tv Revisiting Founding Era Documents CSPAN February 3, 2018 10:30pm-11:51pm EST
, a community leader, and the project director highlight the value of two lesser known document's from the founding era. the documents are a 1787 level by anti-federalist mercy otis 1790 report on public credit by alexander hamilton. the national constitution center and the gilder lehrman institute of american history co-hosted this 80-minute event. thanks to the national constitution center for partnering with the gilder lehrman institute to present this town hall. the senior curator of exhibitions and the project director for revisiting the founding era. this town hall is the first event of a three-your project -- to outreachroject
to 100 libraries in 50 states in which we will present programs that invite the community to and about the founding era programs and issues people are talking about today. the project is founded by the national endowment for the humanities, the largest grant awarded in the last year for which we are eternally grateful. would tell you a few words about the institute and what we do and how we came to do this project. the gilder lehrman institute is rather young. it was founded in 1994. the mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of american history through programs and resources. havee present time, we 65,000 documents in the gilder lehrman collection which is the core of our programming.
the collection is drawn upon to do programs come outreach, to contribute to a website visited by 7 million people, and also to support a network of 6500 affiliates to whom we send materials on a monthly basis, as well as teachers and seminars. it is the collection that really gives us the capacity and ability to bring people face to face with primary documents and in understanding the people, events, and controversies that shaped our history over time. i would theater term, like to say, "inter-hamilton." based on our work over the past 20 years or so, in 2015 the groups came and talked to the institute about developing a hamilton education program. with funding from the
rockefeller foundation, we developed an incredibly important program that has title i students come for a matinee of "hamilton." in anticipation of going to the matinee, they receive a very guide in whichs they get a chance to look at documents and think about how they might plan a presentation based on one of the characters or events of the founding era. they had a chance to perform this in the morning. i went to some of these performances. they were really astounding. all of a sudden, kids were thinking about people and events. the founding era was not some dusty thing, why should i study american history? it really came alive. one student said to me i fell in love with hamilton, but beyond that i started to fall in love with that dusty thing called american history.
this program has not only been successful but is now replicated all over the country wherever the hamilton exhibition and musical go. success ofwas the the hamilton education program that encouraged us to apply to the national endowment for the humanities for a grant to support what we call revisiting the founding era, a document-based project over three years that will provide libraries with a reader, materials, and other resources to start conversations. obviously, we are very different than those people were. but maybe some of their ideas, events, and people resonate as we start to talk about what is of concern to us in the 21st century. the centerpiece of this project is a reader. in your folders, he will each find -- you will each find a
"revisitingt called the founding era town hall," in which there are two documents from the gilder lehrman that they will be talking about later this evening. we encourage you to read the documents and join the conversation afterwards. at the present time, the institute is working with the american library association to accept applications from libraries to host these community programs and receive grants to do that programming. i'm happy to report that as of today, 187 applications have come in. the deadline is not until january 30. we know there is interest in this. we want to have the biggest distribution as possible. we would like to have two programs in every state. , please take the
card about applying. please encourage your local library and to submit an application immediately -- librarian to submit an application immediately. i want to come back to why americans are talking about founding era ideas now. "hamilton" the musical has blown across the country and is being visited by hundreds of thousands of people who try to get tickets to the show. with its multicultural cast and "hamilton"re, brought the issues of the founding era to the 21st century and's --popular era. from the perspective of learning and historians, we believe in these unsettled times we are being bombarded by conflicting arguments and images from the press, media, politicians all based on the founding era.
what did happen in the founding era? all these arguments raise questions about the fundamental nature of democracy in the united states. "you cannot saying, know where you are going until you know where you have been." many people know are feeling they need to look back and see how it all got started. in the face of uncertainty about the future, it is more important than ever for us to consider the people and events and ideas that have shaped and supported our nation for the past 240 years. please look at that folder and the two documents. these documents will be the centerpiece of a conversation with panelists about to come up on the stage. we invite you to join the conversation after the panelists talk about these documents and think about how some of these forments may resonate
issues about which you are speaking in your communities today. now, i would like to introduce carol berkin, who will moderate the panel. her c.v. is so long i have to read it to you, so excuse me. carol berkin is the presidential professor of history emeritus in the graduate center at the university of new york. she is the author of several including "inventing the american constitution," "revolutionary mothers," civil and a book on the wife of ulysses s. grant. , "the bill ofty
rights," and most recently a sovereign people. frequent birkin is a contributor to pbs and the history channel documentaries on early american revolutionary history. she has an online journal which you can find on our website. we invite you to visit our website. she serves on the scholarly boards of several professional organizations including the .useum of american women now i would like to introduce carol berkin who will introduce the panelists. thank you. [applause] carol: hello. greetings. i think we have some good conversation that is going to
start up here and continue with questions from you. susan asked me to talk a little bit about my connection to gilder lehrman. i have been working with them .or maybe 20 years i have run summer seminars for them. i have done teaching american history grants in virtually every state in the union for them. i added "history now," which is our online journal. i have done an online course on hamilton. and now, i am the director of the online masters program which produced that course. the reason i do all of these things for them as i believe intensely and sincerely in the mission of gilder lehrman and in their unbelievable devotion to bringing history to schools and the general public.
