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tv   [untitled]    April 14, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EDT

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egg. however, the controversy arises over this. having been convicted by military tribunal and having been sentenced to death by that same tribunal, five of the nine judges on the tribunal recommended clemency for mrs. sirat. in other words, that her death sentence be commuted to life in prison. i was unaware of that commutation recommendation. i was freshly into my office. i was allowing myself to be guided by the cabinet and the other officers who had been present, and when judge advocate joseph holt brought me the papers, including the death warrants, i signed them. some two years later, 1867, now, it is interesting, this is when the secession of the -- i'm sorry, the impeachment crisis was emerging. the newspapers began printing the awareness that a recommendation of clemency had been made, and that i had ignored it, and i sent to the war department requesting to see those documents, and when i did see them, it appeared to me that the clemency recommendation,
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which was right there, had been torn out and reattached, and i thought only two men could have done such a thing. one of them, joseph holt, judge advocate general who had been responsible for the trial, but the other was his superior edwin stanton. so perhaps i will leave it this way. the next day after i saw those documents from the war department, i sent a short note to secretary stanton which read, dear sir. public consideration of high character constrain me to inform you that your resignation as secretary of war will be accepted. may i tell you what he said in response? dear sir, public considerations of a high character constrain me to inform you that i will not resign the office until congress comes back into session. knowing at the time he believed that he was already protected by the tenure of office law.
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>> thank you. >> you're welcome. you're welcome. >> thank you. >> indeed. >> all right. >> for more information about the andrew johnson national historic site, visit their website at, and to learn more about tours with historian and author richard norton smith, go to president's& you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. abolitionist john willis me nard was. elected to congress in 1868. although he was never seated, he was the first african-american who address the house chamber. we heard more about him from phillip magness from george mason university, and matthew wasniewski, historian of the u.s. house of representatives.
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this is about an hour from the u.s. capital historical society. >> before we begin, before i introduce the speakers, let me introduce congressman danny davis of illinois to make a welcome to the audience. congressman. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. and let me just say how delighted i am to be here. as a matter of fact, the last time i was at a meeting, i was so inspired by a woman who made a presentation of a book that she has written that i have been trying to get that book into school districts all around illinois and other places throughout the country. and actually had her at my home in chicago for the kwanzaa celebration that we do each year to present to our guests.
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so it's always a pleasure and a delight to see and be a part of looks at the development and evolution of our country. and to think of how magnificent it really is when we go back to where it was when it started, how it got started, all of the different people who have come from places throughout the world, all of the challenges that we have had, the contributions that so many different people have made. i decided, for example, this year, as we celebrate in my community, african-american history, that we were going to highlight individuals in the neighborhood that i call unsung heroes and she-roes, that people
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have never heard of, and practically never will hear of, except those who have had the opportunity to experience them, know them differently. i'm fond of suggesting, for example, that oftentimes we are surrounded by giants who are in holes. and if somehow or another we can get the dirt from around them, and uncover who they really are, rather than being grasshoppers, they become giants. and there have been so many giants in the history and development of our country until it's unimaginable. and i thank the society for oftentimes uncovering and rediscovering and helping the rest of us reconnect with some
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of those giants who have been forgotten. so thank you very much. and it's indeed my pleasure to be here, and to be a part of this discussion. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you, congressman and to speak about one of those unsung heroes of american history, we have three speakers on today's program. i'll introduce all three of them now. and then they'll come in success to the podium. at the conclusion, time permitting, we'll have time for questions from the audience. our first speaker and our main speaker today is phillip w. magness from the washington, d.c. area. originally from houston, texas, he obtained his undergraduate degree in political science from the university of st. thomas, and his masters and doctoral degrees from george mason university. dr. magness specializes in the history of trade and taxation in
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the united states, and is the author of several scholarly works in 19th and early 20th century tariff policy. long civil war buff, his attention turned to the presidency of abraham lincoln after a fortuitous discovery of the library of congress. it marked a four-year hunt for other documents culminating in his book, co-authored with sebastien page, lincoln and the movement for black resettlement. in addition to writing, dr. magness is an academic programs at george mason university. he's also taught in public administration at american university and international trade at gmu. also in his biography is something i find fascinating.
