tv Robert Watson George Washingtons Final Battle CSPAN August 17, 2021 7:50pm-8:21pm EDT
comes later. thank you for writing the book and thank you for sitting down with us. i'd like to welcome you to mount vernon someday soon. >> thank you so much to you and everyone who walked on, really appreciate it. >> thank you to everyone joining us tonight. i hope to see you in may, we have an exciting program coming up and we will see you again soon. have a wonderful evening. ♪♪ ♪♪
>> i come to you from the national archives in washington d.c., the federal city built by our first president george washington. the location for permanent capitol was hotly contested in 1790 in washington actively advocated along the river not far from his own home mount vernon. when the commissioners of the federal district named the new capitol at the washington in 1791, not only honored the wartime commander-in-chief but also acknowledged the guiding role in the selection of the young patients of government. he did not live to see the government officially relocated, his vision shaped an optional capitol for years to come. george washington's final battle, robert highlights washington's political skills and reveals how he works behind the scenes to establish the new city. robert watson is distinguished
professor of american studies at lynn university and senior fellow at the florida joint center for citizenship. the author of numerous books on history and politics including the ship of brooklyn, massey titanic hit america's first crisis, the war of 1812. the editor of two encyclopedias the american president in american first ladies. professor watson served on the board of the harry truman foundation, the memorial foundation and the george macomber library and center for public service. also served as the visiting scholar with many organizations including the truman presidential library, the fort presidential museum, illinois holocaust museum and u.s. military academy at west point. now let's hear from robert watson, thank you for joining us today. >> hello, everyone, i am here to talk about my latest book george
washington's final battle. the epic struggle to build a capitol city and a nation. virtually any american schoolchild knows george washington was heroic and stoic. he was a great courageous commander on the battlefield and of course one of our greatest presidents getting through every action and in action, everything he said and didn't say pretty much carved out the presidents for the presidency but what we don't always know is the george washington had another side to him. he could be a visionary and a dreamer and he could also be a political prior and political chest. by the same token almost all americans have been to our capitol city, americans love their capitol city, it's spacious, grand blvd. with memorials and monuments, majestic government buildings, trees lines for very few americans know the story of half the capitol city came to be and almost didn't come to be and
that's why we are here today to talk about it. our story begins the backdrop begins in newburgh, new york. this is among the edge of the hudson at the end of the revolutionary war not too far today from fdr's park so the main battle of the revolutionary war was the battle of yorktown september and october, 1781. that would be the last major battle of the war. for about two years, there was what we could call the cold war, the british hunkered down in new york city, george washington and the americans went up the river to newburgh as you see here and for almost two years they hunkered down there, it would be washington's longest headquarters but a new type of challenge emerged. that was the challenge, without fighting the army had not been paid, they were hungry, cold
winter after another bitter cold winter in washington was worried the army would fall apart just as we were ready to seize victory in the revolutionary war so go ahead and go to the next slide. what happened in these images of newburgh? march of 1783, march 10 the work would end up following fall. march 101783, there is an unsigned letter circulating in washington's camp calling for mutiny, rising up against george washington. washington was alarmed to say the least, it appears this insurrectionist coming from inside his headquarter march 11 the mutiny met a large building of the temple. next slide. for this so-called newburgh conspiracy. washington decided to respond
but did so brilliantly by letting mutineers, insurrectionist show their hand. march 15, he called for a meeting, they all gathered. instead of washington being there early, he was always partial, he comes a minute late from the back door. he walks up the general gates and others have shown themselves on the stage, mutineers. washington demands they surrender the stage and then has a two-part speech. one, he explodes and can see it here. the patience and fortitude, long sufferings of the army are unexampled in history so washington says the army has swords in their hand, ready to rise up and after limits. they cannot anymore. next slide. you can see here his argument, there's a address to the army, there would have been 20 more
