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tv   Michael Gerhardt Lincolns Mentors  CSPAN  February 21, 2021 7:15am-8:16am EST

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interests and devastating to our success or the lack thereof in the war on terror. >> to watch the rest of this conversation visit our website use the search box at the top of the page to look for the title of his book the black banners. >> here are programs to look out for this weekend at book tv. tonight on our weekly author interview program "after words" the american enterprise institute john fortier provides his guide to understanding the electoral college and a story on janice to meera profiles the first women to receive medical degrees in the united states . get full schedule information online or consult your program guide . >> it's a great pleasure to introduce our panelists, michael gerhardt is the thought and craig
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distinguished professor of jurisprudence and scholar in residence at the national constitution center . he a distinguished president of jurisprudence at the university of north carolina and a scholar in residence at the mcc and we are so thrilled to launch his new book "lincoln's mentors: the education of a leader" it comes out today and it's so great to have a launch at the mcc. michael gerhardt is also the author of several pathbreaking books including impeachment: whateveryone needs to know . the forgotten presidents: power of the president. constitutional theory, arguments and perspectives. hw graham is a jackass blanton chair at the university of texas and he has written 30 books and co-authored many others and they include the seller and
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the emancipator: john brown, abraham lincoln and the struggle for american freedom and errors of the founders, the epic rise of henry clay, john calhoun and daniel webster, the second-generation american giants and benefits also have to plug the privileged right wife and radical presidency of franklin delano roosevelt andthe life and times of benjamin franklin . katie leesburg is robert m birmingham chair in humanities and professor of history at villanova university, the author of several books on the civil war era including sex in the civil war, soldiers pornography andthe making of modern morality . the united states sanitary commission and women's politics in the transition and army at home, women in the civil war on the home front. thank you for joining us,
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michael gerhardt, hw graham and katie leesburg . >> thank you glad to be here. >> i want to begin with a memorable scene in your book which seems especially relevant at this challenging moment and that is 1837, lincoln's speech to the young men's lyceum of springfield. it is a time of mob violence, elijah lovejoy and abolitionist minister is just been murdered by a mob as has an african-american man in st. louis and lincoln uses the word mob or mob eight times in his famous address and he refers to an ill omen developing in the nation by which he says i mean the increasing disregard for the law which invades the country , the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions to remove the sober judgment of the courts and the worse than savage mobs for the executive ministersof justice .
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he goes on to warn that a demagogue may arise within us and inflame mob passions and says only reason, sober, cool and impassioned reason can save us along with the allegiance to the rule of law. obvious modern residences but this distinction between reason and passion was one madison used and you said in your book lincoln's warning against the dangers of mobocracy and embracing a vision of reason he attributes to henry clay. jackson and clay are among the five mentors you mention in this book so how is it lincoln is denouncing jackson and raising clay and what can his speech tell us about the educationof abraham lincoln ?
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>> thank you for the opportunity and i'll try to keep my time short. i want to thank everybody at the constitution center for having this event and thank my co-panelists as well for being here and i appreciate the chance to talk about the book and other things . for lincoln, he's a relatively young man. young in terms of our thinking but not necessarily young for somebody at that time. lincoln has already struck out into politics and he's trying to make a name for himself in politics and it turns out a couple of mentors who were in the program had invited him to give that address and so he's happy to do it and yes, one of his targets is andrew jackson. it is very common to talk about mobocracy in association with jackson or associate jacksonians with mobs. jackson was king mob and there was the sense that this tracks to the fact that jefferson was the first
