tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg March 16, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
charlie:biographers of people we shaped this country, not just politicians, but business people as well. what brought you to hamilton? >> it seems comical now but at the time i shouldn't writing on him he was the neglected and misunderstood founding father who seemed to be fading into historical up security which seems strange knowing his name
is on the marquis of the broadway show. i thought his was far m&a the most dramatic story of the founding fathers. it was the only one not born in the original 13 colonies, the story of a penniless, orphaned, immigrant kid who comes out of nowhere and sets the world on fire and his achievements were monumental. charlie:, eisai before his achievements he came out of nowhere, where is nowhere? >> he spent his adolescence on st. croix and he had this ghastly, dickensian childhood. his father left at 11, his mother died when he was 13 and he was farmed out to a first cousin who committed suicide a asr later and he was working an impoverished clerk in st. croix when the hurricane hit the island. he published a description of it
in the local paper that was brilliant. he came to north america and did not know a soul. our with a few letters of introduction. charlie: he was very smart? >> alexander hamilton was one who radiated genius. it became clear he was one of the most remarkable people you had ever met so he came to north america and goes to a preparatory school in new jersey and ends up going to king's college and he immediately acquires a whole series of powerful patrons. energy, charmous and ambition and immediately begins to soar in this new world but he did not know a soul when he came here.
he met wade livingston and when the revolution broke down, alexander mcdougall. these generals immediately try to recruit hamilton to their staff, but hamilton knew that postwar glory would not go to he who had written the most beautiful letters during the war but the president. when washington asked him to be comp --camp -- aid to was an offerthat he couldn't turn down. hamilton was chafing during the revolutionary war because he would like his own command. him?ie: washington needed >> washington needed someone more to write letters than fight battles.
washington had 14 political masters but also had to answer to 13 state governors so he had immense correspondence. hamilton was completely fluid in was not only handling the correspondence and english but also french. jon: as a biographer he is easy to write about because he wrote so much? >> he wrote so much and because alexander hamilton with a human word machine. he never lived to see the age of 50 but he left behind a 32 volume of books. jon: he did not write about his youth? >> no, this is interesting because he was probably the most verbal person in our history and
wrote at length about everything under the sun but he never wrote a single line about his years in the caribbean which constituted the first third of his life. he tried to us slammed the door shut on this dickensian childhood and to re-create himself in a new light but you pay a price when you try to do bury all ofd to this unpleasant stuff from the past. charlie: what price did he pay? >> i think that for all of his promise -- brilliance, he often had terrible judgment. he made some brilliant blunders in his life particularly entering into this completely misguided affair with mariah reynolds. in december he met this beautiful 23 euros woman named right reynolds who spilled out this pathetic story how she had been abandoned by her husband to
a taken up with another woman and asked hamilton for money. hamilton said he would bring her that night and it would like to read to you from the pamphlet he later wrote about it what happened. that he said an evening, i put a bank bill and my pocket and inquired for mrs. reynolds and was shown upstairs. she met me and conducted me into a bedroom. i took the bill from my pocket and gave it from her -- gave it to her. some conversation ensued that other consolation would be acceptable. the had away with words in 18th century that was the start of the infamous reynolds scandal . not long after, his wife took the children to albany to stay in the schuyler mansion and hamilton started ringing her into the house.
philadelphia the town of only 35 to 40,000 people. treasurywas the secretary, the most powerful man in america and he was having this affair. it was extraordinarily reckless. charlie: why was he so reckless? i think there -- >> i think there had to have been an element of sexual compulsion. who would appear other than from reynolds but far ending the affair with his wife he starts to blackmail hamilton. until he was finally able to wean himself from relationship. they misunderstood it at for because they became aware that hamilton was making comments to mr. james reynolds. they were convinced that
hamilton was corrupt, which he was not so they said, he is paying money to james reynolds who is secretly speculating in treasury securities. pagemilton created this 95 pamphlet and said, the charge against me is in connection with one james reynolds for improper speculation. my real crime is an amorous connection with his wife for considerable time with his knowledge. hamilton must have expected that as soon as james reynolds appeared in so to blackmail him that he was risking his marriage and his career and everything. the affair was not revealed in the press until five years after the fact.
