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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 13, 2009 11:30pm-12:00am EDT

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to become a farmer. never had he experienced such a sense of mission, opportunity and adventure. he was raging rebellion against the greatest empire in the 18th century. he was inspired by idealism and optimism that marked the radical wing of the revolutionaries at the beginning of the war. ..
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he was fascinated by the study of the law and the opportunity to read law with jeremiah gridley and to participate in the monthly meetings to discuss legal theory. but for some time even the practice he engaged in, but to a man of his instincts his intelligence, pashtuns, ayn gee the tedium of law had began to wear thin. the days of weeks of traveling on the circuit, boarding at crowded and inhospitable ins, the routine cases he handled, the boundary disputes, family quarrels, business squabbles, portended a life of drudgery. aside from the boston massacre, john's practice involved the daily disputes that made up the
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domestic lives of colonial americans. he longed for something greater. he wrote turley on his 37th birthday in 1772, the more than half of his days had run out and that the remainder of my days i show weatherby-- and yet i have my own and my children's fortunes to make. he hoped he wrote another time to provide for his children the foundation for a happier life then has fallen to my share. john had become bored if not disenchanted with his life as a lawyer in massachusetts. he continued its pursuits as his duty to provide for his family. and now, unforeseen by him and everyone else, he was running in revolution. his spirits pour refi, his mind
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engaged, his studiale became transcendent to preserve the liberty and civil rights of his countrymen. this did he stimulated his brain. it appealed to his ego. it bolstered his self-confidence. he discovered that the talents that had earned him success as a provincial lawyer, his sagacity in his speech. suited him as well in the larger theater. he had it right somewhat timidly at the first continental congress wondering how he would measure up to the great delegates from other states. to his satisfaction if not his amazement, he measured up. now he had joined with them in an undertaking that consumed his attention and his energies in the best of missions. he was liberated from the law. gis and became liberated from most of his family responsibilities because abigail, his partner, was a willing consort in his new mission and relieved him of
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family cares. if not a soldier, john could still be a revolutionary. and now, abigail. as it was for john, independence was on abigail smiled in that spring of 1776. and this was after the declaration of independence had already been signed. i suppose in congress that you think of everything relative to trade and commerce as well as other thing she wrote, the mooring before she afforded her own recommendations. she proposed that congress plays an excise tax on spirits liquors that would be equal among all the states. currently she pointed out of new england carry a heavier surcharge than others, which damaged their trade.
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sensing then perhaps that she was on a roll, abigail next introduced the topic that the delegates had purposefully avoided. i have sometimes been ready to think, and she backed into were subject before delivering her blow, that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures. artfully proposing her comments in the conditional form, she then stepped audaciously in to the hornets' nest of slavery that congress had cautiously avoided in order to maintain unity among the states while engaging in the war for independence. the one topic that would certainly spell the end of cooperation between the southern and northern states was slavery.
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abigail, however, reminded john that political expediency contradicted both morality and religion to say nothing of its hypocrisy. this i am certain, that it is not founded upon the generous and christian principle of doing to others as the blood that others should do unto us. abigail's distress about slavery was not new. she had written to john about the time of the dysentery epidemic that, it had been sent as a punishment for this end of slavery. even earlier, she had condemned the pervasive system that she saw practiced in her own state. i wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province she wrote to john, when rumors of a slave rebellion circulated during the chaotic days of september, 1774. it always appeared in most iniquitous seem to me, fight ourselves for what we are daily
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rotting and plundering from those who have a good and right to freedom as we have an she said, you know my mind on that subject. abigail had given careful thought to the form in philadelphia from which she as a woman was excluded. and there were a number of issues about which she was irritated because slavery was one. was she was ruminating on this paradox of the delicate talking and writing about liberty and freedom, while all the while excluding some groups from the benefit of ideological mission, she introduced another delicate topic. alone at kitchen table ed night, writing by candlelight as our household slept, abigail had the time to focus her mind and your thoughts directed to the formic philadelphia and to her husband. this was a moment to consider issues that were important to
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her. and so she initiated another seditious topic. i long to hear that you have declared independence she wrote, and by the way in the new code of laws, which i suppose it will be necessary for you to make, i decide you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them then your ancestors. do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. this was an audacious move. again, as she sat, her thoughts carried her to a territory that was more revolutionary than any american, a male or female, had wandered in the course of the rebellious considerations. slavery was the light specter that the delegates avoided, but the idea of the rights of women was so contrary to anyone's
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imagination, much less an expression in the halls of congress, that the issue would have been considered amusing rather than alarming. but abigail was serious, very serious. remember all men would be tyrants if they could. then, recovering her sense of reality, the reality with which she anticipated her claim would be met, she continued with a faint threats, and here we hear her teasing him. if particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. she covered her tracks with satire. mocking the same phrases that john and his fellow delegates used in their debates as her method of demonstrating the limitations of their objectives.
