tv The American Revolutions Global Impact CSPAN September 24, 2022 1:27pm-4:01pm EDT
county militias are going back to the control of the county lieutenants as it should be. yes. yeah, but you know the governor can't call them up anymore the gentleman in the county whoever's over the county lieutenants are they're the ones that can call them up. so what is there 3006,000 redcoats on their way here now do you think are they gonna close portsmouth? okay. we have an opportunity here that we can create our own forces here in virginia. we can put together our own men. it's the right men are in control in each of the counties. we can put together our own virginia forces. those very same men that are talking about. all right to the learn britain of the very same people that write laws back to make me channel property. if i have children they're not my children live belong to my master. who can sell us and buy us as he sees fit but yet he still impac.
hello. great to be back with you all. i hope you had a delicious and enjoyable lunch. so many wonderful places here in alexandria. i want to extend a special thanks and appreciation to historic alexandria and the american or the emerging revolutionary war for inviting me to be part of this symposium and spend some time with all of you today. i also want to extend a special welcome to all those participating remotely. thank you for joining us. and of course, a special thanks for all of you for being here today. i'm very, very happy and very honored to be here today. i learned a tremendous amount and thoroughly enjoyed all of the presentations from this morning and really just looking
forward to spending a little bit of time this afternoon talking with you about george mason, his ideas, and most particularly the virginia declaration of rights and their global impact. so just to get us started in building off some of what we learned this morning. our george george mason, the fourth was a fourth generation virginian. it was his great grandfather, george, the first who sided with the crown. the royalists in the english civil war, which we learned a little bit more about this morning. and as a result, as we also learned this morning, it was prudent for him to get out of england at a certain point. and as a result, he was able to acquire about 900 acres of land in what is now stafford county in the county of virginia, and came over at that time in about 1652. it was his son, george, the second, who first acquired what is now known as mason neck and began to establish the family's plantation on what is now known as mason neck. virginia just about 20 miles
south by the river from where we are now. it was his son. when anybody like to guess where we're going with this george, the third who first established a residence on what is now mason neck. and it was george mason, the fourth who was born there in 1725. and i want to begin by just providing a little bit more context for george himself as a person, because it's really important to the larger story of his ideas and what he later articulated, not only in the virginia declaration of rights, but in several other really important documents that he wrote. so, as i said, george mason was born on what is now gunston hall on mason neck, virginia, in 1725. he was the oldest with two younger siblings. unfortunately, his father, george, the third, died when he was only nine years old. george, the third, drowned while crossing the potomac in a ferry accident, trying to get over to some family holdings in
maryland. and it was at that point that his mother and i found it necessary to return to her family's plantation again down near fredericksburg, in what is now stafford county. and was an amazing woman in her own right. i wish we knew a little bit more about her. she never remarried, but she prioritized several things for her three young children, one of which was education. and while george never attended formal school and made sure that all of her children had access to tutors, and importantly for our story, george mason also had tremendous access to the library of his uncle. his uncle was a gentleman by the name of john mercer. john was one of the leading lawyers in the colony of virginia at the time, and he also had one of the largest libraries in virginia at the time. and george, we know from his writings, immersed himself in that library. he was a voracious reader and just really, as i said, immersed himself in learning as much as he could. and this was really the
foundation of what became the expression of his ideas. later, when george turned 21, as a result of his father dying without a will, he inherited the entirety of the family's estate. this estate included at that time over 20,000 acres of land and over two dozen enslaved african-americans. it was very shortly thereafter, very shortly after he turned 21, that he returned to mason neck. he returned to his family's plantation, then called newtown, and once again took up residence on the property where he was born very shortly thereafter. he met a young woman also named anne. and i work from across the river in maryland, and they were married in 1753. they had a child. it was a boy. would anybody like to guess what his name was? george mason. very good. george mason. the first if you're keeping score at home or up to five, george mason's now there will be
more. stay tuned. and as their family began to grow, they began to build what is now called gunston hall, their home. i just want to go quickly through some pictures of the house. but the house itself was one of the first brick colonies or first brick houses built in the colony. and it was truly, as you all know, an expression of george mason and his families as wealth, status and prestige. as a leading member of the virginia gentry. and what you see here is the central passage. again, i will go quickly through this. the formal dining space, the formal parlor. and here is the little parlor. and what is important to note, and we will talk a little bit more about this as we progress through our conversation this afternoon. is that, again, what you see here is not only an architecture and architecturally significant house, but truly an expression of his wealth and his status. and one of the one of the realities, any time we're talking about george mason, is
the inherent contrast fiction between his ideas, the choices he made and the actions he subsequently took and the wealth that he enjoyed largely based on the work done by enslaved african-americans afforded him his education and the opportunity to immerse himself not only in learning, but to immerse himself in the ideas, the public service and the opportunities that later resulted in him writing documents like the virginia declaration of rights. and that's why it's important to us for at least to at least acknowledge and recognize that content. and as such, at this point, it became increasingly a responsibility of george to serve in public office. and in the late 1750, since he's elected for the first time to the house of burgesses then meeting in williamsburg, he was elected to a three year term. and one of the things i like to ask folks is three year term, they met somewhat regularly, but also somewhat infrequently, as you know. would anybody like to guess how
often george traveled to williamsburg to officially take his seat in the burgesses? he went just once, which i think still may be the worst attendance record of any elected official in the history of virginia. we'll put that aside for just a minute. but what's interesting about this is and i like to share with people is that george wrote frequently throughout his life that he always considered his greatest responsibility, being that of a husband and a father. and he truly valued that role. he also wrote frequently that the idea of a magistrate, meaning an elected official, being hereditary or serving for life was absurd. and he had a really interest being belief and perception on what the role of a public servant should be. and what's interesting is what really motivated george to serve when called upon was when it was aligned with his responsibility as a husband and father. and when he was really called and felt called to take action
and to participate. my guess is in the late 1750s, when he was elected, there wasn't enough to motivate that interest. so he only made it to williamsburg once. but what we begin to see as we move into the 1760s, an increasing level of activism on the part of george mason. it starts a little bit slowly, but it progressively builds. in the 1760s, he begins to write letters that are published in newspapers in england, decrying the acts of both parliament and the crown. but he doesn't do it under his name. he does it under the pseudonym of a virginia planter. but as we get a little further down the line, he again becomes much more active. and his first real moment of becoming more active is in 1774, when he goes to the good, the home of his very, very good friend business partner and neighbor, george washington. and they write the fairfax results. this was a document written at mount vernon collaboratively by
washington and mason. many of you all familiar with this. but as you see, they write, we cannot be considered as a conquered country because we are descendants, not of the conquered, but of the conquerors. and this document goes on to make implied threats of military action and in so doing, really challenge really challenge the unconstitutional actions, what were believed and perceived to be by virginia and by many others as being unconstitutional. one of the other really interesting and important parts of this document is that you'll see here that it clearly stated the american claims to equal rights under the british constitution represent tension in parliament, control over taxation, control over military forces within their borders, control over judicial powers and more. and as we heard this morning in our latest presentation. this all goes back to that earlier period of time. and they're building upon these actions and this ideology that had been previously expressed by way of justifying and explaining
their own grievances and eventually justifying their own actions. so this is really when mason first becomes much more publicly involved. and one of the other important things to remember about mason is that he is of an older generation compared to most of those who rise to prominence during the revolutionary period. he's older than washington. he's a generation older than jefferson and and madison. his closest friends and his closest colleagues through much of this time are not only washington, but the lee brothers, richard henry francis lightfoot and thomas gladwell. but also patrick henry. they are closer and more similar in age. and even though he never attended formal school at this critical moment in the revolutionary movement, he is looked up to as one of the leading intellectual tools of this revolutionary ideology.
he was not known for his oratory. what he was known for at this time, and what many of his colleagues and peers and those with whom he was working recognized about him was his ability to bring a lot of concepts and philosophic ideas together and then to articulate them clearly and compellingly. and this is what he begins to do. so as a result, when the second continental congress is getting ready to convene in philadelphia, he is elected to serve in the second continental congress. at this point, however, his first wife, anne, his beloved first wife, and had only recently passed away from complicated visions with childbirth. and the two twins that she bore also passed away at that time. so remembering back to what i said, he's considering his first obligation, that of husband and father. he declines the appointment to serve on the second continental congress and decides instead to stay at gunston hall and to take care of his family. this, ironically, is how we end up with the two lee brothers
that signed the declaration of independence, because he recommends that francis lightfoot lee go in his place, joining richard henry lee again, representative of their very close relationship and as you know, the continental congress calls on all of the colonies to call a convention to establish new governments in each of those colonies, as they're contemplating what their next step will be. and george's is immediately elected to serve in the fifth virginia convention, getting ready to meet in williamsburg and somewhat reluctantly, he agrees to serve now in true george mason fashion. he shows up over two weeks late, lingering a little bit at home. but as soon as he arrives in williamsburg, he's appointed to the committee charged with creating a new government for the colony of virginia. now he goes to his first committee meeting on may 18th, 1776. there's close to 40 people on this committee.
