tv The Presidency George Washington Alexander Hamilton CSPAN November 23, 2018 3:45pm-4:55pm EST
george washington and alexander hamilton, and he talked about why the collaboration was an important factor in founding the nation when they arrived and the historical ak ras of hamilton the musical and alexandria virginia hosted the hour-long event. >> my name is liz williams and i am the director here at gatsby tavern museum. welcome for braving the elements outside and thank you for joining us tonight and i'd like to welcome our c-span guests as well. >> you are sitting in the room when it happens. for so many individuals from alexander hamilton's world. washington's birthday, jefferson's inaugural dinner and lafayette banquet and during his return trips to america in 1824. i could do a whole lecture on this entire list, but we are here to see dr. peter enriquez. >> dr. enriquez has been a
frequent lecturer for us here and the associate professor emeritus of history at george mason university and he's the author of realistic visionary and a portrait of george washington and soon will be publishing a book on essays about washington's leadership. so watch this. a side note if you want more hamilton, we will be offering a specialty tour at 10:00 every saturday starting this saturday titled hamilton's bff and frenemies. [ laughter ] i'll bet you know who we'll be talking about and don't miss the shot for the opportunity. >> i know, this is terrible. so here is your moment you've been waiting for and dr. enriquez with the right-hand man and alexander hamilton's relationship with george washington, the musical versus the reality. [ applause ] >> thanks. thanks so much.
actually, i thought we might be where two or three are gathered together and we have this kind of weather and i'm really pleased that so many of them made it out now, if the power holds up for the next hour, and we'll be in business, otherwise we'll talk the old fashioned way by candlelight and see how it goes. as you know, i always like to start my talks with a little joke of one kind or another and this one involved a retirement speech for a priest who is leaving his parish after 25 years of dedicated -- of dedicated service. come on in, it's okay. okay. i -- i expect a few people in the way that it's been and we'll be drifting in during the evening. for the retirement dinner, one of the local big wigs and a member of the church was going
to give the presiding the march in common, but he was late and so the priest said, well, i'll get up and i'll say a few words and he said, you know, thank goodness we catholics have a sense of humor. i got my first impression of this -- of this paurish from the very first confession that i'd heard here. i thought i'd been assigned to a terrible place. he said he'd stolen a television set and when questioned by the police was able to lie his way out of it. then he'd stolen money from his parents and embezzled money from his employer, had an affair with his boss' wife, taken illegal drugs and was arrested for public nudity a number of times. i was appalled that one person could do this much damage and trouble. i said, but luckily as time went on i realized the vast majority of the people in our parish are wonderful people and i'm so glad i've had the chance to serve you. as he was finishing up, the big wig politician came back in and
went off to finish the statements and said i'll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived. in fact, i had the honor of being the very first person to go to him with confession. the moral of the story is never, never be late. and then you won't get -- you won't get in that kind of trouble. my own obsession with alexander hamilton's musical, i opened a christmas gift from my daughter-in-law, and lo and behold, there it is, the shirt with my thoughts and there is some truth to that. there are a lot of catchy phrases and one i'd like to try actually to start every day from hamilton is look around, look around, how lucky we are to be arrive right now. it's a real good quote to remember. you know, the musical by lynn
you manuel miranda is nothing short of a phenomenon. myriads have seen it on broadway and in traveling productions. millions more want to see what may well become the most travel productions. millions more than to see what may well become the most popular musical ever written. and when you consider facts, it is amazing that i could say that. think of the protagonist. think of the musical genre. think of the casting. i mean, the -- hamilton. who wants to write a musical about alexander hamilton? i mean you have got -- when they were working on it, they actually were going to take his picture off of the $10 bill. that's how unpopular he was at the time. and then if that's not a tough enough job to do a musical about ham ton, then why deny we make a
lot of the songs in hip hop and rap? that sound like a great idea to bring people in. if that doesn't do it, let's put the cherry on the cake, and why don't we have all of the founding fathers, washington, jefferson, madison and the others portrayed by african-american and latino actors. now, that will be a great smash, won't it? you would think, three strikes, you are out. but in actual fact of course the conclusion would be completely wrong. it is a work of genius in my opinion. and lynn manuel miranda cannot -- in way he can be compared to a modern shakespeare in the sense that he takes history and make it available to the general public in a way that shakespeare did. we all think him hard to follow but at the time it was very different with his language. but just like shakespeare will shape the way we think of julius caesar or richard the third or
henry the fifth. i suspect most people will forever think about alexander ham ton as he is portrayed in the musical. although, truth be told, the music portrays hamilton as we wish he had been rather than the way he really was. miranda got his inspiration -- this initself is shocking to me from summer reading of ron childreno's book on zan zand ham ton. if you have ever seen that book it is a good weightlifting exercise to pick it up. i am off the beach. why don't we just pick up this 950-page book the read. but that's how he got interested in this subject. and the show is based on solid historical fact. and it is overall portrayal of his aside washington is excellent. it is important to remember that hamilton is a musical drama. it is entertainment, and it should be viewed as such.