charlie: he knew what he was dealing with. a woman who was a prostitute. >> a prostitute who must have been extraordinarily alluring. hamilton made the statement, the variety of shapes this woman could assume -- apparently she was quite an actress and every time he talked about ending the relationship she would fly into hysterics. hamilton does say in the reynolds pamphlet that he thought her affection for him to have been genuine, at least one part of her. charlie: so he thought she had become genuinely attracted to him and was not just pecuniary -- this appeal to his vanity so he deceived himself that there might be some love involved and at one point he said that he decided on a gradual discontinuance of the affair.
as we all know, anyone who has an addiction that this becomes a cover story for further indulgence. charlie: was this the only affair of his life? >> the only one we are certain of. there was a lot of speculation that hamilton may have had an affair with his sister-in-law was extremelyr beautiful, elegant, and sophisticated but we don't have any definite proof and i am somewhat doubtful of it simply because angelico was extremely close with his sister eliza. the entire family endured alexander hamilton. if they felt he was having an affair with eliza's sister, they would not have. charlie: this is a pamphlet of not even 100 pages. is this a way that people communicated? >> this is a highly for your.
if you were a politician you were expected to write essays and pamphlets were almost the preferred form of political warfare. he would've felt very cultural publishing this in a public forum. this was a literate generation of politicians. charlie: it's his observations contained in certain documents for the year 1796 in which the charge of speculation against alexander hamilton, late secretary to treasury is fully reputed, written by himself. 1797. that, know why he put written by himself, because most of the writing he did in the press was anonymous. this was a novelty in a think he knew the impact that would have. i was not hiding, this was,
alexander hamilton and publishing the statement. it added power. charlie: he had an interesting statement in the island because he saw slavery firsthand. >> every year they would import 200-300 slaves from west africa and slavery was particularly brutal in the caribbean. when slaves arrived on the sugar islands there life expectancy was only three to five years. it turned hamilton into an abolitionist during the revolutionary war. he championed a plan to free any slaves willing to pick up a musket for the continental cause, than after the war he joined the abolitionist society in new york and it all goes back to that experience. charlie: but he saw the pirates ranked in the towns -- hanged in the town square? >> absolutely. for the slaves that ran away, he
would suit their hands cut off and if you cut off. it was a terrible experience. charlie: he wrote his way off the island? >> absolutely. through this brilliant letter that he published about the he came tond then north america armed with a few letters of introduction to powerful people. impressive. so he was like alton mount vesuvius of words. charlie: smart words. observations on everything. opinions on everything. >> he came to north america. he did not have a title, he did not have slaves and had no claim to fame.
the one thing he had was this top-notch brain. he had this magical facility with language that he used at every point in his life. charlie: he appreciated the power that he had in the confidence that he had and it gave him confidence, even to the point of taking risks? overweening almost confidence and sometimes took dangerous gambles as was the case with the affair of mariah reynolds but i think this entire life of these monumental achievements was all built on a very fragile psychological base that there was an underlying insecurity about him. he was also illegitimate. one cannot overstate what the stigma was in the 18th century to being a legitimate and whenever anyone accused hamilton of being illegitimate, he went to zurich so that in spite of this great show of confidence,
under the surface i think he was a troubled and insecure individual. charlie: you mentioned george washington, but also aaron brewer became a part of his life and thomas jefferson as well. aaron burrewer -- and hamilton had these parallel lives. burr was probably the first friend that hamilton made. aaron brewer tried to get -- aaron burr tried to get a job in washington's staff but didn't. charlie: same firm? >> no. they were opposing each other, but they were considered the two bright young lawyers in new york. charlie: different in many ways. >> hamilton was someone
constantly's -- constantly spouting opinions. aaron burr was someone who played things close to the vest. he was afraid if he went on record with an opinion that someone would come after him. charlie: sounds like modern-day politicians. >> very much like modern-day politicians. burr was extremely discreet. charlie: sounds like donald trump. >> he was this extremely mock of alien character, but when writing the book i thought the opposite. he could never keep his opinions to himself. he was really an open book. charlie: they could see everything about him. , helso what he believed in
