tv Humanizing the Founding Fathers CSPAN February 20, 2017 10:32am-11:41am EST
and i think that's much of the lesson that we are trying to conv convey. >> we will conclude on that note, the senior curator at the museum, thank you very much for being with us. >> thank you. >> thank you for opening the doors at the national museum of african-american history and culture, part of the smithsonian. all of our coverage is available on our website, at c-span.org. thank you for joining us here on c-span3's american history tv. >> next on american history tv, pulitzer prize winning historian joseph ellis discusses the founding fathers, and argues for humanizing them, saying they were flawed men who too often are placed on a pedestal, stripping us of our ability to relate to them and thus truly appreciate their achievement. ful he sits down for a conversation to discuss what inspired him to study the founder and what he likes about most about each individual character. this two hour event was part of a series on the founders hosted by the society of the four arts
in palm beach, florida. thank you, dr. brenneman. and good morning, everyone. i'm so excited you're here. and welcome to the first founders and us relevance of our origin origins. i am gay gaines, aand i and i' addict of founding american history. i was having breakfast with joe ellis and speaker newt gingrich at mount vernon, my favorite place in america. we were lamenting the fact that most colleges and universities in the united states are no longer teaching founding american history. and in fact most high schools are no longer teaching our founding american history. in 1898, when seniors and
colleges and high schools were asked who is the greatest hero, they unanimously said george washington. in 1988, when they were asked the same question, the answer was michael jordan. we were discussing my dream of building a future for the past right here in palm beach, florida. what some might think an unlikely location. but i told them about this incredible organization, the society of the four arts. and its generous benefactors and members and both historians were enthusiastic. the goal was to attract renowned founding history experts here to palm beach to educate and re-educate adults and students and to reach a wider audience through television to stimulate discussion about our unique
founding. i presented the idea to the 4 arts leadership, the wonderful chairman patrick henry, president david brenneman, and education committee chair shelly guglein. their reaction was positive. we spoke to our marvelous can do marley sharland, and tireless senior associate of education, donna marie valley, and along with dependable administrative assistant stephanie grant they all supported the idea of taking on this big project. together, we hope to engage a wider audience in a national conversation about america's revolutionary generation. those political leaders present at the creation. the american founding is the big bang in american history, from which our core ideas, values and
political institutions radiate. no other country in the history of the world came into being as these united states of america. we assembled speeches of unquestionable distinction with a proven sxa en capacity to bri high degree of intellectual sophistication and contagious enthusiasm to a large audience. today we begin the series with the man who encouraged me to go forward. dr. ellis graduated from william & mary with a ba and received his ma and doctorate from yale university. he has concentrated his long and distinguished teaching and voluminous writing career on the founding fathers. he told me, and i quote, writing is solitary and teaching is social. i love to do both.
teaching forces you to talk things out, writing allows you to digest the conversations and perhaps put them in a more concise form. his powerful book "american sphinx about thomas jefferson" won the coveted national book award for nonfiction in 1997. his fabulous book "founding brothers" won the pulitzer prize for history, also a coveted award in 2001. that christmas i received 13 copies for my family and friends because they all knew i would want to read it. my personal favorite of all time is the quartet, published in 2015. now, you all know the opening of lincoln's gettysburg address. four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation.
but hold on. joe ellis points out that statement isn't exactly accurate. with the articles of confederation in place, the founders had achieved independence from england, but we could well have become a new europe, with 13 independent countries. the quartet, washington, madison, hamilton, and jay, were responsible for making the transition happen, from a confederation of states to a new nation. ellis clearly and eloquently explains how the united states constitution and the bill of rights came to be, and america was born. quote, it could be considered the most consequential act of political leadership in american
history. ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm palm beach welcome to dr. joseph j. ellis. [ applause ] >> i'm not sure i'm going to be able to live up to that. no human being can and that's going to be one of my themes that the founders were all human and we faithly a moment in our own history we can understand them as creatures like us, imperfect human beings, impressive nevertheless for reasons i'll try to explain. i want to begin with a statement of sorts with a story and then a question for you. i can't see you very well, but i hope that i can ask you a question. here's the statement.
