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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  May 3, 2015 9:32pm-10:02pm EDT

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>> american history tv is featuring first lady, implement and image at 8:00 p.m. eastern time on sunday nights throughout the rest of the year. next week we'll get luis a monroe and adams. each week, american history tv's american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. next, we travel to the national constitution center in philadelphia to learn about 42 bronze statues in signer's hall and to learn about the constitutional convention of 1787. prof. rosen: i'm thrilled to welcome you to signer's hall. let me tell you about the national constitution center. and tell you about this room.
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the national constitution center is a very special place. it is the only institution in america that has a charter from congress to disseminate information about the u.s. constitution on a non-partisan basis. and that means that in these polarized times we are the only place in america that brings together all sides in the constitutional debates that transfixed the country to debate and discuss not political issues but constitutional issues so that you the people can make up your own minds. we do that in three ways. a museum of we the people on independence mall in philadelphia with the most beautiful constitutional views and america looking out on independence hall where the constitution was drafted. we are also america's town hall, a place where you can see at the center and also thanks to c-span often on tv, debates and symposia and panels debating the constitution. and we have got this phenomenal podcast series, which we are getting great downloads where every week we call the top liberal and conservative scholars to debate the constitution so that you can
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engage with that great question. finally, we are a center for civic education. you can find online our interactive tool that allows you to click on any provision of the bill of rights, see its historic antecedents and trace the spread of that across the globe. this place is constitutional heaven. i am a law professor at george washington university and i feel every day so lucky to be able to be engaged in this great project of constitutional education. so signer's hall is the heart and soul of the national constitution center. this is this beautiful room, so simple, and so powerful that contains life-sized statues of the men who signed the constitution. there are 42 statues in this room. 39 people actually signed the constitution. and they are all here, and they are life-size. it was an extremely process of creation to make these statues.
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it is based on the 1940's painting about the constitutional convention. about 10 years ago when the constitution center opened, a studio in new york commissioned 50 actors to stand in the positions that you see here in costume to give you a sense of what it was like to be in independence hall of the time the constitution was drafted. this room has the same proportions as independence hall. so it is more or less the size of the room that the framers stood in. and there is something so viscerally powerful about just being able to see how big the framers were. to go up and see the kids who love to touch them and sit on ben franklin's lap, and touch their hands. you can see the shiny parts where they get rubbed and
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touched. these statues have just been re- polished. because we opened this new gallery with one of the 12 original copies of the bill of rights. in a few weeks they are getting nice and shiny again. the main thing everyone wants to know is how tall was james madison and how tall was george washington? so, they are right behind me here. i think i can squeeze in between abraham baldwin from georgia. he was the last guy to sign. he is gesturing toward the constitution itself. now i'm standing between george washington and james madison. and you can see george washington is the tallest man in the room at 6'2", he is towering over everyone else. his physical presence. he is commanding in every respect. and james madison over whom i am absolutely towering, i think he was 5'4", so thin boned and wan. he had epilepsy.
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he had challenges in health. there is a great new biography by lynne cheney, who came to the constitution center who talked about how his physical frailty shaped his ideas and created this great man, the father of the constitution if there was a single father who was so devoted to moderation and pragmatism and compromise. and really the great genius of the constitution was the balancing and mixing of interests. the challenge for the men in this room was how to balance interest that seemed at times irreconcilable. the difference was over the power of large states versus small states. who should prevail? the small states, obviously, wanted to make sure that their interests were represented, and they favored equal representation in congress. they basically wanted one or two
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representatives for every state. big state, they wanted to be represented by population so that they would have more power. so, the question of how to reconcile those interests led to a clash between what was known as the virginia plan and the new jersey plan. and i want to talk to you about that. the virginia plan proposed by the virginia delegation, which included madison and washington, was favored by the large states. it would have had a bicameral legislature, two houses, but the states were to be represented by population. so new york and virginia would have far more weight than new jersey and delaware because they had greater population. that was not going to fly at all with representatives from the smaller states. and they rallied around something called the new jersey plan. and so, let's go to the new jersey delegation and see what
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they thought. i avoid abraham baldwin and pass respectfully by alexander hamilton who we will come back to in a moment and move right up here to william livingston of new jersey and in particular william paterson who was the guy who came up with the new jersey plan. and william paterson is in energetic discussion with jacob broom. of all the statues, broom is the only one for whom an image to -- image did not exist. i think the artist had to imagine what his face looked like. everyone else is represented according to contemporary pictures. william paterson proposes the new jersey plan which says that every state is going to get equal representation in a bicameral legislature. that would've been great for states like new jersey whose votes counts as much as big states like virginia and new york, but as you can imagine virginia and the larger states were not happy with that. so what to do? it looks like an irreconcilable clash.