said what he believed very deeply and was willing to fight for those things. charlie: did he admire thomas jefferson? >> that is a hard one to say. jeffersonhe admired as a political philosopher and thinker. charlie: powerful mind. >> as the main author of the declaration of independence. charlie: a writer as well. talent with a pen, great mind. >> interest in the world around them. but they instantly clashed. was a very courtly, soft-spoken virginian. jefferson did not like confrontation. hamilton loved confrontation. with thomas jefferson, if you said something that disagree with his politics, he wouldn't challenge you on it, he would just make a mental note, recorded in his diary and get back at you later. alexander hamilton would
immediately confront you. he loved to debate. the split between jefferson and hamilton really is on the one hand a political split, a debate we are still having. jefferson represented week central government, low taxes, strict interpretation of the constitution. hamilton represented strong government and liberal interpretation of the constitution. jefferson foresaw an american that would have traditional agriculture. hamilton foresaw the country that would have traditional agriculture, but banks, cor porations, stock markets, manufacturing -- a country that looks very much like the country we have today. it was hamilton who was the prophet of america's future rather than jefferson when it came to the economy. ♪
necessary. >> and was slow to realize just how deep and bitter the animosity between them came. he was quite startled when he realized. it was all most pathological, the infighting between these two men. beappealed to both meant to civilized in the way they are treating each other, but by that point things had gone beyond. charlie: we are talking about people who are, at what age? washington? >> washington was a good 20 years older than hamilton. jefferson was 12 years older than hamilton. he was very young. >> hamilton was the boy wonder of the american revolution. he was 22 when he became washington's aide de camp and effectively chief of staff.
he was only 30 years old when he became the treasury secretary. and hamilton's treasury department was much larger than the rest of the government combined. henry knox started the war department with a dozen people. jefferson started the state department with half a dozen people. hamilton started with hundreds of people. the country was bankrupt and we had to collect revenues. that is why hamilton was more like the prime minister than merely a treasury secretary. charlie: was his ambition to be president? >> i think his ambition was certainly to be president. a lot of people imagine because he was foreign-born that he could not be, but the constitution says you have to be 35 years old, nativeborn, or a citizen of the united states for at least 14 years at the time of the ratification of the constitution. hamilton, coincidental or not, had been here for 15 years.
he could have been president. charlie: do you believe these men follow themselves -- thought of themselves as immortal? that they thought and understood that they were historic characters? >> i think absolutely they did. i wrote a biography of george washington and washington, when complaining to the continental congress that he needs more manpower and money, he gets a special appropriation to higher a set of secretaries to create a beautiful addition of his wartime papers. when it is over, at great expense, he buys these large trunks to ship the papers back to mount vernon. he did not let them travel by water. he knew his place in history. they were aware. charlie: at the same time, he had some sense that he should give it up after two terms? >> when he became president, he
thought he would serve for a year or two than resign. then there was one crisis after another. charlie: does that mean washington did not have the ambition? >> he was ambitious, but he felt he had already sacrificed so much of his life to the cause. 8.5 years, he only saw mount vernon once. charlie: did everybody know about hamilton's affair? >> gradually the word got out. it was known in jeffersonian circles, but the risks hamilton took were extraordinary. it happened in philadelphia. the population at the time was 35,000 people. hamilton was slipping out in the night going to block or two away to mrs. reynolds boardinghouse. very often, the wife and children were at the schuyler mansion, so he often brought mrs. reynolds into his own house. he could he imagine that
would not escape detection? it's not like he was in new york or philadelphia today with millions of people. charlie: you said, it is amazing he would not have been more careful, knowing the enemies he had, and the tenor of the time he lived in where people would eviscerate you if they had an opportunity. >> we tend to think that the press is rough today, that the style is rough and tumble. nowhere near where it was then. the reynolds affair was revealed hitman inrsonian 1797. five years later when he wanted to get a postmaster jump from jefferson, and jefferson rebuffed him, he turned around and reveal jefferson's relationship with the sally hemmings. everything was fair game in those days. there is a certain image that americans have that there was a
golden age, the people wore wigs and buckled shoes. it was not like that at all. these men were passionate and argumentative. -- there is the dual this the duel. this long relationship with erin byrne. -- with aaron burr. how could that happen? >> it is hard for people to understand the cult of dueling. it was protecting your honor. culture was prevalent around politicians and soldiers. hamilton was a major general by the time of the dual with aaron burr. charlie: he was general hamilton?