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abigail's command to remember the ladies has resonated for more than two centuries. it was the boldest statement written by an american women in the 18th century and for much of the 19th. as the demand for political rights. it came from the mind and the soul of a woman whose life had been transformed over a long decade of rebellion from the model of the new england matron, recapitulating her mother's life and that of generations of women before her into a rebellion of her own. she was the earnest. she had access. she made her move on behalf of women in an age when such a demand was no less radical than the state's rebellion against-- and as radical as her words were, as far out of context as they were from the mentality of most radicals who fought for american independence, they were
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still couched in the ethos that reflected her culture in hard times. so, that this might at the gil section. so, i would be happy to answer questions if you have questions. [applause] thank you very much. if you have questions come to the mic. >> thank you for your talk. very, very good. i am interested in all of the letters. it seems to me, from what i know, so much about the atoms comes from the letters that have been written. how were they accumulated and saved for so long throughout history? >> excellent question.
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thank you very much. they were saved because the addamses for a family who was aware that history was being made and that they were participating in history. john adams carried trunks of letters and papers around with him wherever he traveled, literally trunks. abigail of course saved all of her letters that she received from him and her friends. and so, all of those family letters were kept by both of them. in that era, both men and women practiced writing letters it for actually writing what they called a fair copy. so, generally there were two copies of the letter, the draft
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and the fair copy. abigail rarely copied, so her letters primarily are drafts and they were saved because john kept them andy had a sense of history. she very often wrote to him, burn my letters. i don't want anyone to ever read these letters. she meant that because she had beard her heart in her letters. john's letters, she kept but sometimes there are two copies, a copy that he wrote and then sometimes either his secretary or one of the children would copy it over in a fair hand, so sometimes with john's letters there is the to the recipients coffee or the roof draft. there were many letters between abigail and her friends as well. and, she had kept a lot of them,
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so what happened was their house was filled with boxes and trunks of letters, and the family kept them. finally, in the second generation they started to build a library, where they would keep these letters and sort them and when charles francis adams sort of the letters in the 1830's and 1840's-- this is abigail incheon's grandson, the son of john quincy, he threw out a lot of abigail's letters from her friends which is painful to us women today because he said those aren't really important. the important letters are the historical ones between adams is. so, a lot of for correspondence with her friends was lost. but, they were very careful, the atoms family was very careful to keep all of those letters, and
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they were sorted by every generation was given a responsibility of sorting and then binding the letters and they did that. they sorted them by dates and put them in two volumes. in 1954 the addams family burd not just with abigail's and john paul's letters but for generation of adams letters gave all the letters to the massachusetts historical society. the first thing the massachusetts historical society did was microfilm all of the letter so that there was a permanent record. you remember microfilm, it came in the '50s and '60s. it came before the computer. i read the letters mostly on microfilm because once they were microfilmed, the original copies
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of the letters were closed to historians. you can see them in the mass historical. you can only read from the microfilm, which is what i did and if any of you have ever read microfilm, your tolerance wears down very quickly and it first i would be for half an hour and then i would have to take a break and go outside and look at a tree far off to refocus my eyes. i got good at reading and i got good at reading hand. now all of this is available on the computer so if you go to google and you google adams, you can have these letters not only in their original hand, but typescript, so you can read the letters on your computer, from your home with great ease. this is the transformation that the computer has made.
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so, that is the odyssey of the adams letters. yeah, other questions? yeah, please. >> david mccullough's john adams. >> it is a wonderful book and he quotes a lot of john adams letters in their. and i am wondering how much of the duplication is there in your book compared to about one with of the letters? >> good. how do white differ from david mccullough? my emphasis-- i think david mccullough's john adams has been not only a service to john adams but to all of us. john adams was the least known of all of the founding fathers until mccauliffe's book.
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there were a few biography of adams but mccullough's book brought him to attention and since that time-- there have been a couple of television programs as you note and so forth, so it is a very wonderful book. and he gets john adams bob on from the first paragraph where he has john adams on a horse in a snowstorm writing from quincy, massachusetts to boston talking and talking and talking and that to me is john adams spot on. the mouth talking in every circumstance, inventively, creatively. mcculloch also likes abigail a great deal, but she is a subordinative figure in the book. she shows up only as a complement to john adams, and he
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doesn't give her what i call agency. that is, she reacts throughout the book. she-- you don't see her as an innovator. for instance, this passage that i just read you about remember the ladies, he does nothing with that. he does absolutely nothing. he quotes the letter and then goes on to something else. so, his abigail and john are out of balance for one thing, but the other thing is, he has john adams and the political and diplomatic world and i don't have to do that so much because he has done it and i have done more in the family world. well the political and diplomatic is there as well. there is also a difference of interpretation. my background is a feminist scholar.
