Skip to main content

tv   The Presidency Remembering George Washington  CSPAN  December 7, 2019 11:50am-12:56pm EST

11:50 am
costello talked about his new book "the property of the nation: george washington's tomb, mount vernon, and the memory of the first president." hey talks about how this helped historical narrative of the first president. he is a historian at the white house historical association west -- which hosted this event. >> good evening everyone. the house historical association, i would like to welcome our friends joining us by c-span and those who are here with us tonight who are the really smart people in washington, d.c., because you have chosen to be here above the nationals' baseball game and above the televised presidential debate tonight. we think we have got the best thing going here and we are glad you chose to be with
11:51 am
us. i would like to acknowledge some very important people who are with us this evening. matt's parents, tim and debbie costello, and his wife, kristen. and the two most important, his two little wonderful kids, i guess they are at home, sophia and theodore. welcomealso like to some members of the board of directors who are with us tonight. nan stock. [applause] and bob mcgee. [applause] and we have two that are coming, anita mcbride and gail west. both will be with us tonight. steve strong is the national cochair of our white house, national council on white house history. he and his wife andrea are here with us tonight. this
11:52 am
is one of our most important groups here at the white house historical association. their support, their encouragement, their inspiration and their wisdom really puts the wind in the sails of so much of what we do. we are grateful to have you with us here tonight, steve. the program tonight, dr. matt costello, is going to share with us about his brand-new book hot off the presses. this is the first time we are making it available. we are very proud of him as one of the historians here. he has been with us now for three years. he has made quite a mark and makes a contribution to the association. prior to coming here he had contributed to the george washington bibliography project. he was a fellow at mount vernon. he is teaching a course at american university on white house history, the first time
11:53 am
, to has been done anywhere our knowledge. we hope to broaden that beyond american university so classrooms across the country can join virtually and we can expand that impact. it is really a cutting edge, first mover opportunity for us and we are very proud of it. he is working on his next book, which will be published by the white house historical association instead of kansas university press which published this one. we are proud to have the opportunity to publish his next book on the renovation of the white house undertaken by president theodore roosevelt in the early 20th century. following his remarks, this podium will be moved away from the stage so everyone here can have a clear view. and he and i will have a conversation, a few probing questions i have about his book. then we will open the floor to questions and you're all invited to join us in the courtyard for refreshments following. thank you very much for being here. matt, i will turn it over to you.
11:54 am
[applause] matt: good evening. and thank you for that wonderful introduction. it is truly a privilege to be here with you all. one of the most gratifying exercises about finishing the book 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 colleagues here at the association. thank you for your support. your encouragement. we share this accomplishment together. and in the spirit of that, sharing something collectively. -- that is myway,
11:55 am
segue tonight, and 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. this project began as an off-shoot of research that i was doing around actually the washington monument. as i was 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 removing george washington's body from mount vernon and entombing it in the then just below the crypt in the capitol rotunda. intended, iper, pun
11:56 am
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. i found some fascinating stories. it served for all things that were transformed by the advent of political democracy. these experiences illuminate how the democratic impulse present 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, artists and writers and enslaved storytellers re-imagined the collection of george washington, democratizing george washington 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
11:57 am
came down with what appeared to be a winter cold. it accelerated quickly. and studies now believe that he probably suffered from acute epiglottis. whether it was bacterial or viral in nature, we're not really too sure. but essentially, the medical treatment 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 nterred in mount 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 was the apotheosis of washington essentially. there was a mourning period until february 2. and gerald taylor detailed all
11:58 am
the different funeral processions. 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. not all of them were sympathetic, 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 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. they had not been able to find the real thief, and and only the widow of washington could save him from his unfortunate fate. she did not reply.
11:59 am
now, with this resolution to move washington in the future in 1799, this opened up a new question about hero 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 like this mod the lamb, designed by this architect, one who actually designed the cater house. 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 comes to a head these two groups,
12:00 pm
obviously there were comparisons with ancient rome and ancient greek. ultimately this measure is defeated. public opinion turned against this idea of a great mausoleum for washington. they argued it's not what washington would have wanted. of course there was also a funding issue. the government doesn't have money for something like that. really sunkralists their ship when they propose onesthey would be the only designing the mausoleum. in 1816 the new owner of mount vernon, a supreme court justice, he's the nephew of george washington, he's solicited by the virginia general assembly. they propose moving his body to richmond to be placed underneath a monument that hasn't been built yet.
