he was probably -- no way to prove it -- the leading american botanist of his time. he was interested in everything. he ultimately became a member of congress.
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but most importantly, he was the one single force, one human individual, who got the congress -- in the summer of 1787 -- to pass what was known as the northwest ordinance. the northwest ordinance was like no bill put before congress before or since, one of the most important acts of congress ever. it is not taught in schools. brian: this was before the constitution? david: it was before the constitution had passed. no constitution and no president has yet. the bill specified four principal things. first, complete freedom of religion. secondly, that the native americans in the area of the northwest territory would be treated with respect. and thirdly, that there would be public education, public,
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taxpayer supported education, from grade school through college. hence, it gave rise to the first state university, which was ohio university. which of course are now everywhere and taken for granted. no part of our country had anything even close to such an educational system. new england had a lot of schools, but many of them were not very good at all. fourth and most important, there would be no slavery. these people were determined they were not just going to put it down on paper to say in words that all men are created equal, we are going to show we believe it.
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they passed a law there would be no slavery. it would be the only part of the country where that was true, because there were slaves in all 13 colonies. brian: who passed this, what governmental body? david: congress. brian: congress at a time before the constitution. how much did it pass by? david: considerable, and miraculously. but then later -- and that was the doing of cutler. if he were known for nothing else, he should be known for that. about -- let's see -- about 10 or 15 years after this happened -- i am never very good at math -- there was a movement, after jefferson became elected president, there was a movement by the jeffersonians in ohio to cancel that rule of no slavery and to admit slaves. the two people who led the fight to stop that were general rufus
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putnam, who was a very famous general, washington's civil engineer. built the forts that mattered so much. and a wonderful man, with no education, virtually. and he was battling not only for education, but for no slavery. cutler's son ephraim, who had gone out to be one of the pioneers. the day the vote was going to take place, ephraim was lying in his room in a boardinghouse near the legislature, could not get out of bed, he was so sick. seemed to be almost on his deathbed. putnam came in. putnam was old enough to be his father.
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came in, said, you have got to get out of bed and vote. this is going to be very close. they somehow got him out of bed into the legislature. he not only cast his vote, but he gave a powerful speech about why this should never be retracted, this no slavery rule. the vote was counted and they won by one vote. brian, i think if that were a scene in a novel, let's say, the editor would probably say, this is too much, would never happen in real life. yes, it did. ephraim was carrying the banner of his father into battle for his father and for his own beliefs, firm convictions, and succeeded. as a consequence, there was never to be any slavery in ohio or the other four states of the northwest territory. brian: i want you to stay with me as i personalize this.
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as i am reading your book, i kept thinking about my own upbringing. here is what i want you to deal with. i grew up on shawnee avenue in lafayette, indiana. coming into shawnee avenue was wyandotte avenue. there is a school, an elementary school, called miami, a junior high called tecumseh, a high school called william henry harrison. i went to jefferson high school and lived in tippecanoe county on the wabash river. and i don't think -- this is not unfair to my teachers, because i had great teachers -- i don't think they ever taught me anything about any of those names, and this book has all of those names. david: the state of ohio is an indian name, native american name. brian: are those characters in your book? david: oh, yes. those native american tribes.
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what i think is not understood as well as it should be is how many different tribes there were. they were not all alike, by any means. the shawnee in ohio were much more quarrelsome, much more on the edge of real violence, than the delawares. when these pioneers first arrived, captain pike greeted them at the landing with about 70 other members of his tribe, women and children, welcoming them to ohio. the book i have written is based on what i found in this immensely important, colossal collection of original diaries, memoirs, two books of history written by one of the five main characters in my book, all
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perfectly kept and compiled, numbering in the thousands, literally. brian: where were they? david: they were in the library of marietta college. it wasn't they were all hidden in some attic over five states, or whatever, or a little bit in this university library, a little in that state archive. they were all in one place. it wasn't just the quantity, it was the quality, the quality of the writing, the quality of the values expressed. people often say, are you working on a book? i say, yes, i am. what i want to say is no, i am working in a book. i go into this subject. i like to go in with the people who are the protagonists. you have to know them.
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you can only know them by letters and diaries and so forth. as you well know, you come to know them, in many cases, better than you know people in real life. in real life, you don't get to read other people's mail. here i am not only reading their mail, but their most intimate diaries. you really know what they are worried about, what they are striving to maintain, what they are suffering. suffering is a very important factor in life. i have been reading david brooks' new book, second mountain. fascinating. he makes the point about the benefit of suffering. out of this suffering comes a sense of purpose. with these people, it is admirable in the extreme, what their objectives are. they were not in this for the money or to become famous or to have expensive possessions, wristwatches and the like.
