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tv   Robert Watson George Washingtons Final Battle  CSPAN  March 14, 2021 9:25am-10:01am EDT

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>> some of these authors have appeared on booktv and you can watch the programs anytime at >> i come to you from the national archives building in washington, d.c., the federal city built on the site chosen by our first president george washington. the location for permanent capital was hotly contested in 1790 and washington actively advocated for a site along the potomac river not far from his
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own home of mount vernon. when the commissioners of the federal district name the new capital for washington in 1791 they not only honored the wartime commander-in-chief but also acknowledge his guiding role in the selection of the young nation seat of government. although we did not live to see the government officially relocated here, his vision shape the national capital for years to come. in george washington's final batter robert watson highlights washington's political skills and reveals how we worked behind the scenes to establish a new city. robert watson is this thing with professor studies at lynn university and senior fellow at the florida joint center for citizenship. he's author of numerous books on history and politics including the ghost ship a brooklyn to the nazi titanic, and america's first crisis, the war of 1812. and as editor of two of two encyclopedias the american president and american first
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ladies. professor watson has served on the board of the harry truman foundation, the calvin coolidge memorial foundation and the george mcgovern library and center for public service. professor watson has also served as a visiting scholar with many organizations including truman presidential library, gerald ford presidential museum,, illinois holocaust museum and u.s. military academy at west point. now let's hear from robert watson thank you for joining us today. >> hello. i am robert watson and appear to talk about my latest book, "george washington's final battle: the epic struggle to build a capital city and a nation." virtually any american schoolchild knows that george washington was heroic and stoic. he was a great and courageous commander on the battlefield and, of course, one of our greatest presidents who through his every action and inaction everything he said and didn't say pretty much carved out the
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precedence for the presidency. but what we don't always know is that george washington had another site to. this is typically missed in history. he could be a visionary at a dreamer and he also could be a political player is not a political chessmaster. by the same token almost all americans have been to our capital city. americans love their capital city. it's spacious grand boulevards, memorials and monuments, the majestic government buildings, the tree-lined mall but very few americans know the story of how the capital city came to be and almost didn't come to be. that's why we're here today to talk about. i swear it against for story begins in newburgh, new york. this is along the edge of the hudson at the end of the revolutionary war. not too far today from fdr's hyde park west point if anybody has been there. the main battle of the revolutionary war was about of
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yorktown which was september and october 1781. yorktown that would be the last major battle of the war. after yorktown for about two years was what we could call a cold war. the british hunkered down in new york city. washington and the americans with up the river to newburgh which you see right in my slides. for almost two years they just hunkered down in this cold war. would be washington's longest headquarters but a new type of challenge emerged. that was the challenge of boredom. without fighting, the army had not been paid. they were hungry. bitterly cold winter after another bitterly cold winter, and washington was worried that the army would fall apart or mutiny just as we were ready to seize victory in the revolutionary war. so go ahead and go to the next slide. what happened in his images of newburgh? in march of 1783, on march 10
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and the war would end the following fall. on march 10 of 1783 or is an unsigned letter circulated in washington's camp calling for mutiny, calling for rising up against george washington. washington was alarmed to say the least. it appears that this mutiny,, this insurrection was coming from inside his own headquarters. .. had shown themselves,
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washington demands thatthey surrender the stage . even as a two-part speech. one explodes and you can see the wording here, he reported to the long-suffering unexampled in history so washington is saying the army as swords in their hands. they are ready to rise up. they are at their limits. they cannot take anymore. next slide. you see here his argument. there's an artists division of washington addressing the army, there would have been many more soldiers so it's not completely accurate . washington says help on military and how subversive of all order and discipline. washington lays it on, he explodes like a volcano. will you be a friend to the country if you are on the near?
