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tv   Akhil Reed Amar The Words That Made Us  CSPAN  August 25, 2021 8:36am-9:40am EDT

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>> c-span deceased online store. there's a collection of products, browse to see what's new. your purchase will support our nonprofit operations and you have time to order the congressional directory with cup contact information for the biden administration. go toc-span . >> good evening, i'm with the new york historical society's president and ceo and i am thrilled to welcome you to tonight virtual program with "the words that made us: america's constitutional conversation, 1760-1840". i'm grateful this evening for the wonderful support of je mc realty for htsponsoring the program tonight. i'm also delighted to welcome these guests and thank you for your great partnership. before i introduce our speakers i want to recognize
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the new york historical trustees for joining us this evening . first and foremost the chair of the board of trustees janet schaffner, the chair of our executive committee and trustees dorothy goldman, brian kane, jane reed, and tonight's speaker, akhil reed amar will be joining us momentarily on our virtual stage. i'd also like to thank the chair counsel, we are so very grateful to each and every one of you for your encouragement and support especially at this challenging time. we are pleased to welcome akhil reed amar back to our virtual stage. peace starling professor of law and science at yale university and before joining he clerked for an associate justice stephen breyer when
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he was judge for the court of appeals for the first circuit . akhil reed amar is an adjunct professor at columbia law school and author of the recently released book "the words that made us: america's constitutional conversation, 1760-1840" joining us as moderator this evening is richard brookhiser, senior fellow at the national institute, a senior editor of the national review and author of numerous books including me liberty: a history of the americas ty sectional idea and john marshall, the man who made the supreme court. it was historian curator for 2004 exhibition, alexander hamilton the man who made america, i was delighted to be able to work with him back then and in 2008, president george w. bush awarded him the national humanities medal
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in the white house ceremony. tonight's program lasts an hour including 15 minutes for questions and answers. the questions can be submitted via the q&a function on your zoom screen. in the interest isof simplicity we have disabled the chat function tonight so please do remember to use the q&a. our speakers utwill get to as many questions as time allows. and now i am happy indeed to chair our virtual stage over to the next speaker. thank you.>> thank you lewis. thank you i keel for joining us. always a pleasure and honor to be at the new york historical society. it's always a pleasure to be with professor mark who i'm going to call i keel for the rest of the evening because he's a dear old friend. and has been for years. and he's written this terrific book, the words that
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made us, america's constitutional conversation. 1840, 1760 to 1840. and your book covers a lot of things that you would expect to be covered in such books. you u talk about the federalist papers. you talk about the constitutional convention . but i think a lot of the real richness of this book and what impressed me so much about it is it's richness. it's things that maybe are less expected, maybe a little surprising. and i want to start with two words from your title and your subtitle. i want to start with words and conversations. which you know, maybe the first thing that people would think of when they think of the constitution and its history and its development so cwhat conversation are you talking about. who are the people in it,
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what kind of things are they saying. >> they begin as british subjects in the new world and i talk my talking to each other, in newspapers especially but in letters, in face-to-face conversations, they talk themselves into becoming americans. they begin to realize whether they're up in massachusetts or down in virginia or in still other colonies, my story begins with 1760. they begin to understand what they have in common with each other. they're talking to britain initially. they see themselves at the beginning of my story as british subjects in the world . they're trying to persuade their brothers and cousins and friends in britain that britain isn't treating them well. and yes, i think some people
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don't maybe focus on this idea of conversation. the constitution is a test text, so it's words of course but it comes to life in and the, and an ordained. the constitution and act and that isn't just putting the document to a vote. and epic vote up down the continent, a vote which more people were allowed to say aye or day that had ever been allowed to vote on anything significant in world history but it wasn't just a vote, it was a series of conversations and people were for the documents, other people were more against it . evil on the middle were on the fence and they were listening to both sides and newspapers , you are a journalist. newspapers and the print media are indispensable to this product ordained the
