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tv   First Ladies Elizabeth Monroe and Louisa Catherine Adams  CSPAN  May 16, 2015 12:00pm-1:35pm EDT

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watch all of our events from fort lauderdale, today at 5:30 eastern, and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on c-span3. >> american history tv is featuring c-span's original series "first ladies: influence an image," throughout the rest of the year. c-span produced the series in cooperation with the white house historical association. we tell the stories of america's 45 first ladies. next, elizabeth monroe and louisa catherine adams. this is about 90 minutes. ♪ elizabeth monroe was a true partner in her husband's career and it was a good sounding board for many policies and decisions that he had to evolve.
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>> they were a love story if one ever was and absolutely devoted to each other. >> elizabeth monroe had a very well-developed sense of style and image, and her jewelry is a reflection of that. >> this is a woman who knew how to carry herself with great elegance. she always warranted your respect. >> it was one of the most splendid white houses that ever existed. >> it was called the era of good feeling. >> this is a woman who spoke french, and my goodness, what she could talk about. >> elizabeth was a very great beauty, described in one letter as a rose petal beauty, but mrs. monroe received very seldom anything at the white house. she was a recluse, absolutely hated it. >> hospitality, decorum, dignity, civility those are the -- civility, those are the words that come to mind. >> elizabeth monroe served as first lady for her husband james monroe from 1817 to 1825, during a time known as the era of good feelings. coming up, we'll explore her
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life and what were not always happy times inside the white house for this cosmopolitan woman born into a well-to-do new york family, who married james monroe at the age of 17 and traveled to europe extensively with him before her tenure as first lady, bringing with her to the white house a certain french sensibility. good evening, and welcome to cspan and the white house historical association's first ladies: influence and image. we're going to be looking at the life of elizabeth monroe and to do that, two guest at our table. let me introduce them to you. daniel preston is the editor of the james monroe papers at the university of mary washington in virginia and richard presidential historian and consultant to cspan for this series. gentlemen, welcome. dan preston, the last program was dolley madison who perfected or maybe introduced and then perfected the art of power politics, really using a social forum to advance her husband's political agenda. what was elizabeth monroe's approach to the white house?
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mr. preston: elizabeth monroe and dolley madison were great friends. they had been for years and years but they have very, very different temperament. dolley madison was very social by nature. she loved large reception, she loved dinners, was perfectly happy to get in her carriage go visiting all day long. elizabeth monroe wants to stay home with her family. she was devoted to her daughters, to her grandchildren. and at the white house, that's what she really enjoy, that's -- enjoyed, that's what she wanted to do. she wanted to be with her family. she did not like large crowds. it was very uncomfortable at the large receptions that the president had but was very charming in smaller groups, at small dinners when there was a small circle of friends together, a small group of visitors. everyone praised her charm, her affability, her conversation said she sparkled.
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so just a very, very different type of person than dolley madison. host: richard norton smith, explain washington in this time period and how important social was to political. mr. norton smith: well, it's interesting and of course as you've said that the monroe years are popularly known as the era of good feelings. i think you could probably take issue with that particularly the second term. what had happened was by that point, we were as close to being a one party state as at anytime in american history. the old federalist party had basically died off, the war of 1812 had been concluded and a standoff that most americans were willing to consider a victory, we had established once and for all our independence. and so it was a period of actually great boom in the country, physical expansion, a number of states came into the union during monroe's day, and
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yet washington city remained this very raw, incomplete place with dirt roads. in some ways, elizabeth monroe like louisa adams, suffers for her straits. they were both seen as somehow alien. elizabeth, of course, was born in this country, but in many ways she had her blossoming oversees, in france, especially. and the monroe's became famous for the french-ness i guess with the way they approached life in the white house. you can see it in the furniture that they bought. you can see it in the food that they served. and then as now there was also a nativist element that took exception to a first lady who somehow didn't seem quite american enough. host: well, to that end, let's
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take a look at some statistics about america in 1820. it is a booming country. a population of 9.6 million and now 23 states has a 33 percent growth since the 1810 census slaves in the population numbered about 16% about 1.5 million and the largest cities new york city, philadelphia, and baltimore. looks like boston has fallen off that list from earlier times. mr. norton smith: well, and within that, you have the transportation revolution going on as well as in the 1800 there were only three roads over the appalachia mountains. during the monroe years, you have the erie canal that's being dug in new york that will transform the economy. you have the cumberland road under construction from the capital into what is now west virginia. you have this whole debate going on about internal improvements and what the role of the federal government should be and all that. so this is a country poised for an economic take off and monroe presides over it much as dwight eisenhower in the 1950s presided over a period of peace and prosperity. host: dan preston, as you worked
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your way academically through the monroe papers, how much documentary evidence is there about elizabeth monroe? mr. preston: unfortunately there's not a lot of family lore based upon what monroe's elder daughter reported was that at some point after he left the presidency, monroe burned all personal correspondents. there is one letter that survives that is written by elizabeth, there is one letter from james to her that survives. what baffles me and drives me nuts is there's only one letter that she wrote to somebody else. she had an extensive correspondence with her sisters, with her friends and these letters don't seem to be anywhere. and i don't understand why not. it seems like somebody would have kept some of these. so consequently, having firsthand evidence of what she actually thought about things we don't have.
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there's a lot filtered of what people wrote about her. there are letters that monroe wrote to his daughters, a few of which survived to his two sons-in-laws who were political advisors that talk about family matters. there's something a congressman write letters home wrote letters home talking about meeting mrs. monroe. other women in washington recorded in their diaries meeting her. so there's a fair amount about her but we don't have really anything from her point of view which is very maddening. host: and what do we know from what we have about her relationship with her husband? mr. preston: they were absolutely devoted. they were apart for a couple of months here and there throughout their 44-year marriage, but usually they were together. there's a wonderful letter
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speaking of congressman samuel mitchell from new york wrote his wife that he had been at a dinner at the white house or at the president's house when jefferson was president and it was right before monroe left to go to france to negotiate what became the louisiana purchase. and mitchell wrote to his wife saying, monroe has a fine conjugal feeling, he can't stand to be separated from his wife so he's taking her with him to go to europe. and that was pretty much their attitude. he was devoted to family as well and as i said before that's really what they wanted to do. they had their choice of how they would spend time. it would be with their family. host: this program is interactive. we invite your phone calls and you can reach us if you live in the eastern half of the united states at 202-585-3880 if you live in the mountain or pacific
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time zones 202-585-3881. you can tweet us using the #firstladies or you can post on our facebook page, lots of ways to be involved. and in fact, let me turn to a facebook poster, r.j wilson (ph) n who asked, "we have heard elizabeth monroe didn't like being first lady. how did the american people of today feel about her?” now, first of all, did she not like first lady or did she just not like the public parts of it? mr. preston: she did not like the public parts. she married james monroe when he was a member of the continental congress. so through their entire adult life, he was in one public office or another. so she was very much used to him being a public figure, being in the u.s. senate, being governor of virginia, being abroad as a minister of the united states, serving as secretary of state. this was her life.