12:01 pm
so again another attempt, but this time by a state government. congress gets wind of it. they actually write to him 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 is another attempt to move him. and then the free masons come along in the 1820's and they propose raising money to essentially build a new tomb in honor of george washington and his masonic accomplishments. they propose putting together money that was raised with the different lodges and even 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-masonic party. more and more americans are becoming suspicious of the free masons.
12:02 pm
the free masons are still visiting his grave. they're attributing his memory to their own brotherhood. they say any criticism against us is criticizing washington himself. so they are a great 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 perceived and how it is marketed and how people profit from it is from this gentleman, john augustin washington iii. he's the last owner of the mount vernon estate. he agrees to a contract in 1858. he vacates the estate in 1860. before that he labors to turn mount vernon into america's first historic tourism destination. now, he invested in several ventures hoping to capitalize on the fascination with his famous
12:03 pm
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 between the city alexandria and mount vernon. he authorizes the wooden plank walkway construction and charged it to the company. you can see that in this photograph. probably one of my funniest things i came across in my research was that this land was so valuable that there was a man named george page who arrived at mount vernon along the shoreline in 1851. 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. -- underwater. so it didn't go well for george page. but it does go to show you and
12:04 pm
george page also worked for the baltimore steam company. there were other agents who wanted that access as well. he took a cut of their ticket sales. you can actually see this advertisement. this 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 the estate more accessible and affordable, essentially. it was inexpensive. they started argue for things like confession nair. 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.
12:05 pm
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 englishman named james crutchette. he is famous for his installation of gas lighting at the capitol, but he had this business on the side where he was making washington trinkets. and like today, any time you get something that's supposed to authentic, you know, you're going to need a 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, attesting to the character of the man in question. and also telling you exactly where the wood came from. now, in the certificate it says
12:06 pm
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 always 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 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.
12:07 pm
john augustin washington, was helping crush it with his business but he was simultaneously selling things at mount 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? even know, john agustin washington was in profiteering his great uncle, it was the enslaved community that worthy -- that were 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.
12:08 pm
some of them use these positions to extract tips from people who may be weren't as knowledgeable about george washington's wife. and others were able to highlight his treatment and his will which is a very interesting conversation that enslaved people were having with his guests. there is one instance where 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 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 strangers and 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
12:09 pm
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. this never really goes away. 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. 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 walking sticks. washington canes were something that tied them to washington. but it was a simple of affluence
12:10 pm
in the night think -- 19th century. 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 eventually 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, whether their role for cutting the wood for the canes 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.
12:11 pm
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 one incidence 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. the african-americans were a vital part of that. now, we also do border on sometimes things that seem a little bit more 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. 1840's.
12:12 pm
by my count 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 onward, 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 who said he was 113 years old. he was actually 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
12:13 pm
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 selling items from the estate. now, at the same time that we have congress and the virginia general assembly arguing and bickering about where washington should be buried we have storytellers delivering the different washington experience. and we also have this group of
12:14 pm
writers and poets and artist who are sharing different bits and lurees of washington 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. adoptedactually his grandson, and he became a publicist. 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 legends. about thisorget
12:15 pm
person, one of the most influential persons in making 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 a 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 is where a lot of his fortune 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 visuals where the new tomb, the old tomb they coincide with the
12:16 pm
rise of what is called 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 always 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. 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 potomac river. and here's another example. again, and the other thing that's coinciding with this is
12:17 pm
that the artists are not formerly trained either. so when we talk about democratizing 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 people 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 visuals along with literal works, poetry made washington's final resting place a part of american popular culture. while these worked well, there 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.
12:18 pm
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 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 leaves off the lemon tree. that was a big one. or there was one great example where 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.
12:19 pm
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 was moved there in 1831. and then put into the marble sarcophagus in 1837. you, these bits and pieces, they're not something that most people would be sure where they came from. most people would toss them, and these are the types of things that these americans would hold onto and they would pass along to their family. this is a close-up shot of the marble sarcophagus. this was done by the masons. toarble mason had offered
12:20 pm
procure and build a sarcophagus for washington's remains. and lawrence lewis took him up on the offer. and it was william strickland's account because william strickland decide -- designed the crest and the eagle motif. he actually gives a very interesting account of them going to mount vernon with the newly finished sarcophagus and finding out that somebody must have mismeasured and they can't get it to the tomb. that's part of the reason why when you go to the mount vernon is they needed an enclosure. they needed to build a space to fit the sarcophagus, george's and then martha's later. but building this new tomb, this insured that they would remain intertwined forever that meant any attempt to possess washington physically would mean purchasing the property.