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after all that washington calms down. washington calms down and says to the men i want to read a letter of congressman jones of virginia. the army had neverseen washington where spectacles . the army had never seen washington ofyour week or older. he was a man among children . washington reaches in his pocket and pulls out this letter he wants to read . like me the last few years he needs glasses. he holds at arms length and pulls out spectacles and put them on. no one had seen him wearing glasses. washington shakes his head, puts the spectacles back in his pocket and says gentlemen , will you permit me to put on my spectacles for i have not only grown graven almost blind in the service of my country. he asks the men i asked only one more full measure of an example of patriotism and patrioticvirtue . stay with me. we are going to win this and
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here comes out of his eye and washington walks off the stage. talk about the theatrics of the moment. letting the army easy and after he knocks the general takes the stage and asked the men if they would sign a document showing their support of washington. they charged to the frontof the stage and signed the document . that's the school so-called mutiny or conspiracy, almost an uprising at the end of the war and washington brilliantly and theatrically puts it down but what he realizes is this new government, this new country is going to be weak and fragile. it could be harder to frame a government that was to fight and win a war for the opportunity to name a government and he didn't have long to wait for another challenge. june 20 of 1783 just weeks later a group of several hundred unpaid disgruntled veterans marched on
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philadelphia, to the building we know today as constitution hall. the pennsylvania assembly and some of our nation's elected officials are inside the building. it is surrounded by angry unpaid mutineers. citizens of philadelphia come pouring out of taverns drunk and now you have the drunken unruly mobs and angry unpaid soldiers. there are ready to take legislators hostage. congress is worried andthe assembly is worried they have to flee for their lives . they asked george washington to put down this mutiny. washington tells the mutineers go home. just go home. he pardons people and for a second time he brilliantly handles a near mutiny and by this time washington realizes this new experiment in popular government is going to be very difficult. next slide. washington starts to put
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together a vision and dream if youwill or what kind of nation we need to have . though the war ends at 1783 and pretty much the question is now what? what happens next. you have a political and economic and civil loyalists, royalists and those who are loyal to the crown. they left and that makes the physician , the bankers, the architects all left. this new young republic has little in the way of colleges and museums and libraries, few trained professionals. the country is war-torn. veterans have not been paid. the currency is worthless so everybody on everyone's mind is the question now what and if you had an answer except george washington. next slide. so washington puts together what's known as a circular letter to the state. this is basically his farewell. newspapers around the country
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put this letter and you can see the beginnings of washington's vision for a strong nation, a capital city and kind of robust and vigorous government we would have. washington says we have a debt of honor. we need to repay our veterans and we need a national governing body. we need more trade and positive relations abroad and mostly we need to be united. we need this nation needs a sense of national identity. if you were to take a time machine to 1783 and ask thomas jefferson about his nation he would answer virginia. there wasn't a sense of national identity, not a united states. a small u, the state of washington knew we needed a sense of unity. we need a sense of national pride and national spirit. we needed to come together as a nation otherwise this would never ever happen.
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next slide. though this country went from 1775 the start of the revolutionary war, all the way until 1800 25 years, a quarter of a century without a permanent capital city. without the seat of government. that's no way to start a nation without having a capital city. you can see some of the possible cities that were considered. over 30 cities were considered as a possible seat of government or a possible cabinet. everyone in connecticut voted hartford or new haven. everyone in delaware voted wilmington, everyone in massachusetts voted boston . parochial interest rate. nobody wanted a capital on lyrical power would follow. it would be an economic boom and no one wanted another city to have a leg up, everybody wanted something for 25 years there is a fight over where the capital city
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should be. next slide. for a functioning government, we were working under the articles of confederation . a loose league of friendship. it took several drafts and years to even ratify the articles. the problem the articles didn't have a president . they had a unicameral legislature. they couldn't raise money to pay back the veterans, they couldn't govern because it was utterly and wholly ineffectual so we lackthe capital city, we lacked a functioning government , and this is what washington responds to. next slide. on everyone's mind that it was written new newspapers, washington weighs in. he says we are eager to uniting people and united for federal purposes or we are 13 independent sovereigns. contradicting each other. washington notes to friends