if you go in there looking for historical error, you will find plenty and it will mess up your enjoyment of the show. since we are focusing on washington and ham ton a few examples, george washington never called ham ton his son. he was never appointed his right hand man. the men didn't have a falling out in the aftermath of the court martial of general charles lee. washington didn't call him out of retirement to lead the attack on yorktown. and he chose him as secretary of the treasurer only after his first choice, robert morris, refused the position. you could go on. but don't be discouraged. s that wonderful show. even if you can't see it, listen to the music. as long as you have the lyrics in front of you. it is hard to follow without. you have to have the lyrics in front of you. but he gets, i think, the key point exactly right, the main theme, the promise of the
american dream. shows that. it -- he shows that. it is really a story of america then told by america now. it is a wonderful experience. i don't know whether you would sell your child for it but rent him out to get the money to go. and we are going to sample a couple of songs tonight. now of course the historical reality of the real alexander hamilton has been -- and i'm sure will be -- very controversial. what kind of man was he? was he, as his friends describe him, noble, generous, kind, free from hypocrisy, envy and jealousy? to know him is to love him, as one of the persons wrote about him. or was his adversary, john adams, more accurate when he wrote that hamilton is a proud, spirited, conceited, aspiring
mortal, always portending to reality with as debouch morals as anyone i know? he went on to say hamilton suffers -- i'm quoting adams, from a delirium of ambition. and adams thought he knew the source of that ambition. it was, again quoting adams -- it was a super abundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw up. take that, cable tv, and talk radio. [ laughter ] now, the show does accurately emphasize hamilton's centrality to the creation of the american experiment. i ask you, has american history seen a more important collaboration than the one between george washington and alexander hamilton? personally, i don't think. no one worked as closely with
washington, both during the war and during the nation of nation building than hamilton did. now, some would argue, with some justice, that the great collaboration between thomas jefferson and the other wonderful virginian, james madison, that's great collaboration. and it is absolutely crucial to the story of america. my own sense is they come in a close second behind hamilton and washington. the alliance between these two men, washington, the father of his country, and hamilton, the father of american government and american capitalism, did more than anything else to bring about the modern united states of america in which you and i live today. george will put it well when he said you want to see alexander hamilton's memorial? look around you. he really is a messenger from the future. he sees clearer into the future than any of the other founding
fathers. it is this combination of washington's impeccable judgment and character joined with hamilton's dazzling intellect. together they are all-concrete, really matchless in its impact. the relationship between these two men i think is a very interesting one and revealing about both men's character. and i want to focus on that tonight because a time most of the focus will be on before washington becomes president, although we can have obviously explore other areas in the question-and-answer period. now, with the benefit of historical hindsight -- that's the one advantage. you know, we know what happened. and then we saw, well, that was a bad idea. but washington's decision to bring a very young alexander hamilton onto his staff march
1st, 1777, was one of the most important public decisions george washington ever made in his life. now, how old was hamilton? there is a dispute. ron childreno, most historians say hamilton was barn in 1755. that would make him 22. the hamilton awareness society and their historian, michael newton argue fairly convincingly actually he was worn in 1957. even younger. whether you are 22 or 20 -- oh, my god, doesn't that sound -- you know, it is very young. any way you slice the cake. now i am going to play an excerpt from the song from the play that washington is looking for a right hand man. and he is going to -- this is how hamilton becomes the right hand man.
♪ i called you here because our odds are beyond scary, your reputation precedes you but i have to laugh, ham ton, how come no one can get you on your staff. don't get me wrong, you are a young man, great renown. i know you stole british cannons when we were still downtown. green is knox wanted to hire. why are you upset. it is all right you want to fight. you have a hunger. i was just like you when i was younger. fantasy of dying like a martyr. dying is easy young man. living is harder. why are you telling me this? i am being honest i am working with a third of what our congress has promise md.
we are a powder keg and about to explode i need someone like you to lighten the load. so ♪ ♪ ♪ i am not throwing away my shots ♪ ♪ we are outgunned. outmanned. >> we need all the help we can get. mulligan, lafayette. what else? i need some smart on the inside some kings men that might get things tied. i will write to congress, rally the gods, master the element of surprise. until we rise to the occasion of our new nation. >> here comes the general. >> rise up. >> here comes the general. >> rise up, here comes the general, rise up. here comes the general. and his right hand man. boom ♪ >> that gives you a flavor if
you have not experienced it before hand. now, that is an exaggeration. there is no -- there is not much question along that line. but he was unbelievably important. washington had over 30 aides and he later said hamilton was his principal and confidential aide during this period. and how that happened is one of the great american stories in my judgment. almost all of washington's aides come from the very best families in virginia and elsewhere. hamilton's story is the exact opposite of that. he was born on the tiny caribbean island of nebus. one of the people in the back has just visited there. and they are pushing the hamilton thing, as you might guess. he was born the illegitimate son