12:21 pm
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, and economic side and a historical interpretive side. ultimately, what it takes a private 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 anne pamela cunningham. she actually originally puts out a call to southern women to save it. and when that doesn't really get as far, she decides, you know no, there are those women from the north.
12:22 pm
she was right because if you're going to raise money you need a larger infrastructure and you need more people involved. so against actually the advice of the 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 of a national organization. and what they do is they print the record which keeps track of fundraising. a man to goy list around and give speeches about washington and donate his ticket sales. so it's actually a massive fundraising campaign, and they're able to do it in a few years time. it's remarkable. by 1860 the ladies have essentially taken possession of the front. they say that mount vernon now belongs to the nation.
12:23 pm
it is the property of the nation. and really 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 pressing concern for the ladies is what are we going to do if the government seizes mount vernon? what would happen if that union troops push onto the ground? so with they acquire the property? essentially what they did, they adopted guidelines and tried to remain as neutral as possible. 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 home 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 inland of neutrality. and in fact, if you go to mount
12:24 pm
vernon today and you look at the new face of the new tomb, you'll see initials. a lot of them are from union soldiers. they may nots that be able to take washington's body, but some of them probably were making a mark on that tomb for a very deliberate reason, and i think they wanted to claim washington. and they were essentially putting their mark on why they were fighting this war. and part 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. featuredderate seal george washington on horseback. but washington was so malleable, he could be used by southerners or slaveowners or freemasons. he kind of fit many different ways at different moments of his life.
12:25 pm
the ladies actually appoint a new york city woman named sarah tracy. and another man from virginia as superintendent of the property, so the pairing of a southerner and a northerner, this was supposed to put out the idea that this is balanced. there was no reason for either side to bring the war to our doorstep. so the history of how americans remember george washington tells us more about how we have continually struggled to deliver significant figures in our national history. by constantly helping americans, they conspired to use his wisdom for political purposes. and also to promote shared religious beliefs, and the contentious competing efforts of these groups illuminate washington's importance and how we define who we are as americans.
12:26 pm
his memory speaks to the many paradoxes of the american character. the studies emphasize how social groups remember the past. an integral part of this process is how groups are determined what is remember and what is forgotten. the memory of the republican washington served its purpose during the early republic, but as the country democratized americans reimaged the symbol. democratic washington came from humble origins. to achievely labored personal well, and this -- togton appeal to 19th 19th century americans. had so much in common and it did not take much for americans to be convinced that he always supported democracy. while sources remain mostly
12:27 pm
intact, this speaks to the challenges we face at the present. this evolution in memory continues today. cite, thens often words of washington have promote protection of religious freedom and the second amendment and the legalization of marijuana. these attempts are often filled sometimess and ignorance. ringsr, the memory gravitas to the issue at hand. the battle endures. deliberately chose to remember washington, one that comforts their anxieties confirms their beliefs and adheres to their worldviews. thank you.
12:28 pm
[applause] >> well, i'm going to pose just a few questions and hopefully you will have if you would like to ask 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 a phrase that kept coming up in my research. i believe it originated with a man named alexander conte hanson. he was a federalist senator from maryland and ran a newspaper. and right around the world of when they're talking about the white house. if distribution of the capitol city. and this idea of moving
12:29 pm
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 the 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 ethos part of-- , wider thing that 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. death talked about his and a few days later his burial, what was the funeral process between in those few days. how was he grieved by his family? how did the people come to mount vernon? was there a service at mount vernon? and did faith play a 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
12:30 pm
time. there was a lot of americans had this fear that they will be buried alive. so one of the things they would tell people make sure i've been expired for some time. so washington was laid out in the new room at mount vernon. he was dressed in great close, put out on the portico overlooking the river. and that's where the funeral would have taken place. it was a private funeral. but, they also sort of expect that it wouldn't be that private, that citizens would catch wind of it, citizens from the national government, alexandria, and pretty soon, from the accounts that i've seen, we're talk about hundreds of people i think washington even said in private, in a private manner. so, not all of this will are closely adhere to. some of the pallbearers were
12:31 pm
free masons but we were directors at some of the local churches. again, we see that connection between free masonry, the different schools in churches washington supported in his citizen and private life, and in those individuals being responsible for the funeral giving an, down to series of last words, volley fire, and washington is entombed. >> we saw images of the old tomb and the new tomb. why were there two tombs? why was it necessary at some point to have a new tomb? >> so the old tomb probably was built by lawrence washington. by the time of washington's death, it was a bit old. so for washington family members that were buried there, space is limited. money, wanted the family to build a new tomb, so that tim, and the remains of his family members, could be moved there and then anyone else who
12:32 pm
