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tv   The Presidency Remembering George Washington  CSPAN  December 1, 2019 8:00pm-9:06pm EST

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according to superstition, spoke, but only shouted. >> you can watch archival next, matthew costello talks about his new book "the property of the nation: george washington's tomb, and the memory of the first president." we hear about the way americans celebrated george washington in the 19th century. and he talks about how the freed and enslaved people on washington's mount vernon estate elped shape the historical narrative. mr. costello is a historian at the association which hosted this event. r. costello: good evening, everyone. there we go.
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i would like to welcome our friends who are joining us by c-span and those who are here with us tonight who are the really smart people in ashington because you have chosen to be above the nationals game and about the presidential debate. we're glad you chose to be with us tonight. i'd like to acknowledge some very important people who are with us this evening. matt's parents tim and debbie costello who are here with us tonight and his wife kristen who is here tonight. and of course, in my book, the two most important costello are sofia and theodore. and they're at hope. they can come next time. they're matt and kristen's wonderful little kids. i'd also like to welcome the members of our board of director who are with us tonight. we have anne stock. give anne a hand. [applause]
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and bob mcgee. and we have two that are enroute, anita mcbride and gayle west. both will be a little bit late. but will be with us tonight. steve restaurant is the national co-chair of the white house -- our national council on white house history and his wife andrea are here with us tonight. one of our most important group here at white house historical association. their support it puts the winds in the sails of what we do. we're so glad to have you with us here tonight, steve. the program tonight, dr. matt costello will share with us about his brand-new book that is hot off the presses. this is the first time we're making it available. we're proud of matt. he's one of our historians here at the association. he's been with us now -- how long has it been? three years on november 1st.
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he makes quite a contribution to our work here at the association. prior to coming here, he had contributed to the bibly yog fi project. he was a fellow at mount vernon. he is currently doing two things that i'm particularly proud of, he's teaching a course on american university on white house history. to our knowledge, this is the first time this has ever been done anywhere. and we hope to broaden that beyond just american universities so that classrooms across the country can join virtually and we can expand that impact. but it's really a cutting edge first mover opportunity that we're very proud of. he's also working on his next book which will be published by the white house historical association instead of kansas university press. he will publish his next book which is the renovation of the white house undertaken by president theodore roos sflelt the early 20th century.
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this podium will be moved away from the stage so everyone can have their view. and he and i will have a conversation, a few probing questions that i about his book. and then we'll open the floor to questions. and then you're all invited to join us in the courtyard for some refreshments following. thank you very much for being here. and matt, i'll turn it over to you. [applause] >> good evening. and thank you stewart for that wonderful introduction. it is truly a privilege to be here with you all. one of the most gratifying exercises about finishing the books is you get to write acknowledgements. you get to write and think through the people and the places that made this project possible. and i'm thrilled that many of those people are here in this room today including my
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colleagues here at the association. thank you for your support. your encouragement. we share this accomplishment ogether. and in the spirit of that, sharing something collectively. that's my segway, tonight, we want to share about the property of the nation and essentially what i'm getting at is who owns history. and i use washington and his tomb as a lens for trying to understand that process and how it unfolded in the 19th century. now -- this project began as an off-shoot of research that i was doing around actually the washington monument. i love exploring different efforts by congress to build statues an memorials and monuments, i was drawn to this particular incident in 1832 where members of congress were debating and voted in favor of
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removing george washington's body from mount vernon and entombing it in the then just below the script in the capitol rotunda. as i dug deeper, unintended, i discovered that this was one of many attempts to remove washington's body during the 19th century. naturally, i was curious what was happening at the gravesite. found some fascinating stories. it served for all things that were transformed by the advent of political democracy. these experiences abude how the democratic impulse transcended the presence as many americans set to no touch and even possess pieces of washington's past. different individuals and groups interacted with washington's final resting place in mount vernon. and it was through these visits that citizens, politicians,
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entrepreneurs an enslaved storytellers reimagined the collection of george washington, washingtoning george and creating this belief that he was the property of the nation. but in order to talk about the memory-making process, unfortunately we have to start with washington's demise. on december 14, 1799, washington came down with what appeared to be a winter cold. it accelerated quickly. and studies now believe that he obably suffered from acute epliglotitis. whether it was bacterial or viral in nature, we're not really too sure. but eventually, the medicine at the time only accelerated his declining health. washington passed away between 10:00 and 11:00 at night. and on december 18, he was privately entered in mount
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vernon. president john adams asked for martha's consent to move her husband's body in the future to the capitol where we then see as the apothiosis of washington. there was a mourning period until february 2. and gerald taylor detailed all the different funeral pro sessions. he counted over 400 different instances. i mean, this was an outpouring of national grief that the young country had never seen before. now, at mount vernon itself, letters of condolence streamed in to martha. but some of them were very opportunistic. for example a number of individuals were asking for locks of her deceased husband's hair. which sounds strange to us but what common in the 18th and 19th
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century. there was one man who claimed he had served with george washington and he asked if he could get a pardon because he had been accused of stealing the horse. and only the widow of washington could save him from his unfortunate fate. she did not reply. now, with this resolution to move washington in the future in 1799, this opened up a new question about worship in early america. how would we venerate the memory of our past leaders? would it be things like education or would it be public displays of things like statues, monuments or even something that appears anthetical to the revolution, something that appears at mausoleum. and the architect who designed the cater house.
