tv Robert Parkinson Thirteen Clocks CSPAN March 23, 2022 9:00am-10:33am EDT
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c-spanshop.org or scan the code with your phone. good afternoon. welcome to today's session of the washington history seminar, historical perspectives on international and national affairs. this afternoon, we will focus on a recent book entitled "thirteen clocks," published earlier this year. joining us this afternoon are derek spires and rosemary disgary. my co-chair and colleague christian osterman is not with us this afternoon. but i am delighted to report that today's session is co-sponsored by the institute. with us this afternoon to
introduce our speaker is the interim executive director, katherine kelly. the washington history seminar is a venture of the public and policy program. wilson center ad since the pandemic here in the virtual realm this is the final seminar of the season, but we will return on january 23rd with a full lineup that will take us to the end of may. our announcement of the spring winter schedule will be available early in the new year behind the scenes are two people who make these seminars possible pete beer stecker of the wilson center and rachel wheatley of the national history center, and as always we'd like to thank our institutional supporters the george washington university department of history as well as any number of anonymous individual donors and as we say every single week, we invite you to join their ranks on the logistics front, please note today's session is being recorded and can soon be found on our institution respective websites. and when we get to the question
and answer session of the webinar, we ask that those of you with questions to use the raise hand function. that's our preferred way of hearing from you or you could use the q&a function on zoom. will call on as many people as we can. and now let me introduce catherine e kelly the interim director executive director and editor of books at the omahundra institute for early american history and culture and affiliate professor of history at william & mary. a prize-winning historian an editor her interest focus broadly on gender culture and politics in the early american republic. she's the author most recently of republic of taste art politics and everyday life and early america published in 2016, and i am happy that she could join us today to introduce robert parkinson. catherine welcome thanks, eric. i'm delighted to be able to join you this afternoon representing the omahondro institute for early american history and culture for those of you who
don't know the oi is an independent research organization sponsored by william and mary jointly with colonial williamsburg and our mission aims that supporting the study of early american history and culture. logically enough. we sponsor fellowships and conferences. we publish a flagship journal the william and mary quarterly and we also publish a book series which includes any number of important path-breaking and price prize winning books including this most recent book by by rob parkinson. our mission simply put is to support the intellectual infrastructure that undergirds geographically chronologically and methodology methodologically transformative vision of the past and speaking of scholars who offer a transformative vision of the past. it's a real pleasure to be able to introduce rob parkin. day currently an associate professor of history at binghamton university. rob is a preeminent scholar of the american revolution his pack
breaking work has helped us to understand just how important race was for the american founded most recently as eric mentioned. he's the author of 13 clocks a book that we were fortunate enough to publish. and a book that is the topic of today's programming his previous book the common cause creating race and nation in the american revolution was awarded the james a rowley prize from the organization of american historians and was recognized by the association for education in journalism and mass communication. rob is currently finishing a new book titled. the heart of american darkness savagery civility and murder on the eve of the american revolution which we will be published by live right? i'm hoping that we'll hear just a bit about that provocatively titled book at some point today, but first let's settle in for a lively discussion of 13 clocks. okay, so i will i will share my
screen with you here. and have a little bit of things to tell your daughter, this is the we should be good. yes. okay, good. okay, so the cover of 13 clocks looks like this. i covered that kathy who just very graciously introduced me and i worked really really hard to get looking this good. thank you to the designers at unc press as well. for this because i so this starts out. with the the concept of 13 clocks meeting 13 colonies really comes from a john adams quote. and john adams when he looked like this. so 83 years old he as he and the founding generation were. approaching old age or certainly in the depths of old age some
people in the early united states decided that they really needed to know what happened in 1776. and so they started reaching out to people and get there and toots or call their memories before they left the this mortal coil. so so one of those people was baltimore journalist hezekiah niles and he reached out to john adams and said, hey, dude, what went down in 1776 and john adams had spent a long time thinking about this of course, and he had a been talking with corresponding with thomas jefferson about this very topic off and on for the better part of almost a decade and so he had a very prepared answer for this and it has become an answer that is there's a couple of there's a series of letters that he wrote to jefferson about this and also, to his response to niles which has framed how we remember think about the revolution. and written about the revolution for a very long time since 1815
and 1818, but definitely in the in the last generation or so and i'll get into that a little bit here in a minute. so this is what john adams said and remember he looks like this it's important. i have his little elderly picture. it's portrait here because i'm gonna show you a younger version of john adams, which is a little bit different um than then him in so he said, the colonies had grown up under constitutions of government so different there was so great a variety of religions they were so we're composed of so many different nations their customs manners and habits had so little resemblance and they're intercourse had been so rare. and their knowledge of each other so imperfect that to unite them in the same principles and theory and the same system of action was certainly a very difficult enterprise. he said of the the the enterprise being bringing the 13 clocks to strike as one the complete accomplishment of it and so short of time and by such simple means was perhaps a singular example in the history
of mankind 13 clocks were made to strike together a perfection of mechanism, which no artist had ever before affected. so atoms is talking about the miracle of which he's kind of hinting that there's providence and maybe god or just godlike folks like himself who really brought these these clocks to strike as one and this problem of the of uniting the country or the uniting the colonies as one. is what i think is shaped a lot of my work. this is the question of how how july 4th 1776 comes about it. it was part of the the heart of this book. well this this book which is they're 13 clocks is an abridgement of something. we don't really do in the historical profession very much anymore, which is we used to do it a lot. which is take really really big
books and make them small books for teaching and that's in many ways. what what 13 clocks? at least that's how i thought it was going to be and then it turned out to be something much greater than than i have first imagined. it is a an abridgement of this book, which is my first one that came out in 2016 the common cause which you really the best the best way to look at it is this way it is 750 pages. and so therefore makes it rather unteachable and in any generation, but it seems like especially this covid generation. so i thought for a long long time about how to distill the argument of that book and think about this particular problem of the 13 clock striking as one the common cause the subtitle of that is creating race and nation in the american revolution and what i what i found in that research was that race lay at the heart of every single
decision every single it the idea that that there are different stories here between there's the american revolution which is about ideas and about ideology and about natural rights, and then there's the experience of revolution which involves people people of color or or women or anything like that, but those are different those are entirely different conversations and what i found in my research, is that that those are so intertwined with one another that the the argumentation for how to make the cause the cause of fighting the revolution common was by turning to and employing all sorts of language stories images about slave insurrections and the potential of violence on in the back country, especially about indigenous peoples.