of rachel levine who had left her husband. he had actually at one point had her imprisoned for whoring to live with a scottish nobleman by the name of james hamilton. hamilton desserted his family when young alexander was a young person. and then his mother died before -- just about as he became a teenager. you can't get much more in the back than that. the way the music starts, this is the way the music begins. i will give you a little flavor of this very quickly. ♪ how does a bastard orphan son of a whore and a scottsman dropped in the mill of a forgotten spot in is caribbean he dpro up to be a hero and a scholar. the $10 founded father without a
dollar to the of the a lot farther by being working a lot harder by being a lot smarter ♪ >> and it goes on along that line. now, part of the reason he was able to succeed, it is a wonderful testament to washington's -- one of his greatest geniuses was being able to spot people of talent and utilize them. and that's part of the story. but it also hints at a crucial fact. one of course hamilton is excited this -- this again from the musical, as hamilton puts it, america you great unfinished symphony you sent for me. you let me make a difference, a place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up. can but rising up is not easy. and it hints at a crucial point. alexander hamilton is in many ways the most brilliant of all the founding fathers. and believe me, that is saying
something. the brilliant and worldly french diplomat tale rand once declared that hamilton was the greatest man of his age. and john marshal, who we all know here in virginia, the great chief justice -- john marshal compared his own mind to hamilton like a candle before the sun at noon day. and marshal drew a lot of his opinions, actually, from hamilton's arguments and reasoning. so it is a man -- his mind is truly remarkable. his ambition is almost as great as his mind. his desire for fame, what i call secular remortality. those of you who heard me talk about washington know how ambitious i believe washington was for secular immortality. critics see that hamilton is a would be napoleon, that he
craves power. and he certainly does. but what he does, he takes this brilliance, ambition, merges it with productive work in a way that basically is unmatched. his afternoon rival, thomas jefferson expressed the fact that hamilton really is a colossus, without numbers, he is a host within himself. think how washington would feel to find this combination of talent and a capacity for productive work. he's so overwhelmed by problems. this is like a god send. washington wanted people as he put it himself who can think for me as well as execute orders. and hamilton, his affinity for the way washington thought was unequalled. ron childreno put it this way. hamilton was able to project himself into washington's mind and intuit what the general wanted to say, writing it up
with instinctive tact and defendant diplomatic skills. it was an inspired piece of venn trill owe quichl. washington gave hits and presidento out popped a letter in record time. you could see how how wonderful that would be for someone like washington. he is really washington's alter ego. he understands how washington thinks and is able to put it into words. and that's why he becomes really, at the early 20s eschief of staff. not in name -- he is chief of staff not in name but in fact. they nicknamed him the little lion because he was relatively short and the stature in his presence made him the little lion. washington starts to send him on important missions. i will not bore you with any of the details, he goes to general horatio gates the hero of the battle of saratoga.
some of you may say maybe he doesn't deserve to be the hero of the battle but he gets the credit for that victory. washington needs his troops, gates doesn't want to give them. he gives hamilton authority. he goes 300 miles away and somehow he's supposed to gtwo brigades. 2,000 men. gates gufs him one half dead brigade. and gates comes back to washington and says you know, the idea of sending ab aide with this dictatorial power 300 miles away shouldn't be done. i have to do what he says. he got it done. and you wouldn't expect someone of that age to be able to achieve what he did. i think more important, he is able to succeed in helping our alliance with the french. french friendship, formal and informal, hamilton called it our
one thing necessary to victory. hamilton was perfectly fluent in french. he spoke french as well as he spoke english. washington only spoke english. he had never -- did not learn never language. this was a tremendous advantage to be an interpreter for washington, to take messages to the french for washington. washington basically would say hamilton speaks for me, and send him on these missions. and after washington once in a while said things he shouldn't have said or wrote things he shouldn't have said, and the british intercepted a letter where he criticized the french commander, row sham bow in the slow french reaction -- and this is embarrassing because they are our friends, and he needs someone to write -- he wants to write and put the best face on an embarrassing situation. and he asks hamilton to do it
even though as we will see, ham ton and he were in the midst of a spat at the time. but he wants -- he wants hamilton's skill. he could have drafted another aide. but he only felt that hamilton had the ability to do it. when you read this letter, it is a master piece of diplomacy where you admit you were wrong but do it in such a way in a the other guy says fine, we are still buddies. not an easy skill to do. how he at the age in his early 20s does this is really to me almost miraculous. if he is correct, ham ton said, the key to winning american independence is french arms. i believe that myself. and if you do believe that, you can't overstate the help that hamilton gave to keep that alliance functioning well. how am i doing, mom, at the age of 22? i am a top aide to the commander in chief of the entire arme
auto. he sends me on important messages. are you proud? am i happy? no. i want to quit. i enmoo, you would think that hamilton would say what a blessing to be able to be washington's right hand man. but it isn't. he's going to resign abruptly in february of 1781 in a much analyzed incident, which we will touch on very shortly. i am going to first have you listen to it the way that the play did it. they start -- tloos there is a duel between charlesly and washington's friend. during the duel hamilton comes on the scene and wants to talk to them.
