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tv   Robert Levine The Failed Promise  CSPAN  May 7, 2022 5:00pm-5:56pm EDT

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april 1865 brought the confederate surrender at appomattox and the assassination of president abraham lincoln in this period of uncertainty americans wondered how the new president andrew johnson would lead the divided nation many especially in african-americans were hopeful that johnson would actively promote cause of black equality. black leaders. however became disillusioned with johnson after a dramatic meeting with the president at the white house frederick douglass attack johnson's policies in a number of lectures across the country. johnson's conflict with congress
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over reconstruction eventually led to his impeachment. within the records of the national archives is the resolution to impeach johnson written on a scrap of paper and introduced in the us house of representatives of february 21st, 1868. three days later the house voted 128 to 47 to adopt the rest of resolution. in the failed promise robert s levine portrays the conflicts that brought frederick douglass and the wider black community to reject andrew johnson and call for guilty gerdict in his impeachment trial. herbert s. levine is distinguished professor of english and distinguished scholar teacher at the university of maryland at college park. his most recent books before the failed promise or the lives of frederick douglass and race transnationalism and 19th century american literary studies. levine has received fellowships from the national endowment for the humanities and the guggenheim foundation in 2014.
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the american literature section of the modern language association awarded him the hubble medal for lifetime achievement in american literary studies. now, that's here from robert levine. thank you for joining us. and thank you for that kind introduction. it's real honor to be here. i'm going to do a slide show and kind of talk through what i do in the book so i'm gonna to share screen. and let's see. okay, so this is the cover of the book and again, i want to thank david dario for the kind introduction. i think i really like about this cover. is that underneath the red is a page from the articles? of impeachment. i think that's kind of cool. plus i like the pictures and and the whole color scheme. so the large aim of the book is
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to provide a black perspective on the early years of reconstruction 1865 to 1868 on andrew johnson and on the impeachment itself, which occurred at 1868 most of the standard studies of the impeachment focus on the white radical republicans. i wanted to bring to life in african-american perspective on reconstruction and impeachment by focusing on frederick douglass and other black activists. reconstruction was about black voting rights and rights to citizenship and blacks thought for those rights. douglas and other african-american activists were concerned about anti-black racism in the north and south and had their own problems with johnson and let me just say that i try to tell a story about the interactions the relationship between douglas and johnson that hasn't been told before and i think is is really interesting and i tried to do it in a novelistic way. i'm here's what i call the
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adversaries are very good pictures of these two men and they were forceful formidable figures. they were great orders they dressed well. johnson was a former taylor. douglas felt it was important in his photographs and some of our give you the most photographed man of 19th century america. wanted to depict himself against the stereotype of the so-called black savage. so we tended to dress well, and we tend to look serious in his pictures. johnson & douglas met only twice in person. they met a lincoln's second inauguration, which was march 4th 1865 when lincoln gave his famous with malice toward none speech and to the white house on february 7th 1866 when johnson was president. but they shattered each other
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throughout johnson's presidency in johnson even made douglas the job offer in 1867. today, i will talk about some key moments in the douglas johnson relationship and about the drift toward the johnson impeachment. so let's start with the first meeting between douglas and johnson of march 1865 at lincoln's second inauguration. here's a famous picture of lincoln. to either and i think if you can see my arrow sees right around here my historian friends say that douglas is right around here in the second row. i'm not entirely hundred percent sure of that, but douglas was at the inauguration because abraham lincoln who met with douglas twice earlier in the white house had invited him to the inauguration. after the speech douglas tried to get into the reception in the white house he would stop by security, but eventually it was