it includes amongst them a very young, aspirational leader by the name of james madison. and what you see almost immediately is george writes a letter to his good friend, richard henry lee in philadelphia. and i will read this for you all, in which he says, we are now going upon the most important of all subjects government, the committee appointed to prepare a plan is according to custom over charged with useless members. he feels pretty strongly about this. we shall, in all probability have a thousand ridiculous end in practical proposals. and of course, a plan formed of heterogeneous, jarring and unintelligible and gradients. this can be prevented only by a few men of integrity and abilities whose country's interests lie next to their hearts. now, we've all been on committees that we thought had been too big. we've all probably wrestled at some point in our lives with some of the challenges associated with committee work, particularly a committee, if we
think is overcharged with useless members. so what do we do when that happens? we have a couple of choices. what do we do? well, george mason decides to retire to the tavern. so at this point, george mason returns to his lodging at the raleigh tavern in williamsburg. and over the next nine days, largely without interruption, the only real interruption, our visits towards the end of this nine period, nine day period from thomas will. but over this nine day period, he writes the first constitu option for virginia and most importantly for our conversation today, the virginia declaration of rights. and in writing, the virginia declaration of rights, he begins by saying in article one that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights of which when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, namely the enjoyment of life and liberty with the means of acquiring and
possessing property and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. now, one of the interesting things about this article, one that you see here, is that this version of article one is the draft that was formally ratified by the convention. several weeks later, mason's first draft did not include that clause. when they enter into a state of society. when mason wrote his first draft, he was providing and articulating rights that are listed here to a much potentially a much broader cross-section of society. and when it went to the committee and then eventually to the convention, there were great reservations expressed about that. for all the reasons we can imagine, because to be in a state of society, not only did you have to be white and male, you had to own property, among other things. so this this formally ratified
version excluded a number of people that mason, in his first draft, meant to be included, which is an interesting aspect to this. mason goes on in the remaining 15 articles, and i'm not going to read all 15 to you, but in the remaining articles, he goes on to articulate ideas such as that all power is vested in and consequently derived from the people that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and that all times and then amenable to them in article two. then in article three, as you see here, he writes that government exists and shall exist for the common benefit protection and security of the people. and then in the second section, within article three, he writes that if government is found not to be fulfilled with those responsibilities, that it's the moral obligation of the people to abolish, amend, or to reform, alter or abolish that government. and again, you're seeing many of the themes which we heard about this morning here articulated more formally in the declaration
of rights and brought together in one document, it in article six, something that was very important to mason was this concept of representation. and we see this a little bit later in some of his other writings. he believed and expressed his belief that that government should be truly representative of the people and that elections should be free. there's a middle section within the declaration of rights, which we're not going to talk as much about today. that is more more closely associated with concepts of human rights protections against cruel and unusual punishment, provisions for trial by a jury of your peers. provisions against excessive bail. and then when we get down to article 12, one of my personal favorites that the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained. but by despotic governments, you'll see in article 15 a really interesting aspect to
what mason has written here, what mason has written in the virginia declaration of rights are not only the rights that he believes you are entitled to, but he also identifies, as you see in article 15, what you must do, what responsibility you have to truly benefit from, and access these rights, which is unusual at this particular time. he's saying you must have a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and adds to clause at the end. and by frequent recurrence, two fundamental principles. he's not only telling people what rights you have, but how you need to behave, how you need to act, which i think is interesting and compelling. and then when you look at article. 16 one, which also subsequently underwent revision when it was presented back to the committee and to the full convention revision that was suggested by madison, you see here this concept of freedom of religion. one of the ones i've not listed
here, which i'll just touch based on briefly since it's closely associated not only with some of what mason articulated in the fairfax resolves, but also some of what we learned a little bit more about this morning is that mason writes in article 11, i believe that one of the greatest threats to liberty and the rights of the people, particularly in a time of peace, is a standing army. he believes that a body of well-regulated militia is the best way to ensure the rights and liberties and freedoms of the people. and as a result, as we as virginia and the colonies move forward into the war itself. mason sons all serve in the virginia militia. none of them serve in the continental army, sort of one piece of evidence supporting his belief that standing armies were not the best way for a government or for a country to proceed. that said, he did provide a lot
of material and financial support to the war effort, including the continental army. but that's a whole separate conversation for another time. so in a, you know, in totality, what you see in the virginia declaration of rights, as referenced by one of his biographers, jeff broadwater, who wrote the book forgotten founder, is that part of the genius of the declaration of rights? lay in mason's ability to combine enlightenment political philosophy with the english legal tradition to express and scarcely to pages the ideology of the american revolution in giving legal sanction to popular sovereignty, individual equality, and the right to revolt against an oppressive government. mason codified basic liberal principles not been recognized in american english law. this is a really significant document in a document that was not only influenced by a lot of writings, a lot of similar expressions that came before, but also had a significant impact not only in the colonies
and in america, but globally and we'll talk more about that in just a minute. what we do know after this was presented to the convention, it was debated. and we've just seen a couple of examples of how it was amended at this point several days after it goes to the committee and to the full convention for review. mason immediately fires off another letter to richard henry lee up in philadelphia, in which he is, quote, decrying the slow pace of the proceedings. he's getting a little impatient. he thinks what he wrote is pretty good. why do we have to debate this any longer? we should just ratify this bad boy and get going. remember, he arrived in williamsburg on may 18th. it's on june 12th that the convention ratifies the virginia declaration of rights less than a month after he arrived in williamsburg and he is decrying the slow pace of the proceedings. i just ask you to think about that in today's context.
but what we do know, it was immediately published. it was disseminated broadly throughout the colonies. our friend thomas jefferson was in philadelphia and while writing the declaration of independence, had a published copy of the declaration of rights, which he acknowledged on the desk, on the table where he was working. and obviously, you can see some parallels between what mason wrote three weeks earlier and what was eventually incorporate it into the declaration of independence. so at this point, mason considers his work concluded. he returns to gunston hall for the balance of the revolutionary war years. he stays largely at home. as i mentioned, his two of his sons, george the fifth and william, served in the virginia militia. he does participate in other ways. as i said. he and washington are writing frequently at this time. washington's asking for supplies, asking for financial
support, which mason provides. of particular interest, perhaps, to all of you in alexandria. he also self funds and creates the potomac flotilla, a small flotilla of gunboats that are designed to protect and prevent british incursion up the potomac river. but he stays, you know, largely at home. and while he gets involved in some ways, he's not as actively involved as he had been in the years immediately leading leading up to the declaration of independence. but if we jump ahead just a little bit and part of the global impact, which we'll explore a little bit more in just a few minutes, is also based on an understanding of how his ideas and how. how the values that he articulates progress. so we've started with the fairfax resolves. we've seen the declaration of rights. and at this point, as we move forward a little bit further in time. mason like many others, become
increasingly frustrated after the war with the articles of confederation. he eventually is elected to the constitutional convention getting ready to convene in philadelphia. he accepts that appointment and makes the difficult decision to travel to philadelphia. now, as you heard, i am from philadelphia originally, mason did not like philadelphia. he's he's big on writing fiery letters back to back to friends. so he arrives in philadelphia with the virginia delegation. he is fully committed at that time to the notion of a strong national government. he is in agreement with the others on the virginia delegation about that. but when he arrives, he is not at all happy. he writes letters back home in which he complains that philadelphia is dirty, the people are rude, too expensive, the food is horrible and he can't wait to get home. so he clearly is not enthused
about that aspect of it. this is also the furthest he ever travels away from gunston hall. so there are also in some of his writings, are this sense of longing to be home. but what he does do is he participate fully in the convention based on madison's own notes. mason was the third most frequent speaker of all the delegates at the convention, which was very unlike mason. he much preferred to work behind the scenes alone in the tavern, writing out his ideas. but he is one of the third the third most active speaker. he's clearly involved and engaged in this discourse, in this debate, in this process. and what you see is, over the course of that hot summer in philadelphia, he begins to become increasingly disillusioned with what he is seeing developed and eventually, when it comes time for the delegates to make the decision about whether or not they will sign the constitution. and mason is one of three delegates who declines.
and in so doing, he says that he would sooner chop off his right hand than affix it to the document as presently written. and in true, george mason fashion, he writes out his 16 reasons he liked that number, why he is opposed to the constitution. and he joins fellow virginian edmund randolph and a delegate from massachusetts, elbridge gerry, in being the three who who refused to sign. one of the most important reasons is that it doesn't have a declaration of rights, and we're not going to go through all of these in exhaustive detail. but again, it shows that progression of his thinking, and it all relates to the global impact of the declaration of rights itself. he's very concerned that the house of representatives and the government generally is not truly representative and not a truly representative body. he believes the house should have primacy over the senate and anything that impacts the people should be the sole purview of the house of representatives being the more representative body. he also thinks it should be proportionately much larger.
you will also see here that he is very concerned about the consolidation of executive power in one chief executive. he proposes not only that the president should have a advisory council, but that they one of his earlier recommendations was that there should be three presidents that shared power equally. and again, some of this is borne out of concerns about a monarchy. and this is what fractures his relationship with washington. now, there are there are some who would say that they never spoke again. we know that's not true. they still maintain some degree of correspond. it's an interaction. but the relationship, which once had been very intimate, is now very professional, very different nature of that relationship. you'll also see here that he considers one of the fun ones is that that the position of vice president he describes as useless and unnecessary. and he also thinks it blair mason has strong opinions about
a lot of things and he's very good at writing out those opinions, which we appreciate. he also thinks that it blurs the separation between the executive branch and the judiciary or the legislative branch by virtue of the vp serving as the president of the senate. some of the other interesting ones in here are that he does, while not listed here, does advocate strongly in opposition to the extension of the slave trade for another 20 years. and again, mason had a number of very contradictory ideas in relation to some of his actions and some of the choices that he made. but he does. he's one of the few delegates that advocates in opposition to the extension of the slave trade. but lastly, what you see here of the 16 is this notion that the constitution will create a moderate aristocracy. he's very concerned about that.
and for the first time in his life, mason is the subject of public ridicule and scorn. he is eviscerated in publications in virginia, most particularly in fairfax county, which was strongly in support of the constitution for his opposition. when it comes time for virginia to convene their ratifying convention, he cannot get elected from fairfax to serve in that convention. instead, he is elected from stafford as a property owner. he's able to be elected from stafford and travels to richmond to serve in the ratifying convention where he and patrick henry are the two most vocal, active opponents to virginia ratifying the constitution. they're joined by a very young james monroe who joins them in advocating and opposition. but as we know, the constitu is ultimately ratified. and at this point, mason returns to what he would describe as public station back at gunston hall. he basically retires. he goes home, spends the rest of
his days at gunston hall. what we do know is he continues to stay in communication with a number of delegates who were his colleagues in philadelphia. most notably james madison. james monroe remains a very close friend. thomas jefferson. and for the purposes of our story today, what we also know is that when madison realizes that we do need this thing called the bill of rights, amended to our constitution, one of the first things he does is travel to gunston hall and consult with mason about how best to accomplish that. mason lives long enough to see the bill of rights amended to the constitution and ultimately dies at gunston hall after a very brief illness in 1792. thomas jefferson was the last person to see last visitor to see him before he passed. and unfortunately, monroe was trying diligently to get there, but could not get there in time. so as we think about what all this means in its global context, there are a couple of
key things that i'll just share by way of how i would define the global impact. most particularly of the virginia declaration of rights, and i've kind of got this divided down into a couple of different categories. one, it motivated other declarations. you know what? mason was able to do was clearly not only a motivating factor and a very influential factor in our own declaration of independence, but it also directly informed the french declaration of the rights of man. and we also know from the historical record and there are sections of the united nations universal declaration of human rights that very closely reflect and mirror what mason wrote in 1776. we also know, and i'm going to forget the exact number, that there are, we'll just say approximately 15 other state constants, actions that that include verbatim language from the declaration of rights states ranging from as far away as wisconsin.
and for example, there's language in the first wisconsin constitution that that directly quotes, some of which mason wrote in the virginia virginia declaration of rights. so you see what mason wrote and the ideas that he expressed, the ideology he encapsulated these notions of sovereignty, individual rights, revolting against suppressive governments, all reflected in many, many other ways, and having motivated other declarations, you also see that it truly inspired movements and is drawn upon as inspiration for other attempts to not only establish independence, but also to provide for the rights of people. one of my personal heroes is thaddeus chris cusco. you see a picture of him here. as you know, he served in the american revolution, became very close, not only with washington but with jefferson, was very much aware of the declaration of rights and became so personally
invested, committed and passionate about this concept that not only did he go back to poland and inspire a revolution there, ultimately unsuccessful but still impactful. one of the interesting things about thaddeus is that he also, when he died, he left his estate to jefferson for the express purpose of jefferson using those funds to free his slaves. jefferson fought that in court and never did, but it inspired that movement and more recently we see in foundational documents for liberian independence. and even in vietnam in 1945, you see a direct quote having to do with life, liberty and obtaining happiness and safety, all of which go back to what mason articulated in 1776. and then what jefferson expanded on several weeks later. it's also important this whole notion of sanctioning sovereignty and independence and
this and what mason has said in terms of revolting and reforming, amending or abolishing governments that are not performing in the fulfillment of their duties. and we see this in the spanish colonies in the americas. we see this in texas. when they were trying to establish their own independence. and you see it right on up to the 1990s in yugoslavia. you see references again to the second paragraph in the declaration of independence that refer to or the first paragraph, rather, drawing on the declaration of rights that also, you know, really provide this sanction and this this notion of sovereignty and independence being a moral not only response duty, but a moral obligation. if your government is failing to perform as it should and as is right and appropriate and then just a couple of other aspects to this. i think we all can name example bills or our own experiences
with bills of rights. i mean, it is it's a mainstream thing now in our society for there to be bills of rights. i've just listed a handful of them here. the picture you see here from our exhibit at gunston hall, where we've got copies of a whole bunch of bill of rights. and part of what mason did and built upon from prior history is this notion of articulating what you believe, the rights that you believe you're entitled to, the rights that you value and are important in a codified way. and using that as a document to not only express rights, but to create action in support of what you are entitled to and what you deserve. as a member of society and community. and then lastly, and this is really more related to his opposition to the constitution, but in many ways, you know, mason established a precedent for peaceful dissent after you know, after he refused to sign even though he was the subject
of scorn and ridicule and animosity. and even though he advocated strongly against ratification, he chose to so civilly and civically and through the processes that were provided in government to express a difference of opinion and to express a dissenting opinion. and in many ways, historians and scholars agree that in many ways this was an important moment where there was dissent, where a precedent was established to reach compromise and dissent in a way that was predicated on a shared articulation of ideas and values in a way that did not lead to additional revolt or revolution. and that is important as well. so in conclusion, is a fascinating guy, a very interesting personality, one that is characterized by a number of contradictions. but at the end of the day, wrote a document that was not only
incredibly important, meaningful and impactful to the revolutionary movement. and in so doing articulated the ideology for our revolution. but a document that not only informed generations in america that followed, but truly had a global reach in all the ways we've discussed in the document. that is incredibly important for us to continue, know, learn about and understand today. and i encourage you all as you are able to come down to gunston hall visit. george mason's gunston hall experience the place tor the home and most importantly, reflect to think about and act upon the important ideas that he expressed about the inherent rights that we all have, the freedoms that we all enjoy, and the justice and equality to which we are all entitled and to which we all deserve. so thank you very much for your time today. i've enjoyed it. i'm happy to answer any questions.