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now, this pyramid was supposed to be 100 by 100 feet which would have made it one of the tallest structures in the united states at that time. it would have been made out of granite and marble, so obviously very expensive. but this issue of piro worship -- s between federalist would this be pharaoh. there were comparisons with ancient rome and ancient greek. public opinion turned gense against this idea of turning a great mausoleum for washington. they argued it's not what washington would have wanted. the government doesn't have money for something like that. federalists would be the ones in designing the mausoleum.
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in 1816 the new owner of mount vernon, a supreme court justice, he's the nephew of george washington, he's solicitted by the virginia general assembly. they propose moving his bodsy to richmond to be placed underneath a monument that hasn't been built yet. so again another time by a state government. congress geltz wind of it. they actually write to bush wright washington as well. and they inquire of moving washington again to the capitol. of course, the capitol's been burned and they're rebuilding it. but they are having these conversations. and bushrod declines. that's another attempt to move it. free masonry and the free masons come along in the 1820's and they propose raising money to essentially build a new tomb in honor of jo george washington and miss masonic accomplishing. they propose putting together money that was raised with the different lodges and even
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creating a national lodge and having washington attach to it. part of what i argue is that in the 1820's you have to keep in mind that free masonry has sort of taken a turn. there's the rise of the anti- masionic party. more and more americans are becoming suspicious of the free masons. they're still visiting his grave. they're attributing his memory to their own brotherhood. they say any criticism against us is criticizing washington himself. so their example of societal organization using sort of washington as a shield to guard against criticism and anything like that. but really, it's where we see sort of a major transition in washington is pro received how it's marketed and how people profit from it. john augustin washington iii.
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he's the last owner of the mount vernon estate. he agrees to a contract in 1858. he vacates the estate in 1860. he labors to turn mount vernon into america's first tourism destination. now, he invested in several ventures hoping to capitalize on the fascination with his famous relative. he negotiated the washington and alexandria steamboat companies so they could have a peer landing in mount vernon. so a constant flow of steamboats would come with the city, alexandria and mount vernon. he authorizes the wooden plank walkway which you can see in this photograph. charged it to the company. probably one of my funniest things i came across in my research was that this land was so vabble that there was a man named george page who arrived at mount vernon along the shoreline in 1851.
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and he was holding up a deed saying that he owned part of the shoreline of mount vernon. and this threw john augustin washington into a fit. but the land he was claiming was technically under washington. so it didn't go well for george page. but it does go to show you and george page also workt for the baltimore steam company. there were other agents who nted that access as whelm -- well. a cut of their ticket sales. you can see this is the advertisement from collier. and that's the one that went down several times a week. and this is where we start to see the beginnings of maybe some of you have been in the spirit of mount vernon today making the es sate more accessible and affordable. it was inexpensive. they started argue for things like confession nair.
