tv The Presidency CSPAN April 23, 2016 1:05pm-2:06pm EDT
should be addressed. he was commonly known as his excellency until the title was changed to president because of concerns that position would become too much like a monarch. george washington university hosted this event as part of the celebration honoring the first president's birthday. this is about an hour. >> [inaudible]
there could be no more fitting location. .the third first, this is the first are we feature one of gw's own phd's. she has written a critically acclaimed study. this year, the george washington lecture is a little different. it is a conversation. that is the fourth first, if you are keeping track. we felt this made more sense, to have an informal conversation and to welcome more audience participation. have your questions ready. immediately following the conversation, there will be a reception in the lobby. i would like to welcome some special guests this evening. our speakers husband, welcome. [inaudible] [applause]
unfortunately, the editor for the project could not be here this evening. we want to acknowledge him for working closely with tuazon. she was a visiting scholar for the first federal conference project. vicely we welcome president of the guest experience at george washington -- welcome. i am pleased to welcome back to campus the featured speaker, dr. kathleen bartoloni-tuazon. [applause] she received her doctorate in history in 2010. she was featured on "all things considered."
she worked as a chief of informational management for the u.s. fish and wildlife service. her wonderful book -- after the establishment of the government under the constitution, congress and individuals debated more than 30 titles. a few that did not make the cut, his elected majesty, his highness. some favored calling all presidents washington. the office that george
washington defined, we could not be any luckier to have someone with expertise about the original presidency. it is my pleasure to welcome to the stage dr. kathleen bartoloni-tuazon. [applause] dr. bartoloni-tuazon: thank you for coming. >> you know that i love this book. what i wonder about is why the story has been with title controversy.
dr. bartoloni-tuazon: there were times when historians wondered why they spent so much time on it when they could've been working on amendments to the constitution or taxation. what they did not quite realize was how important the controversy was to figuring out what they were going to do with the new office of president. i came across -- washington's presidency was trapped with the dichotomous concepts of a republican king.
i just did not believe it. i thought, his presidency must have been dynamic. i was having lunch one day and i mentioned this much to my colleagues there and we started talking about the presidential title controversy. they happen to mention they had this multitude of materials on the title controversy. the more i thought about it, i realized my dissertation topic had hit me on the head. >> those are the best kinds. let's take a step back. i think we take it for granted,
the presidency. this was something of a radical creation. can you say a little bit about the fears the american people had about this new executive office? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: you have to realize a president's within the popular sovereignty is complicated and the presidency was quite controversial in the beginning. the american nation had just fought a war against the king and six years after the treaty of paris and the end of the war, this new constitution featured a
federal central executive with no term limits and vaguely defined powers. it is no wonder people worried about a monarchy attaching to the presidency. what kind of a president did the country want and need? there were those that worried the president would turn into a despotic all-powerful monarch. there was another group of americans that worried about a weak executive that would be subject to corruption and manipulation, like a weak king could be manipulated by his court. for them, there was reason they would be more interested in a strong title to counteract this fear of a weak president. >> it seems all sides agreed the person should be george washington. he was the obvious choice. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: he was the most trusted man in america and the most celebrated person in the western world.
i mean, really, when you think about it. he and the nation were one. he was like a steadying influence on an unsettled america. people celebrated him with such enthusiasm that he was a blessing, trusted guy that he was. he was so celebrated, the enthusiasm toward washington was so excessive and so king like, he would elicit almost like the rapture within the people. the public loved him and they loved to celebrate him.
as a result, he brought this --that was a problem for the presidency. yes, he was a terrific guy and probably the only choice for a really successful first president because of the trust people had in him, that he could inhabit the presidency and they could trust him in that position. but he brought with him some problems.
>> a question i sometimes get, if not washington, who would be the next obvious choice? my answer is, there was not. that brings us to this question of what to call him. i wonder if you could give us a little bit of background to the debate. why did it even happened? the constitution says this person would be the president of the united states. why do people feel they needed something more? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: once the senate convened in early april of 1789 and finally counted the votes, washington was sent forth. he starts making his journey from mount vernon to new york.