i want to introduce the panel. we have been having a wonderful time all together. denver, julie, and i have been on panels many times together before. farah is the newest addition to our family here. denver brunsman is associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the history department at george washington university, where his courses include "george washington and his world," which he teaches annually at mount vernon. necessity,"he evil received the walter: memorial prize for outstanding work in 18th-century studies. of thelso a co-author leading college and a.p. history textbook. "liberty, equality,
and power in history of the "erican people," as well as george washington at establishing the presidency." farah jimenez is a committed social entrepreneur, which means she likes to try to tackle large social problems with the thinnest of available resources. isrently, her focus improving the rate at which philadelphia high school students graduate from high school to college through a campaign called "project high school." as president as c.e.o. of the philadelphia educational fund, she oversees this campaign as well as philadelphia's longest college access program and largest privately held scholarship program. prior to joining the philadelphia education fund, she led the people's emergency center of west philadelphia community for families expressing homelessness and a northwest philadelphia
community development corporation. julia silverbrook is the executive director of the constitutional sources project. she holds a jd from william and mary law school where she received the national association of women lawyers award and the thurgood marshall award. she served as senior articles maryr on the "william and bill of rights journal." she graduated from george washington university with aba and political science -- in political science. distinguishedhe scholar award, the highest academic award given to students in the arts and sciences college. if you are doubting that these people are experts, doubt no more. i wanted to start with them. and now i am going to join the panel.
i want to be with you. by asking them briefly to answer that question every one of us who has ever taught history at asked eventually by our students. why study history? what difference does it make? why should we look at these documents? what value does it have? and i want you to answer it while standing on one foot and not cursing. denver? denver: obviously, i'm biased. but i cannot even imagine taking about our present problems without having historical context. history might not offer the exact answers to all of our problems, but i don't think we can even understand the problems without looking to the past. the eminent historian gordon wood has a great phrase, he talks about the fog of the presidency.
we often think about the fog of war and the fog of the past. we don't know anything about our own times. we need all the help we can get. i think history can provide that. i think there is an additional reason specific to the united states. it has to do with the founding era. this country was founded on a , sometimes called a credo nation, as opposed to being founded by a certain ethnicity, religion, or type of people. we are founded really on a set of ideas. i think we have to go back to those ideas consistently. that is one reason why our founding is so crucial and why this conversation is so important. carol: thank you. farah? farah: is the non-historian in the group, i will probably have a different response about unlocking people's potential. a key ingredient is a sense of
self. that begins with having a sense of gratitude. understanding our history helps us to understand where we have been and how grateful we should be for where we are now, for the people who sacrificed their lives to give us the freedoms we have today, for the incredible vision of the founding fathers who helped create a country based on ideas and debate and community. and also because, quite frankly, even today when we look back in lived and theople quality of life we get to live today, it is vastly improved. the things we don't like about our history can also inform our gratitude that they are no longer part of our present. so i would say from that perspective, it is important to look at that because it can shape a real sense of -- yes, we are in a difficult place today but we have come a long way and should be really grateful. carol: thank you. julie: i'm going to repeat a lot
of the same things because i think it is true. i'm going to pick something denver said. we are not a country founded on a single unifying faith. race or ethnicity. what binds us together are these principles and the history of this country. i think particularly at a time of political polarization, it is so important to study that history and feel that we have this common history that is the .lue that holds us together like you said, you cannot understand january 10, 2018, unless you understand everything that came before it. it is overwhelming because i am not just talking about american history. you have to understand world history, too. but it is especially important if you are a citizen of this country to understand how we got to this present moment and how
things that happened in 1776 and 1787 laid the groundwork for the increase in liberty and equality over time. and also laid the groundwork for the present political conflicts of today. that is something i think we will hit on one we are talking about these documents. there are perennial issues that come up throughout american history. havingstill in many ways the same debates they were having when they were deciding whether or not they were going to amend the articles of confederation or start a new system of government, whether they were going to ratify the constitution or not, whether they were going to add a bill of rights or not, whether they were going to modernize the economy or not. those are the conversations we are having today. history does not always offer that clarity and solution. i think a lot of times, people want to look to history for that. but it can provide a framework for understanding a path forward
and to see how the compromises of the past were hatched out. compromise is a really important part of american history, compromise both for good and sometimes compromise that was done, and maybe now based on our modern morals, we view as wrong. we may or may not have the opportunity to talk about that. slavery in the constitution is a compromise to get the southern states on board. compromise bytive today's standard but was considered a positive compromise because it helped form the union in the first place. you can gain an appreciation for all of this by studying history. carol: thank you. thank you. i take all of their courses. we chose two documents for you today that raise exactly kinds of issues that we grapple with today. that is, we are still talking
about power versus liberty. we are still talking about competing interests between regions were among regions. we are still talking about national versus state power and control. alexander hamilton got out in one of the rare moments that he spoke at the constitutional convention when he was listening to a discussion about federalism, which said some power will be in the hands of the national government, some power will be in the hands of the state government, and some powers will be shared by them. , who never had much of a sense about the political mood, but always spoke his mind. he got up and said this is never going to work. we will just be fighting about who has ultimate power over issues forever. and of course, he was right.