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democrat, somebody who was a populist and who was a fierce champion of the common people. he was trying to actually broaden the to some degree and in some respects by doing that but lincoln saw danger in that because jackson ruled by fear. jackson ruled by having the mob go after people and that didn't follow the rule of law. and while jackson was a target i also think there's something else here because evidence about lincoln not just at that timebut earlier as well , i think part of lincoln's genius is to learn from people regardless of whether he actually idolized them or not. he's able to look at somebody you might disapprove of politically but still see some invaluable or worth emulating or worth learning from in that person and jackson is that person. clay had a lot of differences with jackson although would
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vote against him every time he had and yet later in his presidency he has jackson's portrait in his office. he adores clay from relatively early on. and he's particularly enamored of clay's rhetoric in the speech, we see lincoln trying to be i guess really trying to show his knowledge and almost being too brazen in his display of flourishing rhetoric and while imagery. he's going to learn to tame all that eventually but clay is somebody who he really respects for his rhetoric, he respects for his penchant for compromise. and he respects for his american system. his philosophy that clay embodies the american system is a system clay had imagined enable a series of internal
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improvements like roads or bridges . so lincoln not only approves of that but he stands by that for the rest of us. he sees a lot in clay to respect and emulate, he's going to try to learn from his rhetoric but at the same time he learns well from clay's failure. clay won't be perfect by any means. he's a tremendous judge of people, lincoln is throughout his life and so that's how he's able to borrow from each of these different leaders and find those thingsthat make sense and utilize those things he's going to want to avoid later . >> a wonderful answer and great introduction to the book and it's so interesting to hear you say that he took from both jackson and clay in respect to their devotion to the union and a respect for their use of rhetoric which as you say shows his ability to learn from those from whom
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he disagrees politically. professor brown, your book on errors of the founders, henry clay, john calhoun and then daniel webster, the second generation of american giants is a definitive exploration of the relationship and ideas of two of the clay and webster, both of whom influenced lincoln so begin by helping us understand the different ideas of clay and webster so that we can have a sense of them and then maybe help us put lincoln's concern about mobs in the broader context or the fact that this is a time when there are also mob actions against the federal army by john brown which you write about in your your book on john brown and lincoln suggesting in that circumstance mobs could be used in an effort to inspire us to slave uprising which
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failed. tell us about lincoln's attitude for john brown's action and what it says about his distinction between reason and passion. >> that's a tall order. the first thing i think to remember in all of these is definitely in the case of henry clay and daniel webster and abraham lincoln is these were men who made politics their profession and they understood that in politics, especially in this era one had to make compromises at times. henry clay was known as the great compromiser and whereas today call somebody a compromiser would have almost been a slander but in those days it was recognized that that's the way progress is made and in a democracy you don't get everything you want so henry clay righted himself on his ability to find something that was diametrically opposed to his
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opponents, henry clay was the author of the missouri compromise. he was the author of the compromise that kept south carolina from succeeding in the union. he was the principal author of the compromise of 1850 so henry clay understood this and henry clay did have a philosophy identified as the american system. henry clay believed that, he believed the various parts of the united states could work together to increase the welfare of all. he was unlike jackson. jackson was a small government man with important exceptions, we will come to this and henry clay was a firm believer in big government. this was the essence of big philosophy and this was the thing that characterized abraham lincoln as well . the willingness to use government to promote the general welfare and lincoln
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said the government should do what people cannot do as well for themselves. andrew jackson was suspicious of the businessclasses, he was especially suspicious of banks. in many ways and her jackson was a man of the 18th century . he was born in 1867 so that made him 10 years older than daniel clay . and he was born at a time when there weren't banks in the united states so jackson never got over that. in response to the question of the about mobocracy, i'm not meaning to defend andrew jackson, jackson could defend himself quite well, sometimes with dueling pistols or a cane to serve the purposes of clay and i would say abraham lincoln to describe the supporters of andrew jackson as a mob .
