tv QA John Ferling CSPAN August 20, 2018 6:00am-7:01am EDT
your reporting. jack fitzpatrick covering corporations and government issues for bloomberg government at bgov.com thanks for the update. >> c-span, or history unfold daily. in 1979, c-span was created by america's television companies pay today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to by your cable or satellite provider. announcer: this week on q&a, historian john ferling.
he talks about his book, "apostles of revolution: jefferson, paine, monroe, and the struggle against the old order in america and europe." brian: john ferling, your new book, the last line of your book, "jefferson, paine, and monroe might welcome another age of pain. what does that mean? john: john adams referred to this time period from 1776, to the end of the 19th century as the age of pain because it was an age of revolution. what i was suggesting at the conclusion of the book is that i think many of the things that thomas jefferson, thomas paine, and james monroe fought against during their political career had now come about, especially
there are signs of oligarchical control in america. that is what jefferson feared would be the result of alexander hamilton's economic policies. what i was suggesting is that if they could come back and all of of them thought there was an afterlife, so if they could come back, and see america today, and see that the most important play on broadway, now and for the past several years is a play that lionizes alexander hamilton, and vilifies jefferson, and ignores paine, and see the maldistribution of wealth in the united states, and the amount of money that suffuses american politics today, that they would think --
and also, that they would see or fear that many of these things that are going on in the united states today bore an uncanny resemblance to the england that they had revolted against in 1776. that they would think the time had come for change and reform, maybe not a revolution, in the sense of 1776, but a time for great change. brian: have you seen the musical "hamilton"? john: no, but i have read the but i have not had a chance to see the play. brian: the musical and the people around it have been very active in democratic liberal politics raising funds. what is the big impact of that because they basically have made hamilton this large figure? john: again, i have not seen the play. my understanding is that the play was written by an immigrant
and hamilton was an immigrant who did well, made it well. it was a play more about that than about hamilton's politics during the 1790's. he could have chosen thomas payne because thomas payne was an immigrant, too. he came over when he was 37 years old, much older than hamilton was when he immigrated. paine did pretty well, too. brian: will you take us through a man we know little about in the history, at least not many books have been written about him, james monroe? who was he? john: james monroe was from virginia. he went to -- he started at the college of william and mary when he was about 18 years old. and like hamilton, who dropped out of college to go into the army in 1776, monroe dropped out of college and joined the third virginia regiment and soldiered
during the american revolution. the third virginia regiment was training right outside of the room he was living in at the college of william and mary. williamsburg was aflame with revolutionary sentiment at that point. monroe got caught up in that. he soldiered through the revolution. then he met jefferson, and jefferson became his mentor and his law teacher. monroe remained a satellite of jefferson through the rest of his career. in fact, his career bore an uncanny resemblance to jefferson's, in the sense that each served in the virginia legislature, then each was a governor of virginia, each served in congress, each was a
diplomat, including secretary of state for both of them, and each wound up as president of the united states. brian: what was he like? john: of the three people that i dealt with, he is the most difficult to get a handle on. he says very little about himself. he wrote memoirs and it must be the worst set of memoirs i think that anyone has ever written. because he says what happened, but does not expand on it. for example, he said i had dinner with napoleon, end of story. it would have been nice if he had told us something about what napoleon said, what napoleon
what napoleon was like. what does come out is that he was a terribly ambitious person. he was rather insecure, i think. he misinterpreted many things that happened. he once negotiated a treaty with england and when jefferson refused to back the treaty, he was convinced that jefferson was stabbing him in the back so that he would not get the credit for the treaty, and that it would not interfere with madison's election in 1808. i don't think that was the case at all. that was through the insecurity that characterized monroe. he was a very brave individual. he fought in a number of important battles. trenton, brandywine, monmouth during the revolutionary war, he was severely wounded. he took a ball in the shoulder and it severed an artery.