he celebrated all along the way. these huge productions. he is coming to new york. the senate is convening. it is really no surprise that people start wondering, what are we going to call him once he arrives? are we just going to call him mr. -- i don't think so. he had already been addressed as general and your excellency during the revolutionary war. in addition, at that time, all of the governors were addressed as your excellency. except for the governor of georgia. in the constitution, it said, he
must be your honor. with washington coming, this person who was so celebrated like a king, calling him your excellency, and the same title held by all of the states governors and he is supposed to be the head of this new federal government. the question was, what should we call the president? he was so celebrated, your excellency did not seem quite majestic enough. at the same time, your excellency was already used for state governors. what are we going to call this new federal officer? >> the senate really pushes this issue and we have to remember this was a new office as well, the office of vice president. when john adams reads the constitution and wonders what he is supposed to do, he thinks he is supposed to go to the senate. he is the president of the senate constitutionally. one thing i really like about your book, other people just dismissed adams as crazy or ridiculous.
dr. bartoloni-tuazon: for adams, even though he was a high federalist, he was more concerned about a week executive than a strong executive. he was concerned the executive would be corruptible. when he had been in britain as an ambassador, perhaps he had seen king george manipulated by his court. he was worried and richard henry lee, the senator from virginia, was also worried about a weak executive. they felt one of the ways to shore up the executive was to give him some tremendous title. the senate majority felt this way. part of the reason they did was
they found themselves in a bit of a bind. those -- the people who were most fearful of this weak executive, those they thought would be the most manipulative would be the senate. the states were very powerful. the senators were the state elites. adams was very afraid the state elites would overpower the executive. not so much washington with his incredible authority, but all the presidents to come. the senate did find itself in a bit of a bind. if they did not give the president a high title, they would be accused of an
aristocratic body. if they gave him a high title, they would be accused of being monarchists. >> you have to tell us about some of the titles. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: the senate and the american people debated over 30 titles, most with royal overtones. illustrious majesty, illustrious highness, sacred majesty. washington was put forth because shouldn't all the other president tried to be as wonderful as washington was? there was even a suggestion that at least for washington, his
name should be the delight of humankind. >> that is what we would all like to be called. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: it just went on and on. president, of course, was one of the suggestions. forget all of this, let's just call him president. there was a large and vocal group, the majority of the people argued for just a simple president as well. some of them you can barely say. the senate, especially with the house being adamantly opposed. the house was always opposed to any title other than the civic title of president. in subcommittees, when they would try to meet, the house would not budge.
eventually, what happened in the end after the three weeks of legislative debate, during what i call the legislative phase of the controversy, the senate capitulated completely to the house. the simple title of president with no extra address. in that resolution, they begin with the recommendation that the senate felt his title should be his highness, president of the united states and protector. >> that would be a mouthful in a press conference. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: president and protector obama. >> amazing story. something you accomplished, how you treat washington in this book.
there is a long tradition suggesting during this whole debate, somehow washington was in the background cheering for one of these illustrious titles. you show quite the opposite. tell us about his role. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: first of all, i want to say, the title controversy is rife with gossip and innuendo. my book is filled with catty facebook posts. in all of that gossip and innuendo, never did i find any evidence that washington supported the title. that is my first argument against it.
i have several in the book. one of the other big arguments against washington's supporting a title is that he wrote in a letter to his son-in-law that he was against the title controversy. it was started before he arrived on the scene in new york. he argued against it once he heard about it. he predicted the uproar it would cause. he would end the harm it was doing to the perceptions of the new federal government. he was from virginia and virginia barely ratified the constitution. his neighbors were already going, you are going to be the first president? the last thing he is going to want is anything that will
exacerbate negative attitudes toward the new federal government. also, in that letter to david stewart, he expresses specifically his irritation with john adams for pressing for a high title. the other main piece of evidence i bring to the argument he was not in favor of a high title is by looking at james madison during this period. it is very important for all of us to look at james madison and to listen to what he is saying, to read what he is writing. during that first year, washington and madison, in some ways, the de facto head of the house, they were very close, they were two of the founders that were at the constitutional
convention every day in philadelphia. washington and madison. adams was in britain. jefferson was in france. hamilton was there for a while, but left to go back to new york. it was madison and washington there every day bonding over these arguments and very committed to the constitution's success. if you listen to what madison is saying, he argues on the house
