Skip to main content

tv   The Presidency David Reynolds H.W. Brands on Abraham Lincoln  CSPAN  November 8, 2021 9:31am-10:47am EST

9:31 am
history channel and oxford university press. thanks to everyone who submitted questions today. and finally, a special thanks to our panelists. have a great afternoon. thank you. every saturday "american history tv" documents america's story. on sunday "book tv" brings you the latest in non-fiction books and authors. funding comes from these television companies and more, including sparklight. >> sparklight is working around the clock to keep you connected. we're doing our part so it's a little easier to do yours. >> sparklight along with these television companies support c-span2 as a public service. our weekly series, the
9:32 am
presidency highlights the politics, policies and legacies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. next, historians david reynolds and h.w. brands talk about abraham lincoln as part of a symposium on his life and time. >> our first speaker is david reynolds from the city university of new york. he is the author or editor of 16 books, including his current biography, abe, this book has received numerous accolades including this abraham lincoln book institute award and the lehrman society. also among the "wall street journal's" the ten books of the year. his previous award winning books include walt whitman's america and john brown's abolitionist. professor reynolds is a regular reviewer for the "wall street journal," "the new york times" book review and the new york review of books. speaking today on lincoln and popular culture, we welcome
9:33 am
david reynolds to the program. >> thanks. thank you very much, michelle. it's great to be here at the 2021 ali symposium to speak on lincoln and popular culture. let me thank the institute for recognizing my book "abe" with this year's book award. it means a lot to me to be recognized by this very special group of lincoln aficionados and scholars. my book "abe" tells the story of the crossfertilization between lincoln and his surrounding culture. lincoln was unusually responsive to the spirit of the hour and this responsiveness sponsored his practicality and compassion. my book describes the reform movements, the poems, the music, the plays, the popular humor and
9:34 am
so forth that he borrowed from in his historic effort to point the newsmakers towards civil rights. today i'm going to talk, a little snippet from the book, about two figures of popular culture that are significant for understanding lincoln. his favorite humor rift, petroleum nasby and an actor he admired, though the feeling was hardly mutual, john wilks book booth. there are surprising links between nasby and booth that illuminate lincoln's racial attitudes and help explain the circumstances of the assassination at ford's theater. of all the popular humor rifts lincoln loved to read, probably the most important to him was petroleum nasby, the ohio author
9:35 am
david ross lock. during the civil war ross wrote many humor pieces in letters and papers that were widely printed in newspapers and collected in books and pamphlets. in these sketches lock used the speaker, the persona of petroleum nasby an ill-spoken drunken loud who impersonated the views of so-called copperheads or northern democrats who were calling for peaceful compromise with the south regardless of what happened to slavery. of course, lincoln was very much opposed to these copperheads. loch's satirical sketches of copperheads were so budding and so popular that commentators credited locke with contributing to the fall of slavery. the massachusetts politician declared that, quote, the crushing of the rebellion could
9:36 am
be credited to three forces, the army, the navy and the nasby letters. senator charles sumner remarked unquestionably the nasby papers were among the influences and agencies by which disloyalty in all its form was exposed and public opinion was assured upon the right side. he went on, it's impossible to measure their value against the devices of slavery and its supporters. each letter was like a speech or one of those songs to stir the people. that was summer. and the new york herald said of nasby he was the most quoted man of letters in the country and his oddities were repeated by statesmen, soldiers, the clergy, everybody. and among those who repeated them was abraham lincoln who read the nasby letters as they
9:37 am
appeared in periodicals and books from 1861 onward. president lincoln enjoyed locke's writing so much, he often shared them with others. he committed to memory several of the nasby sketches which he recited spontaneously at key moments when he didn't have one stored in his brain, he pulled out a nasby book from either his pocket or his drawer and read from it. one evening, on a typical evening, a group of politicians appeared in the president's office with a pile of official papers for him to consider. he looked at the documents we'rely and pushed them aside. he pulled down from his drawer a nasby pamphlet and read one of the sketches aloud. he periodically broke out into an explosive laugh which a witness compared to the nay of a wild horse on his native
9:38 am
prairie. lincoln enjoyed reading the pamphlet so much that he joked at the end of the reading, i'm going to write to petroleum nasby to come down here, and i intend to tell him, if he will communicate his talent to me, i will swap places with him. so he really had an admiration for nasby. what was it about david ross locke that made him unique in lincoln's eyes? in a word, locke performed crucial cultural work for lincoln and the republican party. he fought political battles with intensity and viciousness that lincoln as a unifying president avoided. locke's mission was to expose the racism and the fundamental amorality of the copperheads. he caricatured democratic attitudes with such satirical force that he served as a one-person battering ram against
9:39 am
racial prejudice in that era. by grossly exaggerating copperhead views, locke made them absurdly monstrous. lincoln said american humor was characterized by grotesqueness, his word, and locke gave that in spades along with a sharp political message that sliced through democrats. the democrats were the kfs back then. the republicans were the liberals on slavery, particularly the copperhead democrats. as the detroit tribune remarked, during the war nasby's pen was mightier than the sword. to the enemy he was a rapier, king and dreaded. petroleum nasby was as inflamable as his first name, explosive as his middle name and as nasty as his sur name sounds.
