tv Learning from the Founding Fathers CSPAN August 28, 2021 1:00pm-2:01pm EDT
founding brothers, or you look at his most recent book which we are going to talk about today. the market dialogue, the founders had us which is a conversation about what were the founding fathers have thought about some of the actions that are going on today and the issues of today. it is clear that what was so much a part of the founding of our country, was political discussion, political dialogue, political debate that we were founded by a group of people, anyone of whom would have taken us in a different direction than all of them together took us. so we are honored to have a conversation today with joseph j ellis talking about what does
the pursuit of happyness mean. what is we the people mean and what did it mean then, what is it me know, and how do we look at race, economic inequality, prudence and foreign policy with the ituness and what might our founding fathers have said. and i could give you doctor ellis' bio but if i went through his bio, we wouldn't have time to tear his talk and so the me just give you a quick perspective and he won a pulitzer prize in the revolutionary generation. the national book award for americans biography of thomas jefferson. and his in-depth chronicle of the life of our first president, his excellency, george washington was a new york times bestseller and what doctor ellis has been able to do is to master
that crap history with all of the documentation necessary but it has a. and it comes alive ctures our imagination and so that is why we are so honored to have him with us today pretty and i wanted to one of the most interesting and exciting things about today, is that doctor ellis said that he wants this ta conversation with you all, hopefully the readers of his referent who are not now and will be at the end of the time, and so to get us started, doctor ellis, why don't you tell us why did you write a book called american founders. and what were you trying to say to us as we have come upon the independence day of our country
thank you for the gracious introduction. i think what do was use the dialogue between jefferson and towards the end of their lives, the correspondence hundred and 55 letters that the exchange of 18121926 and as a model and i thought it was a model that we needed to have before us b becae in my judgment, when i started writing this book and 19 excuse me, in 2015, the story just keeps going back to the 18th century. it seemed to me that he had been for many years, deeply divided people and became more so over the years as i was writing this book, 2016 and in 2017. and we have the capacity to argue pretty constitution itself, is not a candle and for
the it is a framework in which to argue about what the truths are. and i came to the past believing that will here's the things that i believe. the founding generation of the united states was the greatest collection of political talent that we have a bad sense that the british historian and philosopher printed whitehead once said, and only two occasions and was in history that when the political elites of the emergency emerging agency had about as well as anyone could reasonably expect and one was grown under caesar and the other was a united states and of this group of people we call the founders. and i think that is true. in the second thing that i believe is that the founding
founders are not and should never be regarded as democrats, they were imperfect human beings. and it seems that new nations need to create mythological heroes, room has there's in spain has there's an britain has king arthur. but the heroes of americans families are all reaeal people. we need to put childish claims and think that they were in any way for example, inspired by fire said in philadelphia during the constitutional convention that, in the state were about to celebrate the declaration of independence and in 1976, not so. and emerson coming right founders said, peace of god face-to-face and we can only see it secondhanand.
will nobody sees god face-to-face including the founding generations. and i also assumed that based on a lot of reading month that when we talk about the numbers, and jane alluded to this. we presume single political ideological collective and they are not, they are diverse. they thought differently. in a flip to his own, jefferson might've carried us towards anarchy and if left to his own hamilton perhaps worse some more autocratic form of government. were familiar with the doctor balance of powers in side of the constitution itself and i am say there is an equivalent balance of power within the generation. and that is the reason the dialogue of argument becomes important and crucial.
and a set capacity that we have lost. and third final assumption, and i promise to ship soon so that you can't go to the dialogue itself. the third assumption is troubling to a lot of people. but i will share it with you. the founders were brilliant and gifted. but they were flawed. they succeeded triumphantly in many respects. they could imagine and successfully ring off winning the war against the dominant military power on the planet at that moment, great. anything about how many words that grereat britain lost bween 1750 and 1950, only one pretty they could imagine a nation -sized rublic, they never existed before. and it could imamagine the separation of church and state and the creation of a secular
society from the point of view of governmentnd authority. that had never happened before either. and finally, political scientists thank you so crucial an invention of the creation of the founders, the doctrine federalism, meaning that their share signed, there is no single source of sovereignty. in the american republic. so everyone from your simple forward cut that you have read and not those great triumphs and administered twice, there are two enormous tragedies. and one is the failure to reach a just accommodation with the native americans and the other is a failure to the slavery. since the great achievements of the county are built on two enormous crimes. in the founders could imagine all of the things i mentioned.