♪ i am satisfied. >> we have got to clear the field. yo we won. here comes the general. this should be men what is the meaning of this. i have a message for the general. these young men don't speak for me. they perform a service. sir, meet me inside. meet him inside. meet him inside. meet him inside. sir, don't call me sir. this man is hard enough without infighting. you solved nothing, youing aggravate our allies, john should have shot them in the mouth that would have shut them up. watch your tone. thomas conditionway mentioned
your name. my name has been through a lot. i can take imt i don't have your name. i don't have your title titles. i don't have your land if you give me command of a battalion a group of men to lead i could fly before my station back to the war or you could die and we need you alive, i am more than willing to live. your wife needs you alive. i need you alive. one more time. go home alexander. that's an order from your commander. sir. go home ♪ >> it was not quite that way. [ laughter ] but they do have a sharp dispute. and the reason that the clash is going to come because hamilton frankly doesn't want to be an aide to anybody. he wants to concede, issue, and execute policy, not do something for someone else, no matter how high up. he clutches -- ham ton reilton
almost has an unhealthy desire for military glory and even death. if it is great if you die young if you die gloriously. and he often -- there is a lot of examples i could give you along that line. he is resentful of his dependence on washington. he is frustrated by washington's seeming indifference to him. he feels trapped. in his letters to john lawrence, john lawrence is his best friend. if you want a feel for hamilton, his letters to lawrence are the best letters he writes. he loves thissan ma, lawrence is about as smart as hamilton but at the end of the war he is shot in an absolutely meaningless skirmish and killed: so he doesn't have a chance to have the kind of impact that hamilton will have. as he writes to lawrence you can see he is a touchan maic as you
can tell from the letter. i hate congress, i hate the army, i hate the world, i hate myself. the whole is a mass of fools and natives. again, i am disgusted with everything in this world. i have no other wish than as soon as possible to make a brilliant exit. now, desiring fame and washington's getting all this attention, and if you put your critical hamilton glasses on, he doesn't deserve it. this guy is not the great leader we think he is. he's got a lot of flaws. and hamilton looks very carefully and find a lot of them. maybe the other aides missed them or dismissed them. but this bow idea of leadership, give enough exposure, washington is coarse. he is moody, has an uneven and explosive temper. he rails at his aides and he is unfair. inchaing hamilton to a desk. he often said that you would get your position in the field, but
the time is never yet. you know, you can drive the car son. not now. the time will come. actually, the little lion had fallen prey to his own success. he had become indes spencible. but that didn't make it -- indispensable. that didn't make it easy whier to bear. if anything the unfairness of it made it infuriating. washington was right in thinking that ham ton was doing the most important job for the country that he could do. but hamilton was right in believing that if he were ever to become an autonomous man in his own right he would need an independent command. two things happen in 1780 that set the stage for the clash that we will look at in early 1781. the first involves benedict around's treasonous assault on west point and the role that
john andre played. arnold, the arch traitor who luckily did not succeed in his plot but came surprisingly close to doing so. andre was general clinton's right hand man, got behind the lines to meet with around to deal with this. got stuck. got out of uniform to try to get back to the british lines. and he was captured. now he's a top british officer, but he's captured behind enemy lines, out of uniform. and therefore, andre is a spy, not a prisoner of war. now, andre actually in one way i think hamilton has a man crush on this guy. when you read his letters -- i mean, andre is the epitome of what hamilton wishes he were. he is witty. he is talented. he is courageous. he is just the kind of man that
hamilton wants himself to be. and what does this very honorable man want? just one thing. shoot me like a zoeller. don't hang me like a common thief. a man of honor would die that way. hamilton is a great champion and urges andre's position. washington will not budge. and andre will be hung like a thief. never before had hamilton seen washington in such an unfavorable light. stern, objects gnat, insensible to the finer feelings of a gentleman. like he has a heart of stone, in effect. how could he not be moved by that kind of request? he wrote to his fiancee and said, some people are only sensible to motives of policy. and from a narrow disposition, they mistake it.
as far as i can tell, it's the first extant record of hamilton openly disagreeing with one of washington's positions. now, the second precipitating event occurs with his marriage to elizabeth skyler in december of 1780. elizabeth skyler -- did i say something wrong, dear? >> eliza. >> what did i say? >> elizabeth. >> that's her full name. no. it's liza, i apologize. couple more sales gone, exto. hopefully we will be able to get through the talk. she is quite a person. she lives for 50 years after attempt ton dies. she is quite a person. in his last letter to her ham
ton describes her as best of wives, best of women. it is a good thing for next anniversary to remember that quote, best of wives, best of women. probably might work. you can try it. now, she is the daughter of general philip skyler, a super welcomy important general, friend of washington's, and one of the most powerful men in upstate new york. and connecting with him -- now you might say, hamilton -- he is a bastard brat of a scottish pedler, and he is marrying skyler's daughter. how did he feel? he couldn't have been happier. he welcomes hamilton into his arms as a perfect gent. it really, i think again is another example of hamilton's ability to charm. he is the kind of person that as far as philip skyler is concerned, hamilton can do no
