tv Larrie Ferreiro Discusses Brother at Arms CSPAN February 13, 2017 1:00am-2:23am EST
can everybody hear me okay? it is my pleasure to welcome you to this evening's program a revolutionary look at american history. first let me take a moment to ask you to silence any electronics you have with you. as you may have noticed we have some bright lights in here this evening because our friends at c-span are filming so when we go to the q&a portion we will make a line that is in the front because of the filming from c-span. >> for those that might be joining for the first time in equally warm welcome and i would encourage you to take out the programming offered by the smithsonian. we are pleased to welcome larry
who received his phd from the history of science and technology from imperial college london who teaches history at george mason university in virginia and the stevens institute of technology in new jersey who served 35 years in the u.s. navy to make u.s. coast guard and the department of defense and was an exchange engineer in the french navy. the author of three books the birth of naval architecture and the scientific revolution. american independence and the man that saved it. i would like to welcome larry took the stage. thank you.
it is in a grav great invitation asking france and spain to fight alongside us. it isn't just the declaration of independence is also the declaration that depend on friends and spain. they wanted a rematch with great britain. it ended in 1763 in france was in canada and spain was in florida. france and spain were already aligned by the military ties that was with the family alliance and both nations wanted revenge against britain.
france wanted to regain its position at the center of the balance of power in europe and spain wanted to drive the british from the gulf of mexico. both predicted it would happen before the americans themselves knew that it would. in 1767, the foreign minister said only the future american revolution can find them in a state of weakness and so they knew that this was the american colonies wa that was certain to happen in the future so they can send spies and observers to see when that would happen but it wouldn't take place for another eight years. when the fighting began in 1775
they were supplied by gun factories that turned out hundreds per year. they could produce one gun per month so we needed them for france and spain. if they had provided the farms, using as a means of conveyance merchants like the franz to disguise and not reveal that they actually came from the french and spanish governments but they were not fooled. in the end over 90% would come from overseas. they were at the time the american envoy in paris to
negotiate a contract even before the news of the declaration of independence has reached france. they carried them beyond the atlantic in 1777 and they arrived just in time to furnish the american troops who were preparing at saratoga and it was the french arms turned to campaign. unless they had been furnished to the americans at the battle and knew what he was talking about it would have been an easy march to albany to this gave the first major victory against the british. >> meanwhile, most of the french
volunteers that came to the united states did so despite their longtime enemies, the british but along the way they also made the american cause their own and came to depend upon the immigrants that got the job done as they put it became the chief engineer and planned and gave needed to strategic advice. this was to create the training plan and regime that would turn the band of militia to the continental army ocontinental ag force to be reckoned with.
eventually he followed him to yorktown. the battle in 1777 was washington's attempt to prevent them from occupying philadelphia and it wa was a trial by fire of the french and european volunteers who'd been so mistrusted you can see so many in the camp is how he regarded them before the battle. but it changed all that. they led a charge. the engineer was commended for the particular bravery and in fact today the army corps of engineers now has courage and boldness. he was wounded in the battle in the infantry charge and washington commanded that the
doctor to treat him as if he were my own son. after that battle, the initial mistrust turned first to acceptance and then reliance. he had called them just a few weeks earlier and came to rely during the southern campaign. i hope all of you are watching that series. the french foreign minister was the most important character in the whole story. he made almost all of the key decisions that concer concern te alliance and the primary goal as i mentioned earlier was to have been sufficiently weakened so that the balance of power was
taken aback in favor. he already decided to align before the battle of saratoga. on the ground that without france they would certainly lose the war into the reunited british empire on the north american continent with threats and the colonies in the caribbean and that was too great a risk to entertain so that is the that he needed to form the alliance with the americans. so the treaty was signed in early 1778 that effectively brought france into the war against britain and the french navy to the american shores that forced them to evacuate and consolidate new york city. now it is time spain was aligned
with france but they couldn't risk going to the war in early 1778 and they still had the fleet at sea carrying 50 billion, the equivalent in peru and until the treasure his home in spain they couldn't risk having it attacked by the british. when the fleet arrived safely in spain in 1778, spain was now free to go to war in britain. >> spanish foreign minister had established the goal of the four. they have driven them from the gulf of mexico. spain offered to mediate after the treat treaty of 1778 and tho offered not to enter if they would hand over that britain
refused. in one of his tirades they called him a pile of rocks but for the british, this was a strategic asset. it's no exaggeration to say that britain sacrificed america for this pile of rocks. now, spain wouldn't actually ally during this war but they did agree to the terms of the peace could only happen with britain's recognition of the sovereign key in the united states. the entry of spain into the war alongside france fundamentally changed the nature of the war from a regional clash in north
