tv The Presidency George Washingtons Farewell Address CSPAN February 21, 2022 8:00am-9:25am EST
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years ago. >> did evening everyone. my name is kevin butterfield and on behalf of of george washington's mount vernon, mount vernon ladies open session, that continues to protect and preserve today, i want to welcome me to this conversation about george washington's farewell t address. on september 19, 1796, george washington announced to the world he would not seek reelection to the presidency. his letter to friends and citizens offered some of the most thorough, thoughtful, even inspiring advised that is ever been given to the american people. and more than a few genuine warnings were included as well. d with us as a nation are now discussing this now 225 year old document. much of what we debate and discuss in 21st century america politics is addressed here in one form or another. in recognition of this document we brought together an incredible lineup of
talented scholars to reflect on the relevance of the farewell address today. we were joined by jon avalon author, columnist, senior political analyst, is the author of books including the one we will discuss tonight washington's farewell a new book on abraham lincoln coming out next february. his work is going to be important to our conversation here tonight as were the work of lindsey stravinsky. she is presidential cabinet, history senior fellow at southern methodist university. in the lecture of media and public affairs at george washington university she's also a fellow at the international. she's the author of the award-winning book the cabinet george washington and the creation of an american institution. i was when the leading scholars of american history author of more than a dozen
books else has been awarded the pulitzer prize for founding brothers the revolutionary generation and the national book award for america stinks, his biography of thomas jefferson and most recent book, the cause, the american revolution that discontent comes out tomorrow. all of our guests are great friends of mount vernon. were so pleased to be able to offer signed copies of their books. look for links in the chat that can help you find those and of course please feel free to visit us anytime at mount vernon.org. welcome. >> hey. thanks for having us. >> are here to discuss a really important document in american history. i guess the farewell address. i give the tiny little preview of what it is just imagine someone coming into the conversation right now, what is the formal address john will turn to you first, what is the text? >> it is america's original >>
scripture. it is most widely printed completely declaration of independence. it was the sum total of wisdom that george washington accumulated and a life of war and peace as president that he put down first with james mattis and alexander hamilton as a warning to his friends and fellow citizens which is how he addressed it, about the forces he felt could derail the democratic experiment going forward. it's one of the most relevant document you can imagine. even though it fell out of favor for a time, i think when it is read today it is a stark warning about the dangers of what we call hyper- partisanship, excessive debt, foreign wars, foreign interference in our elections and also suggest some of the liberty some the things we can draw upon to avoid the straps.
that unity of morality and virtue. the importance of fiscal discipline and political moderation. >> they turn to you, lindsay, george washington create a text john mentioned there were other authors, can you tell us a little bit about the years leading up to this. this is a moment he decides not to be present any longer. as a great scholar of washington's presidency set the page of those last months or days in the washington presidency as he's thinking this address appeared cocksure. i did not want to stand for second term at all. he had wanted to be in office for a couple of years and hightail it as soon he could they did not really like being
president he had to be away from home has so much stress and pressure he knew every step to establish a precedent for this to come after him. he did not like criticism he was wearing his reputation met he would be damaged by a poor choice. we also had a real commitment to the importance of being an office. felt very strongly the american people the election of peaceful transfer of power had to be practiced and cultivated. he was determined to try to oversee that. early in 1796 they had a
conversation about the process rolling shared a series of drafts of the next two months until september washington then published his paper in september to reach the maximum number of people to make it clear he was speaking to the people not to congress or different branch of government too. >> will be spending most of that's our time talking about the text itself. what can you tell me, what would you add about the origins of what led up to the creation of this document you might want to share about washington before 1796? >> i would venture to guess john and the modern presidency no president in the american's
who did not want to be president more than george bush. not on a second term he did not want a first term. and when he was going up to that in york he said he felt like a prisoner going to jail. and he really meant it. almost half have to do with mount vernon. that was where he wanted to be. he really did. all of the views of the presidency are shaped by it 20th century significance. washington did not regard the presidency as the capstone of his career. when he was she did not have to do. the great thing he did was win the war. i think that is true of all
four of the presidents, the first floor. adam's great thing this before the revolution to bring it into meaning. jeffersons was the declaration. madisons was the constitution and the federalist papers. all of them did not think about the presidency is the great moment in their lives. washington was aficionado of residence. even before that and newburgh refusing to become dictator annapolis where the capitol was the surrender of his commission george the third is that it can't be if the depth does that he be the greatest man in the world. well he did and for that moment at least he was. jefferson writes about this right after.
i think jefferson actually wrote some of washington's speech i can't prove that. but jefferson says one man saved us from the fate that befalls most republics. there thinking cromwell, subsequently they can think of subsequently they can think of now we can think of castro, we can think of a variety of leaders who never want to leave office. i won't mention one that might still be alive in american republic. but the president abe said, i really do believe as lindsay put it, it's often discussed as the two-term president which is ratified as a constitution limited in 1951 i believe. the real precedent is in a
republic all leaders no matter how indispensable our disposable, that you will not -- you do not die in office like a monarch. that was the real precedent. i will conclude here and let's get on, but the dominant thing we need to remember is this was not ever delivered as an address. both of our commenters already know that but we have mentioned it. it wasn't a speech. it was an open letter to the american people the first s appeared in a philadelphia paper and i think it's a new hampshire paper that gives it the title, the farewell address. the initial reaction to the address was oh, my god, he can't leave us. the american -- after had not existed without him, it was like
a father saying to the children, you're on your own now. that was, it was the trauma. nobody thought he was ever going to retire. they presumed he would just win elections until he died. again, he couldn't wait to get back to the place where you're sitting, kevin. >> gm reference something the stepping away from power in annapolis and you write about this in your book. not the first bit of advice that washington shared widely with the nation. could you tell us about washington back in 1783 and how he also shared his guidance to the nation? >> that was originally called his farewell address. >> i didn't know that. is that true?
