tv Thomas Jefferson on Declaring Independence CSPAN May 17, 2020 6:00pm-6:24pm EDT
southern tip of okinawa. one after another, japanese positions are burned down. the japanese have already conceded the tactical loss of okinawa, a costly but indispensable gain in the war against japan. >> ♪ >> this is american history tv each we can,here, we feature 48 hours of programs exploring our nation's past. >> tomorrow is patriots' day, a massachusetts state holiday commemorating the bellows. monticello jose conversation with president thomas jefferson portrayed by bill barker. he recalls events that led to the decision by the 13 colonies
to break with great britain. washen explains how he involved in creating the declaration of independence and what he hopes americans might learn from it. this video is courtesy of thomas jefferson's monticello in charlottesville. thomas jefferson: hello and welcome to monticello. on patriots' day, nothing could please us more in virginia t han to be reminded about our original associations with massachusetts. yes, patriots' day is something we are happy to be reminded of, as i know all of our friends in massachusetts continue to be reminded of that occasion in which the citizen body stood
staunchly against the encroachments of the british upon their rights and property. ini remember, it occurred three particular villages. concord, and let meta-thome.rgotten, i believe they now refer to it as arlington. i hope that is not forgotten because that is one of the three where the british actually surrendered. i think they lost about 25 souls that day. overall, amongst the three villages, 500 british lost their lives. i was here at monticello and started on my way to williamsburg. it was then going to journey to philadelphia for the second continental congress. very much at that time in the spring of 1775
considering to remain an englishman. i was proud of it. i did not care for independence. continue -- desire to dependency. great britain provided safety, particularly on the frontier. but it was that day in april of .775 which i will never forget cut all the sins and concerns for reconciliation, and in its place, caused a frenzy of revenge which was seized by all ranks of the people. that was the day, if you will, the i decided to cross rubicon. many of us decided in virginia to further with massachusetts bay. >> your next question -- your next question? >> [indiscernible]
thomas jefferson: you asked me, why did it take so long for us to begin to react to what occurred in massachusetts the spring of 1775 to what eventually became the decision to pronounce ourselves free and independent of great britain. well, as you know, history and improvement and progress is never linear. things take time. may i be seated, if you will? thank you. irecall when john adams and many years later had a conversation about when the american revolution actually began. mr. adams said he recalled it began for him by bearing witness to the protests of his cousin,
sam adams, in boston. it was in protest of the stamp act. that was march of 1755. i medially replied to him, mr. adams, i remember at the same of 1765 inch williamsburg, virginia, the protest of patrick henry in opposition to the stamp act. looked at me as i looked at him, and we realized the american revolution had begun 10 years before lexington and concord. it began in the minds of americans. that one yearfor before we proclaimed independency after we learned of the actions that lexington concord --lexington, concord, and menotomy. for the secondd continental congress, we decided immediately we must come together strong with an army, theourselves, so all of
various colonial militias came together to form an american army. i'm proud to recall we had to commission a general of our american army. the very first time we commissioned a general. as englishman born in the colonies of great britain, we could never rise to the rank of a general. we could only be colonels of militias. colonelwe commissioned george washington to be our general. we then wrote a petition declaring we had the necessity to take up arms. i was invited to write it, though i was somewhat harsh in my writing, and so, they gave it to john dickinson to refine. and then, they asked me to write and olive branch petition an answer to lord north's proposals for reconciliation. i was a bit more amenable in
those jottings. we simple to great britain and waited for the reply parliament. and we waited, and we waited. through the autumn and through and 1776. of 1775 there was no reply from parliament, except what we read in english newspapers, to which, i quote, "these colonies are now officially in a state of rebellion." virginiat was that decided she would be the first, the first to proclaim her independency. 1776, i begay 15, your pardon, citizens, a virginia would always like to think they are the first at anything. virginia was not the first to proclaim her independency. about ahode island month before in april proclaimed
her independency on behalf of herself. a month later, virginia provided resolution for independency on behalf of all of our colonies. next question. >> yes. how was [indiscernible] jefferson: you asked how i was chosen to be the author of our declaration. well, first, of course, we had to decide how we would react to the resolution of virginia for independency. that was read by my countrymen, colonel richard henry lee. ini remember, it was june 7 philadelphia. it caused immediate consternation, particularly among the smaller colonies of rhode island and delaware.
how would they be expected to follow the resolution of virginia? we considered ourselves the largest, most populated, wealthiest. president john hancock created the entire continental congress as a committee to gather amongst in individual caucuses to decide how we should proceed. do we really want independency? and then, he appointed another committee of five men to draft our declaration of american independency. mind you, this was not a fee complee.-- fait we did not know that the congress would vote for independency, but we wanted to be prepared. mr. john adams was from massachusetts. mr. roger sherman, connecticut. robert livingston from new york. dr. franco, pennsylvania.
one on thenly committee south of the line of mason-dixon. franklin would. be our author but he dared not -- cared not to take on the responsibility. he looked at me, and it was mr. john adams who suggested i be the author. no, mr. adams, you must write it. he said, no, you. he said i'm generally considered obnoxious. you have quite the flare of writing. i think you should write it. besides that, he said, a virginian ought to be at the head of this business. yes, we had put forth that resolution for independency
first. your next question? >> [indiscernible] on? documents did you draw thomas jefferson: you asked what sources of inspiration i drew upon in drafting our declaration. well, firstly, i would tell you that i still write. desk,l write on this lap this slope, if you will. you can even refer to it as a laptop. this is my design and it was created by my cousin, a cabinet , in 1775philadelphia and 1776. not to writen this anything new and original. i drew on the sources of the justinian code of the 16th century. i drew on the sources of the writings of john locke.
