tv Books by David Mc Cullough CSPAN May 26, 2020 11:02am-12:31pm EDT
biographies organized by their ranking by noted historians from best to worst and features no perspectives into the lives of our nation's chief executive that leadership style. visit our website, c-span.org/thepresidents to learn more about each president and historian featured, order your copy today wherever books and e-books are sold. >> now on booktv highlighting programs from our archives with historian david mccullough. over the past 20 years he has appeared on booktv 50 times. all the programs you're about to see can be viewed in their entirety by visiting our website, booktv.org and using the search function at the top of the page. first, in 1992 on c-span's book notes program david mccullough
discussed his biography of president harry truman. the book was awarded the pulitzer prize for biography and was instrumental in changing attitudes about the truman presidency. here is a portion of that interview. >> the assassination and the number of presidents had been assassinated, why wouldn't the government have protections? >> this wasn't done. why wouldn't the government have a pension for everybody but no pension for a president? he had very little money. he had to borrow some money quite secretly which dean patterson cosigned to pay for the move back home. this is not well-known. it doesn't mean he doesn't have money. he did have money but needed cash to cover expenses of moving out of the white house. when he got home, in order to provide himself some income he undertook the writing of his autobiography, his memoirs which no other president had ever done. except herbert hoover but hoover's time in office was
much briefer, truman's presidency covered far more to multiple us history -- tumultuous. it was a major ambitious task and then he built his library. there had been a previous presidential library at hyde park established after roosevelt died in office. truman was the first president to officiate the establishment, and he was beginning something new. one of the things i tried to imply or emphasize in the book is that truman was part of a very creative public figure, his was a creative presidency, he had been a builder all his life, he built courthouses,
when he got to washington he built the famous truman balcony in the back of the white house which there was a great flurry of criticism and he is the one who entirely rebuilt the white house, the white house we have today is the house that harry built except the outer shell which was maintained, the entire interior is reconstruction of the original house. he took part of every detail of that reconstruction. he loved building and creating and in a larger way, his presidency is marked by such creative and innovative acts as the marshall plan and the truman doctrine, nato, so to be a builder in this last chapter of his life appealed to him tremendously. building the library, having
his office at the library, welcoming guests became his life except for travels when he went to europe. c-span: did you ever meet him? >> guest: i saw him once when i was a youngster in new york on my first job. i was starry eyed, i got a job on a new magazine called sports illustrated. i was coming home from work, we lived in brooklyn and came out of the subway and stopped at the sanctuary hotel and the car pulled up, a small crowd waiting, i stood with the crowd and governor harriman stepped out. i had never seen a governor before so i was excited about that. then out stepped president truman, former president truman. i was astonished and i remember thinking he is in color. because we only had black-and-white television. and i think the fact that he had high color, he radiated
good health made him seem just vital but a person. he certainly didn't seem like a little man to me. that moment he was 6 foot 8 but i never spoke to him, never met him. i often thought wouldn't it be interesting to go back in time, to reach out and touch him on the shoulder in 1956 that fall night and say i am going to write your biography someday but -- c-span: knowing what you know about him what would he think of this? >> guest: i am sure there is some of it he wouldn't like because this is after all an honest attempt to see the complete man with his flaws and faults too but i would hope in some he would think i understood him better than other people have.
he was a more complicated, complex, keenly intelligent, thoughtful considerate man in the stereotype harry truman the portrait implies. he is james whitmore, give them hell harry, he isn't just a salty down home missouri will rogers and all the people i have interviewed who knew him and worked with him and in the white house with him all say please understand that this man was much more. >> guest: c-span: how many interviews did you do? >> guest: 126 in that range across a broad spectrum. some people hardly knew him at all but saw him come and go as
neighbors and independents. also some of whom were so important i interviewed many times over during the ten years it took me to write the. c-span: who did you spend the most time with? >> guest: i suppose margaret truman, his daughter, or george elsie, and clark clifford, and some of the secret service people who are invaluable because they were with him all the time and many had never been interviewed before. c-span: are secret service allowed to talk after the fact? >> guest: apparently so. c-span: you had no concern about that. >> guest: now. they are wonderful. going offstage under all conditions and enormous pressure, tension, you mention the attempted assassination, two of the secret service men in washington walked me through
the whole event from inside and outside where it took place, the better part of one saturday doing that. i am sure that has never been done before so my account of that is based on material that can only be had by reaching that time through living people and their devotion to harry truman is a very compelling thing to listen to and is true of all the people that work for him, i did not find a single person who knew him well and worked with him who wanted to tell me what his terrible backstage temper was, or what an ungrateful, difficult boss he was to work with. the closer people were to him, that they were devoted to him, in a way i kept hoping i would find some people who really didn't like him, who had some
skeletons to pull out of the closet but that never happened. c-span: went to the start? >> guest: ten years ago, 1982. the 16 what was the reason? >> guest: i was working on a book about pablo picasso. i had to go around the barn with pablo picasso and wound up with harry truman and i quit that book, stopped because i found i dislike him. he was to me of repellent human being and he didn't really have a story that interested me. he was instantly successful, never really went very far or had any adventures so to speak. he was a tremendously important painter, the krakatoa of modern art. the treatment of his family, attitude toward women, somebody i wanted to spend 5 years with.