>> yeah. >> you're not making that up? >> true story. what's fascinating about that is there's broad continuity but most importantly with the power of the gesture itself, the simple act of voluntarily relinquishing power itself was revolutionary. the quote that joe was referring to by jefferson, , actually the epilogue to my book, i think it's a perfectly, it crystallizes washington throughout his career but particularly as it culminated in a farewell address. jefferson said the moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this revolution from being closed as most others have been by a subversion of the liberty itt ws intended to establish. certainly those with the stakes in 1783 as well. the normal course of events was that the military leader would displace the tyrant and become a tyrant t himself.
talk about the prevalence of ancient roman and greek precedent on this young republic, this was a real cincinnatus step he took turkey was voluntarily relinquishing power to return to his farm. it was completely genuine. the advice he gives in 1783 is very similar, albeit subsequently seen through the prism of political fight he saw as president and the fights over the ratification of the jay treaty and america's foreign policy that basically says first of all this is not a time for celebration, it's a time of real responsibility because the revolutionaries one but now we need to establish the republic and show the world we can establish democratic republic on a scale never before seen, right? among other things it was wisdom that a democracy couldn't exist but if the credit may be and a couple of swiss cantons.
it would never work in the country as big as the 13 colonies. he warns about the need for national unity. fighting with continental congress all throughout the ware because hee couldn't find a sene of collective resolve or focus on the common good. they didn't want to let the money to support the troops. he said we need to have discipline, a sense of unity, and to really think as citizens. one of the important point is independence and freedom can be sort of a state of nature, but liberty requires responsibility. that's what lincoln -- excuse me, , i'm just finishing a lincn book right now. that's what washington said in the 1783 address, and again in 1796. >> one of the things i can do tonight and i hopefully can start this now is c bring up a w of the short quotations people can pull out of the farewell
address. this one i would like to bring up because as we were discussing, if you read down at the bottom, he refers to the fact he has given his advice before. use phrases here, this interest in warning of a parting fred, possibly have no personal motive tobias, then he reminds about the circular letter in 1873. this is the way he begins, right after, i can't remember the exact phrase, here perhaps i should stop or has a few paragraphs and says here perhaps i should stop, but then he goes on many, many paragraphs longer together some serious advice to the american people. lindsay, when you see phrases like this, disinterested warning, departed friend, how does this fit with washington as a leader, as president as you have come to study him? >> washington really wanted to see himself as above party
spirit or factions. he really did see himself as president for all the american people, at least for white american people. he really wanted represent them regardless of what their partisan identity was. that might be a little bit rose-colored glass situation. he certainly had some partisan biases by the end of his presidency, which he didn't necessarily want to admit because he felt like certain sides have been more critical of him or had stirred up domestic rebellions come things like that that he really leaned on partisan spirit. but he wanted to see himself as above those things. certainly the most i think a political president we've had to be sure, and so, and is leaving office gave him sort of more credence. had he still been inn office there's no way -- he would have
been in for third term but by leaving office he really put himself in that elevated position. what's really fascinating about the reception to hisom farewell address is people whoec were are inclined to think well of him saw that, saw it as disinterested as he had intended. those who were inclined to see them as a more political actor like jefferson thought it was very political. >> joe, disinterested warnings of a parting friend. how do you read that brilliant guidance? >> ith agree with what lindsay just said. let me build on that a little bit. political parties, the founders as a group, including washington, all regarded political parties as evil vultures that were floating through the political
atmosphere. jefferson even claim he said if i must go to heaven in a party i prefer not to go at all. they all talked that game, and washington believed it and said i think john adams is the only of the president that did this as well. they regarded parties as a threat to the stability of the republic. and so in washington's second term, political scientists think the creation of the political parties is one of the major contributions the founders made, but because it disciplines to sit and creates the possibility of legitimate opposition, which is a good thing. washington and adams, but let's stick with washington, was incapable of thinking of a political party as anything other than an evil intrusion. he could not see himself as the
head of a party. you might think he's -- is a classical figure. i would just building something again that lindsay said. in the second term, the aurora, now, you look up and textbooks and they will say the opposing party that comes into existence is called the democratic republican party. wrong. it's not called the democratic republican party. it's called the republican party. the word democrat, democracy is an epitaph in the 18th century. it means mob rules. democratic republican doesn't come into existence until 1860 with monroe. it's tricky because that party morphs into the democratic party but it's even worse than that. the federalist morse into the whigs and the whigs morphed into
the republican so truly tricky. but the aurora is the 18th centuryy version of fox news. and when they publish forge documents, forged british documents claiming that washington throughout the world was really a traitor, he was trying to be benedict arnold but got beat to the punch by benedict arnold. this was just off the top stuff. and actually among the people commenting on his farewell address was thomas paine who hated him because he didn't think washington got them out of france fast enough. hehe said we must all devoutly pray for his imminent death. so the criticism he was getting speedy pretty funny by the way because he was famously an atheist, but okay. >> that's true, he was. humane paine, not washington.