america to a global conflict. the british navy and the british army are now spread around the world. in number 124 ships against britain's 9 95 ships and they we overwhelmed since the only attacking the americans in america, britain now have to shield england from the threats and defend against the siege and protect their own colonies. this all happened in 1779 in 1780 and the war was coming to its lowest point. you can see by alexander hamilton's comments came as to
save us and that reflected the fact that they understood now winning the war against britain rested with france and spain. the french and spanish navies formed an immense fleet of 150 ships, 30,000 troops to invade britain. this was larger even than the 15 mediate. could capture portsmouth and it would wreck havoc on the economy and it would potentially bring britain to the peace table. >> but it was sidelined by the massive outbreak that laid low
which the french admiral's son was lost. >> they were unable to carry out this mission and the entire scheme fizzled out. >> they would cruise around the british empire with a small walker led by bishop. no british admiral was foolish enough to chase after john paul jones in his was ignored and played no part in the scheme but his victory made the headlines in the american newspapers as a david versus goliath conflict that stood in for a much larger
war. it was a sorely needed shot in arm. back in new orleans, it was the governor of louisiana that could supply in the american troops in the western theater in mississippi and pittsburgh with arms and munitions but in 1779 he leapt into action with a series of attacks that capture the british posts that mobile and baton rouge. he commanded a french force that captured pensacola. britain was effectively now out of west florida and spain ruling the gulf of mexico and pretend
no longer a threat, the french naval commander who had just arrived on scene asked the spanish nav navy to protect the french colonies while he took his entire fleet of two chesapeake. they learned that they were heading up to chesapeake so they raced up to meet him at yorkto yorktown. he stood at 6-foot four and 6-foot five on the days of battle and yes, since you asked, he was an ancestor of the astrophysicist neil degrasse tyson.
he was shorter by 2 inches and explained [inaudible] [laughter] the fleet was landing troops around yorktown. when the british fleet appeared, he moved from the chesapeake bay and prevented him from resupplying with cornwallis and that sealed the fate of the british yorktown. >> it is very well known they moved on a quick march from yorktown and surrounded cornwallis. the guns blasted away for five days while they advanced. it was the french officers directed the siege and the
placement of the trenches and the gunfire and suffered twice the casualties during the battle. once they had captured the nine and ten, the situation is second in command which was the scene of the painting. they considered the victory to be a french one and offered to surrender. they understood the moment belonged to washington so with that word, he gestured head over to washington and washington intern gestured him to his own
second-in-command benjamin lincoln. after yorktown, there were no more major american battles but that doesn't mean that the battle stopped. between the alliance for other nations in fact by the time that yorktown, britain was fighting separate nationstates and it was simply overwhelmed. for example they absorbed over 60,000 spanish troops but ultimately failed. the fighting was that fierce. fans had allied with the kingdom in india to drive the company
from the continent and in fact the last major battle of the war was equally fierce intent and six months after the peace treaties have been signed. 1783 ended up eight years of war and during that time there were 200,000 french and spanish troops and sailors that fought in the war compared with an estimated 250,000 to 380,000 americans. they would never have fought the war without spain. what i hope all of you take away from this is the following. the united states did not achieve independence by itself.
it was born as the centerpiece of an international coalition which together worked to defeat a common adversary, and it is in fact america's role as a centerpiece of international efforts for common good that continues even today to define the united states is the indispensable nation. [applause] >> as elizabeth said, there is a microphone in the front and i would be very happy to take questions. >> can you say something about the depth they might have gone into and also what they would have incurred to help.
number two, where is russia in all of this? the first question was for the war and the short answer is it was in debt that they had seen that level before and it wasn't crushing in the way that it's sometimes portrayed. they were heavily in debt but in strong financial measures, france was able to repay the debt so they entered the war of independence relatively free of debt accumulated again for the
nations of france had abandoned its strict financial policies and allowed a number of ways of collecting the money back in. they also were not able to get the kind of rate britain was able to get because they had a centralized bank. britain had better terms and they could pay quicker. france could not pay down and they continued on top of that. when it was to a large result a result of the crisis that erupted, yes the american revolution was one cause but it wasn't the catalyst for the primary cause. they had adopted a fiscal policy
so that is the first one. catherine the great was a wonderful hidden player in all of this. the european politics didn't stop while the american war was going on and at the center, juggling european politics with russia because they were threatening france and the ottoman empire and the recently invaded crimea and also there was a partition of poland. they were trying to attract them by offering the. they were concerned about shipping. many were holding france so she
authorized the armed neutrality that was supposed to be a fleet of about a dozen ships that would stop them from attaching neutral ships. so that was the intent. unfortunately, it ended up bringing the republicans to the war because they thought they were going to be protected by russia but they were not. it was quite devastating for them so russia never officially got into the war but they were always behind the scenes and everybody's calculations. does that help? >> if internationalism is central to the birth of the dependence, why is the isolationism and occurring phenomenon?