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sometimes they would have different types of liquors depending on the crews you were going to and they had music. so it became this experience that americans enjoyed in 19th century. so he was not only investing in this particular company, he was taking a cut of their sales. he started buying stock. he started selling wood from the estate and the idea behind it was to essentially package and sell pieces of washington's world so that american consumers could be more directly connected with the man himself. now, this is a particular example -- it was made by an glishman named james crutchette. but he had this bids on the side where he was making washington trinkets. any time you get something that's supposed to authentic, you know, you're going to need a
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certificate that goes with it so you can prove to people, no, this is legitimate. you can see from the little -- you get some poetry, washington's face. but also essentially a statement from the mayor of washington, d.c. attaching to the character of the man in question. and also telling you exactly where the wood came from. now, in the certificate it says it's from the same hill where george washington is buried. i think that's particularly interesting because this was a place that was considered sacred to many americans. but when i actually went through his farm books and i tried to plot out where exactly he was taking this wood from, it wasn't lways from the hill. i think john augustin washington was good at sales. this is what people wanted to hear. some of it came from right along the shoreline. this was a place that george washington had called hell hole because he called it that
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because nothing could grow there. whatever he tried, he could not get anything to grow there while some of the wood came from hell hole. but it was technically part of the hill. so we're going to let that one slide. now, with the mount vernon gin this was dated 1956. john augustin washington, was helping crush it with his business but he was simultaneously selling things at ount vernon. he was also collecting any type of revenue when people came in for a time being there was a typist on the estate. so there was a number of different ways that were kind of the forerunners to the mount vernon ladies' association taking over and that embracing a lot of these strategies. how can we capitalize on people that are drawn to mount vernon? en know, john agustine
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washington was in profiteering his great uncle, it was the primary storytellers and keepers of the tomb. now, these were the on sight storytellers and interpreters. many would use that to write themselves into various washington legends. some of them use these positions to extract tips from people who may be weren't as knowledgeable about george washington's wife. were able to highlight his treatment and his will which is a very interesting conversation that enslaved people were having with his guests. bushrod washington gets essentially called out by the liberator for selling slaves. and they question his character in comparison with his uncles' and they compare it between essentially using a slave account of a visit at mount
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vernon. now, using enslaved people as tour guides was not a new idea. bushrod washington left it to his overseers, his gardeners and his slaves to interact with interested patrons. but he was shocked when he found out that his enslaved storytellers were telling him things about things that were happening on the estate. they were not bound to the same rules of etiquette that bushrod thought they should. but we could see in other sources and here's an image, this is post civil war. african americans are very much involved in telling the story of washington's life at mount vernon beyond the civil war. but you can see in other sources because that's one of the difficult things is trying to track down the voices of the enslaved that they played a prominent role not only sharing accounts with people and newspapers and periodicals but even an example like this. this is a piece of sheet music.
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and of course, there were many musical scores about washington. but this one is very striking in particular. because if you look closely, you can see there's an african-american man sitting next to the tomb and he's ready to sell. he has a number of washington sticks. washington canes were something that tied them to washington. but it was a simple of affluence in the country. there were many accounts of enslaved people selling these walking sticks or marketing these walking sticks or making a number of them for people while they're on the estate. sometimes they say they're peddling these trinkets. but apparently, this was more successful because enchulely they go out of business. and these storytellers keep selling these things up through the civil war. so no matter how you look at it, whethers the their role for cutting the wood for the canes
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or laying the plank from the wharf to the tombs, or it was them selling things on site and sharing stories, african americans were very involved in perpetuating some of these washington legends but also writing themselves into it. but also challenging some of the thoughts about how washington felt about things like emancipation. one of my particularly favorite stories because oftentimes they would make comments about whether or not they were given some type of gratuity or tip. there was an incident where a gentleman wasn't able to give anything to a particularly elderly enslaved woman. and she asked for a pinch of tobacco. so i mean, it just goes to show you that it wasn't always about money. sometimes it was what the visitor might have on them. there was an expectation that there would be an exchange for a service. and african americans with a
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vital part of that. now, we also do border on sometimes things that seem a unorthodox or strange. starting from the 1830's on ward, we see this troupe of the last servant of washington. and that phrase gets repeated a lot. 1830's. 1814040's. i found at least five last servants. but when you unpack that it tells you a little bit more about why does that claim have meaning in the 19th century? because really from the 1830's on ward, the founding generation is mostly gone. and americans are looking to the next generation of political leaders and contemplating how will the country survive without that leadership? and really to claim that association, that relationship it did carry some type of social weight. so we see this time and time again. some of my particular favorites, there was a man named john carey
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who said he was 113 years old. and he was seeking a pension from congress in 1843. and he claimed that he had served washington in the french and indian war and the american revolution so he deserves essentially twice the pension. now, it doesn't go anywhere. but it's interesting that there are people making that claim and that it was actually -- it was moved to committee and then it got tabled. so it was believable to an extent. now, this continues post civil war. this is actually a picture of a man named jim mitchell in 1870. and you can see even though, you know, the civil war has ended. slavery has been abolished, that african americans are still taking up these roles but they're doing it now on behalf of the mount vernon ladies' association at mount vernon. you can see behind them a series of walking sticks. again, they would have been the primary storytellers. but also they would have been items from the es
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now, at the same time that we have congress and the virginia center assembly arguing and bickering about where washington should be buried we have storytellers delivering the different washington experience. and we values this group of writers and poets and artist who are sharing different bits and pieces of washington lower, through poetry, biography or through visual art work. they also play a major role in this memory forming process because most americans will not go get mount vernon in the 19th century. so they're going to rely on things like visuals to help fill in the gaps about what they know about washington. -- is actually his adopted his -- be his adopted grandson, george washington. he became a publicist.