wrong. it is interesting. someone wrote about hamilton, there is a fascination in his manners by which one was led capti captive, aunaware. several comments about his eyes, which apparently for women as well as men were very striking. it is hard to believe that he would be as welcome as he was. but he was. and this gives him a place to go. if he had left washington's staff as a single man without any resources, it's one thing. now he has the familial context. and he is ready, therefore, after the andre affair, after his marriage, with his frustration, he's looking for a fight. and usually, as we know in our marriage and life, if you are looking for a fight, you can usually find it. and it came on february 16th, 1781. from our perspective, it is surprisingly trivial. his excellency, as washington
was usually called met his aide at the top of the stairs and said i need to see you. hamilton said, well i have to deliver a message. i will be right back. on the way, he ran into lafayette, who stopped him and chatted, button holed him -- by the way, the term button holes actually comes from grabbing the button of a person and holding them as you talk how him. non-essential fact of the day. i appreciate you listening. he is late getting back. as he comes up the stairs, there is washington at the head of the stairs saying you have kept me waiting at the head of these stairs these ten minutes. i must tell you, sir, you treat me with disrespect. hamilton rejoined he was not aware of doing so but since you thought it necessary to tell me, we part. and he walked away. and that's it. that's the end. within one hour, washington
sends another aide and a friend of hamilton's, another excellent person, tillman, from maryland, with instructions to smooth out the quarrel and bring together let's hash this out i am sorry if i acted abruptly, let's talk it out. hamilton would have none of it, asked to be excused from even talking about it with washington. further requested washington don't say anything to anybody. and i will stay on until some more aides come back. and he does stay ten weeks. i hadn't realized that until recently. that's when he writes that letter to row sham bow, during this period. he writes his father-in-law, who loves him, but love george washington, too. it is a fascinating letter where he tries to justify what he did. and he does it in a fashion that is pretty rough on washington. he says this "for the past three years i have felt no friendship
for him and i profess none. the truth is our dispositions are the opposite of each other. and the pride of my temper would not let me profess what i did not feel." . he said i have a lot of negative thing i could tell you about him. i will wait until the end of the war since he is important to the cause. luckily, he never wrote that, what he was going to say. in another letter to a friend, james mchenry, another one of washington's aides, the great man and i have had an open rupture, without a shadow of a reason and on the slightest of grounds he charged me in the most afrontive manner with treating him with disrespect. proposals of accommodation have been made on his part but rejected. i charge on my honor to you that you will find me inflexible. he shall for at least one time repent his ill humor. if you give washington a about it of a break, the guy is just under unbelievable pressure. he has to put a good public face on. does he yell at his aides from time to time? i don't doubt it.
but, you know, you would expect that on occasion. most of us would say that the story should be over. you know, screw you. you know, i'm the general. you are my aide. you are going the treat me that way, you are gone. you are out of historical chance for power. it could have been, if washington was of a different type of personality. i mean here is a guy who rebukes his leader, refuse as genuine effort at reconciliation. makes no evident the even talk with him. tells his side of the story while urging washington to say nothing. and washington never did say anything about this as far as we know. and it could have ended his career and his chance for military glory. and yet it didn't. within a relatively short period of time, washington goes out of his way to find a position for hamilton at yorktown. those of you who have been to
yorktown, remember redoubt number nine and number ten. it is always which one was ham ton and which was the others. hamilton was number ten. this is at the me assume. it was a daring, exciting moment, hamilton got his glory. he could have been killed but he wasn't, charging over the parapet into the british position to drive so they could bring the cannons in and force corn wallace to surrender. in many ways washington's forbearance i think seems super natural. i am not sure we will ever know exactly why he did it. i think there are a couple of reasons why, as the song hinted, the first song, washington sees himself in young alexander hamilton. they are much alike. the young washington is brash and over ambitious and impulsive, quick tempered. he controls it remarkably well
with the passage of time and a desire for military glory. i think this empathy allows him to be more sympathetic to hamilton than he would have been otherwise. and he's a fair man. i mean hamilton serves four years, the first 45 months without a day's furlough. he deserves his shot. and i think basically, maybe washington comes to agree that that might be -- and whether he thought it or not, buy giving hamilton another chance, it leaves the possibility for reconciliation. and that is crucial. it will be a new partnership. senior partner and junior partner, but a partnership. and if he had not done that, things would have been very different. michael newton, in a very important new book on hamilton puts it this way, instead of driving hamilton and washington apart, the quarrel enabled them to form a stronger connection.
in the end, hamilton's resignation from his washington staff was not only inevitable. it was good for hamilton, food for washington, good for the american revolution, and good for the future of the united states. somewhat different interpretation, but worth considering. now, washington was never close to hamilton in the way someone had mentioned pointed out that lafayette and hamilton are both the same age. lafayette wants to be washington's surrogate son. hamilton does not want to be that way. the father/son analogy is good with washington and lafayette. it is not good with washington and hamilton. as newton puts it, there is no evidence that washington saw hamilton as the son he infer had, nor -- nor that hamilton saw washington as the father who he never knew.