floor. he speaks on a lot of issues and he has washington's public voice. he speaks on the title controversy and other issues and i think you can expect that what you are hearing is what washington feels. on the title issue, madison speaks on the house floor against titles, against the title of high mightiness, which was the title given to the stakeholders in the netherlands. he totally ridiculed that title, which is the title that is sometimes erroneously associated with george washington today. but madison specifically denigrates that title and then he goes on to say in his speech
on the house floor, he alludes to washington and says any title would go against the true dignity of this first executive. he also refers to washington and washington's displeasure over titles in letters. to jefferson and several others. >> it is very persuasive and it fits with the part of washington that is sometimes lost. he was a great politician. this was bad politics. we know from what happens after the debate in congress. you describe how the controversy becomes a more public controversy. what happens then? when the american people find out what the senate has been doing for the first three weeks
of the session, what do they say? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: remember the senate met behind closed doors at this time. they have been arguing about the title for three weeks, from april 23, which was the day when they first started the resolution to come up with the title for the president. which happened to be the same day washington arrived in new york. there is no doubt this was not a coincidence. they were, like, let's get a committee together to figure this out. washington goes on to be inaugurated a week later and they are still arguing behind
closed doors. on may 14, they capitulate to the house, a formal resolution. it goes into the senate journals. the senate journals are not going to be published right away. they have to be cleaned up and they come out in the press six months later. but the titles resolution was leaked to the press almost as soon as the ink was dry. the boston papers get it first and then the new york papers get it right after that. it is almost word for word. somebody wanted everybody to know. as soon as the public finds out about this debate -- some of the elites already knew. when the general public finds out about it, it is not like everybody said, great, this is what they are going to do. instead, everybody has an opinion about titles. what happened, it was like the twitter feed gone viral.
for the next three or four months, throughout the summer of 1789 and into the fall, it was this fierce debate that sold lots of newspapers. it was obvious the press was, like, oh, my gosh, let's write some more things about titles and sell some more papers. the public needed to debate this. they had to debate whether the senate had made the right choice. it became obvious the majority of americans agreed with the senate. they were happy with what had happened and what came out of this, the reason i call this cathartic, as a result of this, some of the public's fears about
their new government, their new congress, their new president, were resolved. they gained more trust that the new federal government, these legislators could argue something as politically volatile as they thought a title for the president was and come up with a solution and the choice the people agreed with. it was a good thing. >> it landed upon the small republican solution. i wonder if you could talk about some of the lasting impact that this controversy had on the office of the president and i love what you write about the vice president. that is interesting, too. what does this mean in a long-term? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: ok. the simple title gave the people some relief from their fear of an elected king.
i got the title of my book in there. it gave them some relief and they gained trust in the government, in the presidency. as a result, of the controversy happening so quickly in the earliest part of the washington administration, as the people gained confidence, it allowed them to relax about the presidency just a little bit. basically, the outcome of the title controversy helped the presidency fledge its power by not flaunting its power.
>> that is a neat idea. it makes the presidency stronger in the end. adams got what he wanted. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: ironically. my argument is because the people were more comfortable with the presidency, it could start to spread its wings and they could explore the power of the presidency more easily without the added baggage of a high title attached to it. as far as the vice presidency is concerned, my feeling is very strong that the presidential title controversy is one of the great casualties of the presidential title controversy is the relationship between the presidency and the vice presidency. because of the controversy, we basically have the diminished vice presidency that we have to this day.
washington backed away from the extremely unpopular adams. adams, among his colleagues in the federal leagues, was called his rotundity. among the public, he was referred to as the dangerous vice. he was called the spawn of satan. washington backed away from adams, never to return. is the vice president a member of washington's cabinet?
no. could he have been? i argue that washington could have done whatever he wanted with that vice president position. he did nothing. adams himself contributed to this because of his own attitude toward the vice presidency. he discounted that role as being the placeholder. if something happened to the president, the vice president was there. adams felt his main job was to be president of the senate. he irritated a lot of the senators by trying to throw his weight around. admittedly, over the years, adams passed a lot of deciding votes when the senate was tied, but his influence within that body waned. the vice presidency's influence in the legislature diminished.
