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tv   Robert Watson George Washingtons Final Battle  CSPAN  August 18, 2021 12:40am-1:11am EDT

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was actually very worried i was having a heart attack. my father had heart attacks. our family history. so i was is worried, i was very worried about that. must've put my hand up to my chest because that photograph of me taken chose me lying on my back with my hand on my chest. i remember lying on my back but i do remember jason taking my hand and stroking it comforting it saying i would be okay. and being a little perplexed he was reassuring me because i did not realize i was showing how upset i was.
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>> from the national archives building in washington dc the federal city built on the site by the president washington the location for permanent capital hotly contested in washington advocated for a site along the potomac river not far from his own home of mount vernon when the commissioners of the federal district named a new capital for washington 1781, they not only honored the wartime commander in chief but his guiding role in the selection of the young nation seat of government. although to officially relocate they are shaping the national capital for years to come. in washington's fight favorite battle with the political skills to reveal how we work behind the scenes to establish the new city. the distinguished professor of american studies and senior fellow at the joint senate
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procedure citizenship. and then and not see titanic and as the editor of two encyclopedias with the american first ladies. and then on the board of the harry truman foundation. and the george mcgovern library. and then as a visiting scholar with many organization including the truman presidential library the ford museum, the holocaust museum in us military academy at west point so now let's hear from robert watson. thank you for joining us today. >> i'm here to talk about my latest book george washington's final battle.
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so virtually ever any schoolchild knows that washington was a relic and stoic and great courageous demand are on the battlefield and through every action and inaction everything he said it didn't say carved out the precedents for the presidency. and then as a visionary and dreamer and a political player. and those that have been to the capital city americans love their capital city it is spacious grand boulevard with memorials and monuments. to the tree-lined. but very few americans know the story of how the capital city came to be and almost didn't. that's why we're here today to talk about it. the story begins as a backdrop
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in newburgh new york along the edge of the hudson. and the head of the revolutionary war. so the main battle of the revolutionary war so that would be the last major battle of the war and that's what the british good and in new york city and in for almost two years they hunkered down there. with that new type of challenge to emerge. and without fighting the army had not been paid they were hungry in washington is
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worried the army would fall apart just as we were ready to seize victory in the revolutionary war. and in his images of newburgh march 1783 march 10 the world within the following fall there was a letter circulated in camp calling for immunity and rising up against george washington he was alarmed to say the least it appears this insurrection coming from inside his own headquarters and then on march 11 they met in a large building called the temple. for the newburgh conspiracy. washington decided to respond but did so brilliantly by letting the insurrectionist
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show their hand. then on march 15 he called for a meeting in the temple. they all gathered. instead of washington being there early and punctual he comes one minute late from the back door and walks up as others had shown themselves washington demands that they surrender the stage even as a two-part speech you can see the patients and the fortitude and those that are unexampled in history to say they are ready to rise up they cannot take anymore. you can see the argument with the artist affection there would be many more soldiers is not completely accurate but washington says how inconsistent with the rules
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how and military and subversive of all order and discipline washington lays it out and explodes like a volcano. can you be a friend of the country? after all that washington calms down. next slide. he says to the men i want to read a letter from congressman jones of virginia they have never seen washington where spectacles or appear weak as a man among children. he reaches in his pocket and pulls out a letter. for me the last few years he holds it at arms length and pulls out spectacles and put them on. washington shakes his head and puts the spectacles back in the pocket and says gentlemen i have not only grown gray but
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almost blind in the service of my country. after he puts them back in his pocket he said i ask only one more full measure of patriotism and patriotic virtue. stay with me we will when the senate tear comes out in washington walks off the scene talk about the theatrics of the moment and letting the air me down easy. then henry knox search other he general takes the stage asking the men to sign a document showing support of washington so that is the so-called conspiracy washington brilliantly puts it down but then when he realizes is this new government, this new country will be weak and fragile. it could be harder to frame a
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government and run a government than the opportunity to frame a government after newburgh he doesn't have long to wait this is a philadelphia mutiny just weeks later a group of several hundred unpaid disgruntled veterans march on philadelphia to constitution hall the assembly and elected officials are inside the building. it is surrounded by a angry and unpaid mutineers. citizens of philadelphia come out drunk and now the drunken unruly mob and angry unpaid soldiers ready to take legislators hostage congress is worried they have to flee for their lives and ask washington to put down the mutiny. washington tells them to go home. just go home.