soldiers, so this isn't completely accurate. consistent with the rules of propriety, how on military and order and discipline, washington really lays it on and explodes like a volcano. can you be a friend of the country if you are a mutiny or? then washington calms down. washington calms down and says i want to read a letter from huntsman jones of virginia. the army had never seen washington, the army had never seen washington appear weak or older, a man among children, a massive and powerful men. washington reaches in his pocket and pulls out this letter he wants to read. he holds it at arms length pulls out spectacles and puts them on. no one had seen him wearing glasses. washington shakes his head, put the spectacles and butter back in his pocket and says
gentlemen, will you permit me to put on my spectacles? not only known grape up almost blind in the service of my country. after he put them in his pocket, he asked from the heart, i asked only one more full measure of unexampled patriotic virtue, stay with me, we're going to win this. a tear comes out of his eye washington blocks off the stage. talk about the theatrics of the moment and letting the army down easy. after he does, general henry takes the stage and asks the men if they would sign a document showing their support of washington. they charged the front of the stage to sign the document so that is the so-called newport mutiny or conspiracy. almost an uprising at the end of the war, washington brilliantly and theatrically puts it down but what he realizes is this new government, this new country is going to be weak and fragile, it
could be harder to prima government and run a government and it was to fight and win a war for the opportunity and after newburgh, he doesn't have long to wait for another challenge. next slide. june 201783, just weeks later a group of several hundred unpaid rental veterans march on philadelphia to the building we know today as constitution hall, pennsylvania assembly, some of our nation's elected officials are inside the building surrounded by angry unpaid mutineers. citizens of philadelphia come pouring out drunk now you have a drunken unruly mob and angry unpaid soldiers ready to take legislators hostage. congress is worried in the pennsylvania assembly worried and flee for their lives. they asked george washington to
put down the mutiny from washington tells mutineers go home. just go home. he pardons people and for a second time he brilliantly handles a near mutiny. by this time washington realizes this new experiment and popular government is going to be very difficult. washington starts to put together a vision, a dream if you will for what kind of nation we need to have so the war ends fall of 1783 pretty much the question is, now what? what happens next? a political and economic and civil fracture, the royalists, those who were loyal to the crown, they left. that meant the bankers, the architects all left. this republican little in the way of schools and colleges and museums and libraries, a few trained professionals from other
country is war-torn. veterans have not been paid. the currency is worthless so everybody on everyone's mind has the question, now what? you had an answer except george washington. so washington puts together ports known as a circular letter to the state, basically his farewell newspapers around the country print this letter and you can see the beginnings of washington's vision for a strong nation, a capitol city robust vigorous government we have. washington says we have a debt of honor and repay our veterans. we need a national governing body, we need more trade, positive relations abroad, we need peace and mostly we need to be united. this nation needs a sense of national identity. if you were to take a time
machine, 1783 asked thomas jefferson about his summation, he would answer virginia. there wasn't a sense of national identity, not a capitol letter united states, a small q, the states so washington knew we needed to set unity, national pride, national debt. we need to come together as a nation, otherwise this will never happen. next slide so this country went from 1775, the start of the revolutionary war all the way until 1800. twenty-five years, a quarter of a century without a permanent capitol city, without a seat of government, no way to start a nation without having a capitol city. you can see some possible cities that were considered. over 30 cities were considered as a possibility for capitol. everyone in connecticut went to connecticut, everyone in delaware wanted -- if in
massachusetts wanted boston. but he wanted the capitol to be in another state they all knew political power would follow the capitol, and economic boom no one wanted another city to have a leg up, everybody wanted their own city. for 25 years, there is a fight over where the capitol city should be. we were working under the articles of confederation, a league of friendship. i took several drafts and years to radically they didn't have a president or ports, it had a camera legislature and that's it. they couldn't raise money to pay back veterans, the so we lack the capitol city, we lack functioning government, good luck with that and this is what washington response to.