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bounced for and was greeted by lincoln who asked douglas how we like the speech and told the assembled group that douglas was his great friend. douglas told me like the speech betty walked away. johnson joins lincoln at the reception and i'm going to let frederick douglass. tell the story of what happened next. this is from douglas's 1881 life and times of frederick douglas. so it's about 16 years. later. i was standing in the crowd when mr. lincoln touched mr. johnson appointed me out to him the first expression which came to his face in which i think was the true index of his heart was one of bitter contempt and aversion. seeing that i observed him. he tried to assume a more friendly appearance, but it was too late. it is useless to close the door when all within has been seen. his first glance was the frown of the man. the second was the bland and sickly smile of the demagogue. i turned to this is dorsey douglas is cool, my friend and
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said whatever andrew johnson may be he certainly is no friend of our race. it's it's a great passage. douglas is a great writer. i am an english professor and i like the metaphor of this idea of a door. sorry. let me go back. oh the door opening and closing showing johnson's true feelings the thing i want to emphasize about this passage is is that it's retrospective and i don't think it's fully to be believed in the 1881 life and times douglas celebrates lincoln as a savior. during the civil war douglas often attacked lincoln at one point comparing. him to confederate leaders i i start with this moment. and then i move back in time in order to give a more nuance portrayal of john said as not
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necessarily pure evil, and i want to i want it all sort of point out how he ended up being lincoln's vice president, and i also wanted to make the point that a lot of people thought including black abolitionists that he would be a great vice president. it was something promising in appealing about johnson at least until 1865 that brought him to the attention of lincoln and the republican party. so very briefly he was a senator from tennessee in the only in the only southern senator who was pro-union and against secession he put his life in the line by taking that position lincoln appointed him military governor of tennessee in 1862 and in 1863 johnson again, put his life in the line by calling for the end the abolition of slavery again, this is quite unusual for a southern leader. he was named vice president in
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1864 when republicans feared they would lose the election and in october 1864. and from me this is a key moment as it is a key moment for johnson while still military governor johnson gave a famous speech called his moses of the color men's speech in which he declared before a large crowd of black people in nashville that all of the enslaved people of tennessee were free. they had not been free body emancipation proclamation because tennessee was a border state the speech was widely reported. it was celebrated an abolitionist and black newspapers and it made johnson's reputation. johnson also became obsessed with the speech and he referred to it again and again throughout his career whenever he wanted to make the case that he cared about black people. so you're gonna hear about this speech a couple times during this talk. here's a few passages from a
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newspaper account of the speech. so this is johnson speaking to this large crowd of of african americans in nashville. he says in due time your leader will come forth. your moses will be revealed to you and he says this after he declared that slavery was an end at an end, which he was not legally authorized according to the reporter on the scene the large black crowd response as follows. you are our moses and the exclamation was caught up and cheered until the capital run again want no moses, but again shouted the crowd. then johnson's response well done humble and unworthy as i am if no other better shall be fined found. i will indeed be your moses and lead you through the red sea of war and bondage to a fairer future of liberty and peace. there's a whole lot of people who think that johnson it was dishonest here and throughout his career. i i think i'm that he was kind
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of caught up in the energy. this is a man who wanted to be loved. this doesn't mean he wasn't a racist. it doesn't mean that he wasn't eternalistic and i have more to say about this throughout the talk. to return to the reception for lincoln's second inaugural. douglas said he saw a racist, but i'm not sure if that's what he saw in 1865 when he was in the white house or when he was writing up the account in 1881 long after johnson's terrible presidency the fact is that when johnson took office on april 15th 1865 after the assassination of lincoln some thought that he would be more progressive than lincoln. okay, and now i want to offer just a few words on douglas during the civil war years before he saw johnson from a distance at the second inauguration. douglas was committed to the civil war as a war of emancipation. and he wanted more than
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emancipation. he wanted the full rights of citizenship for african-americans. and in this slide i referred to the douglas argument of 1861 to 1895. that's the year that he died. basically calling for emancipation during the civil war and then citizenship and i know famous speeches that he gave the mission of the war in 1863 statements had a black convention and syracuse in 1864, and then in remarks he made virtually every day of the johnson administration he would again and again say something like this. slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot. so the emancipation proclamation and then the 13th amendment weren't enough this particular quote has taken from a speech at the may 1865 american anti-slavery society meeting which was led by william lloyd