they could not imagine a biracial society now to christ. and part of a lost world and in that regard. so, you need to have a willingness to listen to that and not to make the mistake of an anthropologist because to sequoia and tells the indigenous people somewhere that they should practice the childrearing god but under guidelines doctor spock they're not going to be able to do that. yet in my view there is much to learn especially in our own divided time. the founders were back to the greek and roman classics. cicero, and others, pluto and i am going back to our classics and jefferson washington
lakeland, madison, hamilton this is a big and the book i wrote, self-consciously attempt to identify four issues on which i think they share wisdom that might help us. one is race. evans knows we need help the and the major figures would be jefferson. he speaks to both sides of the racial divide. and the other is income inequality. the horrors that the united states which they inventeted, te middle class society, and he described that he came here in a new thing, where the crystal ball for the world. th society for wealth is distributed from the middle out. we no longer our best society. it's a second gilded age we are
living in here. where wealth is unevenly distributed. the third areas law. here i'm talking primarily about the failure of government to do all that it should do. or to be harnessed in ways the best. but i bring it down to a discussion of the top of the doctrine of religion in the court system read have some things to say about that tradition and how it has been used. and finally foreign policy. washington is my * here in a farewell address which has meetings now that i think that it did not have throughout most of its history. this of the four areas of focused on and when i started writing the book and i'm not told people this before so i'm sharing secrets. i thought another area that i
really should learn about his climate change. and i thought that i could use franklin, who was a scientist pretty leading scientist today to talk about climate change. because i think we're failing to address the potential threat to our society into the world. and i found that i could not do it in a way it was historically responsible read much as i wanted to, i dropped i after trying for several months to try to make it work. in the bookhat everything has been out there for it while. the reactions to it have been divided but i hope that when this conversationhat we can continue the dialogue that i started to try to start their. arguing in itselff is healthy ad john adams thought that argument was the highest form of conversation. i would like to have usry to re-create that dialogue in the
time that remains to us on this zoom session right now. so back to you jane. jane: there we go. well, you certainly have given us a lot to think about. now before we get into the questions from our panel, from our distinguished listeners, there is one thing that we were talking about as we were getting ready and that is, the painting that we all see in the capitol. and were coming up in the fourth of july and people go, is the declaration of independence, is that the fourth of july here's the picture. joseph: it is called the declaration of independence abated by john trumbull is a classic. and i think the most tourist to
come for the rotunda, they standardly, it is the signing ceremony on the fourth of july printed denies three of the five people coming up to the desk, the person athe chair is john hancock and in three people that are recognizable, that is in park there. in franklin to the right and the tallest man, he 6-foot 2 inches and that is jefferson and off to the left, is the stout, they call him john adams. and the plate of 1776, he is the notion that this moment is assigning moment. and that is what we celebra july 4th. the truth is, this painting depicts the moment when the committee, the finance committee that drafted the declaration, presents the draft to full congress on june 28th.
it is really june 28th, not to like. and adams writes to his beloved abigail on july 3rd and he says, yesterday, july 2nd is going to be the day that celebrated in parades and illuminations and even kids fireworks but he thinks the day the sunlight as it stays july 2nd reason that he thinks that, is that july 2nd is the congress located on the resolution risen by and said these are and have every right to be indepependent states. and thahat is theeclaration of independence legislatively and that is this, the day they wrote it. so what. the fourth is the day they said
the document to the printer. anyone in the top of all of the copies, july 4th. and the fourth is the day the rest of the world knows what we have just done. all and there is no signing ceremony. most of the congress signing the merchant company on august 2nd. but there were people coming and going into the congress work signing is latest. so we can the date wrong but i don't. that adams and jefferson together decided to make the right. because 50 years to the date later, they both died.