i agree with that. but there is -- washington likes hamilton. he sent -- lafayette wrote a letter to hamilton. the general cares for you much more than you think. he is your friend. we saw hamilton could say nasty things. but he also says some pretty positive thing about washington. a man of complete integrity. a man who would be torn apart rather than betray the cause that he is fighting. at the battle of monmouth, where washington snaps really a stalemate out of the jaws of defeat that charles lee had brought about, hamilton writes, i never saw the general to so much advantage. his coolness and firmness were admirable. america owes a great deal to the general for this day's work. now, hamilton is too cock sure and too critical to off and on over washington lafayette style. but he knows the character of his manu well enough to write
asking for an appointment almost as if he expects fractious age can act that way and come back, okay, i'll help you. and washington in fact does just that. now, their relationship peters out a little bit at the end of the war. i don't have time to go into the details of of the newburgh stir and thing of that nature. but if america had prospered of a the victory under the articles of confederation, the story would have been over. probably a few of you are saying the game is starting pretty soon, i hope it is over. but there is a little bit more to the story. but his feeling is that if it had prospered, washington and hamilton, i don't think, would have had much contact at all. but of course it doesn't prosper. and the desire of these two strong nationalists who want to
strengthen the union and see the country falling apart brings them together. it is not a close, personal bond. it is a bond of common interest. they are both stream nationupre nationalists. they both recognize if the federal government is not strengthened, this union will break up. and hamilton is one of the driving forces between the constitutional convention. and washington of course reluctantly goes. and once washington goes, then that meeting in philadelphia becomes crucial. and of course the result is the constitution we still live under. and when it was ratified, washington didn't want to be president. and hamilton writes a surprisingly frank letter saying basically by going to philadelphia, you committed yourself to this cause. and if you don't accept the
presidency, you are letting the cause fail. when you went, you put your chips down. you have to go through. now, it is very frank. hamilton is that way. he once described himself as an unlucky man who speaks my mind, let the chips fall where it may. sometimes they fall rather badly for hamilton, as we know. so you have to be a little careful as to what you say. but as he wrote to -- as he wrote to washington, he said, i trust the greatest frankness has always marked and will mark every step of my conduct towards you. and he responds favorly. he likes that kind of -- favorably. he likes that kind of frankness. as an aside, jefferson has a very different approach in dealing with people than hamilton does. well, with his appointment as secretary of the treasury, hamilton becomes the second most important man in the united
states of america. critics believe he became the most important man in america because there is a view that still permeates that basically president washington was under h hamilton's control. no matter how often it is said. no matter how commonly it is written, it is not write. one of the things i am most convinced about in my own study of washington, this is a misinterpretation of washington. ron charno is on target when he says hamilton gained incomparable power under washington because the president approved of the agenda he promoted with such tireless brilliance. jefferson was wrong when he charged that hamilton manipulated the president. washington is nobody's puppet. he can be soft spoken, gentle and kind. there is a steely will underneath. and if it is his province, he's
not going to let anyone do that. now, is he influenced by hamilton? unbelievably so. unbelievably influenced. why? because hamilton and he basically see things the same way. whether you like it or not. some of you would like it and some of you wouldn't, washington is more of a hamiltonian than he is a jeffersonian. that's simply in his view of the world, he sees it more that way. it is something jefferson could never accept. and -- but it is, i think, absolutely a crucial fact. now, there is no doubt the men grow closer together during the term as president. hamilton will resign in 1794. washington remains president until 1797, dealing with crisis like the national debt, the whiskey rebellion, all of the ramifications of the french revolution, which are just as bad as what we are going through in our own time now. they do get close.
and when hamilton resigns, it is interesting that washington writes this letter to him n. every relation which you are born the me i fond my confidence in your talents, exertions and integrity has been well placed. i the more freely reason der this testimony of my aprobation because i speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me and which furnish satisfactory proof of your title to public regard. a great letter, and one i'm sure hamilton was very proud of. right after washington leaves the presidency, disaster occurs for hamilton. and it is the last example of the close relationship between the two men, an example of washington's tact and his friendship for hamilton. basically, what happens, hamilton's long affair with mariah reynolds becomes public in 1797.
it's the first great america sex scandal. it captivated americans then, as subsequent such intrigues right down to the present day have captured american interests, and i imagine into the future will remain as something -- there is something about sex and slippery that draws a lot of attention. -- about sex and celebrity that draws a lot of attention. it happened -- when the charge came out the implication was in a hamilton had given mariah reynolds wife, james rent olds, information to invest and make money. in other words, betrayed inside information to him. yord to prove that he didn't do that -- in order to prove that he didn't do that that he paid him blackmail money because he was sleeping with his wife, he wrote a 97-page pamphlet, a reynolds pamphlet, in
excruciating detail. yes, i'm guilty he went even into the detail that much of the affair was carried on in my own house in my bed while my wife was away. there is a wonderful song that elijah sings, burn, when she learns about this and another one when they reconcile. there are some very touching. don't be misled by the rap thing. there are some songs that are just beautiful broadway love songs that are just as touching and wonderful as i think you could read in les mis or anywhere else. why does hamilton do that, write a 97-page pamphlet? basically he does it to show i am guilty of a private sin, but i did not betray by public trust. that was more important to him. legacy is more important than family. he is willing to risk his family. that's going to map later on in the duel. his legacy is more important
than his family. and make me a man of private shame, but i did not betray the interest of my country when i held that important position. now in the midst of this crisis, but without making any reference to it, washington sends hamilton a valuable wine cooler. which had sat on his presidential desk, quote, as a token of my sincere regard and friendship for you. and as a remembrance of he moo. in the brief letter which he starts, my dear sir, you have got to be a close friend of washington to get a letter, my dear dear, sir, my sir, my dear sir, you are really doing well. and he said twice i am your sincere friend. the letter was eloquent for what it did not say as well as what it did say. the most famous and re veefred man in the country was
expressing his solidarity with a friend in a time of great crisis. and doing it with great sensitivity. hamilton was moved by the gesture. indeed, the wine cooler became one of the family's most treasured possessions. i looked it up on line. and believe it or not, it was recently sold by christies for $750,000. so it is still around somewhere. now, to summarize their relationship and close up the talk. washington is the senior partner. he is the superior man in terms of overall character. but alexander hamilton, despite his many flaws, and he has them. even hisual gist writes in his diary as he is writing his eulogy, that hamilton was, as he put it, vein, opinionated, and indiscreet. this is not an ideal letter of recommendation for your position.