>> major general hamilton. charlie: i appreciate this is a dueling culture and it is about honor and you do not lightly not meet the challenge, but here are two men. they are not ordinary politicians, they have a lot to lose. >> they also thought that they had a lot to gain. both burr and hamilton were politicians with their careers in decline. burr was the vice president, but jefferson decided to drop burr from the ticket in 1804. burr came back to new york and tried to become governor, hamilton blocked him. burr was feeling very frustrated. it seemed at every turn, hamilton was blocking his path. hamilton's career was in decline. he had been damaged by the reynolds scandal, he wrote a ve ry the two-putted -- vitup
uritive letter that damaged jefferson's reputation. they had careers in decline and thought they would establish their courage on the dueling ground. they were conducted in secret, but the press avidly followed afterward. hamilton no longer believed in dueling. he had developed a principled opposition, but thought that the public still believed in it. that if he spurned burr's challenge, people would consider him a coward, and he would lose his value as a soldier and politician. charlie: his son was dead at that point? >> his son had died in a duel in new jersey 2.5 years earlier. that was one of the reasons hamilton came to believe they were barbaric, but claimed the public still believed. charlie: who usually won?
the person who could shoot straightest? >> think of them as a violent form of conflict resolution. think of them as the 18th century equivalent of a libel suit. someone slanders you, you would send a friend to try to get an apology or retraction. dueling ground the objective was not to kill the other person because if you did, they could be prosecuted for was denounced as a murderer and charged with murder. the just give on the dueling ground was to wound the person then the second would come out and negotiate a settlement. charlie: you did not shoot to kill. ron: you did not shoot to kill. burr did shoot to kill. we do know from anecdotal evidence that aaron brewer unlike alexander hamilton was
taking a lot of target practice in the days and weeks leading up to the dual. duel. halton picked up a pistol a few days before and let it drop so a weaponhad not fired since the revolutionary war. charlie: does anything he wrote before suggest strongly or prove that he wasted his shot and shot in the air? second nathaniel burr firedaid that first. right, the one thing that everyone agreed on
including ehrenberg was that treeton's bullet hit a branch four feet wide of burr. charlie: 10 yards is not very far. ron: unless hamilton was wasting a shot the bullet would never have come up. one scenario if ehrenberg had -- if aaronand he first.d fired the second saw down the tree branch afterwards to preserve. founded the "new york tot." the editor would come
hamilton's house and hamilton would dictate the articles. were no pictures or illustrations. the interesting thing is -- this post."ally "the new york it says here as of this writing that alexander hamilton is still alive. they say we stopped the press to announce the melancholy knowledge that hamilton is dead. charlie: was he known as general hamilton? >> after the war he was often called colonel hamilton which he was. hamilton loved things military. he often was called general hamilton. he became major-general when john adams was president.
charlie: what is this? is a letter from burr.erg -- aaron this is a little hard to decipher. charlie: are you admiring about aaron burr? ron: no. lynn has great dramatic instinct so he presents burr as an opportunist. there are touching moments, there are poignant moments with burr even at the end. i can remember discussing with lynn early on saying to him, you be a lynn, burr can
cartoon villain. charlie: make him interesting. afterappened to burr that? withburr was charged murder in two states. he fled for sanctuary to the united states senate because he was still vice president, hence president of the senate. believe it or not, while he was wanted for murder in two states, aaron burr presided over an impeachment trial of the supreme court justice of the u.s. senate. there were a lot of senators who said what is wrong with this picture, the man who is presiding over this trial is wanted for murder into states. we are sitting -- he is sitting in judgment of a supreme court justice. people think the style of politics is rough these days.