and when jefferson died, the last thing that hee said is, is the fourth he knew that he was doing on schedule and the last thing that adams had glass all jefferson. jefferson and lincoln monroe. many guys on june 28, 1836 and henry david decides to move the clamps on my going out to bolden on july 4th, 1845. so it really was on the right day but we made the right to celebrate his coming for appropriately because the room we had decided it okay.
jane: what a the questions that are coming in from my view that your questions in the q&a box. we have someone who is asking you for you to keep a perspective on how do you think about today's supreme court decision that upheld the arizona restrictions on voting. anything congress would perceive that. joseph: . joseph: will beifficulto answer, the founders in their original formulations in philadelphia in 1787, did not believe this was cream. that is to say the notion of the ruling in ways that had authority over all of the states did not exist, comes into existence later john marshall be
in the process. so the first reaction would have been, is and why are you doing it. in the second that i have i think the founders would be surprised at the electoral college so just the presidential elections are held in the way there. he did not like it at the time and i think it will be stoned to believe that we retain it. any and against the founders would disagree amongst themselves pretty jefferson ten to have the right of the state to go about its business without interference. in hamilton and washington themselves would find that difficult difficult to accept and john marshall would find it very difficult. didn't believe the supreme court you have to go through all of the supreme court. jane: that is fascinating we have a listener who said that
she has not previously awarere f the work and is now looking over the two it printed and her question is this for you asserts that there were two failures in the country's founding predict not acknowledging the right to the native people and not abolishing slavery. you have been writing for 50 years about the founding of this country. and at what point in your research and your writing, if you to that conclusion that there were those two critical elements or was that early on that and pretty think that history teachers should share that information today. joseph: it depends on what level you're teaching, increased different teaching grade school, to high school and colleges they differ from it but anyway, came to me early on as a teacher. because if you teach this
material, one of the reactions that you give students is a way to minute, if in fact these men endorsed slavery and refused to provide justice for the native americans than whites. anything about them. what should i take him seriously. that is immoral failure. and what's that immoral failure is notic and acknowledged, then all else dissolves. and one of my pants as a teacher from the beginning was to try to say, this existed before you are that you have an obligation to understand best on its own terms terms. so early on i was aware of this especially in the aspect of slavery trying to have a discussion about founders, and not calling them, that is quite
his nails and american history was a challenge that is a teacher i h had to take more. and then on the one hand, embrace the idea that they were gifted it, politically talented people and in effect, they created the liberal dominate the world or at least until recently has dominated the world. they are responsible for overthrowing the monarchy said the 19th century and saving the civilization from the proceeds of stalin, hitler and mussolini in the 20th century. it became ready for irony. it is time to grow up in time to face facts. the good and the evil can coexist. the thing about the founders that i found interesting that i came to later, is that most of them agree that the because they
understood it, their values and the values they were fighting for in the revolution incompatible with slavery. they knew they would be in life. my. i don't know, it is that it was the most unavoidable family life, that the kind of arguments that you get persuaded 19th century, from southern defenders of slavery you do not get that from the founding generation. a lot of them but this would die a natural death jefferson himsmself believed that slavery was incompatible with the modern world slavery was part of the meeting we are trying way this is a basic advice would to do anything. it's going to happen.
this would happen naturally because slave labor isn't compatible with freedom and free labor. doesn't work that way. in indiana, jefferson down because jefferson also believed that african-americans were inherently inferior. you want to look at the prism of race, jefferson was not going to look very good. and he looked through the prism of speech, toleration, and belief. human mind is when you look very good evening. but you have. that is probably something that. jane: when our listeners asked you think it was a different way the in the could look at this differently predict the one rooted in jesus a question that
i keep asking myself every day and will give you a summary wher business and others share this. i have said, these are two tragedies, failure to resolve the native american question with justice favored to in slavery and this is american history is morally irresolvable. and on the other hand, for the great tragedies for shakespearean tragedies and by that i mean, great tragedies is the will of the gods, is embedded unavoidable leadership that are needed or is the day shakespearean tragedy and maybe the founders, they could district upon the way. and i think that my judgment and this is my judgment, the person needs to think about this for
him or herself. and i think that the native american dilemma is a great tragedy. i did not see. he the other way as it was driven by the desire to get to know the latest happiness disease mostly smallpox and eliminated 90 percent healthy rates in the american native tribes as they encounter the white population. i don't see how you could've gone the other way. in slavery think could have gone the other way. there were moments in the 1770s in the 1780s and 90s when things had gone the opportunities have been created, i think the virginia is the key state. remember unique pieces briefly about what is now west virginia and kentucky, the largest state and it had the largest number of hook up, common founders.