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so to go to the white house was not anything that unusual. it wasn't anything unexpected. people had talked about monroe being president for years. so, it was assumed that sooner or later this was going to happen. as far as what the public thought about her, i don't know what we know what the public thought about her. we know what people in washington thought about her and people who visited washington. but that's a very, very small universe. there were 200 members of the house of representatives about -- representatives, about 50 senators, there were a handful you know, there were some supreme court, and a handful of cabinet members, a few foreign dignitaries, local people. the washington circle, social circle, was what? you know, maybe 500 people? and that was the world that we think and we talk about social washington. it's this very small, i don't want to say a fishbowl, but it's a very small group of people and
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that's who met her and who reflected on her. people didn't know. in fact, when monroe was president, he did two tours around the country and they were phenomenal because no one ever saw the president. no one ever heard the president talk. now, we can't go through a day hardly, i mean, you really have to be hermetically sealed up to go though a day and not hear or see the president's voice or to see an image of him. a man in salem, massachusetts wrote in 1817, several months after monroe became president that for the first time he had seen a picture, an image of president monroe. people didn't know what -- james madison gave three speeches when he was president. thomas jefferson did two. people never saw the president. they never heard the president let alone the first ladies. so say, the public perception, there really isn't a public perception. it's a good question but it's just simply that it's a different time and it's not there. host: richard, as a reminder, the white house has been burned
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by the british during the war of 1812. and the madisons had to leave while it's being reconstructed. the monroes were able to move back in. how important symbolically was this for the country? mr. norton smith: well, hugely important symbolically, because even by then, the white house had become in effect of america's house. and one of the reasons why then and since its occupants have been often targeted for criticism, much of it unfair, is because we all think that it's our house. and mrs. monroe was the first in a long line of first ladies who would be criticized for alleged obsession with fashion. it was known that she paid up to $1,500 for her gown. it was alleged that she had picked up the french habit of painting her face and applying rouge. and silly as all this sounds now to this rough-hewn, rawboned yankee republic, it takes us back almost to the debates at the very beginning of the
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republic about, what kind of nation we were going to be. host: well, the blue room at the white house is one that really reflects to this day that monroe administration. so we're going to show you that next. this is a clip from special documentary suspended a few years back on the white house. we will show that now. ♪ the blue room is the monroe's and one most authentic in the house. in fact, if i go back one time in the white house i'd probably would go back to the monroe period after the war of 1812 because the wheels of the united states really began to turn then. it began to come to life and monroe, of course, thought that the era of good feeling as it was called would last forever and political parties would
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dissolve. people began moving west in big numbers. new orleans developed since and so forth. i think that was to be the period i would like to be listening to what was going on. in furnishing the house, james monroe and his wife moved very into french, everything, they spoke french at home and they lived in france. and so, he wanted all the furniture to come from france. and he spent a lot of money bringing these things such as these clocks, which fascinate me the most, that have stood on those mantles since 1818 and ticked way. and these things are still use many of them. many of the things he acquired are still in use. so you have that that all the presidents have used since then. when you see our earliest things, many of them are on the blue room. so we have the wonderful gilt chairs and sofa that are in the room. they were acquired by president monroe from france. he was criticized for buying french things and not american. and in fact, congress in 1826 passed a law saying the furniture of the white house must be of american
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manufacturer, "if practicable." this room is much more of a period room in that sense that the wallpaper is much more of the same period as the furniture, as the portrait of president monroe by samuel morse, as the portrait of mrs. monroe by john vanderlyn that hanged together. so it's really a place where the monroes would probably feel the most comfortable too like teddy roosevelt in the east room if they were to walk in and say "ah, i understand this room. that's the furniture we bought. that's the portraits we set for and this is wallpaper that is of our vintage." host: so it sounds as though buying french and speaking french was as controversial then as it might be today? mr. preston: yes. as richard was say, it goes really back to the beginning to washington and the first presidency of trying to balance the new standards, the new republican standards of
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simplicity and openness. but at the same time somehow maintaining a dignity and majesty for the national government. so, how do you be open but as the same time present the country as being something special particularly for visitors? and for the monroes and for other presidents, the white house became the tool for doing that. monroe was praised, people who met him always commented on what a plain, straight-forward, unostentatious person he was. but then, you look at how he and mrs. monroe furnished the white house. and it's very different and moreover he much understood the importance of symbolism. and for him, the white house a -- was a symbol of the united states. and so, it was to present it in a fashion that i think majesty is really, really the best word. so how in a republic can you present the majesty of the country?
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and you do it in the president's house. mr. norton smith: not only majestic but napoleonic. you know, the monroes had actually befriended napoleon when they lived in paris. and ironically, the president originally had ordered 56 pieces of mahogany furniture from france and he was told by the french that mahogany was not appropriate to a gentleman's house. and this is what he got in his place. well, here's a tweet about the -- host: well, here's a tweet about the white house from michael, who asked, "did the monroe's faced any lingering problems in the white house as a result of the british burning the building in 1814?” what state of repair was it in when they got there? mr. preston: it was not ready in march of 1817 when monroe became president.
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and they lived in another house for several months. in june, monroe left washington and went on a four-month tour around the country. his family went back to virginia. he returns to the president's house in september of 1817. and at that point, it was ready for occupancy. they began moving furniture and the furniture they ordered wasn't ready. he used his own personal furniture. they borrowed furniture from elsewhere and it was really sort of a haphazard system of furnishing the house. some of the rooms were still empty. the house was in pretty good shape, it wasn't like it was when the adams moved in where the plaster was still wet and the rooms were simply not usable. so, it was in fairly good shape. there wasn't any furniture for it. host: we're looking at pictures of the south portico which was one of the monroe's addition to
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the building right now. i'm going to take a call richard, from sherry who was watching us in fredericksburg, virginia. you're on. sherry: hi, how are you? host: great, you're question, please. sherry: i had understood that elizabeth monroe suffered from poor health. and i don't know exactly if it's true or what she had but i was wondering how that would have affected her ability to be so public and so social when that was so much a part of the politics versus dolley madison? is there any information that's been obtained about how she was able to function socially with poor health? mr. norton smith: that's a great question because it does go to the heart of why she was an almost invisible first lady during a lot of those eight years. she had serious health problems. dan probably knows this more
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than i do. i know she had excruciating headaches. it was thought, she suffered from rheumatism, arthritis, and there are a number of people who believe that she may have had late-onset epilepsy which was known as the falling disease at that point and that's something that would've certainly been kept a secret from the public. one of the byproducts of her ill health is that she often had stand in her place, her daughter, eliza, and it is eliza , quite frankly, who's responsible for a number of these actions that had been blamed on her mother that gave off an aura of snobbery and exclusivity. for example, the first white house wedding of a president's daughter took place, and eliza took over the preparations and it was eliza who said, "this is a family affair, the diplomatic corps is not going to be invited " --
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host: angering all of them. mr. norton smith: well, when you talk about those 500 or 600 people, a disproportionate number of them thought they should've been invited to the monroe wedding and they wrote down their thoughts. and unfortunately, for elizabeth monroe's historical reputation, we have access to that but we don't have her side of the story. host: and to make connections between the first lady's during her second term, somebody was beginning to fill in the social gap in washington, and that was louisa catherine adams who became used to social networking in washington as a way to campaign for the presidency. so, were these women friends? mr. preston: yes. but like the madison's, the -- madisons, the adamses were much more socially oriented and they frequently had monroe's didn't go. -- frequently had weekly soirees
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of varying sizes. the monroes didn't go. the monroes felt that it was improper for the president to attend these sorts of private functions. and particularly in his second term when there was this mad scramble for the presidency including all of his cabinet members. in fact, at one point, he wrote a letter to his attorney-general, william wirt about something. and at the end, he put a sentence, he's said, "i hope you'll come visit us in virginia. you are always welcome. you not being a candidate for a certain office.” host: in that sense, it feels very modern, doesn't it? mr. norton smith: what happens is we have a one-party state but instead we now at the politics of faction, personal faction. and indeed, the second term was beset from the beginning with this jockeying for 1824. host: jane is up next in
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killeen, texas. what's your question? jane: thank you. going back to a former series, what was president monroe's relationship with his vice president and who was vice president? mr. preston: i'll tell you, he's the most obscure vice president in american history and that's saying something i think well i don't know that he would be the most obscure, i mean, you get in that period. daniel d. tompkins who had been a wartime governor of new york and was chosen as a running mate because he had been a strong supporter of the madison administration during the war. and also the new yorkers were unhappy with the luck that virginia had on the presidency. and so it was a bit of a it's like today, you choose a vice president for candidate for political reasons and it was partly to assuage feelings of new york that tompkins was asked to serve. tompkins was horribly in debt as governor, he was responsible for borrowing lots of money, and it literally, literally drove him to drink. and he became heavily alcoholic to the point where he could not
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preside over the senate. and while he and monroe were friends, by 1821, 1822, he was totally incapacitated and he died shortly after his term as vice president ended. but he may have been more prominent on the national scene had he lived a bit longer but he did not. host: on twitter, mccathy asks, "how common was it for americans to be french speakers in the time of monroe? "i think of english and german is more common, is that true?” mr. norton smith: well, it's a great question. there were lots of americans who were french sympathizers in their politics. remember, from the very early days, in the washington administration, europe was at war and there were lots of americans remembering france's assistance during the revolution who sympathized with the french revolution. in fact, one of the great stories about elizabeth monroe we've talked, we probably
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shouldn't ground the time they spent in france. host: we'll do that in the next section. mr. norton smith: ok. then i'll save the story for that. host: ok. in fact, why don't we move on to that after this call from mark from los angeles and we'll look at her pre-white house years. you're on the air. welcome. mark: please tell us about her relationship with the lafayettes. host: ok. ok, well, thanks very much. that's the story. mr. preston: be careful with this. ok. ok. so, why were they in france? the monroes were in france in mid-1790s. james had been appointed us minister to france. they arrived in paris a week after robespierre had been guillotined, so it was at the height of the reign of terror.