yes, thank you so much for this excellent presentation. and i'm wondering if you can speculate because i know that there aren't really answers in the written archive about this question, but the two other individuals that did not sign the constitution, edmund randolph and elbridge gerry, george washington went on to have a very close relationship with randolph and i think at least a decent relationship with gerry. what was different about? mason it's it's a great question. and as you said, edmund randolph went on to reconcile with washington, became general. you know, i think in many ways mason was never invested in this in the concept of being a professional politician. he refused as we've talked just in brief, about.
but there were many other examples. he was elected to office and for a variety of reasons, not just because he prioritized being a husband and father but because he did not feel that it should be a profession. he felt as though there should be frequent and free elections and that there should be strict limitations on the period of time somebody serves in such a position. so he did not really have a stake in building a political career and i readily admit that i'm not an expert on edmund randolph by any stretch of the imagination. i do know that he did seem to have more aspirations for a career in public service. but mason, again, really thought that. he that that an individual should only serve when they really could make a difference and when they were called to do so. so i think that's one
difference. i think the other differences this going to sound overly judgmental. and i apologize. it does. but mason didn't really like people that much, you know. you know, he was social, he was cordial. he was also content. thinker isn't grumpy a good part of the time. and i think he that's one reason why i think he preferred to stay at home where he was comfortable and he he did not really want to engage in that same way. he also was clearly someone who had a lot in his own way. and again, not to sound overly judgmental, i obviously never met george mason personally, although i do live on campus at gunston hall, so i feel like we've kind of bonded a little bit, he pretty proud of his ideas and you know, i think he he he he was he believes so strongly and had such pride in what he wrote, that he was resolute in in not changing his
opinion on that. and and i think, you know, he was willing in many ways to sacrifice his relationship with washington as a result. and he stood by that and he never sort of recanted on on what he believed and why he opposed the constitution, which is which i think is interesting. there's a i did not share the slide, but there's a great quote i'll just share real quickly. oops, i go wrong way. and i think this ironically to edmund randolph, i'd forgotten that he says i quitted my seat in the house of delegates from a conviction that i was no longer able to do any essential service. some of the public measures have been so contrary to my notions of policy and of justice that i wish to be no further concerned with or answerable for them, and to spend the remnant of my life in quiet and retirement. this is kind of george. yet with all her faults, my country will ever have my warmest wishes and affections, and i would at any time, most cheerfully, my own ease and domestic enjoyment to the public
good. that's kind of george's concept to public service in a nutshell. hopefully that answered some part of your question. yes, sir. thank you. great talk. yeah. george mason's often overlooked, as in his viewpoint. perspective is is really important. i think it's awesome. awesome talk but question about the his dissent to the constitution and a big part of that was no bill of rights doesn't sign and then shortly thereafter they come and talk about adding a bill of rights. why didn't they just include that in the initial constitution? yes, you know, it's interesting and again, i don't proclaim to be a complete expert on all things constitutional convention. what what i can share is that one of the interesting things is this of a of a declaration of rights or a bill of rights did not come up until very late in that summer. it was not something that was discussed from the outset. know mason didn't show up on day
one and say, we need to make sure this thing has a declaration of rights in fact, he doesn't even talk about it until late. and so one school of thought is that and scholars have written that, you know, one of the reasons why there may have been a reluctance to add it to the constitution at that time is people were tired. you know, there was there this sense that let's not bring up one more really difficult, challenging thing that's going to in gender, all of this additional debate we know will be somewhat at least somewhat controversial. let's just get the best we can get, ratify this and go home. i also think that at some level, well, to two more things. there was also this sense that from what i know, that the constitution has written sort of inherently encapsulated those rights. and it did not need to be specifically expressed in other ways. and we can debate, you know, all the different reasons why that
may or may not be the case and why some may or may not have thought that was the case. i also think for all of mason's cantankerous and sometimes grumpy demeanor, and i say that with respect, but i do think there was a big part of mason that was inherently optimistic. and i do think he was hopeful throughout that summer, too. it got to the point where he just could not feel that same level of hope that they would get there. and perhaps that's why that's why they he waded until so late to to make that strong case and make that strong push. so i think it's sort of a combination of of, you know, political small p realities associated with wanting to move on, get it done, put it to bed. some believe that it was inherently in there already. and then i think on mason's part, you know, part of his personal, i think, was that, you know, this will be okay until he thought it wasn't.
other questions. yes, sir. i have a simple question. i hope so, but it's not clear to me where did his money come from? the reason why i say is washington was never always disappointed with the productivity of mount vernon tobacco prices peaked in the late 1740s, where i don't think he married a fantastically rich woman. i just asked. oh, sure. it's it's a great question. very fair question. so one as i said, he inherited a great deal of wealth. mason, you know, mason also did to ways i can answer that. mason was very conservative his what he would consider to be unnecessary expenditures. he as you know, as i alluded to, was not one that was traveling a lot, was not one that was
hosting lavish parties. a lot was not one that was investing in. although he certainly invested his home and its furnishing things. but he was not, you know, out buying goods like crazy. you know, one of the best examples is he never changed gunston hall. he gunston hall in 1755, never added on to it, never changed any of the decor. never. i mean, you think about folks like washington and jefferson and madison, they were perpetually expanding and building their houses, and that's expensive. mason did either. he just loved it. the he built it or didn't want to spend the money. i don't know. a combination of the two. so much so that when he died there was no debt. unlike so many others at this particular time. no. i also know that he took advantage of what we would today consider or call some tax. he wrote his will many years
before he passed and in essence transferred property to his heirs before he died, which was in essence a tax loophole which preserve some of his assets, if you will. but i think most importantly, he was a very conservative in what in anything that was considered unnecessary. other questions. i wanted to ask about his time in the tavern. yes. writing by himself. and he had mentioned that he's well read. did he write down or can kind of extract where what books or things that he drew from to write the declaration of rights? because, you know, i'm sure it was rum punch, but other things that assisted him in writing this document, i mean, he certainly read locke, you know, read all of it, all the enlightenment thinkers that we heard a little bit about before were certainly too heavily on
the british bill of rights, the magna carta, all of that. i don't know. i don't have sort of a full bibliography committed in memory. but it was all of those same writers and writings that characterized that enlightenment period and was drawing on those heavily heavily in every way he could. you know, he was very, very fortunate to have access to his uncle john's library. obviously, which was, i think, a pivotal moment for him as a young boy growing up, particularly a young boy who never went to formal school. and in fact, you know, one of the great one of the great examples that he provided or continues to provide is this is this high value on education and this high value on lifelong learning. you know, he you know, he he paid for tutors to come over and not only educate his children, but other children in neighboring communities and
throughout his life, only did he speak about his family, but also spoke a lot about the value and importance of education and that was a big part of what he did as well. you have a question, sir. just note to two parts. you were one in the course of your talk. we were up to george the fourth and george the fifth. and you implied that there would be others in the family history. are we up to george there still? george mason's running around today. we're probably into into the hundreds, if not thousands of george is now. all right. and then second to follow up, some of the founders were famous for for being anchored in their religious principles and their their their heritage of their particular church was george ah. george mason unchurched anglican baptist. any any feelings about his his religious vibe. yes. he was a very active participant in a very human and poet church still in existence, just a little bit south of fort
belvoir. as you know, he and george washington were were there the mason pugh is still i mean, it's reconstructed, but it's there's still a mason pew there. he was very active in polk. he among other things, as an aside, was on the committee responsible for building. the current church, which was built in 1772, the first public church, you may know was in a different location. and when this church was built, he was responsible for leading the team that was building it. there were there was at least one of the indentured servants that mason employed in building gunston hall paul that he again hired to do work at polk, george bernard sears was a carver who did all of the woodwork inside of gunston hall. he retained sears to do all of the woodwork inside poet church.
so he was very active at polk and very, very active in the anglican church throughout his life and attended there for the entirety of his life. one of the interesting things as an aside is he says nothing to do with the declaration of rights but one of the pieces in our collection is a silver monteith bowl that was commissioned by his grandfather father in london and as you may know, a monteith bowl was used to cheer wine glasses. a beautiful in our collection in mason's in the family bible. any time there was a birth it is written in mason's hand that they actually baptized their children in the monteith bowl. so i don't know why they didn't go to public church to do that or another church to do that. but apparently this monteith four was also used to to baptized our children. so it's a long answer to your question about religion, but probably safer for the baby as
they had all for the probably safer and the monteith is on display in our exhibit at gunston hall if you want to see it. so the travels around it was in the smithsonian in people think it's pretty cool. so come check out our silver bowl. don't bring your baby, though. that's we don't allow that anymore. yes, sir. okay. yeah, well, i won't be doing that anyway. did george mason leave any writings that would suggest how he reconciled in his mind the institution of slavery with the bill of rights? he did know one of the challenges we have with george mason, unlike folks like washington and jefferson, is the totality of surviving papers of george mason total three volumes, very small by comparison. i don't remember how many volumes jar of washington and jefferson, but much much more. but yes, mason. mason there were a number of instances in which mason wrote about slavery. there are a number of quotes from those writings that are
frequently referred to. he refers to slavery. the institution slavery as a slow poison. he refers to the fact that slaves free will make of their masters petty tyrants. he writes about. how the sins this isn't a direct quote, but you'll get the concern. he writes about how the sins of man will be, will be. how does he say the sins man in owning slaves will be reflected in will be reflected in calamities that the nation will face? and again, that's not the direct quote, but he's implying that, you know, our sins behavior now will have its reckoning at some point. and he's writing this in 1700s. what what he also writes, though, and those are just
snippets of larger, larger writings. he also writes, you know, or let me, let me rephrase that. his writings also make clear that he fundamentally believes that african-americans, people of african descent are inferior. i mean, we just need to acknowledge that he makes that clear in his writings. he also writes about slavery with some frequency in very specific economic terms. he writes that one of his concerns about slavery is that it will limit up limit economic opportunities for free whites. and create a lower class of white. he says white men that will not have access to jobs as a result and. then the other thing we just we need to openly acknowledge when we think about this too,
particularly as we think about the economics of it, is that there are very few examples that we have ever been able to learn about in which mason purchased an enslaved individual. you know, the mason family had been in virginia since 1652. they they eventually he owned over 300, enslaved african-americans and, you know, his his enslaved community was naturally regenerating itself. so he you know, i think it's fair to say that he was writing in opposition to the slave trade when he was economically not necessary for him to be a participant. so, yes, and there there are examples in we have copies of advertisements in the alexandria newspaper from the time in which he was actively pursuing
runaways. you know, so there is some information about this. but, you know, i think at the end of the day, what we do at gunston hall, you know, our our approach is understanding his ideas, his choices and his actions and putting it in that context and thinking about not only his ideas, choices, actions, but the legacy of those ideas, choices and actions today, while also admitting that all of us as humans have ideas and may make choices and take actions that aren't always in direct alignment with those ideas. it's just part of human frailty at some level, and i'm not in any way justifying what he did. what we tried to do is to be honest and truthful about what he wrote, what he did, the reality of slavery, while also putting it in the context of humanity and also thinking about how what he did also still has meaning and value. no, he did not. every one of the individuals he owned was bequeathed to one of
his heirs. other questions. thank you very much. really for. good afternoon, everyone. my name is dan welch and i am the series editor for the emerging war book series. and today it's my honor to introduce dr. lindsey trevino ski. lindsey is a senior fellow at the center for presidential history at southern united methodist university. the conjuring open ranke fellow at the international center for jefferson studies and
professional lecturer at the school of media and public affairs at, george washington university. she received her b.a. with honors in history and political science from george washington university, her master's and ph.d. from the university of california, davis, and her postdoctoral fellowship are from southern methodist university. previously, dr. levinsky worked as a historian at the white house, historical associate asian. her writing has appeared in the wall street journal, ms.. magazine in the daily beast, bulwark time magazine, usa today, cnn, and the washington post, just to name a few. dr. travis, she is the author of the award winning book the cabinet, george washington and the creation of an american institution and is currently working on her second book, tentatively titled an honest man the inimitable presidency of john adams.