in the fitting the other way, but great tension between facing slavery. and in forcing the issue is, listing them you in georgia, carolyn, and it may be virginia going to leave the area and at the early stage, that would have been fatal to be treated i think ththat the right. friday. and help us understand that predict. jane: now will you answer the question about the 13 or do you believe the 13 colonies would
have approved the constitution if it abolished slavery, you just assererted that there were several that would not. joseph: by 1787, the colonies have become states. in the constitution, the representatives from south carolina are the most outspoken, georgia goes along with him in virginia is questionable in virginia seems to straddle this the south carolina representatives they basically say if you do not assure us that our form of labor. and note that the word slavery is never mentioned in the constitution. some pressure to do that. but they say that if you don't give us what we are asking for, some protection of our labor source, we are going to leave you.
and i don't think they were bluffing. then you have to play the tape and what would happen if they decided to present them with that. i think likely to make a proposal and he was persuaded to do it because it was considered to politically risky proposal was to say, the time being, we the south states of the deep south who are dependent upon slave labor, and they were georgia inset panel and especially, 60 percent of the nation south carolina african-american 60. we will rarely recognize right as long as you recognize that slavery is available with the the revolution in overtime, will agree that it needs to go away and for now, we will end as the
slave trade and the principal himself to be persuaded to do ththat and of the correspondenc, that the original question, would not happen. i think this may be virginia, the union that was created in 1787. we have questions about the fact that to reach a consensus that preface the declarationf independence, there was a significant thing between the unding and brothers who had many things in which they disagree, but they create the national condition. how do you see that kind of
operation, rise, what is happened to it today and what can be done to honor to compromise operation. joseph: you're putting together here, one is 1876 when they come together, to declare dependence and the other 77 when they come together to declare the nation could read in the first sentence of the most famous speech in american history by abraham lincoln is historically incorrect. four score and seven years ago, 76, our fathers brought forth to this continent a new nation, no they didn't. they brought forth confederation of sovereign states provisionally united and go their separate ways. which is what they did in the article confederation leaving
the states and federal government to disver listings, getting existence that read the repudiation of revolution and others in washington included, hamilton included, believe that nationhood was in the american revolution and few didn't become a nation who would eventually fall apart so you have part in the revolutionary war, and in the convention, the issue brings is really silly that is to what extent is the compromise reached to shore and thereby permit to
exist what extent is that a covenant with death. and then split labor abolitionist would call it is still call it that my covenant with death. the problem is of the domain compromise, for you and you need that will exist in full. and the answer to that is probably not. there's no choice that we face now that is the only resident that but that compromise can be extraordinarily slowly as we see now, if it is nice to something
truly radical world, that is next. this we need to argue. jane: for the sake the arguments in a slightly different direction where you talk a about the issue o law, and the doctctrines of revisionism prety and can you explain with the argument iss between the founded effect today and where do you are what do you see. we have quiuite a conversation about where is the supreme court overreaching or under reaching.
how that happened that. joseph: doctrine, please along the reputation of the founders as special group of people and it seems that this that supreme court decisions in the federal supreme decision should be based on what the original sin was original intent of the founders and later the city originally meaning o of the words fouers used in 1787. and then also in 1788 this is a doctrine of prudence that's originally developed by the universisity of chicago and also met yale in the basis of the federalist society which is an informal organization the warriors who share the original's convictions.