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no, they were there to establish a community and values that are of utmost importance for civilization. excuse me. [coughs] and they stuck to it. my five characters go on at length about all aspects of life, from their personal experience. when they get to the subject of the native americans, that i include. when they are worried about there may be an attack, or when there is an attack 30 miles up the river, where 14 people were slaughtered by a party of warriors, delawares and wyandottes.
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when that happens, it is part of my story. it is part of their story as they saw it. so i am not seeing the importance of the native people or the contributions of the native people or the mishandling, the misunderstandings that led to atrocities with the native people. unless my characters are involved. they are involved only in the sense that because they treated the native americans out of their territory, their area, with respect, they were never attacked. and so the native americans were respecting these people, holding back on a direct attack on them. that is primarily not just the
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words on paper in the northwest ordinance, but by the leadership of rufus putnam, the general, who was really the one who made it all work. and then the youngest and therefore the last character in my narrative, which goes all the way up to the civil war, is the doctor, the physician named samuel. he gave a speech in the 1830's at a medical convention in cleveland in which he expressed a hymn of respect and acknowledgment of the importance of the native americans of the ohio history. so it wasn't that these people have no heart or empathy -- they did.
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i think a lot about what are the lessons of history? there are many, to say the least. one of them is very little of consequence is ever accomplished alone. it is a joint effort. this is about the joint effort of the first legal settlement in all of the northwest territory. two of the most important lessons in white history should be taught and required in our educational system are empathy and gratitude. we should be able to put ourselves in the place of those people who went before us and realize what they did and what the odds and the adversities were that they faced.
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secondly, grateful. so much of what we have, we just take for granted. that's rude as well as being ignorant. brian: do i count right that this is your 11th book? david: 12. brian: i am missing one. you had a lot of characters that you have written about in history. i want to go back over some of these. our first interview was in 1992. a short remembrance of harry truman. [video clip] david: when eisenhower took the oath and truman walked off the platform, he was right back down on ground, level again, as citizen treatment. -- citizen truman. he had no pension, no allowance for office space, no secret service guards. his only income was his army pension, which was i think $119 a month. brian: since you have said that, i always thought that no other
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president went home. david: truman once said, i will never forget who i was, where i came from, and where i would go back to. that speaks volumes about who he was. i think we have to understand where people came from. understand the look and smell and feel of the terrain, because it is part of them, part of you, part of me, much more than we realize. harry truman never forgotten who he was, never forgot he had never gone to college. when he became president, they advised him things he should do to see more sophisticated. he didn't do any of that. one of my favorite scenes in the truman story -- he was about to
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appoint general marshall as secretary of state, george marshall. and one of his young assistants, clark clifford, who was very bright and very important in truman's presidency, said to him, privately, they were in a meeting at the oval office, said, mr. president, i think you should think twice about that. and truman said, why is that? because if you appoint george marshall as secretary of state, in two or three months, he will start seeing that he will make a better president than you are. and truman said, he would make a better president than i am, but i am the president, and i need the best help i can get. that is a guy who knows who he is, knows what his deficiencies are. knows his performance, his past. brian: which one of the books that you wrote sold the most? david: i think, i am not sure, i
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think it was "1776." brian: do you have any idea why? david: sure. [laughter] david: yes, i think it has been used in a lot of law schools. i am very proud of that. it is great, and what made it great is george washington, who would not give up. i write about people who do not give up. brian: back in 2011, we talked about the brooklyn bridge, when she wrote about. watch this. david: i was introduced, and he said david mccullough is writing a book about the brooklyn bridge. and she said who in the world would ever want to read a book about the brooklyn bridge? and on the way home, i was practically punching the dashboard as i was driving the car, but before i got home, it suddenly dawned on me, that is a perfectly good question. who would want to read a book about the brooklyn bridge?
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what's your answer, mccullough? my answer was -- i would. i have never taken on a book of the subject i do not care much about. and this is something i've not made public before at this stage of my writing career. because most histories and biographies, most correctly, are written by people who specialize in that subject through their whole career, academics, historians, in particular, but if i knew all about the subject before it undertook the book, i would not want to write the book. i write a book on a subject that i wish i knew more about, and i know that by writing a book about it am a to me, it is like going to a country i have never
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set foot in or going on a detective case. that is the adventure, and i tried to look at all of it with a fresh eye, and very often - well, i have never not found something that i have either ignored or not known about, or not discovered it yet. in this book, about the pioneers who established the first settlement, whatever it was, village, territory, it is something that nobody knows much about because it had never really been looked about. brian: you talk about ohio, though, and some of the people that we know better now, back in 2016, when you are doing a book about the wright brothers, here is a clip from that interview. david: you notice i look just the same? [laughter] david: these are pioneers. pioneers of the age we live in.