speaking of mr. adams, help me welcome lindsey to share her presentation. peace and inviolable faith with all nations. john adams independence and the quest for neutrality. hello, everyone. it is a joy to be here with you today to talk about john adams independence neutrality and everything in between. one of the mistakes i think we make as a historian, as history lovers, as readers, is we tend to separate our history into three buckets. colonial, revolutionary. and then the early republic, when in reality, the names that we're talking about today often lived throughout all of those three periods. they experienced the events and those experience. is that knowledge that firsthand leadership experience and
intuition they received shaped what they did next. so we really can't treat them as separate. i also want to challenge us to think beyond those tempers. all limitations of north thinking about big like independence, especially as we're coming up on the 250th anniversary of that big date. and here's why we can declare something so but that doesn't necessarily make it a reality. i would like to say that i am as tall as scot never going to happen. never going to happen. there are no shoes tall enough so just by declaring something doesn't actually make it a reality. and that is true for independence. so my discussion today with you is what does it mean to declare someone or a nation independent? and then how do you actually make it happen? when does it actually happen? what is the turning point at which you can say we are actually independent? and for john adams, who was so
integral to this process for so many years, for him, it was about when you can declare own foreign policy, have it respected by foreign nations, and particularly when it comes to neutrality. so these themes that we've been talking about all day, neutrality, independent nations, whether it's in russia and britain or whether it's in the united states with france, they were the main central focus of john life. so our story really has to begin with the outbreak of hostilities in lexington and concord. of course, john adams lived not far from these battles. and then, of course the battles that followed, he was not present for them. he was already in philadelphia at the continental congress. and when he arrived in 1774, he was pretty gung ho to get moving with the independence process. now he was not the first person
to suggest independence, but he was very happy to to follow up with it while he was in philadelphia, his wife and his son, john quincy, were updating him from what was happening at home in massachusetts, including firsthand descriptions from their eyewitness testimony overlooking the battle of bunker hill from a nearby little spot on a nearby hill as so as john adams was learning about these things technically the colonies were just that they were colonies, and yet they were fighting a war. so he suggested maybe something should actually be done about that the following year when the declaration was actually written and published. and while jefferson gets all the credit, we should remind ourselves that it was a committee, and any writer knows that the key to good writing is good editing. i do think that credit to belongs to the committee as well. when the committee approved, then the entire continental congress decided pass the
declaration of independence. the war had been taking place at this point for a year. george washington. and the subject of my first book had already joined the continental army. he was in new york city. he was having the very, very worst summer of his entire war experience. and so this was very much a lived reality. the declaration should have surprise to no one. so it wasn't really a declaration for colonists or americans was a declaration for the world. the declaration should really be seen as an international announcement of what the colonies intend to do and why they intended to do it. they weren't trying to overstate, wrote all monarchies. this was key because this was a world of monarchies. they were trying to make a very specific case that they had good reason and to overthrow this one particular or tyrant all other tyrants should feel very safe for the time being.
and they had they wanted those other tyrants to also help them. so they quite literally listed all the reasons why they were justified. and if we read the declaration in this light, when we read it as basically a list of reasons why foreign nations should support this cause, we can see the importance of how foreign nations treated the colonies or the states to their independence. it wasn't enough that they thought themselves independent. it wasn't enough for britain to think they were trying to fight for that independ ence. other nations had to think so as well. so the next moment i want to take us to our is john adams attempts to try and make this a reality after many, many, many, many years of fighting the war, the continental congress sent a multi person delegation in to france to try and come up with a treaty that would actually end the fighting. right now at this point,
benjamin franklin had been in france for a very long time. he was very beloved. he was very famous. he was also very sick with gout. he couldn't really get out of bed for most the negotiations. so it was primary left, left up to john jay and john adams to really get the ball rolling, to start this process. john jay and john adams often harsh words for a lot of people. they very rarely had harsh words for each other. and in fact, when this process all wrapped up, adams gave jay most of the credit, which is not something that john adams did very often. so they really respected another. they really got along with one another. they both were very sort of legal minded, very rational, and they agreed on two particular goals for their negotiations. now, both of these goals kind one against the treaty of 1778, that the united states had had signed with france and kind of went against their instruction
ins that they had received from the confederate congress. nonetheless, they knew better and there were going to be these two rules. first, they were not going to work with france in the negotiation with great britain. they grasped very quickly and then had to convince benjamin franklin that france didn't really care about an independent united states. france didn't really care what happened in the colonies. france cared about plundering as much as they possibly could from their british enemies and trying to keep the united states subservient because it their purposes so they were going to go it alone. they were going to not really tell france what they were doing, and then they would ask for forgiveness later. second, rule recognition of independence by great britain had to be step one. any other negotiations had to come after that it was non-negotiable. so when the time came, i love this picture because the british negotiators kind of refused to
sit for it because it was such a positive treaty for the americans. they really got everything wanted a little bit. so, nope, wrong, wrong direction. what it is supposed to look like is there there are several other guys here. i think i have to. i have it here now. i don't. okay. there is a draft of what it's supposed to look like, but they ended up not wanting to sit for because indeed the treaty did capture those two goals. article two of the treaty specified that the british empire would recognize the independence of the united states. this treaty was negotiated. any french participation. they then had to negotiate their own treaty. they also received rights to fisheries outside of newfoundland and which is up in canada. they received huge swaths of territory which really kind of screwed over the native american allies of the british. it was a very, very favorable settlement and the british
didn't want to sit for the painting. but so i love that this treaty is so essential because it demonstrates john adams thinking about what it means to be independent. again, it's not what they thought. it's what other people recognized. so that's all well and fine. they have declared independence. great britain has recognized independence at this point. france has to, as part of the treaty that they signed in 1778, all is well except what does it mean to actually be an independent nation? they they they want that independence. yes. now, what the confederation period often i think overlooked or treated sort of a colossal failure, which is understandable because it kind of was. but it's very important for a couple reasons. this period was when they had to start figuring out how does one actually manage a nation. it was easy not, easy. it was easier during the war when they had a common enemy and make it all fight against the british. once that common was gone, they
had to figure, how do you have a foreign policy how do you have a defense policy? how do you have an economic policy when? you have 13 squabbling states who disagree with each other on almost everything and want very different and often conflicting goals. this was particularly problematic. those european powers that we talked about, france and great britain and spain were more than to try and sort of drive wedges between those states and encourage them to split into different factions. and they were welcome to sort of embrace any stragglers that might be interested in breaking off from the united states and returning to those empires. so there were lots of reasons to believe that the european nations were really all that respectful of american independence. thankfully the united states got a second chance. the u.s. constitution, which we actually just heard a great deal, the ratification process,
the constitutional convention was a second chance. most nations don't get second chances and so the participants, including, of course, george washington, who is pictured here at his inauguration, recognized the of that moment, the rare opportunity of that second chance and were eager to try and make the most of it. now, every single choice that washington had make as president, he knew might set precedent for those that and he felt that burdens so heavily that he wrote to henry knox on the way to his inauguration that he felt he was a prisoner going to a place of execution. not exactly the happy sentiments we usually associate with the presidential inauguration. so washington went through a number steps to try and figure out how to build out the institution of the presidency build out the new united states. give it the legitimacy and sort
of the customs and the trappings of office that europeans were accustomed to. so it's important to remember at this time, people jefferson and john adams, who had been ministers across the had been to places like versailles and the court of saint james said he wouldn't bend adversaires show of hands. not exactly too right. similarly, those foreign ministers were expecting maybe not that level of finery, but they were expecting something. and so and adams and many of the other leading individuals at the time were trying to figure out what is the right balance between maintaining their republican virtue. and of course, this is r republican virtue and still getting that respect that is necessary from those foreign nations and there several different moments that i think washington really had to grapple with. so the first was just setting up what it means to be president to
day. and he sent a spectacular letter to john adams. that's the one that we still have in the archives. but he also sent one to john jay alexander hamilton. and i think he sent one to henry knox, basically asking a list of questions about what i supposed to do and those questions go something like, can i attend private events? can i have people over to my house? should i be opening the house to citizens every so often? how much access should i be providing to the presidency? should i return calls mean these were sort of every single detail might seem a little bit silly until. you have to make all these decisions. the first time. so that was the first hurdle that washington had to overcome as he was making these decisions. he was also welcoming foreign ministers for the first time, and that was a big moment because the first time the president received, the
credentials of a foreign minister did two things. it recognized their diplomatic relationship. and it also was a sign that the foreign nation thought united states was important enough to send a minister. it was a it was a sign of respect. unfortunately, the president's house, philadelphia, where washington spent most of his presidency and john adams spent most of his no longer stand the location is at 16 market streets and you can still see a little bit of the outline of the floor but this is a 3d recreation of what the house would have looked like. it was one of the largest private in philadelphia at the time. it actually belonged to robert morris. he basically rented it to the federal government on behalf of the president and then moved to another house he owned door. so it wasn't exactly slumming it. the house was was lovely, was grand washington made some adjustments because unlike mason
he could not help himself and was constantly with architecture and finery and draperies and carpets and he was a control freak. so every single detail had to be just so so this was the house where he welcomed foreign ministers usually he did so in the first floor in the state dining room. it had a bow window, which is basically a half circle window, which was, by the way, the inspiration for the oval office in the white house. and he would stand in front of this window, which was a very regal looking backdrop. and the ministers this is a picture of what that may have looked like at a particular time. one of the ministers that washington welcomed proved to be particularly difficult in february of 1793, france declared war on great britain and the conflict spiraled into an international war. it included their colonies,
their allies, their and the united states with that was tasked with trying to stay of it. the u.s. at this point had almost no army and no so even if it wanted to fight, it had nothing to fight with. it also had no business being in a war. it was just beginning to recover from the revolution financially, physically, emotionally. so neutrality was essential. but what neutral means is actually way more complex it in practice than it is in theory washington. a cabinet meeting which he did, he had to make his big decisions and he asked them a list of questions about how to proceed over the next eight months. the cabinet met 51 times up to five times per week, sometimes several hours per day in private study, which was a pretty small room in philadelphia, usually in the middle of the summer without air conditioning. and at this point, thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton
absolutely despised each other. so you can imagine how fun those meetings would have been. probably like committee meetings, actually, that mason complained. about one of the things that the cabinet recommended was that washington make a proclamation saying that the united states is staying out of the war. and it was a warning to both american citizens not to meddle and it was a warning to foreign actors. however, this proclamation is not law. so what do you do if a citizen decides to go fight anyway? are they breaking the law? if what court going to hear that case? is it a jury or is it a judge who's supposed impose a penalty? where would that penalty if it's jail, where would that be? what what jurisdiction? it and these were just the domestic questions, the international questions were even more complex, largely. thanks to the gentleman on the right whose name was citizen charles ginni. he was the new french minister.
