tv Brad Meltzer John Mensch The First Conspiracy CSPAN July 5, 2020 7:36pm-8:31pm EDT
opened became the most important person in the whole world was easiest thing of all reaching out, i reached out and he reached back. so again, forgiveness. i love every single person who supports these books i love those that helped me escape and the best way not running that running together. thank you for letting me do this for 20 years. [applause] here he is at politics and prose
bookstore in washington, d.c. in 2019. >> hello, everyone. i'm a member of the event staff and i would like to welcome you all on this cold evening to politics and prose. just a few quick notes before we get started, c-span is here with us tonight and we are also filming for our own youtube channel so if you could take a moment to silence your cell phone please take a moment along the same lines when we get to the q&a portion of the event, we have a microphone up over here we want to make sure we keep the dialogue running. books are available at the register.
also fun and an interesting books that make great gifts to you might want to pick up a couple of those as well which is of course why we are here the secret plot to kill george washington. writing history with the same command that made him one of the finest thriller writers he tells the story of the plot to assassinate george washington. looking back, he shows the iconic view was brought with uncertainty. it was anything but a sure. only to become the target of the plot nonetheless. they call it an excellent book beyond fascinating but fans of
thrillers and american history. in conversation with his co-author and award-winning documentary television producer for the networks lik network lid discovery. please help me welcome to politics and prose. [applause] we want to welcome you here. this is my first hometown bookstore and i can talk to because i used to live here that this means a lot to me. yesterday i was in new york which meant i had to deal with all of my relatives. you have relatives in new york if you are laughing. i understand. i want to first say thank you.
it was a big deal and i've done all the books at this store so first round of applause. [applause] i want to introduce very quickly i found this where all great stories high become in the footnotes. and irony to remember reading about the secret plothat the sel george washington. is this true, is this nonsense or internet made-up stuff but it was true.
when he found out about it he gathered those responsible and took the co-conspirators and hanged them in front of 20,000 people at the point of the thatt public execution in northern american history. george washington brought the hammer down but do not mess with me. i am george washington. i am going to be on the money one day. it is a quote which is pretty amazing also. [laughter] i was fascinated with it and when i started, i thought how do you figure this out. i went to the pulitzer prize-winning author and i said to him you know this story and he said there' there is no modek written on it except the stuff
he knew was wrong but he said i have to tell you this involves washington's spies. you can find exactly how many he owned and you will never find all his spies. by nature he said what you are looking for will forever be elusive. the best you get the book out of it for the worst worse, what has when you have an adventure. i love an adventure. i couldn't get it out of my head by the time i spoke to joe. and that is when i knew i got it right but it wasn't going to take off. the first thing i did is josh and i to give you a background, i told him what he was doing. i knew i had to call him because we met while working on our tv show, lost history. lost history, the title of the show was brad meltzer's lost
history. i said what are we having for dinner tonight because -- she said you can go sleep on brad meltzer's couch. we worked on it together and our goal was to find the 9/11 flag the firefighters raised at ground zero that have gone missing. we were able to find it for days after the episode aired a. we got a phone call from a guy in washington state who identified himself as a former aryan. he said i stole the show lost history of the stories he told. this is the flag i want to return it and the reason they returned it is because he's the executive producer on the show and did research and we were able to go and see in new york city. we spent a year authenticating
it and working with the head of the unit and we got to unveil it. one of the most amazing moments of my life. he was by far the single driving force. i told him you are an incredible writer. i would love to work on this with you. he was like i've never written a book before. my publisher they were sending all these writers that had written books before but they were just missing the good parts. to make a good book you've got to take out the parts people skip and put in the good parts. it sounds silly but he is right. he knew those little details like george washington one of the first things he did when he
was put in charge of military was he startethemilitary was heg books on how to be a better general. that is the kind of detail that tells you the mindset. we found this amusing story and i don't want to ruin it because i will miss out on the buck but we will see details like george washington had his own private bodyguards. he asked them to give me your for best man. washington, then himself and now down to about 50 people. then they called them the
general cards, the commander cards, but the name that stuck was the lifeguards because their job. i know this is also the moment they watch comes from, but it had nothing to do with the beach or swimming but they were going for washington's life. these were the men who turned on him and became involved in the process helped george washington. i don't care how strong you are, that is devastating.