nothing there those days. suicidalsaying he was would be wrong. he expected to survive. he had a legal appointment not long after the dual. he was still arguing landmark cases. he had a plan to write a series of books on history. he said that series would be through the federalist -- beat to the federalist papers what white is to water. hamilton who was very depressed, his son was killed in a duel, he wrong not -- he wrote not that the before the duel, shadows grow long around us. he looks very somber and ravaged. i am not saying he was not depressed but i do not think he was suicidal unless on some subconscious level he was. play, then the
musical, women play an important part. the they play -- did they play an important part other than the reynolds affair? abandonedather had the family, james hamilton was a feckless ne'er-do-well. his wife was accused of being a whore by his first -- her first husband. you can see from his relationship with his wife eliza and sister -- sister-in-law angelica that he needed companionship. he needed different kinds of women. wife, the good and pure angelica, the worldly and sophisticated. charlie: was angelica the love of his life? manuel has kept the ambiguity. everyone noticed the fascination between hamilton and the closeness and also eliza was not
interested in politics whereas angelica loves to talk politics. she was much more intellectual. charlie: she was also ambitious. ron: there was a way in which she entered into his political world. eliza presided over the family life and they ended up having eight children. charlie: here you have a man with all this promise, with this big brain and bigger pen, he is -- at age -- ron: 49. charlie: did america forget him? ron: his main political enemies were john adams, john -- thomas jefferson, james madison, james monroe, i will even throw in
john quincy adams and adam jackson. what you notice about that list? both hamilton's work president. the quickest road to the white house was to be a political pundit of alexander hamilton. so history is written by the victors. the federalist party disappears 19the first quarter of the century. the jeffersonians were solidly in charge of american politics in the years leading up to the civil war. of course it was and to petition of history that tended to be more sympathetic to jefferson and madison and demonized hamilton. ♪
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change the way you experience tv with x1 from xfinity. strong federal government and an ,nternational monetary system that part prevailed. ron: he rescued us from bankruptcy. the time that the government started. ,y the time hamilton leaves american credit is as good as any other country in the world. our interest-rate's are as low as any other country in the world and so he rescues us from bankruptcy. he creates the first fiscal system, the first monetary system, the first coast guard,
the first customs service, the first central bank, on and on. eliza, spendsife, her life, 50 years trying to make sure people do not forget. eliza has a beautiful couplet. i stopped wasting time on lived for 50 years. and inhered his papers, moment in 1848, she attended the groundbreaking for the washington monument. there was a one term congressman named abraham lincoln. you can see the founding
generation and the civil war generation. at that one moment, they meet and touch. charlie: you know your history and you know your president and you know your founding fathers. and you are a recorder of the american experience. what do you know about rap music? ignoramus a complete about hip-hop and rap and about lynn monroe. he invited me back in late 2008. i found out from a mutual friend that he had read the book and it had made an impression on him. aware ofd me -- i was his name but i have not seen the show. i heard that this hip-hop artist seemed interested in my book. charlie: what did they think? >> it was a little skeptical. -- i was a little bit skeptical. he invited me to a matinee, i
went backstage. and i loved the show. i was very charmed by lynn as a person. was -- he said i was reading the book on vacation and i was --ding, hip-hop started songs started rising off the page. i was flabbergasted. he told me he wanted to do an album and maybe his next show would be on hamilton. he thought hamilton was a rapper. ron: there was the secret, subterranean connection between alexander hamilton and the standard hip-hop narrative, people writing their way out of poverty and being combative and everything else. there is something about the speed and intensity and volatility of alexander hamilton's life. it is uncannily right for
hip-hop. great,w all this in a blinding flash and he made a believer of me. the very first question that i said, can hip-hop be a good vehicle for telling this kind of said i will educate you about hip-hop. he pointed out some things. you can pack an enormous amount of information in the lyrics. this has so much history. he pointed out that that's how much wordplay there is, how much internal rhyme there is and the founding -- there was a great linguistic richness. lynn has really captured it. in this idiom that combines standard 18th-century english with 21st century slang. amazing. charlie: when you heard the song. ron: he used to send me the songs by e-mail and i would just .ear him at the keyboard
he came over to my house and he sang the very first song of the , and set on my living room couch. he started snapping his fingers and he sighing -- saying the first song come the show. when he finished he said what do you think and i said that is most extraordinary thing i have heard in my life. you have condensed accurately the first 40 pages of my book into a four and a half minutes on. he told me he spent almost a year writing that first song because that song established -- has a --hat is revolutionized american musical theater. then there was the alexander hamilton song. once he had the style that was the big breakthrough. he made a believer of me very quickly. charlie: what was your role?