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i am in scholar of women, and historian of women and it is most important to me that we understand that women were part of the historical past. and so my emphasis on abigail and on what women do and on the daily events in the women's lives is recorded in this book in a way that it isn't in a biography of john adams. yes sir. >> from what i understand, i watch the documentary on john and-- adams on public tv, and it sounded like jefferson played some dirty tricks on adams so he would not be elected, so jefferson would and i was wondering if-- i imagine that abigail played a bigger role in supporting her husband.
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did you find out much about that? >> yes, i know about that election and the fact of the matter is it is correct. we tend to think that we have lived and the age of dirty politics. and come up bad-- it was nothing like that age or if anything, it is not worse now than it was then. politics was played in this country from the beginning and journalism was a dirty from the beginning. journalists for instance could make up their stories, which provoked abigail enormously. she would be very angry because she would read in the newspaper that she had attended a concert the night before. well, she had not been there. or john had or george washington
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had. they made stories up and the newspapers and we note journalists don't do that today, right? report the news in just the news. journalism plays into politics. it is very important in politics. jeppesen became alienated from john adams. he was vice president in the early adams the administration and the left and he went home because their politics had grown apart. and, they came apart politically. they came apart politically early on when they were in europe but they both tolerated one another. but, during the adamses-- during john adams's the administration what happens was france was a very great threat and the french revolution had happened, and the americans, americans were
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sympathetic with the french revolution. and jefferson was particularly sympathetic with the french revolution because he thought it was going to be another american revolution, that was happening over there was the same thing that was happening over here and it took a very long time for them to discover that heads were flying, that has were being chopped off and there was a reign of terror in france and the revolution was different from our evolution. it was in fact a civil war. but jefferson was most sympathetic to france and its hickham and long time to become disabused of france. adams, during that time exercise the kind of diplomacy that kept the country out of war. this was the end of the 79. >> , his administration. jefferson and his party would have gone to war against either france or england. it was touch and go because both
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of them were stopping at the american ships on the high sea. adams wanted to pursue a policy of getting peace at any cost because he said, this nation is in no position to have another war, so soon after the revolution. we couldn't sustain another war. so, that was the major reason for the breach between them, but jefferson also thought that adams was exercising too much power as president and wanted a strong. government and he wanted a weak federal government. what jefferson did was first of all, wrote a letter to thomas paine who had written a book about the french revolution, extolling the french revolution and jefferson's letter of sympathy for thomas paine got appended to the introduction of
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that book when it was published in america, and everyone knew it was the criticism of that dems. the person who really knew it was the criticism of adams was adams said that made him very angry, this man of great passion. and then, jefferson did write a couple of letters that got published in this-- in the journals of the time which were critical of adams and adam saw that as a betrayal. and, he did things that we expect politicians to do in our age, but which we don't think our founding fathers and mothers engaged in that kind of politics. the second component to your question was, what was abigail's role? in campaigning for the presidency. abigail was not happy that john either took the vice presidency
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or the presidency but like everything else she went along with it because he had a duty to serve and she had a duty to serve as well. so it was that sense of duty that really compelled her to go along with this and not prevent him from taking office. did day campaign in a way that modern politicians? no, they didn't believe in campaigning. they didn't believe political parties even existed. there were differences of opinions but they thought all of us are in favor of the new constitution and the new government so there should be no political differences. there are shades of opinion, there are perfect actions. we look back and say they were political parties, they just didn't know it. the consequence was they did not believe they had to campaign. they didn't believe, they didn't
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know yet. this is an experimental phase in american history. everything they did was experimental, and so none of them went out on the campaign trail. john adams went, and expected everyone would vote for him, just on the basis of his record. not only jefferson was subversive, but john's arjun nemesis, alexander hamilton, and hamilton was really-- hamiltons campaign against adams for the presidency was the effective subterfuge that destroyed adams second candidacy because what he did was he supported someone else, and then a ty developed for the presidency and it had to do with things being
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complicated, the electoral college end of this mess that we have today that is-- was even messier at that time in history. that is how john came in third as there was a tie between jefferson and-- but john left the capitol city before the inauguration of thomas jefferson. he left at 6:00 in the morning, at daybreak and did not stay for the inauguration. he was so hurt. not only by losing office but his son, his second son had just died, and his son died that day. he learned that his son died the same day that he learned that jefferson won the presidency. he was not a happy camper that day, so he didn't stick around. are there other questions? well, thank you very much for coming and hearing about abigail
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incheon. [applause] >> edith gelles is the author several books, including "abigail adams: a writing life." she is currently a senior scholar at stanford university's michelle r. climate's institute for gender research. for more information visit gender.


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