9:40 am
coming from petroleum nasby, that word was scathingly ironic, an ugly reflection of the racism locke saw among kfs of the day. the nasby character exposed the stupidity of lincoln's pro slavery enemies. in ridiculously inept pros full of misspellings and non-sec turs, nasby, the kwent is senl copperhead calls for permanent white rule. his motto is amerikee for white men, the increasing number of free blacks in new york, nasby -- he announces when black people -- he uses a different
9:41 am
word -- ruled and control society, then you will remember this warning, predicting a government controlled by anti-slavery republicans will give rise to interracial marriage, nasby, this alarming amalgamation of the races must be prohibited. he was way beyond the proud boys i'm afraid, this nasby character. of course locke was totally the opposite. he would caricature these people. nasby's worst fear is the lincoln administration will lead inevitably to black citizenship. nasby commands, do you want black people to march up to the polls with you to vote? do you want your children mixed with yours in schools? do you want them on juries and holding office in your township? my god, think of it. nasby calls for the revoking of the emancipation proclamation
9:42 am
and the reinstatement of slavery. lock efrmts castigates famous copperheads by making them nasby's heroes. nasby sings praise to copperheads like fernando wood, samuel cox and franklin pierce. at one point nasby has a dream of his idea of a future utopia in which black people have been exterminated, jefferson davis is the emperor and copperheads are royalty. nasby is excited to find himself in this dream the duke of nasby. other than opposed to the civil war, nasby introduces himself to lincoln as a free-born democrat and tells lincoln, you are a gorilla, a findish ape, a thirster after blood.
9:43 am
he tells lincoln he will back the war only if the president follows his command to revoke the emancipation proclamation and send blacks back to the southern en slefers. incensed by lincoln's unresponsiveness to this request, nasby leaves in a huff saying lincoln, gorilla, ape, i am done with you. petroleum nasby announces his misery when lincoln wins the 1864 election and becomes apoplectic. in reporting lincoln's assassination locke asks nasby for his regret that the president and his cabinet had not been killed in 1862 before the damage to southern slavery had been done. now, everything of course that came out of nasby's mouth was exactly the opposite of what
9:44 am
david ross locke actually felt. locke and lincoln admired each other immensely. they met a couple times in the 1850s when locke was in illinois reporting the lincoln/douglas debates. they had a friendly meeting in quincy, illinois in 1858. the two joked and talked politics. later locke voices that the president who had written him from the white house, why don't you come to washington and see me? is there no place you want? come on and i'll give you any place that you ask for that you're capable of fitting and fit to fill. although government employment did not work out, locke called his meeting with lincoln delightful. all told, lincoln said he was, quote, the greatest man in some respects whoever lived and in all respects the most loveable, a man whose great work gave him
9:45 am
the heart of every human being throughout his civilized world. lincoln's appreciation of locke's caustic biting humor reveals below his veil of moderation and caution lay a radically progressive self within lincoln's political centrist on his tightrope lurked a leftist abolitionist who loathed racism and who wanted dramatic social change on behalf of black people. because locke and nasby were in exact reverse, we see the future america that locke, and by association lincoln, envisions, an integrated nation in which people of color were citizens and voters and interracial marriage was permitted. if we flash forward top the last day of abe lincoln's life, april 14, 1865, we find that petroleum
9:46 am
nasby played a major role. it was five days after appomattox and washington was bursting with celebration. lincoln relaxed in the afternoon by taking a carriage ride with mary, his wife. neither of them especially wanted to go to the theater that evening, and lincoln had been warned against it by several who were worried about the potential danger. lincoln was always close to the public. he felt obliged to go because the newspapers announced he would attend "our american cousins" that evening at ford's theater. did lincoln lose his life because of petroleum nasby? in some sense, yes. first of all, he was delayed in leaving for the theater for almost an hour in part because of nasby. in the late afternoon after returning to the white house from his carriage ride, he read aloud several chapters of locke's "the nasby papers" to two friends, governor richard
9:47 am