and my editor at simon & schuster, i was doing franklin roosevelt, there was not a good biography of franklin roosevelt and just on impulse, in a visceral way i said a 20th-century president, i wouldn't do franklin roosevelt, it would be harry truman. and he said why not harry truman? i looked into it and found there was not a good biography of harry truman, not a complete life and times, the last chapter you are talking about, that part of his life has never been written about before, comprising 20 years of his life, important part of his life. beyond that was this immense collection of letters and diaries. he poured himself out on paper all his life.
he left a written, personal, very revealing record unlike that of any president i know. i'm sure we will never have another president believes anything like that. we don't keep diaries much anymore and he did both his whole life and long before he realized he was going to be a figure in history, in one month in 1947, when he was president and his wife, best, was looking after her mother, harry truman, the president of the united states wrote to her, 37 times. these were not simple how are you and the weather has turned cool, these were real letters. c-span: ever find out how he wrote them? >> guest: they are actual letters. he had wonderful clear straightforward strong handwriting like he was but very legible so that there is
never a problem reading his handwriting as the result of a problem understanding what he was talking about. c-span: at some point in his life he and his wife called their daughter margaret every night in new york. >> guest: yes. they were very very close. the same people with ms secret service agents or as white house staff, domestic staff in the mansion said they were by far the closest they had ever known in the white house. and though they don't want to be quoted by a person they all say truman was their favorite president, the first president ever to walk out to the kitchen, first president in their memory to walk out to the kitchen to thank the chef or the cook or the dinner that night. they remembered calvin coolidge coming out once or twice, that
was to see if anybody was filtering food. truman new everybody by name on staff, knew all about their families. this wasn't a politician's device, it was just the way he was. the whole give them hell harry, harry truman on the job at the office in the white house with his people, the lowest level or highest level never gave anyone hell, never raised his voice. if anything he is remembered for how considerate he was. for small favors and courtesies. >> david mccullough has appeared on c-span more than 75 times including 50 appearances on booktv. of next he discusses his biography of john adams. the 2001 book was the recipient of the pulitzer prize. >> john adams was born in 1735,
he lived until 1836 at the age of 91. he lived longer than any president in our history. he has been commonly thought of as a rich boston blue blood. he was none of those which he wasn't rich, wasn't a bostonian it wasn't a blue blood. he was a farmer's son, who because of a scholarship to harvard discovered books, as he said, read forever. john adams was the most deeply and probably read american of his bookish time and please remember, john adams, the second president of the united states signed legislation that created the library of congress. to be here to talk about john adams, to remember john adams, is altogether particularly appropriate at this occasion. he was a man of genuine
brilliance, and great heart and humor, devoted to his country, truthful, devoted to his wife, to his family, hard-working, god-fearing and altogether one of the bravest patriots in our history. he was abrasive, sometimes temperamental, sometimes tactless, sometimes overly concerned with his own position or place, the estimate of his friends or austerity and was also a man, to his credit, also to his disadvantage, who as he said never considered popularity his mistress. he never courted popularity. he was a man of principle. his courage with the courage of his convictions was one of the most vivid and important examples of his principal behavior and conduct in life,
he is the only founding father who never owned a slave as a matter of principle. now we know it is important to judge those who did own slaves in the context of their time, that is correct and fair and historically a sound thing to do. let's not forget john and abigail adams opposed slavery. more than her husband. at one point, i wonder if all the travails and suffering we go through our god's punishment for the sin of slavery. this san andreas fault, slavery that runs through our country's story begins well before the revolution just as the revolution is so many people
don't understand began well before the declaration of independence. declaration of independence, john dickinson, who opposed the signing of the declaration of independence was in many ways launching into a storm in a skiff made of paper. what made it more than just a piece of paper was the fact that we succeeded in the revolution, in the war. we fought for and succeeded in gaining our independence and john adams would not have said free and independent, he would have said independent and free. you have to have independence, then comes the freedom. new englanders by nature, bicultural tradition, were fiercely independent people. independence was a way of life. so was religion. this is of the utmost importance in understanding that time, that age, that moment in history and those protagonists.
we believe strongly in the separation of church and state, for a large degree they all did too. but the separation of church and state in their time, in their minds did not mean the separation of church and statesman. if we really want to understand that, we have to understand the part they play in their life and outcome of what might happen next they also had long distance communication that took a lot of time in travail and almost beyond our reckoning. to get a letter back and forth between philadelphia and boston or lindsay where the adams lived took at least two weeks. communication across the ocean, abigail and john were separated
cumulatively ten years and that separation was created by the atlantic ocean, communicate across the atlantic ocean took upwards of three to six months and what did that mean? it is very inconvenient. it meant both in personal life and diplomatic or official life that one had to be more responsible than we understand today from one's own decisions. abigail adams at home running the family, running the farm, trying to balance, keep people working with her because that was their only means of subsistence, trying to educate the children, making decisions whether to get smallpox shots for example, had to make those decisions herself. she couldn't ask her husband what should i do? what that was a part of life. the assumption of
responsibility to one's self. when adams was serving in france and the netherlands and england as a diplomat again and again he had to make momentous decisions on his own, decisions that would affect them. the course of you ands at the time, fortunes perhaps in the united states, and his own career. nothing could be communicated any faster than someone being transported. we think of communication and transportation as two things but at that time it was the same thing. someone on a sale border someone on a horse. they were not like we are. because they lived in a different time. a very different time. in a very interesting time. i tried to read not only what they wrote and oh my did they write.