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he's an avid scuba diver and plays underwater hockey for the washington, d.c., and i love this name, beltway bottom feeders. [ laughter ] there's probably no end of applicants for that team. after dr. magness makes his presentation, rodney ross will come to read a poem of john willis menard that is very appropriate. and actually there are print copies of it on the table outside. rod is an old friend and a dear friend, a great proponent of history, and public history. he works at the national archives. he's very active in a number of organizations, including the illinois state society, which joins the capital historical society in sponsoring today's event. then after rod, we will have our
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third speaker, dr. matthew wasniewski, who is the historian of the united states house of representatives appointed in october of 2010. he had served as the historian and deputy chief of the house clerks, office of history and preservation. he's the editor in chief of women in congress and directs many excellent programs in preservation of records and the publication of historical documents and information pertaining to the house of representatives. and also, i might note on a personal note that prior to coming to the house of representatives, he worked at the u.s. capitol historical society. so it's a great pleasure to have matt on the program. so without further ado, dr. magness. >> thank you.
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john willis menard is a familiar name for those who know a bit about the history of african-american representation in the united states house of representatives. his main claim to fame is that he was the first african-american elected to the house of representatives. but he was denied a seat in 1869. we'll get into a bit of the reasons behind that. but i'm here to talk about some of his life, his background, his history up until this point, because he was actually a very accomplished individual, who sat at the crossroads of two major events in american history and international history. they were related events, the american civil war had a front-row seat to this right here in washington, d.c. but also, shortly after the war, he migrated to jamaica, and was a participant in a major event internationally the rebellion in 1865. both of these events had the connection of being tied to the end of slavery, and establishment of greater freedom, civil rights for the
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african population, both in the british empire and the united states. so he had a front-row seat to two intersecting events at a very tumultuous time in history. we don't know too much about menard's early life, other than he was born in illinois in 1838. he came from a family that is believed to have been french creole, possibly had a background in new orleans. and there is some thought, although it hasn't been firmly established, but it was always the family history that he was the descendent of pierre menard, who was the first lieutenant governor of the state of illinois. so he had a white grandfather and a black grandmother. and his parents were two african-americans, freed blacks from probably the new orleans area when he was born in 1838. now, cascadia was the first territorial capital of illinois. so he grew up on the frontier, that was set aside to be a free state when it was incorporated
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there. and there was actually a fairly vibrant free black community that grew up in illinois. he had enough of a distinction to his background through the menard family connection, that he was able to afford education. his parents sent him off to an abolitionist school in sparta, illinois, in the 1850s. he shows up at iberia college in 1858 where he actually attended classes. this is an antebellum african-american who actually obtains a college education, which was quite remarkable in this day. you can tell simply from reading his works, reading his speeches, he is thoroughly educated in a traditional liberal arts background. he's a poet. he's a political philosopher, a man of letters, a newspaper publisher. he comes on to the state political scene, really, the
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first record we have of him speaking is in 1859 where at the age of 21 he attended an abolitionist event. if you know the history of the british west inn dees, it's british emancipation history in the west inn dees. he's invited to speak at this particular event, and he comes up to the stage. we don't have a record of the speech, but we have the newspaper report of what was going on. and the audience was shocked to see this young kid come up to the stage. he was 21 years old. and the reporter makes a remark on the shock of seeing menard and hearing his speech. he says, his voice is very strong and his manner impressive. he spoke on american slavery which he painted in the darkest hues and gave defense of equality. his speech, to our surprise, was truly the best of the day.
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we don't know if abraham lincoln attended this event, but was probably aware of its going on. it was in springfield, lincoln's home. lincoln was in springfield on that particular day. that is the first possible instance they may have crossed paths. it's important, because menard comes into connection with the lincoln administration later. but this particular speech that he gives establishes him as a rising star in the abolitionist movement of the united states. he is invited to take a role as an assistant editor for an abolitionist newspaper out of boston, james redpath. it was called "the pine and palm" when it was published around 1860 to '61. he appears writing several articles. normally opinion pieces on slavery. he publishes one in 1860 that's an address to the free people of illinois. and it's an attack on the fugitive slave law. he's a very gifted writer in
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terms of his illusion, and he does not compromise in his stances. menard says in this article that the fugitive slave law has turned the whole north into one vast hunting ground for men, and chased us to the shores of canada, if we seek to attain freedom. he goes after the constitution's three-fifths clause which he calls a tyrant call stipulation, designed to impede citizenship and voting rights and ever attaining equality for african-americans in the united states. he also embraces at this point what was considered a very controversial proposition, especially in the black community. it aligns him with a faction within the abolition movement, that was the immigration movement. the belief that the united states would not hold out for equal rights, civil rights, civil liberties and freedom for african-americans until sometime in the very, very distant future, and therefore, he urges blacks under their own volition to seek out a better location