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to me, it is fascinating that neil armstrong also came from that same corner of ohio, southwestern ohio, a matter of only 50 miles or so from where the wright brothers grew up. and john glenn also came from ohio. whether that is coincidental, or there is something in the water in ohio, i do not really know. brian: explain it. david: i cannot really explain it. the wright brothers, the first to fly, john glenn, the first to neile the world, and then land ong, the first two the moon. brian: and the president from that state. david: five of them, the presidents, and edison, the inventor of the cash register, leaders in medicine, everything. to me it is a very intensely passionate and endlessly interesting pocket of qualities about america that are as evident as anybody can be.
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brian: a long time ago, you said you had given up television. david: yes. brian: i want to show you a clip from 1987, where you were in a "nova," pbs program, talking about the panama canal, which he wrote a book about. ♪ david: death and injury were commonplace. men were caught beneath the wheels of trains or struck by falling rock, dynamite got tender from standing too long. one premature explosion killed 23. in total, more explosive energy was expended in blasting through
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panama than all the wars the united states had fought until then. brian: how many years were you in television, and how did you get in it in the first place? david: i think it was 12 years i worked in television, but then i came back to do some things with a few people that i like working with. i first got in because when ken burns did his film about my book, the building of the brooklyn bridge, he asked me to narrate it, and that is what got me started. and eventually, i narrated the "civil war" series with ken, and then i was invited to be most host of a series called "smithsonian world," which i did for maybe three years, and that i did "the american express" for maybe 12 years. i was in it for a long time, and
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i love it. brian: what was the impact once you got into television? david: oh, i suppose that increased, but it was taking me away from what was really the objective of my work, what i wanted to be my career, my contribution, and that is writing the books. the thing i like best about doing television was the people i worked with. wonderful, wonderful people. and who could stick to the job when they were so sick they could hardly stand because of something they had eaten the night before, but we were in the midst of the grand canyon, and there is no other soundman anywhere near, and he showed up and did his job. brian: i wanted to remind you of the "civil war" series, because people who have not seen it, here you are narrating that series back in, let me see where it is, 1990. let's watch. david: more than 3 million americans fought in it, and over
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600,000 men, 2% of the population, died in it. american homes became headquarters. american churches and school houses sheltered the dying. and huge foraging armies swept across american farms and burned american towns. americans saw slaughtered one another wholesale, here in america. brian: the work of ken burns. how long did you spend on it? david: well, the sponsors saw it was, i think it was originally for hours or six hours, and then the sponsors saw it and said no, this has got to be increased.
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so we really had to tear it all apart and start all over again. of course the impact was tremendous. brian: what was the impact? david: people realized what the country had been through, the suffering and the slaughter. that is important to remember. we have been through some terrible, dark times, but we came out of it, we managed to survive, and in many ways, we are better for it. you think, for example, the influenza epidemic of 1918, 1919, less than a year, over 600,000 people died in our country. now, if that were to happen today, proportions of our population, that would be about 2 million people. now imagine 2 million people died in our country, and nobody knew how to get rid of it, nobody knew where it came from, or how long you would be sick. can you imagine that on the nightly news night after night,
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and we might get a little depressed, a little worried? but we came out of it. brian: what came out of the "civil war" series, do you think, that had an impact on the country? david: we should never take, again, we should never take our country as shaped, taken form, taken shape, for granted. the suffering and the patriotism that were involved. brian: back in -- david: and then of course it affected our leadership from that on, who got elected president and all about. and the fact that abraham lincoln comes out of the northwest territory, comes out of illinois. ulysses s. grant comes out of ohio, and so forth. that is not just by chance. we need to understand that. you can never underestimate by the impact or the importance of luck. i think someone could teach a great course in american history on luck, good luck and bad luck. if the wind had been a different
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direction in new york when washington and his army were trapped on long island, trapped in brooklyn, that would have ended the war right then, if the british had been able to bring their fleet of the east river. because there was no way of getting out. because the wind held through the night, and then when the winds started to ease off, it would have been impossible to bring the british fleet up the east river. the fog set in. it made it possible for the remaining part of washington's army to escape without loss of life. unbelievable. and we cannot just take that for granted. brian: i am going to ask you, anywhere in this clip, this goes back to 1962 in a movie called "advise and consent." somebody told me you might be in this clip somewhere, but i could not find you. david: [laughs] >> here in the heart of
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washington, otto preminger films the pulitzer prize novel "advise and consent." it's the story of the men and women who live and work in washington. private feud in public conflict which affected lives of everyone, everywhere. to tell the story, the cameras move and where no motion picture cameras have ever been permitted, in the very room that saw the crime investigation on the mccarthy hearings, preminger stages another word of warning. this is fictional. so do not try to guess who they are. brian: you were in it? >> i was sitting at the press table. i was a young reporter. i did not have any lines. i was an extra, and i loved it! brian: how did you get that? david: i applied for it. brian: what did you report on at the time?