neither john nor abigail adams was capable of writing a double sentence or a short letter. they wrote just between the two of them over 1000 letters to each other that have survived. all in the massachusetts historical society and all on paper. of the consequence those letters, the day they were written, you can hope in your own hand and you are holding that letter about the same distance from your eyes as they did with two hand as they did and something tactile, something very very important happens when you are working with the real thing. it isn't the same as seeing it on microfilm or reproduced in a book. the humanity, the mortality, the vulnerability of those people comes through in the bravery. think of that moment alone in your kitchen at 11:00 at night,
you have been up since 5:00 in the morning doing all she did, writing those letters and inserting into her letter some wonderful quote from one of her favorite poets or from shakespeare, nearly always getting a little bit wrong which shows she didn't look it up. she wasn't taking a book down off the shelf and copping it out saying this will make me look very erudite. the -- he knew it was part of her. but equally important and equally rewarding experience in reading not just what they wrote but what they read and i did a small piece in the washington post this summer about that, going back, reading all those writers, so many were
required to read, samuel johnson, pope, swift, samuel richardson, to be reminded of how terrific they were what wonderful writers, we talk about progress and we live with the benefits of progress, when we go to the dentist. when i think of poor john adams at the end of his life not a tooth in his head, every one of them has been pulled, long before novocain. we have a certain vanity and certain arrogance about progress but when you read what they wrote in the eighteenth century. i don't think anybody does any better today.
and the literacy rate in massachusetts was higher in their time. and what good work, and good work has to be done about that. the books that they read affected their lives as they do our lives and our time. they affected their notion of truth, heroism, right, wrong, how you write a letter. john adams for example advised him, john quincy, don't try to write literature when you write a letter. don't strain for thrills and fancy effect. right the way you talk. it is a letter. remember that. right the way you talk.
when you read his letter sent to a large degree letters of john quincy, you are hearing them talk. one of the things i have done in my books and particularly in this book, one way i approach biography is to let them talk as much as possible. most of life is talk if you think about it and how they talk, the words they use, figures of speech, the expression and cadences, all is a reflection of personality, of style. abigail was influenced by samuel richardson. the most popular novel of the eighteenth century. and she wrote an interesting letter to a niece and you are to write your letters the way they are in that novel, the whole novel as many of you may know is just letters, people writing letters back and forth to each other in their written
to the moment to what is happening right now and that is how abigail letters were written. and they were written in large part because they were separated for so many years, the suffering experienced because of their separation, is to our advantage because we have the letters. even when she wasn't separated from her husband she would write to somebody else. the point is she needed to write, she needed to work her feelings out on paper and this is a very important point about writing for all of us and all had the experience, sit down and start to write something. that you never would have had if you didn't, and --
>> we have our programs with david mccullough who appeared on a monthly program "in depth" to discuss his books and writing process. he gives us a tour of his home and where he writes. >> a video of your home and your writing should wear -- >> it is not a should. it is a real headquarters. that is our home on music street, in massachusetts, the village in the center of martha's vineyard, the house, part of it eighteenth century, parties nineteenth century. looking over the acre where we have gardens. a nice reach back to ordering to a neighboring farm which is the same family since the island was first settled. this is my walk to work.
that is where that measures 12 x 8 feet, has windows on all four sides. my faithful typewriter upon which i have worked now since 1965. i have written every book i have ever written on that old typewriter. there's nothing wrong with it. it is an example of a beautifully made american machine. it has probably got 750,000 miles on it. >> host: have you written every word of "john adams" in this room? >> guest: we lived there for a year or the better part of the year. at the library at the university of virginia. all of it was written here in that room. >> host: what time of day to you right? >> guest: i work all day every day. and correcting what i wrote the day before.
that is a call made to look at what is in front of me as, one of the earliest photographs of the capital. i love old photographs. that is how i got interested. and honest and wise men, as indicated there at the white house. the map of boston which figures very importantly in the book i'm working on now and of course it figured very importantly as a contemporary matter in the john adams book. and the wonderful crayon that i mentioned, one of the best representatives i have ever done. i just love -- i paint and draw
myself. the only way we can see those people using paintings and drawings, i find them of utmost importance, to reach the human being one is writing about, those are all abound letters from george washington, shards dug up on the property in the building where i work. >> host: how long have you lived in that house? >> guest: we bought it in 1965 and paid less then you pay for a car today. the eyesore of the streets, we lived at cornell. probably the aggregate of half a year at least in independence, missouri.
this is where the paraphernalia, the fax machine, the copy machine, the computer and so forth. no cell phones permitted, i love that sign, that is in italy having lunch, a photograph, when i spoke at a joint session of congress, falling asleep, some grandchildren, tom mccain, the previous picture from ireland, my watercolors there, in martha's vineyard. i give them to children, from
my hotel room across - these are watercolors. in montana, a little sketch of the farm near the house where we live. it is something i always loved to do and oldest daughter melissa, john mcdonald, public library where i served as a trustee over the years so you see our house, how far to get to the library. would you like to go into the library for brandy and cigars? where children were married, that is the corner where we live. >> host: one of the old photographs you are talking about, who is in this photo?