fortunately, a doctor was there to patch him up. it was just one of those fortunate incidents that occurred, because monroe had been posted on a road leading out of trenton to keep anyone from going in or coming out before the attack was made. the soldiers made enough noise that dogs started barking. the person that owned the dogs was irate. he was awakened at 2:00 in the morning, he was cursing the soldiers, and then when he discovered what was going on, he said, i am a physician. dr. john riker was his name. he said, i will go with you. he was at monroe's side when he was wounded. he was able to patch them up and -- him up and save his life. he was a very brave man during the war.
at one point later on in the 1790's, alexander hamilton, in essence, challenged him to a duel. hamilton, i think, had a proclivity for doing that, and the duals never took place. but when he challenged monroe, -- monroe's response was, go get your guns. he did not back down. brian: what was the dual about? john: some letters had been released, hamilton had been accused by two individuals of stealing money from the treasury and investing that money privately and whatever. when the news -- when word of that was transmitted to the speaker of the house, he got two congressman, this was back in the early 1790's, two congressman, one of whom was
monroe to go with him to interview hamilton. they were satisfied that hamilton was telling them the truth. but he not only had not stolen anything, but that he was being blackmailed because of an extramarital affair he was having with a woman. -- woman named maria reynolds. they promised hamilton that nothing would come out. the notes they were taking -- that they had taken on hamilton's letters, that he provided to them would never see the light of day. but four or five years later, somebody leaked those letters, as oftentimes happens. hamilton was convinced that monroe may have been the culprit. no one knows. i don't think monroe was. he was in france at the time. he had been recalled by washington as the minister to france.
he was bitter toward washington as a result of that. he also felt that hamilton was probably the one whispering in washington's ear to recall him. he certainly had an ax to grind. he may have surreptitiously contacted the person in virginia who possessed the incriminating information. hamilton certainly thought that was the case. monroe retained ehrenberg as his -- aaron burr as his second. burr, in essence said don't worry about it, hamilton is always challenging people to duals and they are never carried out. this will never come about either. and it didn't. there was a lot of correspondence between the two and it dragged on for several weeks. they never fought a duel. brian: how old was he when he
began to get serious about politics? john: well, he was probably 24, 25 years old when he linked up with jefferson. i think that monroe hoped, and he certainly was not the only one who harbored these desires, i think hamilton did too, and probably numerous other people, that he might be the george washington of the 19th century. that he was from virginia, washington was from virginia, at an early age washington had gone to war in the french and indian goes to war in an early age in the revolutionary war. monroe goes to stand to inherit money from aof wealthy uncle of his who had no children, a man named joseph jones, a real power in virginia
politics in the colonial period during the revolution. he served in congress for a time. monroe felt that like washington, he might become a wealthy planter and may be military hero, and that he might be the next george washington, so i think when he attaches himself to jefferson, and this is around 1779, he has left of the continental army because he cannot get a field command. which again was very much like hamilton. hamilton left the army too. he had been in aid to camp to washington and had tried and tried and tried to get a field command, and it did not come through. monroe experienced the same thing, so he leaves the army and he becomes a student, a law student under jefferson. and also, jefferson by this time is the governor of virginia, the
is the governor of virginia, the wartime governor in 1779 to 1781. he probably had the toughest governorship during the revolution because the british are raiding virginia. jefferson is chased out of town twice by british armies. they even ride up to monticello and tried to capture jefferson. he narrowly escapes. but because of monroe's military background, monroe is not only studying under jefferson, but also he was carrying out some fairly dangerous military assignments, and important military assignments. there was a war going on down in the carolinas. and, jefferson sends monroe down to north carolina to actually see what kind of information he could gather on the british
troops under lord cornwallis down there. and also establish relay stations to get important information back to jefferson as quickly as possible. it was -- these were fairly risky undertakings. i think when monroe does that, in his mid-20's, he is already thinking about political career. brian: what about his personal life? married, children? and then, you often mention he was in debt. john: right. he marries in his late 20's. he and john adams and jefferson and george washington all waited until they were about 27 or 28 years old to marry. it is in the 1780's that monroe mary's a woman named elizabeth cortright from new york.