i think that we must begin with certain assumptions about american society and culture right now as we address the founders that this lecture series. namely that the american public is embarrassingly illiterate about our history, that the scholarly world has largely abdicated its responsibility to communicate beyond the cloistered groves of academe. that political correctness is priting at epidemic levels in our most distinguished colleges and universities, making serious engagement with controversial issues difficult if not impossible. and our political culture has become so polarized and partisan that communication across ideological lines is virtually nonexistent. well, the internet should have expanded communication in a way that is wonderful, it has also
created a series of bubbles that each of us occupy. and we only talk to our friends on facebook. and our own values, our own prejudices, which we all dearly regard as convictions, are reinforced and are seldom challenged. i think that the one thing we can certainly agree on, with regard to the most recent presidential election, that we live in a divided country. and that one of the functions of this lecture series and my remarks today is to try to create a safe space, back there in the past, in the late 18th century, where we can come together and talk about the controversial issues. if we discover that in that visit back to the past we only are learning things that confirm our own categories and convictions, then we're cherry picking the evidence.
neither liberals nor conservatives, republicans or democrats, will be fully happy with the results of these deliberations. but in fact, the very categories we think in will be challenged because in the same way that the founders looked back to the greek and roman classics, to cicero, the founders are our classics, if you will. go to literary terms, shakespeare. we need to go back to them to revisit the eternal issues and try to find ways to talk to each other that we right now cannot do. my story, it is designed to talk about the fuss about the founders. my remarks are under the title what is the fuss about the founders? i wrote a book about thomas jefferson and my publisher sent
me on a book tour, and at one place, at one moment, in the book tour is a blurry thing, look a political campaign, i was in richmond, virginia, i gave a talk and my treatment of jefferson was not totally complementary. the people that burn incense to mr. jefferson in charlottesville were not completely happy with my thoughts. and i'm a virginian. i even went to the same college that jefferson went to. my hair, what's left of it, is the same color as jefferson's air. but at the end of the talk, and the q & a, a woman got up, a woman of a certain age, well coifed and well attired and i'm not going to be able to replicate her accent perfectly, a richmond accent is more southern than certain parts of
alabama. mr. ellis, i have listened to your remarks on mr. jefferson and, mr. ellis, everything you said is wrong. and i know it's wrong because mr. jefferson appeared to me in my bedroom last night. and he told me you were going to say these bad things about him. and then her final line, this was a great line, it sort of knocked me for a loop, mr. ellis, you are a mere pigeon on the great statue of thomas jefferson. i said, i said, thank you very much. next question, please. i was flustered. i didn't know what to say.
but she came up to get her book signed. and she gave me had her card. had her name on it. it said poet. and i said to her then, and i mustered this up, i said, madam, it is not really important whether you regard me as a pigeon. it is very important that you regard jefferson as something other than a statue. and my remarks today are to create real live human beings rather than statues. and in order to move in us in that particular direction, i want to ask you a question.
i can't see you clearly, but i am operating on the assumption that many of you out there are parents. and grandparents. an oral response would be is that true? >> yes. >> me too. have you had this experience, when your children are very young, you can do no wrong. you are their gods. you are omniscent. and then they this is a line. whether that line is metabolic or psychiatric or purely chronological, i don't know. but when they cross that line, you can do no right. indeed, in purely freudian terms, they want to kill you.
part of a complex. that syndrome is the pattern describing most historiography, more scholarship and most ininterpretive work on the founders. it is this oscillation, this swoonish swing, between idolization and evisceration. iconic versus deadest males in american history. it is a cartoon. it is is really two sides of the same cartoon. and i think we're at a point in our history for several reasons that i'll specify when we can move past the cartoon.