>> guest: that is a picture of my mother probably taken before i was born. c-span: mother on the left? >> guest: and my aunt marty on the right. it is such a wonderful period, a great old card. i always put a card in your photographs. my aunt marty is in the picture gave me a copy of the stillness of that when i graduated from yale and that started me reading shelby foot and barbara tuchman and a lot of other people. i didn't know it at the time, really changed my life. that is what i wanted to do as a writer. >> david mccullough is the author of a dozen books in a two time winner of the pulitzer prize and national book award.
he appeared on booktv 50 times. i look at his programs from our archives continues with a talk hosted by the washington post in 2002. here he reflects on the research conducted for his 1983 book about the brooklyn bridge. >> i had a lunch with several friends in a restaurant on the lower east side of washington, of new york, two friends were both engineers and started talking all the builders and brooklyn bridge hadn't known when they set out to create this unprecedented structure. my first was a study of all human shortsightedness, human irresponsibility. if there's a theme to the johnstone book, it is perilous, certainly extremely dangerous, in positions of responsibility.
and the cost of 2000 lives. it wasn't an act of god. it was the fault of human beings. what happens in life certainly happens in publishing as you quickly typecast, after the book came out the two publishers approached me, the other wanted to do something about san francisco earthquake and at the age of 35 i was being typecast as bad news mccullough and i didn't like that. what i wanted at that stage in my outlook and on life in the
human condition was some symbol of affirmation because we are not always shortsighted. we know how to solve problems and we have the capacity to do greater things than we know and imperfect people working together often achieved noble creative works and listening to these two men talk about the brooklyn bridge, i thought that is it, that is the single of affirmation i have been looking for. i came out of that restaurant working as an editor in new york and had somebody waiting for me back at the office and i forgot completely about it and was so excited about the idea, so motivated i went immediately to the 40 second street library in new york and took the stairs up to the third floor where the
card catalogs were, propelled by this book that was already acquiring a structure and design in my head. had somebody already done it. i pulled out the drawer and there are 100 cards but not one that was the book i had in mind. i had nothing about bridge engineering, nothing about physics or mathematics. one of the lessons i learned was if you are motivated you can learn anything. if you struggle to on your own, that you will never lose it and never go away. and how you teach people today and have traditionally,
traditionally handed and we know we studied for an exam for days and days, take an exam and to fairly well and two month or two years is gone. i could take a test on the building of the brooklyn bridge and do extremely well, i had to do it on my own struggling to work it out for myself. the teaching of the humanities. we then drove to our home in white plains. it was a beautiful saturday afternoon. everything was in glorious color and we got to the campus in troy new york. there was no one there, must've
been a football weekend or something and we went to the library which was an old church that was converted into a library, a dark victorian church and i went to the desk, called in advance, so we're to look at the connection, we are so shorthanded today, i will just give you the key. all the way to the attic, the light switch on the way up the stairs. there is a door to a closet to the left of the top of the stairs. we went up the stairs and turning on the light switches which were 40 watt bulbs and the stairs creaked, like something out of stephen king. we got to the top of the stairs and turned to the left and took the key, opened the door, there wasn't a closet, with shelves from floor to ceiling jammed
with the material. all kinds of notes, tied up with old shoestrings and you can tell the shoestrings were never untied. they formed the look the shoestrings get 30 years later but have never been untied, there was a designer of the bridge, the door knocker from washington, on brooklyn heights. everything imaginable, looks like something in somebody's closets. it was the volume of it, the amount. i looked at it and oh my god, and rose was like oh my god. [laughter] >> there goes 3 years of our lives.
it was the proverbial trunk in the attic compounded i don't know how many times and it did take three years to go through the material and to write the book. they were in many ways ten best years of my writing life and i was telling marie before the event started that i have written a number of books and sometimes you write the book in the subject of the book is done when you finish. on the other side of this, you don't want to turn back to it but that has never been true in the subject of the brooklyn bridge. it is interesting structure, infinitely interesting work of american art of the greatest importance in a lesson of so many times that i hope in a brief way i can just talk about
that. first of all it is a greater been event, a great expression of the ideal of the city, of a community committed to the idea of the city. stand at the very gateway of the nation, of the country and particularly in that day, it was a gateway for millions of immigrants coming up the harbor to the new world. there was nothing like it in the world, nothing like it in the country. those towers on the brooklyn bridge when they were completed which don't seem like very much today, the tallest structures on the north american continent, taller than the capitol dome in washington, they were an expression of the beginning of high-rise in heroic new york. it was the first time began to
appear the city wasn't going to grow, the concept of a vertical city was new and furthermore was hitherto impossible and in the brooklyn bridge ingredients of high-rise skyscraper urban america. it contains steel, the first use of structure in a major way, except in the st. louis which still stands the first use of structural steel anywhere and we talk about revolution, economic revolution, advent of cheap steel, was one that too little was written. the whole character nature and the direction of the country.