it all starts with the presidential title controversy. >> in the beginning, a lot of people did not notice whether this was an executive branch office or a legislative branch office. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: and it became neither. >> your description of the political rhetoric from the 1790's makes me think of our own rancorous election going on. some of you may have heard about that. i would like to know what you
think, if washington -- what kind of things our current candidates could have learned from washington's example? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: washington, in this controversy, what i learned, washington and think, if washington -- what the people developed what i consider to be the first principles of american executive leadership. these are principles that helped the presidency find no problems with democracy and strength. it helped the presidency grow stronger. through this cathartic controversy over a title, they developed these principles. first, modesty and restraint, which the people got by the simple title and washington
supported. second, a sincere nod to the people, a sincere understanding, and interdependence between the presidency and the people. the president and the people are connected. the people got that by washington supporting the simple title of president, which matched the bulk of popular opinion. these the first principles of executive leadership. in terms of today, we often hear the presidency referred to as the modern presidency. that modern presidency no longer adheres to these particular principles, you might argue. i would argue that at the very least, if you look at the way presidents try so hard to appear like one of us, hitting broccoli, playing the saxophone, playing basketball, clearing brush, learning football, all of these traits harken back to those principles of simplicity and a nod to the people.
these could be a cautionary tale for those running for the presidency today. >> so a big dose of humility. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: by doing that, you gain strength. you gain trust. people trust you to go ahead and be the leaders they want you to be. if you don't think people want a strong leader, they do want a strong leader. they just want somebody they can trust. >> watch out, you might get nominated.
other people to consider in this story and other titles at the time. i am dying to know about martha washington. what did the people call martha? mr. president comes later in the 19th century and i don't think the first lady exists. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: washington was never addressed as mr. president. don't let anybody tell you that he was. he was sir, general, your excellency, and president until the end of his days. just that washington's name attached to treaties and proclamations helped elevate the
title of president. because he had that kind of gravitas. mr. president, the simple title of president allowed for mr. president to be something that could come along naturally. for the women at the time, among the federal elite, they were referred to as lady. lady adams, lady washington. martha washington was called lady washington. she was not called the first lady. she was also called the lady of the president. she was also called, quite often, the president amiable consort. in a poem, she was addressed as our fabian queen. that poem is dedicated to the amiable consort of the illustrious washington. john adams had been ambassador to britain.
as ambassador to britain, he was called excellency, as was abigail. i found evidence that when abigail was back in the united states after that, she was still getting correspondence addressed to your excellency mrs. john adams. >> i will ask one more question and then we will turn it to the audience. please get your questions ready. with the current presidential election, there is a better chance there will be a woman elected for president.
if hillary clinton was elected president, will there be a new title controversy? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: many women are presidents of organizations and they are called madam president. i would assume she would be called madam president. i do not think there would be a whole lot of debate about that. i think most women, their husbands would be called mr. or dr. or lieutenant. maybe the first gentleman. i can see the first gentleman being used for bill clinton, but bill clinton is a special case. he was president so he is still president clinton.
the controversy i can see, or at least the confusion, would be when hillary clinton and bill clinton would be referred to at the same time as president clinton and president clinton. they will have to work that out. maybe they will always have to identify hillary and bill as their first names. i am not quite sure how newspapers would deal with that. the presidents clinton. i am not sure. there would be some confusion. still to this day, you get a title and it just follows you forever. >> you are the person they might ask, so be ready.
dr. bartoloni-tuazon: maybe i will do another npr. >> we like to have questions from the audience. we have a microphone at the back of the room. if you want to walk back to the microphone. tell us your name and what you do and anything on your mind, any questions you might have, would be terrific. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: thank you so much. it has been great. >> you do not have to run all at once. >> i'm a librarian here at the law school. was there concern that by not giving the president of the united states a grant title that that would put him in a position of weakness when dealing with foreign dignitaries? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: absolutely. this is a big concern for a lot of people. what eventually happened was you
start to see in literature, people are worried about this. they are worried who will follow washington. they were worried -- first, there is washington, but the next president might be a shadow of what washington is. he needs this high title. as you read the literature on it, what you see is that people start to say, you know, washington got all of his accolades and all of his reverence and respect without a title. he did not need a high title along the way to get our respect. what we need to do is have these other people try to rise to the top, show what they are without the noise and confusion that a title can bring. that put away that argument --
that is the way that argument turned out. >> i think we have another question. >> i am from the history department. i am wondering what influence the events in france are having on what is going on. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: thank you. the events in france, the revolution, the news of it is coming slowly over to america. it is starting to arrive in the summer of 1789. it really does not affect the legislative phase. you do not see anything in the newspapers about it during that time of april and may. by july, things have changed. news is coming and people -- what you see in the press is a
lot of excitement that france has gone the way of getting rid of titles, throwing titles away. even though the violence that accompanies the french revolution, people start to distance themselves from the french revolution and the papers as they start to hear about the violence. the fact they have tossed away titles and basically submerged the aristocracy is something -- they say they are following the american example and it really does help to squelch strong title commentary. at that point, france is on the side of the angels, on the side of the majority in favor of a simple title. you do see in some of the
commentary, they do say, this helps our position. it throws away any arguments in favor of a high title. >> another question i had, you mentioned the modern presidency. the imperial presidency. these are one -- this is a hypothetical. if george washington sees the presidency today, what does he recognize and what is completely foreign to him?