of course, his solution at the time, at a time when states were the legitimate governments that people knew and understood, and when people thought of themselves as pennsylvanians or new yorkers, they did not think of themselves as americans yet. hamilton's solution was just to abolish states. i always pictured everyone in the room saying, "sit down, alex." we have picked two documents i think do two things. one, they introduce you to the human side of an era that is often written about as if everybody was a statue in the park with a pigeon on their shoulder. great moments in american history. you togoing to introduce the way in which it looked to the people who were living through it at the time.
warren.t is mercy otis we are starting with two women from 1787. i'm going to ask them for to give background about who these two women were in case they are not household names in your household. denver: this is such an exciting document. it is from late september, 1787. it puts us at this moment just three days after the constitution has been published in the united states. you really get a sense of the wonder. mercy otis warren was a political advisor to the founders. she was a great writer, propagandist, historian. she wrote the best early history of the american revolution. in this document, she is writing to another historian, catherine mcauley. it is important to note that mcauley is in england. a lot of the great letters we get from the founding era were written to her.
a lot of the founders wrote to her. she is not in america so they have to explain things to her, what is in the air, what people are feeling. you really get a sense of astonishment and appreciation that warre had for the constitutionn even though she would eventually oppose it. she has this great phrase in this document. she says, this is going to set in motion the pens and tongues of the political world. i think it will give you a sense of why we chose this document. carol: it is in your folder. basically, she is explaining to or telling mcauley that we stand at a kind of crossroads. do we preserve the sense of liberty and local control that we fought the revolution for -- or are we going to be sensible and create a national government
that can protect us from invasion and do the business we need of the national government? she is going to come down on the side of it is better to have 13 separate sovereign nations than ofre-create the terrors the british government that had been oppressing us for all of these decades and centuries. about what ised going to be given up in exchange for what is going to be gained. there is a kind of balance she is trying to figure out. she comes down on the side of -- i don't want to support this constitution. julie? julie: it is extraordinary letter for a lot of reasons.
succinctlyvery explains where we are in late september of 1787. from a teaching standpoint, it is always very useful to have a fairly short document to demonstrate these points. have two underscore these are two women in september of 1787, home correspond with an provided vice to the major figures of the day. they are both published authors in their own name. one publishes a three-volume history of the american revolution. i think it is the first published three-volume history. catherine mcauley publishes an eight-volume history of england. and are political thinkers, they are political actors. interestingly, they are talking about a document that does not really consider them. this is extraordinary.
they are not household names, like you said, they are not. they ought to be. i think it is part of the reason why we selected this document, but also to say that she talks to people who have political disagreements from her own. and she corresponds with federalists. adamsds up upsetting john because she does not paint him very sympathetically in her history of the american revolution. but it is significant that he cares what she says. it is significant that her opinion, narrative, any kind of emotional response, or response , and i don't feel like we could move off that document without making note of how extraordinary that is, especially given how long women would wait for the right to vote
and on issues of equality that persist to this day. to have female voices and strong and influential female voices at the founding is so important. one of the things we are trying to do through this project is to bring in different voices and say it was not just these stodgy old white men with property talking about this. there were many of them that were like that, but there are people who look different and think different from that group. it is important to bring in those voices as well. carol: part of what is warren.ing about when she opposes the ratification of the constitution, she appeals to the strongest emotional issue that the anti-federalists use. she said there is no guarantee of the liberties and rights of the people.
how could you propose a new government that does not say outright at the beginning, "these are the rights and liberties that are sacred that the people have?" which eventually would get in the bill of rights. i am not saying it is not genuine, but it is clearly designed to be the one issue that anti-federalists think will stir up the emotions of the because, in fact, the real anti-federalist stance was this means the power of the states will be diminished. they did not want the national government that could set uniform currency. they did not want a national government that could create a uniform coat of commerce. virginia and maryland wanted to
aimed atr governments one another to keep goods and services from going across without paying terrace and duties. upy did not want to give these kinds of state-controlled authority, especially states that were doing rather well, that were powerful, that were influential. hows interesting to see today we think the appeal to emotional issues is a new idea. what a brilliant tactic. , in 1787,t anti-federalists knew that you could not get people worked up about a uniform currency, but you can really get people worked up about the fact that our rights and liberties are not being protected. warren is a very good example. it makes you wonder whether she
a ruseood that this was for many people or whether she thaty accepted this idea, that was the main objection that the anti-federalists had. this letter suggests she was thinking quite high mindedly about important democratic or republic issues. if you read a lot of antifederalist literature and letters between say patrick henry and james monroe, you realize that they were politicians. they didn't want to give up power. so i think the connection to what we know today is pretty striking in this letter. >> two really interesting things. one, generally i think the antifederalist focus on the bill of rights is sort of