that was the the what the leaders of the revolution turned to over and over and over again? they thought about the roles that that african americans whether enslaved or free or indigenous peoples would play in this revolutionary time. they thought about them so consistently and and and on a almost hourly basis, i found more than if not daily and certainly weekly they they thought about they thought about what role folks in those status. i guess you say that would play in the revolution all the time. and so and where i first went to look for that evidence about that came actually from what the next thing that john adams says in this letter to hezekiah niles, which says this if he says if you want to know why i'm right. um about what how the revolution came about he said young men and letters of all the states about
this. i think he in his mind he thinks about people who would become historians should undertake a laborious, but certainly interesting and amusing tasks of searching and collecting the records pamphlets newspapers and even hand bills of the 13 colonies to find out how the temper and views of the people had changed. this is in his the other letter he writes about this same topic to jefferson three years before he writes denial. so this is this adam's thinking about about how are people gonna figure out what happened in 1776. well, this is where they should do. they they should go look at print. and so that's for for the common cause that's what i did i went and looked at lots and lots and lots of prints and i instead of doing what previous generations of historians had done and looking at newspapers and looking at either. the essays that appeared off and on the front pages or the advertisements that would appear on the back pages of the of the newspapers. i looked at the really really boring stuff in the middle the the um short paragraphs and
small little notices that happened with in the very middle of these newspapers. that talked a lot. about british agents military officers indian superintendents in in new york or south carolina um naval captains you name it people who are agents the british empire who were especially in 1775 and 76 who were doing their best to try to figure out how to end the rebellion by pulling any lever. they possibly could and as as a lot of them were doing and it's not just lord dunmore doing it in virginia. they are considering what role enslaved african-americans or native peoples in the back country might be the the pulling that lever might be the thing that ends the rebellion. and and and of course they are
because if this is a britain is broke and this is an expensive prospect and if you could end the rebellion before the british have to do the really really expensive thing like equipping an army and paying it and and sending it across the ocean and then and then funding it in america to put down this rebellion you'd be a hero of it. so so you have royal governors all over the place who are mulling over how to make themselves a hero and so they are thinking about making failing themselves of opportunities like these and so the what i found in the newspapers is patriot leaders, really seizing upon that fact and then publicizing it as much as they possibly can and putting those stories front and center in with and we think about the sort of the news feed in using today's parlance of what people
about the revolution they knew a lot about these particular stories. and and so if we were to follow elderly john adams's advice. and we look at print. well we find in print. well, there's some stuff in there that i don't think he'd be really super keen about us finding and what i found and and i was really blown away by it. i was really blown away by. the amount of of talk that it's hourly that it's that it's that it's all the time. and so therefore i wanted to really sort of have have the archive itself the fitness the massiveness of this archive that i found and and that i started out with newspapers, but then when it looked in the sort of cross-reference that against the sort of the the correspondence in the papers of the continental congress and the and the founding fathers and things and those it became this massive archive and the reflection of that of course that's massivity
is the thickness of this book the that there would be this many stories and this much talk about about trying to the the colonial population. really by scaring them is is something that really is that the heart of this story. so but what my surprise came because because of the effect of these these letters that john adams is right one in that same letter. he says what do we mean by the revolution the war? that wasn't any part of the revolution. it was an effect in a consequence of it. the revolution was in the minds of people and this is affected from 1760 to 1775. this is a very very very influential. quote it's written by the elderly john adams written or who appears here on the left. but it is a it is.