and all the nominees to the court since 1985 have been members of the federalist society. in fact, it has become if you republican present, you go there for your nominees. i think you're a couple of problems here and one is founders. originally talking about is not going to agree in which medicine and the same thing that medicine says in 17869776 is different. assuming that their inspired and they were saying that 40 that and if you want to argue about with the original intent of particular piece of legislation, you are claiming to be an very
few are trying to just read and lawyers to argue on the one hand or on the other hand basis because the training and the legal system, the prosecutor or defense attory and you shake the evidence according to the client and you suppress that is much as possible this is going to canada and therefore it seems to be the originalist find the t questionable and this will upset many of listeners that dc versus howe 2008, is the decision of the second amendment. in the decision by that justice scalia is himself a lifetime member of the national rifle association, the back-and-forth
decision essentially a argues tt the second amendment provides direct to carry a weapon in the right to bear arms, as open ended this right of free spacec. and that is not with the second amendment said, that is not what madison thought he was doing and that is not with the congress but it was doing when he endorsed indents number the uff that they were doing when they modified it and with the term bear arms, does not mean carry a weapon, it means carry a weapon in the military unit. and serve in the army for the militia. in the second one wasritten by madison in april of 1789 for a specific purpose and it was designed to assure the states that it recently ratified the constitution but it did so with recommended amendments and they wanted certain changes and six
of the states were worried about what they called a standing army. standing on. it was designed to assure them going to hapn in the national defense would be in the hands of militia, state -based mitia. and that is what they thought the militia asked, of 1792, that implements the second amendment, is sensually required that white males between the ages of 18 - 49 they must purchase musket and an outfit. in the original meeting the second amendment is not that you are right to bear. meaning has been twisted as we experience dailyly and weekly basis, medicine and people purchasing ar 15, after the
madison is going on his grave. his language has been twisted. the rest of the world, over $3m with this in the united states and guns or rifles. the highest rate in the world. and to my judgment, the spring court decision i think that a member of the national rifle association, you have rights for decision, you have other rights. we don't really have second amendment. jane: so the question that her listeners are saying, is original is complicate things. and surely the founders envisioned guns that can fire 900 rounds per minute. in 1776 month.
c1 but all of the founders who, in this issue the same thing. god's sake, do not freeze the constitution based on our opinions. none of the founders believed and jefferson said that the constitution to develop its interpretation of the same is something they would be surprised, angry, did believe that that predict and impart
that is because it doesn't rule all but linden should they have the constitution. it does not exist printed but my point here is that the doctrine originalist all just as all historians are ready deciding you we can't help but that's in there and apparently this convictions we carry them with us. if you really want to cover the mentality of ordinary americans 171788, we believe the indians they believe that it lacks in. it will property to have a boat and a lot of things that nobody believes in him, that i would think so, i think that the
living constitution is an inherent, that is what you have to do so the meaning of those words will extend the timee something historically correct reading something that is by political save of the to do with the if jefferson and adams had been there at the convention. c1 you're right, they were not predict that evidencee was in te jefferson was in paris. and adams was upset at not being there so he spent his time writing the three he called the
traditions of the states using his knowledge of the state constitution as we you. and i think that adams later on becomes a strong advocate of executive power and one of the presidency to be empowered and if you have the concert they can do natural powers of the presidt's administration because the people that you have to edition federalist. especially henry jefferson be with us. would process. medicine said that no no no, he is my man i know him and his company he would've enforced
bully didn't quite say jefferson was more interested in the bill of rights and was in itself. and i think over time, jefferson did not believe constitution created created nation. jefferson which was great only when he was still a confederation with the power in the station that the domestic policy was a social providence of the state and in terms of federal government was the government did believe that in so if he should an event over time, jefferson's views were the family literacy use, comparable. jane: so now we have a couple of
questions and we did try to put together because we are putting up time and we can obviously do this for a day. many historians steeping themselves into the mind is time to so personally it is the building others pretty to look at and did you watch hamilton and find that inspiring uninspiring •-ellipsis and you get where you are going. joseph: hamilton uninspiring around this genius and i would never have imagined hamilton to be the hero of jefferson's more so. but brand is a genius of joseph of mine because i sure. but all of that, and i think
that hamilton is wonderful because hamilton is like the harry potter series forget this and younger people and that readers that they have learned more about the 18th century from hamilton for many in itself, the question is that my daily schedule is to get up and them having my and sit down and read. and triggering myself as a tours, is a resident of the screen handed the nation that is. think about it, why did they do that because they knew they were important and they knew they were present at the creation and they were not sure about the hereafter there was a heaven or.