somebody was scared and terrified him thought they couldn't go on. there were moments they thought they could never do it but they decided to go forward. i love this fact that's what the book does is explores george washington when he is not the best, when he is and doing everything right. one of the first things he does when he finds out about the plot is they put together a secret committee. many were led by john j. of course the first supreme court justice and it's bigger than it was smaller to those in the secret committee. it's john j., governor morris and that is what they trusted the circle and they are the ones kicking down doors during interrogation. that's what happens in those moments as you can see the first
counter intelligence agency being born right there as they are trying to figure this out. the typical father of counterintelligence. and we all know that the it's really this moment not military with civilians seeking out information to try to find intelligent, using it. george washington had this military but also great defense. it's not just the plot against george washington but also the counterintelligence to ge tickeo see if developed piece by piece and one of the things i loved his enough to imagine us as like
indiana jones and throw the idle and with. that's how i picture us pretty much every day. the reality is most of these things are online, the founders online it's a beautiful resource to use but no one wants to read some of these things. we got to read it and full credit to josh arrived was a great expert to find these things out and i remember we were constantly talking about will be find enough information. and i remember him turning up the transcripts of the secret tribunal and i remember when you called me for that and i was like here we go, now we've got
together and saying. we have these different regiments. he didn't know each other or like each other or even wear the same uniform. regimens were wearing something different than the massachusetts one where it was something different than virginia. there was a scene i loved in the first conspiracy where you see a meet the regimen and they are wearing some things on their uniform. there wasn't any lectures today. sometimelike there istoday. sometimes it was just wearing work shirts. they were making fun of them and they are all fighting each other and george washington comes in on his horse, gets of off, grabs two of the big guys and is shaking them basically saying stop fighting with each other we are on the same team. where we are today, that's where we are. and i love right now we have leaders and politics who will
tell you how american they are. there was no flags bac flag bace united states back then. george washington had to help build it by willing it to happen. the men he was dealing with the word also a mess. 10,000 men came to fight in all the rich people were like i don't want to be here if there's a war, and leaving. they want to drink, gamble and go to the whorehouse. george washington is the proper virginia gentleman horrified by this. the general orders you'll see come out no gambling, stop drinking, don't go to the courthouse, just like my rules growing up. [laughter] same thing. not even joking. [laughter]
we've lost in america the word united. we've forgotten it. it's important to find something. i think first and foremost among them and this is the part you get to see the death of george washington's character in the book. one of my favorite things about we get to the q-and-a handle anl that stuff but it's the battle for clinton. we think we just bandied together, we fight but we got our rear ends kicked. he didn't have the experience the british generals had. our soldiers were being outfoxed. held fought. they barely have shoes let alone the.
they get totally -- is over. george washington is pinned on east river. he should be dead and it's over with keyword different leader he would say we are going out in a blaze of glory to take out as many show them who's who and show them what a man he is. george washington doesn't do that, he does the best thing he always does, he adapts. he plans off a daring escape in the middle of the night. they commandeer all of the votes they can on the east river and one by one in the middle of the night start putting these men on the votes. the key moment george washington won't coun get on the boat of hn were on first. there's this man, george washington in absolutely risking his life for theirs no matter how high or low the ranking. there were moments before, it's not like a single moment about
them together of course but those are the moments that created the united states, where we are united and realize what is important. again, i hope in those moments do you get to see the tip of his character and humility and i key should be someone we look up to and i think that is the greatest part of a conspiracy does. it's titillating to say we found that was far more interesting is to see why it matters today and we need leaders like that and that is why george washington matters. with that i'm going to turn over to my friend and i will sit here and judge whatever he says. [laughter] don't worry, c-span is watching. can everyone hear me.
i won't talk for very long so we can get to the q-and-a debris they want to sabriefly want to k you to politics and prose for hosting this event and a willingness to be here. thank you for inviting me on this journey and writing this book and i will say quickly he eluded to this a little bit at a time now when they any measure there's a lot of political turbulence and disagreement and divisiveness and confusion and fear, the ability to research history and learn about history is so important and vital if you go back and look at the times in history when things were uncertain and no one knew what was going to happen if so illuminating and informative and helpful to study other periods in history and i think it was a privilege. hopefully those of you that the book will sort of go on that journey with us and find something to announce low and
hopefully they will find it entertaining. that's all i have to say. >> you can ask about whatever you want, you can ask about this book but also about the thrillers, the kids books, anything else we do. >> this is the one place someone tells you what's wrong with your book. >> full disclosure my name is chris jim mcburney and i'm excited about the footnotes as an author who thinks the point
was to get out of washington as opposed to kill them. i am not convinced it's necessary to kidnap. it could have been either but i'm curious how you arrived at that conclusion. >> thank you for proving my point. [laughter] i love the right. there's nothing better than being right on national television. thank you. i should have paid you to ask that question, but thank you for bringing this up. to clarify a little bit, we debated the title a long time. the plot to kill george washington, and again this is in the book but there are some people who say the point was to kill him and some who say the plot was to kidnap him. when you look at what they did with anyone they kidnapped at a lower level in the military if he were a lower level officer if
>> and then they let him go. and i like the ending and something that happens in my thriller i change the ending. and i like that character i kill him that because i'm a fiction writer to be even more scrutinized for this to say can you just change history and those that are on the subject most want to tell you flat out here's what happened and that is one of the
questions because i woman who disappeared we had leaves to find every single one we found the 9/11 flag and the hitler diary obviously the people you are talking about right now and tell this on national television i promise this will happen. we will get a letter someone related to these people enable say here's my family history and what really happened.