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david: it was during the kennedy administration, i was in my 20's, so i went up to see if i could get a part, as it were, no speaking lines or anything, and i did. brian: every time you have been here, and i think this is our 13th interview, i have always trying to get you to tell us about the next book that you are going to write. david: [laughs] brian: here is a clip of you talking about this. it is just 25 seconds. do you have another book in mind? david: well, i have several, but i have not made a decision about what would be next. it is day after day, and if you are not enthusiastic about the work -- brian: what is your inclination right now? david: i am not going to talk about it.
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brian: maybe i missed it, but you did not answer my question whether you are going to do another book. david: no, i did not. [laughter] brian: are you going to do another book? david: yes, i plan to keep writing. it is my life, and i love it. but what it will be, i do not know. i'm waiting for my heel to find some good idea. >> he did it show with us at one point when he did a book. what role has he played in these books? david: he has been my research miracle. he is a master of historic research, and he is a joy to work with. we have been working together almost 40 years. i moved to washington to be the host of the smithsonian series in the early 1980's, and i got a letter from this fella who had been working on the hill for a congressman, and saying that if
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i ever needed assistance with research, he would love to help me. a very nice letter. and i wrote back, and this was the case, that i had tried using the help of two or three phd candidates in history, that were not the help that i wanted, but i was so taken by his letter, that i wanted to have lunch with him. he did not realize i was in washington. so we went to lunch, and i liked him immensely. so i said to him, if you would like, i will give you an assignment. and he volunteered to help me without any fee. i said, i am going to pay you for it, but let's see how you do. so i gave him an assignment, i do not remember exactly what it was, he went to work on it, turned it in, and it was
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terrific, so i paid him, and i said how would you like to work with me from now on? and i was just starting the truman book. and that book took 10 years. if it had not been for mike's help, it probably would have taken me, i don't know, four years longer. brian: on the truman book, what was the best thing that you found that helped you write a book? david: the letters between truman and his wife, bess, no question. and then when we got going on the adams book, it was even more phenomenal. the letters between john and abigail are some of the best anywhere. and i think abigail adams is one of the great americans. a great biography should be written about her. i thought i did pretty well with it, keeping her front and center stage as often as possible.
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my initial idea for the book was a book about jefferson and adams as sort of coworkers, co-patriots, then rivals, then really enemies, then they restore their friendship, then they die, incredibly, on the same day, fourth of july. that does not happen in real life, right? anyway, i found that i knew quite a lot about jefferson. jefferson destroyed every letter that he ever wrote to his wife and that she ever wrote to him. we do not even know what she looked like. and then i came upon the letters by john and abigail adams, and i was blown away from them. it was over 1000.
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i knew very little about john adams, but i was like, this is the book. brian: i want to go back to "the pioneers." david: yes. brian: i want you to explain this, given the mood we have an the country today, "but as manasseh," who is your principle in this book, "also recorded," talking about martha washington, "she talked of the election of jefferson, whom she considered 'one of the most detestable of mankind' and 'the greatest misfortune our country had ever experienced.'" surprised to find martha washington's view? david: yes, i was, very. and we have to remember that. he had said some very derogatory, critical things about her husband. and she did not like that. to her credit.
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jefferson is complicated. jefferson, in this book, "the pioneers," does some things that, to my mind, were not particularly admirable. for example, he was for the no slaves in ohio bill, but when it came down to the time to vote, he backed off and did not vote for it, because he said it would damage his political position in virginia. brian: i mentioned here earlier that i have from lafayette, indiana. in your book, lafayette, he appears in marietta, which is a story i am sure you can tell, why was he in marietta, marquis de lafayette? david: he was on a tour of the united states, and he went everywhere. he was the hero of the day. he came and stopped in marietta.