oglesby and general haney who had come for a visit. the group laughed often as the president read aloud the words of the whiskey-swigging, racist petroleum nasby. for the moment lincoln was too entertained by nasby to think of anything else. oglesby recalled, they kept sending for him to come to dinner. he promised each time to go, but would continue reading the book. finally a peremptory order to come at once drew lincoln away. he was kind of delayed for quite a long time before going to dinner. had the timing been different, would booth not have been able to shoot lincoln at 10:15 that evening, we cannot know. we can say it was tragically ironic that lincoln was reading petroleum nasby only hours before he was shot by a real life petroleum nasby, a
9:48 am
pro-southern lincoln hater who had a low opinion of black people and a pension for strong liquor. john wilkes booth spent most of his time during the war in the north where most of the acting opportunities were. so the north made booth a stage star, he was wretched there because of the anti-slavery environment. he called slavery one of the greatest blessings that god ever bestowed on a favored nation. slavery was just marvelous. booth regarded lincoln with sneering condescension. this man's appears, his pedigree, his low course jokes and anecdotes, frivolity are a disgrace. like nasby saying you gorilla, you ape. at a social gathering booth performed a copperhead song.
9:49 am
one of the songs' verses went, but there's an end -- i don't like to use the "n" word in public. there's an end coming and the king is abraham. it sounded exactly like petroleum nasby. these lines which sounded like nasby reflected the typical copperhead charge that lincoln was a horrid, so-called negro-loving des spot. lincoln won re-election in 1864 because there were no presidential term limits at the time -- they came in 1947 -- it seemed possible that lincoln's presidency would continue indefinitely. a nightmare for john wilkes booth who planned the deaths of lincoln and others around him. nasby envisioned killing lincoln
9:50 am
cabinet members. booth targeted not just lincoln but other leaders as well. the plan was finalized on april 14th was that he would go lincoln, general grant at ford's theater the secretary welcome steward and those elsewhere in the city. and it is about booth that drove him to commit the act that others only contemplated? after all, assassinations were common, so there was plenty of people around that wanted to kill lincoln. they had long been immersed in an identifiably american style of intense acting. today what might be called exaggerated method acting.
9:51 am
they are on the right there. and he nearly there was a sword fight on the street. the americans, they became prominent actors. evelyn who is in the middle here, john wilkes who is on the left. only john adopted their father's american style of acting. a boston reviewer said there was a native fire and furry p
9:52 am
opinion and wield ed his sword so vigorously that once his foe fell off of the stage and into the orchestra a month before he assassinated him, he tortured a woman on the wheel so much and a viewer was terrified by his melevolance. for john wilkes booth, he
9:53 am
identified with these people in real life. in his mind, he was really one of them. america itself was now the stage, lincoln was his target, assassinating lincoln in a theater would be booth's ultimate sensational role. a couple hours before he shot lincoln, he recommended to a hotel clerk that he should go to the theater that evening because booth said there will be some splendid acting there tonight. he felt like he was part of a play, an american actor to the hilt. booth, himself, david ross's coming to horrible, horrible
9:54 am
life. thank you. >> our second distinguished speaker today is hy -- h.w. brands. he sold cutlery around the american west before earning degrees and teaching at vanderbilt and texas a&m. . a privileged life, and the first american, the life and times of benjamin franklin, for finalists for the pulitzer prize. and now, john browne and abraham lincoln, we welcome h.w. brands
9:55 am
to the program. >> thank you for having me here. i wanted to get out of question that is one that every citizen in a democracy has to deal with at one time or another. what does a good person do, a good citizen, when his or her country is involved in something they consider to be wrong. what do they do in the face of evil. and i wanted to look at this in the context of slavery. and i wanted to look at it viewed from the perspective of john brown and abraham lincoln. and the crux of the question is what do you do, as they say, in the face of evil? and it presupposes that you
9:56 am
concluded that something is evil. i say this this is a question that occurs to every citizen of a democracy. i would go beyond that and say everybody some time in their lives. what do we do when we see something around us that is wrong. how do we respond? and for name a democracy, we can show up in schools and we can choose someone, given a choice, between continuing something that is wrong and trying to do away with a thing is wrong. and we have seen it in the last year. a lot of people upset with racial attitudes with policing, being taken to the treat. protests, certainly, is an american tradition. it goes back before the american revolution. the big question that they