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as was the case of many times at the convention, someone proposed a compromise. and that someone was roger sherman of connecticut. let's go look at him and see what he came up with. the connecticut delegation is here. and i have to apologize, ladies and gentlemen, because whenever i think of roger sherman i cannot help but think as i do so many times when i see the framers, of that great musical "1776." roger sherman was one of the six people at the convention that passed the declaration of independence. in "1776" mr. sherman and mr. adams are debating in song about who should write the declaration of independence.
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and they give it to thomas jefferson. "i do not know a participle from a predicate. i am a simple cobbler from connecticut." he was coming up with constitutional compromises. and the connecticut compromise my goodness. look, he looks so stern. but impressive. how could you resist a gaze like that? roger sherman's compromise was to blend the virginia and new jersey plans and propose a system we have today where we have a bicameral legislature. every state has two votes in the senate regardless of how big it is. the house of representatives has -- which is apportioned by population. these men were not ideologues. they had strong views, which they were not willing to compromise in some cases and
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ultimately, the question of whether the constitution should contain the bill of rights or not was one that led three men to refuse to sign the document. we will see those three dissenters in a moment. but generally, the spirit of compromise infused the documents. they operated in secret. that was pretty important, that they were able to test out ideas without having to expose to public scrutiny and they took their secrecy very carefully although madison later published -- madison took notes that were later published and ultimately they came up with the document they did now. this is a room about personalities but also a room about ideas because these great men who came up with a document that some have described as the most perfect in history. it is hard to think of, given the constraints of human frailty, a document that would have better endured for the ages, the longest enduring written constitution in history.
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it's exciting to learn their stories and also to talk about their ideas. so let's do that. right here is a framer who is next to madison perhaps the most important philosopher of the constitution in this hall. i will add one more to that list and that is james wilson. madison, hamilton, and wilson was the most important, and this is alexander hamilton. we like to say of hamilton, what he lacked in stature he made up in fiscal responsibility. he was secretary of the treasury and he was a great defender of an energetic central government that would be strong enough to regulate the economy. some accused him of being monarchical in his tendency, and he would've favored a stronger executive than the one that ultimately resulted. hamilton, like madison, was one of the authors of the federalist papers which were the documents that were issued anonymously under the pseudonym publius to
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give the argument for and against ratification of the constitution after it was proposed. and hamilton had many great contributions in the federalist papers, not least of which was his theory of why it is ok for courts to strike down unconstitutional laws. so federalist 78, which hamilton worte, contains the whole philosophy of american government in a few paragraphs. it says the will of we the people of the united states is represented by the constitution because of the special ratification procedure that gave it the will of, the force of law. hamilton says, a match of the -- imagine the conflict between the will of the people represented by the constitution and the will of legislatures represented by statues. it is the obligation of judges to favor the will of the sovereign to that of the agent. the, basically, the master has to be preferred to the servant
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because legislatures are servants of the masters, we, the people. that is why, according to hamilton, it is not undemocratic courts to strike down unconstitutional laws when they set aside a law passed by the legislature that clashes with the constitution, they are favoring the will of the people over the will of the legislatures. a brilliant theory like so much of what hamilton did. now i want to introduce you to the pennsylvania delegation. hugely important and also contains the most underappreciated framer. in some ways, the greatest constitutional philosopher of the convention. and that is james wilson of pennsylvania. see james wilson, age 45, born in scotland, lawyer and politician. would go on to serve on the supreme court. james wilson's central contribution to the constitutional convention was