8:43 am they're talking initially about becoming americans, that will become the declaration of independence and then eventually they talk themselves into becoming indivisible he americans. one nation i, indivisible, that's the constitution and they do it ethically through words, through pictures, political cartoons. some very highfalutin stuff, the federalist papers. some simple stuff, poetry, limericks. it's an amazing inclusive robust uninhibited ride wide-open distinctly american experience. >> a free-for-all, that's not, what we're talking about more than justbig names . and you do cover them. you cover the people on the presidential placemats and the people in our wallets and
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our change purses but this is the most vigorous conversation. the cast of characters is much bigger than that. it is and so for example, act i, scene one is about someone, he's a big name but he's not a household name, james otis. he's a firebrand of the american revolution. these new englanders henry and john adams, they say he was patrick henry before he was patrickhenry . i tell the story in that chapter of three people who are going to be significant over the next 15 years, my story starts in 1761. one of them is skeptical of these people who all will call themselves patriots. he actually is the most prominent loyalist. american-born loyalist on the continent by 1775 and what's stunning is that most people even really well read people
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really know his name or don't really know the story. thomas hutchinson, he's going to become the royal governor of virginia, of massachusetts . when my story begins he's lieutenant governor, he's american-born and if you had asked someone as late as 19 the or so or definitely 1765 which of these two famous boston born smart people is going to end up supporting american independence and who's going to end up siding with the king, benjamin franklin or thomas hutchinson, those boston born, both really smart people would might have said it's going to end up supporting the king . it's a legitimate son, is the royal governor of new jersey and hutchinson will side with this fellow new englander or something so that people that are more of you are the thomas hutchinson by actions and in particular because i want my audience to see there was another side even to the american revolution.
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if thomas hutchinson were alive today, my analogy would be he's mitt romney. he's harvard educated, he's a traditionalist. he believes in hierarchy. he loves his country but his country is britain and he loves his hometown which is boston and if he had been lucky enough to have been born 20 years earlier he wouldn't have had to pick between them that he does, he ends up taking his game so i do try to widen the cast of characters beyond thebasics . first presidents, washington, adams, jefferson plus of course franklin and hamilton . >> you just mentioned cartoons and you also mentioned patrick franklin so in a way your title almost sells your conversation short but it isn't just words, it's also images involved in this. tell us about this great cartoon that franklin generates.
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very early on in the conversation. >> he's such a genius. he invents bifocals. he invents the lightning rod. he invents social institutions, the first secular university, a lending library, a philosophical association but he also invents the world's first realpolitical cartoon . it's not from britain like hogarth. it comes from america. early on in america is a democratic culture. it's simple, it's a picture, it's 1754. it's a picture of a snake cut upinto pieces and he has a slogan . it's the first viral meme. join or die.
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in 1754 he says the colonies have to work together with britain to defeat the french in the country. this is in the early stages of what will become the french and indian war and in this very same, on the very same page in 1754 of the newspaper, using the favor magnet. if you were alive today he might be rupert murdoch or something like that. on the same page that there's this picture of the snake this viral meme, hashtag join or die he's also telling his audience about a young 22-year-old military officer from virginia who bravely is confronting the french. his name is george washington and he's going to get himself in papers up and down the continent, 50 different references at age 22 and were going to hear from him again but that join or die cartoon which is so simple, it's not high art so it's easy to replicate and cartoonists up and down the continent start
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to copy it sort of like retreating today. because your list, printers don't really pay a lot for content yet, they're not paying scribblers like you and me to write stuff, they're basically yes, there publishing proceedings of local assemblies, grand jury pronouncements, judicial opinions but also republishing things that have appeared elsewhere and if you're in new york reprinting something from philadelphia or boston or london , this join or die image, it goes viral first. in 1754. 10 years later when the colonies are being to unite against london , it has a rebirth and it's going to lead to the stamp act congress where the colonies to join together and 10 years after that it has a rebirth.