9:57 am
overcome was slavery. and they came to conclude that slavery was a great evil. so what do you do about it? it's one thing to say that slavery is wrong, but then what do you do about it. i will say also, that because john brown was born in 1800, because they lived to 1859, 1965. they covering a period when attitudes towards slavery changed. and that is part of the story. i try to bring the story through the lives of the individual. but i do look at attitudes towards slavery. and i will say that at the time that john brown was born in
9:58 am
1800, the idea that slavery was wrong, that it was fundamentally evil was by no means a majority in the united states. there were a lot of people who thought that it was wrong, but that it was an over riding long. wrong. that remained a minority viewpoint. there was some quakers who thought this, but in terms of rising to a political question, yes. there was people in, especially in the north, that concluded that it was wrong enough that it needed today be done away with in their own state, but for those states it was a relatively inexpensive decision to make. i should point out to most of the listeners this afternoon will be aware that slai ri was perfectly legal and every state
9:59 am
in the united states in 1776. by 1800 the northern states were well on their way toward eliminating but it wasn't a big deal in most of the northern states. it is worth noting that they were writing an adoption to the prosecution. and in the attitudes there was a believe that slavery was an unnecessary evil. there is 1,000 assertions that slavery was a positive good and it was still a long way in the future. most people, with george
10:00 am
washington. they believed that it was part of life. it was an institution they inherited. they were not crazy about it. and they made it operate the way that the southern economy operates. northerners look to find the necessary evil as well. it was not so necessary, and so it was easier to focus on even. and the focus was that by the time he was born in 1809, slavery has become a southern institution. and it is probably, fen, a remind near northerners would also take a position that made them sound to the south as though they considered
10:01 am
themselves morally superior to southerners. and for obviously reasons that would get pretty annoying to southerners. so get off of your high horse, but it was a position that would be increasingly possible to take the further that the north got from slavery itself. by the time, by 1860, opinions changed a great deal more. by no means, however, was everybody in the north opposed to slavery on moral grounds. a lot of them were opposed to slavery on political grounds. but there is still a range of opinion on how wrong is slavery. so that questions the question what are you going to do about it. john brown grew up in ohio.
10:02 am
his family was opposed to slavery, but he didn't exactly know what to make of it. he recalls that there was a moment where it occurred to him. he was a boy, playing in ohio, and he was in part of ohio where one encountered slaves. and they would come and go with their masters and they were working jobs. so he would see free workers in a field and slave workers in a field, and he didn't think much about the difference. he didn't think about were their lives much different. they were playing, and getting along, and a white man comes up to the black boy and started yelling at the plaque boy and beating the black boy, and he said what is going on here, and
10:03 am
he realizes for the first time that this is the difference between my position and this black kids position. that someone can do this to him and no one can really do this to me. and so john brown started thinking, okay, there is something wrong about slavery. he gravitated to the direction of many people in ohio. not yet an abolitionist exactly. and he is not ready to take up rhetorical arms. and one of the reasons that he wound up as a mill assistant is that he never really caught on doing anything else. that is often the case that people find their calling through the process of
10:04 am
elimination. and it is something that you can consider really important. he had a second, it is in ohio. the abolitionist movement is taking forl, and now the political and cultural, and abolition schism has a real following and john brown is hearing more about this. and this editor has just been murdered in illinois. and john brown concluded as many people were opposed to slavery,
10:05 am
they say wait, this is getting out of hand. this is a man murdered for expressing opinions against slai ri. there was all sorts of charges until then that the slaves power was gaining a strangle hold on american life. when the slave power could reach out and murder somebody on free soil, this seemed to corroborate those charges. and allowed to per sit would snuff out the liberties of everyone, the lives of people so at this point he stands up in his church and before the eyes of god and the congregation, i dedicate the rest of my life to ending slavery.