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marquis de lafayette had been forced to flee france for not supporting the more radical elements of the revolution. his wife was not able to leave. she and her mother and other family members were arrested were imprisoned, her mother had been executed. gouverneur morris who had been minister before monroe had worked to try to get her out of prison but morris was not popular with the french government at all since he had pretty much condemned revolution and said he supported the monarchy. when monroes came, they picked up this effort to try to get a release and they staged a very dramatic event to draw attention to elizabeth monroe. and that is, excuse me, to madam lafayette, and that is they hired a very expensive carriage. elizabeth monroe dressed herself in her best and went to the prison where she, where madam lafayette was being held, asked to see her. the governor of the prison didn't know what to do meanwhile there was this crowd gathering because everyone wants to see who this person was coming in this carriage and words spread that it was the wife of the american minister. and she met with madam lafayette and basically made her case a public one. and some stories say, you know
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sort of next day, she was released. well, it wasn't the next day. it was a couple of months. but it pretty much kept her from going to the guillotine and officially did lead to her release. the monroes became the conduit for money from the us to her to enable her to go to austria and join her husband. and interestingly, her husband was imprisoned in austria and she went, she got out of paris and got out of prison in paris and went to austria and voluntarily went into prison in austria so she could be with her husband. host: well, bringing it back to mrs. monroe, what were americans preston: i don't know how much americans knew about it at that time. the story really doesn't get told until much later. what we know most about it is what monroe wrote in his autobiography which he wrote in the 18 - late 1820s which was not published until much later.
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so, this story really didn't come - become current until well after - well after the event. swain: as we said in the opening, james monroe met eliza as she was called in new york city when she was just a teenager, 17 years of age and a great love match but virginia , became an important part of their lives in between their various political postings. we're going to show you two places important to them next. male: the james monroe museum has been in existence since 1927 when james monroe's great granddaughter led an effort to preserve the site of his law office that existed here in the city of fredericksburg in the 1780's. we have the largest assemblage of artifacts and other information related to the monroe family that you'll find anywhere in the country. elizabeth monroe was a true partner in her husband's career and was a good sounding board for many of the policies and
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decisions that he had to evolve. she was a very literate and articulate person, and someone to whom her husband could go for a very valuable advice. with the items on the table here, we sort of go through an arc of elizabeth lender's life. mrs. monroe had the heritage of very well developed sense of style. she had shoes that she employed that we believe were her mother's that of a very fine construction from london which she continued to use into her lifetime. as the mistress of oak hill, the farm that the monroe's had in loudoun county, she was responsible for maintaining the household accounts and she did it on a small ivory memo pad. they are ivory pieces of days of the week inscribed on them. and -- and whatever to-do list that she might have could be written on here with a charcoal pencil that could be wiped off and you were done. it reflects someone who is organized, who is busy, and who was making use of a very practical item in her life.
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the relationship that mrs. monroe had with her sisters was a strong bond and in very much a style of the time and giving a gift of sisterly love, she presented to one of her sisters in the 1790s jewelry made from her own hair, jewelry made from human hair, again, a very common place in the 18th and especially the 19th centuries. later in the -- later in the 19th century, it's often associated with mourning and memorializing dead loved but it can also be an expression ones. of a very personal sign of affection, really, the essence of a personal gift. music was an important part of elizabeth monroe's upbringing in life. she appreciated music throughout her life and was trained in playing the piano. we have an astor pianoforte, circa 1790, a british product. we do believe that it may well have been used at the white house during their residency there.
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elizabeth monroe had a very well developed sense of style and image. she did not have as well developed budget due to the long years of public service that james monroe put in. but they were, particularly on their european postings able to make some pretty good deals on a variety of items, and her jewelry is a reflection of that. mrs. monroe saw to combine elements of high quality with versatility. we have here necklaces and their associated other jewelry that are in aquamarine and citrine, and each can be worn with or without dependent. so, you've got a couple of different uses there. a brooch a bracelet or a choker is possible with the amethyst jewelry that's shown here. there's a coral tiara. and so, it gives you several options that mrs. monroe could use in creating her jewelry combinations. the monroe's came up here after purchasing this property, some 3,500 acres, and they made this their permanent home from 1799
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until 1823. mrs. monroe was a sophisticated new yorker, and she moved south to this farm, had to adjust to what we would call plantation life here. and so far as we know, she adjusted to it very nicely and her day would frequently begin down here. she would make sure that all the preparations that needed to be made for the meals for the day took place in a correct and fastidious fashion and she was in charge of that. in charge of the -- what they called the servants, but they were house slaves and making sure the house slaves had made all the preparations and then she in turn would make sure that some meals had put together. and -- and sometimes, some of those meals were quite sophisticated meals. for a while, the meals here were much simpler than what she would find at monticello. and the
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and the monroe's did like to go to monticello for those extraordinary meals. nevertheless, mrs. monroe was quite capable of putting together some extraordinary dishes here. here we are in the dining room. the meal would begin some time after 2:00, maybe as late as 3:00. it would be earlier depending upon the season and the light available. the table, it's a hepplewhite. it can be opened up so that 12 people could sit at this table. now, the monroe's had a corner cabinet very much like this one. the nice thing about this is that this piece was made in shenandoah valley just 70 miles to the west of us. inside, what s. inside, what is particularly significant is that you see the monroe white house chinaware. the monroe's established that each president would have china of its own. before that, presidents would bring their own china from home. the monroe's brought this china to the white house during monroe's administration between
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1817 and 1825. and we count ourselves very lucky that we have what we do. swain: how important was virginia in understanding elizabeth monroe? preston: monroe made a joke later in life, a friend who was a member of congress from tennessee married a woman from pennsylvania and took her home to tennessee and there was a little bit of trepidation about whether she would adapt or not. and monroe wrote to him and said, "i wasn't sure if mrs. campbell will do ok." mrs. monroe was a little uneasy about leaving new york but she has become a good virginian. so, she seemed to have fit in the life very easily. something along those lines. i think that really says a lot about her character from very young is -- as he mentioned -- she was very young, she was 17 when she married monroe, he was 28, she was from new york, he was a member of continental
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congress. in october of 1786, he finished his term in congress, they went to virginia. she left her family with whom she was very close, all of her friends, went to fredericksburg, virginia, went from new york city to little dinky fredericksburg which was a river port in virginia, didn't know anybody. they bounced along the bad roads from new york to fredericksburg not knowing where she was going, what was going to happen when she got there, she was just shy, at 18 she was seven months pregnant. so, it must've been a grueling trip, but i think it really indicates the stamina, the strength she had that she was willing to make that sort of trip. and that she could do it. swain: the monroe's have three children, a son who died in infancy and two daughters we've talked about and one of them in particular. we have just about five minutes left in this shorter version because not so much documentary evidence about this first lady. and the question comes from someone that calls himself
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president pondering so this will kind of wrap up our understanding. "how involved in politics was elizabeth munro? how might she have viewed the monroe doctrine?" [laughter] smith: i'm sorry, i don't mean to -- for years, you know, there's people who said that it's really john quincy adams who wrote it, but i think it's safe to say elizabeth didn't write it or whatever. preston: but just about everybody else has gotten credit for it. smith: well, she - it's interesting. monroe did say at one point -- there's a letter where simply he refers to her as his partner in all things. and one senses, although there's an unfortunate lack of documentation that that would include sharing his political secrets with her. but i don't think of her as a - certainly in a modern sense, as a political figure. preston: but she was certainly aware of what he was doing. she - we don't have - we only have one letter that she wrote but there are letters of her handwriting that she copied for
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him, he either made copies to send to others or to keep. so, so, she was certainly aware of what was happening in the political war. and they were together for so long and they were so close that it's inconceivable that they did not discuss public matters. so so, she was certainly very much well aware of what was happening. swain: and having - and lived through the french revolution, the reign of terror, she would've certainly had lots of strong opinions about him preston: yes. swain: this approach to europe you would imagine. preston: yes, yes, yes. swain: rachel and or rochelle, excuse me, in pensacola.