her father had been a wealthy merchant, but he had lost most of his money during the war as happened to a great many other merchants at the time. i think he was obviously in love with her. he did not marry her for her money because she was not going to have any to bring to the marriage. they remained married until their deaths. she died about six months before he did. he passed away in the early 1830's when he was 73 years old. he was in debt. in fact, all three of these individuals were deeply in debt. troubled by debt during their final years. paine was troubled by debt throughout his life. that hung around his neck as an albatross. at one point, late in the war, paine wrote to the president of congress, henry lawrence, and he outlines everything that he had
done in support of the revolution. he said, because of everything that i have done to help win this war and carry off the revolution, he said i think i deserve to be able to own a horse. i can't even afford to rent a horse. he asked for money. but congress did not provide any at that point. jefferson, i think, learned when he was a minister to france in the 1780's that he was in debt. i don't think he realized the magnitude of it until he came home. he came back in 1789 to virginia and he thought he could stay here for a few weeks at monticello, get things reorganized, and extricate himself from debt by selling some of his acreage and some of his slaves. but he really cannot even pay any interest on his indebtedness.
monroe was in debt as well too. he was speculating heavily in western lands, much of it out in now what is kentucky. i don't think -- he was a lawyer, and he practiced law to some degree, but i don't think he really enjoyed practicing law. in fact, one of the letters that struck me the most in researching the book was that at pointjefferson one point -- jefferson was in france and monroe was here -- and he says, i really dislike practicing law, i want something else. something else would have been political office. jefferson writes back to him,
and he says, well, practicing law is not that bad although , jefferson did not like practicing law when he had done so in the early 1770's. but he writes back and says, practicing law is not really all that bad, there are plenty of opportunities now in richmond because several leading lawyers have gone like john marshall to serve in the presidential administration. so there is some opportunities there. but then he also said, practicing law helps break the boredom of farming. and jefferson, is of course the great champion of farming. and most of what jefferson wrote, he depicted farming as -- and farmers, as the chosen people, and farming as the best possible kind of life. so i was surprised when i read that comment by jefferson. brian: why hasn't monroe gotten
more publicity? he was a two-term president, fought in the war, secretary of state, secretary of work for a while, both of them at one time congressman, senator, why do you think he has not gotten publicity? john: i don't have an answer to that. his papers are available, there is a new series, new edition of his papers up through six or seven volumes. i used them for the period i worked on and they are up to, not to his presidential years, but up to around 1815, 1816. edited,l series, well modern editorial practices. as i said, he did write memoirs. though they are not very useful. he is a major figure from the --
plays a role in major events from the mid-1770's, all the way down through the 1820's. he is friends with people like jefferson and madison and lafayette -- he is the one that invites lafayette to come back to the united states in the 1820's. lafayette comes to his house and visits monroe. he owed monroe a debt of gratitude because when monroe was the minister to france, he liberated lafayette's wife from prison. she had been a prisoner. her mother was guillotined while both of them were in prison. she fortunately escaped that. wymore has not been done about more has not been
done about him, i am not sure. there is one biography that came out, a major biography that runs 500 or so pages. but it came out almost 50 years ago. brian: what would you say were his biggest accomplishments? john: certainly, he held a number of offices. he did not succeed in everything that he attempted, for example, he goes to france as a minister of france, and has no experience as a diplomat. he blunders in that he is probably too positive toward the french, at least from the standpoint of the washington administration, which was shading more over toward england at that point. monroe, i think, sees himself as a shield protecting the relationship between the united
states and france that had begun with the french alliance back in 1778. he feared that this alliance was going to break down, and it did break down because of the jay treaty which the washington administration accepted. brian: what was the jay treaty? john: the jay treaty was a treaty that attempted to work out a reproach with england, and saw commercial benefits and trade treaty with england. we really did not get very much out of the jay treaty. but it did prevent a war with great britain. in that sense, i think it was significant. a war with britain in the 1790's would have probably been disastrous for the nation. -- and the united states. he was not opposed to a treaty