>> yes, paine, not washington. >> that the level of partisanship in the 1790s is comparable to what we are facing in washington now, okay? the press, there was no rules for the press. all the news fit to print. now, washington stands firm against that whole thing. he thinks if you have any problems you can just look out of the next election, but the level of partisanship in newspapers in the 1790s is scatological. and washington really can't understand it. he doesn't understand it. and i think he's hurt by it. i think that he survives the french in anymore, he should've been killed when he was a young
man. he should have been killed several times in the course of the war for independence. he wasn't evense wounded, but ty wanted him in his second term. they really got him. he couldn't wait to get out of there. i know we want to move into the discussion of his attitude towards political partisanship but i think the context is what i described in the specific legislation that he really explodes on is the jay treaty. and his defense of that. and here i will shut up on this after this, i promise you, that the word is republic. it's not -- and that means raise public, things of the public. the public is different from the people. the peopleeo are usually this informed, foolish in their opinions. that's the reason the box is not
a positive term. the function of a leader is to act in the public interest, even when it's unpopular. add-ins carries this to an extreme. like he's the guy who defends the british troops, you know, the boston massacre but he always thought if what i do is really unpopular it must be right, you know? he could've won the election of 1800 by going to war with france and he refused to do it and he always said it was the proudest thing he ever did.r but that the public is a big word here, and washington internalized that and it was the job -- one of the reasons the synth has a section term is supposedly make them more likely to vote in the long-term interest of thely public. of course that's the most partisan portion of the government now. i will shut up, but public, public, public. he represents them.
>> joe manchin the aurora. i know you want to say something. >> one quick thing i wanted to sortso of highlight when joe was talking about how personal washington was. that was intentional on the part of the newspaper editors. the editor of the aurora would deliver three copies of his newspaper every day to the front steps of the president's house. even the washington was not a subscriber, and he did so intentionally get under washington's skin. we know it worked because he ranted and raved about it when jefferson took several notes. this political warfare and the partisan wounds they were trying to inflict was quite intentional. >> let's get a taste of washington on parties and we can further explore this. this is some of his language and there's much more ofe it in the address. to distract the public councils in the public and administratio administration, it agitates the community with ill-founded
jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one party against another, foments occasionally writes an insurrection, opens the door to foreign influence and corruption which finds a fizzled access to the government itself through the channel a party passions. >> leave it up for t a second because this is i think if you have to pick the not crap the trip from the headlines today i think this would be a particularly, it agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms. kindles animosity of one party can study, foam and occasionally riots and insurrection, opens the door to foreign influence. we just had a riot and insurrection because partisan in its nature. this calendar year the result in the worst attack on the capitol since the war of 1812. it was fueled by misinformation and disinformation, channel through partisan media and exacerbated by party figures who put party over country.
based on a lie. perpetrated by the been president. but amplified through partisan media. and also amplified via social media by some foreign actors who saw an interest in dividing america against itself. it's all there, folks, right there. george washington warned us. he predicted us and especially when he went out there and tries come another face on the farewell address, , act like a pretended patriot. really acted like that they're else, which is itself washington elwould say is a sin against national unity. if they fited into this death of washington warned against, they are part of the problem. let's not pull any punches about that. washington made an explicit warning, we just lived through evidence of it. so it could not be more relevant and that is precisely why we
need to be listening to washington's farewell address now today, because we are falling into the traps that he warned us about almost 250 years ago. >> john quickly, you're the one most recently with regard to the farewell address. when did they b stop making it mandatory to read the farewell address -- is at the full congress are both houses are just the senate? >> the senate still reads it every year. >> how ironic. >> i would argue douses more partisan than the senate although it's kind of a jump ball. what i i thought you're goingo say is in the wake of the civil war, teaching the farewell address, memorizing it is part of the core public school curricula. it is foremost in people's minds even though it's easier to memorize 272 words gettysburg address and it's in the wake of for a lot of
interesting reasons that it sort of begins to fade. original america first movement of the isolationists in the run up to world war ii by adopting the farewell address i think fundamentally creates a misimpression, it's an isolationist document and its red at american nazi rally in madison square garden will get to that. >> lyndsay, can you take it back to the 18th century on some of this language? john gives us a great way this speaks to the 21st century. how would this have been read in september of 1796? as you said there's an election just around the corner. >> as i think john of their two at the very beginning, this was an intensely partisan atmosphere. atmosphere. when we think of the challenges we are facing today in terms of misinformation and disinformation, party structure,
nativism, fears about foreign interference come all the things except they had not done it before. as joe talked about they were students of history at the new that republicans -- republic specifically feel. let's not forget the constitution is actually the country second chance. this government was already the second chance at getting it right. there was such intense atit this time that one misstep would lead to the nation's and doing, and washington shared that fear. adams shared that fear during the jay treaty debate that joe mentioned. adams wrote in hisur letters bak to abigail that he thought either civil war was coming or may be maybe the constitution would last another ten years at most. that's really theou vibe of this moment. one of the things washington highlights in this party section of his farewell address is that
the party animosity and the intensity of that party spirit can lead us to forget similarities. that yes,t we might have differences, we might have regional differences and sectional differences we have much more in common as americans as we do as federalists or as republicans. boy, is that a lesson we really need to learn. >> we need to recover the historicalal context of the late 18th century for listeners and viewers because, and she's doing that right now. i'm building on her book with this remark. if you read article two of the constitution of the united states, i will bet you can't tell you what the president can do. the definition of the presidency isn't shaped by the
constitution. it's shaped by washington's own administration. that's the reason i i always d for him for number one president. even ahead of lincoln. he creates the republic that lincoln saves. but let me tell you the average american in the 1780s and '90s was born, lived at his or her life and died without a three-hour horse ride. the mentality was local, not continental or national. this would underlay apperception that was strong, that we created a national government before we were a nation. so it's what one historian called the constitution is a roof without walls. so washington is the embodiment of the nation that doesn't exist. it's one of the reasons that he
goes on the trip in in his ft two years to visit all of the states. i believe somebody has got a book on that right now. what we need to remember is the united states in the 1780s and '90s was a plural now. okay? and by the way, jefferson would go to his grave believing that we are still a confederacy, not a nation. washington is an attempt to create, and it's one of the reasons why in the address itself he keeps trying to get hamilton to insert a wrong paragraph on a national university. hamilton keeps saying what inhabitants think this a step to do do with the document? no, no, no. he keeps saying yet to put it in.