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he hibernates and then he reawakens. he's like a phoenix and in 1774 he reawakens for the continental congress, the first continental congress in franklins philadelphia which is going to involve joining against britain and if you don't join you will die. and eventually, this meme is going to be the single best federalist arguments for the constitution. you have to hang together otherwise britain will cut us to pieces or france or spain. it's a geostrategic argument for an indivisible union my gosh, franklin is seeing a version of that, a more british version of that as early as 1954, he puts it in a simple picture that ordinary people can understand and three simple monosyllabic uwords that make a powerful political argument . join or die. he's inventing, he's
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imagining twitter or just how many characters, is not even 140. it's instagram, it's amazing. >> point or die but he's smart enough to stop where he's ahead. we want to enget back obviously to george washington but you raised here a very important point . i think this was one of the most striking points you make . what is that america's constitutional development and its conversation isn't t just happening entirely in our own borders. it's also being impacted over andover again by the world . and talk to us more about that. what is our position in the world have to do with our thoughts about how wegovern ourselves ? it's affected by oceans, right?
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>> we are if we join together. if we don't going to have to land borders between south carolina and north carolina and georgia and maryland and pennsylvania, the mason-dixon line and pennsylvania and new york and so on so the genius of franklin and washington and hamilton at the atlantic ocean will be an amazing mode that will protect us against the old powers of europe but only if we unite and we don't fight each other and europe can actually play us off against each other and a divide and conquer fashion. we have a united policy towards the west and make it a national domain and not just virginia's backyard or pennsylvania's territory or connecticut even wants a piece of what becomes ohio . so the western reserve. yes, americans as early as
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1754, franklin and washington are beginning to see the possibility of a world at war and the constitution comes out of our revolution. it's part of a larger global global struggle. our audience, this is very impressive, very sophisticated historically. of course if ayou ask them when did the first world war starts they would say it started in 1914 in the european baltic. no, it started in 1754 america's backcountry when a young officer named george washington gets involved in confrontation between the two great superpowers of the world. france and england and that's going to eventually, the
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things that happened in 1754 connected to join or die in a thing called the albany congress in which some of the colonies that get together is going to become the world's first global war. sucking in the two great powers, the two greatest powers and other european powers get involved in action and this war which we call the french and indian war, the rest of the world is the seven years war is going to involve conflict on multiple oceans and multiple continents in the new world and the old world simultaneously. it's going to culminate in a massiveread drawing of the global map . california would move from the french column into the british column and no conflict in world history before had ever involve multiple continents, new and old, new world and old world, multiple oceanic struggles. it's the first world war and it's the same time it's generating that world war, a
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world conversation because warships can move troops more quickly than ever. the trade ships can move newspapers back and forth more easily than ever and london newspapers are being read and boston and boston newspapers are being read in london and both of them are being read in philadelphia and new york city and charleston so you're beginning to have actually ya genuine world conversation and it's a conversation about constitutional first principles like what should be the rules for the empire. and britons having one candidate who's going to have to pay for this really expensive war and they think it's only fair that americans chip in. there the big beneficiary, they just got rid of a huge french threat to the british colonies so they're going to start imposing taxes immediately afterwards and. the seven years war
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conventionally begins in 1757 and ends with the treaty of paris in 1763 and the aftermath of that to pay for that war, britain is going to try to tax america and that's going to eventually lead to the american revolution and the american revolution will be the continuation of a world war which eventually rants will jump back in and eventually the audience might not know even thoughtheir sophisticated , the evamerican revolution was one part of a larger global struggle. britain has to defend colonies in india, and in africa. keep troops at home so the french invade, we might think we won the battle of yorktown but there were 2 french fighters on land and sea for every american even at yorktown. we were part of a larger world struggle and at the time we are puny. 3 million americans, 10 million brits, 3 million french.
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>> washington in a way stockholm us with his frontier frankness but by yorktown he's their commanding the american army. and then in the next decade he will become the first president of this new country. and you have him and you praise him as a constitutional thinker and this might strike peopleas a little odd . you know, we know george washington was a great man. we think of him as a great general obviously. we think of him as a great executive but he didn't write any federalist papers. he didn't write the declaration of independence. he was at theconstitutional convention but he hardly said anything . and yet you identify the very
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important constitutional thinkers. so what is his contribution to this conversation and how didhe make it ? >> substantively and methodologically. he is the indispensable man. without him there is no constitution that looks remotely like the one we have a let's take this idea of conversation, the method . people have to speak in conversation but you need someone to listen. he's not a talker or a great writer for a pamphlet but he's a very good listener. >> ..