now, there are reasons why all new nations seem to need heroic founders, who are mythologyized and capitalized in the literature over the years. rome has romulus and ramis, britain has king arthur, spain has el sid. but notice all of those people are fictional characters. the american founders were real people. and we created in the 19th century a mythology surrounding them, probably for sensible reasons. but it long since passed the time when those mythological renderings are really credible or relevant. in fact, there is this dialogue
between adams and benjamin rush, i recommend to you, it is available in a book called spur of fame. here is rush. what i'm going to tell you is that most of the founders don't want to be mythologyized. rush, i shall continue to believe that the whole idea of great men are a lie, and that there is very little difference in that superstition which leads us to believe in what the world has called great men and in that which leads us to believe in witches and conjurers. adams, the thesis and funerals in honors of washington is as corrupt a system as that by which saints were canonized and popes, kings and the whole arkical system was created. washington itself would object to the pilgrim actagrimages to
vernon as the mecca of jerusalem. adams' grandson, in editing his letters and his works, had a preas if in which he said are b that the patriots of the former days were men like ourselves and we are led to describe them in certain gigantic proportions and super human qualities without reflecting this at once robbing the character of consistency and the virtues of all merit. one of the things that charles francis adams is saying is that if these guys were all gods, what in heaven's name do we have to learn from them, and because certainly, we are not. so i think that we are at a moment when we have begun to move past this.
i guess, how many of you have seen "hamilton"? unbelievable play and i'm not a fan of the hip-hop and it is the single most interesting depiction of hamilton and if you were to ask me, and which of the founders is going to end up getting this attention, the last one i would have picked is hamilton. and i called ron chernow and i said, you lucky son of a gun. why didn't they pick jefferson. there are kids, and i have driven kids to the soccer matches in the last couple of months who in the back seat reciting lines from "hamilton" the play, because they have the script or the record of the script, and have you seen it? it is almost like the harry potter phenomena among the chirp
and the adolescents, and by the way s there a bunch of middle school kids here. and somebody told me that there might be, and so i have to watch my language a little. by at any rate with the "hamilton" phenomena and there have been books over the years and some in the speakers of this series, walter issacson and stacy shif lynn franklin, and mcculloch on adams and then ron childrenow won for hamilton and washington and even yours truly has contributed in the pact 3 of the boys have had their college educations paid in part because of the books that were sold.
why is this happening? and now, there is a book on the best-selling list about jefferson and the tripoli pirates. one reason is because each of the founders have been the subject of massive documentary res research into their papers and one into the 20th century, and each of those collections have been going towards a glacial pace that we now have for the founders as a whole, the fullest documentary record ever put together for to a political elite inle world history. all you have to do is to sit down and read 87 volumes of the washington papers, which i had to do, and the material there. there's the second reason that i think that the founders are in vogue. we are unhappy with the current
political leadership. we believe that the gold standard is back there in the late 18th century, and the current leadership, republican and democrat, represents a debased form of the currency. or as henry adams the grandson of john put it in the middle of the 19th century, you look at the history of the american presidency chronologically, and you have to believe that darwin got it exactly backwards. [ laughter ] all right. we are at a moment that we want to seize and politicize these people and learn from them. who are these people, and what am i talking about the founders? okay. there are two foundings.
not one. one occurs in 1776, the core document is the declaration of independence. the court experiences the war for independence successfully wage and then in 1887, the core document is the constitution, and the core experience is the creation of a national government in the 1790s that endures despite what all european experts thought would happen. these are very different moments with different impulses. i will talk about that at the end. in order to make the list of the most prominent founders, those at the top of the american version of mount olympus, you have to have been a major player in both foundings.