in. it ends up like two sentences. he wants to create an institution what americans from all kinds of different states and sections can come together and interact, and intermarry, and i don't think george washington university makes that yet, but thema first institution that does that is west point which comes into existence i think in 1803. >> actually washington is proposing both kind of a civic college and actually helps purchase land for which a doubt the naval observatory with the vice president lives but that idea dies and you're right hamilton is back and forth on it. het keeps indexing into ticket o his address to congress. theth original farewell you can see it is literally cut and pasted that section. >> i think, john, if you look at the last address to congress, it's almost fdr.
do you know what a mean? it's almost a visionary -- i'm sorry, are you -- >> go on. [laughing] that, john., but you know what i'm saying? is a vision very close to what john quincy adams will have as president. it's a vision of a nationstate that makes domestic and foreign policy and a robust way. in that, washington is a member of a very small minority in the nation. and anybody that opposes him ken lay on disposition. he's a tory because he is attempting to re-create a monarchy and, of course, jefferson is the main guy that's doing this behind the scenes.
i think it is malone who spent 50 years writing about jefferson ways often she said jefferson in the 1790s, i don't really understand what he's doing. it's been 50 years and you don't understand what he's doing. what he's doing is lying. what he is doing is treasonable. he's stabbing washington in the back, and i might be wrong, cavan, tell me. i've often said to students, i hope i was right, that jefferson wrote to martha we need became president because he was close to mount vernon, can they come see you? she never answered, i don't think, but she said washington said, , i never want that man on my property. >> it's right after washington's death in particular that martha has a very powerful statement about her distaste for jefferson. let me bring up a little more language year. we have been talking about unioe quite a bit but it's all through
this address. the word t union appear so much almost thinking you're reading abraham lincoln. it is all through this address, words like unity engine in. the word now jumps out at me. the main pillar and edifice of the real independence or your tranquilly at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which he so highly prized. this statement y of union is powerful and this is again not the only chunk of the address that touches on this. john, how do you take this? >> this is foreign, a little bit of what joey described which is he, washington is willing the creation of a nation. he is very conscious of the fact that he is creating a national character to the example of his
a president which sets the president is lindsey writes about for the presidency, for the american government. but it is a hard sell because everybody still thinks of themselves as a virginian first or a new yorker first or a south carolinians first. so washington is trying to say all of the s time that no, this works because of the federal government. it is the guarantor of your n liberty. you are not safe from strife. you don't necessarily have property rights unless we have a strong central government. you see even in the first constitutional convention, the constitution doesn't mention political parties. it does mention journalists i like to point out but it doesn't mention party. people show up to new york, and they do the bill of rights.
they representing their constituencies and their conscience. not political parties. that's a later invention. washington is trying to say all our differences are nothing if we can focus o on what unites us rather than what divides us. and that very early over the debate of the ratification of the constitution you see so many of the arguments we still see today. largely urban folks saying we need a stronger central government to unite the nation to give them certain powers and primarily rural folks saying no, that stronger central government as a threat to our way of life. that is a continuity and american debate because they constitutional convention through today,,e but i think washington clearly is on the side of a. stronger central government and emphasizing there's a balance to be struck. this is not on all one side of the ledger, but the primary mission, primary project is emphasizing the creation of a nation. >> lyndsay, your thoughts on washington's emphasis on union
and unity in this address. >> i would like to build off of what john said, he talks about this with the importance and union in the constitution is what he's saying is we cannot at liberty without having strong central government. this is again another incredibly relevant subtext for the 21st century and especially for 2021. the goal is to have certain, to have rules, to have recognition of t authority, to have obediene for the ruled of law. it will actually safeguard your liberties. you don't get to have free-for-all of whatever it is you want to do. as the modern society we accept that we're supposed to stop for a red light and we're not allowed to drive drunk because that is a limitation that we step to preserve more of the liberties and the freedom and the safety of more american people. obviously they didn't have cars in 1786 when he was writing this with the content is true that as
part of a free society you have to accept certain limitations. this is incredibly relevant coming on the heels of the whiskey rebellion which wrapped up less than two years prior to this address. he does allude to the whiskey rebellion, whichss he says that there is a constitutionally mandated way in which one can enter your grievances, one can seek redress for the things that you don't like, the measures that you think r are inappropriate. inappropriate. but unless the constitution has changed, obedience to the constitution is the true way to being an american. >> joe, let me ask you to address one specific thing. washington spends quite a bit of time in his discussion of union and o unity, and that's regiona. he talks about the north, about the south, about the west. could you help people who are less familiar, what is he saying when he looks at north, south and particularly west? what is at regional concern of
his? >> the north, south, the obvious issue is threat of civil war and the underlying issue is slavery. later in the program i want to say i wish there was one thing he did talk about at the farewell address, that he didn't. he said to jefferson, this was i think even before he was president, if there everas is a war between north and the south, you need to know i will be with the north. i think jefferson repeats it, but he sends his kids, you know, they are not his kids, to columbia rather than william and mary. he becomes a kind of trojan horse in the middle of virginia in some sense.