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garrison who announced to the crowd that the society could disband because the 13th amendment ended slavery their job was over douglas disagreed. he said what i just quoted here, it was a vote and they decided not to despair that they were pursue not just the end of slavery which had happened but the vote in a larger sense citizenship. and and this is basically what? douglas's argument for for the rest of his life even when it becomes legal and he is noticing that it is still difficult for black people to go. so on johnson became the 17th us president a little more than a month after lincoln's second inauguration. douglas at this point in the spring and into the summer of 1865 had nothing negative to say about johnson despite what we read in life and times the
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predator douglas initially the radical republicans actually seem to like johnson. and here's an image of two of the most prominent radical republicans charles sumner senator from massachusetts, and that is stevens. congressman from, pennsylvania. lincoln's republican party, and now johnson's republican party was dominated by the radicals who wanted the ex-confederate states to be reconstructed and put a special emphasis on that word reconstructed. in addition to the end of slavery which came in in 1865 with the 13th amendment. they wanted former leaders of the confederacy out of power. they want to black men to have the right to vote the radicals initially saw johnson as a fellow traveler someone who shared their views charles sumner for example visited johnson said that johnson told him that he agreed with everything. he said about black voting rights and then he wrote a
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friend and concluded that i'm going to quote that quote johnson is the sincere friend of the -- and ready to act for him decisively quote. as i elaborated the book other radical republicans had similar responses in april and even into may they thought that johnson was going to do what they wanted, but then things started to change had johnson been conning these men was he in fact like most other southern white men or even worse. a may 29th. 1865 johnson issued an amnesty proclamation which basically allowed the x confederate states to return to the union as they had been before the civil war except without slavery. confederate leaders could remain in power in the government at the ex confederate states the wealthy needed to petition for pardons, but that wasn't a problem johnson set up an office
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and offered pardons johnson's large commitment was to restoration that would emphasize that word restoration as opposed to the construction. with the wild idea that the states never succeeded because secession was not allowed by the constitution. historian brenda wine apple says that's like saying a murderer couldn't have killed because murder is against the law. according to johnson restoration should be watched over and enabled and guided by the president in short. he believed in presidential restoration. he wanted nothing to do with congress the republicans continue to call for congressional reconstruction. the president and congress were in conflict over the next three years and i'm not going to go into detail about that. interestingly johnson continued to see himself as black's moses.
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is first year at office he met with the number of black groups in the white house and even allowed for the possibility of limited black suffrage. he mentions this in a private letter in an interview and even in his first annual presentation to congress. he suggested that blacks who had money and had fought in the war might be given the right to vote, but nothing came of that from here from his and as he fought against the radical republicans who wanted full rights of suffrage for the freed people. he became more and more reactionary in response to the radical republicans. as i say the radical republicans was slow to turn on johnson. frederick douglass and other african-americans turned on him more quickly in a lecture in boston in the fall of 1865 douglas compared johnson to the president of the confederacy jefferson, davis and warned and unquoting now.
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that the gains of the civil war were on the verge of being lost because of the imbecility or the treachery of president johnson and what douglas and other black activists believed that something needed to be done and that takes us to douglas's second meeting with johnson on february 7th. 1866. and that was in the white house and a black convention in december 1865 douglas had proposed that a black delegation should go to washington dc as a lobbying group to talk to congressman and the president about black rights the convention approved the resolution and the group around 10 people which included douglas arrived in the district late, january of 1866. these are two members of the group george downing. was a black activist.