10:06 am
bha are you going to do about it. and they are living next to the white people, they talk about starting a school for black children to demonstrate the same thing. he is still looking for his way to make a contribution, and then comes the kansas-nebraska act. previously by virtue of the missouri compromise of 1820, tears up that part of it and opens to it to potentially slavery. this really kindled a spark in
10:07 am
john brown. there is a hope among many moderate antisavory folks, and that it would eventually die of it's own weight. but the nebraska act looks like slavery was breaking out. so john brown was and taking up arms in the struggle against slavery. well, kansas was open to a settlement by and eep could bring their property. they bring their horses and their slais. through this formula, they had
10:08 am
enough people to say that the constitution would determine if they're a free state or not. and john brown can confirm it, and when he gets there, he finds this, to put it firmly and it seems to fulfill and they are scratching for awhile. and the military leadership and the para milltear leadership. he has a magnitude, and people will follow him into battle and will follow him to do some of the most heinous things. a free state community of lawrence, in which much of the city was destroyed. john brown decides to send a
10:09 am
message to the pro slavery side and he brings a small band of followers and they descend on the small proslavery hamle terms and conditions -- hamlet. and these days we would call it terrorism. it was it is making an important point. this could happen to you. john brown is wanted for murder, he is wanted by federal authorities throughout the country, but in those days it was very easy to get around. there was not really photography outside of the big city. he didn't city and have his photograph taken. so people looking for him knew
10:10 am
he would change his name under various aliases and he raised money and the fact that what he thought was known they increase his likeability. increase his notoriety, and people want to give money to john brown. he changed his strategy. he is going back, not just to kansas, but he is going to take the battle against slavery to the slave itself. i'm not going to go into detail, but my point is that john brown had a relatively -- half ray through saying slavery is the greatest even facing the united states. and the question is what will you do about it?
10:11 am
he said i'm going to take up arms, i'm going to wage war against savory. this is the required response of it the good man. app ra ham lincoln was born in 1809. he was born in kentucky. and the slave ri was a working class life. expected to make alying by the sweat of their brow, in part because it was harder to make alying -- arriving, he abraham
10:12 am
lincoln himself had inherited, learned, this modern antipathy to slavery. it came on a trip to, let's see, to cargo going down to mississippi to north. again, lincoln was familiar with slaves on the docks, on the fields, and doing the kind of stuff that white workers did, too, and so all right, they don't have many freedoms, but it really came, the evil of slavery yam, for the first time when he understood what the institution of chapel slavery are. people people are like horses,
10:13 am
pigs, cows. they're examined this way, the auctioneer bangs the hammer and there they do. there is oppositions to slavery. it is by his political ambitions, he was less sure of himself religiously, for example, than john brown was. he was convinced that the all mighty was opposed to slavery. and if he was opposed john brown was opposed. he was a lawyer, he was a lawyer in springfield, illinois. he did cases that sometimes involved the ownership of people as slaves. he became a politician.
10:14 am
and in illinois, illinois was a free state, but to be a militant anti-slavery politician would mean that you're not going to get very far when you first start in politics. when he finally comes back in the 1850s, he wants to be a senator from illinois. he wants to be president of the united states. lincoln concluded that although john brown was right about slavery being wrong, his strategy, his way of dealing with the evil of slavery, was could wanter productive. the raid on harper's ferry, when he tried to instagate a war, he concluded this was wrong as a short-term measure and as a long-term measure. it was wrong, counter produck
10:15 am
-- productive, and it tightened the shackles. the slave holders in the south, here is a guy from the north trying to create an uprising, and there is a freedom for the slaves allowed. so life gets more difficult as slave men and women. in the long term lincoln was very frustrated. lincoln, as much as he thought that slavery was wrong, if he had to choose between ending slavery and preserving the constitution, every time he would choose the constitution. lincoln put the constitution above opposition to slavery because lincoln believed it was a guarantor of freedoms for all americans. lose the constitution and the union and no one will be free. lincoln believes with his
10:16 am
political model, his belief that the south, white slave holders in the south, would come to the same conclusion. the slavery no longer suited the south. they would do it state by state. lincoln hoped that this would happen as well. and so anything that caused southerners to go back, they would conclude that that was wrong for them. lincoln knows, if they think that john brown is a republican, they are saying i'm not like him, i'm not an abolition cyst. they can guarantee slavery.