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>> he writes letters to people. he's a wonderful correspondent and his correspondence in turn, pun intended, they're like network correspondence today. they're giving him intelligence, information from all parts of america and eventually even from across the water. he's asking lafayette what's happening in france and chambois. so he writes and receives more letters than anyone other than thomas jefferson and our audience can confirm this by looking at the national archives foundation, free to everyone and searchable and how many letters go back and forth to washington. he's a wonderful listener. he's unanimously elected and even who vote against the constitution vote for washingtonment and he's unanimously reelected because he's trying to unify the
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country and hold it together. he's a symbol of union. now, substantively, moving from the method that he listens to everyone and he's sober. john adams, we love john adams you and i wrote a book and the family, but he's not a great listener. and thomas jefferson is so ideological, he can't hear what he doesn't want to hear. sounds familiar because we have that problem today and i'm so impressed that washington, who doesn't have strong ideological commitment is just like let's get to the facts, you know, i want to hear both sides carefully and then i'll make up my mind. so jefferson's not the world's best listener and john adams is not the world's best listener and some of these people are better at projecting, but now, what's washington's substantive idea? union. he, just like franklin,
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understands join or die and on the page join or die appears and on the same page there's a reference to the young officer george washington. this is benjamin franklin talking about george washington at age 22. he understands from a military point of view that unless the colonies hang together -- now independent states in 1776, they're done for. so his idea, he's a continentalist and who is at his right hand throughout the american revolution, basically or pretty early on, alexander hamilton. alexander hamilton to borrow a phrase, alexander hamilton american, and this is from the book. he isn't just about massachusetts the way that john adams might be or virginia the way that thomas jefferson or james madison. alexander hamilton doesn't have
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a singular loyalty to one state, but ends up coming to new york. he comes from abroad and loves america as a whole and he tries to summon into existence so the key idea is union, join or die, national security, and if we don't create an indivisible union which is what washington is advocating in the early 1780's, and continentalists, they will be the first federal states far more influential like madison wrote federalist and a geo strategic argument for union. and we could have a huge moat called the atlantic ocean, we won't need a huge army and hard for them to kill us if we don't kill each other. and like the union of scotland and england. britain had 10 million people
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and they beat france with 30 million people. how did they do that? good capital structure things like that. washington has good understanding of banks and jefferson not so much. and the strong, indivisible union between england and scotland, the model for the more perfect union of america. when england and scotland are different kingdoms and they're at each other and mary queen of scotts get involved and that's conclusive to liberty. union will lead to liberty. he has an army on the continent, after yorktown, he's the only one with an army. he didn't make himself king or emperor, he could have, but he understands that liberty and union are one and inseparable and he says that during the revolutionary war and he says that actually in a letter that
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acompanies the constitution itself that we've got to move beyond state sovereignty and he says that in his farewell address written by largely hamilton, so he listens to everyone and the big idea, we're all americans. he's a southerner who understands the north and spends time in the west. the embodiment of the american union and the continental army is the only genuinely continental union that exists. and the confederation congress is local basically. he's franklin's snake. >> there's another virginian, another veteran who you also link to washington and to hamilton who outlived both of them, not only outlived them, but stays in office many years after they're gone and that's john marshall.