now, that is going to limb nate certain people who were prominent at one but not the other founding. it is eliminating john marshall, george mason, john jay maybe, and although jay is doing up, and if you were investing in the founders put your money on jay. he's going ascend in worth. sam adams. henry, patrick henry, and robert morris, and you probably don't know who robert morris is, but gouverneur morris, and who makes it? there are six people who make the list. this is, i guess, my list, but i defend it. they are george washington, premier paris, the founding of
them all, and they all said that, among the us, he was the greatest. they all say that. he is the toughest to get to know. benjamin franklin, the grandfatherle amongst the fathers. franklin was born roughly the same time as jonathan edwards, and he grew up knowing increased ma mather in boston, and he's an old guy. he at the time in an international poll would rank hi higher than washington, because of the reputation as a scientist in england and philasof in france. and the thing about washington, he got all of the big things right. franklin's is wisdom.
he's the wisest of them all. and people say, what would franklin say about the affordable care act. you can't do that, so i have developed the answer, he would not care, because he is on medicare. john adams, i like him best, and you will see why, because he among all of the founders in the diary and the letters, he is the best read and the most contrarian, and the fiestest. he is the most human. thomas jefferson probably the most intellectually sophisticated, and the most resonant in both senses, meaning
he is the greatest and the most lyrical and the author of the most famous words in history, and we hold these truths to be self-evidence, and al-- self-evident and the most explicitly racist and duplicitous, and none of theena are watching in the world today would at all surprise jefferson. james madison. the most politically shrewd, the guy that makes it happen on the ground. if god were in the details, madison would be there to greet him upon arrival. he is the lawyer's founder, and he thinks like a lawyer, but he was not trained to p a lawyer. you the tell me who the client
is, and i will prepare the case. and jefferson would tell him who the client is, and in the tandem of jefferson and madison, the single-most important partnership of the founding era. finally, alexander hamilton. hamilton is the smartest, and the prodigy and the highest grades on the lsats and the most dangerous. if you let jefferson go, we become slightly or almost an anarchy. and if you letm hamilton go, we are at risk of becoming the totalitarian dictatorship. and therefore there is one thing present in this mix that you should notice. it is a diverse group of people.
diverse intellectually and ideologically. that washington is prix ma s-- primacentor positive, and if you are looking at the system of checks and balances in describing the constitution, there is an inherent check and balance in the collective leadership in the founding. they argue with each other throughout the 1780s and 1990s and into the 19th century, and we will see if jefferson and adams are arguing this the correspondence at the end of the talk. history is an argument without e end, and they have created a republic in which the constitution is not supposed to provide answers, but it is supposed to provide a framework in which we argue productively.
anyway, diversity in the original sense of ideological and political differences. this is a question, and another question that i hope that you can think about. i call it the wilkes-barre question and why? because wilkes-barre, pennsylvania, population is approximately the population size of white virginia in 1776. got that? now, if you and i go walking down the streets of wilkes-barre today, do you think that we can find george washington, thomas jefferson, james madison, george mason, john marshall and patrick henry? they've got to be there like with latent leadership
potential, but certainly, we are not going the find them. so what happened in the late 18th century to generate a j generation that is beyond much question the most creative political leadership generation of political leaders in american history? well, arnold twoinby said that all load eadership in all socie is a function of crisis, and that the late 18th century was a crisis, and it was that, the revolution, and the creation of the american nation state. now, the problem with that argument is that we can all think of great crises in american history where the great leadership does not show up,
like now. now you can't say that there is something special in the water back then, can you? that doesn't make sense. and nor can you say with any credibility that tongues of fire poured over their head in philadelphia in 1776 or 1876. and washington never used the word god, but he used the word providence a lot. god was guiding him, and providence was guiding him. i think that i don't have an answer to this question. that thele talent did emerge and one kind of answer is the united states in the late 18th centurile compared not to now
sh, and this is what mod rn students want to do, but it is not right, it is presentistic that compared to england and france and other countries, it is open to talent much more than any of the other countri countries. if washington were in england he would have made major in the british army and no more. and if adams were in england, he would have been a country lawyer, and franklin would have been a book seller. and hamilton, god knows what he would have -- he was living a bastard. and adams called him the bastard brat of a scotsman peddler. so that is not an egalitarian society in our fullest sense of the term, but it is open to talent in a way.