he had sailed over from france. ship had been blown off course and landed in charleston, rather than immediately making his way to philadelphia yet to be presented. pictured here, he decided it'd be great. enjoy some balls and parades. celebrations in charleston and to set up some wildly fancy privateer course. i'm sure some of you know this, not all audiences do. so a private here is a private ship sailing under a letter of marque or basically a license from a foreign nation to attack that nation's enemies. so for example, france hire a private american citizen to take his ship out to attack british ships if they were successful, they would drag that british ship back into harbor, sell off anything valuable turn that british into a new french privateer and repeat the whole process. this was not particularly
neutral behavior. did ginni had different ideas about what american neutrality should be? so he disregarded the proclamation but he did eventually make his way to philadelphia, although he took his sweet and enjoyed a lot of parties along the way. got to philadelphia, presented himself, and then set up a factory. a french privateer in the port of philadelphia. and the problem was his privateers were really, really good. so would go out, capture british ships and drag them back into the port of philadelphia at the port of philadelphia was six blocks from washington's house. it was also just a few blocks. the british minister's house. so you can imagine how well that behavior went over there when he was literally dragging british ships into the port and then renaming them things like citizen ginni. it's a little bit of an insult to both the british minister and
to proclamation in august to washington convened a few cabinet meetings and he basically said, do we do? he will not listen to reason, he will not listen to us. he will not stop. and the cabinet ultimately decided to request the recall of ginni from france. this was a huge step. the united states had never done so before. they weren't sure how offended france was going to be and were very tentative and nervous this step. but they felt like it was really essential because he just was so difficult to manage ultimately, france did issue recall orders. interestingly, washington did not make him go home because this was the height of the french revolution and if he had gone home, he would have been executed. so washington allowed him to stay in the united states as a private citizen. he went to upstate new york and married the daughter of governor clinton and actually lived the rest of life very quietly and got into actually no trouble whatsoever. so it was only when he was
french minister that he was troublesome. but the fact that the french acknowledged that he had been a problem, the fact that france had said, you have a right to establish your own foreign policy and to demand that foreign ministers on your soil, respect that policy was precedent. so things with france are okay for the moment, for moment. a little bit of foreshadowing. so things naturally with england are going to get tense. one of the real challenges of do they include that now? one of the real challenges of the and british and american relationship at this point is the british navy can never get enough soldiers. it can never sailors sorry, sailors. the british navy can never get enough sailors and and been in british navy was really terrible. the quality of life was quite awful. the food was often very bad, the
pay was quite low and american merchants were happy to pay much higher wages. and you would have a lot more time on land. so that was a much cushier gig. so it was not unusual for british sailors to try and escape and then join the american merchant marine. so one of the ways that the british navy tried to manage this is they would search ships for any runaway british sailors. now, sometimes they did find them, but sometimes they found americans they said were british and took them instead. but this was called imprisonment. it was very unpopular. americans hated it. and it was one of the many lingering tensions in addition to those from the revolutionary war. so british soldiers were still camped out in forts out in the west from the revolution. a lot of americans hadn't paid their debts left over from the war to british merchants. these were just a couple of the issues on the table. washington appointed justice
john jay, who's pictured there on in the left picture. he's the second from the left to be a special envoy to go to to negotiate a new treaty. there weren't too many concerns about separate men of power at that particular moment. jay went in fall of 1794. he negotiated that a treaty that bore his name. now i believe that the treaty was the very best that could be had at the moment because jay had zero pro bargaining power. he had nothing to give the british and yet he still managed to get concessions. however, the treaty was very unpopular, especially in the south, because a lot of southerners felt their interests had been sold out and that jay had done so intentionally. the treaty came back in 1795, the senate did it, washington signed it, and then it went to the house of representatives because was the house had to raise funds for a committee as part of the treaty.
the house hated the treaty, tried to scuttle it by asking for executive papers pertain to these negotiations. they convinced that washington and jay had been in cahoots to sell out the south. and if they could just have evidence of this cahoots in the papers, they could embarrass everyone and the treaty would fail. on march 30th, 1796, washington then wrote back and he asserted executive privilege for the first time. this is my favorite history letter of history letters. i highly recommend anyone here or at home go and look at it. it's available on a website called founders online. it's my favorite for a couple of reasons. first, it is again, precedent setting. washington is asserting executive privilege for the first time, the words executive privilege do not exist in the constitution, and yet we still use them. today. and it's because of washington,
he says. i recognize the right of congress to have important oversight. and indeed, he had complied several times before with previous. so he had demonstrated his belief in the importance in congressional. however, in this, he basically made a national security argument. he said diplomacy requires secrecy. diplomacy requires both sides being able to give and and if we reveal all those secrets, then foreign nations are not going to talk to us in the future. so we have to protect that privacy. however, if this was an impeachment inquiry, that would be a different story. he says impeachment because an impeachment inquiry, a higher level of oversight and would be a higher bar for him to have to cross in order to assert this privilege. he also was kind of daring them to impeach him, which obviously was going to happen. so i do love that particular goal in the letter.
then he says i was at the constitutional convention, i was there when we were discussing foreign policy and how it was going to be crafted. i was there when we decided that the president and the senate were going to make treaties. we did not include the house intentionally you are trying to usurp too much constitutional power. you are trying to put yourself into the treaty process and that is not permitted. and if you don't believe me, i have the journals from the convention and the department of state offices, and you're welcome. come look at them. it is the ultimate mike drop moment and it is so sassy and washington is not usually sassy with congress. so again, highly this letter anyway, here they ultimately end up creating commission. they do you sign the treaty. it into into effect it does help with anglo-american relations
for a bit and executive privilege is now is now finally a thing if only that were end of it at this point i should say john adams is vice and he agreed with mason that vice president was totally unnecessary, useless, and he hated it and he thought it was the most painful position ever because he could do nothing. so during all of this, he was sitting silently because the senate had made it very clear that they wanted him to close mouth. just as george washington was getting ready to leave office and the election of 1796 was warming up, france decided that it would like another go at interference. the new french minister, the french ministers really honestly just have out for the early united states, decided that he was going to play a role in the election. he loved jefferson. he hated adams. and he was going to tell about it. so he published a series of
letters a series of insult a series of attacks on the washington administration and adams as vice president and adams as candidate and encouraged everyone to vote republican. this is jeffersonian republican. he also traveled up north to meet with a bunch of jefferson's allies to try and cultivate support for the new emerging jeffersonian and republican party. so the interference from the very beginning was out in the open. it was very clear france was not subtle about this behavior. which brings us to john adams. john adams took office in 1797. he was second president of the united states. he was going to have a terrible time no matter what, because who came after washington was in deep, deep trouble, even at the very end of his presidency, when washing ten was really starting to be criticized a little bit, he was still very he was widely respected.
he was adored. even jefferson and madison kind of wanted him to serve a third term because they thought it would get the united states over that sort of fragile moment. so in steps, john adams, who is and i adore john adams, nothing like washington. he is shorter. he's a little bit rotund and he has tendency to put his foot in his he wears his passions on his sleeve, which maybe we would appreciate today, but at the time was not considered to be appropriate masculine behavior. he hadn't served in the military he had served in the diplomatic corps. it was very resentful that that service was not appreciated in the same way. so he cut a very different figure. france saw this as an opportunity to pick up the pace in terms of the tensions and. they started to seize american that were going back and forth between u.s. ports, british ports, u.s. ports in united
states and british ports in the caribbean and u.s. ports in neutral nations. so this neutral sea behavior that we learned about this morning continue used to be a problem. now they would seize these ships even though they were sailing under a neutral flag and not particularly carrying any war material. so no, no ammunition. and they would just seized them and they would seize all the goods and they would imprison the sailors. you can imagine roughly how. well, this went over with the american people, especially because the sailors were treated quite poorly very early on in his presidency. john adams decided to send a three person envoy to paris to try and negotiate a new treaty, to try and figure out these tensions, to resolve these. that is what is that resulted in what we think. by the way, these are just some ships. and rigs from the big sur. there's the american and french ships. they're battling on the high seas, just providing a little bit of background information.
you know, one of the challenges about talking the 1800s is your pictures just there. that many options. i'm very jealous of 20th century historians. they could film, they could sound we, you know, maybe get a painting if we're lucky. so this this commission went to paris. they this resulted in what we think what we know now. the x-y-z affair. the american envoys were not official recognized by the french foreign minister. my my french accent is so bad. i'm so sorry, charles morris. totally wrong. he sent a bunch of unofficial people to meet with him. these were known as the x-y-z agents to try and request various things from the american ministers before they could begin negotiations. they requested a couple of things. first around and the x, y, z agents were going to need a
really huge bribe and they were pretty honest about this it. just had to be a lot of money and they had to pay it up, right? second aid. the united states needed to give a very big loan to france, which, again, they were pretty open. they were going to that to fight the war against the british. so that kind of would have been a problem with the neutrality concept. and third, they to denounce a speech that john adams had given may of 1797 when he declared that his his biggest, best goal was to retain peace. and in i put this i should not have named my talk a word that i have a struggle to say, but peace and inviolable faith with nations. so they wanted him at them to denounce president's speech. that was the thing. and they obviously said no to, all of these terms, but they kept at it. so for six months, these various ministers would come in
different groupings. what approached the ministers at different times and try and get at various ways basically to get money and try and get the envoys to separate themselves from the american cause. ultimately, this failed john marshall, one of the envoys. this was before he was the chief justice. he sent back to the united states when they were released. there was widespread outrage. americans were horrified and it became the national chant to say millions for defense not $0.01 for tribute. so no bribes, lots of defense. the envoys came back and the next over the next year is a period that we think of as a quasi war. congress did not actually declare war, but they did spend a lot of money to build up the new. there was now a navy department. so now we have four departments and an attorney general. there is a provisional, which
alexander hamilton was nominally in charge of and had a great deal of fun designing the uniforms for and. they spent a lot of money on the national defenses no war actually happened. the ongoing stuff on the high seas the of ships did continue but when france realized the united states was quite willing to defend itself, it really backed off and tolerated started sending signals behind the scenes to john adams through some of his friends and his son, john quincy, who was currently the minister to prussia in berlin, that he really like to negotiate and he promised that if john adams would send another round of envoys, they would be recognized officially and treated well. no one at the time in the federalist party, which was john adams party, wanted him to do this war was very good for their business. not only did they get their army, they got their navy, but it made them very popular and it
made the jeffersonian republicans very unhappy popular. but john adams once again going back to his purpose, believed in the importance of neutrality. he believed that united states had no business being war. he believed it was bad the country and he believed peace and inviolable faith, all nations. so did decide to send another three person commission to paris. it was the decision that ultimately broke the federalist and split his within the party. they were very mad him and it probably cost him the election of 1800. it ultimately however, was successful. so the three individuals here are william murray, who's on the left, the chief justice again with the chief justices as envoys there was a bit of a trend here. oliver ellsworth is in the center and william richardson, dv. they went to paris they
negotiated with napoleon who was now in charge of the new french republic. and they were able to negotiate the treaty of to fontaine, which was signed in 1800. it did these issues very much improved the french and american relationship. it really helped them to solidify by what it meant to be a neutral nation, especially on the high seas. so that treaty had ripple effects. a lot of different nations across globe. and while did not get to the united states in time for john adams to have these results for the election of 1800. it proved him right. it proved him right that diplomacy is worth a shot, that peace and inviolable faith was possible, that it was worth sacrificing in that partizan gain for the good of the country. i want to. i do not know what that white line is. my apologies.