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in fact what they were were people who had beenpreviously dispossessed in american politics . when they did come to washington in 1829 for the inauguration of andrew jackson certainly seemed like a mob to the people who were there but because they work from their they were these westerners who had rough ways but it's important to note i think jackson himself from the person who supported him. jackson was happy to accept their vote but jackson when he had an opportunity as he had been so inclined to call a mob into contest and election in 1824 and he really did think that the election had been stolen from and the theft was constitutional but nonetheless he got the most popular votes, he got the most electoral votes but he didn't win the election and he called it a corrupt bargain but he lifted no finger to call the mob into challenge theoutcome of the election . so these are men who play
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politics hard. they had philosophies of their own. they sort of understood what they wanted. you mentioned daniel webster and i'll say one thing about daniel webster, is an example of how philosophies change over time because daniel webster came to national attention during the war of 1812. arguing that since new england's interests had been trampled by a republican party of henry clay john calhoun and james madison, that new england might reconsider its attachment to the union. daniel webster marked out this almost constitutional. that didn't quite get to secession but it implied secession if new england's interests were taken into account and it's important to take this in mind because andrew webster will become
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the champion of the union above everything else within 20 years after that so webster probably with all of these men had the most malleable philosophy. but nonetheless people's ideas on what the constitution meant, what the union meant evolved over time and it's important that abraham lincoln is born amid these changing views and of course he's the one upon whom the greatest responsibility in all of american history for interpreting the constitution will fall when he becomes president. >> fascinating, a wonderful answer and you said so much including webster changing his mind about the constitution and being a touchstone for all these people who approached it so differently including lincoln who said the constitution had to be our salvation in the lyceum address and it's so interesting about jackson who did indeed think the election was stolen despite the
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charges of the mob did not summon one, it's fascinating. professor, you had a great to yesterday about this panel and you said for their talking about diaries and other projects shedding new light on the civil war and as you hear this construction can discussion about mobs, the victims were free men and women, african-americans, enslaved people in philadelphia and elsewhere . they are being violently attacked and killed. what can these new scholarly projects cast on the experiences of african americans, of women who were experiencing this history in the most personal way? >> right, i want to underscore something that doctor graham just said about
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what is going on inside and outside the halls of power and the places of governance. we're talking this year about a study of either insiders or people who want to be inside and certainly as white men they have access to those halls of power and lincoln and in his lyceum address is establishing his right to be one of them. so the sort of drawing between what is reason what is your purpose for public office but for all those people for whom those kinds of aspirations were impossible to fulfill, namely
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this franchise immigrants, women, people of color, nobody expected, nobody sort of expected them or nobody would have been surprised by displays of a lack of reason or of passion, so i think it's important to think about the way in which all this rhetoric was both gendered and raced at the same time. and then the spaces in which all of these disenfranchised groups experienced politics or politics those spaces were the streets. where different groups of disenfranchised people jockeyed for little bits of power that they could have and that they could sort of sees from one another.
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so it's not surprising at all in the antebellum era to think about the streets as a pretty rough place, a place where violence broke out regularly every time there was an election. where if you were a woman like emily davis who lived in philadelphia during the civil war, she wrote in her diary there's an election going on today. i'm not going outside, i'm staying inside and she was pretty smart about that because these were violent encounters between these different groups of disenfranchised people. she saw them, she recorded them in her diary . we know what happened in philadelphia in 1870 and 1871 when pennsylvanians of color get the right to vote again. there's a lot of violence that goes on in the city there are sort of roving mobs
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of gangs of people who are seeking to disenfranchise african-americans and that's what happens to octavius caddo is he's attacked by one of these sort of ne'er-do-wells who then never gets, never is punished for it but i guess the point that strikes me about this conversation is sort of what gets defined as politics depends on where you position yourself . if you're somebody like lincoln or one of these five people who, that michael has identified as his mentors, your sort of vision and your impression of politics is something that is a place of reason and the mob is politely uninvited. but for irish who lived in
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philadelphia who were both victims of riots and sometimes were part of the mobs themselves, that was sort of their version. a lot of what was happening there those kindsof politics , street politics which could have reverberations. sometimes those kind of violent episodes for those people in positions of power to respond. and to make changes. so i think it's in particular in this period you can see lots ofexamples of that sort of thing happening . >> thank you for that and for reminding us of the ways that the voices that i just said were excluded from the political process may not have had the same attitude towards the classical troops of reason versus passion,
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that those were political aspirants like anyone else. michael, i would love for you to put on the table the core pieces of your book which is that lincoln learned from a diverse group of people, some of whom he never met and others he knew intimately and they are, we talked about two of them, henry clay and andrew jackson but you also highlight zachary taylor, john todd stewart and orville browning. just so our wonderful we the people listeners have a sense of the thesis of the book, maybe give us a few sentences on what lincoln learned from each of these five mentors and i think i'll just add a great question a q&a box from our friend eric webb who i know you addressed in the book.