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he gave speeches. he traveled the country. wrote plays that really built up his adopted grandfather's legacy. but probably most important were his recollections that were published right before the civil war which affirmed a lot of these myths an legends. we can't forget about lock weems . one of the most influential person to make washington popular. his washington in washington was in its 40th edition. he continually added more and more material based on folklore which today most historians regard as probably not accurate or not true. but it was washington that people wanted to hear about. he was relatable. he seemed more ordinary and had worked really hard at improving himself and getting to the point where he needed to. now, weems doesn't really talk about how washington made his money. a big part of it is his marriage to martha. that's where a lot o his fortune
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came from. but again, putting out this different image of washington as being much more humble, much more folksy, it just resonated with more americans in the 19th century. and then we start to see these virbles where the new tomb, the old tomb they coincide with the hudson river school. and part of what this school of artistic expression was getting at was highlighting the bounty and the discovered richness of the american landscape. so you'll -- you'll probably see -- you can see examples of this in the white house at the met. but washington's tomb actually became a place that artists continuously captured whether for engravings or actual pieces of art. it fits that same framework. you see a rustic setting. you see the tomb and you see a very humble abode. and this is where the remains of george washington are.
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here's another engraving. but again, now, you can see things have shifted. now we have the new tomb which is pointed towards the river. you can see the mansion. you can see maryland in the background, the potomak river. and here's another example. again, and the other thing that's coinciding with this is that the artists are not formerly trained either. so when we talk about demock tiesing washington's memory, there are more and more people that maybe are not necessarily trained in a very formal sense, but they're also in a way claiming washington for themselves because they're the one who are capturing his tomb and his gravesite. now, for those that could afford -- could not afford to make the trip to mount vernon, these virbles along with literal works, poetry made washington's final resting place a part of american popular culture. while these worked well, there
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were many visitors who found the tomb really unacceptable. they saw this as a sacred place. and that the tomb needed to reflect that sacredness. and what many visitors start doing around that time period is they start talking about going on a pilgrimage. they use very deliberately selective religious language. items taken are considered relics. they themselves are pilgrims. now, whether or not they believed in it in the very judeo christian sense, that's debatable. but certainly for americans who essentially had to invent the country, then invent a government to go with that country and then invent a national culture that would work with those institutions, washington was the natural selection. and -- and because of this visitor traffic to mount vernon, we hear these accounts of essentially people stripping trees of their -- of their branches or pulling all the
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leaves off the lemon tree. that was a big one. or there was one great exatch where will a man actually came and he dug up and filled three flower barrels. he just wanted mount vernon dirt. so what sounds a little bit strange to us, it actually happened quite more often in the 19th century. this of course, is a piece of the coffin fragment. the original coffin that washington was buried in he was taken out of and put into a new coffin then transported to the new coffin that was made for the new tomb. he feels moved there in 1831. surthen put into the marble cofcus in 1983. what we think about these bits and pieces, they're not something that most people would be sure where they came from. 18th century americans would
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hold only to. and they would pass along to their family. this is a close-up shot of the marble building. this was done by a the masons. john trusters had offered to pure crew a marble tomb for washington's remains. and lawrence lewis took him up on the offer. and it was william strickland's account because william strickland designed the craft and the eagle motif. he actually gives a very interesting account of them going to mount vernon with the newly finished tomb and finding out that somebody must have mismeasured and they can't get the it to the tomb. that's part of the reason why when you go to the mount vernon enclosure.ded an
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georges and then martha's later. but birling building this knew tomb, this insured that they would remain enter twineed forever that meant ne attempt to get them, would mean federal property. both of them tried to do this. but beneath every could ever really fully reach the washington family. and this is where our story then ends. so we've seen it from a popular culture side. we've seen it from a political side, an exick side and a historical side. a proyely, what it takes invite organization of like minded people to come together. and to raise the money to purchase the estate which also included the tomb. that was actually part of the agreement. so the mount vernon ladies' association of the union emerges out of the thought process of
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anne pamela cunningham. she actually originally puts out a call to southern women to save it. and when that doesn't really get you know, decides,, no, there are those women from the north. she was right. because if your going to raise money you need a larger infrastructure. and you need more people involved. so against actually the advice of the male secretary and some of the other southern women that she's been operating with. she decides to open it up to northern women as well. creating more o a national organization. d what they do is they print the record which keeps track of if fundraising. to then they enlist everette go around and give speeches about washington and donate his