that's more than get credit for just what you to know. [laughter] and that comes from those who know the truth out there. >> entertainment weekly talk about the influence on your work and chosen. >> so the question is from politics and prose and everything he has war and is asking about entertainment weekly asked me to write his obituary which was obviously this crazy honor. and not one that you want.
and what i wrote online of social media and adapted for them. and it just poured out of me i didn't think about it. it was my feelings that this man it was so nice to me, stanley had died and when i heard he died everything came out of me and what i mourned in that moment we know spiderman and his creations and co- creations fantastic four or black panther or x-men all these amazing creations. with the lessons that they shared were so good in the foundation of who i am. and it is vital and no one says that anymore. no corporations says that no
advertisement says that. but i feel those are vital lessons that we want and need in got them from a kid from comic books. if you look at stan lee's original writings in the back from the sixties these are the early sixties he would have a fan soapbox. he would write racism is a terrible thing. if you are going out there someone is different because of their skin color or religion or where they are born that something is wrong with them that is wrong and stand against that he is writing this on the back of spiderman comics. telling people in the most impressionable moment and i love that. i love that stanley has the soapbox to use it for good and justice and equality we all love those words.
whatever your politics are we say we stand for those words because of where they are born if you do that, you do it wrong. in this whole thing came out of me and i put it on facebook and my twitter page the only thing that i have written that has really gone viral. i was watching the news that night. it was on cnn. those are cool words. weight. that's me. [laughter] then he said can you adapt this for the call and we would like to make this his obituary. what can i say? that was humbling. i knew him because i was researching the book superman for one of my books. and they say you have to interview stan who was there at the start as a 17 -year-old
kid. i got to talk to him and he was always nice to me anytime i needed anything he was the first to say how can i help i him for his kindness ball those lessons he gave me. thanks for asking. >> when i think the american revolution i think of a personal betrayal against george washington. how does this story fit in chronologically to that did they have an influence on his reaction. >> benedict arnold i have been a different book on him and of course the great betrayal of george washington i went down to the national archives years ago and they have treasure vaults there and it's where
they keep the best step in the open the drawer and pull out a sheet of paper that looks like an index card the oath of allegiance is one at the start of the revolution and george washington wanted to swear an oath to make sure not to betray us. all the oath are numbered in the corner monday hand me with the gloves on oath of allegiance number five we still have those we still ask military men and women raise your right hand and swear your allegiance. that this number five was signed by benedict arnold.
that was like a silly name people call each other don't be a benedict arnold but in this moment downtown here in dc and i'm looking at the sheet of paper, benedict arnold at some moment he swore this oath and used this pen to write his name and suddenly became a person it's an amazing moment of history i can tell you that when he escapes and runs he immediately writes a letter to george washington and the letter is hand delivered by alexander hamilton and not in a song and wrap. [laughter] no that joe does not do as well is new york one - - ohio. [laughter] and the letter says don't kill my staff they did not know and he also says please return my belongings like a girl who
wants the record collection back and amazingly george washington send it back into this day nobody knows what's in those belongings nobody has any idea. i certainly would not have been as nice that story became the basis for a book that i wrote one of the thrillers that i wrote that obviously my up session with george washington and betrayal is huge i'm telling you all that to say obviously all of that happens far later. this is all 1775 rest of 1776 and then part of the war we don't do the benedict arnold side. >> the only thing i will add is what is so interesting that
one thing he brought with him from virginia as brad said he is a virginia gentleman and had a sense of honor and a code of honor to believe in very deeply. with the notion of institutional honor if you are part of an institution like the army he created, your actions reflect on the entire institution and really believe this. yet through the course of his leadership he kept encountering situations where people on his side was betraying the army and it was hard for him to understand how anyone could do that. it was happening again and again. so part of the story is how george washington comes to terms with the fact not everyone has the same notion of honor that he does.
he has to control all officers and soldiers to instill the idea that does not come naturally too many people. that some of the tension george washington adjusting from the ideal in his head to the reality of the people around him. it's a fun and interesting part of the story. >> a lot of this happened between washington and jfk. are you now motivated to take on another presidents attempted assassination? >> who you doing next? i appreciate that question. it gives me a moment to tell you what is coming next. josh and i are working on our next historical deep dive. it is not jfk. i cannot tell you yet because they want to announce it. we just had a great time doing it. we didn't know what to expect.