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and says i see no greater evil than disunion. political factions start to form, the northagainst the south, eastern seaboard against the west . more urban areas versus rural areas and the federalist and anti-federalist instead of mounting opposition party much like recent years, it's an obstructionist rain arrangement with gridlock. washington is upset about this and in this vacuum, in this crisis this is where he emerges. next slide. we have saved rebellion. in the 1780s farmers are rising up ready to declare war against their own government . pennsylvania and new york are almost bating one another, states can't agree on how to trade foreigners across state borders. washington says we have errors to correct. we need a stronger government . washington asks alexander hamilton to get involved and in 1786, hamilton calls for a
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convention . in the city of annapolis maryland. the problem, only a handful of states showed up. everybody argued and embarrassingly walked out. it was no way to start a government. washington stays with and bushes along with hamilton for a convention the following year. 1787. going back to philadelphia hoping that lightning strikes twice. they have to approve the articles and would create a new constitutional system of government and find ways of moving forward in a more united way . so what we don't know is that people know all about the founding debates over slavery, over the electoral college and over how do we pick the president but there was another i always call the other founding debate and that was over the capital city. should we have multiple capitals or where should it be, what should it look like
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and decided it and they couldn't agree on one capital. at one point to try to satisfy everybody evenben franklin throughout the idea we should have multiple capitals . because it's congress nobody would come, succumb to the city so they joke was the trojansthey would be get a horse . giant children for trojan horse and congress would hide it. and then congress would get onto its business so this was the other founding debate. we have multiple quotes of george washington and other framers at the debate over a capital city was even more heated , even more contentious, even more potentially venomous than all the other founding debates at the constitutional convention in philadelphia. the debate over the capital city almost undermines this nation just as we getting started . then there's news of the
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other founding debates, next slide. enter into this vacuum george washington who has this vision for the country. washington states our faith will the destiny of the unborn millions beinvolved . he called it the most intense and explosive debate of the entire philadelphia. that being the fight over the capital city. selecting the seat of government washington said is proving to be pregnant with difficulty and danger. so washington was very cognizant of the factthat this debate could undermine the country yet without strong capital city , he did not know that this country could endure so washington proposes the following, number one, a strong national government. numbertwo, he wants to unite the people behind a national character . only a capital city that can interview us with that national character. our government is not seen as credible in the eyes of the european powers. a great and glorious capital city will give credibility to this new leslie nation.
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washington wanted to grab capital city, a city he said for the ages. thomas jefferson and others wanted a simple brick town. washington wanted rome built on the potomac river. he wanted it near the potomac river. washington had one other founders would jokingly call the george was not built around. washington thought potomac was equal to dissent and the thames, the danube, the rhine was like the potomac but it's hardly anyone of those. but the potomac connected the community next to it, the future capital city with the chesapeake which meant access to the atlantic where it was important for transportation and rudimentary communication and also the potomac flows westward.
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it will unite america, virginia, pennsylvania and the road rose to the edges of the tributaries would run west to what is today the ohio territory. pittsburgh, so forth and so on the potomac would then connect the american south as it was with distance between the two, it would serve to function, serve to unite the new capital city of the atlantic ocean and so on and so forth. that's washington's vision. next. in the constitution, over the debate over the capital city, article 1 section 8 it agreed that the capital city should be 10 miles square. it's 100 miles. what it means is this capital city almost laughably will be larger than paris, london, the great capitals of the world yet it would be built out of the barnes and woods but thequestion would be where with these 10 miles square be ?