totally different? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: on this whole imperial presidency concern that props up periodically, i view it as part of this protectiveness towards the presidency that really started with the ratification of the constitution and the arguments they had about the presidency and the executive branch. among all of this gossip and innuendo, fierce argument on both sides, should we have a high title or not, what we see is that all sides are very protective for the office. they want their leader to succeed. they are very protective about the office of the presidency and i see this concern about the imperial presidency as part of
that tradition of protectiveness for the office. what would washington -- how would washington view the presidency today? he would be relieved that there would be an amendment that made the four-year term. i do not think you could have convinced him it was a good idea because we were at war, for example. i think he might be a little alarmed to see so many executive orders going forward. the veto was a power that was very strong from the very beginning and was something that was discussed during the time in that summer of 1789.
congress was already making decisions about an executive veto. that is not something he would be surprised to see. and i know, if i had to bet money on washington's position on whether he had the right to name a supreme court justice in the last year of his term, i do not think there is any doubt he would feel it was his duty and his right within the power of the presidency to make that choice and make that nomination and send it to the senate and he would expect the senate to act. >> it is amazing how closely he followed the constitution. the fact that he wrote in the margins about what he was
supposed to do. the powers required. that is the definition of constitutional governance. you cannot imagine a cromwell or napoleon doing the same thing. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: as he got further along in his administration, there is more and more controversy about some of the choices he is making. i do not go into that in my book. i stay within the first couple of years, which is the title controversy. something i am very interested in is the evolution of executive powers in the time he was president. it is obvious to me that he has incredible respect for the people's opinion. not exactly a fear of the people's opinion, but a sincere respect.
a lot of it is because he was a virginian and the virginians were suspicious of the constitution. washington and his good friend george mason basically became estranged over their differences of opinion about the constitution. he lost a friend during that period. as a result, he was always concerned about following the constitution, doing the right thing, and not alarming the people. what i would like to see, explore more, how much of the consideration of the view of the majority did he take into account? you can see, letters that show
you about the title controversy. i am not sure if he is open enough in some of his other decisions later on. >> we think of public opinion as a new thing. but it is there from the very beginning. he is having his associates go out and talk to the people. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: david stewart did not just write to him by happenstance. washington told stewart, you need to write to me and tell me what is going on in virginia. i want to know what is going on in virginia. he is writing back to stewart, and he wants to hear. he tells them in another letter,
he tells them i want to hear what the people are thinking because if i have made the decision they do not agree with, he actually says, i will reconsider. i will reconsider what i have done and affect a solution if i need to. >> that is great. that is great. political parties, so important today to our system of government. they were something washington despised. can you say a little bit about that? why did washington detest political parties so much? dr. bartoloni-tuazon: i think he would not be happy -- the
president is the leader of the political party he is associated with today. a president's legacy is how strong he leaves his party at the end of his administration. i think washington would not be happy with that. he thought parties brought too much self-interest. >> in it for themselves and not the country. dr. bartoloni-tuazon: he wanted to keep the country on a civic virtue kind of footing and he wanted to keep the constitution as free of politics as it could be.
he really viewed parties as opportunities for mischief. in his presidential inaugural address, he encourages no factionalism. in the title controversy, in the senate's final resolution on titles, one of the things in there, the total capitulation in favor of president. the senate says at one point, to keep harmony with the house, we will agree with them. that is not something you see
today anymore. i think washington would say part of the reason for that is the self-interest that comes with parties. >> you have given us so much to think about during this election season. really fantastic. we really appreciate it. we have a small gift from your alma mater, a token of our appreciation. appropriate for the occasion -- a bust of george washington. thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you for this amazing turnout. we want to welcome everybody to the lobby of the museum. we will have a book signing, refreshments, and morgan sharing. -- more good sharing. [applause]
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