next slide. on everyone's mind, it was written in newspapers, have we fought for this? washington poison and says with her are united people in federal purposes or 13 independent sovereignties. contradicting each other, washington speaks and says i see no greater evil. the north against the south, seaboard against the west, more rural areas and within these the antifederalists instead of one being in opposition, much like recent years it's an obstructionist with gridlock. washington is upset about this and in this vacuum, this is where he emerges. next slide. we have shays rebellion the 1780s, farmers are rising up
to declare war against their own government, pennsylvania and new york are fighting one another. states can't agree on that cross state borders. washington says we have errors to correct. we need a stronger government. alexander hamilton, to get involved and 1786 hamilton calls for convention in the city of annapolis and maryland. the problem, only a handful of states showed up, everybody argued and embarrassingly walked out. that's no way to start our government. washington stays with it, with hamilton for convention the following year. in 1787, they are going back to philadelphia hoping lightning strikes twice. we have to improve the articles and ultimately create a new constitutional system, the government strengthen our government and find ways of moving forward in a more united way.
next slide. what we don't know his people know all about the founding debates over slavery, electoral college, over how we put the president but there was another, i always call it the other founding debate and not over should we have a capitol city? should we have multiple capitals? at one time to try to satisfy it was ben franklin through cap the idea that we should have multiple capitol. it was like agent, the trojans they would get a horse, a giant trojan horse in congress would hide in and going to each city and congress would get out and do its business that this was another founding debate. we have multiple from george washington and other framers the debate over capitol city was even more heated, even more
contentious and even more potentially ruinous than all other founding debates the convention in philadelphia. it's just as we are getting started so those are the other founding debates. enter into this, george washington who has this vision for. washington states the destiny of unborn millions involved. it's the most explosive debate of the entire session and followed up you. proving to be pregnant with difficulties and danger so washington was very cognitive of the fact that this debate can undermine the country yet without a strong capitol city they did not know what the country could endure.
number one, strong national government. number two, he wants to unite the people behind a national character. only a capitol city could with that. our government is not as credible, a great and glorious capitol city we give credibility to this new republic. the ages, thomas jefferson and others wanted a simple federal town, washington wanted on the river near that river. there were not well-traveled, washington felt they were having to defend. it's hardly equal to one of those bottle and all of them.
the community future capitol city with chesapeake for access to the offender, rivers were important and rudimentary communication. also it flows westward and unite maryland, pennsylvania and the roads from the edges would run west and ohio territory and so forth so he would connect north and south as it was equal business between the two in east and west and serve to function and serve to unite the new capitol with the unit ocean and so on and so forth. that's washington's vision. in the constitution over the debate over the capitol city, article one section eight agrees that the capitol city should be 10000 square from about 100
miles. that means the capitol city most laughable, it will be larger than paris and london, great capitals of the world get built out of wood. the question remained, where would this square be? initial argument was new york city would serve as our interim, washington is inaugurated march 4, 1789, this is washington arrives even later yet, maybe still getting dressed. washington is inaugurated in new york city late april 1789, new york city and where young
washington used his residence, new york city would be an interim capitol. no one seemed happy with new york city, so to ratify the constitution and this is why hamilton and james madison wrote the federalist papers and if new york city would even ratify it. was worried, but i got to new york city, it's not even ratify it as a state. but i even be the president if we don't have a city? it seemed like nobody unlike today where everybody likes new york city. thomas jefferson claimed new york city set spring and fall may never have as far as i can learn, we have ten months of winter, only two of summer. i set up new york city for the company of springfield describing new york city as overrun by hogs and garbage and not much else. they spent on the months in new york city and then there was a deal.