about the john adams of a younger man. and that is this is the one on the right is the john adams of the 1760s when he's about 40 years old and he's i love this this portrait of him because he's kind of giving us a little bit of side eye here. he's kind of he's kind of showing a little bit of playfulness and that i think reflects that if we were to go back and look at these things like i did what would we find? we would not find that the war has nothing to do with the argumentation of what the revolution is about. it would not be something that is affected from 1760 to 1775 by that which he means this is about natural rights. this is about consent. this is about representation. it's about ideology and it's done by the start of the war that notion. has had a particularly strong historia graphical effect, and why well, where do we find that letter? we find that letter here, of course in this book, which i
don't i can't see some how many people participants are are in this session, but i would bet that just about everybody has read this book. that letter appears before chapter one or before page one in chapter one of bernard balans book. what do you mean by the revolution the war the war had nothing to do with it hearts and mind and it actually appears as john adams plagiarized himself when he wrote that same thing to three years later to hezekiah niles before chapter 5 of valence book so that notion that the war had nothing to do with it that it's a package thing again. we've seen that lately in the in the last history wars about about dunmore's proclamation 1619 and all this kind of stuff that's been going on in the last couple of months. i'm sure we'll talk about that a little bit more as as the session goes along but the idea that that independence is that everybody's on board. as soon as the shooting starts and the and that people's hearts and minds have been changed so
to such a degree by these by this ideological change that has had a tremendous a historic graphical effect, and i didn't see all when the war. these stories about enslaved people and and what role in slave people and and native people's might play that becomes the thing that people are reading about and talking about more and more and more and more much more than talking about liberty or rights. that's the thing that people are and and as i was reading all these newspapers. i was reading the same story over and over and over again. i had i had this. what i call sort of in the preface of 13 clocks i have this kind of idea that i had this kind of weird superpower that i had developed where i would turn microfilm reels just look at newspapers that i'd never seen before and i would try to predict what i was coming next. um, which is a pretty lame superpower as there's a historians, i guess would
instead of you know, flying or being invisible. this is the thing that we would do is to predict what was going on in primary sources next. but anyway, that's and i was one i would drive home from the library and i would think about what powers that actually was and what it meant for things like revolutionary mobilization. and that's when i began to think about how these same stories are be that would appear in the pennsylvania packet. that would be introduced by order of the continental congress would then appear in boston and new york and annapolis and williamsburg and charleston same exact story like we would today with a modern news wires and or if a letter that is may or may not be a little bit manipulated by patriot leaders appears in boston how it would then appear in the exact same fashion because of how the newspaper business worked in new york and philadelphia and baltimore and
williamsburg and charleston. what is that? what does that mean? and that that to me was? an important gear in the 13 clocks striking together that there are there are a lot of years in the internal workings of those clocks about what made the colonies come together. but one of the ones in the very center that we've really been ignored a lot is how the page about how patriot leaders like john adams and thomas jefferson really seized upon some of these stories because they knew that they were not controversial like like things like religion or even slavery there. these were things that that if you want to talk about what 18th century colonists have in common it is the nightmares about slave insurrections and and native massacres. that is the one thing that people no matter if you're quaker or or an anglican or even
a catholic that those things we are people in america really have in common and you can get more people to buy in by making them afraid of this one thing that is that is making that that in 18th century is the thing to be afraid of and so what we haven't i don't think talk to enough about is how the how those stories are deployed. um and what that means why it's at what does it mean that the idea of domestic insurrectionists and merciless indian savages working with the king is it is the 27th and final and climactic deal breaker grievance in the declaration of independence. what does that the argumentation for why we why we should come together and be one country and create a republic. is at the at the exclusion of certain people, what does that
mean? and so and so and just i want to show you a couple more things for me that this happens the how of this as much as the why if it's the how of how the 13 clocks are come together. it means so much because we know that the revolutionaries did some really radical things they change they made major changes to colonial political life. they they there was a significant attack on aristocracy and established churches and they really did transform meanings of representation and consent and they also decided made the conscious decision to throw away monarchical subject to it and embrace republican citizenship. and that that's something that didn't happen before the idea of yes. peter silver is exactly right that in the seven years war
stories about native massacre scared everybody and it sort of galvanized people. well, or or jalapore is right that those things happened in the new york conspiracies of 1741 or that that happened in king philip's war or that happened all the way going back to the very beginning of the colonial period but what didn't happen in any of those cases before was there wasn't an also a effort in making a new nation a new republican regime based on a very different political theory of citizenship that they didn't really even understand in 1776 and that therefore the the members of the club were able to make decisions about who was in and who was out and that's why these kinds of founding stories about about african-americans and indigenous people supporting the crown. continue to have a very significant effect about who was deemed to be in and out of the country. that could be directly
logistically the case in some places. well a legally in and out, but it's also contributed to this notion that some people belong here some people don't and so what what 13 clocks really looks at is the prevalence of these stories and why they matter for us today in the the what john adams and his and his colleagues did in 1776 when he was a younger man and not an 83 year old man how they made that happen is really important for us today, and we should go back and take another look at that and not rely on his sort of elderly say so for what it is. okay, that's enough for me. thank you very very much. our first discussion this afternoon is derek our aspires and associate professor of literatures in english and affiliate faculty in american studies visual studies media
studies at cornell university. he specializes in early african american and american print culture citizenship studies and african-american intellectual history in his first book the practice of citizenship lack politics and print culture in the early united states published by the university of pennsylvania, press in 2019 won the modern language association prize for first book and the bibliographical society st. louis mercantile library prize. and it was a finalist for the library company of philadelphia's first book award. he's also the editor of genealogies of black modernities, especially issue of american literary history published in 2000 2020. his work has been supported by fellowships from the national endowment of humanities the social science research council and the melon maze initiatives derek the floor is yours. thank you. thanks to the organizers for bringing us together and thanks for to robert. for writing this incredible book