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he also was a caterer a black restaurateur from rhode island who had moved to washington dc. he had become friends with charles sumner. he got the job of being in charge of the congressional dining room. he was the nominal leader of the group lewis henry douglas. who is the first son of frederick and anna had worked with his father as a journalist. he was the corresponding secretary and was involved in writing responses about the meeting and one thing i want to emphasize here and i emphasized this throughout the book douglas is not acting alone. he is often working with other black activists and that's part of what? i really explore in the book. johnson agreed to the meeting with this black delegation because he thought it would go well and serve as good publicity. he had a stenographer named
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named james clefane c l e p h a n e who is well known as a pioneer in shorthand. he could take wonderful notes johnson wanted him there because he thought the meeting would go really well and would show once again that he is the moses for black people a transcript of the meeting appeared in a dc newspaper that night which is an incredible tribute to the stenographer clefane and a corrected version appeared the next morning and that account then appeared in newspapers around the country. i mean i founded in newspapers in nevada nevada in california, for example the meeting was basically an effort to get johnson on board with promoting advocating blacks right to vote and the meeting went something like this downing let led the group in they agreed to johnson johnson greeted them. it was some small talkback and forth and then johnson lodged into a speech that douglas slater said took about an hour,
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but the transcripts suggests that it wasn't that one because johnson was interrupted by questions from the blacks who were there. i when he was interrupted johnson became a bit aggressive feeling that the blacks themselves were aggressive and he would do this throughout his career, whatever he felt kind of defensive round black people he would tell them i am your moses. at this particular moment. he says to the delegation and i quote i have said and i will repeat here that if the colored man in the united states could find no other moses or any moses. they would be more able and efficient than myself. i would be his moses to lead him from bondage to freedom and quote this a little more discussion. they black delegation says thank you. they say they're goodbyes and then the keeping happens frederick douglas who is a performer and i think wanted to get under johnson's skin was at
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the door. he's about to leave and he says to johnson. well, if the president will allow me i would like to say one or two words in reply. you enfranchise your enemies and disenfranchise your friends by which he meant you enfranchised the people that during the civil war the confederates. he said were your enemies and you disenfranchise the black people the black men in particular who fought for the union during the civil war. this absolutely infuriates johnson and the meeting becomes it back and forth between johnson and douglas the transcript. shows that this went on for quite a while. this is just a snippet from the exchange in which douglas says let the -- once understand that he has an organic right to vote and he will raise up a party in the southern states among the poor who will rally with him and he says there is this conf that you speak up between the wealthy slave owner and the poor man and
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his emphasis here is this would be good for democracy. johnson responds you touch right upon the point there there's this conflict and hence, i suggest immigration if he the freeman cannot get employment in the south he has it in his power to go where he can get it. this is pretty bald statement. it's basically saying black people can leave the south and he may even be saying black people can leave the united states in effect with what douglas did in the exchange is exposed johnson for what he was a racist who didn't care about black people. this was important. johnson was frustrated by the meeting. it got away from him. it got out of his control. privately he meets after the meeting with some aides one of whom described the meeting in a letter to a newspaper editor who decided not to print the description because he was a johnson supporter, but according to that letter this is what
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johnson said. whoa those -- sons of -- thought they had me in a trap. i know that -- douglas. he's just like eddie and he uses the n word and he would soon cut a white man's throat than not and quote. either the year later, he would offer douglas a job, but for now, let me just say this the black delegation quickly crafted a response to johnson douglas and his son probably wrote that it appeared in the next days, washington dc newspaper as the frame to the transcript of the meeting it helped to shape how you would read that transcript douglas and this delegation had real media savvy. douglas at his 1881 autobiography says the meeting was a turning point it exposed johnson that may have been its name purpose johnson's friends came to his defense. it was some back and forth in newspapers, but black newspapers and northern progressive
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journals printed this exchange and they turned against johnson. this is what douglas had to say about johnson just a few weeks after the meeting speaking at a black suffrage organization. what shall be said of andrew johnson? what shall be said of him who told us but traitors must take a backseat again the traders being the confederates that he spoke out against during the civil war must take a back seat in the work of restoration if he now invest those same traders with the supreme control of the states in which they live what shall be said of him who promised to be the moses of the colored race if he becomes their pharaoh instead in black writing you see a lot of this the most has becomes pharaoh douglas pause for a few seconds according to the account why this must be said of him that he had better never have been born. following the meeting with the black delegation johnson becomes even more reactionary that spring and summer saw massacres
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of blacks and memphis and new orleans which douglas and others believed were encouraged by johnson's racism and his refusal to support black suffrage. this is a painting by thomas mast who's a caricaturist kind of in the tradition of hogarth a regular contributor to harper's weekly. it's a painting about the massacre riot. it's been called both things. that occurs late july in new orleans johnson was not there. but according to nas and douglas. he was there in spirit here. he is to the right. he is wearing a crown because critics said he thought he was like a king at the top of this little bunk here or bunker here treason is a crime. that's what johnson had said about the southern confederates and if you can read this i am your moses. so the moses the king is kind of
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watching on as white people or gunning down black people speaks to where douglas nest and other critics of johnson are coming from douglas continue to speak out against johnson. he developed a fabulous stump speech called sources of danger to the republic which he gave for the first time in december 1866 and then on numerous occasions in 1867. in the book i focus on the version. he delivered on january 3rd 1867 in a black lecture series in philadelphia organized by william still the african american who played such an important part in the underground railroad a transcript of this version appeared in a philadelphia newspaper and is and has not been republished until now i included as a appendix in the book. i think it's fascinating to see douglas talking to a predominantly black audience.