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michelle: hi. yes. i was wondering back to the blue room, did president or mrs. monroe actually take out most of the the core and furniture? does anyone know that? and i ran cspan, you guys rock. swain: thank you. preston: you know, i don't he stipulated, it was munro, that was president monroe who set out this order. i don't think he stipulated specific pieces. smith: no. preston: of furniture. he wrote to contacts, to merchants that he dealt with in france. and some, you know, he said, "we need chandeliers, we need chairs," it was - but not real specific design although he did want american symbols. he wanted the eagles and these sorts of things. smith: which he also shared with napoleon. preston: yes. but he - they undoubtedly talked about this because when they were abroad in europe and friends would write and ask for them to buy things for them. it was usually elizabeth monroe who did the purchasing. smith: and jennifer sherman (ph) offers this view on twitter that monroe china is beautiful, simple, and classic. so, it was the first presidential china and
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there's at least one person in the audience who gives it a thumbs up. well, our time is quickly evaporating on elizabeth monroe. in maybe 20 seconds or less, can you bring us full circle and say what should people know about this woman's tenure as first lady, what does she contribute? preston: elegance. she brought a sense of style. she was known for her beauty, for her sense of fashion, but mostly for her elegance, bringing a sense of real style. if i was going to compare her to a modern first lady, not so modern anymore 50 years ago, but very much like i would think jacqueline kennedy with that sense of fashion and style and elegance that she brought to the white house. swain: daniel preston, thank you very much for being with us. we appreciate it. richard norton smith, we will have you stay with us. preston: thank you for letting me be here. we will move on to our next first lady profile that of louisa catherine adams. we'll be right back.(begin video clip)
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female: she was the only first lady born outside the us. louisa catherine adams writing in her diary in 1812 about the loss of one year old daughter "my heart , is almost broken and my temper which was never good, suffers in proportion to my grief. my heart is buried in my louisa's grave and my greatest longings to be laid beside her." and a later entry in 1819, "it is the first tuesday and opens my campaign having given a general imitation for every tuesday during the winter. this plan makes some noise and creates some jealousy but it makes our congress less dependent on the foreign ministers for their amusement. my evenings are called sociable's. i wish they may prove so." and then a letter to her son in 1825 about moving into the white house, "the situation in which we found the house made it necessary to furnish almost entirely anew a large portion of the apartments. i respect my masters, the sovereign people, with great sincerity but i am not so much alarmed that the idea of going out at the end of four years as to desire to make any sacrifice of actual comfort for the sake of prolonging my sojourn and in
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this would be magnificent habitation which after all like everything else in this desolate city is but a half finished barn." male: louisa catherine adams in the white house almost disappeared, the public side of the job i don't think ever particularly provided much pleasure. female: she's sort of an unsung first lady who deserves much more exploration than she has received. male: the relationship between louisa and john quincy is illusive and in many ways distressing. i don't think he realizes what a treasure he had and it's interesting because his father did, old john adams was struck to her. abigail never really did but john did. female: she was born in england and educated in france and she remained a foreign personality to many of the adams's but not to henry as a world traveler himself.
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she was very well educated, very sophisticated, socially i would say. and she's sort of entertained john quincy's road to the white house. male: she was not happy about returning to washington as the wife of a congressman. swain: louisa catherine adams essentially became the campaign manager for her husband john quincy adams run for the presidency in 1824 by dominating the capital city's social circuit. following a contested election the adams' four years in the white house were a turbulent period in american politics in washington society. we'll look at louisa adams' relationship with john quincy adams and his parents, abigail and john at a life that encompassed diplomatic posts in berlin and russia on the road to 1600 pennsylvania avenue. good evening and welcome very much to our continuing series on "first ladies, influencing
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image" in partnership with the white house historical association. our next installment is on louisa catherine adams, wife of john quincy adams, jqa as people who study him know him. we have two guests at the table, richard norton smith presidential historian and consultant to cspan and meet amanda matthews. she is at the massachusetts historical society where she is a research associate for the adams papers. ms. mathews, we learned there was not much documentary evidence about elizabeth monroe, how about louisa catherine adams, what exist? amanda mathews: quite a wealth. she kept diaries intermittently. she wrote autobiographies and memoirs. she -- and there are hundreds and hundreds of letters of hers. so quite the contrary, we have quite a bit of her thoughts and her feelings from her own point of view both reflective and contemporary as the events were taking place. swain: i guest a few weeks back, catherine allgor, who has written about the first ladies suggested that in her research , she saw louisa adams as the first modern first lady, do you agree with that contention in sense that she had developed a
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sense of self? mathews: yes, i mean in some ways, she has her own cause, she works with the washington female orphan asylums so in that sense , that's somewhat modern having this cause that she was involved in and she does work politics in her parlor in such a way as to help win the presidency for her husband in her own way. swain: but richard norton smith, explain to people how the presidency was one in 1820's. i mean, it was a very different system than we have today. smith: it was. as we said earlier, everyone in monroe's cabinet had seemed among others, wanted to succeed him and that included john quincy adams', the secretary of state. the great popular hero was andrew jackson, the hero of the battle of new orleans and then somewhat a controversial figure in his own right. so there was a multi-candidate field, no one got a majority
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, either of the popular or electoral votes. in both cases, jackson came in first, adams came in second. so the election went to the house of representatives. the man eliminated by the constitution, a fourth place finisher henry clay ultimately withdrew his support to adams that was enough to win him the presidency which turned out in many ways to be a poisoned chalice. because from day one, there were charges of corrupt bargain, they hung over the adams' presidency. i think it's safe to say adams' himself signed an almost apologetic note in his inaugural address and it was this at the election of 1828 began but almost before he took the oath of office. swain and you mentioned in her : own way she helped him win the presidency. she actually began to refer to it as my campaign and it was the second half of the monroe - the second monroe administration where the social etiquette wars
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where at full force and the adams's - you're going to tell the story for us - but began to see an opportunity to use social washington as a pathway to the white house. how do they do it? mathews: yes. well, i mean when they get back in 1817 to washington, they've been gone from washington now for quite a while, john quincy has served in both saint petersburg, in london and now he's back and a lot of people in washington don't know him and the way the etiquette situation works the washington right now it really favors people who've been there for a while. so they want to shake things up and one of the ways they do that is say we're not going to call on all of the senator's families first which is how you established a social connection. but on the other hand, they said but we can, "let's still invite you, we're going to - we are going to have these parties and you can come even if we haven't connected in these formal visits." and that kind of put them in a position of power as a social leader because they were making the rules now, kind of trying to take back a little bit of power
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that congress had -- louisa says a congress makes an unmakes presidents at their whim. so they want to kind of pull a little bit of that back to the executive. and so they start throwing these parties. she has her sociables in 1819, some seasons, weekly and other seasons every two weeks where hundreds of people could come and it was a subscription series and they kind of become the center of entertainment in washington. swain: one of these balls that she threw was for a contender for the white house, andrew jackson. what was her thinking in throwing a ball or her husband's chief rival? 1 [laughter] smith: it was very simple. they hoped to talk him out of running and flattered him out of running. so many people came to the house that night on f street that they had to shore up the force it was something like 900 people who attended. but, you know, i wish -- i would have loved to have been a fly on the wall.