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his theory of popular sovereignty. remember the preamble to the constitution. "we the people of the united states in order to form a more perfect union." the original draft said "we the people of new york, virginia new jersey." it listed the states individual -- the states individually because there were those at the convention, who following the model of the articles of confederation, had thought that we the people of each state worse off or had sovereign authority. that has huge consequences because if the people of each state are sovereign, it would have taken unanimous approval to ratify the constitution, which after all, violated the rules of approval of the articles of confederation which did require unanimity. and nothing could get done. also, if we the people of each state were sovereign, then any state could choose to leave the union on its own if it chose. but wilson disputed that we the
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people of each state were sovereign. he insisted that we the people of the united states as a whole were sovereign. this he said was the difference between britain where parliament had sovereign power and could do whatever it likes, and the united states where the people and not parliament were sovereign. and the relevant denominator for the people was that of the entire union not of each state. this great contribution to american popular sovereignty was at the heart of the civil war. abraham lincoln channeling james wilson agreed because we the people of the united states were sovereign. when those people ratified the constitution, they created an indissoluble union that would require the support of the entire union to allow any state to secede. people like calhoun and other states rights advocates channeling the anti-federalist said any state could decide to leave on its own. it took the civil war, the bloodiest in american history, to establish that wilson and
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lincoln were correct and that the advocates of state sovereignty were not, and that indeed, we the people of the united states were sovereign. madison himself was probably conflicted on this score. federalist 39 talks about dual sovereignty where the states in their sovereign capacity occasionally rule and sometimes we the people rule. others like wilson said that the idea of two sovereignties was a -- was a state within the state. you could not have two sovereign powers. the civil war did indicate wilson's vision. today, our national unity represented by national popular sovereignty is thanks to james wilson. but of course, james wilson is not -- i said he was the most underappreciated framer. he is not the most famous. the most famous, and i suppose the most beloved based on the amount of shininess on his hands in just a few weeks, is benjamin
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franklin of pennsylvania. at age 81, he is the oldest of the framers, printer, inventor scientists, and statesman. he is not well at the time of the convention. but he is so respected, and his wisdom so acknowledged that when he did speak, he was closely attended to. the main thing to say about franklin is kids love to sit on his lap. he's very cuddly. he's the pillsbury framer in that respect. but he was sharp as a tack. and there was an amazing moment at the end of the convention where he was looking at the chair that george washington sat at which had a sun inscribed in it. we do not have a replication of the chair here. you can see it in independence hall. franklin said throughout the convention i was wondering whether it was a rising or setting sun. he said, now i am confident the sun is rising.
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next to benjamin franklin is governor morris of pennsylvania. i thought when i first learned about him that he was a governor. but he was not he just had a very distinctive name, which was guvernor. he also had a distinctive peg leg. how did he get a peg leg? the story was that he was in a carriage accident, and some say that he was escaping from an assignation with a lady. others say he just had a carriage accident. you can decide for yourself. but he is here with his elegant walking stick perring over benjamin franklin along with the , rest of the pennsylvania delegation. and it's striking how central these delegates were in their home state. so, the great issue in addition to the presence or absence of the bill of rights that divided the constitutional convention
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was the question of slavery. this is the great moral stain in american history, the original declaration of independence had promised that all men are created equal. but the constitutional convention was not able to vindicate that promise because of a disagreement about the status of slavery, and also about the political consequences that would result from allowing slavery to continue. there were some framers who opposed slavery on moral grounds, but the more practical question that the framers faced was, if the southern states were allowed to count their enslaved men and women as part of the baseline for apportionment in representation, then they would dominate the legislature. so, this is a conflict between big states and small states and the slave states and the free states. and they were at an impasse. how should slaves be counted for purposes of representation?