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he participated in the lecture series with francis ellen watkins harper a popular african-american pellet fiction writer and lecturer and i want to say a few words about the lecture she gave also in january titled national salvation again, i want to emphasize that douglas worked in tandem with other black leaders to oppose johnson and make the case for reconstruction and black rights to citizenship. this is a picture of harper from the book that was edited by williams still and i want to show you the conclusion of her talk national salvation, which is about racism in the north and south actually begins by talking about how black people in philadelphia have problems using public transit racism does not exist only in the north or racism in her account is body by andrew johnson, so she says near the end. we have needed andrew johnson in
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this country. it's a great national mustard plaster to spread himself all over this nation so that he might bring to surface the poison of slavery which still lingers in the body politic, but when you have done what the muster plaster, what do you do? do you hug it to your bosom and say it is such a precious thing that you cannot put it away rather when you have done with it you throw it aside, so i love that image of tossing aside johnson. he kind of takes the races of out of the national body and maybe the will be better. douglas in the sources of danger to the republic speech and i'll just quickly summarize but just say it's it's a really fascinating speech that does a lot of different things. i he says near the beginning drive no man from the ballot box because it was color and keep them a woman on account of her sex. he is really concerned about black suffrage and when this suffrage and then he goes after johnson but in going after
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johnson, he also racist questions about the constitution. he says that there aren't enough checks on the presidency. he says again and again what happens when a bad man becomes president, how are we going to stop someone who is in destiny says with kingly powers. he attacks the one man veto the one man empower the president and points to the presidential veto the pardoning power and hatred as giving too much unchecked power to a bad native. and it's not talking just about johnson. he's saying in the future we could have some bad men who might want to become kings like johnson and do things like you the part of the power. he also in the speech sets for the theory that people thought was kind of funny that when the people knew that andrew johnson in fact was going to support the south that i that there was a
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kind of conspiracy to make the vice president into someone who is going to do awful things in terms of reconstruction. so we also says get rid of the vice presidency because vice presidents are one heartbeat away from the presidency and they're going to want to kill the president. he gives the speech again and again through 1867 and in a very strange twist in the johnson douglas story johnson that summer in 1867 proposes at a private cabinet meeting to appoint douglas commissioner of the freeman's bureau and to fire all over otis howard. so i have a lot about this book. i'm gonna have to go quickly right now. i this is a picture of howard. he lost an arm in the civil war. he's a white man, but he was loved by black people. he was the commissioner of the
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freeman's bureau based in washington dc which had offices throughout the south which was supposed to help black people in terms of education legal issues money matters, and and so on congress has set up the friedman's bureau. it was regarded as a very important institution douglas and other black people thought howard was doing a great job some of you in the audience know that howard university was named after oliver, otis howard who helped to found it. arguably replacing howard with douglas made no sense for a president who didn't want a radical in the job except that it was a way of getting douglas under johnson's control johnson never made a formal offer to douglas. he worked through back channels because he didn't want to be exposed as going after douglas. especially if douglas said that so douglas's third son charles ramon douglas who worked at the freeman's bureau in washington's
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dc was charged with asking his father if you would like the job as was william slade a stewart at the white house the courtship went on in letters for several weeks douglas made it clear. he didn't want the job and then he betrayed the privacy that johnson wanted by letting an anti-jobs in new york newspaper. no about the offer the editor of that newspaper wrote as follows the greatest black man in the nation did not consent to the tool of the meanest white for this prudence and firmness mr. douglas is entitled entitled to the thanks of the country and the quote. we now come to the controversy of the precipitated the february 1868 impeachment johnson. wanted to fire at edwin's edwin stanton who was secretary of war under lincoln and then under johnson such a firing at that time was illegal and even and
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impeachable offense under the tenure of office act passed by the republican congress in march 1867. these are some snippets from the tenure of office act. but basically i'm going to paraphrase it says that if someone's appointed by the senate they have to be removed by the senate and not just by the president and that violating that would be seen as a high just misdemeanor which would be cause for impeachment. i in february of 1868 johnson decided to fire stanton no matter what. and this is a picture of stanton you can see he died in 1869 5 he was fired and i when he did after he was fired is he said i'm not fire that's illegal. he hit out in his office until the impeachment trial was over. i think that added a lot of stress which might explain why he died a year later. i okay. so johnson decides to fire