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and for a second time he brilliantly handles a near mutiny. by this time washington realizes this new experiment will be very difficult. washington starts to put together a vision or a dream for what kind of nation we need to have so the war ends fall 1783 and the question is now what? what happens next we have a political economic and those who were loyal to the crown left and then the bankers and architects, the new young republic has little of schools and colleges and museums and few trained professionals. the country is war-torn. veterans have not been paid. the currency is worthless so
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it's the question of now what? so washington puts together a circular letter to the states which is basically his farewell and newspapers print this letter. you can see the beginnings of washington's vision with a strong nation, a capital city and a robust and vigorous government. washington says we have a debt of honor to repay our veterans in a national governing body. positive relations abroad , peace and to be united. this nation needs a sense of national identity. if you take a time machine back to 1783 and asked thomas jefferson about his nation he would answer virginia. it wasn't a sense of national
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identity but the states. washington knew we needed a sense of unity, national pride, national spirit, we need to come together as a nation otherwise this will never ever happen. so this country went from 1775 at the start of the revolutionary war. twenty-five years and without the seat of government that's the way to start a nation i made a list. you can see some of the possible cities considered over 30 cities considered as a possible seat of government but here's the problem everyone in connecticut wanted hartford or new haven everyone in massachusetts wanted boston
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but nobody wanted the capital to be in another state they all knew that power would be an economic boom and nobody wanted to have another city to have its only got but for 25 years there is a fight over where the capital city should be. next slide. we were working under the articles of confederation it took several drafts and years to ratify the articles but the unicameral legislature they cannot raise money to pay back the veterans they cannot govern it was wholly into factual we lack the capital city, the functioning government. and this is what washington responds to. next slide. on everyone's minds
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, washington ways in and we are either a united people, united for federal purposes or 13 independent sovereigns contradicting each other. and then to say i see no greater evil than this union. political factions or parties start to form. the north against the south the eastern seaboard seaboard versus the west and then the federalist and anti- federalist instead of the opposition party it is obstructionist arrangement with gridlock. washington is upset and this is where he emerges. in this vacuum. we have shays rebellion in the 1780s farmers are rising up we need to declare war against their own government states
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can't agree how to trade whiskey or corn and washington says we have errors to correct we need a stronger government washington asked alexander hamilton to get involved and in 1786 he calls for a convention in the city of annapolis everybody argued and then walked out no way to start a government. and then to push with hamilton for a convention the following year, 1787. going back to philadelphia hoping lightning strikes twice improve the articles with a new constitutional system of government strengthen the government to find ways to move forward in a more united way. what we don't know is people know all about the founding of
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the dates over slavery, the electoral college how we pick a president. the other founding debate was if we should have a capital city. multiple capitals? what should it look like? we could not agree on one capital but at one point to satisfy everybody even ben franklin to have multiple capitals because nobody wants congress to come to the city. and the trojans get a horse and then congress would hide in and get out and do its business. this was the other founding debate. multiple votes from george washington and other framers that the debate over a capital city was even more heated and contentious and more ruinous
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than all the other founding debates at the constitutional convention in philadelphia. but the debate almost undermines this nation just as we are getting started. these are the other founding debates. next slide. and george washington has a vision for the country. washington state with the destiny of an born millions the most explosive the fate of the entire session. and then proving to be pregnant with difficulty in danger so washington is very cognizant that this debate could undermine the country. but yet without a strong capital city that the country could not endorse so as a vision proposes the following things. number one. a strong national government. number two, to unite the
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people behind the national character. only a capital city could do that while government isn't seen as critical a great and glorious capital city gives credibility to the new fledgling republic. washington wanted a grand capital city for the ages. washington wanted rome built on the potomac river. also had what they would call potomac fever he was not well-traveled about the potomac where is equal to the danube and the rhino put together. but it connected that community next to it and
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rivers were important in the day primitive transportation and rudimentary communication. and the potomac flows westward. and with the images of the tributary word run west of the ohio territory of pittsburgh and so forth and so on so then to connect north and south and east and west would serve to unite the new capital city with the atlantic ocean. so on and so forth. that is washington's vision. next. in the constitution with the debate over the capital city, article one, section eight it is the capital city should be 10 miles square. that is 100 miles.