i want to end with sort of what i of as the bookend to this story. and it ends 40 years after its started so this story talked about started in 1774 i think i see the end of chapter one of u.s. history, u.s. foreign policy and u.s. independence. s ends in 1814. most people don't learn all that much about. the war of 1812. it's kind of the forgotten war unless you live in washington, d.c. of course. and for those listeners at home, that's because washington, d.c. was burned down by the british. to be fair, we did have it coming. we burned down their capitol in york as well. but nonetheless, the war of 1812 was kind of a forgotten war because it ended basically in a tie in a stalemate. but it was an emotional victory because could say that for the second time they had stood up to the biggest empire in the world, the most powerful, maybe the maybe not the army, but the most
powerful empire in the world. they had held their own. they hadn't been defeated. the second time it was referred to the moment as the second war of independence. they saw it as such and they saw it as. the final confirmation that the united states was independent from britain. as an aside, we have never again fought a i believe, unless i'm going to be cited here, we've never again fought a war against great britain. they've they've medal. they they've been tempted to medal. they do not end up meddling in the civil war. they were tempted, but they did not. so we have not fought a war since great britain, since. 1814. the person chiefly responsible for negotiate 18, the treaty of ghent that ended that war was john quincy adams. john quincy adams close the chapter that his father started in 74. he did indeed bring peace and inviolable faith, all nations, and he finished writing the
story of what it to be an independent nation on a global stage and, how international recognition is required so with that, i am a delighted to take your questions. for those of you at home, please, i would love to you to answer your questions i would love for you to be involved in this process. so type them into the chat box. i know all know how to do this. after two years of being on zoom. so don't be shy and. everyone else please. i would welcome your questions. would love to discuss whatever you would like. john adams or john quincy adams because i love them both. i have a question about their characterizations that information, which i actually never thought about before, the way that you described it sort of made it seem like a private criminal indictment are sort of intentionally written from that
legal this kind of what i do for a living. so but i read it as an indictment i guess for the first time rethinking about it. do you have any insight as to whether this was so thought out that they were sort of manufacturing it in such a way like said that that, you know, everyone else, the other monarchs are going to read it and say, oh, did this, this, this, this, this, yes, but that doesn't have anything to do with me, because this is obviously specific to him. yeah, it's a great question. so a fantastic book called american scripture by pauline mayer that looks at all of the declarations that existed up until the declaration of independence and was a long tradition back hundreds of years in great britain, and to a lesser extent other european nations of the way petitioned the monarch. one listed, one sort of goals and aims, and then of the reasons that that petition was warranted and the declaration fits within that construction. so it wasn't necessarily crafted
as a legal document, but it was crafted to bring to mind all of these other that were a regular part of partizan and political parlance, so that people would understand exactly what they were trying to do. so it was very much designed to fit into that mold, which is not to take away from the brilliance of the language or, its founding element in our, but that it fit within a political culture and a political system that they were conversant in at the time. thank you. thank you. no, my question i think there's more coming. yeah. oh, sorry. just one question about john adams and george washington's relationship. you know, i know watching like the hbo documentary about john adams, which i think is really interesting, shows kind of icy relations between the two men. a insight on the that humans relationship personal
relationship. yeah so this is one of those really frustrating instances where george washington didn't write down why he did. he so often wrote down what he was going to do but didn't explain his thought process or if he did, it was an his letters to martha, which he asked her to burn upon his death. and she did very as a historian. so there's there's a couple of things that we should note about their relationship. first, they had known each other from a very for a very long they had been together at the continental congress. john adams was primarily responsible for washington's nomination as commander in chief. the continental army. there was a great deal of respect between the two. and i think they actually initially got along well. john adams was then a little bit critical of washington's leadership particular moments, and washington was very thin skinned and didn't forget criticism. so that was one blow against that relationship. they then didn't see each other for a while because john adams was out of the country and when
he was selected as vice president, washington initially very happy to have him because did represent really different experiences. knowledge in washington thought that that was really generally quite useful. he stopped his cabinet with people who had a different expertise because he wanted their input and insight initially he did send that letter that i mentioned with all the different questions about social behavior and social practices. but then almost right away started to sort of distance himself from john adams. and there are two reasons that scholars possibly as to why that might be. the first is a concern about separation of powers that the vice president was really more of a senate figure. he he john adams sat the senate every single day. it was in session. and so maybe it would be inappropriate to have a close relationship between president and the vice president. as i sort of discussed, i don't think they were as concerned with separation as powers as we are today. and so i don't think that is the
reason. i think the second and perhaps more reason is that in the summer of 1789, john adams lost a lot of his political clout when he advocated for a very ostentatious title for the president. i think it was something like his highness and elected the protector of our liberties. i don't think that's exactly right. but close watching john preferred a more simpler title like mr. president, which of course what we ended up having, and john adams became very unpopular because of that suggestion. senators started calling him the dangerous or his rotund teddy and and i think that they were not very nice and i think that washington started to distrust john political judgment so he never invited adams to a single cabinet meeting. adams did not attend one cabinet meeting. he didn't consult with him about
political matters. they did socialize a lot. so they were often at the same events. they went to the theater, but john adams wrote letter back to abigail in. january of 1797, just before he took office, that after one dinner he stayed and talked washington. and it was the first time that they had had like a private conversation. so they were they were not particularly close. and i think it was because of a distrust of political judgment. the the the, the basic knowledge that the average american has about john adams is president, is the the jeffersonian wrap that he was pro british. and i think looking at it is foreign policy the cards he was dealt, we would all say why of course, you know. but do you think it was out of a realpolitik kind of a thing that he said, look at we're a little country. we have our business relations, our finance, etc. goes, united goes, uk or it was
it was it or a revulsion against the atrocities of the french revolution or a polite mix of both. well, i love this question because i'm currently the book that i'm writing is a book on john adams presidency. and it really argues that he has been highly overlooked, largely because of jefferson's. so thank you so much for that framing. it will be out in august of 2024 and i'm hoping it really changes how people think about adams presidency, his approach to foreign policy was shaped by a couple of things. first, he was by far well, with the exception maybe of his son by far the most experienced diplomat in the united states. he had been to most of the nations. he had seen how they worked. he had seen what concerns and their motivations were. and he was deeply convinced that no matter what the united states did, european nations were going to be squabbling and fighting with each other all of the time anyway. and by the way, he was right about that until until really
post-world war two, although now you kind of have amend that statement because we are looking at another ground war in europe. so he believed that the united states was blessed by, a giant ocean separating our country from the europeans squabbling. and we should take advantage of that, therefore not throw ourselves into conflict. we had no business fighting and we had no horse in the race. we had no reason to care if they were constant at war. he did also deeply fear the anarchy and the violence of the french revolution. he was not alone in. that and that's one of the things that we forget as americans while they were living in this decade, in the 1790s, they were deeply attuned to what was happening in france. the newspapers reported it all time and there were eyewitness accounts that were being printed in newspapers that blood was literally running down the streets and the cobblestones were dyed red and smelled iron. so this was this was something that was very much the center of
their mind. and when they were thinking about things like the peaceful transfer of power and elections and what it meant to have a new administration that was context with which they were thinking these things and were very careful to try and create a new tradition. of linsey for that and for great talk. let's talk a little bit about a son since no one's really mentioned john quincy, you would most people know that he did it to company john to europe as a kid later in life. did john ever write about like was he a proud father of that? was he what was their relationship later in life? because he didn't see them progress in politics. thank you so much for this question, john could not have been a prouder father if he tried. john adams was his greatest. enjoy the light of his life, especially later on he was just
so when washington appointed john quincy as a minister in his own right and washington wrote him a really nice letter, adams basically said, i don't i'm not asking for any, so i don't do that appointment for me. and washington said i would be basic i'm paraphrasing, but i would be a fool not to him, because he's one of the best diplomatic minds. and i want in our service and adams just dies. he's so happy he can't handle my favorite letter. however he wrote when john quincy adams was elected president. and it's very short. it's very simple. and he basically says, like, i don't have words and for john adams to not have words, it's like really saying something. but he says like, i don't even know how to express what i am feeling. and and and it was it was returns. john adams was probably a hard father. he was very demanding john quincy adams was equally
demanding of himself. but so that it was certainly sometimes hard. but he when he found out that his father had died on july 4th, same day as thomas jefferson, he felt as, though, it was some sort of fate and divine spirit. and every year in his diary after that on the anniversary of july 4th, he always marched to the independence, but he also marked the death of john adams and thomas jefferson and how personal all he felt that bittersweet ness of the day. so it was a extraordinary relationship. and i think in so many ways sort of bookends, this narrative. i like your drop story about his letter to the house, about them staying in their place, staying out of the treaty. but i am curious with all of that, what did anyone have any complaints at all about washington's decision to send a chief justice from the judicial branch to negotiate treaty? i mean, were there anyone in his
cabinet or anyone in the house or senate say, whoa, what are you doing? i find very curious and odd. great questions. so there were complaints about jay because there was a concern that maybe he was too much of a federalist, that he was going to be too favorable to the north, that he wasn't going to be sympathetic to southern or western interests. but there were no complaints about the chief justice, and i think that's because their conception and understanding treatment of the supreme court was quite different than ours is today. it was not the sort of esteemed body that's in a marble temple set aside with lifetime appointments. i mean, they did have lifetime appointments if they wanted them. but few justices served that long. the average tenure was between six and ten years when. jay came back. he declined to return to the bench, and instead ran for governor of new york because that was a more prestigious position. so i think that they were less concerned about it just because the supreme court was so much less powerful.
and more questions good. all right. well, with that, i'd like to invite up our five speakers to the where we'll have our half an hour ish panel where everyone will get to talk about all the great things that we've learned today. pull on some of those common threads, a fun side note this very room where we're in and you can visit at the lyceum. in 1841, john quincy adams was speaking in room about society and, civilization. so now you have to come to the lyceum learn more about his speech here in 1841. so if we could have our speakers chris up and i'm excited to introduce phil greenwell again again who will be moderating our panel will.