ron: he asked me to be the historical advisor. said he wanted the historians to take it seriously. that was music to my ears and i think this show has really integrity because sometimes when you see american history done by broadway or hollywood they start out by thinking it is boring. lynn is smart enough to know that the best way to dramatize the story is to stick as close to the facts as possible. you cannot improve on this. talkme went on we would about the portraits of the different characters and the relationships. i think i had a good relationship with lynn so i was not like a finger wagging pedant standing there saying this is wrong. also a sounding board and a lifelong theater lover. i would be looking at things that only as a story but as someone who loves theater. ofre are so many layers
meaning with this show. is writing and acting externally. there is so much happening simultaneously on the stage that the first three times i saw it i was concentrating on the principles and the foreground. i repeated things i started watching all of these beautiful vignettes that tommy and andy had created in the middle and background and commenting what was going on. i think more than anything that has been done by how -- hollywood or broadway this captures the fire, the energy, the idealism, and the passion of the revolutionary era. charlie: all actors of color. first timefor the that lynn invited me to a rehearsal. standinge eight actors in front of eight music stands and the first thought that went
to my head is there all black and latino, what is lynn thinking of? i sat down. they started singing and their voices were exquisite. within a minute or two i forgot what race or ethnicity they were. charlie: you thought you were listening to thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton. charlie: they were capturing all the energy. seenin a way i had never before. i went from five minutes of thinking what is he doing to become a militant -- becoming a militant of having this young, multiracial cast do it. the shows are showing us who we were and who we are now. these people had a feel for the no actors haveat
had. blacks, latinos, eurasians, biracial people felt excluded. this was a history that white males, a lot of whom own slaves. it is one reason why this show is such a phenomenon. it is the greatest advertisement for diversity we have ever had. charlie: it is not just another musical. is a social and political phenomenon. sees -- obama has come to it, the clintons, the cheney's, people from the the political world are flocking to it. of anounces the arrival new generation. butjust on the stage american life. i remember when obama was elected reading an article that try to explain his election by saying more than 40% of births in the u.s. are two people who are black, hispanic, eurasian,
or biracial. that is the cast we see on the stage. this is the new face of america. this new face of america, people who might have felt excluded before have embraced us. the pride thisn cast has failed in doing these roles. odom, jr. has said now my people get a piece of this history. i do not think anyone has said it better. it is deeply touching to meet to not only get to know and love the cast but to see how they have embraced this piece of american history. charlie: thank you, ron. ron: thank you. ♪
charlie: a continuing -- continuation about our conversation about politics, america and books and movies that may interest you. welcome to cuba. >> thank you. charlie: why did you want to come? >> the main reason is we were able to come. the idea opened up to do a concert here, we have done a lot of concerts at my group all i have the caribbean and
always been fond of cuba. i have been here once before. i thought when i had the opportunity we had to do it. we're the first to try and do it. charlie: this is an interesting month in cuba. you, president obama, and the rolling stones. >> we beat both of them. that was the goal. charlie: you're kicking it off. you're the opening act. you have said this is the most important show you have ever done. >> i think the pressure is on us to do something, it is kind of an amazing opportunity. right now i have done so many concerts, we have fans alter the world. this is a show we are doing free for the people. we were invited with the cooperation of the government. it is a very diplomatic opportunity. something important especially right now in the relationship between cuba and america. so unique, the first time in 50
years we were here to come in as a bridge. everyone thinks it is about politics. it is a lot a per. charlie: you have met some young people today. where was that curiosity? >> today we spend an hour doing a conference with young positions and i was amazed how specific the questions were sound cloud,ution, about mastering music, about the sounds i use. it was not just -- these kids were specific. they're trained to do this for living and i feel like what is amazing is that having this access to me is like having access to the internet which they do not have very easily. having me there to give them simple information, simple answers is huge for them. >> you are a way to find out how >> i wasks area did
surprised how knowledgeable they are. they are finding ways to find out things themselves. i was surprised a girl was walking around, she walked by the boombox. i could not believe she was literally playing our song as she walked by. she did not know who we were. we are a mystery. >>, chu recognition is there? >> not much. music, they are aware of who i was. distributedg through channels here. they do not hope -- know who we are. tomorrow they will see the whole show and get the experience. charlie: that is what makes electronic music so global. that there is the sound. it is not a song, not a vocal.
mark: i am mark halperin. and i am a john heilemann. you are in the no debate zone. president obama announced that he is nominating judge merrick garland. he has previously enjoyed support for both parties. he investigated a bombing two decades ago, and we used to read comic books, but now we are -- he relaxes by reading stuff ab