so that's that, but the other thing is the west. i think john was mentioning that first farewell address, circular letter f-18 -- 1783. that is most lyrical statement of all types in terms of the vision from the republic. you can see implied in the farewell address that you have to know about it before hand. that is america's future is not in europe but it is to the west. lafayette says come with me and we will go to grant to her and we will do paris and we will do roam and we will do berlin. i don't think we will do london. and he says no, you come with me. we will do detroit, we will do new orleans, we will do savannah. that's thehe future. that's the future out there. as a young man in the seven
years war he knows about what that is out there was in most other political leaders of the time. when you get to the louisiana purchase, it's funny, it's dinosaurs out there and its mammoth and all that kind of thing. i might be pushing this too much to diplomacy but i think washington believes that we begin with the largest trust fund that any new nation has ever enjoyed. we got the geographic advantage as well on both sides of the atlantic and the pacific. he's mostly concerned with the atlantic. maybe john in lindsay can disagree with me, , we can play this out as an argument, but washington's definition of american exceptionalism is exactly the opposite of what most contemporary people think
american exceptionalism is. the contemporary view which are sought after we won the cold war is now the russians are gone and we can make the world a safer democracy as wilson believed because we have a model that works everywhere. washington said our model is distinctive and unique and exceptional, and for that reason don't expect it to work in france, okay? the french revolution is probably going tok fail. when the iraq war is going on and i was doing a book to or from a biography of i washington everybody wants d to know what washington would say about iraq. and i said, he didn't know where iraqaq was. but later when they kept pressing the i said, he would say how did we become britain? [laughing] explained that when to me.
i'm pressing for foreign policy and maybe don't want to do that yet. >> i won't go there now. >> the west is what drives in there because he believes that is certainly the future for the next 100 years. >> let's go to foreign policy. this is another small segment of a fairly lengthy discussion in the address. here's a taste of the great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is extending our commercial relation to have a connection. so far as we formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good. here, let us stop. this is washington at the end of his presidency. lindsay, is this how washington's presidency played out? did the exercise this foreign policy vision as president of crossed eight years? >> i think for the most part he did. he didn't want to be beholden to anyone nation picky recognized that the line to one country for
support, for economic support was asking for trouble especially at a time when france and great britain were essentially having a second 100 year war. they were constantly at each other's throats and it usually pulled others into the mix. the best way is to not get too close to any one site. for example, and 7093 when france declares war on great britain, the united states and france did have treaties on the books. they hadnd a treaty of commerce left over from the revolutionary war. they decided at jefferson's encouragement to interpret the treaty of defense as a defensive treaty. so it says that france and the united states were bound to help one another if it were attacked by enemies, meaning great britain of course. but because france was one that was att war they were not
attacked and, therefore, according to jefferson, the united states was not obligated to come to france's help which was convenient because the united states reallyis didn't he an army or navy anyway. so this content is trying to balance these two global superpowers was really i think his main goal for the majority of his presidency, , trying to sort of not get too close or having to intense of relationship with either. >> one of my favorite moments, he praises washington for having the steadfast is to maintain neutrality and assist all else could have done it. that always jumps out at me. john, this foreign relations stated that washington has, can you talk about the legacy of that? take his past the 18th, the 19th and into the 20th century. >> sure. first of all, the statement of neutrality between france and britain is itself revolutionary
but washington is really fixated on the fact we have a strategic asset that is unlike any other. i joke in my book, if the version of what will rogers uses it, which is america's got the two best friends they've ever had, the atlantic and pacific ocean. we are insulated from the chaos of continental europe where the been killing each other for centuries. that's a strategic asset particularly at the time of course when distance really inoculates us. he says look, there's no way we're going to become a satellite of another nation. we need to be an independent nation. he says we need at least 20 years to build our own strength, military and economic and and we can build our own interest. look, youse don't have criminal alliances with other nations. we will noter get dragged into a
foreign war. that would be a huge mistake or who we are now as a young nation that needs to build up strength, and it would squander our great strategic advantage which is our geographic isolation. this plays out to the 19th 19th century which is considered basically sacred but it is easily enforced by thehe distan, by the fact that the world is not -- you can't attack america very easily, albeit it had happened, so we were fairly isolated. john hey it was abraham -- two phrases, the golden rule and the monro document. with the monro doctrine that basically says we are will stay
out of your business, don't come in our sphere of influence. but our temptations to empire. where a republic not an empire. that is core foundational founding fathers wisdom. the 19th century that starts to get strained. by the time we get into the debate over world war i and write about this in my book, it's fasting because the debate where getting involved over one what is conducted, and the ratification of the league of nations, a book conducted by two washington bar covers both argue they are defending the washingtonian tradition. cabot lodge is doing it with more office sensitive becausehe easing look we've never gotten involved in a continental fight, why would we start now? wilson is a no, the ideals of washington are at stake and a lot of the talk was we do get involved in calling on washington's legacy. something really interesting happens. the world doesn't in.