prescient. i talk to the public about the constitution. if i ask you what do you think the most important part of the constitution is or what is your favorite part inevitably someone references one of the amendments in the bill of rights. for a lot of people that is really the central part, the heart of the constitution. and so having that be a talking point is prescientt continues to be a talking point. it's not sexy to talk about the powers of congress in article one but really important and they talk about it here at the constitution center by the way. but people tend to in their dialogue, talking about their rights and liberties. that's what she talks about. part of the reason why i think she stays that sort of high minded level as you just talked about is because women weren't part of the political wheelings and dealings. >> exactly. >> they sat and had their intellectual salons and their drinking tea and they're talking about these things and they're educated and talking to
their young people about it and they don't have to deal with rough and tumble politics and the practical. so it goes back to, yes, this is women pressing up against this fear that women are in -- this sphere women are in but some are there, more comfortabley outside of the true, political realm. they can intellectualize what's happening but they're not on the ground actually dealing with politics. >> exactly. very well put. you want to say something? >> sure. my reactions were a couple. think the most striking thing is how words the constitution was. it was completely accessible to people that -- i think about the fact when we were looking at the passage of the aca, affordable care act, my comment was there are as many pages in the care act as there are words in the constitution which means it is completely inaccessible to people. we've ended up with a government debating issues that require a ph.d in very narrow
areas in order to understand the content being debated. or take the lazy way out and wait to understand it until after you pass the bill which is what happened. so i think that is really telling that there was enough thought to make sure it was -- wasn't enough thought to make sure -- there was enough thought to make sure it was an accessible document. also i think the argument continues today. the difference in the balance of power between whether you want to give to the federal government versus state governments versus local governments. i would argue with people that i worked with often even though they may be dependent and beneficiaries of federal larges, government programs, in the end they feel disempowered to influence that and bring their voices and defect at the very local level, grass roots levels. so there has to a real careful balance between the two systems of government because those who don't have access to power need to be able to feel they can influence it. that they have some ability to
have some agency over their own lives. that generally will only happen if they're able to exercise at the local level. at the federal level, as was made clear by one of the presidential candidates, during the campaign, is when federal government makes changes the big corporations can always figure out how they hire enough lobbyists so they can circumnavigate those changes. but the smallest business, the smallest people have no influence, the ones who are going to pay the price. >> isn't it remarkable that in 1787 the groups that had no voice, it was just assumed they didn't deserve a voice. i mean, there was no expectation really that women or enslaved african-americans or native americans or poor men ought to have a voice. part of what's happened is american history in the struggles have gone on to provide political voice to
everyone. and our expectations increase. right? >> one of the things i thought i was hearing is they did have a voice. they expressed it through communications. they didn't have agency because they weren't able to exercise it in a voting booth but they still had voice. i think that is really powerful. that is still possible today if you express your feelings in a way that may influence thinking even if you don't have agency. >> at this moment it is important to bring in those voices because we spend a lot time unearthing these correspondence, digitizing them, part of what we do, part of what gilder lehrman does so people can see this. i'm going to paraphrase oprah just talking about this, when she became the first african-american woman to accept this lifetime achievement award she said i'm not unaware of the fact there are little girls sitting at home who see this and that makes a difference to them.
and so we cannot be unaware as people who are engaged in public history that when we bring these voices to light there are little girls sitting at home who say, well, if she had a voice when she had no agency and i live in a time when women can have a voice and agency i should speak up. i should think about these things. i should become involved. and it becomes possible for these people to conceive of that when we bring in people who look like them. and so that's why i'm so glad that we selected this document to spotlight because it allows for young women and young men for that matter to see that women can have a voice and a very valid and important voice by the way. >> and middle aged men, too. incredibly inspired. and you think about what people like warren accomplished with antifederalists. we also think of them as kind of the losers of the founding era. but, you know, the spirit of
vocalism as you mentioned lives on. they secured the bill of rights. it's an amazing accomplishment. that the original constitution didn't have that. through their opposition they got that. and i think it really helped the american revolution to succeed. you know, we asked about, we talked about why history is important and why this period is important. we still live with the american revolution. we still live with the government that it created. and in large part because the antifederalists were able to secure those liberties. and then they actually were champions of the constitution after that. right? i mean, there is no permanent opposition in the united states. there is no group that runs to the hills and keeps fighting the revolution. we've had our problems but there was agreement at least based on the basic structure of government at the founding moment. >> i think the antifederalists are having a moment. they win in other ways because rhetorically the rhetoric of limited government, the
rhetoric of rights and liberties that are in antifederalist writings, that is very important to the dialogue today. one of the things i do, i track the behavior of who is searching what. i will say that between 2015 and 2017 the number of views on the antifederalist writings in our collection went up significantly and you can track this. so that, i think in a lot of ways the antifederalists are, you know, in some ways as important rhetorically. the federalist papers are no longer viewed as something of argument. it is just explaining the constitution. but the antifederalists, the rhetorical fire power of particularly people on the political right is coming from and they're studying these documents. we are still using the writings of the founding and other periods in american history in constructing our modern political arguments.