now get to really ask the questions i wanted to ask all day. and you guys are in a captive audience. so know if anybody does have questions for the panel. we like to keep this open for us. but they spent a lot of their time doing research. so now time to make them a little more personal. so i would like to the first question i have for you guys is, do you we've studied outwards of the american revolution in the national sphere. what made you decide to study this aspect, this niche? what was that defining moment, if there was one, i'll take it. i'll start it off. so the easy answer for me, if i mentioned we're doing an exhibition, this topic is a significant sound that that opens up. we knew that we wanted to do an exhibition about the stuarts.
we thought we were going to do one about james. the first two, of course, is the namesake for jamestown, where we have one of our one of our museums. and then we realized that the exhibition would really be incomplete if we just focused on the stuarts and and england and the coming of great britain. it would be incomplete without talking about the relationships that that impacted in the colonies. right. and then more to we realized through a lot of focus group studies that we've done that people are really interested in learning about stories that mean something to them. so what better way to to do that than situate what does the monarchy what does the stuart era to us in virginia? what does that mean to us in the 17th century, the coming of the revolution, and then ultimately the legacies of that era that inherited today, you know, for for better or for worse, the good, the bad and the ugly and so it's really been an. lens through which to to view not just the coming of the revolution, but better
understanding the world that we live in today by looking at the revolution. but from the position the 18th century, from my perspective i had been researching the revolutionary war for about 25 years and after i finished my guidebook series, i was looking for something to do. and because i'm a french and french, i'm a french descendant of french ancestry, i found that there was a relatively dearth of french material, so i started diving into researching french documentation and exploring that aspect of the war. and that's what led me into some of resources and several of the sources i'm currently working with have never been published in 250 years, which really surprised me. and in the process of looking for a publisher for the book that i currently have in press, i had one publisher actually
tell me that they were not interested in primary. because. they published only secondary sources. yes, we can just continue working down the line at this point. you know, as as was said earlier, growing up and i've always had a deep affinity and interest in the revolutionary period. it's always been more than any particular la episode. the people and the personnel qualities that i found most interesting and i have to give great thanks and credit and appreciation to my parents for making sure that. i was exposed to museums and libraries and primary sources and all sorts of wonderful opportunities. a child which has led to a career in museums and i'm very blessed and, thankful to have specific to. george mason you know, ironically, i was reading a biography, patrick henry that reference, george mason really didn't know a whole lot about george mason before that, not
unlike many, many other people. if your primary biography is entitled the forgotten founder, you a bit of a pr problem going in and i was like i don't really know too much about george mason. i need to learn more about this guy. so, you know, basically just started more about george mason, ended up with gunston hall. so that's kind of how that worked out. so when i wrote my first book, the cabinet, on george washington's creation of that institution, i discovered it was not in the constitution and therefore was really a product of his prior experience, and he basically copied and pasted his experience from the revolutionary war with his counsels of war directly into the presidency. and so i became this believer that we cannot you know, as i as i said, as i off my talk, we cannot just look at one period of a person's life we have to understand what comes. so i wrote that book on.
the cabinet included the information about the revolution. and then i became really convinced by what happens after create something. there's this concept of founders, itis. so when anyone starts a company or an organization and they ultimately have to leave, that's the weakest point of that organization because that hand-off is really difficult and yet we have built that into our system almost every four or every eight years. and so i started thinking about, okay, well then what happened after washington left? and had kind of dismissed adams presidency as i think so many did, and ed and current events really challenged me to think about the importance of that transition process and then because i was this believer and you have to understand the entire life scope of someone really started to dig in to adams prior experiences and look at the of his foreign policy and his diplomacy as a lifelong mission which hopefully will really come through in this next project.
i spent a lot of time and effort on the frontier, which was kind of by happenstance. but in the back of my mind, i kept wondering, okay, how does the revolution fit the broader world? what else is going on in the world so that as these events occur here, which is what we tend to talk most about in the united states, what's going on in france, what's going on in the netherlands, what's going on spain? the siege of gibraltar is massive. we don't talk about it, but was an instrumental part of the american revolution in the sense that it meant spain, even france were spending more resources on gibraltar than were in the western hemisphere. so they had little itch in the back of my brain. what's going on in the world? how is the revolution affecting the rest of the world? how do we put it in the context. for the rest of the world and? you know, while i the soviet studies major way back and and
it seemed like a reasonable to ask yourself there. yeah i, i know it's scary. you know thank you all. so if there is any questions off, the people at home from the sa. okay, i just want to be sure they stay included. so as you do, obviously you start with the research goal and then you start going down. were there any personas or things that surprised as you uncovered these different aspects and your research. one of the things that surprised me was roshumba was, which i know we spoke about this morning, but i'd never heard about until i came across it in a little bit. diary and then there are a number of other diaries where there little tidbits of things that come out and it surprise you when you when you find them. but nobody, nobody touches upon that. for example, another another piece of information that i
found was that two officers in russian both army were involved in a duel just before well, actually three weeks before marching to new york and in the process of researching that, i found out there were some 30 duels that were fought in rhode island. within, the french army, because it seemed like the the french army was more intent in fighting amongst themselves than they were against the enemy. i'll jump in and say the paucity information. frankly, i started to panic. there between those two. the subject was thinking legal firm neutrality. there was established precedent, which they tried to apply during napoleon during the napoleonic wars didn't work too well. and believe it or not, france and britain discussed it during the american war. and i was i was definitely in a panic. there's nothing there. i was dusting off old russian, long, out-of-print history books. i was dusting off books about
international relations, the world system and, you know, 1778, 1779, 1780. and they just didn't deal with it. and i think it goes back to what i want to talk about a little bit, which was because it was because really, sadly came of it. it didn't warrant a lot of study. but i kept coming back to it and going, well, this is a huge what if moment. how do i find material and i think i mentioned i lucked out and found all the original documents in two volumes published during world war one and they published as a as part of a debate between the british and the americans. ironically, over mutual rights during warfare, british had a particular view, the same one, and the americans, not surprisingly, had a different view that, you know, we're neutral, you can't stop our ships. so you know, gold mine and we're off and running. and i didn't call you guys in a panic or picking off up the
information theme here. one of the things we often don't talk enough about as historians is how much work is is limited and shaped. what documents are out there. and so while i don't want to scoop myself out, i discovered this development out in theodore sedgwick's papers. theodore sedgwick was a senator from massachusetts. he was initially a very close ally of adams. he talks about his meetings with him when he was president. he reveals adams political genius. to find out more, you'll have to tune in. but because those papers aren't digitized, they're not microfiche. that means you actually have to go to the masses, see this historical society, and see those documents, and they're in script. a lot of people aren't taught cursive anymore. and so so that really limits the number of people that are going to talk about this thing, including the number of historians, which, if you will,
allow me to get on soapbox for just one moment. this is why history is never stale or and why it must continue to be written and revisited, because there are houses in new england that still have boxes of letters that have yet to be discovered, because that's what new englanders tend to do. so we will continue to learn things and discover things. and that's so important and why history should constantly be evolving. what i would just say is, you know, as i shared earlier, there's not a lot of archival information about about george mason, but one of the great opportunities we have at gunston hall, where we literally learn something new every day. and just by way of context, gunston hall presently, while a 6000 acre plantation historically, we still have 550 acres today and we have a very, very active, robust archeological program. and that is the source for the
greatest amount of information that we're learning about, not just gunston hall, but even more importantly, all of the people that lived at that place over a much longer period than even masons were there. we're learning a tremendous amount about the indigenous communities that were there before, colonization. we are incredibly important information about the enslaved community and the artifacts we're finding are not just interesting and compelling but are allowing us to fundamentally transform and expand the story we're telling we're learning stories about indentured servants that were there, tenant farmers. and i would just say that that that while i don't know if i would use the word surprise but these discoveries this process of discovery is just exciting. it's invigorating. and it's allowing us to tell a much broader, much more truthful, much more honest, compelling and interesting story about about this place and all of the people.
and that's really what all of at gunston hall, i think would say in many ways is add surprises and mysteries and most importantly, new knowledge every day. it's really fascinating to be part of that process. thank you, george mason. maybe forgotten, but he does have the name of a great university in northern virginia that, has supplied a lot of great history majors that are sitting in this room. so yours truly to plug locate anything you know that i have anything to add it's it's interesting i guess, you know, playing off of what lindsey mentioned earlier that history is important to think of not just as stagnant or done or stale, just because it was in the past we have to keep going back to learn from it and something i like to say that i you know, like to keep on a little post-it note on my monitor at work is, you know, doesn't change. but our relationship to it does
pretty constantly, right kind of depending on where we are standing in our present moment, our relationship to our past going to change. and so something i've been thinking about lately, working through looking at the 18th century or the 17th century through the lens of the 18th or vice versa, is that that must have been something that the quote unquote founders were thinking about to. because if you think about the 17th century and english history, it can be very it can be very tempting to forget that, you know, that english history is virginia history and vice versa. and so i do imagine that maybe there was a moment where the, you know, quote unquote, founding fathers were were thinking, wait a minute, this was our history. this was our, you know, common shared past, our relationship with it is now changing because of our present moment. and so thinking about that, you know, being that throughline has been maybe not surprising, but very illuminating for me. i did the math on this the other day and i think this context is
so helpful. so at the constitutional convention that all cromwell had died 120 years before. so that's us talking about the age, which there is television on hbo, a television show on hbo about the gilded age right now. so that history was so present to them. if we think about, you know, we study civil war all the time. we're talking about the revolution, which is, you know, 200 and almost 250 years ago. so i think that that math is just really important to think about and it makes us reconsider their relationship to those figures. you know, questions. i think the person we have read and it's dead ringers for the pride themselves on having a constitutional monarchy even if they don't have a written constitution just wondering at king george the third at that time was it truly a parliament making these decisions to with soldiers on the ground have this
war or was it really this great influence of king george the third really wanting this? and this was like a personal issue for him. oh, gosh. i think there are many different ways to answer that question. i think we would all answer it differently. i mean, i guess i'm choosing to look at this not necessarily from the perspective of george the third or parliament, but from the perspective colonists who originally did not see george the third as the aggressor. they did not see him as the same. right. what's the word i'm looking for a tyrant that, charles. the first was their problems were with parliament, you know, like we discussed earlier and to just up until a point, there was a point when they are when colonists are trying to issue i mean, like the olive branch and they're saying, hey, you know, king george, we really love you. can you do something about this? can you help us out? and it's only when george has
has ignored that petition that that starts changing the attitudes of the colonists towards. now wait a minute he really is the problem but it's not just him, it's parliament too. and then of course we know that you know, george wants he wants to push this. he wants to continue the war until, you know, until he basically breaks it all down in the british, you know, when. right. so i think to a certain point, it does become personal for him because he to keep going and it's his cabinet and it's parliament that has to tell him like this is over. this is so over. yeah, i'm so i'm really sorry, sir. i to that. but. through a revolution for the people aren't dying the streets ever since william and mary they came in and they virtually had to sign a contract to get to be
king and queen in order that the contracts that parliament is supreme. well, it wasn't quite easy as you go through the georges really. the problem there was that he selected his prime minister, the king selected the prime minister. until you get to george, the third and the american revolution and other things going on and then you get a row between fox and pitts, was it was it? yes. fox and pitt and the king is wanting to put his prime minister in to dictate policy to parliament, eventually says enough and passes a law that says the king cannot appoint ministers. that's a consequence of the american revolution and part of this ongoing change you know you get the chart look chart it's laws and so on reform acts later