the teachable version two incredible books as opposed. i should say. i also want to acknowledge that i'm speaking to you from the traditional homelands of the gay kono or cayuga nation members that are holding shawnee confederacy that figures in part and robert's book. reading 13 clocks a book about store. the stories revolutionaries told about themselves. i couldn't help but think of letters from an american farmer the book published by jay hector sinjin decraft kerr and any number of other names in 1782 that purports to be the authentic account of the years leading to the revolutionary war by farmer named james from pennsylvania. james travels to several colonies not unlike adams and suggests that each region had its own distinct character based on climate economy and proximity to sell territory. he decries the luxuries gained from its like saved labor in south carolina and compares it to south america and a more spanish than british style of
life. he suggest at the backcountry was a land of lawlessness that nevertheless would eventually become settled and he describes the american as a new race quote. they are a mixture of english scotch irish french dutch germans and sweets from this promiscuous breed that race now called americans as have arisen and quote. that is white men of silent anglo-saxon stock read their newspapers kept their religion to themselves and were on the whole benevolent and slavers. this account of who is an american takes me to two moments in the book the first is parkinson's contention that quote a shared feeling of intercolonial trust and unity what requires some forgetting i'm i keep coming back to the notion that trusting unity require forgetting and it feels a bit like deja vu right now that is an alchemy in which all the differences farmer james notes could be transmogrified into the shared project of
creating a new american race. and we can see how patriots in their print supporters intentionally amplify amplified for instance fear around indian incursions. not only in newspapers, but also in book covers. so for instance, i will share with you one of my favorite books to teach in the early american lit seminar. this is the cover to cover from sue's from mary rowlandson's captivity narrative. first one is from 1682. so one of the first editions published in cambridge, and then the second one is from 1773 and you can see a really notable difference and i would say especially after reading parkinson's book that this difference is not just about the technology involved in having an engraving on the cover right susan rollins narrative initially emphasizes her devotion to christianity her
safety etc by 1773. grand has got a gun. granny is the patriot granny is protecting the household. this is from boston in 1770. this is my granny with the gun and i say this because my grandma had a gun and then this is the 1773 cover that really illustrates the ways that a particular brand of americanism is shaped as the patriot protecting home from the encouraging of the savages of various kinds. so parkinson's account of revolutionary print culture, especially colonial newspapers helps us visualize a kind of circular process in which an event or as importantly a specter of an event via the slavery conspiracy or the threat of british alliances with indigenous peoples or other convulsions would become a published account a shaped intentionally crafted published
account and listening a sort of response both in print and in action, which would then lead to a new event. comic sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in a way this account of print is a revision and refinement of both benedict benedict. anderson's imagined community thesis which suggests that proliferation of french in the early 19th century in particular created a sense of print nationalism through shared text what we learned though, is that these shared texts were not sort of passively generated shared texts. they were intentionally crafted and this scans with what trish lockron our use in the republican print about the way that early national print culture wasn't actually sort of this evenly distributed happy. imagine convenience actually pretty fractious and fractured. and so what we see in this sweet spot moment between say 73 and 76 is a moment when through a
number of until we say crafted. coincidences right the 13 clocks clicking the place both because of circumstance but also because of patriots taking advantage of that circumstance and realizing not just that no fear can create a sense of cohesion in this moment, but that people responded to it and this is the important part of the circuit right? it's one thing that patriots play up on so particular kind of racial or prejudice prejudicial animus. it's another thing to note how people responded to and we're galvanized by it. and the other thing i know in the moment i have to reflect on the book. is that if print was to lifeblood of the revolution the business of enslavement helped keep that blood pumping? the book gives press context for reading how race gets made in print through freedom ads for the sale of enslaved people. so for instance the boston
gazette issued at parkinson sites in the first chapter offers an ad for a likely -- and also advertisers for fugitive named caesar important to note that you would go to the newspaper office to collect reward. so it's not just that newspapers were sort of passively reprinting ads. it was part of the business model, right and again, so this feeds into the kind of feedback loop where stoking fears could actually generate revenue for newspapers. and create a sense of cohesion. um so questions. why does this reframing of american revolution as essentially a history of american whiteness or the generation of american whiteness important? why is it important that we take up the question of how organizers use whiteness as one of several of connective tissues, that would make a united states in i think part of the answer is the way in the way that parkinson's strange racialization as a strategy and
a choice these writers had a set of tools before them and they made the calculation that some tools will be more effective than others. right the other thing i want to note though. is that by the 1830s black historians would be taking up this moment too. they would be some among our first revisionist historians. so for instance in 1838, pennsylvania as the state of pennsylvania was about to restrict voting rights to white men black pennsylvania's published an appeal of 40,000 pennsylvania studied with disenfranchisement, and they cite the articles of confederation, especially the one defining citizenship as the free inhabitants of each state poppers vagabonds, and he's just from justice accepted etc. and then they cite minutes from the constitute from the convention. noting that the state's voted down by margin of eight to two to one emotional from south carolina carolina to include the word white. and bring this up because it
reminds us like parkinson's book that revolutionaries were constantly thinking of not only about enslavement, but also race they were making race in the moment through letters articles and law and these pennsylvania's remind us in 1838 once again that other choices were available. the revolutionaries not only knew better. they could do better some tried. i'm at least me to rethink the notion of citizenship as a club that parks and gives us yes, perhaps it's a club. i like that metaphor, but there are already people inside too and those people inside were gonna have their say, so thank you, and i'm looking forward to the discussion. thank you. robert would you like to respond? yes, i will. well, i will say this derek i have. papers taped to my monitor to remind me and sort of on the
shelves around my in my that remind me of what this is really about and one of the and there's circularity is one of them event. discourse policy event and it kind of just goes back at the circuit. so i don't know if you've been snooping around my office, but the but that for you to pick up on that that is a really really excellent point i mean that is that is really what one of the things that i'm trying to think about this is how how these how an event would happen how it gets portrayed. that's the real sort of moment. that's it's extraordinarily important for things like crev curse, wyoming massacre, for example how that then gets portrayed leads to different policies including things like the the sullivan campaign to eliminate the honda shawnee in in 1779 and how that then sort of goes back and forth and how you tell stories about that. so those that's really really
contingency is the really important subtext of the whole book that things could have turned out very differently. and and you see this in a like the example that i always think about is something like the french. certainly, the french are seen as for generations since the end of the 17th century. they are the most hated and feared enemies and then by 1782 their bostonian celebrating the birth of dephon. yeah, and so how is it that the french can be? yeah redeemed and so quick a manner? but other people cannot what's going on here? and so so there are moments of revolutionary forgetting i have amnesia of real sort of creativity on the fly about thinking about people and i have i talk about the german mercenaries in the same kind of way, but some people can't and