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so the initial argument was new york city would serve as our interim capital. washington's inauguration is supposed to be march 4 1789. he's late, it's not until april 30, 1789 and this is washington arrives even later yet. maybe he could still get addressed washington is inaugurated in new york city in late april. new york city at federal hall and you can see the picture here and on the right is his home on cherry street where washington used as his residence and new york city would be but an interim capital. nobody seemed happy with new york city. it was slow to ratify the constitution which is why hamilton and nj and madison wrote the federalist papers that new york city would even ratify. washington was worried where would i go to new york, it's not even undermined as a state? can i be president if wedon't
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have a city ? unlike today everybody wants new york city. thomas jefferson claimed new york city said spring and fall may never happen. we have 10 months of winter but we do have summer and they would agree right now. christian rains set up new york city long before the company in springfield. he described new york is overrun by hans and garbage and not much else. so no one liked new york city. they spent months in new york city and then there was a deal cut. next slide. the deal would be cut in new york city on june 20 1790. in what is probably the second most famous party of history i guess behind the last supper. the dinner party was, you can see the pictures there. jefferson, madison and hamilton. madison and jefferson were allies, anti-federalist. hamilton was his nemesis as a
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federalist. they had two big issues that they were trying to contend with . one is where should the capital city b and the other was how should look, should it be a simple brick building or a glorious romanesque capital. the second argument was that assumption. we were in debt after the war so jefferson calls for the dinner party. he and madison are going to defeat hamilton. what would happen at that dinner party was they would resolve allthese issues. they would decide basically on where the capital would be . and hamilton would end up playing jefferson and madison like a guitar. the play victim and got everything he wanted. so on the debt, virginia said where not paying our debt. the south didn't want topay the debt. and wanted the debt to be
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paid so he surrenders and says okay, you don't have to pay your debt .little did jefferson and madison know the south is not going to pay its debt what that means is the federal government can come in and assume the debt under the treasury and who's the secretary of the treasury ? hamilton. hamilton would become one of the most powerful americans. hamilton wanted a stronger federal government jefferson wanted a weaker federal government and my health and giving up virginia to pay his debts, pretty much guaranteed hamilton would begin a strong federal government, back in the strong treasury so hamilton gets everyone's even though he lost. the second argument is of the capital. jefferson and madison wanted it in the south in virginia. what they didn't know is what hamilton knew, george washington pretty much decided the capital should be in virginia near his home so hamilton gave up the capital would be there. he gave up something that was already done though he placed jefferson and madison . ultimately the person wants a simple federal town of only a
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few acres so hamilton agrees to take it out of design contest. jefferson could chair the committee that takes the winning design and it appears jefferson commits his own design and ominously or a little brick town and then picks it. so what jefferson didn't know was even though he said here's the design when it went to washington washington said we're going to take my romanesque capital so there you go. the act of 1790 solidified or codified the spring compromise, the capital would be in virginia . 10 years later in the meanwhile the interim would be in philadelphia while they had fulfilled the city that would eventually be named for george washington and that's the residence act of 1790. the votes on these difficult measures failed to see george washington playing political chess. washington strategically picked a couple of members of
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congress, that with them personally and flipped every single vote to get the votes he needed to get his capital city. next slide. washington played further, not only helped pick the location of the capital, he picks architect and picks the architect for the president's house, washington surveyed the land, washington helps sell the plot. washington helps raise money. washington helps to decide what buildings would go in so washington , washington. it is his pet project area it is his near obsession so washington pics brilliant frenchman who was a great selection. l'enfant was classically educated, most importantly for washington he shared washington's vision of a romanesque grand capital with large boulevards, public squares filled with monuments and memorials. he did not like jefferson's
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vision of a small federal town so l'enfant does washington's bidding and brilliantly designed the capital but unfortunately he will answer to no one but washington turns out to be more difficult than he was worth . some accounts suggest he was fired, others said he quitand they both happened aboutthe same time so the answer is all of the above . next slide . you're the image of his capital city which youall recognize today . running diagonal, horizontal to the potomac river. it's the national mall, we all recognize today you can see the great squares and grand boulevards that intersect, named for the states and so forth and so on. one fonts desired by rome in part inspired by paris and even though he would be fired, it's his designthat continues to define this great city of today. next slide . washington not only picks a foreigner, a frenchman but he picks coven, an irishman to
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design the president's house. colin is also well educated and in designs beautiful buildings, he says charles in south carolina, washington immediately fell in love with his design. reminded him of rome and looked like marble. so washington then pushes by hiring coven and vagal what they refer to as a presidential palace. they run into construction problems, funding problems so there's good and bad news here. they found a brilliant scottish stonemason so they brought in more europeans but tragically they would rely on slave labor so yes , slave neighbor built a good deal of the capital, the president's home and capital city because it was cheaper and they ran out of funding. next slide. here's the image. you can see and recognize, you recognize that the white house today, this is colin's original design. it was pretty much a constant