with england, but he was opposed to that treaty because he thought it was a terrible treaty. in the war of 1812, he does serve in madison's administration. and he serves, actually, simultaneously for a few -- for a short period of time as both secretary of war and secretary of defense. and he was active in trying to save the militia soldiers and the other soldiers who were there when the british arrived in washington and burned washington. until he becomes president, you know, i can't point to anything that was an enormous success. when jefferson sent him to england to negotiate a treaty on his own with great britain --
and this is early in the 19th century -- he desperately wanted to come home with a great treaty. i think he saw -- he respected monroe, he knew monroe -- respected thomas paine, he knew paine was a great writer and the most famous writer of the 19th century. he knew jefferson had one great -- won great accolades for the declaration of independence. he was hoping that treaty with england would be his great prize. that would equal what paine and jefferson had achieved. but he sends the treaty back and jefferson rejects the treaty because the british refused to denounce their policy of impressment, of seizing american soldiers -- american sailors and
forcing them into the royal navy. they claimed they were deserters from the royal navy. jefferson rejects that treaty because they refused to renounce their policy of impressment. he came away empty handed in what he hoped would be his greatest success. brian: where are you living now? john: i live out in the western exits of atlanta. i talked most of my career at a college that was initially west georgia college, and today is university of west georgia. my wife, carol, and i have stayed, we have lived there for a number of years, have friends there, so we stayed there following my retirement from teaching back in 2004. brian: what did you teach? john: i taught american history, survey courses. we had a heavy teaching load. we were on the quarter system
and we taught three courses per quarter. the university system of georgia had us teaching each course every day. i taught three courses a day and i did that for about 20 years until we eventually went to a semester system, rather than a quarter system. i taught the survey courses in the american resolution, u.s. social history, and then toward the end of my career, when my department chair who created the course retired, i picked up his course on u.s. military history. and i taught that as well. brian: i counted 13 books before this one, at least listed in this book -- which one of those books was the hardest to write and why? john: i think probably the book
on the revolutionary war. there was so much to learn for me about the revolutionary war. a long war goes on for eight years. the most difficult problem was trying to organize it. i set a goal of no more than 500 pages, whether it is true or not, i was convinced people would not read a book that ran more than 500 pages. obviously, they do in some cases. i wanted to keep it at no more than 500 pages. so it was an eight year long war with some background to the war. and organizing it was difficult. that was when i decided to retire, i was working on the book at the time. i didn't teach in the summer very often. the last thing my mentor told me
in graduate school was if you don't have to do it, don't teach in the summer. use your summers for writing and research. i didn't teach very often, but i had taught for a couple of summers to pad my pension when i did retire. but i did not teach in the summer, i guess it would have been 2003, and i made so much more progress in three months that summer. probably more progress than i had made in the previous 12 months on that book, that at the end of the summer, i till my , this is it, i am going to retire. but i had already signed a contract for the 2003-2004 thousand four year, and i do not want to back out and leave the department on two weeks notice
to find somebody else. school would have probably enjoyed it because they could have hired somebody who was cheaper. at any rate, i made the decision to retire. that to give more time for to find somebody else.writing "" brian: let me read you a sentence from your book. i want you to -- one of the trends of the book is france versus great britain. federalist versus republicans. explain this line. "one can only guess whether jefferson and monroe, who in their day were stalwarts of minimalist government -- i will repeat that, stalwarts of minimalist government, would see things in the same light as paine." what do you mean by that and what is the difference between a jefferson and a monroe, and a washington, and a hamilton. try to delineate that. john: i meant that paine unlike jefferson and monroe, favored a stronger central government. in fact, during -- in the period
right after the revolutionary war, he was retained. intervened -- i'm sorry, it was not after the revolutionary war, it was after the battle of yorktown. in the last couple of years before peace was negotiated and the country was broke, washington got hold of robert morse, the financier of the united states at the time. they agreed to pay paine to write on behalf of a stronger central government. it was not like paine was prostituting himself in doing this. he had actually, in many essays previously, he had advocated a stronger central government.