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abroad, to follow immigrant groups. this is modeled after the immigrant groups of europe that have faced oppression and some of which came to the united states. he said, we should follow in the foot paths of the irish, the italians, the germans who have been chased from their homeland. why stand here when our very being is not acknowledged by this government, when our manhood is denied to us by the constitution. again, referring to the three-fifths clause. so he becomes a leader not only in the abolitionist community, but the immigrationist section of the abolitionist community, that plays out some of the internal politics of that group through the 1860s and the early civil war. he moves to washington, d.c., we believe around 1861 through his association with redpath's newspaper. and also kind of his rising stature in fame as a speaker within the abolitionist community. what we do know, though, at the
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time is he immediately comes to the attention of the lincoln administration. abraham lincoln was a colonizationist. this is a part of lincoln's legacy that has cause the quite a bit of controversy, but it's very reflective of what existed for an anti-slavery northern moderate in that time of history. colonization movement was a belief that after emancipation, the freed slaves, the freed african-americans should be resettled abroad in another location. liberia was the most famous of these locations and the oldest. it was established in the 1820s, attained its independence in the 1840s, as a location where freed slaves colonized themselves and set up their own government. but lincoln was interested in colonization somewhat closer to the united states. he investigated central america as his primary space where he was hoping to obtain land. in 1862, lincoln actually held a
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meeting at the white house with five free african-americans from the district of columbia to pitch this proposal, this colonization proposal to them. he obtained $600,000 of funding from congress to subsidize and support their transport. he was in the process of negotiating contracts with the government of colombia, which on panama at the time, the government of haiti, which was interested in obtaining population, one of the two free black governments in the world at the time. the other being liberia. and the other, and this is where menard comes in, the government of the united kingdom through the colonies in the west indies, modern-day belize and the modern-day country of guyana. menard was hired shortly after this particular speech which stirred quite a bit of controversy both in the white and black communities. frederick douglas denounced it. he said that the president had made himself look utterly ridiculous in taking on the approach of an itinerate colonization lecturer.
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as his solution to slavery. menard saw this as an opportunity. while he did not agree with the notion of separating the races on account of civil rights, on account of civil liberties, and the belief that the united states government should be a white man's government, which was the argument at the time, menard did see this as an opportunity to attain his own end through the immigration movement. and find a location abroad that would accept african-americans as equals. and allow them to participate in the direction of their lives, to own property, to participate in government, to vote, to serve on juries, everything that was denied here by the dread scott decision and constitutional interpretations at the time.thc interpretations at the timecons interpretations at the tim cons interpretations at the time. menard is hired in 1863 by the u.s. immigration office. we have pictures of three individuals here. the man in the center is james mitchell, who was abraham lincoln's commissioner of colonization. and he was the man that hired
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menard. mitchell was an irish-born american preacher that lincoln knew from illinois. he brought him to washington specifically for this role, to administer the programs. and mitchell knew of menard through his abolitionist activities and thought of him as a potential ally, who could bridge the gap between the white community and immigration movement in the black community. mitchell hires menard on as a clerk in 1863. which actually makes him one of the first african-americans to obtain a white collar job in the united states government. he was given an equal salary to the white administrative workers in the interior department, which caused quite a bit of controversy. the other workers rebelled against this, complained to the secretary of the interior, and within three months, had pressured them to discontinue menard's salary and urged the secretary of the interior to demote him to a messenger. because they couldn't have him
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standing there in the same office with an african-american who was obtaining an equal salary, even though he was probably more qualified for the job than most of his adversaries. menard nonetheless sticks it out with mitchell and the lincoln administration as a participant and a negotiator in these colonization schemes. he also comes into contact with another abolitionist. and this is our third picture up here. henry highland garnett. mr. garnett is a very vibrant, fiery speaker, who has long been an advocate of the liberia movement, the back-to-africa movement as a means to attain emancipation and freedom. garnet actually after the war becomes one of our first ambassadors to liberia. and dies over there. that was his life-long mission. garnett was an ally of menard
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throughout the 1860s and throughout the civil war. in 1863, the british government arrives with the negotiations with the u.s. government to establish belize as a future colonization site. right here i have a picture, this actually came from belize itself. founded in the belize national archives a couple of weeks ago. this is a copy of the agreement signed between abraham lincoln and the manager of the british honduras company that was to administer this agreement. this is signed on june 13th, 1863, at the white house. menard is aware of this agreement through mitchell, who was the other negotiator and other signatory on behalf of the u.s. government. this is given to a man by the t the u.s. government. this is given to a man by thhot the u.s. government. this is given to a man by thoth