but there are concerns concerns of the american revolution. thank you. i find that really interesting. i appreciate it. my next question final question is for scott george mason has all this property in mason neck and all of stafford. i'm just wondering what generation or what time period did all this start getting sold off or lost or split among what happened? sure. fabulous. so very briefly, because there's a lot of as i said, it was lot of georges out there, different george. sir. he had nine children that survived to adulthood. there's still many examples. the of the estates that he left to his children. holland hall and still, you know, park in in this area roosevelt island was bequeathed to his youngest son, john was part of a mason holding specific
to gunston hall, though the family ultimately sold gunston hall the 1867. they had begun trying to sell it in the 1820s. by that point, it the soil was completely depleted. the timber was all gone and it was advertised. you could have bought the whole plant for like 1500 dollars and the advertisement in the alexandria paper referencing the access to the abundance fisheries of the potomac river as their primary selling point. but one of the interesting things you with his oldest son, who gunston hall dying only four years after he did his oldest son george. the fifth died in 1796. there are a series of very transitional still family, but very transitional owners, cousins and second cousins. there were periods of no active residency until ultimately they sold it in 1867, so i believe it
was eric that brought it up earlier in the panel discussion about the paucity of sources in regards to some of the work that you all have done. and we're thinking a lot about the theme today of. the american revolution's impact on the global and as a bibliophile, self-proclaimed bibliophile and book collector, i think a lot about you know published works in the and when it comes to this topic in this era when there's more books written about george washington than you can shake a stick the founding fathers there's a pretty healthy dose of military history of the era and some aspects and offshoots but when we talk about the american revolution's impact on a global scale, not only as the impact leaves shores and heads elsewhere, but also impact from elsewhere, influencing the events that are going on in the colonies. can you talk a little bit about maybe the paucity of published works on the global impact of the american revolution and maybe speak to why that may be
in the last 250 years? i can jump in on that. so well, first, i should say that the scholar elijah gould is writing a book that i think will resolve a lot of these issues. it's on sort of the american revolution globally and impact afterwards. there there's also a book called the problems of democracy. see, that's on both. john adams's and i that it talks about some of the themes that we've been talking about. but i think one of the one of the challenges with this work is there are a few wonders. the challenge that if you're going to be talking about the french or the haitian revolution or the russian revolution or, you know, you name it, it requires global travel. and that is that is not something that is available to everyone. that is not something that is feasible. and at various times, different archives have been open or not. it requires language, abilities that i frankly do not have. i'm a terrible linguist and so and most people, if they are
good at languages, they're good at one or two, but might not be able to to all of the revolutions. lastly, i think there has been for a long time in the academy and outside a siloing of our history. we have american history, we have french history, we have russian history, we have british history in some times when it makes sense, there's an overlap. some of those things, but not nearly enough. certainly world is more interconnected now than it was then, but they believed that it was deeply interconnect it. and so i think that we should do. one of the things that i found in my research is that some of the materials that i've been acquiring or obtaining have been very difficult to come by. and i figured if i as a librarian, have this kind of difficulty since i know how system works and where we're are and how to get them. if i have had these difficulties, the average researcher is certainly not going to be able to navigate this. these these avenues very
readily. so in the process of the things i get on interlibrary or through other other means, i've been digitizing them so that can pass them on to posterity when, when i'm gone. or discerned. yes, i've be interested in the anybody. the panel discussion, what their views are on the meaning of the american revolution. i mean, there's a bunch of people out there that believe that just you know, you just change from bunch of old white guys, one set of old white guys. and those are white guys. and there really wasn't a revolution. right. and so some people believe that it was just a mere political revolution. we changed one form of government for another form of government. and it wasn't a social revolution. so my question to the panel is it was what kind of revolution. was it was it a political revolution social revolution or both. it's a big question also an
economic revolution. what i would just say very briefly couldn't save that one for happy hour. i was going to i'm sure we'll talk more later. i think i think it's all of that but but i think to me and way we try to think about it at gunston hall is that it's about the ideas, you know, we talk about at gunston hall all the time is being idea focused and focusing on the ideas. and what i would suggest in is it in many ways it was a revolution ideas and that the true meaning the revolution is in understanding those ideas, also fulfilling the promise. now and into the future of what those ideas represent that this isn't just about time and a place rooted hundred almost 250 years ago. this is about all that has happened since, as you've heard about and all of the continuing contemporary relevance. even more importantly, all that still needs to be done done. thank you.
at least that's what we try to you know, we try to do through our work at gunston hall have more to do. we're not perfect at it, but that's how we're trying to approach it. i really love answer and i would i would build off it, which is to say that, you know, we often think of the declaration of independence as a founding document, but i would argue that so constitution the promise that we will try and create a more perfect union is inherently based on the promise is of life liberty and the of happiness even if it doesn't explicit articulate those as what makes a more perfect union. i think that the revolution itself was fairly moderate. don't tell gordon what. he'll be very upset. but what i think is radical, it is the ideas. and i think that the framers had the good sense and maybe good luck to create a system that was not radical but just flexible
enough to allow the ideas to continue to develop over time. we have the longest living national constitution in the longest living constitu ation. does anyone know what it is and who it was written by? here, here's some whispering in the back. so i think it's actually the massachusetts constitution, which was written by john adams. yes. so but so. yes, i know. i was really setting you guys up, but so but that's remarkable that our constitution has lived long. and i think it's because it allows for enough flexibility for us to continue to try and grapple with those ideas and to figure out what should they mean and how do we want to try and achieve them. what's up with the court that? i said, is the most random fact of the day that it is and it may not be the longest written constitution, but it's the longest, i think, committee gathering to talk about ideas and so forth because they discovered it and it dates back to the viking exploration of
iceland. so they weren't writing things down, but they were drinking and talking. you know, two of the three as they say, said, yeah, john adams waterproof up to title of the impact to a scale one might argue perhaps cooler heads could have got to a situation where rebellion a revolt might not have occurred. i don't think that actually is the case. i think you rebellious lot would have kicked the traces. whatever happened. but as we would say in cricket what happened to the other side, what happened to britain? well you heard this morning that the fourth dutch war, just about the dutch the dutch east india company persisted a while, but they were a major commercial competitor for britain. this left of course, spain and
france getting out of america, actually remove a distraction and allowed britain to concentrate more on that. french, spanish situation. we into what is arguably first world war because it was the napoleonic war but hooray! 21st of october 1805 of that sorted out the french spanish fleet at the battle of trafalgar. and what that did do what did happen after 1815 when napoleon was eventually sent down to the south atlantic, that created a chance for britain to become probably the most powerful empire that the world has ever seen. and i speak of a country where there are 193 nations in, the united nations britain has invaded. 176 of them, just heck of a
claim to fame. it's just building off of. and it's funny because i think we are actually about this. in the last symposium panel that i was on, if it hadn't have been for cornwallis defeat at yorktown, would cornwallis have gone to india? because, you know, that's that's what really the scene for you know empire building that you know that great britain is going to you know continue to to explore and that's the empire you know on which the sun sets so we could have a whole conversation about how the removal of colonial distraction in north you know begat opportunity but you know of course problems and and consequences a very negative way for a vast majority the world so so as we have a few minutes left let's segway since we're getting closer to the happy hour, do some happy hour of type.
since we have to wait till august of 2024 for dr. stravinsky's next book. and it is a walk down the steps to. get norm's books downstairs and also eric's. what's one book on your subject you would recommend for to read one book? david? david lovejoy's glorious revolution in america is very, very good. i really like the way that he explores the impact, the glorious revolution and regionally, virginia is a small slice of that, i think the vast majority of the book is, is new england and the impact of the glorious revolution. and in england is vastly different from the impact in i like thinking about regionality and i like thinking about the specificity of virginia as a place so i like that you know micro history zeroing in but i
recommend that so david lovejoy. the one book that i would find most useful, the encyclopedia of the american. if you read the first and second editions were published by mark maile, boatner in a group not grolier. i'm drawing a blank. the publisher, gail gail publishing, has done a third edition which has taken a lot of what boatner has updated its, expanded it. so there's a lot a lot stuff in the new edition that is much more valuable and. i'm finding that nobody is is really quoting from that anymore. they're still using the 1974 edition of boatner. there that many books about george mason. yeah. so so my response focus more on the global impact and following up with the gentleman that that asked the question about why isn't there more the one book
that really enlightened my thinking about the broader impact and i say broader beyond the 13 colonies but also globally and i'm drawing a blank on the author forgive me. the title of the book is independence lost. it explores the revolutionary the history of, the revolutionary period and the impact on diverse communities. the deep south and along the gulf coast, and really talks a lot about. the very diverse indigenous communities, but also the caribbean space in france and how it all interrelated. and it's just a fascinating book that really someone who grew up in philadelphia and has lived in virginia really broadened my perspective on that period. and different geographic but also communities that were impacted as well. yes that's correct thank you. so if you want to learn more about the cabinet, george washington, that book is available downstairs and online.
buy it for this topic. john adams and john quincy adams were able to do what they did because there was a i'm not allowed to say this word bad beep woman at home abigail adams made all of this possible. she ran farm. she kept things financially literate. she was the one that was funneling diplomatic secrets between the two of them. and when john adams president. so she made all of it and she was john adams number one advisor. so there is a phenomenal biography of her called abigail adams by woody holton. i highly recommend cannot get enough credit. yes abigail adams. isabel dement material she's long since passed but came out in the 1960s. it is completely and totally out of print. forget the long title. just like the declaration of principles if you can find it. god bless you. if you can't find it, keep looking.
she had access to james harris, the ambassador in st petersburg, to his diary, and really dug through a lot of details. sometimes the strategic story gets lost for the details, but. by far the best and perhaps the only book about the army neutrality that's available. if i can add a book west of the revolution, talking what's happening around america's while we're rebelling on the east coast. so let's dabble a little bit into the what if with the last. so there are some honorary citizenships that is given to certain individuals the revolutionary period we we didn't about the spanish de but bernardo de galvez who helped funnel supplies and i think the market off yeah but you're now the president united states and you have to give an honorary citizenship to one person who would that be from your research we'd all have to start in order. this is be anybody can jump in
but i'm giving you was that living? no. from the family from the revolution. or it can be a living person if you want to put yourself there. so. john locke. john locke. louis dupont. i i'll probably go back to thaddeus. q if it hasn't already been so recorded, i'll toss in the french foreign minister in because without france revolution doesn't work. actually, i should clarify my because the louis dupont, i was an american citizen even though he was french because 1777 congress passed a resolution that all officers should swear allegiance to congress. they did delayed the allegiance. the the elite. so the oath of allegiance for the french officers until after until after france joined the
war so when during the french revolution a lot of french officers came to america. they were already french citizens, american, because the they had a sign that the allegiance was as all good historians we are running out of time. you can vote if you want to continue this conversation. we're going to head over to gatsby's where there was plenty of conversations about the new republic and so forth so that'll happen at 30, correct? yeah. and it was still this is thunder come. well, thank you all again for coming. and as we do at the we're going to celebrate gatsby as at 430 make sure you buy everyone's book. thank you again for participating and as we said gatsby's has a. an hour of feeling for abigail.
what's what's your name on your left i am audience. and having head i you get it and that's what makes it valuable for us is this piece. you've been watching a live event from the lyceum, lyceum and alexandria. if you missed any of the discussion, the revolutionary wars impact around the you can watch today's program and entirety on our web site. dot org slash history. i am peter carmichael. i am. the director of the cyber institute here at gettysburg college. i'm also a member of the history department and it's my pleasure. this afternoon to introduce to you trevor plant. trevor is the director of the textural records
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