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louisa must have been a hostess -- a remarkable hostess. she had attracted attention, should been a favorite in the prussian court when her husband who was us envoy there. tsar alexander of russia made her one of his favorite dancing partners. so there clearly was a charisma about this woman that had set her apart in the courts of europe. and tragically it very rarely comes through in the american setting, you would know much more about that. mathews: i think it certainly does in the sociables, you know, she complains that even though she has no political power everybody seems to want to know her and force her to spend time with them. and she claims to be quite put out by the imposition. but i think that the same charm that she exhibits in europe is still exhibited in the united states. there's this wonderful newspaper account of an englishman observing louisa. this is during the white house years and she's taking the boat and she's going back to quincy and the englishman talks about how the people are just coming
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up to her and talking to her. she's the first lady and they realized, "we're dressed as well as she is" and talking to her as if they had known her for 10 years. and she must have been very affable and that must have made people feel very comfortable in her presence. swain: you have the benefit of reading her diaries and her letters about these events. and just as her mother-in-law, she had sometimes very candid views of the people that she was meeting. we have one of this. maybe you can tell us a little about the context. here's what she wrote, "i have the happiness of meeting with a variety of these misleaders who are either not gifted with common sense or have a sort of mind which i have often met with utterly incapable of comprehending anything in a plane way. whether these proceeds from an error in their education or from a natural defect in the formation of the brain, i will leave philosophers and metaphysicians to decide." mathews: yes, because campaigning is not allowed, john quincy can't come out and say
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"i would like you to vote for me for president." and these candidates can't do that. and you can't ask for office directly. you have to kind of use these subtle back channels and women were a good conduit for that. and so people gossip to - come to louisa to spread their gossip to ask for favors and she doesn't always -- she knows that she can't trust these people she's not naive. and a lot of them are spreading false gossip, or false information. they're misleading. they all have their own agendas and she's aware of the political game that's going on. she's not terribly a fan of it. swain: we welcome your questions on louisa catherine adams and john quincy adams for our program. if you live in the eastern or central time zones 202-585-3880, if you live in the mountain or pacific time zones our number is 202-585-3881. you can post on cspan's facebook page or you can send a tweet using the hashtag firstladies. you had something you wanted to say? smith: no. i'm just going to say, you read that quote and you
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realize instantly why there was an instant bond formed between louisa and her father-in-law old john adams. swain: why is that? smith: john adams was a man of strong opinions. very, very few -- little reluctance to share them of anyone who had wisdom. a stern new england conscience a profound sense of right and wrong and, you know, and he and his exotic european don juan seemed to have hit it off from the abigail was a little bit first. harder sell. swain: is it fair to say that john quincy adams was not the most sociable man? smith: john quincy adams, even people who admire jqa and i'm certainly include myself among them would not suggest that he was a modern figure in terms of outreach to people generally but more in terms of tonight's context, he would not have been
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an easy man to be married to. this is a stormy relationship and yet the adams' argued over the same things that married couples have been arguing over since there was marriage. they argued over money, they argued over their children, one of the small tragedies in louisa catherine's life, a life that was filled with tragedy where her children were concerned. her husband had been appointed minister to russia and she learned at the last minute that her elder sons, george washington adams and john adams ii are going to stay behind. she she can't take her children with her to russia. they're going stay behind with john and abigail to be raised as americans on american soil. she -- you often get this sense of a woman who is powerless within her marriage to be making fundamental parental decisions
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that they were reserved as most decisions were for john quincy. swain: but she must have had the innate desire, she worked her heart out to get her husband to the white house then she gets there and how does she enjoy her tenure? mathews: not very. not very much. the white house years are very unpleasant years for the adams's and it was readily apparent, everyone in the family charles francis adams talks about it their son, in his own diary about how sad the household seems at the time. swain: and what made it that way? mathews: i think the cloud under which the presidency began, it never lifts and because this campaigning for 1828 begins almost instantly, louisa feels very personally - the attacks on her husband, on his character, some attacks on her character, you know, is she's not american enough and i think that that
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situation really did not -- they finally reached the pinnacle and it's not a happy pinnacle. it's . it's a very stormy for years for them. and the white house is not a very comfortable place to live. people coming in all the time and -- swain: and here's one quote from louisa catherine adams that really captures this. she wrote, "there is something in this great unsocial house which depresses me beyond expression." smith: yes well she was accused , of bizarrely of extravagance in furnishing the great unsocial house. one of the controversies that marred the adams years concerned a billiard table which supposedly the first lady had purchased, you know, using the tax dollars of honest working men.
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somehow this very un-american quality that people wanted to read into her. on the other hand, there are these wonderful bizarre letters confirming her addiction to chocolate. louisa catherine adams was a chocoholic. i often said being married to the sourest man in washington. she took her sweets where she could find them but apparently she had her sons and others by chocolate shells by the barrelful and she writes about the medicinal qualities of sludge. -- of fudge. i mean it was as if, you know, she took her plunges where she could find them and that's pretty pathetic. mathews: well, i would say that the shells are probably not bonbons in the way that we're thinking. she's not sitting on her sofa munching. they are the cocoa bean show --
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show and you would as steep them in water and they kind of almost be like coffee and you would add milk and but she was, you know interested in the medicinal qualities. but i wouldn't go too far on john quincy's sourness. i think that there is very much an affection between the two of them and a great love, otherwise, she could have stayed in quincy. smith: after they lost i think the daughter, is it true he gave her a book on diseases of the mind? mathews: some months later. yes. smith: but i mean, it's the in - to modernize the insensitivity he is not -- he's certainly not modern husband. louisa had by one count nine miscarriages? mathews: at least minimum five and a still-birth potentially more. they are sometimes hard to read in two the -- because of how discreet they are and their language but, yes at least five, plus a still-birth. so, yes, she had a lot of tragedy -- she had a lot of tragedy.