>> i thought about this question and i have to say it is not for me. since the beginning as i said we have been a nation that has depended on the alliance is an honest immigrants. that's who we are as a nation. the question is hard for the administration is historically have been closing the gates and barring the door we've generally been quite open and that is where we are as a people so the question that you should all be asking is if that is who we are as a nation and as a people, how does the congress and the government live up to that to
the actions over the past 200 years, that is the question that you have to ask more. >> i wish that you could straighten something out for me. twice now i have read they wanted to move the troops down to yorktown. washington wanted the fleet to come up to new york and now i have seen the new books they washington wanted it he was just doing it in secret. whose idea was it saying come on up to yorktown?
>> he made the decision with the full knowledge. washington was a good strategist to reject what he was doing. he was the right hand person. he understood that the logistics that would be required so they needed those. the problem in new york city, it's harder to invest in a tank as it is teaching army but on
the side it's difficult because there is a showing area that is shallow for the vessels to go and which is why all of the british vessels were fairly small and almost they were able to cross by offloading their guns, they couldn't have a naval siege that required more troops than washington or rochambeau have. they understood there was a strategic opportunity that was just afforded to itself and rochambeau road letters that work. fast.
great ships and they said in the letter it's up to you but your best opportunity will be in the chesapeake and by the way they send politics for any part of the call it could have been the chesapeake or the delaware or boston. when the grassy read the letter and thought alongside the army and saw the writings and what he was saying, he said i will come to the chesapeake. it's a so from the chesapeake to new york but that's where you've got to me to be a.
they had to do a quick march away from where they were marching at the same time and that to me and any historian that studies this was the most amazing thing. they managed to draw the fleet in one place with a narrow window they would only be there for a few weeks in the hurricane season. the direct answer to the question is rochambeau did make the decision but kept washington fully informed. they were equal part nurse.
they fully respected each other's opinion and they worked side-by-side which is one reason the book is termed brothers in arms because there is a wonderful letter from washington to rochambeau. there are certain stories or opinions. they were getting out of print and while that piece was being written and america wasn't aware that they had their own agenda. >> as the piece was being negotiated, the minister that i've mentioneimentioned and frad
very well together but it's important to understand franklin understood the role of the ambassador who helped to convey the position but was never one to impose a view on the leader of the sovereign nation. while they were negotiating and understood. it acted on behalf of spain. they were conducting these side-by-side as long as neither side makes a commitment before letting the other one now we are keeping to the terms of the
treaty. he saw the negotiations were going on and threatened to pull out of the negotiations almost snatching defeat but fortunately franklin recovered and the peace process was continued. what actually happened is due to the pressure he had to agree to a settlement prior to france having finalized its own
negotiations in britain and what happened at the result of that by the way is spain effectively they could possibly accept that some of the british negotiators backed out of the deal at the last minute and spain was left with almost nothing until the spanish ambassador stepped in and accepted them as repayment. i just mentioned his tirades as furious but at this point, was smart enough to understand that
this was the best deal that they were going to get and it is where it is being argued because it is still in british hands. the idea that france was dealing they worked very well side-by-side and the correspondence is clear on that. whoever asked the question, i hope that answered it. >> in your introduction, you say thomas jefferson included the phrase that we pledge to each other our lives and fortunes and sacred honor as a plea to
support the revolutionary war. i would take exception to that into thomas jefferson and the other 55 men only wrote the declaration of independence after the american army achieved certain success and you get no evidence whatsoever. that was a direct inclusion by mr. jefferson as a plea for the powers to join the revolution. it was only at the end of the declaration including the passage that they might have
taken particular notice of. the action describes what they would take notice of and not with the intent was. >> in the anticipation, the support is and what motivated it the success had the army not been successful not only would the gathering has been probably delayed but never been written by mr. jefferson. >> please read the book and you will see i lay out very carefully the crowning for independence only happens after the common sense was published in january of 1776.
every discussion that was done before that referred to trying to find a way to come to an accommodation. i'm sure it had been mooted privately but the publications including the declarations for taking up arms were directed to come to an accommodation with prison. thomas paine drew the line that said that ship has left the station, the train disabled. [laughter] it's time to call for independence. once the call was made, the legislative bodies around the states started to send people to philadelphia to call for independence. he says in common sense and the
only thing it's going to achieve is to write a declaration that would be received by the kings and courts of europe that he means france and spain because we need help. america in 1775 and 76 as i explained was incapable of fighting a war with britain. it was like an adolescent running from home without a penny to his name. they had no arms, no gunpowder, no navy, there was no hope for them to win and the only way they could prevail and they knew this was to have france and spain by their side. the letters by the founding fathers are very clear about this. the letters by those that are proposing independence are clear
about this, thomas jefferson and adams were clear about this declaration of independence although it was written by jefferson as a document for the agents, and they make that very clear was specifically addressed to the courts in france and spain. you don't write a good declaration just for the record. the first consider action by the congress after its signature wasn't signed until august that its acceptance first action congress took was to put it on a ship bound for france.