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area next slide. we bring this to a close by saying they weren't sure what they were going to name the city but everybody knew it was going to be named for washington . somebody proposed the washington oculus and part of me thinks it's ridiculous and the other partthings i like that name . george washington's legacy is he would win therevolutionary war and resign from power once , pleading in george iii to say washington is the greatest man alive which no one did. voluntarily language power. washington would do it again after the presidency leaving the george the first to revise washington's greatest man of all time, he carved out the presidency and he is the father of this nation but i think ultimately one of washington's great legacies, it was his vision of the capital city that was washington's every action, his stewardship, his oversight that presume this great and glorious capital
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city and in doing so it helps to interview us with a sense of nationhood. gave americans a sense of american identity which we didn't have. it helps unify the country . the degree of civility he gave our government legitimacy in the eyes of the world and today we have this great and glorious capital city. we always like to say washington slept here, slept there. it would be the one place he didn't sleep. washington would die december 14 1799, a little less than a year later on the 400 is when the capital city would open up. washington's last words were as well and one all can only imagine he was thinking about his wonderful capital city invested so much of himself in and that was his legacy. thank you everyone. >> you're watching tv on c-span2, every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors . tv, created by america's
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cable television companies area today brought to you by these television companies to provide tv viewers as a public service . >> during a recent virtual event hosted by greenlight bookstore in brooklyn new york historian just amelia profiles the sisters elizabeth blackwell, two of the first women to receive medical degrees inthe united states . here'sportion of the program . >> it wasn't like today where only the best and brightest pursue medicine. not at didn't require much except the money to pay the fees. so she had been studying privately with a doctor of some standing in philadelphia who had added his endorsement to her application letter when she went to virginia college and the faculty wasn't quite brave enough to just dismiss this man's endorsement .
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so they hit upon what they thought was a great idea of pumping the question to the studentsby . and say students, this is a bizarre request from this woman in philadelphia. surely you will reject it and anyone of you against it: the study will take care of that. the students kind of looked at each other and said not only are our professors cowards but this is going to be fun. and there's some mischief here. they assumed they werehaving a prank played on them by an neighboring rival . they assumed from the beginning of the prank, they had a meeting that night they said beat into submission anybody who objects until they had ananonymous response from the faculty . it was just funny. three weeks later a young woman walked into the lecture
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hall so it's interesting because in her memoir in the sort of forward facing part of her memoir she tells the story of her admission to lindsay wood in a memoir,one day in an acceptance letter arrived and the next day i left for college . in the appendix to that memoir though she includes the eyewitness account of one of her classmates about beating everybody into submission until they said yes and the lady can come so she was aware that it was an accident in her bath but she wasn't going to do it upfront. once she was there she entrusted the heck out of everybody. the student came to see her as an older sister, she was better than they were so she was great to have around. the townspeoplethought she was a freak . so she didn't spend a whole lot of time commuting to
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geneva, she stayed pretty close to the medical day. >> you talked about how the stereotypes of a woman physician might be a woman and tps homes tendering and nurturing to the ailing patient but it wasn't like that at all. she was quite prickly and quite awkward so talk about how as a feminist icon she defies stereotypes. >> she was a misogynist. and i think that's fascinating because i think a lot of us will declare ourselves feminist also wrestled with misogyny that we don't identify it. kind of like our implicitbias and so forth . some work hell-bent on medical degrees men didn't want to give them and they
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were doing everything's backwards in heels and they did not want any other woman, even other women who were also interested in medicine to paint their achievements so i always say elizabeth and emily blackwell were the first women dollars doctors so who was the second one? the second was a womannamed nancy talbot clark who took her degree from cleveland medical college before emily did . emily always referred to her as little mrs. clark and not in a nice way . and dismissed her and tried to kind of maneuver away from her so that no one would confuse her with them. i found that disappointing, a little offputting and incredibly human because i defy you to find a lady who hasn't at some level sometime in her life and that instinct and maybe if they didn't act on it. it is a hard truth of female
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achievement in our ages that's still happening. so that to me made the story so modern. they would recognize a lot of especially what women in the medical field go through. trying to either be one ofthe boys or something different . >> to watch the rest of this program visit our website search for janice or her book the doctorsblackwell using the search box at the top of the page . >> longtime journalist and anchor roger mudd passed away this week at the age of 93 and in 2008 he sat down for a two-part interview on c-span's q&a to discuss his memoir the place to be. >> roger mudd, why did you decide to at this stage of your life write a book about yourself and your experiences


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