the bridge contains in its designer concept wherein a work of engineering, is performing a service to the quality of life in the city. if you have been to the brooklyn bridge, walked across the brooklyn bridge you know what i'm talking about. it is the -- it is how you walk over the bridge. instead of putting pedestrian sidewalks, walks on the outside of the bridge in the perimeter of the bridge, the designer put them inside the bridge, inside that network of vertical stays and tables. above the traffic, the vehicular traffic so when you walk across the brooklyn bridge you feel contained in that network of cables and not on the edge of the bridge so all
the piers and uneasiness that can go with that are gone. furthermore, because you're above the traffic you can enjoy the view in a way that you can on no other bridge. there had never been a bridge, pedestrian walkway which is so designed, there has never been one since and engineers who designed the bridges spend weeks, months, years, studying how to put that at the point so when you go across the car you can't see anything. [applause] >> engineers wrote in the original perspectives on sunday afternoon, go with your family or your boyfriend or your children and walk up out of the city higher than you have ever been in your life because no
buildings were more than 4 or 5 stories. 119 feet above the weather, it is the title strait of saltwater, 4 to 6 feet. seagulls fly under the bridge in the age of sale. the brooklyn navy our upstream to be able to do so, only the biggest ships of the day, it is the beginning of the advent of steam on the river so you can see all kinds of steamboats, sailboats, fresh air, enjoy yourself, have the thrill of knowing that you were in new york city, in brooklyn, the greatest metropolis, was felt to be the greatest country on earth. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2.
taking a look at other programs with award-winning historian david mccullough. in 2005 year period the national book festival in washington dc to discuss his bestseller "1776". >> guest: the revolutionary war era, the 18th-century was more important to who we are and the way we are and what we hold to be our american secular faith than most people realized and unfortunately to a very large degree it is portrayed so often almost as though the people who were involved and particularly the protagonists were figures in a costume pageant. the clothing of the time, the renditions of jefferson and washington and others, the paintings by gilbert stuart or charles wilson peel lend this
sort of theatrical quality to them. we don't see them in photographs. we have no recordings of their voices. we can't see film footage of them and in the case of those who fought in the war we have now on the spot drawings by artist correspondence such as winslow homer who covered both civil war. it is almost impossible to reach them as we would reach people in the civil war or the first world war or others except for what they wrote, what they wrote in diaries and sometimes orderly books, memoirs and autobiographies written after the fact.
the newspaper coverage was nothing like what we would expect, no correspondence covering the war. nothing being published in the papers around the country. and by and large we have to conclude we don't know what they looked like. we do know what they look like in parts, disaster notices:men deserted from the ranks, over to the other side, notices would be covered at the store, country stores and they were very descriptive because we hope to find these people. what came through in those descriptions was realization, as different as they looked. review marched with washington in 1776 war uniforms, even the
officers rarely had full uniforms, washington himself had a magnificent uniform because he felt that was part of his role as a leader to look like a leader, look like the general. they are wearing everything imaginable. and they were not supplied by replacements for what they wore. their clothing became tattered, amended, dirty and in rags or worse than rags and the times themselves, the era in which he lived was so much harder than we understand. -the 18th-century even in peacetime was very difficult by our standards, very uncomfortable, filled with
danger, threats of disease, the possible accidents and physical destruction that could take from work, people were beaten up by life more than we are in our time. there were no orthodontists, no dentists, no cosmetic surgeons to say the least. so that someone with a severe childhood injury like nathanael greene would walk the rest of his life with a limp coming from the next that in our time would be readily corrected. john trumbull, the great painter whose work hang in the capital, the signing of the declaration of independence, the magnificent painting, one of the most important scenes in our history, washington returned to the congress, returned his power to the congress, something no conquering general had done since the end of the revolutionary war. john trumbull only had the use
of one i, because of a childhood injury. henry knox had part of one hand blown off in a hunting accident as a young man and on and on, people were missing teeth. they had a cast in there i or a way of holding their head on their shoulder because of something that happened to them. life was dangerous, difficult, and people were resilient, tough and strong to a degree that is something we too seldom forget. we in our time are softies by contrast. it aside for us to imagine what it would be like to have sweeping epidemic dysentery or smallpox or typhus or typhoid sweep through our town, community, city and take the lives of hundreds of people but it happened.