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lincoln had a famously strange relationship with his father and in what way were lincoln's mentors different from his father and even replacements for the supportive father who he lacked . >> the latter is a great question and i'll try to get that at the end . one thing to know about lincoln is i think it's not much of an overstatement to say he'skind of learning from everybody he's around . he's stephen douglas later describes lincoln as predominantly a man of the atmospherics around him which i think douglas knew him most of his life and i think lincoln was there in the moment and he didn't understand the dynamics of what was going on even only then would he be able to say what can i go do going forward from this point so throughout his life one of the things that i think i might have identified is there is a pattern that lincoln's going back to . it's not so much that there
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are more important than anybody else, each of them has influenced and are influencing him throughout his life so we mentioned andrew jackson, one of the founders of the democratic party and henry clay, one of the founders of the lincoln lincoln's party and also zachary taylor, a general in the mexican war who lincoln supports over clay for the presidential nomination in the late 1840s. clay and taylor are in many respects the two most prominent kentuckians in lincoln's life. in his lifetime so is lincoln looking around the state where he was born thinking who might there be that would be prominent and would become president from my state, they are clay and taylor. he likes taylor's bluntness, his down-to-earth qualities and he likes that he doesn't dress up. he is, he becomes eventually a great model for ulysses s grant but that comes later and but taylor's ingenuity is
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also really his strong defense of the union, pressed against secession, clay and jackson and taylor all have in common. he talks lincoln into becoming a lawyer and one of the people that does that is lincoln's first law partner and is one of the first people he goes to cancun for an lincoln is not competing against stuart, he's substituting for him intimate. a guy named stephen douglas so lincoln is learning by watching those debates as well but he's also learning from top of what to do and not to do. john hyde stewart was sort of lazy, he was good in front of juries but lincoln although he could be called lazy to have to learn from books itself which gives him, browning is another lawyer, roughly contemporary lincoln browning is also somebody who
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helps guide lincoln and educate lincoln first in the social world but also in the state legislature the same time lincoln either working in the house and browning will stay in touch with lincoln throughout his life. brendan is one of the few people that lincoln addressed to. browning is appointed to take over the ascendancy and during histime in washington interacted with lincoln . they had another candidate and sometimes impetuous correspondence over the years . browning nevertheless is still there. lincoln likes to use as a sounding so that's how they all come into play . at least at the beginning when they become mentors and the book is largely about what they can help do for
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lincoln.>> wonderful, thank you for that and we can return to the father and son some othertime but that was a great encapsulation of the book . professor brown, tell us about the contrast you draw so vividly in the village and the emancipator between abraham lincoln and john brown. you note in the book that the conventional accounts of lincoln as a content writer and a kind of cautious moderates may be overdrawn but lincoln had a passion and zeal for this once he was convinced of it but you contrast them with brown who led an unsuccessful mob attacked if that's a word that you would use on the
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armory, failed in his efforts to incite a slave or hold and was executed but what did lincoln make of brown's attempt at mob action and was brown and example of a good mob as maury kramer argues we saw during the revolution itself? because after all that boston tea party was a mob attack on british tea duties at the founders thought were unconstitutional so was brown in that tradition and help our audience understand the difference between these two men, brown and lincoln. >> john brown would have been incensed to have hisfollowers at harpers ferry described as a mob. they were well disciplined, they been trained . they were paramilitary fighters but they didn't have a mind of their own. he was their commander, they followed his orders so in that regard i would say that the radon harpers ferry was anything but mob action and
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in fact that's precisely what made it so alarming because it was a concerted effort clearly. john brown had beenplanning this for many months at least and critically , he had been receiving funding from private individuals in the north. so if it had just been a spontaneous uprising that would have been one thing but this wasn't. this was well-planned and it wasn't well executed but it was well-planned . that's the question about john brownand abraham lincoln . i decided to write a book about the two because i was supposed to question comes up all the time in the history of democracies always in private life and that is what is a good person do in the face of evil? it's one thing for john brown and abraham lincoln to agree that slavery is wrong that's only the start. the question in a political system is so whatare you going to do about it ?