didn't jump into the water until it was safe, understandably but was there a point they had committed to go? >> i already noted he was an effective ambassador and let's be clear about the role of any ambassador it is to represent the position of the country to present facts but not to try to influence the decision of a sovereign nation we would never accept an ambassador coming to the white house saying you must go to war against our enemy with someone else.
they spend a lot of time idling about, but i think franklin understood better than anybody doing nothing wasn't the same thing as not getting something accomplished. he was quite astute even though this was an absolute monarchy. they bore no resemblance to the government and ultimately they did have to gain popular suppo support. but it helped to keep them happy and they were also very good at presenting facts that made america look better than it
actually was. it's before franklin set foot in france and he is a man today for his country. he certainly did that quite effectively. let me be very clear he called the shots every time. there wasn't an action that was taken. it is not uncommon to see the reports. and it looked like cause and effect. after the first encounter when france declared he was back in action, he came back with the news of troops and money and
hamilton gives them credit. it's just not true. keep in mind that lafayette was an effective general let me be very clear that he had already made the decision that we needed to come in to elaborate the reestablished british empire in the north american continent would have been too great a risk for the colonies. this is the most important idea as you are reading the book no nation ever goes to war with
someone else against another nation for altruistic purposes. no nation has ever done it. when we think about america first is because it is in our national interest to have stable partnerships and these ar into l pa of our national interest. so they are intercepted for spain. they never lied but it was in their interests to fight their common enemy so they were doing it for their own purposes and showed in no way undercut the support that they gave us.
but that was a critical point. the second question has to do with when they would make the decision here's our chance put the hat of a. a. >> they've been preparing for some time. they were supplying an him to do with a spanish court was doing so all along they solve this as an opportunity to get the territory they wanted. this was critical for them. remember where the majority came from. then it was through so they didn't want the british there. this was an opportunity that
they had to wait until the right moment specifically until the treasure fleet before they went to war directly. they understood they would come through and i cannot overstress how important the french and spanish alliance were against the british. i could do in a an entire lectun the spot -- >> did not answer the question? >> when the french observer reserves in 1767 that they work
in the revolt and there would be an american revolution, how could he say that and what's the background i think probably very few columnists maybe there were a few intellectuals who saw that coming. and i have another question after. after. >> there were a series of acts. i can see if anybody is interested in the question but if you are if you could please come down. right after, one said they were never more british. but the thing that sparked the curiosity is britain decided it needed to bolster the defenses and start getting them to shoulder the burden and there was a series of attacks is in
terms of direct numbers. but we also lay something to rest. it happens to appear in most history books. at the time they were paying the equivalent today of about $200 per year in taxes and americans were paying one 20th of the so it wasn't the tax burden that was the problem. the americans didn't believe they have the right to tax because only the legislative bodies in the state and the colonies they said had the right so that was the economic disagreement and the one you always have to follow the
british law was prohibiting the import of the american manufacturing goods and when they tried to sell the commodities it and all goods have to flow through th britaino they were losing money constantly. he was very happy to smuggle and they would get upset and revolt and backtrack and i kept going back and forth that way.
they are definitely upset. they saw other reports and thought otherwise and he was more prissy and as it turns out. i think they saw the american revolution is potentially triggering others. >> very much so. they were far more worried than france and by the way it reminds me one of the earlier clusters they never went into the same kind of debt.
they never made quite a large-scale commitment that the french did in terms of supplying the americans. so the aid that i mentioned only about one to $2 billion equivalent came from spain and the rest came from france. they were taken away from mexico to the middle of today's argentina. the colonies never did go all the way. there have been some kind of uprising usually among the indigenous peoples against the spanish taxation which was a
nasty way of imposing on the indigenous peoples and. i didn't want to deter you from reading further but the uprising that was the most notorious was maybe six to ten months and once they were captured, they were sent around the royalty and through that would show what could have been so they were very worried about a similar uprising. you said you had another
question? >> is it true that general washington stopped off on his way to the head of the chesapeake bay and saw them and understood what was going to happen. he was at or near wilmington delaware. he was in chester pennsylvania. i have the account. they wrote the account. if i'm wrong it's in the book someplace footnoted so i wouldn't have to memorize it. he thought washington waving a
handkerchief and here's the interesting thing, he has a letter stating that he had arrived so he knew it was going to happen and he embraced. co. braced rochambeau. there are so many accounts of the man that no officer would dare slap on the back and bracing and french counterparts as i just mentioned he was for some reason more relaxed, less stern and stoic with his french counterparts than with his own troops. i found that so revealing.