when the war came on the suffering and tragedy and grief, the sorrow can't be measured with any statistics. abigail adams said future generations, have little idea, can little imagine what we have suffered in their behalf. the war was the longest in our history except for the vietnam war. 8 and a half years, it was everybody proportionate to the population. 25,000 americans killed. do we who have lived with the brutal statistics in the 21st century of war casualties. 25,000 was one% of the
population of 2,100,000 and if we were to fight a revolutionary war today with our population, that would mean over 3 million would be killed. in their time, it was a horrible war and extremely costly to the people who stayed home and had to make do without their husbands, to be the breadwinner. i would like to read you a little bit, they are very colorful, very picturesque. in a way, they are describing people immediately identifiable in a way we are not used to, very much like the characters in dickens say. george reynolds of rhode island was 5 feet 9 and a half inches tall, age 17, carried his head
something on his right shoulder. thomas williams was an immigrant, and old countryman, he was from the old country, he was from probably ireland or wales or somewhere. he spoke good english and had a film in his left eye. a saucy fellow, was wearing a white coat, jacket and breeches and rumpled shirt when last seen, deserted from colonel brewster's regiment, captain harvey's company said it article in the gazette. simeon smith of greenfield, a joiner by trade, a spare fellow, 5 feet 4 inches high, head on a blue coat, black vest, metal on his half, black long hair, black eyes, his voice in the hermaphrodite fashion, masculine predominant. smith, a small, smart fella, a settler by trade, has a younger
look in his face and apt to say i swear, i swear. between his words, head on a green code, an old gray coat. he had two coats, one red, one green, a game stir, although he wears something of a sober look, likewise john davey, a hump shouldered fella, a shoemaker by trade, draws his word and when comfortable says comfortable. he had on a green coat, leather breeches, slim legs, lost some of his four teeth. these men, who are largely unknown and's, were the ones who went and did the hard marching and fighting and marching and fighting again and again month after month and made the words, the noble
ideals of the declaration of independence more than a declaration, more than words on paper. when we celebrate the fourth of july we celebrate the great openings, passages of the declaration of independence. we celebrate that all men are created equal. .. as time went on. thousands more went home when their enlistment were up. the only listed for a year, and when the time came to go home, there was nothing to stop them, and many of them just marched away. when washington was in retreat across new jersey and his army was down to rags and many of the men were without shoes and winter was coming on, the british were coming on fast
behind them in force. anything washington could even imagine, with soldiers who were well-trained, well shod, come with good close, good equipment, when that was going on at one point in december 2000 -- the enlistments were 2000 men came up and 2000 men marched away, went home with no shame. washington's army was down to 3000 men. that's that's all there were left. so in effect quite literally we owe what we have and who we are and all that we hold sacred to about 3000 men who would not quit. and that was because in part they were led by a man who would not quit. george washington was not a great intellectual like jefferson or adams or hamilton.
he wasn't a brilliant speaker like his fellow virginian, patrick henry. but what george washington was was a leader. he was a man of phenomenal courage, physical and moral courage. he was a man who could spot great talent in other people and give them a chance, and two of the best many pics, he picked within about two weeks after first meeting them, nathaniel green and henry knox. and he picked them despite the fact that they were new englanders and the dislike new englanders ardently. [laughing] he thought they were the best he had and they were the best he had. those two men, green and knox come with washington, with only general officers who stayed the entire length of the war, who did not leave, who would not quit. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 and was showing highlights from historian david
mccullough. in 2017 he published the american spirit, a collection of speeches he has given throughout his career. he spoke at john f. kennedy presidential library in boston about how history can inform us today. >> when writing my book about harry truman i loved the idea that he went out for a walk every morning. i thought maybe i should try that as a way of sort of tuning up your head, not necessarily your body. you start thinking in a way that you don't come if you're not walking, and so last summer when the comments being made by the republican candidate for the presidency were to me not only appalling but unimaginably out of place, i thought what could i do to provide some counterpoint
of you to this? and i started thinking about some of the speeches that i gave at national occasions, such as the 200th anniversary of the congress, the anniversary of the white house, kennedys memorial service at dallas, which i was asked to be the speaker. and commencement speeches and speeches that i had given at particular occasions of importance to the history of other organizations and/or universities. and found that the were great many where i was voicing what really matters to me and why i think history is so fascinating, and how essential i think it is as as a means to enlarging experience of being alive. why should we limit our lives
just and will bit of time in our biological clocks offer, , provide, when we can have access to the whole realm of the human story going back hundreds of thousands of years? and so i set to work to look at which of the speeches might be appropriate and had the help of my daughter who arranged all these talks that i gave and who kept the records of what i said. >> when i read the book the first time and i finished it and put it down, i thought oh, he's writing in the times, , or respecting these speeches because they might be apropos to the current times. and i produce a before, historians basically don't really have a role in talk but current politics but he's talked
about current politics with you speeches. >> but but i was talking about before current politics came on the scene. none of the speeches was written -- >> i went back and read them a second time thinking what's the sentence, what's the paragraph, what's the point he's trying to make? that might be taken to heart by people who are in politics right now. i i went back and read it the second time and each time i was looking in the speech, what's the one point he's trying to make here that might be taken to heart by somebody who i don't know, might be elected president, who knows? so let me pick out a few of them. >> wonderful. >> i want to each one but i think 12 out of 15 i found the pertinent point. example one come first speech, in the book from 1989, you quote margaret smith of maine who had the guts to rebuke joe mccarthy. she said i don't want to see the republican party, and she was republican, ride the political veteran of four horsemen, fear,
ignorance, take a tree and smear. smear is the interesting word here, and why did you think perhaps that had application of the current times? [laughing] >> you would be perfect if you only had a sense of humor. [laughing] >> could you imagine somebody reading that in the current political climate and weather might think? >> wouldn't it be wonderful? [laughing] and republicans stand as she did and she is a woman, a rare case in the senate and that whenever history, , most people today hae no idea who market smith was. one of the bravest most admirable political figures we've ever had. >> and not many republicans are standing up now? >> not enough.