>> so now we're going to move to the opposite side. am going to restrain from rapping the introduction to this document. let's look at alexander hamilton's excerpts from his report on public credit in 1790. i'm an unabashed fan of alexander hamilton's. i admit that. hamilton, of course, is much better known even before the musical. he was much better known than warren. he owns the $10 bill, right? he's had ups and downs. hamilton and jefferson have sort of taken turns being the model of what america stands for over the course of the centuries that followed. i think probably right now in the popularity contests that hamilton would win.
maybe not for all the right reasons. but in this case, his importance is extraordinary, i think. and the report on public credit is the -- he was made secretary of the treasury, which was exactly the position he wanted. hamilton was not interested in running for public office. he was always much more program and policy person. a policy woverage. than he was a public figure. a policy wonk than he was a public figure. it is very hard to imagine alexander hamilton kissing babies to get elected. his general point of view was i'm brilliant. you're not. shut up. do what i want you to do. the depressing thing is he was almost always right. it was horrible to realize that he was smarter than most people. but he became secretary of the treasury and he immediately , gan an extraordinary
productive, couple of years in which he shaped the trajectory of the american economy right up until today. this is the man whose programs and policies directed the rise of american capitalism, foresaw the rise of american manufacturing and industry, and i think even more important than those things, though heaven knows those are important, hamilton was the nation builder. every single program hamilton produced and every single law he tried to get congress to pass, was designed to make americans supporters of their national government. you can see it in large ways and small ways. even you'll see in this document he wants to absorb the
state debts from the revolution. one of the reasons he wants to do this, if you are a fan of the godfather movies, you know that you never kill off someone who owes you money. right? because then they can't pay you. and it's the same -- so we ton's theory was, if can owe money to leading citizens in all of the states and give the promise of paying it back, they're going to warn our government to succeed. they're going to want this federal government to do well because they're invested in it. of his runs through alt all of his reports that really he wants to see people loyal to the national government. he wants to see people thinking they are americans together, not just pennsylvanians, not just new yorkers, not just connecticut men, but part of
one, big enterprise. and the report on public credit aside from any of its intentions is an extraordinary piece of work. when he came in to office, the treasury office, no one had any idea what we imported, how much we imported, what it was worth. what we exported. he put -- we didn't even know ey didn't even know at the time. many of my students think i possibly was but i wasn't around at the time. no one even knew how much was owed. or to whom. and edition in. he does this in -- edition in, he does this incredible research and puts out not one but actually two reports on public credit. he digs in and does this incredible research and puts out not one but actually two reports on public credit that suggests exactly what ought to be done. we should assume all of the state debt.
we should fund the debt. by this time my students are going, what? what does that mean? all it means is you have to guarantee that you will make regular installments, regular payments of the debt out of the revenue you collect. i can use all of the revenue but you're going to guarantee that you make regular payments on the debt. he went on to write two more pieces to his nation building plan of i would argue that if all of the framers, he is the visionary. e's the one who sees where we're an insignificant country now but if you just do what i tell you to do we will become one of the great countries of the western world. at one point he writes a note to a british ambassador and says, basically, where -- we're
small, untested as a country, but look out for us because we're going to wind up your ompetitor. so he writes a report on the creation of the bank, the united states, and he writes a report on manufacturing. how to encourage manufacturing. how to get people to invest in manufacturing. a role the government can play in this. he wants to be a competitor of southerners in congress don't allow this. where will manufacturing be housed in the north? virginians in particular see the handwriting on the wall. 's vision, y this man
the trajectory of this man's vision will be to make us the second class economy to this vigorous commercial and trade economy that he wants to produce. ad they passed the report on manufacturing we would have had an industrial revolution much sooner than we did. is is an excerpt from this report on public credit and even if you don't like it, even tried and true jeffersonian you have to admire the genius in this plan. the brilliance of this man is really quite startling even though he really couldn't rap. [laughter] >> absolutely. just briefly what strikes me when i read this report is he talks about the debt in moral terms and we have the burden of
our own cazz ill ondollar debt in times square. the numbers are turning. so i think it's hard for us to think of debt as a good thing. hamilton explains why it is and for reasons that you suggest. it binds the country together. it binds the different regions together. it is a common project. we're in this together. it will allow this nation to do things it wouldn't be able to do otherwise. in that sense i use the analogy of a credit card. maybe a dangerous analogy. maybe a better analogy. student loan debt. allows you to do something you wouldn't be able to do otherwise. as long as you make the minimum payment and pay down the interest. he is imagining america expanding, investing in things like manufacturing. again, like the warren letter it puts us at this moment. this moment in the founding era to have such amazing consequences.