so and and why is and and it is about that kind of moments of storytelling that i think that can that again doubled down and tripled down that are really important at this moment. thank you very much. before we move on to our second discussant. i will just ask those of you in the audience with questions to remember that you can use to raise hand function and you can actually get into queue now and get it ever everyone else or you can use the question and answer function itself. we prefer not to use the chat function. i've eliminated ability to multitask here between parts of the screen. so q&a function if you want to write your question raise hand if you want to directed yourself. and now our second discussant is rosemary cigari university professor and professor of history at george mason university. she received her phd from yale university and is a specialist in early american political
history and women's history. she's the author of numerous articles and books including the politics of size representation in the united states 1776 to 1850 a woman's dilemma mercy, otis warren and the american revolution and revolutionary backlash women and politics in the early american republic in 2009 to 2010. she served as president of the society for historians of the early american republic. that's very the screen is yours. okay. thank you all for all the audience for coming for attending virtually and for the wilson center and the american historical association for sponsoring this i think especially in these pandemic times this kind of intellectual community is really important and necessary to keep going so and thank you for having me and thank you rob for writing these
books this book in particular 13 clocks. i should say up front that i am and allowed champion of this book. i am a blurber on both books. so even though my support for and enthusiasm for the books i don't think is in doubt. i think what rob has done here is an extremely important intervention in our understanding of the american revolution and our understanding of tree of race in the united states and in our understanding of the origins of some of the contemporary dilemmas that we find in our nation today. i i know you didn't write it actually originally with that purpose in mind. that is to explain our current dilemmas since you began writing it in the early 2000s, but it is an extremely timely work that i think really reflects very
importantly on a lot of the issues. we're dealing with today in the united states. so that said i want to highlight a few things that i find especially important or insightful about the book and then i'd like to move to some um criticisms reservations or at least at least points that i'd like to discuss further with you about the book or the audience. so so here's what everybody to for us to think about first of all, i think one of the things that strikes me about 13 classes. i mean, it's an amazing accomplishment amazing distillation of this 700 page book into 200 pages that preserves the core of your argument about the importance of race in the lead up to the revolution because your book
concentrates on the 15 months prior to the declaration of dependence and to the declaring of independence itself. and so i think that that's extremely important that you do that and show how profoundly first of all fractured the country was and i think that's a point that a lot of in the traditional narrative or the popular narrative of the american revolution people don't understand how divided the colon or even even colonists were just spread out across a very large country a very large north american continent i should say and they were much more attached to their own individual colonies or to great britain than to each other. and so there were often boundary disputes that are often fights
about about who should pay for fighting indians. for example, um, there were there was not a lot of mutual understanding of recognition of the commonalities that united these these mainland north american british colonies in the decades prior to 1776. and so i think it's really important that you stress that and that the question you poses what made americans come together what makes the teen clocks strike it once and you know, i love that metaphor of john adams because it points to how difficult if no almost impossible. it is to make that happen. and so i think that's a really important kind of groundwork that you lay in the book that that gives people a real sense of of the state of play in the colonies the north american
mainline british colonies in the decades before the revolution. you also provide an incredible level of insight into the nature of of the technological revolution occurring in the colonies in the decades leading up to the revolution and during the revolution and that is the revolution and print culture and again, you don't make the contemporary analogy but that revolution in the in print in the printing of newspapers in particular but a pamphlets of all sorts of documents revolutionized the way people thought and you know one one some historians say that you know, the number of newspapers doubled in the decades prior to the american revolution then doubled again after and this kind of change is only comparable to the kind of change we've experienced in our own
lives with the advent of the internet with you know, with with digital media and again, you didn't write the book with that analogy explicitly foregrounded, but i think it's important for readers to know and and they see through your your extremely exhaustive research into the print media of the time how thorough going that print culture revolution was and how extensive it was and how penetrating it was and how it really had a profound impact on the way ordinary people thought not just political elites, but wait ordinary people thought and you know, i hastened to add that the rate of literacy in the north american british colonies was among the highest in the world at that time even higher than in great britain and in new england among white males.
it was all approaching universal literacy and even for white women in new england, you know, perhaps 60 to 70 percent maybe about half that in the south but still that's a lot of people can read and a lot of people who can read these new printed materials that are what that are doing what you show us, which is spreading fear. um, and so you know, i think that what you see here is that you know there there is a and an effort by political leaders and by newsmakers news printers partly to sell publications by the way as as derek pointed out to to capitalize on that fear by printing these articles that scare people and and they fear people about things they're most to capitalize on that fear by printing these articles that
scare people. and they scare people about things they are most susceptible to be scared about, especially indian massacres and slave insurrections. funded by the british, promoted by the british. so i think those are really important things. they just take a center stage in your book in a way that's very powerful and i think people to really understand the revolution in a very visceral way that's very different from a traditional narrative. i also appreciate your nuanced understanding of race. you point out that you don't use that shorthand word race in your text. do you it for good reasons. the idea of race as a coherent
category, a biological essentialism did not coalesce, as you say and as i think a lot of -- most historians would say until after the revolution. it was coming into being. the words you use are carefully chosen. prejudice, stereotypes, attitudes. you use the words of the time, merciless savages, domestic insurrectionists. you convey to us what people at the time felt. you help us translate it into our modern term of race while warning us that that category of race had not yet taken on the rigidity or meanings we have attacked to it today. finally, this is kind of a historical point. what you are doing in many ways can be considered moving us
beyond the classic work "american slavery, american freedom" which posed the paradox and opened the eyes of a generation ofhistorians. not that other historians hadn't seen the problem before of slavery and talked about it, including some very important african-american historians, but he framed it as a paradox. i think for a long time, we have talked about the paradox of slavery for black people and freedom or liberty for white people. what you're doing here is showing it's not a paradox. it's that white people actually used the condition of people of color to advance the cause of liberty.