america's turns the tide of the first world war fairly quickly and all of a sudden made it looks like washington wasn't perfect profit. we cansh get involved in foreign wars, do good and make the world safe for democracy so takes washington down a peg. in a significant way. there's a backlash to involvement in the first world war. when the second world war comes about, you see there was a group called america first committee, some of them were anti-semitic, some of them were isolationists, but they used washington's farewell too argue against the united states getting involved in the second world war. this hits and absurd extent when the german american host a rally at madison square garden in new york city thatso function as american nazi party rally and is a giant, giant poster, flag, billboard of george washington
in the background. the keynote address is also would misappropriating the text of the farewell address. this is paid for by a foreign government. it shows we need to be careful about misappropriations, and washington warning against foreign influence in a politics. as one of the reasons to stay out of this and you have a foreign government, the nazis, a misappropriation of the farewell address arguing against getting war. that by the way backfires badly on them, but the legacy of the farewell address really starts to fall away for for a times result of the association with the america first, and the incorrect belief that it's an isolationist document. it's not. he's talking about the foreign policy ofon independence, about false alliances and no, we shouldn't start trying to export
democracy. we should focus on strengthening our self but once we're strong, then we can make decisions based on her own conception of national interest. that's different from an isolationist document. >> joe come in a recent book of yours american dialog you're a long section of washington and his foreign policy vision writ large i think looking not just at the farewell address but at his actions across all of time as commander-in-chief. what's your read on the foreign policy vision of washington that you would share? >> there's a portion of his legacy that is no longer relevant. i hear john when it's not really isolationism, but i don't think washington ever envision us -- will come he did envision us as a world power, but i think his vision of us as a world power
was close to what john quincy adams would say. we cannot go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. i have lost my train of thought. what did you ask me again? >> foreign w policy vision. >> there seems to be another dimension to washington's legacy that is very much alive. there are different people who claim loyaltys to it, don't always agree about what it means about what we should do, and that's realistic tradition in american foreign policy. it has its origins in the dialogue of greece. it is in washington terms nations act solely on the basis of interest, and you should not expect them to act on any of the grounds whatsoever. in e some sense all treaties are temporary because the interest
might particularly change. but if you want to carry it into a contemporary american world, we care a lot about human rights but we are not going to war on that. and i think that the person that most embodies it in the mid-and late 20th century is george kennan and his doctrine of containment, and it's clear that what realism does well is say you have to distinguish between what you can and should do and what you cannot and should not do. it cannot be an open ended foreign policy. which regions of the earth our national security interest in which are not? at least in my humble opinion washington if you could somehow bringbl him out like my readers want, what would you do about iraq, if there's no place on the
planet you don't want to get involved it's the middle east. the middle east is like a graveyard for all western values, it's afghanistan. and so, to bring you up-to-date i think would be supportive of biden's decision to get us out and he with that what you need to do is not look for scapegoats but let's try to figure how we made this mistake in the first place. and i think that in some sense our own understanding of why britain makes the biggest mistake in its history by making war on the united states in 1775-1776, we can understand that now in a way he couldn't before. how does the world recently arrived world power brimming with confidence, certain of its military and economic supremacy,
step into a quagmire that is a war that is both unwinnable and unnecessary? we should know about i that. >> there's a lot i agree with but lenny push back for just debate sake. >> i saw a grimace on your facee so i knew you were going to push back. >> first of all the core of what you think is exactly right, they can be summed up inly a number giveaways one of which is america's not a colonizing power. that doesn't mean we don't have interests as independent nation but we're not a colonizing power. if a look at our involvement in world war i and world war ii, that's another definition of american exceptionalism but we beat back people who were not simply disrupting the balance of power, but attacking free and allied nations, and then with speed is not world war i, okay? world war ii but not world war i. world war i wasar a mistake.
>> you can debate that but i'm do that just yet. the only ground we ask is cemeteries to bury our dead. yes in germany raven air force base but we don't need to get into that levele of detail right now. the parallel that intrigues me is the case of the barbary piratess which doesn't occur under washington but if u we're attacked what do you do? how far do you extend that? how much does a treaty with morocco apply? these are inference parallels but where itan begins is we were attacked on 9/11. it's an unprecedented situation and washingtonhe could have not imagined turkey also i don't know if he could imagine americans attacking their l but that's a separate important conversation. i think he could've very easily -- >> the whiskey rebellion, but --
[inaudible] but just to finish the thought with regard to foreign policy. if you are attacked, then we responded. the problem is we responded with an open ended commitment rather than the c sort of a realist or scowcroft we have limited objective and then we're going to achieve that and get out. .. the different geopolitical realities of the day versus 1796. : : : >> i'm going to disagree with you on some of this. i think that all of the energy and all of the angst and anguish that was created by that event on september 11th was diverted into an unnecessary war.