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the whole town turned out to greet him. it was one of the biggest moments that that town had ever had. and he went on, sincerely, about the veterans from the revolution who settled there, whom he knew and worked with, as some of the finest men he had ever known. and of course, that was playing the right song in marietta. brian: my home town was named because he stepped into indiana in 1825. david: well, and marietta was named for marie antoinette, because the founders felt that she had done more even than ben franklin had done to get france, the king, to commit on our side and not only supply money that we needed desperately but to supply military force. brian: how many people in marietta know that is why they have that name? david: i cannot answer that.
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probably not as many as we would wish. brian: why was aaron burr in marietta, ohio? david: looking for money, and he hit the jackpot with a strange gentleman named blennerhassetts, who was an aristocrat from ireland who inherited a lot of money, and because he married neice, and that was not acceptable back home, he became an american citizen with his wife, and because to marry your niece was not acceptable in many parts of the east, they went west. that is one of the few examples that i know of of someone escaping what was considered immoral in order to start a new in the west, and they bought
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boats about 12 miles down the river from marietta, built what was then the most glorious mansion on the entire river, and burr showed up, heard about him, told and what his scheme was going to be and how when he started this new country, blennerhassetts would have a very important part of the government. and it was all a con man offer, but blennerhassetts fell for it, and gave a lot of money to him, so he does dark building boats -- so he could start building boats for his army to take down the river, until the scandal became known, and burr had to get going quickly out of town, and he and his wife followed shortly after. brian: very strange. david: the spotlight in history
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hit that one area for a total of maybe three months. burr was there less than three days, but it would leave a mark that would never be forgotten. brian: i have to check in with you on one last thing from video, this is from 2001. i want to know if this place is the place that you use that looks familiar to you. david: this would affect my walk to work. this measures 12 by 8 feet, has windows on all sides. i absolutely love it. it has about 800 books in their. my faithful typewriter, i have written every book i've ever written on that, old royal typewriter. there is nothing wrong with it. it is a beautiful, american-made machine. david: it is still there.
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and there is still nothing wrong with it, the typewriter. no, because three of our children -- we still have our home on martha's vineyard. that is still my office on martha's vineyard. but this book was written in massachusetts. we moved there because three of our children and their children were living there, and as you know, children, as you get older, we love it there. it is one of the most interesting, historic towns in america. it has the oldest christian church still in use still today, never not in use. called the old ship church, and it is -- one of the original pioneers who came out on the very first adventure was from there. he was 19.
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brian: are you ever going to write another book? david: it is too soon to tell. it has to hit me what my story is. i have got several ideas, but i will let you know as soon as i know. [laughs] brian: kind of the last question is, 85 years old -- david: yes. brian: why are you out pounding the pavement, talking to people, and what does life look like from your age? david: better than ever. i love it. and, knock on wood, i don't play golf, i don't go fishing, i do not play tennis or have a sailboat -- i have a sailboat, but i have one of my sons give me valet sailing. because i love what i do. i love to get up every morning and get back to work. i love it. i understand perfectly why the
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wright brothers were so captivated with their job. i feel the same way. and i feel as lucky as anybody i know. and i have the most wonderful wife anybody could ever imagine. she is absolutely fabulous. she is my editor in chief. she is my chair of the ethics committee. she is my polar star. and we have had a wonderful time. for 65 years, we have been married. we are off to a good start. brian: have you dedicated every book to rosalee? david: no, i dedicated one of my books to my mother and father, and some of the early books to our children. but most all of my books have been dedicated to her. brian: this book is called "the pioneers: the heroic story of the settlers who brought the american ideal west." our guest has been david mccullough, and we thank you very much.
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david: brian, you have done something with television nobody has ever done in a way that nobody has done it, and you deserve far more praise, credit, and -- and lasting fame than you realize. brian: well, the chance to listen to people like you and the historians over the years has made it worth it. just like you, i find it easy to get up every day. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> all "q&a" programs are available on our website or as a podcast on ♪
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>> next sunday on "q&a," yale university history professor joanne freeman discusses her book "the field of blood: violence in congress and the road to the civil war." >> washington journal live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. monday morning we will preview the week ahead in washington. and a discussion of the proposals to cap credit card interest rates at 15%. sure to watch washington journal at 7:00 eastern monday morning. join the discussion. >> monday president trump will
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