the deal would be cut in new york city june 20, 1790 and was probably the second most famous dinner party and history, i guess behind the last supper. the dinner party was between, and you can see the pictures that jefferson, madison and hamilton. madison and jefferson for allies and by federalist hamilton was their nemesis as a federalist. two big issues trying to contend with. one is, where should the capitol city? the others had republic? glorious capitol. the second argument was the assumption, we were in debt after the war so jefferson calls for the dinner party, they are going to team up and defeat hamilton. what would happen at the dinner party was they would resolve all these issues and decide basically where the capitol would be hamilton would end up
playing jefferson and madison like a guitar. he played victim and got everything he wanted. he said we are not paying our debt. the south didn't want to pay the debt so he surrenders and says okay, you have to pay your debt. if the south is not going to pay its debt, what that means is the federal government can come assume that under the treasury and who is the secretary of the treasury? hamilton. one of the most powerful americans and if hamilton wanted a stronger federal government, jefferson wanted we could federal government. they pretty much guaranteed hamilton park after strong federal government, a bank and strong treasury so hamilton gets what he wants. the second argument is where is
the capitol going to be? jefferson and madison pointed in the south but they didn't know what hamilton knew, washington already decided to capitol should be in virginia near his home so hamilton gave up the capitol being there, he give up something already done so he plays jefferson in medicine. jefferson fonts are simple federal breakdown of only a few acres so hamilton agrees to take it as a contest and jefferson takes care of the committee to pick the winning design. it appears jefferson submits his own design anonymously and then picks up. what jefferson didn't know is even though he said here's the design when it went to washington, he said no, we are going to pick it. 1790, solidified or codified, the capitol would be in virginia for ten years later and
meanwhile it would be philadelphia while they built the city eventually named for george washington, that's the residence act of 1790. george washington blank political chest mass, flipping about, he but he did. washington strategically picked a couple of members of congress and met with him personally and flipped every single vote and get his vote needed. washington would play it, washington not only helps location of the capitol and picks the architect of the president's house, washington felt survey the land, washington helps the plots and raised money and helps decide what buildings would go in it so washington, washington, washington. it is his near obsession so
washington fixit, a great selection. florence blvd., public squares filled with monuments and memorials and did not like jefferson's vision of a small federal town so frequently he designed the capitol. unfortunately he answered washington and turns out to be more difficult than he was worth. some accounts suggest he was fired another said he quit. they both happened about the same time so it's all of the above. here's capitol city which he recognized today, great fear of running diaconal or horizontal, the national mall we all recognize today. you can see the great squares
and grand blvd. that intersect and so forth. inspired by comparison even though, it is his design that continues to define the city today. not only a foreigner but he picked an irishman who designed the president's house. he was well educated and design beautiful buildings, washington immediately fell in love with the design and reminded him of rome so washington pushed by hiring him and they built a presidential palace. running to construction problems confronting problems so there is good and bad news so they brought more europeans, they
would rely on slave labor so yes slave labor is a big deal of the capitol, the president's home capitol city because it was cheaper and ran out of burning bright. here's the image, you can see, you recognize that the white house today, his original design which was constant and let me bring this to a close simply saying they were sure what they were going to name it but it's named for washington. they think it's ridiculous and the other part thinks i like that. his, he would win the revolutionary war design in washington's the greatest man but he did what no man did, voluntarily leaving first power. washington would do it again after the presidency, king
george the third to revise the statement. he is father of this nation's legacies, his vision for the capitol city, washington's every action, his stewardship and oversight zero and i gave america a sense of american identity to help unify a degree of stability including our way in the eyes of the world and we had a jeanine this great and glorious capitol city. washington slept here, there and around the country, it would be the one place he didn't sleep. number 14, 1799, a little less than a year later november 1, 1800 is on the capitol city would open up all, one can only
imagine thinking about his wonderful city he invested so much of himself and. ♪♪ >> weakens on c-span2. documents american stories and send a book to be brings the latest in nonfiction books. ♪♪ >> you think is just a community center? six. no, it's way more than that. ♪♪ comcast along with these television company supporting c-span2 is a public service. >> hello and welcome to the 2021 virtual