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and they took diametrically opposite views about what to do about it. john brown believed slavery was evil that almost no response to it was off the books. that a violent, even lethal violence was justified in response to this horrible evil of slavery. us what did abraham lincoln think of john brown and the radon harpers ferry, or small you hardly knew of john brown before the radon harpers ferry. john brown was known as one of the brown because he let a paramilitary group in kansas territory but it was wanted for the brutal murder of five proslavery settlers in kansas but other than that he had kind of disappeared because it was on the run in hiding but when lincoln heard about the radon harpers ferry, he thought it was the worst thing to happen to the antislavery movement imaginable and for lincoln,
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these two were pretty closely allied. it was potentially the worst thing to happen to his political ambitions because lincoln could tell, anybody could tell by the autumn of 1850 when the radon harpers ferry place that the republicans are going to nominate and elect the next president assuming they don't really alarmed the rest of the country. the arithmetic of the electoral college was such a republican candidate going to win . there nominate almost 1 and their fortunes had improved since then so lincoln was trying to keep a very important distinction between moderate anti-slavery elements, but once he considered to be the heart of the republican party and wild eyed abolitionists like john brown. abraham lincoln believed slavery would end only when the constitution was amended for when the southern states themselves decided to dispense with slavery as the
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northern states and he thought that violent action like john brown's would be counterproductive . in the short term it would fasten the shackles even tighter on slaves because the masters feeling for their lives would insist that what small freedoms these enslaved people had would be denied and in the longer term it would make it harder to achieve that constitutional ending of slavery that lincoln hoped for. so lincoln made very clear in the months after harpers ferry that john brown was not a republican and that republicans were not like john brown . >> fascinating, one of our questions of steve smith, asked about lincoln's cool assessment of brown in the union speech but will see more about that in the next round with more questions . pfizer, you have written so powerfully about many of these women as well as the
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african-american opponents of slavery, maybe you mentioned a few people in the last round, pick one or two that you think were especially illustrative tell us their story and how they their reaction to this unbelievable evil of slavery through their eyes. >> to her, so i think one of the things i like about having worked on this diary that i mentioned in the last question written by this young woman named ellie davis lived in philadelphia. she complicates the idea that we have about the free north. and allows us to see these days that way we are talking
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about here that lincoln lived through through the eyes of a young free black woman who although free lives with in a nation where her sort of half free status keeps her quite vulnerable. we know that in the city of philadelphia three black children were kidnapped off the streets like regularly and sold into slavery and we know of emily davis his own that her father and brother lived near harrisburg so during the civil war when robert e lee's army of northern virginia came in to pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, she was quite concerned that her family would be the next people, could be victims of kidnapping from the army of northern virginia and as she watches in her diary she sees refugees coming into the city of philadelphia fleeing
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the army. she writes evocatively in her diary how concerned she is about their freedom. that whether they are free now in pennsylvania but that freedom is a tenuous thing without a legal and to slavery in the country which was not, which didn't, which seemed like a remote possibility in the summer of 1863 so certainly with davis's diary and her experiences as this woman living in the free city of philadelphia remind us is that freedom, could experience of freedom certainly didn't seem final and it didn't sort of free her of the concerns for her family and it certainly didn't protect her from the
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humiliation, daily humiliation of racism in the city of philadelphia and segregation in the city of philadelphia so so davis follows all of these events carefully. she's a great, she watches the progress of lincoln's campaign. she predicted and she was pretty smart, she predicted lincoln was going to win in 1864. she writes in her diary i think he's going to win and of course she was right although right as she's doubly describing, it's not as though she can cast your vote for him or is anybody going to ask her or her opinion of the outcome of the but she appreciate the significance of events like the battle of gettysburg. she appreciate the significance of lincoln's reelection and she celebrates the end of the war and the victory of the united states because she sees this as sort of a further step in sort of
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resolving her status and the status of other people of color whether they are free or soon to be free that this is going to resolve this sort of half free life that they live and these are the kinds of things she remarks upon in her diary. when lincoln dies, she is sort of giving us the real-time experience of hearing this person who she values that she understood that had the faith of people like herself and at the end, the nervousness that she waited for after he was shot, about his outcome of his injuries and when you find out that he's died, she like other black philadelphians turned out in philadelphia and waited for hours to see his funeral procession area and was concerned about what
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this meant, with the death of a man like lincoln would mean that the freedom that had been one in the civil war, would that be reversed? so i think the value of experiencing things, the war and these events through her eyes give us a sense that you can sort of smooth out the history of the civil war and this trend but when you live through the eyes of a woman like emily davidson it seems raw but it seems like it could potentially be, things have been at any moment . so the value of looking at the war through their eyes i think gives us a new insight into what it would have been like to be a person of color. again, sort of in the nominally free state but yet