that was what i meant. he steadfastly through his career was opposed to a states rights idea. he thought it was ridiculous. it was one of the things i think he would have agreed with hamilton on. hamilton at the constitutional convention in essence said if it was up to me, i would get rid of all of the states. paine said some things that were similarly negative about the states. in the french revolution, paine is part of a faction called the girondists. they were by and large decentralists they got in in france. trouble in france because the other side in france eventually
got control and started sending gerondists to the guillotine. paine was probably ticketed for the guillotine himself. they did not agree on decentralization. brian: what was the draw in this country for those who favored great britain and those who favored france? what was the difference? john: i think the people who favored great britain believed the british had the best political and economic system. it was an economic system that had a banking structure. money was always available for expansion. expansion brought more money and led to stability. so the more conservative people in the united states saw britain as their role model.
hamilton says the constitutional convention that the british had the best system and we ought to try to imitate it as much as possible. he obviously realized they were some things like a monarchy that would not fly in the united states at that point. on the other side, i think those who favored the french had two motives. on the one hand, the french had saved the u.s. during the revolutionary war. they provided loans and gifts of money to the united states. they also sent a navy in 1778 and an army in 1780. without that army and navy, the americans never would have triumphed.
so there was a sense of loyalty toward the french. in fact, paine was serving in the french legislature in 1793 when the king, louis the 16th, is tried. paine fought against the king's execution. part of it, and he says this openly in his talks to the national convention, look, he saved the united states. he made it possible for republicanism to survive in the united states and for republicanism to come to france. brian: it is not the republican party of today. john a small r. : the idea of a representative government. that the people would be sovereign, not the king or nobility.
but that the people would be sovereign. so i think many of the people who sympathized with france, like jefferson and monroe and paine believed the american revolution was the start that triggered the french revolution, and they believed at least at the outset that the french revolution was going in the same direction as the american revolution. in fact, almost all americans supported, including george washington, supported the french revolution in its first couple of years. it is only when the french revolution really becomes bloody, starting with the september massacres in 1792 and the reign of terror in 1793 and 1794, that they begin to turn against the french revolution.
jefferson never turned against it. paine and monroe never really turned to against it. brian: thomas jefferson is given credit for the declaration of independence and a lot of interesting language. i want to ask why, and this is another case like monroe, why george mason does not get the credit he deserves for this language? you wrote that mason wrote that all men are born equally free and possess certain inherent natural rights and the government ought to produce the greatest degree of happiness and safety for the people. he was ahead of thomas jefferson. john: he was working on the virginia constitution, which was being drafted down in williamsburg. he had written that and it appeared in a philadelphia newspaper, just as jefferson sat
down to draft the declaration. i do not think there is a question that jefferson used that as a template. mason said life, liberty, and property. jefferson says life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. but they are on the same wavelength. i think those were the ideas that people in the english reform movement had talked about. enlightened thinkers in europe had been talking about those ideas. they were out there. there is no doubt that mason influenced the way that jefferson wrote the declaration, that second paragraph. i think one of the things i find somewhat disturbing is there has been a trend among some historians to dismiss
jefferson's contribution with the declaration of independence and say it was not original and the credit he has been given is overblown. jefferson acknowledged that there was nothing original. it would have been foolish to try to write something that no one had been talking about. he was attempting to summarize what people had been thinking and the evolution of their thinking since the stamp act protest 11 years prior. i think what people missed is that jefferson wrote a document that would not only resonate with that generation, but it would resonate with generations yet to come. it was a mighty accomplishment on jefferson's part. i think if john adams had written the declaration of independence, it would've been written in a more legalistic
fashion. jefferson wrote in a very lyrical, easy to read fashion. in fact, if you think about it, with the exception maybe of constitutional amendments that originated in congress, how many documents produced by congress would be familiar to the american people today? jefferson's declaration of independence was only the latest of all whole series of documents that the continental congress had produced since 1774. nobody remember them in that time period, and that is one of the reasons john adams was not very interested in writing a draft of the declaration of independence.