>> 1998, speech quoting benjamin rush, not press as will look at some of the patriots of that time, one of the original signers of the declaration speaking of the nature that mattered most in human relations. he said and you quote commendable, this is his quote, i include candor, gentleness and disposition to speak with civility and listen with attention to everybody and then you added in 1998 in the speech, words to the wise then perhaps in our own day more than ever. >> indeed. benjamin rush is one of my favorite characters from our past and absolutely remarkable man come a polymet 18th century some of his interest in almost everything. he was a composition, one of the first people to encourage the fair and humane treatment of people with mental illness, and not just to put them away in a
cell as if they were animals. he was extremely courageous in his ability to go into places where plague was rampant, particularly yellow fever epidemic. he risked his life over and over, and he was one of the sign of the declaration declarationf independence. when he signed the declaration of independence he was all of 30 years old. we forget how young those people were. jefferson when what the declaration of independence was 33. imagine. washington when he took command of the continental army was 44 years old. we see them later on with her white hair and their wigs and their elderly statures and so forth. they were not that way then. they were very, very young. and i think that's the
encouraging fact of that part of our story. i don't think we could ever know enough about the american revolution. and by the way, the new museum of the american revolution just opened in philadelphia is a must for all of us. it is marvelous. and particularly as a place to take your children, your grandchildren to get them hooked on history. it's brilliantly organized, it's spectacular building by robert -- [inaudible] robert stern, excuse me. as right in the center of where all be historic neighborhood is. it's only a few steps down the street from independence hall.
we who lived in the boston area sort of take the reality of the miracle of that era as part of our environment, part of our world. and that's good, that's great, but i love kennedys "profiles in courage." i've read that when i was still young and not really aware yet of what i wanted to do with my life. i love his regard for john quincy adams, for example,. >> quotes and right at the beginning. but what i like in that quote, and i'm not hereto, anything, but what i like much in that quote is the word civility, which is a lost art in the public discourse of america today. and the sense of comedy that existed among people who share a common goal and a common, and other needs to be a common and
-- comity. it's gone, it's gone. you're right that we have been many instances had deep chasm of division in this country. but we come out of them. >> yes. >> what's going to bring us out of this one? the two sides seem so opposed, when politics trump's policy, when the sense of national goals is gone and hearty goals matter more than national goals. what brings us out of this? >> leadership. leadership of the best kind. leaders who had the courage to stand up for their convictions, who have the backbone to do what's right, irrespective of what it means to their political future or their chance of being reelected. and it has to, mainly from the people. we talk about -- has to come from mainly the people. we talk about the three segments
of government, , legislative, judicial, and executive. there's a fourth factor, the people, all of us. and when we stand up and say no more of this, we won't take this anymore, when we stand up and say, there's a person right there who was in the right thing and doing the right thing, and we're going to get behind her or him and make sure that that attitude becomes potent and maybe even decisive. someone like -- someone, margaret chase smith who said that some going to do for the government in the -- it will happen out of necessity to survive in order, were going to expect that. >> david, we are, , i believe, exactly right that we are a centrist nation beware basically a country where 30, 40, 50, 60%
of the people in the middle and who want government to get something done. >> absolutely. >> we ain't doing it. >> well, that doesn't mean we won't. we have come through very hard times, very baffling times, very pessimistic times and inappropriate behavior times to the part of our leadership. but we have come through them all. and very often when we do come through them, these difficult times, these clouded sky times, when we do come through we are better off and better for having done it. people talk about oh, that was a simpler time back then. no, it wasn't. there never was a simpler time here or things have never been so bad, so dark, so foreboding.
yes, they have. and if you don't understand that, you'd understand the reality of our story. i like to point out that the influenza epidemic, which my parents and your parents probably went through. 1918-19. 500,000 americans died of that disease, a disease they did know where it came from, didn't know if if it would ever go away at all or how to cure it. if that were to happen today, given the size of our population, proportionate to our population, 1.5 1.5 million pee would die in less than a year. imagine if that were on the nightly news every night, we would all be even more terrified who would be next in our family to die? and just as the depression and the civil war, horrible,
horrible things, but we came through them because, among other things, we had the faith that we would and we could. and because we understood that not much is accomplished alone. it has to be a joint effort. that's what they have to come back to understand. >> i look at the story david mccullough was her grants more archives concludes with his recount of the pioneers who settled the northwest territory. this event is from 2019 at the ohio statehouse in columbus. >> the big change, the big sudden revelation that he was something really was when i eventually after i finished the wright brothers book, i get down to marietta because there was a collection of wonderful archival material there, and my assistant, mike hill, who is really probably the greatest
researcher in america today, and i saw this breathtaking collection. i knew we had open king cuts too. it was really thrilling. let me just try -- king tut's tomb. it is it that there just so much of it, there are literally thousands, thousands of letters, diaries, memoirs, unpublished journals, maps, data of all kinds, drawings and magnificent oil paintings. but it is the quality of it all, the quality of the writing, the quality of the thinking, the quality of the honesty in expressing what they were brokenhearted about, what they
were fearful of, how they were suffering, and oh, the work they had to do. and the epidemic disease and the natural fiascoes of storms and earthquakes, and all of it happening one after another, one year they almost starved to death. compared to them we are all a bunch of softies. [laughing] truly. now, i can go on for hours about the lessons of history and why history is so beneficial, so important. so enlarging of life, but but i think two of the most important lessons to be learned, passed on
to our children and grandchildren, first, is empathy. to be able to put yourself in the other persons place, to imagine what life might have been like then and what they went through, and this is the same for people in her own time. you have to understand why other people feel as though they do about things. put yourself in their place, empathy. and secondly, gratitude. gratitude for all that other people do for our benefit, or have done or did long ago. and we should never take that for granted. we should never just say well, that's the way it is. and one of the things that we unfortunately sometimes do take for granted is the public school system. another thing is that we all men are created equal. not just on paper but, in fact.