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seeing that status as imminently up in the air up for grabs. >> fascinating and as you put it it's exactly the right place and her experience is so different from that of lincoln and clay, casts many lights on the period. michael, i love your thoughts about derek webb's questions about whether these mentors became substitute father figures for lincoln given his famously strained relationship with his father and i want you to talk about lincoln's other intellectual influences as a child. you so interestingly tell us you read the bible and he sought fables and the person muses biography of george washington. tell us he got from their classical distinction of region and passion and weems talking about washington's
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true heroes val fowler which conquers unreasonable self and then you say lincoln read and when i read this in your manuscript i checked it outto and it's worthy how classical it is . he was popular through his youth and every school kid read it, but it was full of classical moral act axioms from the ancient greeks and romans and magazines like the spectator and enlightened moral sources all of whom inspired the founders and you say he read his history of the founding william grimshaw . so tell us about the way all those sources which is so fascinatingly reconstruct basically put lincoln into the mind of the founders even at least exerts from the same classical moral axioms that shape the founders and how that influenced his entire outlook? >> i'll do that in this way. you have got your question
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here but it is important talking about lincoln's life and his development, as jeff said it's probably well known that lincoln had astrained relationship with his father . his father appears to be corrupt but at the same time describes him as a great storyteller. he was a strict taskmaster as far as lincoln was concerned that was part of his development . thomas was his name and thomas i think was reputedly often kind of taking lincoln one way or another to get back to work. he didn't really have any patience for reading that lincoln seemed to like to do some people thought lincoln was lazy, his father certainly did lincoln even describe when he left home as his emancipation. and i suspect at that time, that word was not exactly an
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axiom for him to use. in other words he might have even begun to envision himself a little bit as under the bondage of his father and he finally broke free. and right before he leaves he was by himself to hisfather's grave. nobody knows what of course he said or thought . but he didn't even think of his father's funeral. whether lincoln was looking for a father later, i don't know i could be correct on this but i don't really find much evidence you don't ever see him in asituation where he's happy taking orders from somebody else . he was following the agenda of somebody else or just listening to the advice and just taking it in lincoln was very much an active listener . he would hear things , he could be critical but that's hard to have and and it's
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hard for a father to have someone critical i think lincoln is looking more at the young man in a hurry 60 area and trying to find a way to do that is learning from the people around others later take umbrage over that as if he's left them behind the lincoln is pragmatic. however, i should emphasize that while he is pragmatic he's also engaging with the biggest issues of the time so he referred to the book he read early on and early on i think reading the book inspired lincoln to follow the path of politics and inspired him to be a heroin his own like . they also instilled him with a constitutional vision about the founding and that vision then is informed by his experiences and interactions with other people later eventually vision not aligned with clay, he got that the
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circumstances in 1860 and that's when beginning to move , the moderate of the time so to speak but i think that's turned out to be a winning position that the position he has in his presidency but you can see him learn from others around that being a moderate may not be the best way out we had and then so i think in the end, what we see lincoln doing is learning from madison and jefferson jefferson air to some extent play although i think douglas would have liked to be as well. so lincoln seeing himself in that and he's hoping in the sense to see himself in that lineage. low and behold he does. >> fascinating, jeffersons era and clay is has such residents and leads me to ask
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professor brown's, to what degree were the other 19th century influences that you write about like webster, clayton county also errors to the founders and who would you say that there's a different founder and i'm interested in whether we to embrace this classical distinction at madison and lincoln but front and center between reason and passion which of course was taken from plato and aristotle and refined by the enlightenment. that we have to use our powers of reason and reflection to moderate our selfish passions like anger, jealousy, hatred and fear that we can achieve the netherlands, compassion and empathy and serve the public good. i wonder if that was in common parlance throughout the antebellum period through the civil war and at that time i know i'm just going to
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much so take whatever interest you here because we're going to end on time. we did have that good question from even smith, say something about lincoln's very assessment about john brown in the pre-union speech. >> so let me see if i can somehow confine my answers to the two. i would say that yes, pretty much everybody in this era noted distinction between passion and reason. and each person the definition was basically what i do is reason, opponents do is passion because they are emotional, i'm careful and cautious and like this. i do think that it's a useful distinction between say abraham lincoln and john brown and i don't want to say john brown was by passion. john brown was out calculating as could be but john brownbelieved , i had to figure out an additive or a