and now, the talent has to be white, and the talent has to be male, okay. and get used to it. that is what it is going to be there. ok okay. that is the founders and some speculation in how they emerge and some argument in their collective identity is important because within the collective, there is a lot of different points of view. i want to do two things now. what did they, and look, i am saying this is the greatest generation in terms of all apologies to the discussions of the world war ii jen rax and this is my father's generation, but this is the greatest generation in terms of political talent in terms of american history. in my judgment, the historians who are studying the late 18th
on the face of it, it was not going to be possible, because the british army and navy were the most formidable force and the british army was not as good as the prussian or the british army, but you put it with the navy and we know what will happen over the next century with the british empire, and they were formidable. and how can this group of rag tag soldiers which is what they were win a war against such a formidable force. what is interesting is that washington figured out after some horrible experiences on manhattan and especially on long island, a truly elemental strategic battle. and washington lost more battles
than any general in american this tri, but he understood one thing, he didn't have to win. and so the british had to win, but all he had to do is not lose. so when people ask me, and this is a historical question, what would washington say about the policies in iraq? my first answer is that he doesn't know where iraq is. he is busy being dead right now, but if i wanted to be controversial, h would say, how have we become the british? because the british have the problem that all conventional problems of trying to win the war.
and so, as washington thought that if jgeneral howe appeared before him, and later clinton, he was honor-bound to meet him on the field of the battle and that it is a matter of honor, and not to do so was to deny the honor code. you get what i am saying. that's stupid, and he came to realize by 1775, 1778 that to fight it was not a guerrilla war, because it is a conventional army, but a war of posts. and so, therefore, if the american war for independence were a conventional war, there was no way that the american side could win. once it became a war for the
hearts and minds of the american people, there was no way that the british could win. and if you are thinking about it, we never won. they just gave up. after yorktown they said, we still have 35,000 troops in north america, but it is time the to get them out, because it is not worth it, and we have other fish to fry in europe and the caribbean, but they won the war, and that is a big thing. by the way, during the war the support for the continue nn tall army was very, very patchy. washington early in the war wanted to raise an army of 100,000 troops. he looked at the population of the united states at that time, and he said between the ages of 18 and 50, we could raise an army of 400,000, and all i am asking for is 100,000. he never got more than 15,000.
and often went down in terms of the service down to 8,000. because the states were concerned with defending themselves with the state militia rather than providing troop s f troops for the continental army. most of the guys in the continental army never got pensions. it is a disgrace. but that is another story. number two, achievement. they are the first nation-sized republic in world history. what's the big deal about this? the as ssumption was that republics could only work in small areas like swiss cantons or the greek city states, because they were too weak as a form of government to impose the will or to represent the people
easily and quickly, and the great montesquieu had what everybody described as the definitive work on the republic, and republics can't work on pig big populations of land. think thing about lincoln at gettysburg whether will he said that any nation so conceive and so dedicated can long endure, right. a lot of people presumed that the united states would break up into a series of confederation. they made it work. and that's the reason that the term american revolution is a
term that i would defend. it is a revolution, and it is not a revolution in the sense of the american revolutioner or the russian revolution which is a classist marxist-based experience, but it is the creation of the model with the liberal nation state that will come to dominate the world over the next 200 years. it defeats the european m monarchies in the united states, and defeats the japanese and german versions of totalitarian, and the soviet version of communism, and it is the liberal model, and there is no effective alternative unless you believe in the islamic caliphate which i don't happy to believe in. they did it. that is the reason it was a revolution. third, they created the first
secular state. it was assumed that any major nation must have an established rel religion, and the established religion would provide the mental, and intellectual glue that bounds people together, and otherwise they would disagree all of the time. no nation in the world before the americans created a separation of church and state. there are plenty of places in the world, certainly the middle east is one of them where that very idea is very impossible. i did a seme ee seminar with s judges and asked the judicial
representatives, who would you look among the founding fa thrs for -- he said jefferson for separation of church and state, and we said bingo, but of course, it won't work there. they created the political parties that rootenized the debate. and most of the founders hated political parties, and jefferson said, if i must go to heaven in a party, i prefer not to go at all. at the very moment he said that, he is creating the republican party. which is confusing to el poom, because the republican party becomes what is now the democratic party. in the 1790s, it is called the republican party, and if you are looking in the democratic republican and hyphen, and no,
that is wrong. it was not called that until 1817, 1816. but the rootinization says what happens in other places does not happen in the united states. so they wanted to create the air stoc -- ar ristocracy and the guillotine. and the thing is that people argue, but they don't kill each other with the exception of burn hamilton. next, they krcreate a governmen in which there are multiple sources of sovereignty, and again, this is supposed to be something that you can't do.