in fact, jefferson was probably very fortunate to even be on the committee to draft the declaration. what congress intended to do was with every committee, they put some new englanders on the committee, they put some people from the middle colonies on the committee, and some people from the south on the committee. on this many, the name to new englanders, roger sherman from connecticut and john adams from massachusetts. they named a couple people from the middle colonies, benjamin franklin from pennsylvania and robert livingston from new york. they had to name a southerner. the leader of the virginia delegation was richard henry lee. lee had introduced a resolution and congress calling for independence. he was virtually a lock to be put on the committee. but lee wanted to go back to
williamsburg and become involved in writing the constitution of virginia, which jefferson also wanted to do. lee had seniority and went back. they had to name a southerner, and jefferson had a reputation as a great writer. congress had called on him on a number of occasions to draft documents and they called on him again. brian: the three men you focus on, thomas paine, thomas jefferson, james monroe they are , in a room with you. you are trying to have a conversation with them. describe what the three of them would be like. john: jefferson and paine would dominate the conversation. jefferson was described by people as someone who talked a great deal. ly.talked very learned
i do not mean to suggest he did not listen. but he and paine were similar in a sense that they were only interested in meaningful conversations. if they were in a conversation with somebody who talked about the weather, for example they , would have been turned off. brian: what is the difference in the ages of the three men? john paine was six years older : than jefferson. jefferson was 15 years older than monroe. brian: so what would monroe do in that discussion? john: monroe is the one of the three i had the most difficulty figuring out what he was really like. i am not sure even now i really understand what he was like. he obviously was someone because he keeps moving into important positions that people looked
upon as trustworthy individual. somebody who was competent. he certainly seems to have been a compassionate individual. when he liberates paine from the luxembourg prison in 1794 and brings him home to live with him, he lived there for eight months. at one point, james monroe and his wife had not had a chance to do any sightseeing. they had left go on a sightseeing trip throughout france. they had only been gone a couple of days when they learned that they thought that paine was near death. they canceled their vacation i came back and cared for him. so i suspect that james monroe must've been a pretty good conversationalist, but not on the level of jefferson. paine tended to regale people
with his political ideas and also with his recollections of the american revolution. there are some documents left by people in france with whom he , and they said he regaled us for hours with tales of the american revolution. he always intended to write history of the american unfortunately he never did. all of the tales he had went to the grave with him. i would have loved to have known what he could have told us. brian: you paint a picture at the and, jefferson dies. two years later, madison and monroe go to monticello. what was the purpose of that and how close were they at that time? john that was one of the more : touching things i ran into in the course of my research.
monroe and madison are like satellites around jefferson. consciously or unconsciously they are competing with one , another for jefferson's favor. at times, they had a tempestuous relationship, did not speak to another for a time period. but now, jefferson has gone and they are both elderly and they go to monticello. i think they were in charlottesville for something at the university of virginia. brian: monroe lived right there. john: no, he was at oak hill, which is just outside of washington at that point. he had sold what was called highlands and was close enough to want to fellow -- monticello that you could see it off in the
lanter. they go out to monticello and it is already beginning to fall disrepair, the grass is overgrown. they walk around and talk about jefferson and laugh together, telling stories. they are like two old brothers who had been reunited. given the tempestuous relationships they sometimes had, i found it a touching moment. brian: how much longer did both of them live? john: james monroe lived for 45 years forr or five that -- after that. madison lived for a decade or more. brian: what did thomas paine write that you really like, besides "common sense?" same thing with jefferson and
monroe. did he write anything that got your attention? john: not monroe. in fact, there were times when jefferson would turn to madison, many times jefferson would turn to madison and and ask madison to write something. james monroe would jump in and write something. you could almost see jefferson rolling his eyes at the thought that monroe was writing. he was just not very good writer and did not leave behind anything that was particularly noteworthy. brian: did he write the monroe and what was it? john: i am not sure if he was the actual author whether it was written by john quincy adams or someone else. brian: john quincy adams was his secretary of state. john: right. in the case of paine, it is hard to say because i like everything he wrote.