i cannot speak for josh but we love doing this together. we both have a similar drive working on a tv show together at that like his voice was most like mine and he send stuff i send it back and it's the merger of it that is the best part of the process that i will say the next book that comes out by me the next book in the im series a series of kids books i am amelia ehrhardt, i am abraham lincoln. and lucille ball.
and that's because we are all a long time ago and feel these.this is my name it is helen what is your name. but is donald trump and hillary were fighting it out as the election was approachin approaching, something crazy happened and then to provide everything and that november that were leaders. and that has taken off from that moment that's a perfect
and how we can say officially now pbs is making a cartoon series it's called the xavier and secret museum. to go on adventures. and then come to the president and in the meantime working on the sql that's coming back in paperback next month. >> are you going to make the im stanley? and that's a good question i will sue for my rights back. yes. he is on the list.
100 percent. mostly you hear me speak schuster and stanley yes i want to do the im book. who is your favorite? >> jim henson. >> you have the parents. [laughter] not everyone here has good parents. [laughter] do you have all of them? >> now. >> say mom and dad if you love me by the false that. [laughter] you can use the books for anything. if you love me and then just filled out and with whatever you want. is that they are? [laughter] now they then guilt it intimate. >> can on - - into it. >> can you describe the football game 20000 is a lot of people.
>> every bit of evidence that there is on this incredibly dramatic day in 1776 about one week before there is a public hanging the 20000 people watching the continental soldier hang with all officers watching and those nearby and that's one of the things that made it big into the story why don't people talk about it more and then to imagine a dramatic event. and not only the declaration of independence but the eve of the first great battle revolutionary war. when americans and to some
extent to be surrounded by these incredibly huge events. we were totally fascinated by it and hopefully they will read the book and learn more. but it was defining at the time. there were rumors and newspaper reporters. people writing letters. it was fun and a first-hand account are amazing to read. you can see how quickly misinformation gets out there. and that is what is going on.
for like twitter or any other game of telephone on to what has happened and why. you will see that people are inventing new words when 20000 people watch something there is evidence. and the official narrative yes you said in your last answer look at the dates of when it happened. and that's why when we asked.
and that his own men had turned against him. ucl there is in the book and one of the key ones is june 281776. that's when it happens. the first draft of the declaration of independence is writer that one - - write about then. to be investigated it sad to say but even 20000 people watching a man hang is a footnote compared to those headlines that take over the world. you can find the story. most good george washington biographies fit in there. so there was no modern book
and this is a story we need to tell. that's why we sit here today. >> this is a little bit of a fussy question. with the im series if you were to write a historical fiction book when we did you start? >> for me, it's funny if we could not find this would be it. there is nothing there is nothing from the hangings nothing i tend to not want to go backwards but make no mistake it was a history major in michigan this is always the time. i loved most. there is a reason why the first ever nonfiction book we
are doing is set in my favorite part of history and i think it's because the best stories are not the one to entertain you but tell you something about yourself that's why the bible is the bible is not a list of rules to live by it was the ten commandments but it's a book of stories. nothing in this world more powerful than an idea is just a collection of those ideas and the reason those persist and we talk tonight whether jim henson and kermit the frog or stanley and superman are george washington, to me they are all the same story. i understand some are imaginary and george washington is real. but to me all the stories are what we aspire to as human beings. to be our best of what we can be every day.
time and time again the most important part of the story is not superman but clark kent. we are all clark kent. showed me who your hero is i will show you who you are. for us right now, i know to say the threat against george washington, but what i love it enlightens that moment in time to show us more about ourselves. we tell the story in history class right now the declaration of independence it is signed and then we went and he's the president next section. maybe it's because we love the whitewash. we do. especially about ourselves and how great we are maybe because we have a lot of information to cover. but i'm not inspired when it's easy everybody's banded together we beat the british. impresses me when it's hard. i love the fact when you read
this book you can help it read the book and say what happens if he dies? i can't believe the question nobody asked tonight what you think happened that's what you're begging to be asked writing something about this. when you see he's not the leader who wins everything. in the battles is a win and when he loses and retreats and loses in brooklyn and loses on long island and goes to jersey in connecticut he just keeps retreating, george washington does. the only thing he won't do is give up. he never gives up. that's why the british say that's enough. [laughter] and i love the fact you can see how hard it is you see what the person that you
looked up to how hard it was for him to thank you to politics and prose and c-spa c-span. [applause] i love you guys. thank you so much. >> books are available at the register if you decide you would rather not wait in line we have signed copies available the line will start right in front of me please hold up your chairs. [inaudible conversations]