10:17 am
lincoln was elected president of the united states. so sum mar rise, john brown believed that slavery would end as a result of a war that he was going to start at harpers ferry. he tried to bring slaves. abraham lincoln tried to adopt a political movement. he tried to avoid the war and he believed that emancipation would come by constitutional means. he failed to prevent the war, and he was forced to september emancipation as a way of preserving. the irony is that in answer to this question, what do you do about the evil of slavery,
10:18 am
abraham lincoln says they will go the peaceful way, but the end is the result that john brown wanted. and it leaves this discussion in question. >> thank you to you both, so much. those were wonderful talks. we have some questions coming in and i want to remind our viewers at home that you can post questions on facebook, twitter, you tube, and we'll get to read them on the air. i will start, phil, with you. can you talk a little bit, you taurt by -- talk about frederick doug last? >> yeah, it is an author about a
10:19 am
book, and if hi had not existed i would have had to invent him or someone like him. he lived at the same time. and frederick douglas is the unifying character. and he much admired john brown. they have the evil of frederick douglas. and the emphasis that he placed on ending slai ri almost by any means. because john brown invited him to take part in the raid on harpers ferrie.
10:20 am
this will add credibility. and especially someone who has been a slai. and douglas says no. and part of the reason is that he recognizes that this is probably a suicide mission. recognized that they enslaied folks, and they're not jus going to follow anybody that seems to have a crack pot need to start a war. they are going to waive their chances at starting this war and they're going to say it doesn't work. and this is what happened. so the response was that i'm a writer, not a fighter, but he knew this wasn't going to work. none the less like every other abolition cyst, he admired him
10:21 am
for having the courage to have his con fictions and giving his life for the cause. well abraham seemed too slow. douglas was willing to grant lik con somely way. -- leeway. douglas said that lincoln was misunderstanding what this war was about and he really challenged his own newspaper. he was prioritizing things. he made very clear that saving the union came first, in his famous letter, i will save the letter by freeing the slais, and he doesn't try to make the point, the only way to say the union, mr. lincoln, is to come around to that point of view. that was the only point where he is the emancipation
10:22 am
proclamation. and then they became a member of the sort of loose outer circle. he would consult with him. someone that he would try to send messages to, and someone that he finally concluded that lincoln did for more the person people. >> you written about john brown. in your book, you write about the meeting. they thought about using john brown as a model for the slaves to be mentioned.
10:23 am
>> it was mentioned that it is slai ri, but when he met link kahn in august of 1864 he found that link kop, on a very personal level, had a complete lack of prejudice against the african-americans. and there is a statement, he has less prejudice than any white man that i haveer met. as much as he admired john brown. at that time link kop started playing, the incursion to the south, and frederick doug laws would lead them to the south.
10:24 am
and what was happening is that sherman and grant were winning the war, anyway, and the john brown and the abraham lincoln news coming together towards the end of the war certainly did, partly through president douglas. >> yeah, i love that meeting where he comes to meet with lincoln in february of '65 and says we need a black army to go into the south, and according to what he says, he says this is the eyed that i have been waiting for someone to bring to me. and they get permission a few weeks later. let me ask you about lincoln's love of literature and humor. can you talk about his love of those things as a young man and
10:25 am
how they developed? and more of it's impact on it's later life. >> his example of somebody, and i think it still applies today, but he had less than 1 year of school there. but he was inif i nately curious. he didn't have that many books on the problem tier, but he grew up reading as much as he could. and he had such a steel trap memory, he could read a poem a couple times and it would just be in his mind. poetry for him channelled feeling and emotion, and every once in awhile in his presidency there would be a poem. at the same time he loved more. he ranged the entire breadth of
10:26 am
experience. he loved sent mental songs. so there is really a vision and it is truly that that fed into his passion. >> bill, what about john brown's session. can you tell us about any formal education that he had and how that background might have put him to are where he went? i don't recall? >> his formal education was quite limited. perhaps not as limited at abraham lincoln. he was a self educated person. on the subject of education, one thing that i'm interested in is how did he come up with the ideas for engaging in military
10:27 am