ifo closer to paine then i did to the others because i saw some similarities in his background and my background. he came from a working-class background. my dad was working-class. he was a hard hat. brian: where? john: he worked in texas for a large chemical company. he started in charleston, west virginia. and that is where i was born. he was transferred to texas and that is where i grew up. paine came from a working-class background. his father was a skilled craftsman. paine went to london. when he goes to london, he is there on several occasions as a young man. i think he is at a point where he does not know what he wants to do. he only knows what he does not want to do. he did not want to be a skilled
craftsman, hunched over a workbench for 12 hours a day, six days a week. he did not know what he wanted to do. when he goes to london, he has a transformative experience. he is introduced to the english reform movement and becomes involved and begins his political ideas. my experience was similar in that college was the great transformative experience for me. it just opened doors. brian: where did you go? john: i went to a state college in texas, san houston texas university. brian: where did you get your phd? john: i got my phd from west virginia university. when i was an undergraduate, everybody had to take four required courses in history. two western histories and two
u.s. histories. i absolutely hated the history courses. they work lecture courses, memorize, feed it back on exams. in the last semester that i took a required history course, i thought, this is the last one i am ever going to take. professor was teaching the course fell ill and had to go into the hospital and they ride matte phd named william painter. he said, i do not lecture. he gave us a list of five or six books to read and said we will discuss these books. you'll read 50 or 75 pages before each class and we will discuss it. it turned out to be just a transformative experience for me. at one point during the semester, i decided i wanted to be a writer like some of these people i was reading. the only two books i can remember was a book on george
washington called "man and monument." and he had us read a biography of hitler. history and a study of tierney. i decided i wanted to become a writer. i asked him how to become a writer. he said, teach in college. he explained graduate school. i told that story to my editor and he had me write it in the preface to my book "setting the world ablaze" that came out in 2000. one of dr. painter's other students was teaching. i had no idea who this other person was, but he was teaching a college in north carolina and he read the book. he contacted dr. painter, and dr. painter wrote to me. i had no contact with him, and
then we corresponded until dr. painter's death a few years ago. brian: the three might see modern america as oligarchical. you wrote that. what do you mean by that? if you are in the room with those three men and they see what is going on in the knighted states today, what do think their reaction would be? john: they looked at england as a country in which very few people could vote. paine grew up in a small town 50 miles northwest of london. only 1% of the population could vote in the town. that was very typical in the 18th century in england. brian: you had to own property?
john you had to own property to : vote. the real power was controlled by a title nobility and aristocracy in england. so wealth was power in england. i think what has happened in the united states is we are now more and more is being written on the maldistribution of wealth in the united states that something like 10% of the population controls 90% of the wealth in the united states today. if wealth means power, and if it takes $10 million on average to be elected to the senate and it takes $2 million on average to win a house seat, we're in danger of oligarchical rule in
the united states, just as existed in the 18th century and just as these three resisted in their careers. and thought they had defeated. with jefferson's victory in the election of 1800, jefferson calls his victory " the revolution of 1800 and the revolution."an they thought they had defeated everything that england stood for, at least in the united states. brian: do you feel you know james monroe any better now that you have done all of this research? john: i did not know much about him to start with. i do not recall talking about him much in my classes, other than the monroe doctrine. so i know him a little bit better, but of the three, i know less about him. he is still something of a
mystery to me. brian: what did he do with his slaves, and how many did he have? john: he did not liberate his slaves. it fluctuated over the years, but he owned between 20 and 50 slaves. some he had inherited from joseph jones. brian: after i read your book, you reference the memoir he had written. i got on google books and found it and you can read it. it suggests he is congress and wants money for the house he had when he was in france and the trip he took overseas. he got into all of that detail. why do you think he did that? debt andwas deeply in he was afraid of losing everything he had. twice, congress did come to his
rescue and provided money so he did not have to worry. when lafayette came and visited him in the mid-1820's, lafayette offered him money. he said i will give you the money to get you out of debt. monroe would not take it. but he did ask congress for money, or friends of his went to congress and intervene for him. congress did provide money. brian: which of the three would you want to ask a question of? whichect all three, but one would you put and what would the question be? john i would ask jefferson, why : did you not liberate your slaves? he was anti-slavery as a young man. doesn't really turn against abolitionism until the slave insurrections in 1790.
he should have liberated his slaves, and he didn't. i think i would probably ask him why he didn't. brian: the 14th book of our guest is called "apostles of revolution: jerfferson, paine, monroe, and the struggle against the old order in america and europe." john furling, former professor, history at west georgia university, and is current the living in the atlanta area. thank you for joining us. john: thank you for having me. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] transcripts, or to
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