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and what is his role in this conversation? >> so you mentioned that we're friends and one of the things that i'm most proud of, i'm proud of my work as an author, but i'm also proud of my work as a muse. i try to inspire other authors. my favorite authors and i try to learn from my favorite authors, both you and i really respect gary wills who is interested in images and so i do that with cartoons, okay? but i encouraged you early on to write a book about lincoln. there are only 18,000 books written, but we need another one by you, lincoln's relationship to the founding and i love that book. i even helped you, i think, with the title. >> you did. >> i gave you a title and told you write about john marshall and you did and it's a brilliant biography. you didn't use my title. my title for that one was "the
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last founder" and yes, actually madison outlived marshall by a few years, but madison has been out of office since 1817. okay. so and he dies in 1836 and then marshall pre deceases him, but marshall is in office as the chief justice for 34 years or so. so he is the last founder in that he is continuing to have a impact into the 1830's where hamilton is-- excuse me, madison is out of-- so franklin dies in 1790 and washington dies in 1799, doesn't see the new century. and hamilton is killed in a duel in 1804 and famously adams
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and jefferson die on july 4th, 50th anniversary of the kek declaration of independence. marshall is in power and what is he doing? he's vindicating marshall vision. he's caring for the continentalist flag of george washington under whom he served at valley forge. if you were at valley forge with washington and hamilton, as marshall was, you understand we need money, we need to support the troops, if we don't, we're dead. adams wasn't there. jefferson wasn't there. madison wasn't there, they don't feel it in their bones the way marshall does. he's a nationalist and carries forward the vision. he has immense respect for washington, he was the
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biographer. hamilton was a brilliant lawyer and he used hamilton's legal ideas about the banks and many other things and within other thing he does. he's a nationalist figure and also being a good listener. i talked about the relationships between some of the founders. so jefferson and madison came up and adams makes enemies. he's a loner. he teams up only with abigail. he first hates thomas hutchinson ab then in a feud with hamilton even though hamilton was trying to help him in various ways and he starts off friend will i -- friendly with jefferson, but then they become rivals. teams are important. jefferson teams up. hamilton and washington teams up and marshall finds a teammate, the great joseph story and they work
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particularly well when they combine north and south. in particular massachusetts and virginia, okay? so marshall is virginia, story is massachusetts. think about all of the other virginia-massachusetts teams. retorically, james otis from massachusetts and patrick from virginiament and first president and vice-president, george washington and adams, worked together in 1776 and so did jefferson and adams, again virginia and a massachusetts person. adams is vice-president, is a virginian, thomas jefferson. one of jefferson's vice-presidents is massachusetts gary, he's going to be one of madison's vice-presidents. so the north-south team, massachusetts and virginia is important, so, the answer to your question, the last founder, he strengthens the
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judiciary and he's a washington man, a hamilton man and a continentalist and he finds a partner for another reason and he and story together makes an impressive team just as washington and hamilton do, and just as madison and jefferson do. >> i think it's fair to say that both of us, if we're not exactly members of the federalist parties, we're very sympathetic to it and you know, this has been animating our talks. say something about thomas jefferson, after all, he is who he is. what does he add that's precious. >> so let me begin by saying, as a young person, i adored jefferson and was very skeptical of hamilton and you and other people changed my ideas about hamilton.
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vin miranda, and the book and rick changed my idea of hamilton and if it rises then jefferson falls correspondingly. and if you asked me in college, and we went to college together if i ever have a son i'm naming him after jefferson. and especially the young jefferson, he's such an idealist, he dreams of a world that could be better. he's the architect of what would become a north-west ordinance that proposes initially to end slavely not just in the northwest, but in all western territory and he dreams of an america that's open to talent. he's going to help smart kids
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who aren't born of privilege to be able to rise because of their native ability and academic aptitude. he's a -- he inspires ordinary people with his belief in ordinary people and thomas jefferson, for all of his impressive attributes doesn't get the common man quite. he's a little too stiff and -- thomas jefferson. from a geo strategic perspective he says silly things. but when he's president he tends to do smart things and one of the smartest things he ever does is double the land mass of the united states. the louisiana perfect is an epic achievement, yes, it's completely consistent with his geo strategic idea and i'm not sure the federalists could have
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done that. the french liked jefferson and he liked the french. he's wonderful at buttering people up and he's got so much-- and i'm not sure that napoleon would have done that deal with john adams because john adams might have find a way to annoy-- he did find a way to annoy napoleon because he's a blunt, outspoken yankee. and he sounds of a political party, you and i have to respect people who are good at what they do. he pretends he's not appalled. and adams is more -- they create a dominant political machine that will basically the federalist-- and he champions free speech and with importance, john adams doesn't get free speech. thomas jefferson gets it a lot. his partner madison gets it more and they champion freedom of speech sedition party and
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you and i people who are political observists have to respect that and he has a newspaper empire, affiliated newspapers for his way of the world and secretly funds folks, in that respect he creates fox news network, and affiliates -- and he understands the democratic newspaper culture of america and he's always telling madison, you know, go write op-eds against hamilton. rip him to shreds. he's too good a newspaper scribbler, you've got to go after him. so, thomas jefferson-- there's a reason the guy is on mt. rushmore. i criticize him because on something that's really important to me, slavery issue, he gets worse over time. he found a political party that basically has a southern base.