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ticket sales. so it's actual lay massive fundraising campaign and they're able to do it in a few year's time. it's remarkable. >> by 1860, the ladies have taken -- essentially taken possession of the front. they say that mount vernon now belongs the nation. it is the property of the nation. >> and really this -- this process seems that you would think oh, this is kind of the high point here. but then of course, we have the civil war. one of the middle east pressing concern for the ladies is what are we going to do if the case that they seize mount vernon? because it's an argument house where there was a cachet of it. what would happen if they push on the ground? would they acquire the property? >> so essentially what they did -- here's a picture of union troupsing the tomb. >> try to remain as neutral as
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possible. and one of the things they said is that no fire arms are allowed on the grounds. soldiers are allowed to see the tomb and see the how many of washington. but really this was not supposed to be a place where the war was supposed to continue. this was supposed to be an i'm land of neutrality. and in fact, if you go to mount vernon today and you look at the new face of the new tomb, you'll the officials. they may not be able to take washington's body, but some of them probably were making a mark on that tomb for a very deliberate rfpble appear i think they wanted to claim washington. and they were essentially putting their mark on why they were fighting this war. and par of it was to uphold the memory of washington as a constitutionalist. as the president. now, obviously, the south had a very interpretation of who washington was. you can look it up.
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it featured george washington on a horse back. but washington was so malleable, he could be used by southerners or slave owners. he kind of fit tpwhill many different ways at different moments of his life. >> now, they -- the ladies actually a appoint a new york city wonl named sarah tracy. and up ten 10 herbert. the pairing of a southerner and a northern, again, we're supposed to put thought idea that this is balanced. through nose reason for either side to bring the war to our doorstep. so the history of how americans remember george washington, tells us how you deliver significant figures in our national history. by cons tanly -- constantly
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helping americans, they con pyred to use his wisdom for political purposes. and the contentious competing efforts of these groups illuminate washington's importance and how we do fine whoer as americans. studies mem rim emphasize how social groups remember the past. be an integral part of this process is how groups are determineed what is remember and what is forgotten. the memory of the republican washington served its purpose during the republic. but as the country demock tiesed americans reimaged the simmable to recognize the. he came from humble origins. he lacked. nd received personal, and this
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appealed to 19th century measures. they're obstacles in their sewn minds. with so much in common where you can't take much for americans to convincing and supported the uncertainty. >> this evolutionnd in memory continues today. as americans sight, the riders want to chust fight or to crit side's words. washington then in grows the national debt. foreign policy decisions and background checks for fire arms. they protect protection of the religion fee dom and the legalization of marijuana. they're filled with errors and inconsistency. and sometimes down right historical. >> the measure of washington.
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and it brings gravitas to the issue at hand. the battle endures. they chose to remember washington that confronts their anxieties, atirms their beliefs and adheres to their world view. thank you. [applause] >> well, i'm going to pose just a few questions and hopefully you have a few of what i would like to talk as well. you did mention the property of the nation. and clearly it's title of the book. did that phrase have an origin elsewhere? and what is the meaning behind that? >> so this was afraid that kept coming up in my research. i believe it originated with a man named alexander conte
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hanson. he was a federalist senator. and but ran it. and right around the world of 18123 when they're talking about the white house. if distribution of the capitol city. and this idea of moving washington to richmond, there's the first instance where i saw of his newspaper talking about well, washington shouldn't belong to any one state. he belongs to if nation. he is the property of if nation. i see that phrase pop up. again and again and again. >> one of the things that i argued was that this was a part of wider a widerer those that americans also felt that they had some rightful claim to washington. that's where the property of the nation, that idea it picks up steam then moving into the 1930's and 1840. . a few days later, his burrell. but what was the funeral process
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between in those few days. how was he griefed by his familiar lefments >> how did the people come to mount vernon? was there a service at mount vernon. and did fate play any role in that ceremony? >> absolutely. so per washington's instructions he wanted it to be laid out three days to insure that he was three dead. which was common at time. there was a lot of americans have this fear that they will be buried alive. so one of the things they would tell people make sure i've been expired. so washington was laid out in the new room at mount vernon. and he was trapped in great clothes. >> he put out on the porty co overlooking the river. and that's where the funeral would have taken place. >> it was a private funeral. but they also sort of expects that it would by be that fry vat. and you know, citizens from the national government.