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so almost laughably will be larger than paris, london, the great capitals of the world that yet built in the words but where would the 10 miles square be? the initial argument was new york city would serve as the interim it supposed to be march 4th 1789 be he is late and is not until april . so washington is inaugurated in new york city late april and new york city at federal hall you can see a picture and his home on cherry street. and it would be better than interim capital nobody would see happen —- seem happy with
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new york city it was slow to ratify. that's why hamilton and james madison wrote the federalist papers so they would even ratify it. washington was worried do i do this is not even ratified does that undermine everything? and it seemed nobody liked new york city unlike today. thomas jefferson claimed to have ten months of winter and only two of summer and this belongs on the company of springfield and they spent only months in new york city and then there was a deal cut. next slide.
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and then on june 20th 1790 probably the second most famous dinner party in history behind the last supper. the dinner party, jefferson, madison and hamilton. and hamilton was their nemesis. there were two big issues to contend with and wish of the capital city b and then how do we build that? or a glorious romanesque capital. we were in debt after the war. so jefferson calls for the dinner party and then what would happen with the dinner party to resolve all the issues and hamilton would play them like a guitar to play
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victim to get everything he wanted. virginia said were not paying our debt. the south did not want to pay the debt hamilton wanted the debt to be paid and says you don't have to pay your debt but little did jefferson know if the south will not pay the debt then that means the federal government can come in and assume the debt under the treasury. who was the secretary? hamilton one of the most powerful americans one of the strongest federal governments jefferson wanted a weaker federal government. hamilton giving up they don't have to pay their debt it was a guarantee hamilton would get a strong federal government, a bank and a strong treasury. he gets whatever he wants even if he claims that he lost so where will the b-uppercase-letter? jefferson and madison went in the south and virginia.
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they did not know what hamilton knew that george washington already decided the capital should be in virginia near his home. hamilton gave up the capital would be there and something that was already done so he plays jefferson and madison and ultimately jefferson once a simple town of only a few week or so hamilton agrees so now jefferson submits his own design anonymously and then picks it but he didn't know that it went to washington and washington said no but with the 1790 to solidify or codify the spring compromise the capital is in virginia but then ten years later meanwhile in the interim in philadelphia while they build the city that his name for washington and
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that is the residence act of 1790. but votes fail and here you see washington playing political chess master. if you wanted to flip the book vote washington strategically picked members of congress and that with them personally and would flip every single vote to get the votes he needed. washington not only picks the location to help survey the land. washington helps sell the plots and raise money in washington helps to decide what buildings would go in it.
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>> although classically educated but on the grand and those squares filled with monuments and memorials. he did not like jefferson's vision of a small federal town. and then he will answer to no one to anyone then washington and more difficult than he was worth some account say he was fired others said he quit happened about the same time so it was all of the above. here is the image of l'enfant capital city to run diagonal and horizontal next to the potomac river and there is the national mall that we recognize today. the great squares and grand boulevards and intersections name for the states l'enfant
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is inspired by rome and paris. and those that will define the great city today. washington not only picked a frenchman, a foreigner but an irishman to design the president house who was also well educated and design beautiful buildings in charleston south carolina washington immediately fell love with the design and it reminded him of rome and it looked like marble so he pushes by hiring him and they build a presidential palace. so there is good and bad news with brilliant spot —- stone nations. and then to rely on slave labor.
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and then in the capital city it was cheaper and then to run out of funding. >> you can recognize that from the white house today this is holben original design. they were not sure what they would name it but everybody knew it would be named for washington somebody proposed washington opelousas some of that being said is ridiculous others times i think i like that. he would win the revolutionary war and resign from power once so he's the greatest man alive because he did what no man did voluntarily relinquish power. he would do it again after the presidency leaving king george the third to say washington is the greatest man of all time. he is the father of this
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nation. but one of washington's great legacies it is his vision and that stewardship is the oversight to reduce the great and glorious capital city with a sense that gave americans a sense of american identity and then to help unify the country and the degree of civility to give a legitimacy in the eyes of the world and the great and glorious capital city. we say washington slept here or there but the one place he didn't sleep he would die 1799 and then 1800 the city would open up and washington's last words we can only imagine he was thinking of his wonderful
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capital city and that is his true legacy. thank you everyone. coverage of l gaithersburg book festival? maryland. >> hello and welcome to the 2021 virtual gaithersburg book festival i am your host for this

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