>> i think it is really important to read these reports together because yes he thinks there is value in debts that allows you to do certain things you might not otherwise be able to do but similarly he thinks it is immoral to leave debt to future generations. if you're going to create debt you have to have the means of paying it back. that is why the report of manufacturing is important to compare so it doesn't end up being something that is heavy. so we're going to assume this debt, how do we pay that back? today we talk about this whether we'll have a balanced budget amendment and we speak in the language, the same language of morality that he speak of which is if we are going to create debt we should not leave it to our children and grandchildren. and, you know, again, back to . ese other perennial issues
they were talking about it at the founding and we are still talking about it today. >> he has as a motivation for creating this detonation building. >> there is a purpose. >> at the same time another remarkable thing is he is an advocate of what in the 18th century was a radical, liberating economic theory. capitalism. e was an advocate. today there are people who can boo and his over the very word. when hamilton talked about it at that moment in time it was in opposition for instance to a feudel caste system that said that some people have more power because of their birth instead of their achievements.
instead of what they can produce for their country. i taught for decades stwhuents were first generation students from all over the world. beirut college was acknowledged with the college with the most diverse student population of any college in the country. and virtually every one of these kids was a first generation college student. and they are the beneficiaries of hamilton's philosophy. it's what you can produce, meritocracy. hamilton believed in social mobility, meritocracy. that there should be no laws that prevented, of course he said men, prevented a man from , sing as high as his talent his ambition, and his focus could produce. so his version of capitalism like the wigs in england who
came up with this philosophy at that moment in time was a adical, liberating philosophy. when you think about its progress or declention however you want to think about it you have to realize those words meant something different in the 18th century. debt and capitalism meant something very different than it means today. measuring way of change over time which is what history is about. >> my reaction to the document was a little different. i was really looking at it, the nature and construct of the political argument in that there was acknowledgment there were winners and losers as you already outlined. yet what he was calling upon is this idea of something much more driven at, that there is a morality around why we should agree. yes there might be winners and losers and you might be on the shortened this of stick but there is a reason we're all willing to do this and i think
even today with going the extra step that he went with what we would call today virtue signaling if you disagree with them you are not willing to pay back the price of liberty that we've all, on all of our credit cards, that is the reason that we should be hanging together and be willing to do that. often the arguments today may an intellectual argument but we layer on the moral cause. >> he says, in fact, in the document, debt is the price of liberty. you know, we incurred this debt. we ought to be willing to pay it because it is the result of the battle for independence. so he does have that moral -- but i'm always struck by the . anged connotation of words
i know people today if you say the word capitalism will boo and his. for men like hamilton and his friends this was what was going to free people. he founded one of the first -- founded the first abolitionist society in new york and he did it because he said this is ridiculous. there could be african-american -- he said black men. there could be black men who have great ideas who can do wonderful things. we can't hold them in a cast prevents them from doing that. his idea this economic system would liberate people was really in his day so different from the way many people think about corporations, and their power, and their -- and monopolies and there is no chance for the little guy. changes capitalism
its connotation over time just like debt. we think of the national debt as irresponsibility. he thought of it as a way to help create a national identity. so it is very important i think to understand that the meaning of words change in historical context. >> another one is just economics right? economics today, we joke in the academy the dismal science. well, back then economics was really kind of a branch of philosophy. so it was about ethics and morality. we could probably have a little bit more of that today when we think about the consequences of our various economic decisions and politics. that is how hamilton is thinking. >> so now we've talked enough. we could go on forever. which i'm sure you're hoping we won't. thinking about these documents and also thinking about what
you've heard, we'd like to hear what you have to say. unlike hamilton we're not likely to say shut up we know more. we're likely to say, this is the whole project that n.e.h. funded has really designed to get people and communities talking about these thorny, knotty problems that still exist today. so there are microphones on either side. please don't be shy. >> if you raise your hand one f us will come to you. >> thank you. my name is leo lloyd. i live in new jersey and i'm just an ordinary person who reads a lot of history. i have a few questions. first one mercy otis warren. was he joseph warren's widow? he was killed at bunker hill. >> yes. she was james otis's sister, james otis jr.'s sister who was
one of the early protesters of the change in british policy after the french and indian war. >> taxation without representation is tierney. >> yes. the writs of assistance case. and the reason she was so literate was that he used to sit at the table with her and share what he was studying at harvard. i mean, she got an education basically because she was very close with her brother. it was not because anybody sent her to school or educated her but that there was this close relationship. she was extremely fortunate in that regard. >> also you talked about hamilton wanting people in this country to be -- part of the day. that's why he wanted some people to be invested in it and feel like americans but also united worried about
states credit rating which in those days meant dutch bankers right? >> absolutely. as soon as -- we had bore owed from the dutch. we borrowed from the spanish. we borrowed from the french. we borrowed from everyone but england. they were not being paid back. we were really pikers at the time. and what happens? americans go off, ambassadors go off to these countries and they ask for more money. could you lend us more money? and of course the response is, lend you more money? you haven't paid back a dime of what we lent you already. and hamilton wanted to see the ean capital come in to country. one of the reasons he wanted hostility toward england to end already, he wasn't jewish. probably didn't say it that way. end already.
, he said, there are people entrepreneurs in england who have built industries and manufacturing fortunes and they are looking for some place to invest. forget they used to be our enemy. let them invest in this country. so one of the things he definitely wanted to do was develop our credit rating with other countries so that they would be willing to lend us more money. they would be willing to invest in america. i mean, he understood that that was terribly important. >> just one more question. i don't remember where i read this because i do a lot of reading about history. but somewhere i read that the federalists won the battalion l which was to get the constitution -- the battle which was to get the constitution ratified but the antifederalists won the war because it was mostly jeffersian principles that ended up being up until the civil war anyway, it was his
philosophy that prevailed. jacksonian democrats followed his principles pretty much. were two , they strings that run through american history. neither one defeated the other. they co-exist in american history to this day. sometimes one is up. sometimes the other is up. you y they represent, if will, two ways of thinking brian peterson american society. and i -- two ways of thinking about american society. and i would argue that neither one of them triumphed over the other. no one crushed hamiltonian thought and no one has crushed jeffersian thought. they are two sides of the way in which this country conceives of itself. >> thank you.