aristotle said that you can't to th this. there needs to be some ultimate source of sovereignty to which you can refer. blackstone in 1765 says, yes. and the british empire must have a place in which the ultimate resolution of all policy questions reside, and that is parliament, and parliament and the king, really, but for our purposes, parliament. and thinking about it, this is the reason that the american revolution happens. and because the american legislatures say, thes a s asses say that we want to be able to tax ourselves, and later they say, we want to be able to legislate for all forms of domestic policy in ourselves, and this is from the 1760s and 1770s and the brits say, no, you can't do that. we can't let the empire function this way with the sovereignty and these little colonies.
if they had been able to see, and the americans say, look, we will still be loyal to the king, but we want to have our form of political colony. and if the brits had said okay to that, we wouldn't have had a war. and they would have discovered the british commonwealth 100 years earlier. but they believed they could not do it, and they wanted to believe they had the military force to do that and we created a situation in which there are, and well sh, who is sovereign o the issue of, well let's say capital punishment, the states? well, yeah. how about, and most of the founders didn't envision the
supreme court as the ultimate arbiter of the constitution. i know that there are fans of mr. scalia out there, but if he really went with the original intent, the original intent was to not let the supreme court to decide on matters of constitutional legitimacy, and so scalia would have to are recuse himself from everything, and so he is in heaven now, and he does not have to recuse himself from anything. and funny that this is not a separate point, but it is a separate achievement but that in addition to winning the war, and becoming a first nation-sized republican, and separating church and state, and creating the political parties as a form of rootinized descent, and multiple layers of sovereignty and ambiguity, this was a weird kind of revolution. it was a kconservative
revolution. which on the face of it is a contradiction of terms. this is controversial about what i want to say, and therefore i did not make it a separate point and people can honestly disagree about this. the revolutionary generation recognized they could not implement the full agenda at once. and that if they tried, it would fail. they are not utopians and they are anti-utopians, and they don't believe that the human nature has changed in america. the french believe that. the french believe it that once they kill off the aristocracy, and lenin believes it once you get rid of the air stristocracy the proel tart takes over, the founders will have paradise, and the founders don't believe in paradise, but this world, and human nature as it is.
they believe that meaningful social change happens gradually rather than being imposed all at once. that's why, you can think of the big bang theory, name ly in 184 the women gather at seneca falls with the beginning of we hold these truths to be self-evident. and lincoln at gettysburg says that slave i have inkcompatible with the values of the american republic. martin luther king appears on the e steps of the lincoln memorial in 1963 to give the i have a dream speech, and he says that i have come to collect on a
prom s pr promi prom sar ri note. and you can not claim that gay people are prohibited from marrying, because of the language in the massachusetts constitution drafted single handedly by john adams in two weeks in 1779. but now if you believe that justice delayed is justice denied, the argument that we just made is reprehensible, and i understand that, and on the issue of slavery, i would be hard pressed to defend the position, and we will talk about that in a second, and that this is a burkian revolution, a conservative revolution that believes that the mandate for equality that is inherent in the
declaration needs to expand over time. and that is the way it worked. okay. if those are the achievements, there are two significant failures, and i can see that i'm really running, and going to go over, but bear with me. you want me the to go over? okay. thank you. the u powers at be say, no, no, don't do that. there are two great failures, and one is the failure to reach a just accommodation with the native american population, and the other was to end slavery short of the civil war. if anybody says that either one of those things shouldn't be blamed on the founders is misrepresenting history. anybody who wants to finesse these issues and especially slavery is not being true to the facts of american history.