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what saved the convention, although allowed slavery to continue until it was finally eradicated after the 13th amendment passed after the civil war, was something known as the 3/5 compromise. the 3/5 compromise was proposed by james wilson of pennsylvania as the great architect of popular sovereignty. and it was seconded by charles pinckney of south carolina. i am standing here with the south carolina delegation, including pinckney and also john rutledge, and finally charles cotesworth. pinckney believed it was a way of reconciling the maintenance of slavery with the political concerns of the northern states. here is what the 3/5 clause famously or infamously said,
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reading from my riveting national constitution center pocket constitution. i think you can get these on amazon now. if you go on to our website, we should get them up and running which has this completely thrilling introductory essay by me and david rubenstein about the relationship of the constitution and the bill of rights which discusses the status of slavery. here is the 3/5 clause. article i sets out the powers of the congress and section ii talks about how congress be apportioned and it says, -- so that is one of the great
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compromises, one can say one of the great moral indignities in the convention to decide to count enslaved persons as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of apportionment. that compromise came along with the decision to allow the slave trade to continue until 1808 which is also inscribed in the constitution. and those two decisions meant the great question of how to eradicate slavery would be deferred until the civil war. it is not the proudest moment, and arguably the most shameful, but reality is the constitution would not have been passed on -- past or proposed without this compromise and is an example of how these delegates were able to reconcile their competing interests of large and small states and free and slave states in a way that produced a
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workable document, whether or not you think that compromise was morally defensible is up to you to decide. what i want to show you now are the dissenters. so let's go see them. so, three men at the constitutional convention refused to sign the constitution. elbridge gerry. i learned to pronounce it gary -- and randolph of virginia and george mason of virginia. elbridge gerry. i learned to pronounce it gary and i learned to pronounce it as -- announce the practice that his name inspired as gary-mandering not gerrymandering. gerrymandering is the practice of drawing voting districts so
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that they snake around in such funny shapes that they look like a salamander. designed to ensure that your party wins to protect incumbents or if the state legislature is drawing up the seat to ensure their party retains power . so gerry created a district that looks like salamander. people ridiculed as a form of gerrymandering and that is what we have today. and then randolph of virginia, along with george mason, was not happy about the rights that were proposed. randolph and mason originally supported the strong central government and were supportive of the constitution, but during the course of the debates over the constitution, they both became concerned that it did not include a bill of rights and that a radical central
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government might come to menace the inalienable natural rights retained by the people. mason was the author of the virginia declaration of rights which was so inspiring to thomas jefferson that he had a copy of it beside him when he wrote the declaration of independence. and the virginia declaration, which looks quite a lot likeour -- which looks quite a lot like our bill of rights, because james madison would also come to rely on it, set out the basic natural and in alienable rights governments were created to protect. you can check it out on light. go to our rights interactive at national constitution can compare it with the ultimate bill of rights. you will see how madison cut and pasted the virginia bill of rights and coming up with a bill of rights. it is amazing story of principle. madison did think the central government had to be more
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energetic than it was in the articles of confederation, but he wanted to ensure it was limited. so why didn't james madison go along with mason, gerry and randolph's call for a bill or rights? for two reasons. he thought it would be either unnecessary or dangerous. unnecessary because the constitution is already a bill of rights by limiting, spelling out the powers of congress and denying the congress any powers that weren't explicitly enumerated. and dangerous because madison thought that people might assume that if a right was not written down it was not protected he and the other framers thought that since our rights come from god and not government it would be a bad idea to assume that you can have a determinate list. but based on the opposition of these three dissenters, the anti-federalist geared up. hamilton and madison wrote the federalist papers under the pseudonym publius. the anti-federalist wrote counter pamphlets with vivid
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anonymous pseudonyms themselves, like a federal farmer. and basically, they said to not ratify the constitution unless it contains a bill of rights. and based on this opposition many of the state ratifying conventions came to agree with them and demanded the sick when -- demanded subsequent amendments. as a result of this groundswell of support, james madison changed his mind in 1789, went to congress and proposed a bill of rights that originally contained 19 amendments. congress sent 12 to states for ratification. you can see in the next room an original copy of the bill of rights, along with rare copies of the constitution and declaration of independence. you will see how the original document does not contain just 10 amendments but 12. the first two have to do not with free speech, our first amendment, but with the size of
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congress. the first one says there should be one representative in congress for every 40,000 people, which would have created a congress of 4000 people today. in the second amendment says the the original second amendment says congress cannot raise its salary without an intervening election. that became the 27th amendment in the 1990's. what a remarkable story in this room, despite the fierce divisions of principle among the delegates. these brave dissenters ultimately were vindicated. it is a reminder of the importance of dissent. political dissent was so crucial to the framing of the constitution and protections for dissent now expressed the first amendment are at the heart of what makes america distinctive.
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>> american history tv was live today from oak ridge cemetery in springfield, illinois, for the 150th anniversary of abraham lincoln's funeral. next all of our programming from earlier today, including a re-created funeral procession and ceremony near lincoln's receiving vault. afterwards, we will hear from michael are linking -- burlingame as he reflects on the ceremony in springfield. you are watching american history tv on c-span3. picture from oak ridge cemetery from revealed illinois, where the 150th anniversary of president aber cap -- president abraham we can pause euro. with us is richard hart, a springfield resident and author.


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