operations. when he lead this small army in kansas, he engaged in military tactics, he plotted and he was thinking in terms of what we need to do. so he read various books on the military. he didn't have the practical experience that was necessary to make these things work when confronted with folks that actually knew what they were doing. and one of the reasons that it proved to be such a fiasco is that he figured out how to get into harper's ferry, but once the towns people have come up against you, it is nearly impossible. and anyone with any formal military education, what they would realize it is not the place to start a war against
10:28 am
slavery. so what exactly did he think was going to happen as a result of this? and it is clear that by the time he is executed, he has concluded that he is worst more dead than alive. and you can almost see that revelation dawning on him in his day in jail and before the courts and all of this. i think farce i can tell when he went into harper's ferry, that is where being self ought can have his downfall. >> i think about lincoln's military strategy, the same kind of thing. can either of you speak to this. at what point did john brown
10:29 am
decide to stay in the engine house and to not go out as planned. and what caused him to make that decision? >> is that a loaded question? i don't know if it is or not. >> no, i think that he was expecting a little more of an explosion among the enslaied people. someone did join him to be sure. others in a way, these white people coming, the priestly enslaved people, and the ones that didn't know about the raids and so foft, it was like the men from mars coming. what are you doing here at midnight? some were befuddled, and i think he kept waiting and by the time he waited a local militia had come up and he was really kind
10:30 am
of trapped. he said a train passed by and it spread the word. and it surrounded them. >> brown wasn't quite ruth less enough to do what he was trying to do. so if he had been willing to shoot towns people, he might have been able to find his way out. i think that he might have realized when it became clear that there wasn't an uprising that he expected. he had a weapon for hundreds of or member a thousand people he had specially made, but there was not a blocking to his banner, so he may have said what will i do for my next act? should i get out of here? at some point, i don't know
10:31 am
where it is, when he concluded that okay, i'm not getting out of here he knows he is not getting out of there, and he is going to go down to the end. he would have been killed except for the sword that he was struck with, and he lived, not just to fight again, but to speak again. >> yeah, that's right. we got a question from a viewer and the question is can either speaker comment on what might have been different in the reskrux period if lincoln had not been assassinated? this is tough, but i will say it is counter factual. on the other hand we know that andrew johnson was a racist that
10:32 am
really botched reconstruction. the first reskrux was, you know, sort of a pro african-american. and there was a little elevation of african-americans. there was a resurgence of conservatism and white supremacy in the south. it was a momentary impowerment of african-americans. i'm shroudly certain that lincoln would have been much firmer about rights for previously enslaved people than andrew johnson was. i'm very certain about that. so i, you know, anyway, that is just my point of view. >> so my take on it, is if lincoln has lived, his historical reputation would have
10:33 am
offered because of having to deal with reconstruction. andrew johnson really made things worse. but ulysses grant, and what reconstruction did to his reputation, would have probably happened to lincoln's reputation. grant was pretty much as devoted as lincoln was to the rights, but the problem that both presidents would have encountered. he is intentions were the wrong direction, but the first problem that link kahn would have encountered is that he would not be able to dictate congress the way he did before. and they would not be able to dictate to the south forever.
10:34 am
in the south, you can use the army. and the real question is how long could lik con have, and how long can you keep troops in the south. and another way of putting it is how long will the north continue to insist that the south behave in a way that northerners want the souse to behave, and they're going to say we have other fish to fry. and that ploint come sooner or later. it might have, it certainly would not have been a third term. and that probably would have been grant. in a democracy, people get the
10:35 am
government they deserve. and there was not a mobilized majority of voters in the whole country. for them to say we're going to enforce, require the house to honor the 13th, and 14th, and 15th amendment. and they will willing to let it go. and it would have turned out pretty much the same. the timing might have been a little different. >> but i think you're right about lincoln's legacy being what it is in large measure. because of dieing and being shot on good friday, easter sermons in 1865 are all about lincoln. >> i like his situation being one that historically roosevelt dealt with, and i don't think it is a coincidence. so they deal with these great
10:36 am
crisis. and then they exit the stage before things get really difficult. they would have had to deal with the break down of the grand alliance. and he would have had to deal with the things that make harry truman very unpopular. and dealing with the stuff that made grant unpopular. we got a question for you to talk about the connection between the executions. >> booth was, of course, an actor and he left relationship monday just do go witness the execution of john brown.