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and hett write soon from the accounts that i've seen, we're talk about hundred of people i think washington even said in private, in a private manager, not all of this will are closely adhere to. some of us were free masons but we were directors at some of the local churches. again, we see that connection between free masonry, the difference and washington that washington is it port. private life. and then those will be responsible for leading the funeral procession. there was a there's a volley fired and. we saw pictures. why was it necessary at some point to have a new foul? so the old tomb probably was built by lawrence washington. by the time of washington's devt it was al-qaeda a bit old.
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. so for washington family members that were buried there, space is limb. they will put aside money. he wanted the family to build a new tomb so that him and the remains of his family members could be moved there and then ib else who came after them could they built the new tomb. so i don't know if part of it was just they didn't feel like it was a priority at that time. but that's the reason why there are two teams. you have the. and then the new tomb that was built. >> and the old tomb is sthrill. she can still billion seen as rt of the it's rolled away it's an interesting field. >> some americans certainly when they were visit it early. they talk about edge slrblely. .
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they're in the presence of what seems to be a saint of sorts . . i woulden start my live sfouk in something like this. >> that's a raid raping of merpseppings and combhave people put out there in terms of the prison and there are observations of the two toums -- tombs. how was the two wills result? >> he intructed the leaders to take the two -- and his private secondtory. they brought the wills. and washington kept one. and he burned the other. so what exactly was in that other will? we'll never know. it's sort of one of those great, you know, mysteries in history. but the one that he did keep was very specific about, how different things were going to be divided. including. about 123 people from the mounts
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vernon estates. he couldn't free the place along the estate which is about 150 or so. and they wear another 40. and that time in a neighboring plantation. so -- for washington who i think generally speaking was very conservative. he didn't like the outside the line a whole lot. i think when it came down to making a radical decision. i think that was one that most people overlook. because you know, his pierce, thomas jefferson, madison -- they did not take that course. >> i was interesting about those being enslaved to them. and they game the storytellers cape? at the es were there are biographier.
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the best example in the book is samuel anderson who he popped up in the obituary in the 1840's. at 100 -- he never goes very far because a lot intermarried from the dower estate and the interestates. they have family. one of the side effects of how the will were deviced is that some people were going to be free. and some peernwrn. they either tried to stay as close as they could or they tried to follow along to the cusspid smblings estate. that was going to be their best bet of keep plan thatly together. his body never left the state from the time he died until the
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time before. there were all of these attempts? who prevented that from happening? >> the washington family. they were the ones that really had the authority. and this was -- i only mention bushrod washington. but you know, martha as. she actually agreed it to. but the rotunda wasn't built. t was sost of a. so it was sort of a for gone issue and then when it came up again, then of course, i will things had changed a lot politically. even though they said well, martha approved it. you know, different ritchts have different perspective on how the will should be interpreted. it sort of bioled down to, you know, virginians end to say washington is in a native state. he was a virginian.
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on. was a virge and members of the national government they like to argument well, don't you think delaware has much climb as george washington or individual. >> or new york or pennsylvania. so really this issue is it speaks to some of the decisions that are happening between political parties at different moment in time >> how did word get out? how did the word spread across d country. what was the reaction and how id people morn and grieve him. . it was a story that got picked p pretty quickly in the papers starting alexandria ga set. southward down to georgia. and pretty soon, i mean, would say within a week, americans knew that george washington was gone. and it fell realy to the local communities, the state legislatures to decide what
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types of morning ivet that you're going to do. do there was a mock funeral whether there was an empty coffin that was paraded through sets. even though his physical remains aren't there, we're going to have a state funeral of sorts to honor his memory. -- left h he had let the presidency. >> of our 45 presidents all of them have died. and we even have great mourning of our former presidents and first ladies most recently. before president bush. did this set a precedent for presidential morning? >> absolutely. because, you know, washington is loorked toward far lot of presidential precedents.