i drew on mr. thomas paine's pamphlet, "common sense." all of this together provided a foundation, nonetheless the virginia declaration of rights written by my friend colonel george mason. he wrote that virginia declaration of rights at the same time i was writing our declaration of american independence. a further question, if you will. >> how long did it take you to draft the document? thomas jefferson: that is a very good question. if i can recall, it took me some time. you asked me how long it took me to write the declaration. well, i believe it took me three days. three days to write that declaration. in fact, i have here one of the first drafts. there were several drafts. three days to write the declaration on four sheets of paper. many of you may wonder, mr. jefferson, that is quite a long time to simply write a
declaration of independence. as you just said, everything was there for you to utilize. you were not designed to put forth anything new or original. citizens, i will tell you i am guilty of something that you all are guilty of. oh, yes, not one of us can escape. i make mistakes. and it is not easy to erase ink. when i would go back over what i wrote, i would write the correction above or beneath. i would transcribe that later in the evening. and the next day, i would make more mistakes. that continued for a good three days. and then, i had to hand my draft to the other four gentlemen, to the committee. oh, they were extensive hours of labor there in that little room on the second floor of the newly built brick townhouse in
philadelphia city. i believe it was on the southwest corner of seventh and i street -- high street. i believe they call high street market street now in philadelphia. thank you for bringing back those memories of quite the labor on paper. next question, sir. >> mr. jefferson, [indiscernible] thomas jefferson: you asked me whot robert hennings accompanied me to philadelphia in those years of 1775 in 1776. do i remember him? as he was my
property and as his family were my property that it is a terrible contradiction to the principles of our declaration? well, i can assure you i had inherited, if you will, the family for my late wife. they were part of her dowry. in 1772ame my property when i married. and, if you will, those few users -- years later in 1775, was myhamming coachman. he was only 15 years old at that time. i remember as we entered the city, one of my first interests was to have him inoculated against smallpox. pursue thedr. to inoculation. he had inoculated me nearly 10 years earlier.
robert returned in 1776. he remembered all of those individuals, all of us met their in the old state house in philadelphia, he knew who they were. he perhaps knew more about them than i did. well, he continued to be my coachman until i went to france. and after five years, returning here to monticello in 1789 where i learned robert hemmings had married. he married a woman then living in fredericksburg. her name was dolly. robert accompanied me the following year, 1790, when we went to new york. that was where our government was first seated under our constitution. and it was during that time, about 1790, if i remember, that robert desired to live with his wife. she had moved to richmond at that time. and so, he went to richmond to
be with her. he became acquainted with a doctor, a dr. strauss, i believe his name was. he was a french emigre of german lineage. several years later, robert asked if he might be with his wife entirely, that he might be freed. it was, yes, i believe it was christmas eve, 1794, i freed him. he was the first of all of my people that i freed. would that there could have been many more. if this was all a contradiction to our declaration of american independence. of course it is. we all know it is. not one ofed that our generation is going to live
to see us own up to these principles that we might not all be free. the eyese free under of nature and nature's god. but lamentably, we are born into the laws of man. contradiction, that the future will judge us most harshly. your next question. what did the declaration mean [indiscernible] memas jefferson: you asked what did our declaration mean in 1776. a recognition of what i just referred to as the
natural rights of man, the inherent rights of man, the rights given to mankind not by any government or ruler, the rights given to man by nature and nature's god. everyone is entitled to this. this is why governments are created, to protect and defend the inherent rights of every individual. and that means equal and exact justice pursuant to it. but again, improvement and progress is never millenials -- never linear. this is what we continue to argue and debate. we desired to put this before the world in clear and simple , if you will, an expression of the american mind, and thereby gain the ascent accordingly of man. do you have another question for me? >> one final question.
how will future generations read the declaration? thomas jefferson: you asked me how do i hope future generations will look back on our declaration of american independence, how they will judge us. hope i answer that i future generations will continue to read our declaration of american independence. there were many people when i wrote that document who could not read. and i am hopeful that in the future we may have a universal system of education so that everyone will have that opportunity and read and reread our declaration. i wrote it in order that it could be publicly read. let us never forget those occasions, too. let us look forward in the future to a continual recollection and refreshment of these rights, the inalienable rights of mankind. and let us realize that all eyes
are opening and will continue to open to these rights. let us realize, if you will, that the steady stream of the light of science will move us forward to recognize the palpable truth. and that truth is simply that the mass of mankind have not been born with saddles on their backs nor a few booted and spurred ready to ride him by the grace of god. no, let the future continue to work, argue, and debate to make the principles of our not onlyon universal for ourselves but for the family of man across the globe. , my fellow citizens, for this opportunity to enjoy our conversation today. i think now, if you will allow me, i should like to meet the
so that i may deliver to him this letter i just written to mr. adams. we have been enjoying the most delightful correspondence these last several years. and imagine, in another six years, it will be the year 26. an anniversary, if you will, of our declaration, let alone the dependency of our remarkable nation which i have always referred to as the world's best hope. you know, mr. adams and i have often had differences of opinion. but we realize as americans a difference of opinion ought never be a difference of principle. and though he may have opinions of a particular political nature, and i have my own opinions of an opposite political nature, there is one thing mr. adams and i recognize. party.not be known for
let us be known simply as the spirit of '76. i look forward to meeting you all again and enjoin further of your questions. i take your leave now in order to continue my communication. and i look forward when we meet more personally and visit here at monticello. i remain your humble and obedient servant, thomas jefferson. godspeed. next, thomas jefferson, portrayed by bill barker, discusses his love of gardening from the west lawn of monticello. he talks about his planting method, experiments, and people -- enslaved people who tended his gardens. explains how he learned about new plants in his travels and from lewis and clark's travels across the west and how you introduced those plants -- he introduced those plants to american soc