but he had a tremendous number of admirable characteristics. a tremendous amount of courage. he had brilliant intellect. great charm. wonderful wit. personal probity, and honesty. and deep patriotism. that earned him the affection of george washington. now, as those of you who have listened to me before know, my view is very strong. george washington is the indispensable man in the story of the founding of america. but it is a legitimate question to ask, could he have achieved his goals of a strong and economically powerful nation without the ideas and the skillful administration of his secretary of the treasury? the answer is almost certainly no. thus, i think it is fair to conclude that alexander hamilton is the indispensable man to the
indispensable man. thank you very much. [ applause ] now, as you know, we -- two things. one, anyone can get up and leave at any time. certainly now if you want. i know there is a good basketball game on and so on. so that's understandable. we do have a time for question-and-answer. it is a little different tonight. we are on c-span. so here's your little touch of secular immortality. so if you want to ask a question, tell kind of bring the -- you don't have to hold the mike, but they will try to move it somewhat close to you. as i say, i think after every talk i give, there are no foolish questions. lots of questions, i can't answer. no questions i mind you asking. i would rather it be on ham ton and washington than on dwight
eisenhower and the supreme court. but, you know, feel free, whether it is in this or something you just want to bring up. so we will do that for a few minutes. but as i say, don't hesitate if you want to get up and leave now. so we will take some questions. we have a question here up front. >> one of the things that happens in the musical is when george washington decides not to run again, alexander hamilton writes his speech. did that really happen? >> yes, there is a wonderful one more time, have a drink with me one more time and talk. and -- actually, giving since you brought up the farewell address. initially madison wrote the first, hamilton wrote the second. washington hope to serve only one term. madison started the farewell
address for them. they broke. their relationship broke. hamilton wrote the farewell address. with washington's idea -- there is a back and forth. it is washington's ideas and thoughts with hamilton's nice touch on it. and it is a very important, crucial, crucial document. i mention it only because the impact -- i have a 17-year-old grandson who is into theater. he memorized every word of hamilton. he was in his history class and the farewell address came up and he quoted from it. his teacher -- this kid wouldn't read a book unless you shot him to do it. and he end up, how did you know -- well, it's in hamilton. actually, mount vernon has a website where quotes from the play, you can find the actual letters. there is many direct quotes that are given. so it is a very important document. there was another question right here. >> i was wondering if we know what george washington thought about the kind of public and
private feud between hamilton and jefferson while they were both in office with him? did he reflect on -- >> that's a good question. there is a great book about lincoln trying to get his cabinet of enemies. washington doesn't want that. washington wants loyal people who agree with him. he did not expect the feud between jefferson and hamilton to develop. he writes about the need for civility, for understanding people who disagree with you. it is a wonderful letter he writes both to jefferson and hamilton. basically saying the good of the country, we have to find common good to get out of this crisis. it was, unfortunately, he wouldn't -- that's one breach that he could not do. but he worked hard in an effort to do it. there is one in the back there, yes. >> yes.
i am just curious about hamilton's education. what he studied, and how he developed his thoughts about economics in particular. >> that's a good question. i can't give it as author an answer as i would like. he doesn't -- much of it is self-taught. he -- what happens -- he ends up being a clerk for a kruger company in st. croix. there is a hurricane that comes. he writes a very moving description, so poetic that people get money together to send him to the mainland for an education in the hope that he will come back there. and there is some religious figures that help him along that line. he wanted actually to get into princeton. they didn't give him the advanced level of entry he wanted. he ends up at what was now columbia, then king's college and serves for about a year or so. but that's all of his regular education. how he knows as much as he does,
i honestly, it's -- i mean when he writes pamphlets in the revolution, they think they are written by people like john dickenson and important founding fathers, not 19-year-old kid. but he had the ability, the ability to do that and just continued to work. but it is more through his own self-reading. he is just amazing how much he is able to absorb. i imagine he had a -- if not a photographic memory, something pretty close, the way he is able to pull so much information. >> a follow-up to that, i mean, hamilton had such radical concepts in terms of how to establish our financial markets and the central bank. so where does that come from? >> some of it comes from england. he is impressed by the english model. if you don't -- remember, we don't like england back then.
and the fact that hamilton is simple they had toik england gets him into a lot of -- sympathetic to england gets him into a lot of trouble. one of the most central questions is the central bank, can you do it? and the constitution does say you can't. and jefferson when his supporters say you can't. if you do things the constitution doesn't say you can do, you open a path up to ultimate disaster. the issue is still not dead today. hamilton's position was there are implied powers if the constitution doesn't say you can't do it and it is for the general welfare, you can do it. really, if hamilton had not won that argument, whatever your political views are, if hamilton had not, the constitution could never have survived. because this allows it to be shaped and molded to a certain degree. so he's influenced by great britain in a way that people
like jefferson who despise great britain make him that -- he is a monarchist. you know, he's on the right wing of the political spectrum. another thing -- one reason why hamilton is not as popular today, his few of the common man is pretty negative. you set up a government relying on the virtue of ordinary people, you are in trouble. that was his view. well, democracy hails the ordinary people. so jefferson is the champion of the enlightened common man through education. much more optimistic. hamilton is much more skeptical along that line. and so when i taught at george mason, i often -- one of my assignments was are you a jeffersonian or a hamiltonian. read -- it is not a right or wrong answer. different people, depending on your philosophy. but it is interesting to see and analyze. and of course like most people, we are a little bit of both.