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so not only during his time in ffice, but how does a former plome employee. re these supposed to be vocal. he tried to -- he tried his best to stay out of those types of national affairs. but this idea creating a state realy around until william harry henderson. >>, they look at how the president will be wearing it late earth. . they were able to sort of con contact what the new american state funeral would look like. and with harrison really moving forward for sitting presidents. they usually involve the funeral service in the east room. the remain willing be taken to
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the national row opportunitya. and there's a period of mourning but seeks the transportation back to the president's home state. and i think that last part in particular is important because you know, washington wasn't entombed in the capital. buried inw, if he was the capitol? but from washington forward, you know, our leaders retired from politics, they go back to great life. and they're probably interred. discussion p up our by talking about this. washington did not live in the white house. he selected the sight. he selected the young james hoben who built the washington. >> did you every see the white house. did he see it once it was finished. he saw it once on his way back.
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it was after he was leaving. he was heading back to mount vernon to philadelphia. we know he stop and saw it on his way. but he did see it. and that was as close as he would get. but what i tell people today even though washington didn't live in the white house. i mean, he had his hands in just about every facet of bad buildings designed. the planning. the execution. the it was a pretty intense micro managers. so he was very involved. every step of the way. so even though help didn't live there. it's very much to get there. and the home of the american head of state should be. of course, there's the portrait and the east room but other images and references to washington may be in the white house today. >> yeah, and there's a number of
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bus that are in the white house. of course, we have the first -- notice of the ones is that washington always seems have a president in the oval office. usually they do pick sides as you can imagine. republicans like republican presidents. and democratic presidents. but it seems like eugenio is always about the fireplace. in one form another another. and that speaks to the importance of his legacy in terms of presidential leadership. and that it doesn't really matter who is sitting behind the desk in that office. they're still looking um. and she's still on the job so to speak. they can walk out on this true man mall con any. and to me, you have the washington monl youment. from the lincoln memorial who
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has the statue of if physical lynn cofpblet the jefferson memorial. why is there not a great statue of george washington there? >> you know, they had tried to do a washington statue, and it had flopped pretty horrendously. that might have been part of it. he was commissioned by congress to do a massive sculpture of george washington. and the original intend was to put it in the national rotunda, that it would be right at the main level before. it looks like a half naked george washington. he's wearing a toga. he looks more like zeus. and by the time and it goes to be 1841. seasonsbility is about. most americans thought it was very distasteful. it was ugly.
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and they -- they essentially -- it was in the capitol but moved it outside of the capitol. i think so they had tried a washington sta choose. it didn't really work well. so the mon you yet. that started in 1848, finished n 1849, believe. zachary taylor was there for a fourth of july celebration. that's where he got sick. and he ended up expiring, but the idea was that it really supposed to sort of capture anyone faster than his life. there really was just supposed to be obelus are supposed to be essentially giant memorials an people make their own memories of that person. so i think with the monument, the idea behind it is that it's a nice structure. it's imposing.
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it's the center of the national mall. the son city that bears his names. and it's not descriptive. people can take that with what we have. they can see that washington important to all oufs. . not the happenings of the city fwurks physical city itself. >> i would recognize certain parts of it. obviously a lot's changed. certainly he would recognize the president's house in the capital. he might recognize some of the streets because he was part of that surveying mission. when they didn't follow his plan ecause he was that meticulous. but i think from washington's perspective, you know, he had always envisioned this city to be the seat of the capital of an empire, of a great international power. and the united states wasn't really there during washington's presidency or really -- you know, for the first -- i don't know, 10 presidents or so.