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the u.s. government. this is given to a man by th otf the u.s. government. this is given to a man by the name of john hodge and anderson, who are both in the employ of the british honduras company based out of belize. anderson is important because he has a long-standing role in the british indies slavery movement. he had been a crusader from scotland from the british empire. he travels with hodge to washington to meet with lincoln at the white house and negotiate the terms of this agreement. anderson was actually based on the island of jamaica, which comes in and plays an important role in menard's later career. but this is the first time they meet. anderson was a very wealthy and philanthropist type. he devoted most of his energy and cause to bettering the condition of the blacks on the island, and fighting for abolition internationally. so he allied with menard. they had a very natural agreement on ideas. but after this contract of sorts was signed, the u.s. immigration office decided they needed to investigate this site in belize. and check it out to see what they were getting into. what kind of housing existed,
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facilities existed to settle the emancipated slaves on. and they tapped menard to actually go down there and visit the site. this is the letter that menard presented to the governor of the colony of british honduras when he arrived on august 3rd, 1863. he was the leader of a four-man party. we only know the name of one of the other members. another black abolitionist by the name of charles babcock who was based out of boston. but they traveled down to belize. they were presented to the governor. they toured the colonial assembly, met with several members of the government. who were actually quite pleased. because the assembly had black members at the time, which was very rare for the world. this was one of the appeals of belize as a colony. they were later taken up the coast and inland to the site of the british honduras company's land. this is actually a picture of the ruins of a sugar mill in
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belize, that was on the land of the british honduras company. they had a sugar farm that they were going to partition and give to the settlers. and menard toured and visited this site. we have a letter that mentions that he arrived at this particular location, saw sugar production under way, saw the construction of buildings under way. he comes back and reports to the u.s. government everything that he's seen. this site dates to around 1860, and was in operation until 1874, down there in belize. but upon his return, he also notices some problems with the colony. he notices it's very much the frontier of the british empire. and the ability of the colonial company that was down there to sustain a very large influx of population had not been established yet. many of the buildings that they had promised were still under construction. they didn't have the facilities to simply take in large numbers of people. he reports on this almost
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immediately when he gets back to the united states. he goes straight to henry highland garnett's church. this is in september of 1863. and gives a speech about the findings of the conditions of belize. he observes at the time that a few of the right stock, few men of the right stock could be suitable for settling on this frontier. and remarks favorably on the country. at the same time is skeptical that right now was the time to initiate immigration. he also reports on this to president lincoln and drafts what we believe is a fairly substantial and lengthy essay on the subject. unfortunately that essay's been lost. but this is the letter he attached to it when he delivered it to president lincoln in september of 1863. now, the british colony shortly afterwards ran into trouble. there were problems between the british and united states government. britain wanted to sustain its neutrality in the raging civil war. and became somewhat skittish
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about continuing this agreement for the belief that the confederacy, which was still very active fighting the war, would interpret this as british power coming in and endorsing the emancipation proclamation. menard himself is also somewhat unsettled by the events that occurred in his absence. he comes back to new york and he learns that the new york draft riots of 1863 had occurred, when several free african-americans in the city were lynched. they were attacked on the streets, including henry highland garnett, who had to take cover in his home, and remove the sign from his door to prevent the mob from coming in and attacking him and his family. this definitely unsettles several members of the free black community and they perceive british honduras for a brief period to escape to. at the same time, menard is
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encountering political opposition emerging within the republican party to the colonization movement. and within six months of his return and presentation of this project, the colonization funds are rescinded. through opposition that came out of the united states senate. menard himself at the time turned next to another location. remember william anderson, the jamaican philanthropist that had sponsored anti-slavery societies around the world and had met with menard during his trip to belize. en route back from belize, he stopped at the island of jamaica and fell in love. he met his wife, elizabeth, there. this is on the steam route back to new york city. and with the patronage, we believe, of anderson, he relocates to the island of jamaica. we think sometime in early 1865. we don't know the exact date that this occurs. but anderson is most likely the
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sponsor of his trip and his journey there, because he settles in a parish right next to, and adjacent to a plantation that is owned by anderson. there are two other figures that enter menard life, internationally now. this is a person that had been introduced to abraham lincoln, had encountered the highest levels of the united states government. now he is brought over into the highest levels of the jamaican government. our first figure here, george william gordon, who is considered the national hero of jamaica today for reasons tied to menard's own career, gordon was a member of the jamaican parliament. he was a black member of the jamaican parliament. a leader of the liberal faction within colonial politics. he was an advocate of increased voting rights, increased property rights, the ability to purchase land. the ability to vote and participate and sit on juries that were major colonial issues in the british empire at the time. this other fellow is the


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