it made the revolution possible. so while i still like that idea that it's a paradox, it's a paradox for white people and people of color that are being portrayed in this way by white political leaders and white writers. so my thoughts or issues that i'd like you to discuss or other people to discuss, so the first issue is kind of his tort graphical. for those in the audience that aren't early americanists it might not be of much interest, by can pose it any way. so how do you align your argument along with idological origins of the american revolution or with the classic
arguments about the coming of the revolution as being motivated, caused by the objections to infringements on american liberty, on representative government, on taxation without representation. and famously, not quite. he's talking about ideology too. he also uses print culture, but he's talking mainly about pamphlets and he's talking about a triad of slavery, corruption and conspiracy that he sees. these themes and pamphlets that americans are mobilized by. he has a lel argument to you or to him. the motivation different. and he's saying that americans opposed liberty against power. virtue against corruption. are your arguments compatible?
how does your argument fit with the idea or the more intellectual arguments about taxation and representation and representative government. because arguably and as many other stories have argued, those did provide causes bonds of unity between and among the colonies. in one of those quotes of john adams, he says what unites people are principles andfections. you're talking a lot about sentiments. what about those principles and opinions? are these interpretations compatible? are you arguing that regionally the slavery and race argument
are more powerful. now i do want to note you do a very good job of looking at newspapers from all over the continent, from all the colonies, but is it as powerful in new england as in south carolina. so that's one of the things i wanted to ask you. but related is the whole question of fear as a motivator. so an older generation of historians objected to a similar argument. propaganda in the american revolution and they said, oh, it's these locates manipulating these hapless masses who can't think for themselves. and then a whole generation of social historians said, no, no,
no, ordinary people have agency, have their own ideas, saw and took what they wanted from the revolutionary movement. so how to you respond to a charge that you're moving in the direction of propaganda and elites manipulating the hapless or hopeless masses. and so i'm just curious about what you would say to that. and then sort of related to that, and this is where i think your caveat to not call it race in the body of the book serves you well because as you know, there were many other others during the lead up to the revolution and during the revolution itself. catholics, you know,
anticatholicism was rampant in the north american protestant colonies prior to the revolution. and was used as a motivator to get people riled up about british policies. you mentioned the germans. you can say at one point the germans were considered white. fpz so that broadens our notion of who these others are pretty much in a way that could work if you're just talking about the use of this kind of fear during the war itself. but after the revolution in terms of talking about white supremacy and our more modern conception of racism, it poses some problems. which leads me to my last point, and you can take the easy way out here or the hard way out. on page 185 you say
republicanism and exclusion are inaccept rabl. not only is white supremacy an ideology, it's intertwined with and dependent upon republicanism born in 1776. so the easy way out is to say this is in the conclusion and it's kind of hyperbole and i was just stretching things. the hardest thing is for you to justify it, which i'm interested in. i don't actually object to the idea that white supremacy is an ideology or that it was intertwined with republicanism. but is it dependent on republicanism? i know you're trying to explain that republicanism required the definition of citizenship. and that requires inclusions and exclusions, but does -- it does
founding a republic require exclusion and if it requires exclusion, are you certain that it's the exclusion of the same groups that you're identifying as the motivators or the unifying force for the american revolution. so i will stop there just once again say i think it's a terrific book. i think it is an incredible teaching book and i think it's a book that nonhistorians can learn a lot from and really has a lot to teach us in many, many ways about the present moment. >> thank you for that. so three things to talk about. so two, propaganda, i think i
was at the page proofs stage for the common cause in 2015 or whatever when i finally realized 15 years in that, oh, i remember driving in my car and thinking it downed on me that really what i was doing was having this really big fight. i department even realize that i was doing that. maybe it's because that the book which i aed mire very much is very close to what some of the things that i'm saying. i just see the limitations of it. in that, first of all, one of the points that i make in the
larger book, is that once the shooting starts, all the stakes change. this is the artificial we teach these things to have a broader american revolution that we talk about that starts somewhere in 1763 and ends in 1780s. that's the american revolution. when i teach my era of the american revolution class, it's a 30-year thing or longer. but the revolutionary war is just a small part of that and we like to by fer indicate these things, but that's not how people at the time lived it. so the war itself, the idea that this is the packaged deal is where i part ways. but i do think that the
arguments that i think do resinate with some columnists, but some colonyists, those are about masculinity, about honor, identifying liberty and identifying conspiracy and making the right choice here and those things are highlighted from the 18th century past, from the 17th century past, from the roman past, the idea of the virtuous republican ares will take action to defeat tyranny that is right in front of their face. and we can add to that too.
i think they have to go deeper that that. i know that because that's what a lot of people start to talk about. the same guy who is are writing pamphlets in 1774 about those topics don't really wrist about that stuff anymore. what they write about is it's almost like now the test has come. and they start talking about the test and the test is the tyrants who we thought were tyrants, now they are doing this. now you have to -- now it's very obvious what the tyranny has become naked in front of your very eyes. you have to take steps in that direction. and i think as the stakes go up and you have to broaden the base, it can't just be other elites that are also reading these pam the flets that look like you in had other colonies. you have to broaden the base
here and you have to get a lot of people to put their bodies and their families and their fortunes on the line. that's going to require a different level of argumentation that i think goes past economic arguments, it goes past just sort of purely political, theoretical arguments. where do we go after that? i think in the colonial imagination, you go to race. you go to those kinds of things. you open the tool box and those kinds of fears are laying right in the very top of the tool box. so i do think that my argument here, you want to get to ideology here as well. now propaganda, i have struggled with that word for a really long time. and it is certainly not, when historians in the 1930s and '40s
thought about propaganda, they were thinking about the committee and thinking about world wars. and so then when they thought about the american revolution, they said is this right? is this the same kind of manipulation and same kind of elites hoodwinking an unsuspecting people. and i think we are now -- i struggled with that myself. is that really what's going on here. and i thought about that word propaganda for a long time. over the course of many years of staring at the wall, i began to think about the base word propagate. and propagation, which is very 18th century concept about growing your own things whether it's the society or the gospel
or propagating, prop yields, or limiting the propagation of smallpox, that kind of thing. that's something that 18th century people are really familiar with. and that is what i think the patriot leaders are trying to do is propagate more patriots. they were trying to do their very best to get people to agree with them. and make the best arguments to get people to agree with them. and sometimes that worked and sometimes that really didn't work. and there's tremendous amount of agents, the robert gross, another line that's not taped to my monitor, but it's close to my head is what brought people to the bridge. and what brought people to the bridge. why were the minute men there to take a bullet? and everyone i think who was there would have a very different reason for that.