but the onl way for the reindeer writing to us the ready prosperity and i have spent my 35 years spending three or four hoururs a day don't get me and drive me away crying and lived in the world when a human, i bring as much of the knowledge as they can with me to the ongoing citizens alive in the 31st century and as a teacher, i think what i conveyed was the recognition that until you are prepared to understand the past in this moment in the past, some terms, you cannot make judgments about it. you have to learn how to think differently so like and
criticize the british for speaking with a foreign accent. histororians are doing anthropology time. and the ability to think in terms of the different culture is like learning to speak with a different language. and it is very very especially during times. jane: and let's look at this two questions they're not quite related to your with them together in the belly father's the u.s. or were deaealing with revolutionary ideas, killing officials, see. revolutionary issues about time to be talking about of the
revolutionary nature of their work cross when they chose the term, we states. joseph: remember that one, it is a great question and is going to issue that all of the should be arguing about every day. the term we the people was written by gouverneur morris, he was a representative to fits of mania, new york nobody knows him pretty he a pagan leg guy famous for his and is unfortunate interest in other people's lives. but there was a committee on drafting the cstitution and every state was represented. and he was t there so this will states but they appointed madison hamilton agreed to point for him to revise the document
here's how the document read before evening. we the people of the states of new hampshire, massachusetts, connecticut, rhode island, and down the atlantic coast, we the people of the states printed and he changed it. it is the single most important editorial change in american history. it just says, we the people of thenited states and that is the issue of debate throughout the division between the nationalist and think of ourselves as united states. and in the states so that is down right now, one of the
legacies of the event ongoing argument about whether the government is nice, is him. anand that is an ongoing argume, the central argument is bequeathed to us and still with us. and ronald reagan to say, and reagan was crucial in altering the narrative to republican conservative point of view. namely, someone came to use it how can i help you would start to run away. let's suppose somebody comes to vaccine to give you, and inoculation through the pandemic. we are facing biden administration the disagreements within the republican or the senate, is the disagreements about whether the government is us with them. i will also facing a challenge
what we perceive to be an assured goal, a common goal is a biracial society. the founders could endure but by the middle of the 20th century the united states committed itself to becoming a biracial and multiracial society. we know how to the truck presidency, the much larger percentage of the white relations does not happen. regards martin luther king's dream is a nightmare. they're more of of them than we realize. and that is what is going on in the various states that are attempting to town pretty and those are legacies of the founders and we need to argue about still in my prejudices, in the side of us and i am on the
side of martin luther king. jane: i have sorted this out so are very question comes from our distinguished board member. and i think that he gives us a question really frames when we go from here. and most of us have found your own lives, union as we know, present form that seems then at any time in living memory. can you where current arrangement break apart and what would that mean. joseph: if you can once you need some of the only thing that we face a set of challenges is strengthening now is a symbol
for historians and grapes from the past, but there are than anybody else in the future. when the revolution and i can tell you who were how to behave hundred centur she is whether the group of invaded the capitol going to be declared within the and i thinki think that historie patterns of the founders and am trying to breathe into the process that we come together in crises.
and we are going three political crises now. but i think that the crises it's going to get this, is really getting us is going to force into submission and would never have before. is the threat to the existence of the planet. and i think that climate change, global warming, were snapped. and i think that most of my descendents and viewers are going to look back 50 years from now those are flooded new york's water miami and water rated the midwest destroyed. and they're going to save what were they doing. in the beginning of the 31st century is better to take
earlier in the same way as we say, they doing when the slavery just as impossible that we were delinquent as the founders now to us. but that's an encouraging we are going going to have any other choice. jane: will doctor ellis, you are fascinatg, so that when the question is mine. we've come back and talk about your next book when it comes out pretty. joseph: i would love to have really enjoyed this conversation you sent to many people have created a framework that is different so people can come together and continue the dialogue. jane: this is exactly the kind of dialogue that the united states kamala society's people are created, and picture will be
her 60th year. in the authorizing legislation charged us creating thomas as we move forward because as we celebrate fourth of july whether it was really the point of the 20th, on the second. a fourth of july they dedicated the values of this country rated ... life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. that is what we share together as americans. >> followri