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swain: and three sons who lived to maturity. mathews: yes. smith: if you could call it maturity. swain: and speaking of their family, brian watkins asked on twitter "did having a former , first lady as a mother-in-law help or hinder louisa?" mathews: well, of course abigail has passed by the time john quincy attains the presidency, so she can't ask her mother-in-law about handling the roles and the role has somewhat shifted. louisa generally follows the president, the monroe set, with a more formal reserved white house not attending the public functions. but i think that it did help. she was familiar with her mother-in-law's opinions in the way she had carried herself and i think that she wanted in some ways to keep that in mind and honor that. swain: did she continue the entertaining that she'd done to get him to the white house once they were in the white house? mathews: no. not to that degree. the sociables were informal,
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there was music, there was often dancing. once they get in to the white house, the entertainments are much more restricted, they're open to a lot of people especially the drawing rooms but they are not -- there is not that kind of dancing until actually end of their term as they're on their way out, the last great drawing room she holds, they actually have music and dancing and people stay until 2:00 in the morning and talk about how gracious the adams's are knowing that they are -- that they have failed in the reelection and it's probably one of the greatest entertainments that they have in the four years. swain: next is a question from leroy in monticello, kentucky. hi, leroy. leroy: yes, ma'am.
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i'm really enjoying this. this is great. swain: thank you. leroy: were the adams' family, john quincy and his wife where they god-fearing and devoted their attention in church and teach their children the thanks of the lord? i'm a minister, so i'm concerned about this. swain: thank you. mathews: yes. louisa's religious views evolve over time it's very interesting. her father was unitarian but she was raised in england where that was not an acceptable religion. they had lived in france during the revolution so she was first exposed to rome catholicism. and then spends most of her life in the episcopal church. although during her years, the early years of her life with john quincy, they attend a numerous different types of churches especially whoever the rotating preacher was in the capitol during the secretary of state in presidency years could be presbyterian or unitarian. but she ends up very much an episcopal thinker, high church and it's very -- in her later years, she spends a lot of time reminiscing and reflecting on the role of religion and it's very much an important piece for her.
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swain: next up is nick in prince frederick, maryland. hi, nick. nick: hi, how are you? first of all, thank you thank you cspan for this great program. and mr. smith, i'm very excited to get through. i think your work is great and i'm glad that you're part of this series as well. smith: you're very kind. nick i have two things that i : hope to get you to comment on. i live in calvert county and we have links to louisa catherine here. her uncle i believe was thomas johnson, one of maryland's first governors if not the first governor, but there's not a lot of primary stories blinking her to hear. the most we have is in one of our small town centers, there's a placard talking about her heredity to the area. and then secondly, cokie roberts has a book, "ladies of liberty" and in that book you get the impression of louisa catherine that she is very much involved in the politics of washington but, you know, you don't get the sense of whether it's just on the surface or whether her works are contributing to the
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compromises that are made during that time. would both of you mind commenting on those two things? swain: ok, thank you. the johnson's actually which to explain are - is louisa catherine's birth family. so connections in calvert county, maryland, do you know of them? mathews: well, yes. so her family was from maryland and her father was born in maryland which is very important because that's how she makes her claim that, "no, i am an american. i might have been born in london but my father is an american. i am very much an american." and her uncle was the first governor of maryland. and so, she has an important connection with maryland and actually is able to use those when she's campaigning to get maryland to vote for john quincy in the 1824 election. swain: how about the second question which was how involved was she really in the politics of the time? smith: in the, you know, it's always been murky. there is no clear line between social politicking and the
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process leading to x number of votes being cast on the floor of the house. in this city, they've always overlapped. and one of the great skills that dolly -- in some ways it began with dolley madison who understood that more could be achieved out of a committee room, off the floor of the house in a social setting. and in that sense, louisa catherine is a politically attuned figure. but i don't think you would find her dictating a platform or like say betty ford campaigning for equal rights amendment. swain: what was the quincy adams presidency all about? what was it known for? smith: well, he was 100 years ahead of his time which makes him look better to historians than it did to his contemporaries. famously, in his first message to congress, he -- remember, this was a man whose legitimacy had been questioned and yet he introduces breathtaking program
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that in some ways he anticipates the new deal by 100 years saying that the federal government should be in the road building business, it should be a national university here in washington. he even proposed a national astronomical observatory what he called a lighthouse the sky. and and for this, he was ridiculed by the jeffersonian -- jacksonian small government crowd. it did nothing to enhance his popularity at the time. it may have contributed to his defeat for reelection. but 100 years later, he looks somewhat prophetic. swain: jennifer is an provo, utah. hi, jennifer. jennifer: hi, i am enjoying this series. i watch every week. swain: right, thank you. jennifer: my question is -- and it may have been shown during the program. i'm sorry if i haven't noticed but the portrait that you've been showing of the two of them,
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louisa catherine and john quincy adams, was there a big age difference between them? swain: well, thanks for asking the question and why don't we explain about how the two of them met and what the age difference was. mathews: so there is an eight-year age difference john quincy born in 1767, louisa in 1775. they meet in london. john quincy adams is the resident minister to the hague in the netherlands and he ascent from there to london to exchange the ratifications for the jay treaty. by the time he gets to london, the business has already been concluded so he doesn't really have a lot to do. so what he spends his time doing is visiting the house of the johnson's. joshua johnson, louisa's father was the us consul at london and he entertained generally all the americans who came through to london, prominent merchant in london and americans would come and socialize and enjoy evenings of entertainment with his many daughters who were all talented.
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louisa played the harp and he would come and enjoy the company and after a little bit of time made his attentions known that it was louisa and not her older sister, ann, better known as nancy, that it was she that he was interested in and they began their courtship and engagement. swain: and after they married, did they return to the united states? mathews: not immediately. john quincy is appointed from the netherlands as the minister to prussia in berlin so they go straight to berlin. so they spend the first four years of their marriage in berlin so she doesn't actually , see the united states until 1801. the first four years of marriage are somewhat difficult. she experiences four miscarriages in that time before
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finally giving birth to her first son george washington adams and that caused a bit of controversy naming the oldest son after george washington and not john. swain: well, when she arrived to the united states, it was the first time she'd ever seen the country of her nationality and she went to the adams' home outside of boston quincy, , massachusetts and their place which we met during the john adams program was known as peace field. were going to show you that next. female: when louisa and john quincy first came to the old house, they had just journeyed back from europe, landed in washington d.c. and then made , the journey up to braintree or quincy. the journey was arduous for louisa. her health was not good at the time and the journey was very difficult. she was brought to this house to meet her father and her mother-in-law and of that moment, she would write, "had i stepped on to noah's ark, i could not have been more utterly astonished." louisa catherine had a challenge in winning over abigail adams.
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john adams was easy. he took to her right away and she always felt very comfortable with him and very well liked by him. abigail was more skeptical perhaps due to john quincy's teasing. he only gave abigail a little bit of information about louisa catherine and wasn't forthright in his intentions. it was in many ways a surprise that he married louisa catherine so quickly and abigail did not get a chance to know her. she was quite concerned that although she was an american citizen, she had never stepped foot on american soil. this was not what she intended for her son john quincy adams, the statesmen, but through time she learned to grow and love and understand louisa catherine and through the years they forged a very strong and loving relationship. louisa catherine describing abigail adams at the end of her life as "the planet around which all revolved". louisa catherine and john quincy, unlike john adams, did not live at peacefield year round. in fact, they would return only during the summer months to get a relief from the politics of
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washington. her grandson henry adams remembered louisa catherine fondly. in fact, in his works, the education of henry adams, he describes louisa catherine and her role in this house and her relationship with the family. he always felt that she was the odd man out if you will because she was born in england and educated in france and she remained a foreign personality to many of the adams's but not to henry as a world traveler himself. his fondest recollection is of louisa sitting in her paneled room off her table using her silver teapot set that she brought with her from her home in england to the old house. and . and she would entertain both herself and many of her guests in this room. john quincy adams and louisa would inherit this home from john adams. john quincy thought about
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selling this house but after discussion and thought with louisa catherine, they decided that this was important to the family story to hold on to this house for future generations. swain: and you can visit there today, is that correct? mathews: yes, wonderful for -- swain: and where are the papers? mathews: the papers are at the massachusetts historical society in boston. they used to be at the old house at the stone library but they were transferred to the historical society for safekeeping. swain: i have a question on facebook from jeannie stunard weber -- "i have read excerpts from louisa adams autobiography of a nobody and heard rumors that the massachusetts historical society was going to publish this. is this true?" mathews: yes, a two-volume set of her autobiographical writings which includes "record of my life", "adventures of a nobody"
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and her narrative of a journey from saint petersburg to france, and all her diaries have already been published in a scholarly edition, two-volume set next -- two-volume set. next year, a trade edition of these writings will be available and called "a traveled first lady" with a foreword by former first lady laura bush. swain: well, we must talk a little bit about their posting in st. petersburg and her incredible journey back to meet her husband. can you tell what's important about that story? mathews: their years in st. petersburg are difficult in some ways. st. petersburg is a hardship outpost it's cold. it's it's forbidding. there aren't a lot of other women there. most of the diplomats' wives don't travel with their husbands when they get sent to st. petersburg. they have a baby girl louisa catherine adams and the child dies just after about a year. and that really devastates her mother louisa.