>> are you talking about iraq or afghanistan? >> both. >> see, i think you've got to draw a distinction between the two. >> iraq was not containing nuclear weapons. iraq had nothing to do with with al qaeda. >> i agree with you on that. >> those were the last for invading iraq. >> take us back to 1796. >> keep it there for a few moments longer. we've had a great conversation and i hope you can answer some audience questions. and i won't keep you long. and behind the scenes there are a couple of audience questionses, kay allison where it was it written, anyone written that with the names, john, first, people who helped write it, but the where and the when. the where actually is quite interesting. >> the where is the executive mansion existing in
philadelphia, pennsylvania. and washington begins writing his farewell address the end of his first term. he does not want to have a second term. and at that time, james madison is, and jefferson sway and you will of that and basically he's persuaded that one thing that jefferson and hamilton agree on if washington isn't in the country, there would basically be a civil war and, and he puts it in drawer. hamilton is no longer treasury, and because jefferson and hamilton forms the republic party as joe corrects us, and brings hamilton and starts corresponding with them. and that's the primary collaboration and they bring john jay in at the very end. so to some extent you get the
federalist papers back together and on site edit and a process back and forthment and the play hamilton does a good job of portraying it. i interviewed lin-manuel miranda, and he designed so that hamilton would be delivering it as prose and washington would turn it into poetry. some of the words are hamiltons and washingtons in the delivery and that's the process and the philadelphia daily advertiser importantly because among a whole string of partisan papers at the time, the philadelphia daily advertiser is not a partisan paper, it's not a federalist paper notably in part because it has congressional printing contracts, but chose a
nonpartisan paper. >> for further elaboration and i've always wondered why hamilton in the sense washington had so many people that he trusted, so many people he could work with. but somehow hamilton was at the top of that list, could you tell bus that or anything you could add. >> yes, by 1796 washington had a relationship with the secretary that he did have in office and i refer to -- and washington certainly thought of them, and really didn't want to have cabinet meetings with them. he certainly tonight trust their writing abilities to the same degree that he trusted hamilton's and frequently still sought out advice on his annual addresses on the major moments during the presidency and asked hamilton to draft things for him. one really important element that washington was upon, and this is for hamilton when they first talked about it in march of 1796 and then washington
actually sent him the draft. washington first draft and insisted that it-- that the final include several paragraphs in the beginning. and it was basically a shot across the bow because washington was anticipating that madison and jefferson would be critical of this address and somehow the address with attempts to garner for power for the executive. so by including those paragraphs drafted by madison, he was basically saying, you already few about a farewell address and you participated in the drafting of the farewell address, so keep your mouth shut and it was a very intentional, very savvy political move and sure enough, madison was not publicly critical of the address. >> very briefly, i think the reason they picked hamilton is because hamilton had the most experience in taking-- throughout seven years of the war, he was writing jefferson,
when you read that the general orders of which are boring as hell throughout the 1770's, and they're signed by washington, but he didn't write them. and most of those are written by hamilton and one of his other aids. >> okay. and another question. >> and what they called pen men. and washington was insecure about his lack of education. and jefferson went to william mary. adams went to harvard. washington went to war and that is his educational experience. and that he was conscious of his own lack of literacy and he wanted to surround himself with people who were well educated and that's-- that was hamilton, that was lawrence, that was lafayette. those are the people. >> let's go to another audience question. we have one from jim about specifics here, let's get into the 18th century, how much of washington's foreign policy
apologies was by the spanish with on the british held canada and-- >> there were foreign powers and yet, they were there. who wants to take a first stab the specifics of north american geo politics. >> i'll take a quick stab. i'm pushing this hard, but-- if-- you can disagree. why is it called the continental army? why is it called the continental congress? it's really only the coast. and in some sense, they're thinking continentally from the beginning. the border under washington ends with the mississippi. it was generally regarded, and jay is most outspoken about this, but washington understood it, too, the spanish were
declining european power and they were like a cow bird, you know, a bird that sits in the nest until you take over. and it's great. spain is the perfect western-- european nation to have a power over there, because we know that as soon as the demographic wave hits them, they're gone. and i don't think anybody could easily perceive the louisiana purchase, but there is a sense of manifest destiny before 1840's when it becomes a term. and canada, well, remember at the time, we're talking 1796, we sort of thought that we were going to get canada and we were going to get cuba. i mean, war of 1812, we were suppose today win canada, of course it doesn't work out that way, but it's a
continental-wide vision in certain like aaron burr goes crazy and off the record, but i think the presumption was that florida and most of the west was eventually coming our way. >> and i think-- >> with the demography doing it rather than war. >> yeah, i think-- so i think that as said earlier, washington was a realist and he understood that in 1795, the united states signed this important treaty with spain to give the americans access to the mississippi river which was a critical element to the territories, that didn't have the ability to send their goods over the mountain ranges in places like flinch -- philadelphia or new york city and desperately needed access to the water before there were trains and cars and that sort of thing. however, washington was realistic about the fact that
spain and france were kind of playing off of each other, regularly there were complaints about individuals that self-emancipated towards florida and while there were goals about taking canada, you know, that hadn't happened yet. and so, so much of this foreign policy advice was about not getting too close to one country because if you get too close to britain, then france is going to get annoyed on the southern border and maybe is going to be more friendly to the safe emancipated individual. too close to france or maybe spain is going to cut off access to the river. so it's really a delicate dance of trying to hold all of these pieces together before the united states did have the entire continent and recognizing that as great as we thought we were in 1796, at this point we were a-- still a relatively to international power and very much subject to sort of the
whims of international super powers and washington really understood that. >> john. >> look, i'd just say that remember, most of the european powers thought that democracy would fail, that they'd get a chance to recarve up the continent at the time and the whole episode in washington's second term related to the ratification of the treaty and jefferson and madison basically, because washington declared neutrality, they said well, if you -- it means you're siding with the english. so they played that game to great effect and then the french revolutionary sort of jacobists and his deal was to sway the u.s. back to their side or to try to build on louisiana and destabilize the nation. there were adventuresome plots around that at the time.
and ultimately even jefferson realized that jenay was a bad deal. he realized he was going to get his head cut off, and he retired to jamaica long island. >> and married the governor's daughter. >> and there is one topic that we've only barely touched on a few different times, but haven't explored closely enough and we have an audience question coming in to help explore that. brian hilton is asking about george, and george washington's last will and testament, or something to addendum that we haven't discussed enough, slavery. >> and i explosively say in my book, his last will and testament should be considered a coda to the book.