but it is an interesting question. there was a question back there. yes. >> how did a 22-year-old man come to be acquainted with washington? or who brought him to his attention? >> well, he was brought to attention -- he became a -- he had an artillery company in new york. and he stole british cannon. i mean, he is a very brave guy. it got attention. henry knox and nathaniel green did want him to be on their staff, which he refused. that's how washington heard about him, through that. and he just -- he was apparently the kind of person that is so exceptional -- you know, you watch this guy run around the track, hey, you know, i want him on my team. so basically, through his daring efforts early, and through some
of his pamphlets he gets known and then washington, once he is on washington's staff then he has a chance to really flourish. other points or questions? yes, in the back. >> when is this going to be on c-span? [ laughter ] >> i think they said -- maybe one of those -- two to four weekso something like that? is that about right? >> we will put it on our facebook page. >> although it sounds a little egotistical to comment, if go just c-span.org if you type in my name, they have done about five or six of my talks. if you just go c-span.org and type in peter henriques, then you will see if i gave a talk on washington's last years or something that you were interested in. you could see it that way. but keep coming. there is nothing like -- you
know, it is much better the see in person rather than on -- there was -- i remember one -- why put the lectures on tape and let the students watch it and then i can go out things. this is a joke story and a guy ended up, you know, he gave his -- put his talk down and gave and he said, well, i might as well check and see how the class is going. he looked in, and there's 28 little boxes recording his speech while they're out playing. so, you know, there's nothing like the personal touch. if we have time for one or two more if there are any. yes, in the back. >> could you say a little bit about the collaboration between madison and hamilton in the federalist papers. >> the question of madison and hamilton -- the federalist papers are the most important document on the nature of the
constitution. hamilton wrote more than 50 of the 80-some pamphlets. madison wrote 25, john j. wrote 25. i may not have the figure exactly right. hamilton and madison, this is a complicated story which i don't -- basically, they were so close together on working for the constitution, ratifying the constitution, and yet they split. a lot of historians feel that madison betrayed hamilton and went over to the states rights side. if you're a madison supporter, hamilton betrayed by going too far to the right and to the federalist view, and madison is going to save the constitution by keeping it democratic. but they were very close, because madison, frankly, is just about as smart as hamilton. i mean, he's an unbelievably appealing figure. and it was really sad that those two men ended up being so bitterly opposed to each other. by the way, one chapter in my book is going to be quoting
rodney king, can't we all get along, george washington breaks with five famous virginians. he completely broke with george mason, edmund randolph and three virginia presidents, jefferson, madison and monroe so don't think they're sitting around holding hands singing, we shall overcome. there's a lot of friction among the founding fathers. okay. go ahead. i can't see, but i can listen. >> how accurate do you think the play is? >> how accurate the play is. in its general themes, it's pretty accurate. there are lots of -- it's -- and miranda knows he's not accurate. i mean, he knows that washington didn't write to hamilton and say, there's soldiers in the field waiting for you, come on back. he knows that hamilton is pawing at the door, please let me leave, and -- but for -- there's a lot of literary license, but
the general thrust of the experiment and the desire for freedom and the portrayal of washington as a strong, charismatic individual, i like the portrayal of washington very much. anyone else before we close up shop? there's one last question, and then we'll -- >> so, back to hamilton and his sort of formative ideas around economics. in the book -- >> go on. >> it implies that his period working as a clerk for the trading company kind of made him unique among the founding fathers of having that commercial education where the other founding fathers seemed to primarily be planters or lawyers. is that true? was he sort of the one of the group that came with that -- >> he's a great entrepreneurial figure. he really is, many ways, the founder of capitalism. people say hamilton's an elitist
and in some ways, he's an elitist but he's an elitist based on merit and he's convinced if you set up a system where bright people can rise, they will rise and they should rise, and you should recognize them. so he's a champion along that line. there are a lot of books on more detailed on the -- on his economics, which i really just don't have. well, i could tell you but there's not enough time. so, we'll close up. i always love to come here because you make me feel so welcome. i hope you felt it was worthwhile. thanks a lot. every weekend, american history tv brings you 48 hours
of unique programming exploring our nation's past. to view our schedule, and an archive of all our programs, visit c-span.org/history. the association for the study of african-american life and history known as asala recently held its 103rd annual meeting in indianapolis. next on american history tv, we'll hear a history of the smithsonian national museum of african-american history and culture from u.s. court of appeals judge robert wilkins who worked to get it built. during this event, organizers also recognized the service of african-american veterans. this is about an hour and a half. >> my name is sill vylvia cyrus we are delighted, delighted to have you here
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