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noun to describe john brown and i came up with zealot and i'm not sure that's the best one, that was the one i've got and he believes so firmly in his view of slavery that it overrode everything else. it allowed john brown to take the law into his own hands, to set aside the constitution does judge and executioner of people who differed with him. now, one could call that passion but it's also a kind of taking reason to this, i'm going to say to an extremist position. if you agree with john brown and i don't know if you'd like to be called an extremist but it certainly was an extreme version whereas lincoln as i mentioned earlier thought that was counterproductive. lincoln believed in a democracy you operate by persuasion. you don't get the course people, you have to persuade them but the irony of brown and lincoln brown attempts to
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start a war to free the slaves. he fails in both aspects. his raid on harper's ferry fizzles and he doesn't free any slaves and abraham lincoln the pragmatist does his best to avoid a war and doesn't want to take on the issue of slavery directly, not protected the constitution but he fails in both regards as well. he can't avoid a war and he's forced as part of the war to save the union to deal with slavery. so there's a history is full of irony and probably as much during this period as any other abraham lincoln as i mentioned earlier thought john brown was doing the wrong thing on the short-term merits and long-term merits as well. the short-term was just going to make slavery worse for slaves then and was going to make the extrication, the final emancipation much more difficult. i wonder if i could prevail on your patience, let me ask a question of michael because
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i've beendying to ask this question . he's got this wonderful book about the education of abraham lincoln and his mentors and how lincoln arrives at thisperson that he becomes as he becomes president . i'm historian like michael and i know that we very often succumb to hindsight so we know that it's important to look at lincoln because we know what lincoln became the question i was michael is on what lincoln learns from his mentors and the otherpeople around him , is there any reason to believe that upon lincoln's election in 1860, lincoln emerged as the greatest presidents in american history, this is a historical? but it's also fascinating, the presidential election and every four years americans try to choose a president. among the best person available and i would say that history shows that sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don't.
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in the case of abraham lincoln was there anything that would show that lincoln was going to be a better president or example that james buchanan? james buchanan's resume was much more impressive than lincoln but james is considered one of the worst president in history and lincoln the greatest if you didn't already knowlincoln was going to be great and you see from lincoln's declaration that you find this , >> i think it's going to be high hard to find them. even at the time lincoln was erected elected president with a plurality ofthe popular vote , it's not landmark by any means. and the newspapers are largely critical of him. calling him a coward, a demon at worst and certainly the people around him are saying he's overmatched. and i assume you got a cabinet that thinks he's overmatched and lincoln
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himself as late as 1864 think he's going to lose his reelectionso at least for a while he thinks that . so i think it's hard to think , to look at that resume so to speak or look at the path and think from this path we know is going to emerge as may be the greatest president in history. having said that, it's also true that the table is being laid in a sense at that time. he's got this big challenge how is he going to rise to it? there are a couple of different ways he can do it . and one way is evident from this one of these great attributes, these educable. he's somebody is willing to learn if he doesn't know it himself. that's not a bad trait to have in somebody who's about
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to meet the biggest prices ever in their history so he will often times get not different viewpoints but he'll read it himself. there's not discussing what experts say but he's going to read it himself and figure out what do i think is really happening but we learned i think those attributes will help him rise to this occasion. but some people think he speaks incoherently. some people don't get the message. people think he's weak. and it's hard but i think we then all that i think you see lincoln not let that criticism slowed him down. he doesn't let that criticism overwhelm him. some people you can imagine would be so overwhelmed by the criticism they wouldfocus on that but lincoln doesn't . he focuses on the job at hand and he keeps doing that. and eventually after about
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roughly 8 generals he finds a general grant who's going to do what he's asked the generals to do which is follow his lead and beat him, don't let him escape. and the man he finds as i mentioned before is modeled on zachary taylor so but i think i tried to be as careful as i could not letting any bias enter into it. we don't think about who i can find is a mentor when i went back and about these panels and tried to read the diaries and documents and all these things to see what was emerging. i tried to stay true to that although i'm sure ultimately not perfectly. i think in and can, it's a surprise time and again. for many people that when
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they think lincoln is down he's not down. you think about the senate, he is not thought to be a front-runner but every time he seems to rise people and of course the qualities i think that were only going to discover later are there. but many people at the timeto really see . and obviously his assassination takes him into a martyr which feeds into the legend. and we can't escape that. >> thank you for that and thanks for the great question. professor keys for, the last word is you and there's so many wonderful questions from our friends in the audience and i'm going to quote mindy: we said how does frederick douglass rank as a mentor regarding the perception of african-american status and what are any other african-americans or women who influenced lincoln's changing perceptions.