but what i came back to over and over again was adams and jefferson and franklin and washington went back to the stories over and over again because they thought they would resinate with people. they thought this is something we should spend our time and money telling the american people about. because we only have a very small box here of arguments that will work. i just finished a book about in north carolina the enliegtsenment ideas about religion -- people are very unhappy about that. so they think that the revolutionary leaders in north carolina in 1777 are secret catholics and this is a popish thing because they are saying that they don't really believe in the trinity. so there's plot to try to kill
patriot leaders. and those guys consider themselves pariots. so the window of how you make this argument is a very small one. so how do you sort of thread that needle over and over again. i think race is really a safe argument. page 185, i'm glad you think white supremacy is an ideology. that's good. if i were to change that sentence, republicanism in the form that it takes and found in the united states in 1776 i'm not exactly saying that republicanism across the board and every age does, although maybe exclusion is an important part, etc.s pshlly if you're going to pull up a lot of different anchors, like you're
going enfranchise a lot of people. you have to figure out how to exclude people. because not everybody is going to be happy with bringing everybody in. that's not what we think about. the universalism leez to a backlash of exclusion by the teens and 20s all over the world. as a backlash against that. so i think in the form that it takes in the united states, it's dependent on that. i think it needs that to make it a coherent project. >> thank you very much. we're now going to our audience
and the questions they posed. i have a very base one here. that we can start off with. that you actually address in i think paragraph one of your preface, but i'll let you answer here. david stork writes, please clear up some confusion for me. i just ordered a copy of "the common cause." now i get the impression that "12 clocks" is a distillation. did i order the wrong book? >> i don't think you ordered the long book. the common cause is something that stretches over a longer period of time. it goes into the 1780s, but then it really goes into the 1810s. this focuses on the different chapters and really that's the 15 months between april of '75 and july of ' 6.
i call it an abridgment sort of because there's a lot of new writing in it and there's something it's chapter about all the very different ways in which not only the colonies disagreeing with one another and fighting with one another, that's getting worse in the 1770s that all of these problems are getting far more exacerbated. the pennsylvania and virginia are on the brink of war with one another over the ohio river country and connecticut and pennsylvania are at war with one another over the valley. and new york and new hampshire are fighting with one another over the vermont country. this is all happening in the 1770s. sometimes within months of the fighting in lexington and concorde. so then there's slavery and the
loyalists are actually making really good points. so those are kind of things that i highlight much more in 13 clocks to give you the stakes here about how difficult ab enterprise this really was. >> thank you. we have a number of questions that center on the question of fear. and sarah run cunningham asks, who writes and promotes these inflammatory pieces. she's thinking granularly, and alan asks, did scare tactics create fear or more importantly confirm existing fears and biases. and finally paul asks, there seems to be an implication in the accounts of how the founders
exploited fear of the other. is this an oversimplified observation or an indicaor of how well this appeal has succeeded throughout american history. was it nearly a common on the universal appeal of well-positioned propaganda? >> so who does it serve? i do think who is benefitting the most at a granular level, so the john adams that's kind of side eyeing us, the 40-year-old john adams, that portrait is done in the 1760s. in 1769 john adams things are going very badly in boston for the patriot cause this is before the boston massacre and things are not going well. they are competitors, loyalist newspapers, who are threatening
the sam adams and john adams with calling them hypocrites, the pate carrot yos are break the boycott. so it's a very precarious moment for the revolution in boston. so the adams cousins and james otis go to the print shop of the boston georgia set and adams writes about this in his diary. he said we had a wonderful night. we cooked up all kinds of things to put in tomorrow's newspaper. we cooked up occurrences and paragraphs and all kinds of fun stuff. it's working the political engine. it's my favorite thing other than my daughters in the whole world this is the one moment he tells us a big thing about how the revolution comes about.
and so if you look at the next day's boston gazette is, you'd have no way of knowing what was cooked up and what was not. and what are the things that are cooked up is kind of difficult to know. there are letters in there, some poetry in there, but there's stuff that in the tempt of the day would be considered fake news. then the issue goes all over the place. it goes all throughout new england. it goes into new york. it doesn't go deep into the south after that, but it gets exchanged and taken directly. so the work that john ament das and sam adams are doing, that sunday night in the print shop goes all over the place. they really do figure out this is a really important ingredient to revolutionary mobilization. so john ament das when he's in philadelphia, he will write letters back home and say put
this in the newspaper. this photograph not this paragraph. give that one to the printer. those will appear in boston newspapers under the anonymous headline of from a gentleman in philadelphia to his friend in boston. and you have no way of knowing that's him writing to another patriot leader. we begin to see the ark it canture of these things and how they then get put in. so there's a management to this whole thing. that there are no reporters or journalists in the 18th century. the only way in which they appear in the newspaper is if someone gives their correspondence to the printer orb printed that come across the ocean or they are taken from someone else's newspaper exchange. so these things are -- there's a
directness to this. it's not accidental and it's not. so i think that's an important part. did i get to every point of that? or is there more to the question that i missed? >> i suspect you could probably go on for two hours, but i think that hits some of the highlights. so let me kboin two other questions. the first just came in from martha who asks, wrote in the 1960s what do you think if you're still here? he would think of the direction that you have taken and then joshua kaufman a bit earlier wrote a question they suspect many people are thinking about. it's a very simple question. does your research align or conflict with the propositions taken in the 1619 project.