>> i am a great fan of alexander hamilton. my concern in the bill of rights, that the amendments most seriously violated is the 10th amendment. the concept of the country, you see severely restricting the power of the federal government and leaving the power of the states and the people, is a very critical part of the constitution. if you look at our history of the past 100 years, that is the most serious, with the growth of the administrative state, the growth of power in the federal state. the term states rights was theged by the civil war and defenders of racial segregation. i really think that we have not been as concerned about states as we should have been.
i think that is a part of the constitution we are suffering from. >> it goes back to something i said earlier, which is the resurgence of anti-federalist writing and that rhetoric, exactly what you just expressed, that a lot of people in this country feel that the national government has expanded too much. what better body of work to look anti-federalist, because that is what they were concerned about. thenational government in 1790's was considerably smaller than now. of course, the country was considerably smaller than it is now. this goes back to why this project is, i think, so wonderful and why, all of us who , arearticipating facilitating these conversations. carol, these two
strains of thinking. sometimes the national government is on the up and it ebbs and flows over time. you see this now. you had the expansion of the national government under the obama administration in certain areas and then you see president trump comes in and repealed some of his executive action. republicans are about rolling back regulation, rolling back the power of the national government. that changes depending on the administration in the political moment. it is also true that, not only were we smaller than, but, with the new deal, the assumption that the federal government was responsible for the welfare of the people. it is one of the things that expanded the power of the federal government.
when world war ii ended, we were in fact a world power for the first time, and that requires an extension of diplomatic administration. the federalt government was responsible for the welfare -- the man who wrote the constitution did not think that the constitution should be interested in people's personal health, education, the environment. those were not things that had anything to do with the role of a government. cdce was no need to have a in case there was an epidemic. if there was an epidemic, there was an epidemic, that had nothing to do with the federal government. part of what you have to factor in is the assumption about what that federal government is supposed to do has expanded
dramatically since the middle of the 20th century. junior callsnsure he doesn't mean a tyrant, he means that now, the federal government, in its position of power in the world -- diplomacy it hasr the president -- expanded dramatically the need for the expansion of that branch of government. some of this is situational. it is not a moral question so much. do you want to leave the environment and climate change to the -- change to mississippi, alabama, new york? can those questions be resolved by a state government, a local government? some of these issues have become
tomuch larger than they were the men who wrote the constitution. whot john quincy adams asked for a lighthouse in the sky? he wanted a national observatory and people went, the national government is supposed to do anything like that. today, the federal government does things like that. julie: that's why it is important to study history, to understand why we got to this moment. it's not just about people who want power in government. there's also a public expectation for what the federal government will provide and protect. that is a part of the story, too. that is why the narrative and the voices that are brought out through this reader are so important. you cannot understand january 10, 2018, and less you
understand the larger arc of history and how we got here. nothing is preordained. if you would like to see more ,ower given back to the states anyone here, watching at home, you have the power to organize and see that happen. you have the tools to do it. get off your butt and do it. i read a lot on blogs about this and that's great, but do something. be thankful that you live in a country that affords you the opportunity to do that. farah: i thought the conversation around states rights was interesting, especially with the most recent one about the electoral college. people didn't really understand the history around it. the fact that we've gotten so used to a huge central government, that we were willing to allow a purist -- a pure democracy deciding who is our
president rather than recognizing that we are collection of states with differences. it, it or not we like was informing about that cultural difference, that there really is still a conversation and debate that needs to happen amongst people who are influenced by the communities we live in, rather than just one long, large federal narrative. the electoral college was not designed to make sure that -- itstates at the same was designed because they couldn't figure out how to elect the president. goldbergrube invention. they thought they could solve the question of the presidency fast because it was the least important branch of government. as far as they were concerned, the most important branch, article i, congress, so let's
get this executive branch of the way. they got stymied, the fact that they couldn't figure out how to elect a president. why couldn't they figure it out? because people were localists. they knew the person who represented them in the state assembly. to the great surprise of my students, thomas jefferson was not known in connecticut. no one had ever heard of him. saying,n't walk around he wrote the declaration of independence. they had no idea who he was. great dismay,s nobody had heard of him in south carolina. there were only two people who were nationally known. george washington, benjamin franklin. even the men who went to the constitutional convention didn't even know other guys at the constitutional convention, never
heard of them. they said, how can we elect someone? everybody would vote if we had a one man, one vote, everyone would vote for someone may knew -- someone they knew. we would have 600 candidates and someone would have to decide. well, maybe everyone could campaign. on horseback? down togoing from maine georgia on horseback, knocking doors? today, by the time the presidential election is over, you know every mole, every acne scar, you know everything about these people. you are sick of seeing them. inre was no such media blitz the 18th century. and who is going to get on a horse and ride?