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it's very painful. and for john quincy, he is also very much torn apart by this. but the war of 1812 here is broken out. john quincy sent to negotiate a treaty and he leaves louisa with her youngest son charles francis in st. petersburg and eventually when peace is resolved and he is , sure of that he'll either be returning home or would be sent to london. he asked her to join -- sent to london, he asked her to join him. so she makes this arduous and perilous journey from saint petersburg in the winter to paris with her son and who is only about seven at the time and a couple of servants that she basically just met that day and she doesn't know if she can trust them. and as she's crossing europe, she encounters a dangerous travel conditions but also napoleon has escaped from elba and is coming back to france and she encounters resurgent armies to greet him. and she is crossing some very perilous territory in europe at this
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time. swain: well, here's -- smith: and her life was in danger really throughout this trip. swain: and here is another quote from her diaries, "it was 4 :00 in the evening and the ice was in so critical a state i could with difficulty procure men in horses to go over. they they informed me that i should have to make a long and tedious detour that if i could not cross that the passage would be attended with great risk if not danger." smith absolutely. will she almost went through the alps. swain: in a carriage. smith: which is -- in a carriage with her seven year old
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swain: in the wintertime, yes. smith: i mean, again, the resourcefulness of this woman is just extraordinary. swain: and why don't we know more about her -- her really interesting life story? why is she not better known among the first ladies? mathews: i think that's partly because john quincy's presidency has been so obscured for so long that i think that that diminished interest in her. what makes john quincy interesting i think to historians today is his post white house years for which people did not seem to think that louisa was really a part of, somewhat mistakingly. and so i think that that's really kept her from being the prominent and abigail just kind of outshines, when you're talking about the adams's. i i think it's kept louisa from getting her due a little bit. swain: carol, is watching in santa fe and you are on, carol.
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carol: hello, yes, this is fantastic series. i love it. swain: thank you. carol: my question is you keep referring to the white house and i understand it was called the president's home for some time. do you know when it changed its name to the white house? smith: teddy roosevelt with the beginning of the 20th century, formally changed the name to be more informal white house. ironically, at the very same time that his wife was taking the house back to its more formal federal style inside. swain: but is it true that some of the external -- the exterior was painted white. smith: yes. swing: after the fire from the british to cover some of the scorch marks. so that's when it began to look like this. smith: yes, it was informally refer to. the man on the street, i think then referred to it as the executive mansion but tr made it official. swain: let's go to the next call from catherine in rockville, maryland. hi, catherine.
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catherine: hi, i'm just wondering was louisa ever , violated or was her rights ever violated and what did she do about it? swain: were her rights ever violated? what are you thinking of? catherine like, you know, like : social or things like you know, her speaking out for what she believed in. swain: ok, well this is a great , question to talk about what role and i'll ask both of you women really had in society at this point of time in america. mathews: well, she is not political -- she's not speaking out politically the way perhaps abigail did with her husband. she's not a public political figure speaking out on these things. but she has her own private use of them, some things although not -- her views on politics are more about how people behave. she's much more interested in everyone conducting themselves properly. even people on her own their own side. she doesn't like when even people who are supporting the policies that her husband supported have crossed the line in terms of decorum.
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so i think that it's -- she's not trying to get out and she's not an activist. i wouldn't want to say that. swain: well, and nearly 100 years until women have the right to vote in society. we should point that out for our younger viewers who may not know that. and what role could they play. ? where did the power come from? smith: well, there is a touching quota to the story in her regular years just as john quincy became more and more outspoken in his opposition to slavery and of course famously played the role of the amistad case. there is this wonderful correspondence and you have it i assume between louisa , catherine and the grimke sisters, angelina and -- mathews: sarah. smith: sarah, who were pioneering feminists abolitionists, activists of their day. and i think she come probably as
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close there as anywhere else to spelling out an evolving sense on women's roles. swain: and this is also an interesting time. her mother-in-law had passed, as you said, but we think of abigail adams and her famous exhortation to john, "remember the ladies." and it's written that abigail's letters were becoming more visible, more published, and louisa began to see an affinity between her mother-in-law and herself on the women's issues. mathews: yes, toward the end of louisa's life and when she is corresponding with sarah grimke, there's this sense that she seeks an equality of the mind for women but not so that women can run for office. it's not that kind of feminism. it's not so that women can play the front role. it's so that women can better fulfill their primary functions as mother, wife and daughter. and that they have this god-given, this is where her
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religion comes in again, that god had created men and women equal in this way and that that was how she could - and that in her minds, they could be equals and be partners but complementary partners, not 1 -- not for women to become more like men. and i think that abigail's feminism as it were is somewhat along the same bent of this allowing women to become better republican mothers, better republican wives in order to ennoble men to fulfill their calling with honor and dignity. swain: well, we should get a little bit of presidential history in here. the john quincy adams seek reelection? smith: he did and it was a lot of people think to this day the most scurrilous campaign in american history, both sides through plenty of mud at the other.
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it wasn't close at the end. andrew jackson denied the presidency four years earlier, overwhelmed john quincy adams. and like his farther, he didn't stick around to his successor's inauguration. but he did come back to washington just a couple of years later in a unique role the only american president to this day who came back as a member of the house of representatives. swain: there's a couple of firsts here the first father and , son to serve in the white house, is just the first and only foreign war and first lady and the first and only president to come back in an elective rolled in the legislature. smith: but history repeated itself in one other tragic way. some people will remember john and abigail lost a son during the interregnum between his defeat and the inauguration swain: and he committed suicide? smith: of thomas jefferson. and george washington adams who i suspect just the pressure of
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that name would probably drive anyone up the wall. but anyway, george washington adams almost definitely committed suicide. swain: and just around that time, his father was losing the election. smith: yes, stepped off of a boat -- mathews: yes, it was may 1829 so the power had already shifted to andrew jackson. they had asked george to come back to washington to escort family quincy. and it was on that trip that he either fell or jumped off the boat, really, again, devastating family personal tragedy. smith: and then two years later his brother john died of alcoholism which -- mathews: somewhat -- it was 1834, so it was a little bit later. swain: so, only one child survived and what about their grandchildren and their heirs? mathews: so, there are a number of grandchildren, john adams the second of the children, he
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had had two -- he had married his cousin and had two children. john quincy and louisa became the guardians to those children. new line -- the younger one, fanny, actually dies in 1839, so another adding tragedy upon tragedy. charles francis adams marries abigail brooks and they have a number of children. but there and quincy and in boston. so john quincy and louisa only see them during really their summer breaks because they spend pretty much all their time in washington. swain: cheryl is in santa barbara. hi, cheryl. cheryl: hi, thank you so much for having this program. i'm really enjoying it. i was wondering if you know what louisa catherine's size was? she looks very petite in her pictures. swain: do we know question mark thank you.