you have to face it. the question is not whether these are tragedies. they are. the question, and now, listen, are these great tragedies or shakespearean tragedies. what does el m does ellis mean . it says the will of god meaning it is inherent, it is unattractable. it is unaivoidableunavoidable ay friends think that hamlet and leer and some of the flaws are in the characters and that means that the founders are respon responsible here because they are the agents who did this and that they bear a lot of responsibility and culpability. and that is the argument that we
with should have. let me introduce you to the way we could have it. on the native american question, there's a moment in 1782 in versailles when john jay is leaning over a map of north america with count arounda who puts his fingerers around the great lakes and draws a line from what is now ohio to tallahassee and he says everything east of that is yours, and everything west of that is ours. jay doesn't need a line. he points to the mississippi, and everything east of that is ours, and west of that is your, and th and this is nondegoschable, and that becomes the part of the treaty of paris in 1783.
living between the alleghenys were native americans who never got to be consulted on the decision, and upon that signing, all of their the rights were completely absorbed and ended. and we know the end of the story, because it ends with jackson and the trail of tears in the 1830s and the elimination of the native american pop you arelation by and large east of the mississippi called indian removal. i want to give you some numbers here. 1780, 100,000 native americans, and 5,000 white anglo-saxon americans west of the alleghenys, and 100,000 and 5,000, and 1790, first census, and these are rough numbers, and
80,000 native americans, and 50,000 white anglo-saxon americans. and get this one, 1800, and 70,000 native american, and 300,000 anglo-saxon white american americans. what we see here is a demographic of white populations simply streaming across the allegheny alleghenys and why is the indian population going down? disease. they don't have immunities to the especially smallpox and measles, and sol of them, most of them don't, and so therefore as the demographic wave begins to hit indian settlements there are all of the sudden, people start die, and it is like an artillery barrage in world war i
with microbes and viruses doing the work of the artillery shells. could this have turned out differently? washington tried to do it, and in the history of the presidency, a lot of the biographers have looked at this and not given it much significance. he makes the american economicd. and so he gives it and can we find a way for indian removal. they create the creek chief called alexander ma gigirve.
and they say that they want to create a policy where the enclaves east of the mississippi in which the native americans will live and practice their own way of life and that the waves of immigration from the east are going to pass around them. we will defend them. we have tree the ti aties with this is going to develop a whole point about the dakotas and the indian rights right now. and so indian nations are nations just like france and spai spain, and so therefore, once you make a treaty with them, they have the rights of the trea treaty. the problem was that washington couldn't enforce it. and they were streaming especially from georgia to creek country. they gave him, and they gave the creek nation pretty much what is now the state of alabama. they assumed that over time, it
would shrink because they would have to move from the huntinging and gathering societies to farming societies. and nevertheless, a vision was to key yat a series of enclaves east of the mississippi, and over time, and over the century to assimilate the native american population into the general population. that is what they wanted the to do. it didn't work. they could not enforce it. if we had the supreme court arrangement that we did by the middle of the 20th century, they would have called tout the national guard and enforced it in the same way they did in the segregation cases in kansas or arkansas and mississippi. they couldn't do that. i believe that the native american population is a greek tragedy. and if they say what is behind it, it is democracy. and people pursuing the
happiness, and mean iing to movg out and getting land. only an elite that could impose an undemocratic policy which is what washington tried to do could have stopped it. and it didn't work. once a critical mass of population of english descendents grew up east of the alleghenys and once the americans won the war, the native american population as a culture that has its own integrity is effectively doomed. it is not a pleasant story, but i think that it is a greek tragedy, and i don't know how it could have come out differently h. slavery is different. i'm going to be briefer. and this is a big story, okay. to be sure. the founders thought they knew that slavery was incompatible with which the american
revolution was based. nobody disagreed with that including southern planters in south carolina. nobody said slavery was a positive good. nobody. but it is embedded in all of the economies in the south. they, as a group, assumed that slavery would die a natural death over time. adam smith said this in "wealth of nations." slave labor cannot compete successfully with free labor. so if we can confine it to the ep deep south, it will just shrivel up over time and die.