first of all, the campaign would take six and a half years. they could not figure out what to do. on,s wilson, very early comes up with this idea. everybody goes, that's a terrible idea. at the very end of the convention, the committee on postpone matters -- my favorite committee ever in the history of government -- the committee on postpone matters. >> our whole government. [laughter] says, hows down and about that idea james wilson has? sleeping in a tavern, eating tavern food for four months, they wanted to go home. they said, that's a great idea. the electoral college did not have really any high-minded ideas about balancing rural and
urban or letting certain states have the same number of votes as others. it was just, how are we going to elect this president? again, it's a reason to study history. you can watch the electoral college have baggage added to it until today it becomes -- one of the great statements is, "presidential cabinets would not visit our state if there weren't and electoral college." there were all kinds of claims for it and events didn't -- and event -- and against it. the people who wrote it would say, that is not why we designed it. the whole idea is, the state legislatures would choose people to be a lectors who had served who had servedrs
in the federal government so they knew people. if john ran, they would say, dude.ittle short, fat they couldn't still be serving but they had to have served in it. everyone knew washington would be the first president. whoever had served in the federal government would be an elector. ,he really interesting thing is the electoral college never meets together to cast their votes. ,hey vote in their own state then the results are sent to the congress and they are counted. why? i've heard some of the most outrageous statements. the reason why is these men were terrified about the rise of an oligarchy or a conspiracy and they said, if these men all meet
together -- you think there is paranoia today, let me tell you, there was paranoia then. if they meet together, they will choose one of their own to be the president and they will all worse,gether or, even france or spain will bribe them -- i'm thinking about today and laughing -- bribe someone to become president and then they'll become a satellite of france or england. in the 18thances century, they are -- they bear no relationship or little relationship to the circumstances of the electoral college today. you really need to know how things evolved to make a decision about what we need today, i think. one more question, then
we will wrap it up. >> at the beginning of the discussion, you were talking about these kind of contradictions that existed throughout the history and in the documents and things. you talked about power versus liberty, national versus state, lead -- regional conflict. i'm thinking about how it is today. it seems that we are having a lot of the same conversations, just maybe played out in different subject matters. i was wondering if you thought there was anything that -- if any of you thought that was the case or not, or if there was tothing that was a kernel find in any of these documents to figure out how to resolve these. i don't think documents from the past provide a blueprint to solve problems today.
if we just read what they did then, that's an answer. , sincedo think that these issues continue to be real issues today, as i said, i think we need to know how they evolved and how they have changed over time, and why they have changed can -- we so that we are really on our own. the pass is not going to tapas on the shoulder and say, here's the solution. we have to make those decisions ourselves. the more we know about how we got here, the better able we are to know what the future might be, what we have to do for the future. >> we talked about this a couple of times tonight. the balance changes over time.
it may just be that there's never a solution, that it's just a recalibration. we talk in the language of balance of power. it is really a recalibration depending on the moment, depending on where the public is , depending on what we are confronting as a nation. understanding history is understanding why the nation is the way it is right now and understanding how we can recalibrate that balance. . you also have to have an appreciation for the fact that things are very different now than they were then. that, in and of itself, impacts the balance. we're arguing about the same
thing back then. i can give you 10 people who support your view and 10 people who supported your opponent's view. that is the lesson of history. it is very messy. we have to get comfortable with that. studying history helps you do that. say, thewould just lesson of history, that people are willing to have a debate and a discussion. i shared a story earlier about a community meeting where a number of young people came in and voice their opinion, turned on their heels, and left. the next time they were present at a similar public meeting, i looked at their adult leader and i said to him, you have got to let your kids sit with the discomfort of listening to the opposing views of other young people who sit on the opposite side of the question.
i think that is the lesson of history, that they were at least talking to each other, reading each other's comments, debating, but they were able to set with the discomfort and argue with their neighbors. i think, unfortunately, that's increasingly not what we're doing. carol: there is not certainty about whether they will ever find a definitive solution. when you are growing up, remember, at a time on 40, everything in life will be settled. there won't be any issues anymore. that does not turn out to be true. we've kept you perhaps longer than you wanted to stay but thank you so much for joining. gilder lehrmane institute antinational constitution center, visit our
website, -- institute and the national constitution center, thanks. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> they, american history tv takes you live to the museum of the bible in washington dc for a symposium on the bible and its influence on the founding of america. historians explore references to the bible in 18th-century political discourse and examine much debatedklin's faith. our live coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. eastern, next saturday, february 10. >> monday night on "the
communicators," we are in las vegas for the second part of our coverage from the consumer electronics show where they unveil new products and give insights as to what is ahead. this year, the latest in robotics and drug technologies. andh "the communicators -- drone technologies. watch "the communicators." city tours travels to fayetteville, arkansas. it was once home to cherokee indians. learn more about fayetteville all weekend here on american history tv. >> this is a house that belonged to a family that lived in fayetteville, arkansas in the 1850's to 1860's. they were here during the civil war. they experienced the war. they loved fayetteville. when the war came, it changed everything.