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 tombs. in >> andmb was built 1831. the old tomb is still there. have it be seen, as sort of it's rolled away. it's an interesting field. >> some americans certainly when they are visiting, they talk about they are in the presence of what seems to be a saint of sorts. i wouldn'te say throw my livestock and something like this. there is a wide range of receptions and what people put out there in terms of observations of the two tombs. >> you mentioned the whale. there were a couple of wills,
12:33 pm
weren't they? how is that resolved? >> washington had two wills, and when he realized the end was probably near, he instructed his -- and his private secretary. 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 he freed about 123 people from the mount vernon estates. he free this to -- freed the slaves that he could free in his own right, but he couldn't free the slaves along the estate which was about 150 or so. washington, who i think
12:34 pm
was generally very conservative, he didn't like to color outside of the lines a whole lot when it came to making a radical decision. that was one thing i think most people overlook, because you know, with his peers, thomas jefferson, james madison, they did not take that course. i was interested, in your talk, about those being enslaved to them. and they game the storytellers there at the escape? were there biographers? >> the best example in the book is samuel anderson who he popped up in the obituary in the 1840's. he essentially lives to be about 100 years old and he is in the process of being freed by the terms of the will but he never
12:35 pm
goes very far, because a lot intermarried from the dower estate had families, and one of the side effects of how the will was devised is that some people are going to be free and some weren't. -- one they either tried to stay as close as they could or they tried to follow along to the estate, with their grandchildren. that was going to be their best bet of keeping the plan together. >>'s body never left the estate from the time he died until the time before. there were all these attempts to move him. 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. she technically gave her
12:36 pm
consent. she actually agreed to it. but the rotunda wasn't built. sorts,as a pipe dream of and then the rotunda wouldn't be completed, so it was a foregone 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 people have different perspective on how the will should be interpreted. it sort of boiled down to, you know, virginians tended to say washington is in a native state. he was a virginian. they were putting a stamp on who he was, he was a virginian. and members of the national government, whig representatives, they liked to argument well, don't you think delaware has much climb as -- claim to george washington.
12:37 pm
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 the country that the great george washington had died? what was the reaction and how did people morn and grieve him. -- him? >> it was a story that got picked up pretty quickly in the papers starting with the "alexandria gazette." but working its way northward to massachusetts and southward down to georgia. within a week, americans knew george washington was gone. and it fell really to the local communities, the state legislatures, to decide what types of mourning that you're -- they were going to do. one that sticks out to me was that there was a mock funeral where there was an empty coffin that was paraded through the streets. it was supposed to represent that even though his physical remains aren't to there, we are
12:38 pm
estate funeraln of sorts to honor his memory. even though he had left the presidency. >> of our 45 presidents, eight of them have died in office. 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 looked toward far lot of presidential precedents. so not only during his time in office, but how does a former president interact in our new political culture? what type of role are they supposed to have? are they supposed to be active? vocal? aside from the because i we -- quasiwar he tried
12:39 pm
, his best to stay out of those types of national affairs. but this idea creating a state funeral wasn't really around until william harry henderson. when they were planning his funeral, where did they look? they looked at how the president will be wearing it later. they were able to sort of concoct with the new american state funeral would look like. moving forwardon for sitting president, it usually reserved -- involved a funeral service. the remains would be taken to the national rotunda. 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
12:40 pm
you know, washington wasn't entombed in the capital. so you know, if he was buried in the capitol? but from washington forward, you know, our leaders retired from politics, they go back to private life, and for the most part, they are privately interred. >> let's wrap up our discussion by talking about this. we are the white house historical association after all. washington is only one of the 45 presidents who did not live in the white house but he selected the sites, the young architect, james hoben, who built the white house. did he ever see the white house? did he see it once it was finished? >> he saw it once on his way back, after he was leaving the tosidency, heading back mount vernon from philadelphia. we know he stop and saw it on his way. i don't think he went inside,
12:41 pm
but he did see it. 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 the building's design, the planning, the execution. the selection of the architect, the plan. washington was a pretty intense micromanager. he was very involved every step of the way, so even though he didn't live there, it is a the homeative of what 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 busts that are in the white house. of course, we have the first before notice is that washington always seems have a president in the oval office. usually they do pick sides as
12:42 pm
you can imagine. republicans like republican presidents and democratic -- democrats like democratic presidents. it always seemed like george was at the fireplace in one form or another. and that speaks to the importance of his legacy in terms of presidential leadership. it doesn't really matter who is sitting behind the desk in that office. they're still looking up. and he's still on the job so to speak. >> president and first ladies can look out on this balcony, look south, and see the washington monument. today, the washington monument is different than the lincoln memorial, that has the statue of lincoln sitting there, the jefferson memorial of jefferson standing there, so 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.