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here is the relevance of this today. today there's a party, both parties have this, i'm not talking the republican party, i'm with liz cheney, in the end you have to protect the soul of your party and i see the pull operate other side and we're going to lose our base if you're lindsey graham or kevin mccarthy. the similar they think that confronts madison and jeffersonment they know slavery is wrong and they know it in their hearts, they know it in their bones. in order to defeat john adams and made criticism of john adams a crime, the sedition act. they create a party that has a southern base and they, because they're politicians, that's the political bed that we made and we're going to lie in it and if requires compromises, okay. so they get worse on slavery,
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even though deep in their bones they know it's wrong. i respect their idealism, but in order to keep their political machine operative they become increasingly pro slavery. they actually-- and this is a story that i tell that isn't told by their bee-- biographers, you tell it better than anyone else in your book on james madison, you say, on slavery, madison disappoints. i add to that, he's getting worse over time. he's actually at the end of his life says oh, let's send slaves out into the west as if spreading the virus will somehow cure the virus, and what jefferson said early on let's prevent slavery in the west. and that's what's going to trigger the civil war eventually, slavery in the westment washington gets better on slavery as times goes on.
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last will and testimony he frees the slaves. jefferson doesn't, madison doesn't. franklin gets better and the last chapter, all of them, you know. >> and tell that last story of franklin before we get to questions and it's so franklinesque and funny and it's a great story. >> i talk about these great men and in my last scene i kill them all off and the death scene, you know dramatically and tell you each one in death there are some deep idea there. and for both washington and franklin, the deep idea, their rose bud, their dying breath emancipation, abolition, on slavely. and washington is a quite man,
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he's-- and franklin is a newspaper guy and proposes to congress, creates this to congress and maximum extent possible congress should try to demolish slavery. and the people from georgia and south carolina don't like that. and they rail against franklin and one guy actually says, what did ben franklin know about the constitution? so franklin writes a spoof and he's brilliant at satires. and he's brilliant with cartoons and satires appeal to a democratic culture and it's tongue in cheek. he writes as if he actually says well some of the arguments i just heard why we should preserve slavery made by the georgians and south carolinians put me in mind of something that happened 100 years ago and
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there was this era slave holder who actually was defending the enslavement of the infidel christians and every single argument that the georgians makes about enslaving black people and arabs, enslaving christians, and they're better off here than the homeland and want to intermarry with lesser blood and holy scripture and this is good for them and a positive so he takes every one of the georgian arguments ap flips it around racially and he's brilliant of course. it's a brilliant spoof, the same way 16 years old pretended he was a middle aged matron in
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silas dogood. he spoofs his own brother his own brother and doesn't realize that he spoofed his own brother. and eventually americans recognize that this is his dying message to america. do we want to actually-- i mean, 100 years still be defending slavery the way 100 years ago slavery was defended when people enslaved were european christians? >> and one of the funniest things about that, he claims that this is in some book that was written 100 years ago, the memoir of some english diplomat to algiers and people actually went to book sellers, could i have a copy of so-and-so's book that franklin made up. it was so well done and the tongue was so firmly in cheek. and now we have some questions
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coming. here is one. what you've been saying, how does literacy of the american people evolve between 1760 and 1840. i mean, how literate were we? we were getting more literate? were we already literate in 1760. there's got to be a base here and newspaper writing and letter writing is going to-- >> it's spectacularly widespread among whites, female as well as male and partly because america is a protestant culture and protestants believe deeply, especially the americans, especially in new england, puritan, and places like virginia, more cavalier and anglican and-- if you're a protestant you
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believe you have to read the bible, and americans do read their bible and they're-- and even someone as late as andy jackson and i have good wards to say about and drew jackson on some things and lincoln is going to stand on jackson's shoulders on resisting succession. but andy jackson is a self-taught. how is he self-taught? he goes to church every sunday and listens to people preach in the pulpit. preach from the gospel, from the bible. so it's a bible reading, bible discussing culture. very famously, you know, someone like jonathan edwards, grandson is aaron burr, publishing the sermon in the hands of an angry god, and even in then a rate of reading among