10:37 am
and he looked at john brown obviously he detested everything that he stood for. he was a white supremacist, but he was struck by the moxie of john brown on the scaffold. he was the calmest person there. and so eventually he called him the grandest man of the century. it was ironic this a lot of southerners had more positive things to say, they demonized him, but they admired his coolness under pressure. there is something about southern an nor and so forth. . to be the grandest man of the century, but in the right cause. john brown died for the wrong
10:38 am
cause. but he want today be john brown in reverse, in effect. >> it is striking to me in a in some ways, considering what he learned, what he learned from john brown on his way to being executed, if booth is willing to take that final step, he has a stage presence and he really could have put it down. >> yeah, that is a great comparison. can you talk about the role of religious in these two men's lyes and how it brought them to where they ended up? it is a big question, i know. >> i will try a little bit, this is simply my obvious vaegs. ly start with lincoln.
10:39 am
they have the same response. and that is that lincoln seems, to me, to grow more religious the longer the war lasts. and the greater the moral burden of the war. and it is almost as though lincoln says at some level, i cannot bear the moral burden of this war. and i basically have to hand this off to somebody else. so in his first inaugural address, he refers to the better angels of men. and he basically says, he comes really close to says this war is god's will and we need it -- the business about if every drop of blood must repaid by a drop
10:40 am
drawn by the sword, it might be god's will. it is pretty close to saying this is out of my hands, god wiled it this way. this is one of those cases where if lincoln had not made the decision that he made in response to southern succession, it is very rare that a single person can be the hing of faith that way. but if lincoln said okay to the south, i don't like it, you know, but i'm not going to fight it, then there would not have been a civil war, at least not then, and it would have been something else. but lincoln made that decision. he hoped the war would not last as long as he did. he says i made this decision, and all of these people died. and heaven help me with the responsibility for this. >> and david, before -- let me
10:41 am
ask part of your question that i did not say before, they both came from a calvinous position, is that correct? >> yes, john brown really believes that he was predestined to -- appointed to fight against slavery. lincoln came from a baptist tradition here and he never joined a church, but as they were saying, you know, increasingly he becomes religious not orthodox christian or anything like that, he never really joined a church, but his rhetoric is more and more
10:42 am
religion, but it is full of religious references. there is sort of a sense of predestination or something bigger than himself. that is why a few of the reviewers of the inaugural said this was lincoln's "john brown speech." this is a huge feeling of john brown and kind of whatever deterministic religious views that lincoln had towards the end there. >> we had about three or four minutes and i'm going to ask one more big question and hopefully we can fit it in. we often think of length con as a political moderate. but i think you both, in different ways, are challenging that view of lincoln. can you either talk about why it is that we view him as a moderate and maybe why he is not? >> i will start, actually i'm
10:43 am
going to say that i consider him to be a political moderate. i think that lincoln was very attuned to what was politically possible. and at that stage of his political evolution, and the stage of war. so if he followed frederick douglas, saying this is not about slavery, the north would have lost and it would have been a mess. the federal government would have had to evacuate washington dc and it would have been nearly in possible to gain that back. he could not do that. he wanted to, the end game was to save the union and you have to do it in that order. you can't after ft. sumpter when he requests for the volunteers,
10:44 am
he asked them to come defend the union. he thought not have gotten anyone to show up. northerners would defend the union, but he was very careful to understand how it happens. he believed flt beginning that slavery would be ended in the united states only by constitutional mean chst is exactly what happened. it was the 13th amendment that ended slavery. >> in my book i compared him to blondin. he was a tight rope walker that walked across niagara falls forward, backward, and on stilting and all of that. he was a centrist that was
10:45 am
radical underneath. he said if we lose kentucky, we're going to lose everything. so he had to maintain a centrist or a left centrist point of view, for sure. >>. >> that brings us right to the mark where we need to be. i want to thank our speakers and i want to commend their books. i want to thank you both for wonderful talks and for engaging in our audience's questions. i want to thank our staff at fords for making this possible. >> weekends on c-span two. american history documents america's story and on sunday, book tv brings you talks from
10:46 am
authors. including contacts. >> comcast is partnering with 1,000 community centers. so students from low income families can get the tools they need to be ready for anything. >> comcast supports c-span 2 as a public service. washington unfiltered, c-span in your pocket, download c-span now, today. >> our weekly series, the presidency, highlights the politics, policies, and legacies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. coming up next, did president truman set the precedent for a politicized high court? ron james provided his answer in "the trueman


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on