12:43 pm
horatio greeno was commissioned by congress to do a massive sculpture of george washington. and the original intent was to put it in the capitol rotunda, that it would be right at the main level of the floor. what he created, it looked like a half naked george washington. he was wearing a toga. he looked more like zeus. the time it arrived, around 1841, most americans thought it was very distasteful. it was ugly. they essentially put it -- it was in the capital but moved it outside of the capitol. i think it is now in one of the smithsonian museums, so they try to do it washington statue, and it didn't really work well. so the monument was started in
12:44 pm
1848, finished in 1849, i believe. zachary taylor was there for a fourth of july celebration. that's where 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 oblast --ast's -- were just supposed to be essentially giant memorials and 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. it's the center of the national mall. it's not descriptive one way or the other. people can take that with what we have. they can see that washington is important to all of us. >> would he recognize washington day? not the happenings with the
12:45 pm
physical city? >> i think he would recognize parts of it. certainly he would recognize the presidents house in the capital. he might recognize some of the streets because he was part of that surveying mission. 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. you know, the united states had a lot of other things on its plates, including western expansion. but, i think his vision of this seat would be one of power, one that would impress visiting foreign dignitaries and heads of state, but also be a place to
12:46 pm
educate citizens. i think 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. >> great. >> 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 tombs at least, like the museums, aren't part of the national archive 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 that the nation could own? i know dolly tried to sell his
12:47 pm
-- her 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. they are willing -- 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 of them will just take papers. some of them will cut them up, like jared sparks. it's part of the reason why the letters, the papers product is up to about 150,000 different bits and pieces of letters. but these letters become scattered. so the family hold onto the core george farkast
12:48 pm
us gets some of those, and some are confiscated. they do get some of the items band. 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 new addition, the creation of the national archives in the 1930's and then hinging presidential papers attaching it to a side of -- site of mourning. every person president has at thed suit, exception of johnson at stonewall, kennedy at arlington cemetery, but i think the rest of them are pretty much all of
12:49 pm
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 these two things go hand in hand. whether it is paying respects -- but i think it is telling that our leaders want to be buried in the place where people are going to learn more about them, and they want to make their presidency more accessible, so people 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. >> anybody else? question? >> i 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.
12:50 pm
he was there for the laying of the cornerstone of the capitol. >> of the capital, but not of 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, and other good friends here, melissa mullens from the curator office, and other great friends of ours office and betty in the , back, former white house curator. we appreciate your friendship and all you do for our organization into night. >> [inaudible] and you can't miss it. it's massive. [inaudible] [laughter] >> any other questions? >> it hasn't aged well. [laughter] >> any other questions? i have one we can close with,
12:51 pm
and i know everyone is interested in mingling with you at the reception and buying a book and getting you to sign it, but 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 quote 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 heard me tell a story at lunch today about someone, a young person who saw the one 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
12:52 pm
well, how can we make george washington more relevant and powerful today? >> to your point, i think that historical illiteracy is a big problem. i know this is one of the things we talked 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. one of the things that i think most benefits anybody who wants to learn more about those things is that washington, i mean, he is pretty much involved in all of the major historical moments for the founding of the country. so, if you want to talk in the revolution, the articles of confederation, constitution, the 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,
12:53 pm
can talk about life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and freedom and equality, but at the same time have slavery still exist be the founding. washington encountered that himself. it was something, later in life, being held up as a symbol of freedom, it struck him quite often, and it was something he never forgot about. i think it is one of the reasons 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 looked at him 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. -- resonate today. >> thank you. thank you all for being with us. this is a great book, available
12:54 pm
outside. you can get all of your christmas shopping done here tonight by buying them all and having met inscribe it for you. thank you for being with us and we invite you to the courtyard to enjoy the reception with us. thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer: this is american history tv, on c-span3, where each weekend, we feature 48 hours of graham's asked during our nation's past. -- of hours exploring our nation's past. >> next, from the national world
12:55 pm
war i museum at memorial's annual symposium, historian and author timmy proctor gives an illustrated talk titled the myth of isolation, american intervention in postwar europe, 1919 to 1924. >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the national world war i museum and memorial at our peace,um, paris, 1919, question mark. 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 university, where she teaches modern european and world history. a native of kansas city, missouri, proctor holds degrees in journalism and history from the university of missouri and a phd from rutgers university. her recent pubca


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on