and they end slavery in every state north of the potomac one by one. the last state is 1802 is new york. they all adopt gradual emancipation, but it is really easy to end slavery in the north, because of the numbers. 95% of the african-american population is living south of the potomac or south of the mason/dixon line, and almost all of them enslaved. if you free the slaves in vermont, there's three. you free the slaves in south carolina, and it is 60% of the population. virginia is 40% of the population. and here's the killer, and this is the killer. you have to face it.
the founders were absolutely imaginative as you can possibly be on win ingning a war against superior power and separating the church and state and creating political parties, and creating the largest republic ever. they could not imagine a biracial society. nobody could. if you read "uncle tom's cabin" the appendix reads after we free them, where do we send them? to liberia or the caribbean. abe abraham lincoln in 1863 sends a delegation of five of the executive leaders to the panama to explore the feasibility of panama for a location of all of the freed slaves. all of the plans of gradual e emancipation presumed that the
african-american population upon emancipation would be sent somewhere else. some people think it is the west, and could have been, but then jefferson says, no, that is where where we are going to be putting the indians. anyway, i am going the abbreviate things here. we will h talk abotalk about thq and a that the slavery question was resolvable until about 1820. in the sense that economically, there was a way to do it. louisiana purchase, 1803. the land gained in louisiana purchase, the entire midwest from the mississippi to the rockies, we paid $15 million. over time, the sale of the land brought into the coffers of the
united states the modern equivalent of $37 billion. create a trust fund, what they called a sinking fund to compensate southern slave o owners, prohibit slavery in the louisiana territory, use the revenue to essentially end slavery in the deep is south. nobody thought of doing that. jefferson most especially. it turns out that the window was not opening, slavery was not dying, but it was growing. here it is, they could not foresee the cotton gin. they could not foresee the steam engine, and the steam engine is the first, and what's the word? there's a patented in 1776, but it becomes effective as a mode to producing a new kind of
manufacturing in england by about 1820. and so the cotton king dom comes into existence, and once that happens, the economics of it make it almost impossible to imagine it ending. all right. i wanted to talk to you and i will do so in the q and a about what location in the past that i recommend. and think of us as a -- i have a tour guide. and the destination that i recommend that you look at most close willy is the adams-jefferson correspondence, and it is the correspondence between 1812 and 1826. adams said that you and i ought not die until we have explained ourselves to each other. they don't agree. this is what is great, but what
we can see is that the disagreements and the dialogue between the two sides of the american revolution, and they are called the north pole, and the south pole of the american revolution, and i mean it not just geographically, and one is a realist, and one is an idealist. and one thinks that the american political recipe is transportable to the rest of the wor world. jefferson believes that. and adams believes it is not going to work in most other place, and adams believes that the term american exceptionalism is not the term now, and it is a 20th century term, but, yes, we are exceptional, and unique, and that is the reason that it is not going to be working anywhere else. their definition, and adams' definition of american exceptionalism is the exact opposite of the modern use of the term. don't expect the middle east to work as a democracy, but a it is not going to happen. he says that talking about latin
america, it will not work, because they are all cath are licks down there. and so that we can see in that dialogue a lot of the issues that continue to affect us in a language that is going to challenge our categories, and challenge the way that we think about them in a fashion that is truly healthy. i probably had some truly eloquent conclusion, and it is all written out, but as the psychiatrist that i am told say "our time is up", thank you very much. [ applause ] thank you. okay.