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whites. and then there were more readers per capita than any other country, including britain. and certain technological developments will facilitate that. when you get, for example, the erie canal, you can actually now go all the way around america, just like you can go around britain, you can go from chicago, across the great lakes to buffalo and then across the erie canal, albany, the hudson to new york, the florida coast, new orleans, up the mississippi to chicago. so letters can travel faster. ships can travel faster, eventually, of course, you're going to get railroads by the end of my time period. 1840. it's a remarkable letter writing and who is franklin? he's a postmaster. okay? all of these guys are newspaper
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guys and so five of them are newspaper scribblers and the sixth, george washington, reads more newspapers than anyone around. but they're also letter writers and our audience can read these letters free online, the national archives founders on-line has every letter word searchable to and from every major founder and so a remarkably literate culture and that includes women, too. we haven't talked about women and i feel bad about that. so i said adams does have a partner and her name is abigail and she's amazing. and because adams is a public servant and he sacrifices himself virtuesly for his country, he's away from abigail for a long time. because he's away, for example, off in france, there are lots of letters back and forth. if they'd been in the same place, you know, happily, they
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would have loved to be in the same place and they really love each other and respect each other and she's really smart and fun to read, because they're separated they have amazing letters back and forth between abigail and john and between abigail and everyone else, between everyone and everyone else because it really a highly literate culture and newspaper culture. >> one thing about the linguistic differences in the united states. there were a lot of german speakers. these documents, to what extent were they translated into german language newspapers? >> because i don't speak german, i didn't look at that. one third of pennsylvanians at the time of the declaration of independence are native german speakers and german newspapers are really important and as late as, i think, the first congress there's discussion about translaing congressional proceedings in pennsylvania
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into german. the muilenburgs one was the speaker of the house and you may know because of our mutual friend, a great friend of the new york historical society, and our man lincoln is the secret owner of a german language newspaper in springfield, illinois, and german language speakers are about 10% of the population of springfield and they're all pro lincoln because secretly he's the owner of this newspaper that's always saying nice things about lincoln. by the way, lincoln at a freakishly early age he does have books in his home and he reads every scrap in the home and newspapers. and early on he's writing op-ed after op-ed anonymously and many were partisan and the newspapers back then had a partisan affiliation, more like the national review today or
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the new republic of the nation, they're ideological newspaper and i think the new york times is actually on one side and "the washington post." >> and they didn't tend not to be. >> lincoln reads newspapers and writes op-eds, but he owns a german language newspaper. there were german language newspapers, and i have hundreds of citations to newspapers. and that's in the book. that's not because i'm better than the folks in the books, but 10 years ago, five years ago they weren't word searchable. and now they are, america's historical newspapers. i don't have to go to 40 cities and go through moldering miles of newspapers. i went on-line and i didn't look at the german language newspapers which are around
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because i don't speak german. >> one questioner is asking about the religious diversity in america during this period and is that a problem? or is it somehow a benefit? >> it's a challenge. and hamilton-- excuse me, madison is going to theorize that building on experience in virginia between the baptists and anglicans, episcopalians. today we say basically they're all christian. i promise you, you know, it only takes two to kill each other over centuries and any two things will do. protestants and catholics will do. and there were conflicts any two will do. catholics and protestants. muslim and hindus. shia and sunni.
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and any two will do. america has more than two. congregationalists, and -- so free thinkers in rhode island and some baptists. congregationalists in new england. virginia-- i mean new york is very poly-- many different, quakers in delaware, a lot of anglicans in the virginias and carolinas. and then the shakers and the methodists and more baptists coming on board. baptists are important in virginia and madison befriends the baptists in particular.