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>> thank you to many, that was the question i was going to ask paul because we have eric rohner's biography of lincoln and even alan gelder's treatment of the two , of lincoln and douglas. positions frederick douglass as a very important influence in lincoln's life . i stopped by the people who you've laid out michael who many of them are slaveholders . some rather significant and slavers. i think it was zachary taylor had how many enslaved people on his plantation in louisiana? and i would describe really i mean, i was under the impression we were talking about jackson and clay and taylor and stewart and browning and i think all of them maybe were slaveholders, maybe notstewart . so i guess i'm just interested in and having just
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received the book i have not read it so i will look forward to getting some of the answers as i read it but i'm struck by your description of him as being educated able, that's certainly the way that owner describes lincoln. this is a man who involved in his time in office and was very receptive to ideas around him. not only from people like douglas but from african americans, friends he had back in springfield and even from interactions with elizabeth cassio and others around him who he met and who he met with. in his time in office so i was wondering, are not identified as necessarily mentors for a sort of, his second stage of men's worship as he enters the white house.
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he enters into a new era of mentorship that gets him to the point where we know he is by the end of his term which is to see slavery as this imperative, moral evil that is an imperative. to be fixed. >> very short answer is i don't think there's any hierarchy of mentors. everybody as i mentioned before so one isn't necessarily more significant than the other but you're right. he is learning from african americans and i tried to talk about this in different times inthe book . and obviously frederick douglass is one of them. he and douglas interact more than once while lincoln was president and lincoln teams to be learning from each of those encounters and by the way changingposition . first he's meeting with douglas is not really getting douglas anything he wants and by the end he's pretty much
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giving douglas all that you want. which is both reflecting how the war is progressing but also showing lincoln is not afraid to really hear what douglas is saying trying to maybe go that direction. if that will work. i think john slade is reportedly there is the only person tolincoln practicing the gettysburg address . slade's daughter will write that slade mentions lincoln would read it out loud which by the way is exactly how lincoln would practice. he was possibly reading aloud to the people around him so he would do that and we know thatgettysburg address , however short it was may well be the greatest two-minute oration in american history so the person that seems to have been the primary
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sounding board was an african-american who hadknown him for years . so that's all part of the lincoln story. the book is not endless, it's about 4 to 500 pages. i wish i could get everything but i'd like to think i got to some of it thank you so much, michael gerhart and judy for a wonderful discussion. the crucial question of lincoln and his mentors and the civil war more generally, he has inspired us and reminded us lincoln was educable and so are we and so do you the national constitution center, thank you for taking an hour in the middle of your evenings to educate yourself and the constitution and you can continue that crucially important work by reading the books of the wonderful dollars that we have put her from today, including most recently the book we are so excited to launch, our friend
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and colleague michael jason rhody lincoln's mentors. >> book tv on c-span2 created by america's cable television companies. today brought to you by these television companieswho provide tv viewers as a public service . >> good evening and welcome to this center or brooklyn history talk presented with our partners in the social science research council. my name is marcia ely and i'm director of programs for the center for history which was formerly the brooklyn historical society and now we are part of the brooklyn public library and every week we offer free programs like this one at the to the issues of our day through the library's programming are. the next few weeks


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