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stance and even though it was a violation of the tenure of office act. john johnson was engaged for violating that act and not for his resistance to reconstruction. at least that's the case on paper and if you look at the 11 articles of impeachment, you will see a few mentions of reconstruction, but it's really dominated by the tenure of office act. for that reason the trial itself, and you can read that online through congressional offices over 2,000 pages. it's dull the trial was dull. it was mostly about the legalistic struggle over whether the 10 europe office act had been violated. question to ask of the book is did anyone really care something i point out in the book is that there were no black voices at this trial? there were some moments but not many about johnson as a failed reconstruction president virtually all newspaper reports spoke to the tedium of the debates on the firing of standard in on the articles of
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confederation and here's an image of the senate as a court of impeachment and i will say it was obviously great theater. the galleries were packed virtually every day. so i i don't know all that much remaining time, but big question, where is douglas in all this and my quick answer is he stays on the sidelines for several reasons the first being that he was clearly troubled by what a number of black newspapers called the legal quibbles that dominated today. he also didn't want to become a distraction. and also finally he has a son charles ramon there as a conduit. and this is a picture charles and one of the things i did with the book is i look at a number of letters that charles who is based in dc at the freeman's bureau office writes his father about the impeachment trial saying again, and again that this name is horrible and deserves to be convicted of impeachment and he did not ever
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talk about the tenure of office act. i've in april april 16th. charles got two tickets for the trial. he expected his father to come. frederick douglass book the room. it's an interesting day in the transcript. you can see from april 16th, because i'm representative from massachusetts. benjamer benjamin butler attacked johnson for his racism and for causing great harm to black people. he actually said that and the chief justice of of the supreme court who was presiding over the trial salmon chase basically said he was out of order. that's not what this trial is about and charles and his father fred frederick both turned against chase. douglas at the last minute decided not to show up again, i think because he thought all eyes would be in him and not on. trial charles, no doubt told him about what he missed. so, i'm sure. some of you that would happen with the impeachment trial there
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were votes on two of the 11 articles of impeachment and may 1868 both fell short by one vote douglas his son francis harper and many other blocks felt the trade historians of speculated that the republicans didn't want benjamin wade of ohio the speaker of the house next in line for the presidency to become president to part because he was a socialist and apart because they wanted ulysses s grant as the next president. i charles roman douglas and his father both believed that johnson as i say should have been convicted and they both thought that chief justice of the supreme court salmon. chase was a false for keeping the proceedings overly focused on the tenure of office act. this is an image of chase. chase was a former abolitionist who was angling for the presidential nomination in knowing that grant would be the choice of the republicans. he was trying to make the democrats happy. here's what douglas had his son
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had to say about chase i and again i'm gonna power phrase charles says, he will not support this band basically for the president because he helped to secure the acquittal of andrew johnson and douglas says that chase moving from his abolishes position to seemingly being an advocate for johnson was close. certainly one of the saddest spectacles which could afflict the eyes of men chases failed machinations. he said led him to the gutter and i think that for both charles and frederick this was all about principles cemetes had no principles douglas in turning down the job from andrew johnson had principles. douglas say relatively quiet during the trial but shortly after he expressed his unhappiness with what had happened in speeches and newspaper commentary still he was delighted with the ratification of the 50th amendment in 1870. but as he saw black's rights to
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vote and do other things that citizens to do erode in the post 1870 years, he and as he saw the continuation of jim crow practices and as he saw the supreme court seeming to be complicitous complicitous at all this he regularly warned americans that they were returning to the andrew johnson moments like we're going back to the early years of reconstruction. this is douglas on johnson five years after johnson's death andrew johnson the moses of the colored race had betrayed that race into the blood state hands of the old master class and in the interest of moving on i'm not going to read the rest of that, but i he does not like johnson and he picks up on that image of johnson as most. at the end of johnson's presidency. he moved back to tennessee and decided to run for congress. he regularly spoke to black groups in 1869 and reminded them