if all means he hasn't, he should. look. to washington's discredit, certainly by contemporary perspectives, the farewell address is silent on the issue of slavery. now, washington, in his last will and testament, which could be, i guess the ultimate farewell address, takes the decided and unusual among the founding fathers steps, unusual among the founding fathers step of freeing a slave ultimately upon martha's death. there's a million different reasons why this is insufficient and emotionally unsatisfying by contemporary perspectives, all of which are so obvious they don't need to be discussed. it is, you know, it is a contradiction to the promise of america, and that said, it's a revolutionary act that washington knows is going to be public and there's a lot of
math he doesn't do, for example, sets up a dynamic where there are a lot of people looking for martha to die sooner rather than later. but this is intended to be and written to be a public statement. there's a lot of drama around its drafting and which version he chooses and notably the other founding fathers who follow him who are virginian and not named adams who owned slaves, don't do this. right? they don't release their slaves upon their death, but washington was making a very clear statement to the country so i 100% believe and argue in my book, it can and should be considered the coda to the farewell address where slavery is finally addressed by washington. >> and wish he had a paragraph in the farewell address that told his readers and the americans that he intended to free his slaves. and he sort of did, it's in--
at that moment trying to follow his thought processes is not easy. he's committed to freeing his slaves once he can get money off the sale of his western lands, but he can't get that sold until he keeps budging and until 1799 does he finally commit. he can only free the slaves he owns which are slightly less than half of the 317 slaves in mt. vernon. and martha, we can't prove this, but i think that martha is reluctant to see the slaves freed, because they're intermarried on the farms there, but i mean -- i would think that washington is the greatest leader in american history. i think that slavery is america's original sin and racism is its enduring toxic residue, we're still living
with it. was there a chance to end it to put it on the road to extinction before the cotton gin came, before the numbers became impossible? was it a shakespearean tragedy and not a greek tragedy? yes. who could have most effectively moved it in that direction? washington. he failed as a leader on this issue. now, that's a heck of a standard to apply, and i agree with john in the sense that when we look back at the 21st century, our present perspective gives us a enormous advantage, but they knew, washington knew that slavery was the contradiction to the values of the american revolution. he said that. he knew that. he knew and what he kept saying was, we've got to wait. wail until 1808, he said.
that's when the slave trade will end. and so in some sense, but i would have liked for him to say, i would like the constitution to say, look, we're not going to attempt to end slavery in the states of the deep south now, but let us all agree that the core principles of this republic cannot allow and permit this forever. and the house divided cannot stand. which, by the way, somebody-- a methodist ministry use that phrase in 1778 that's where lincoln got it from. >> what's your last word on this important subject? >> yeah, so historian of slavery gordon reed thinks that george washington was deeply concerned if he spoke out about slavery during his lifetime, it would be cause irreparable harm and divide. whether or not that's true, i don't know.
but that's certainly what he thought. and so that is why he didn't say anything during his lifetime. now, his will was certainly more than nothing. it was more than some people did. it was less than others did. and so, i think that in some ways, it's a little bit of-- it certainly wasn't the easy road out because it wasn't. but it wasn't taking a principle to him because he enjoyed the labor and their time while he was still alive. so, i think, you know, the way i see it as, it was more than nothing but it certainly wasn't-- >> right, and i can that's right. and let's remember, we began with the union, his commitment to the unions, and if you raise the question of slavery at all, in a way, you risk that and that's one that he was most terrified of. we've got it keep it off the national agenda until at some point in time when we can face
it squarely until the republic is sufficient to survive the debate. >> i'm going to bring things to a close. and we had a question and while julie and i were talking about it, we want to close on this moint. the biggest take away and i'll ask each of you, start with john. why would you want people to still read the farewell address. >> washington warned about the force that is could deploy democratic republics and the document contains the worn wisdom of his life. and it's prophetic, foreign and domestic politics are ripped from the headlines of today. and if i had to pick one of those that i would argue that washington was most concerned about and we should be most concerned about, it's hyper
partisanship, putting party over country. that's the forces that we're playing with today and it's risking the success of our republic. >> lindsey, your biggest take away, why should people continue to turn to this document now? >> well, i agree with everything john said. i would add unelement. the foreign policy piece that didn't quite touch on, washington warned against allowing emotions for other nations, for foreign nations to color our ideas against our fellow americans, to color our ability to be as the united nations. and i think that that gets that distinct point which is stop allowing, whether it be partisan identity for foreign policy identities to make us forget what we have in common, to make us forget our common ties and instead, see those differences. so, it's really just stop looking for the divisions and instead, look for the things that we have that bind us
together. >> last word? >> both of my colleagues have done a great job, john and lindsey. so, i can't-- i echo their view. as a teacher of 44 years, many students these taste don't think anything happened before they were born. and the document, because it would be so alien for so many of them i want them to understand it. and like the president going to a foreign country and learning to think and speak a different language and the language that washington speaks is for the reasons that john mentions, desperately absent from the center of american politics, especially at the congressional and presidential levels. the public interest is something that nobody understands now. and to even suggest that your
highest priority is to mean that you're not qualified to serve, washington would never-- neither would any of the other presidents that i've mentioned earlier, they would never run for public office with the presidency and-- they would regard it as prostitution. >> comparing where we were to where we are and looking back and learning something about where we need to be in the future. >> thank you so much, john avlon, lindsey chervinsky and ellis it's an important document and why it's relevant today. and for mt. vernon, thank you all for being here. thank you and good night. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday, american history tv documents america's
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