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you know, the united states had a lot of other things on its ern e including west expansion. this would be a seat of power. one that would visit foreign dignitaries and heads of state but also educate citizens. you could see those here. >> questions in our audience? i know luke and mitch are out here with microphones. if you just raise your hand, please? anybody? >> i promised you a question. >> right. >> so beginning with f. d.r., i believe at least some presidents were entombed with their libraries. -- which kind of blurs the line between public patrimony, the ownership of a body. though, i believe the toums at least like the museumed aren't part of the national archive
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system. but they're attached to papers. my question is was any effort made after washington's death to link his legacy to his papers that the nation could buy or could own? i know dolly tried to sell his husband's papers. did washington try to sell his papers to the country? >> so there were some instances with washington's papers. so the first one that comes to mind is, john marshall. he essentially volunteers to the family that he's going to write the first major biography about george washington. bushrod washington is willing to hand over the papers. and every time that happens when a new biographer gets involve and the family essentially says, here, have at it. depending on who you're dealing with, some men will just take papers. some of them will cut them up like jared sparks. it's part of the reason why the
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letters. and it's up to 150,000 different bits and pieces of letters. but these letters become scattered. so the family holdening on to the core collection. parcusus confiscates more. they do get some of the items bam. but in terms of where they're buried and how does it relate to sort of the modern -- it's interesting because those properties are essentially -- i mean, they were family properties, right? so franklin roosevelt being buried at hyde park is very similar to george washington to be buried at mount vernon. we have the national archives in the 1930's. and then hinging presidential papers attaching it to a side of
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mourning. every person president has followed suit can the exception of johnson in stone wall. kennedy was buried in arlington cemetery. but i think the rest of them are pretty much all of their presidential libraries. but they're boyhood homes or family homes. there is no cut and dry rule. but it does seem that they see it as this two things go hand in hand. paying respects. ut also -- but also paying rments. but they want to learn more about them. and they want to make their presidency more accessible. the president can study the good and the bad that comes with both. so i think it's pretty interesting that roosevelt does that. but then a lot of presidents follow suit.
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>> anybody >> anybody else, a question? always thought george washington had laid the cornerstone of the white house. is that myth? >> he did not. his name was on the plate but he actually wasn't present at the ceremony. he was there the laying of the cornerstone of the capitol. >> not the white house. >> yes. >> this is gail west on our board of directors but we have the benefit of her serving on the mount vernon ladies association. so she is here with strong representation from both sides melissa mullens from the curator , and other good friends here, office and betty in the back we , former white house curator. we appreciate your friendship and all you do for our organization. >> [inaudible]
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>> you can't miss it. >> it is huge. [laughter] >> any other questions? it hasn't aged well. [laughter] any other questions? , have one we can close with and i know everyone is interested in mingling with you and buying the book. you closed remarks by talking about how his reputation has morphed over the years, how different politicians of all stripes would interpret or reinterpret or misquote him throughout time. he's been the first president and all things to all americans , so to speak. why and how and how can george washington be relevant today? you hard me tell a story at lunch today about someone, a young person who saw the one
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portrait of washington and said, who is that? and the answer is, it's george washington the father of our , country. she said, this is an adult, she said well, i have heard the name but i don't think i have ever seen a picture of him. so the tragedy of historical illiteracy and ignorance in our country that you referenced as well, how can we make him more relevant and powerful today? >> to your point, i think that historical illiteracy is a problem. i know it is one thing we talk about in terms of our organization and education and our role helping to educate the general public about the history of the white house. but this also speaks to educating the public about american history. think the things that i most benefits anybody who wants to learn those things is washington, he is pretty much involved in all of the major
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historical moments for the founding of the country. so if you want to talk in the revolution, articles of confederation, constitution, presidency, washington is the key player for all of these. it's not just that. if you want to learn more about how the country on one hand can talk about life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and freedom and equality but at the same slavery still exist beyond the founding, washington encountered that himself. it was something later in life as a symbol of freedom, it struck him quite often and it was something he never forgot about. i think that is one reason he decided to free his slaves. he was very cognizant of legacy and how important it was that he would be remembered for these types of decisions that he made. because everybody looks at him
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for precedent. i think any time we talk about these types of historical topics, washington is a great lens for understanding, yes, these are different times, but also there are certain values and ideas that still resonate. >> thank you. thank you all for being with us. this is a great book, available outside. you can get all of your christmas shopping done here tonight by buying them all and having him inscribe it for you. thank you for being with us and we invite you to the courier to enjoy the reception with us. thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer: from george washington to george w. bush, every sunday at 8:00 p.m. at eastern, we feature our
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weekly series exploring the presidents, their policies, and legacies. you were watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span three. theuncer: next, from national world war i museum and memorial's annual symposium, historian and author tammy proctor gives an illustrated talk titled "the myth of isolation: american intervention in postwar europe 1919-1924.: " >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the national world war i museum and memorial and our .ymposium we are so pleased you are here and we are pleased to welcome our next speaker. dr. tammy proctor is department head and distinguished professor of history at the utah state


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