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that they had once regarded him as their moses. even he even showed the newspaper clippings of his famous moses. speech he also very perceptively told them. the parentage was like a former slavery. he wanted their love and their vote, but he also had some understanding of what blacks were suffering in the south for that reason w e b dubois in his great 1935 book on black reconstruction caused johnson, not the most evil man in american history, but and i quote the most hideable figure in american history. johnson had promised johnson lost johnson had promised and he let that down as part of what the title of the book is all about johnson lost the congressional election, but in 1875 who was named senator of tennessee, they would know direct elections for senate then and served several months in office before dying in
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tennessee, and he dies not as the kind of hated person that he is generally now, but here's an image from courier in oz death of the honorable andrew johnson, which widely circulated at the time. i don't see any black people at bedside prime. i meanwhile, here's douglas circa 1880 five years after the death. i'm if douglas were alive today, and i'm moving now to my conclusion. i think he'd have much to say about what's going on in georgia, texas and elsewhere. it was states restricting voting rights, which he no doubt would say takes us back to the days of jim crow. but and this is the important but he also reminded us of american ideals and possibilities in one of douglas's most famous lake career speeches. he addressed the scourge of black lynchings in the country. everything he fought for seemed to be in jeopardy. this is the lecture was printed
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as a pamphlet in 1894. that's when he gave the lecture. he has a lot of things to say about the horrors of lynching, but these are his concluding words, and these will be my concluding words as well. put away your race prejudice banish the idea. that one class must rule over another recognize the fact that the rights of the humblest citizen are as worthy of protection as those of the highest and your problems will be solved and whatever may be in store for it in the future whether prosperity or adversity whether it shall if those without or foes within whether there shall be peace award based upon the eternal principles of truth justice and humanity and with no class having any cause of complaint to grievance your republic will stand in florida forever. so i love this conclusion because he's basically saying, fight continue the good fight and continue the good fight based on the ideals of the nation as he understood them
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ideals of democracy and ideals of freedom. so i'm going to stop there and i thank you. and and this kind of students hate questions that are on chat. so, let's see if i can. stephen um question from youtube did andrew johnson ever visit speaker fixed university. it's good question on my answer is i've kind of i want to say, i don't know. but i also want to say that i am an english professor who reads a lot and i read the 15 volumes of johnson's papers, and if i had seen that he was speaking of fisk university. i think i would have noticed so i'm going to say no. and another question do we know if the freeman's bureau aided
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formally enslaved in registering in registering to vote? and i think that that did happen. so that would have been around 1870 but the freeman's bureau shortly thereafter. was decommissioned and that decommissioning allowed on? allowed for the upsurge of jim crow practices and efforts to stop black people from voting all right, so that at this point these are the only two questions. happy happy to take more more questions. i will be looking at the chat. i can emphasize a few things about the book that i didn't emphasize during the talk.
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one thing is that i try to offer a nuanced portrayal of andrew johnson, so it's not just kind of manician fable of good verses evil and when i gave the manuscript to friends in literature and history to read people were saying, you know, some people gonna say, you're taking a risk here because we do know the johnson was an awful precedent who failed in the job that we all wish that he did at the same time. i just was struck by his efforts that i'd say who are between 1863 and 1865 to reach out to black people and to challenge slavery and he even at one point as i said suggested that he with the open to the possibility of blacks voting those of you who know you are american history
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know that abraham lincoln himself never actually, i mean did not live to see the day when blacks could vote but in his very last speech before he was assassinated. he said that he could imagine giving the boat to two groups of black people. the first is quote the intelligent and so what is that? how do you determine that and the second is those who thought in in the civil war so he shared with johnson at least in 1865 the idea that foxy thought in the civil war could vote johnson. also thought the box could help property could vote douglas lincoln came out more with this idea of the intelligent which would have been to figure out. all of us would have loved to see what lincoln would have done as president lincoln was more pragmatic than johnson if johnson could pick a fight.