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so that's a lot of religious diversity and that's going to initially be a stumbling block. i haven't mentioned the catholicism. in maryland. and you have to hang together. in three words, join or die. so much so that the first confederation congress actually writes a letter to the quebec, why don't you join us. you recently fought a war against you and the french war. you're catholic and we're protestant. and geostreakically it's useful for us to of you on board so you don't stab us in the back while we're fighting the brits on the coast and they sent a nice member. like eu membership or like a credit card, you get this, you've been pre approved for a
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gold card with american express or mastercard or whatever and the canadians, they said thanks, but no thanks and we don't really want-- so americans try to actually conquer montreal and quebec and benedict arnold comes close, but failed. so religious diversity is one of the things that makes it hard for americans to join or die. 13 colcolonies, founded for different reasons and virginia is basically about making money and massachusetts is basically about religious freedom. so when my story begins in 1760, they're not americans, they're virginians and south carolinians and massachusetts men, but because of the newspapers, the british treat them all kind of badly with the stamp act and later the coersive act, through the
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newspapers they talk themselves into being americans and basically say to themselves, okay. there's a lot of religious diversity, but you know what? that can be a strength rather than weakness and that's where madison comes in religious diversity with be a strength. and many people didn't pay attention. but the geo strategically, the washington and jefferson and hamilton join or die, and the one final thing, i don't know if i told you, two places in the world that are pretty self-governing and free are the brits after the active union, and the swiss. and the swiss don't have a single language, we have four, deutsche, french, italian-- how do they hang together?
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does it work, we've got catholics and protestants, and high and low people in britain. and they said defensible borders is what works. england and ireland, only need a navy that's defensible. the swiss even though they've got protestants and catholic, they've got the alps. if we hang together, join or die, we will have a defensible border, the atlantic ocean, and just like the navy. the english had to beat the spanish armada. and the coastlands, that's threatening to liberty. so that's the idea, the geo strategically we are one people even though religiously we're not quite one, but hey, it's worked for the swiss so we can make it work for america and the federalist aids talks about
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the swiss and the british example. >> okay. just brief time for a last question, but it's an interesting one. constitution never mentions two political parties and yet, very soon, lo and behold there were two political parties. >> and that's the story that i tell about when these former friends and allies, jefferson and adams, who worked together in 1776, begin to diverge and adams makes the crime to criticize adams and in the sedition act and by the way, marshall doesn't join adams in that, to marshall's credit that he never is all in on the sedition act. but in response to that, jefferson takes a loose coalition and turns it into a much more organized political party, it will become kind of a permanent political party and the seeds of a two-party
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system, a strong two-party system emerge after washington passes from the scene. remember, he's unanimously elected and you're going to get the seeds from that in the contest between jefferson and adams and it's going to be constitutionalized in a 12th amendment that's designed to make the electoral college safe for a two-party system. i won't go into all the details now, but i promise in the book i do. >> and we still have jefferson and madison's party walks among us, and called the republicans and then became the democrats, but oldest party in the world, isn't it, except maybe the tories. tories may be older. >> it is and one of the things that i actually said about your book on madison is, i thought it was a spectacular biography because it captures madison as a public service.
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hamilton was a lawyer, washington was a general and surveyor and a business person and jefferson actually dabbled in law and franklin was a printer. this is the only thing that madison does, he's poll from start to finish. he's a party guy. not that different from martin van buren or mark hannah or mitch mcconnell or lyndon johnson or franklin roosevelt, and i'm trying to think people across the spectrum. abraham lincoln is a party guy. he loves politics and he understands, he creates a party and that's what you get distinctly about madison he's not a pure political thinker. we've got to judge him and sometimes he kind of disappoints us because this is what we're seeing right now, kevin mccarthy versus lynne cheney or lindsey graham, do you go with what's in the
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short-term interest of the party, you know, keep the base, or do you say, even if it goes against the party, there are certain core principles that we have to abide by as a matter of conscience. that's the kind of things that you will not understand if you think these guys are pure-- especially madison is a pure theorist as opposed to a political actor. >> on that note, which is both a front note and maybe a hopeful note. on the one hand we're seeing madison, well, he was a politician, but on the other hand we can say that politicians can be like madison. and professor akhil amar, thank you. and thank you new york historical society. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday, american history tv documents america's story and on sunday, book tv
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