those two parts of our life, our national life, began here. first, public school system anywhere in the country, here in ohio. why didn't happen? because of one man primarily. the charter, the northwest ordinance, 1887 -- 1787. states very clearly, there would be public education. there will be complete freedom of religion. there will be attitude towards the native americans that is fundamentally respectful and decent. and, and, and there will be no slavery. now remember there was slates and every one of the original 13 colonies still. so it was just all men are
greater equal, yes, we have 150 slaves living over here in the slave quarters. no, it's not going to be that way in ohio, they determined. and that was due primarily, if not to say entirely, to cutler who wrote the basic tenets of the northwest ordinance, and to his son abram. he was what they call 18th-century polymet, a polymet is something you a lot about everything and was interested in everything. cutler was a doctor of law, a doctor of medicine and a doctor of divinity. all three at once, practice all three. he was probably i would say almost certainly the leading american botanist of his day turkey was an astronomer, he was interested in languages. he was interested in everything and he believed in the importance, the essential
necessity in the good life to learning and had a love of learning like very few americans or anybody i've ever come to know or read about. he never lived here. he came out to seal everything was going to get too much going on back home in hamilton massachusetts which is just north of boston, and his church and his parsonage are still there in very superb condition. the place where the first covered wagon left to come to ohio is still there. and his son came out here with his wife and four children. and they are young and hopeful and they know how to dress
themselves to hard work, but nothing, even the most difficult daily task of a farm, being a farmer in the rocky grant of new england was not going to be anything comparable to what they faced here. they came out, and on the way is coming down the ohio river, two of their children died of disease. they had to be buried on the banks of the river where there were no settlement for anything. imagine, they arrived here, and mrs. cutler had stepped off the vote, the barge at one point and charger ankle badly. he was suffering from disease himself when he arrived here. they knew no one. and so i had to begin as everybody else had to do it, by hard work. oh, we have no idea how hard
those people worked, night and day everyday. and all the children work, men, women and all the children begin work right away. now, ephraim, had not had the education his father had because he been raised by his grandparents who were farmers in connecticut. this is a very important to keep in mind because of what he then did. ephraim cutler, while i was asked in an interview just the other day here in ohio, what, of all the scenes in my book, which do i i wish i could've been the to have watched? first-person. i knew right away. there was a big movement that came after the election of thomas jefferson. the jeffersonians will call it because he really didn't have a
party named yet. they sometimes are known oddly as republicans, but the jeffersonians here decide they're going to get rid of this rule that there could be no slavery and introduce slavery into ohio. and to people in the legislature were leaving the fight -- two people -- leading the charge to stop that, to keep it from turning into a slave state. one was general rufus putnam was in effect the leader of the group that came after settlement here, along with ephraim cutler. any other was ephraim cutler himself who is young at this point. he's absolutely devoted to stopping this change and against white ill. the capital event is in chillicothe, and he could hardly
get out of bed. and there was some question whether he would survive, live. the day of the vote that was going to take place, rufus putnam came into the room, the boardinghouse room nearby. rufus putnam was old enough to be his father. he came in and he said, cutler, you must get well, be in your place where you will lose your favorite measure. according to one account, putnam and another man carried him to the convention on a stretcher, but there's no reliable evidence of this. cutler himself, cutler himself wrote only i went to the convention and moved to strike out the obnoxious matter, and made my objections as forcibly as i was able.
it was an act of fortitude, and the result was never ever to be forgotten here. it cost me everything is capable of making, he wrote, and it passed by a majority of one vote only. because he had got up from his suffering and gone in there and voted, it was stopped, and it would be no slavery. not just no slavery in ohio, but all the northwest territory, which included indiana, illinois, michigan and wisconsin. now, imagine if the slaves had been admitted. imagine what would've happened. there would've been no underground railroad. there would have been no harry beecher stowe, "uncle tom's cabin," the most influential,
powerful, powerfully influential novel ever written by any american. if this had been a slave -- they're probably would've been no abraham lincoln or ulysses s. grant. the whole picture would've been different. this one man and one man who was not -- there's no statute of him. he's not mentioned in any of the history books, and he has been in effect totally forgotten. so imagine the excitement that we felt that here were all his letters, all his private correspondence with his wife and others. the putnam collection alone was well over 1000 pieces. >> if you missed any of these other programs with historian david mccullough or want to watch them in their entirety you can visit our website, tv.org, accessed archive but use the search box at the top of the
page and search david mccullough and book. >> tonight on booktv political leaders beginning at 8 p.m. eastern. >> watch booktv tonight and over the weekend on c-span2. >> c-span is unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events from the presidential primaries through the impeachment process, and now the federal response to the coronavirus. you can watch all of c-span's public affairs programming on television, online, or listen on
our free radio app and report of the national conversation through c-span's daily "washington journal" program, or through our social media feeds. c-span, created by america's cable-television companies as a public service and brought you today by your television provider. >> next on booktv, recent program some archives the focus on technology to keep watch them in their entirety by visiting our website tv.org and use the search function at the top of the page first from march 2019 nyu school of this professor amy webb argues that artificial intelligence is giving too much power to big corporations. >> my job is to model this for a living and i primarily focus on technology and over and over i kept coming back the same nine