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he picked a fight that generally isn't what lincoln did. lincoln listened to black people johnson we could say entertained black people, but he didn't listen. an examples so as i kind of lay out of the book johnson had plenty of visits with with black groups in the white house in 1865, but he basically spoke to them. abraham lincoln had visits from frederick douglass martin delaney other block leaders during the civil war and whatever they said he responded to in at some points changed his policy. so the first time that douglas visited lincoln he pointed out that wages weren't the same for a black and white soldiers. lincoln responded by saying there's a pragmatic reason. for that. i don't want to alienate white
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people, but i'm going to take that under consideration at least you listen. martin delaney black nationalist visited the white house in 1864 and proposed that militant blacks go in the south and leave gorilla expeditions against the confederates and lincoln makes him the first black major so i didn't see in johnson evidence of the same kind of listening. another thing that i emphasize in the book and again if you have questions you could post them, but i think this is an important point that that's worth making that i didn't make all that well, perhaps some talk. is that douglas and other black activists are constantly dealing with racism from people from white people other than andrew johnson, and i think it's a mistake to say sort of believe that johnson was the only white racist in the united states, his
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views were pretty much supported by white people from 1865 to 1868 whenever the question of whether black people should have the boat came to a ballot in places like, new york and minnesota. the answer was no i mean the proposals were defeated. the radical republicans themselves like thaddeus stevens benjamin wade charles sumner could at times the paternalistic and benjamin wait in particular who was among the most radical of the radicals regularly used the n-word and in letters to his wife that i i had read ranging from 1850 into 1870 regularly use the n-word and talked about how he was done with i leaves the word words black people don't black people and he also said that when he has food cooked by black people he can
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taste that black. why it's in the food. it's not all about it's not just andrew johnson and in a chapter the book that i didn't discuss there was a republican convention in philadelphia in september of 1866 that douglas wanted to attend and that is stevens in particular didn't want him there. he didn't want a black person there and was this racism that is stevens might have been involved with a black woman in the final 20 years of his life was this racism or practices. the pragmatic argument was it's not good for the republican party to be perceived as a black hearty. anyway, i stevens wrote to his colleagues that douglas shouldn't be there douglas attends. anyway, he is shunned at first,
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but then his speeches draw people in and on the final day of this convention the group actually votes to support black voting rights and douglas very dramatically describes this convention in his 1881 life in times of gregory douglas, and it's one of the proudest days of his life not kind of facing down andrew johnson. but facing down. the are the way republicans and kind of talking up to them? i do not think that johnson supported or attended. performances by the jubilee singers and actually douglas and not doug johnson became much more reactionary by the end of 1865 and i've been told it's
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time to wrap up and i'll just say by way of conclusion that when johnson went on the road in 1869 attempting to become a congressman. blocks by then must have had the vote in tennessee and suddenly he needed them and then all of these features that he gives about being a black moses he is about his paternalistic you can be. but you could also say he's kind of needy. he wants love he wants love from black people. and yet he is doing the worst possible things to black people. while he's president, and then the irony is the precisely because he is the radical republicans had to speed up the passage and ratification of the 14th and 50 amendments. so by 1870 alexa writes and ship
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ulysses s grant is president and he is someone who cared about black people and then the question is where do things go wrong? andrew johnson wasn't there? i wasn't bought so it's not just about johnson and and when you talk about reconstruction from a black perspective you get a larger sense of the white racism everywhere that they had. to fight and douglas's one of the great fighters against that racism to the time of his death. and was inspired by the founding documents of the nation so it's been a real honor to be here and thank you and you certainly read more about all of this in my new book, which was published last week by wwe norton called the failed p megan kate nelson is a
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writer and historian living in lincoln, massachusetts. she has written about civil war us western history and american culture for the new york times the washington post smithsonian magazine preservation magazine and civil war monitor nelson earned her va in history and literature from the harvard university from harvard university and her phd in american studies from the university of iowa, and she has taught at texas tech university cal state fullerton harvard and brown nelson is the author of saving yellowstone three cornered war ruin nation and trembling earth and we're so excited to have her with us today. so before i turn it over to her just a


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