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mathews: she was definitely slender. i couldn't tell you how tall she was. i don't think particularly so but she was slender -- remained slender throughout her life. smith: i think i heard somewhere about 5'6''. swain: and are there dresses of hers preserved anywhere that -- anywhere that -- mathews: that, i don't know. there may be at the old house in quincy, but -- swain: so, after their defeat for reelection, they go back to boston and stayed there for how long? smith: well, not very long because at 1830 is this election from what was called the public district. and john quincy accepts the nomination and spends the rest of his life. in fact, literally, will die with his boots on suffering a stroke on the floor of the house of representatives. swain: they come back to the house of f street, the one that they had built for all of the social entertaining that got john quincy adams to the white
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house. what were their years - their congressional years like here and especially for her? mathews: well, they don't come back to street initially because that house had been rented out during their presidency. they actually don't get back there to the end of the but their years 1830's. here i think are much better after about 1834, the first few years are just so much tragedy. but i think that things really improved. they're able to socialize and entertain and have these dinner parties, but there's no more striving. they've already reached all that can happen. and so, i think that these are years more of peace, there's certainly a lot of still political struggle and louisa talks about that, but i think between her and john quincy, there is somewhat of an understanding, she always knew that he needed politics in order to live. and even though she had been very angry at his insistence on going back to washington, she even threatened to stay in quincy and not come to washington. eventually she cooled off and decided she would follow him after all. i think that they are mostly
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, between them good years even , with all the political fights over the gag rule and his censure in congress. swing: yes and -- smith: just some mellowing, i think on both their parts. swain: and it was a 50-year marriage. smith: yes, they had been through the worst. the white house was a thing of the past. i think she was actually more politically aligned with him in his congressional career because the old charges about the corrupt deal had, in some ways come between them, all of that was in the past. and i think in some they grew closer in the last years. swain: and did she begin to influence him on issues such as slavery and in women's rights? mathews: i wouldn't use influence in that way. on women's rights, i certainly don't think that that's something that they would've really discussed in that way. it wasn't something that was being put forward in congress. slavery, they actually saw pretty near eye to eye, it's hard to say who influenced who or if they both kind of got
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there on their own. of course, he grew up in massachusetts family that it always somewhat opposed slavery and perhaps he felt freer in congress to be active about it. her experience is a little bit more complicated. she has family members who are slave holders being from maryland. so, both of them don't -- they don't like slavery but both of , them are gradual abolitionists, neither of them want an immediate abolition which causes some other tensions for them. swing: jennifer sherman offers this the adams women represented , a different type of feminism as women, as mothers as wives, , and as daughters. let's take a call from jeffrey in sarasota. i, jeffrey. jeffrey: hi, thank you for taking my call. i'm enjoying the show immensely. i'm a history teacher who grew up in connecticut but i'm now living in florida. so, i'm very interested in the adams family. you just brought up a question that i had whether or not louisa had difficulty with her father's
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family being from slave holding maryland and you sort of alluded to it, but that was one question, how difficult was that for her on a personal level? and the other one is just curiosity, did she live long enough to have her photograph taken, and if she did, do you have a photograph of her? thank you. swain: thank you for the question. are there any portraits or photographic portraits? mathews: i don't know if there are any photographs. john quincy had his photograph taken. i want to say there might be but i'm not 100% sure on that. you should check the portraits by them of the adams papers. if there is one, it would probably be in there. swain: our producer is telling me no photos, and they have spent a lot of time looking it up. mathews: yes. swing: for these series. so, we have just about three minutes left. john quincy adams dies a dramatic death.
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so, tell the story. smith: well, yes, you know first of all, he'd had one reason why i think a wife was better for them at the end was that a public attitude towards john quincy had changed. you -- you know, admirers called him old man eloquent. south carolinians called him the madman from massachusetts. but his career in congress was in so many ways an expression of that dogged commitment to principle even at the risk of unpopularity. and in the end, he won some of his battles. he won, for example, repealing the gag rule that slavery forces had imposed on congress. he became an immensely respected elder statesman. and in february 1848, on the floor of the house, one member of congress looked over in his direction and said, "look to mr. adams, mr. adams is dying." and -- and his four head had flushed very muddled color and he tried , to stand any fell over. and he was carried to, well, i think the speaker's office just off the floor of the house. and
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and henry clay came to visit him and of course louisa came and he didn't recognize her. but supposedly, his last words were, "this is the last of earth but i am content," which i never believe because i don't think john quincy adams was ever contented for a moment but he died in the capital in effect doing his duty. swain: do we think of a stroke #is that what happened? smith: yes. swing: and how old was he? smith: swain: and how long did 81. she live after his death and how? mathews: another four years. she stays in washington, cared for by her son's wife john adams , ii's wife, mary catherine helen adams. and she lives quietly, her health is fading, she has a stroke the following year and it's somewhat invalid for the
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rest of her life. but charles francis adams actually meets with her about a year before she dies and says he , records in his diary how content she seemed, and not that she was looking forward to death, but that she had truly resigned herself and could face the end with great courage and faith. the end with great courage and faith. you were looking at some footage of the presidential burial place. if you ever get to massachusetts in quincy, it's really quite a resting spot of both presidential couples buried side by side in a church. swain: yes. the church of the presidents and the two memorials with flags on it or the two greatest of the presidents themselves. so, we invite you to put that on your list as you're doing historical touring, something you've done a lot of over your time. we have just a couple of well, one more call left, and this is william (ph) from winston-salem, north carolina. hi, william. william: yes. i remember seeing a few years
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ago i believe it was david mccullough talking about the adams women and the strengths of them, you know, their inner strengths. and he mentioned something i think about one of them having had the breast cancer and having had the surgery, and it was then the day before anesthesia or whatever . swain: -- ok, thanks. i'm going to jump in because our time is short. that is actually abigail adam's daughter, nabby who had breast cancer and a mastectomy, and the days before anesthesia. yes, 1813. and eventually succumb to the disease, is that correct? yes. so, as we're closing here, we really want to bring all of these conversations back full circle. what should louisa catherine adams be known for, remembered for in her tenure as first lady for both of you, starting with you. matthews: i think that she's a fascinating figure whose
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interest -- the interest in her should be every bit as much as for her mother-in-law. she's a woman who saw more of the governments of the world than most women of that day in london, in berlin, in st. petersburg, in washington. and she truly experiences and reflects on these experiences through her letters and her diaries and her memoirs in a way that really bring a richness to our understanding of the world in the period she lived in. really quite a dramatic life if you look at it in its full arc. richard norton smith. and partly of tragedy. smith: and partly of tragedy. and that's what sticks with me. this is a woman who lived through extraordinary events crossed paths with remarkable historical figures, but it was in the domestic life where she suffered loss after loss after loss. and even the apparent triumph of their lives together, the presidency turned out to be, in many ways, disappointing. and yet, that's not the note on which the story ends. and i think there's real inspiration there for all of us. swain: richard norton smith, thank you as always for your
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expertise at this table, and amanda mathews, nice to meet you and thank you for helping us learn more about louisa catherine adams through your extensive work on her papers. thank you. and thanks to you for being with us and to the white house historical association for their help in producing this series. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015]
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>> will look into the personal lives of three first ladies. rachel jackson, emily donelson and angelica van buren. rachel jackson was called a bigamist and adulterer during andrew jackson's 1828 residents will campaign. and died of an apparent heart attack before he took office. his niece come emily donelson becomes the white house hostess but is later dismissed as fallout from the scandal. and when martin van buren's widow becomes -- we were martin van buren becomes resident, his daughter becomes hostess. sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's original series first ladies -- influence of image. examining the public and private lives of the women who fulfilled the position


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