>> right i pged this would come up. so i don't think in 2017 there was a anniversary conference about the 50th anniversary of the origins. and some proceedings some of those papers were published in the new england quarterly a few year or so after that. and so i actually could tell you some of the talk about my first book. and some of the students mainly weren't real big fans to have it. mostly because it moves away from this idea of natural rights and the interpretation of the revolution and it gets into sort
of the -- for me what's important is not the why, the how. and adams and jefferson and franklin are going to have regrets about what they do in the revolution afterwards. they are going to talk afterwards. what i think adams doesn't want us -- he doesn't want us to do the work that i was working on. he wants us to really think about those anvils and he doesn't want us to tts don't look behind the curtain about this. after 1775. please focus on this really sort of heroic period when it's about pamphlets and rights. don't think about what we talk about when it comes to scaing people about slavery afterwards. so i think that historians who really bloefs the sbermgs is the right one don't love what i'm saying here. >> 1619. >> there we go.
so you would think i would be a 100% wholesale supporter. and i'm not going to put a number on it, but i am a supporter of the larger project. for sure. we should think race is at the heart of the founding. that's the main point that is the take away from 13 clocks. people you would not expect to be thinking about people of color at the moment that they are creating the constitutions and writing declarations of independence, they are thinking about people all the time. those are not inseparable stories, as i said early on. when it comes to that very, very controversial line in the original 1619 project, about the slavery was the main truck
driver of the revolution. she was talking about causes. what caused the revolution. 13 clocks is not about clauses. it's about what happens after. and slavery on april 18th, 1775 is something that people are talking a lot about. and some people are talking about seeing this opportunity of a crisis in the empire as a way to get rid of it and some talking about way to protect slavery. it's one of those controversial things. you have people at the first continental congress who are include the slave trade as part of the association boycott. they want to eliminate slavery. some review of the rights of british americans that makes him famous as a writer, he says in 1773 and 1774, the quote, unquote, great object of desire
is to eliminate slavery from the american colonies. which was hoisted upon us by the king. but the great object of desire, this is a popular thing to get rid of slavery. what are you talking about? we want to double down and triple down on slavery. and so it is one of those fault lines that could destroy everything. what's interesting to me is starting the next day, that really changes. when the war begins, you don't see that kind of -- there are the pamphlets talking about using the crisis in the empire as way to get rid of slavery. the volume getting turned town to almost zero.
dramatically and now the british are trying their best to use enslaved people to try to end the rebellion. we see that in the declaration itself. jefferson writes a very beautiful paragraph about that the language here, what could have been used in the 1830s by am ligsists, by african-americans had in the 1830s, he calls the slave trade a form of war fair. he talks about slavery is an assembly. he has this very powerful words. and his rough draft, they are capitalized. he means for them to be there. and they all get struck out by the congress except for the bid at the end of that paragraph when he says now they are using
enslaved people against us. that bit stays. so the great object of desire gets struck out completely. the domestic insur restist part. slavery becomes something that's not controversial because they are only talking about one part of the equation. and that to me holds water. that argument that slavery is really important to this, that part holds water. as a cause, it's more difficult. as a consequence, you et bet. >> thank you. so i get to exercise the prerogative to get my own question in. and at the very end of the book, you conclude we have for too long taken adams and his colleagues at their word. you begin the book by taking
apart what he said. what they theed us to forget, and we largely have, was that @ drive to have the clocks strike as one was also a campaign stamped by the vicious, the confining and the destructive. you pose a question about the word we in a different context in the book, but i want to know about this we. so who are the we that are not forgetting. if you look at the history, there are the celebratory accounts, but it's a long list or substantial list of people who are not doing precisely this. dade wallstriker is blurred to the book. so there's a portion of at least the historical profession that addresses aspects of what you want and offer us a somewhat
less romantic picture here. i assume that the we that you're talking about in this passage is the american people. the broader culture here. but professional historians are often aware of what we write in our little academic studies doesn't always make it into the larger public domain, at least not as much as we want it to. so talk about the we. if you would. who you want to know this stuff and how they might get to where you want them to be. >> that was a very fantastically phrased thing. we came around to it. the we is the the american public. the we who we hold these truths to be self-evident we. so that's one of the things that one of the reasons i wanted to write this book.
is because i feel like i get my cake and eat it too. every other publisher would have had words for me, but i got to make the entire argument and put all this evidence out there for students and scholars. which is important. and that -- i do think that that we underestimate our importance a little bit when we think that people aren't going to find out about this. i think they do. but i wrote this book very much for 19-year-olds. i had 19-year-olds in mind. this was part of the challenge here was to write it -- to work on the language, to work on the
ways in which i made the arguments. the five take aways and the conclusion are in bold for a reason to help teachers out there. just to hit you on the head with these are the five things that are really important because i want the we to know these things. i want this to be something that as we head into the 250th anniversary, these kinds of arguments are part of the equation. if we're thinking about race as a central part of the founding as part of the cornerstone here, this is understanding the stakes. if we thought we could get rid of racism bypassing a few laws in the 1960s, the reason it didn't work is because we didn't understand the depths of the problem. this kind of work is trying to
get at the depths of the problem. we need to go much, much, much deeper into the crusts and the mantle of north america to understand how race is pen traited. if you grow up with these things, this is about climate change. our children are going to learn this at a young age. that might be different. that we might be different in a geeration or so. >> if i could jump in. this is why i pushed against your other statement about republicanism and exclusion being linked. i would say they are linked. and i think it's really important for the future of our society and government that we understand that choices were made, which your book shows. contingently that excluded
certain groups and we can make decisions to include other groups. and of course, we fail over and over again, but that first part of the delaration of independence calls us to equality and equal rights and so i think it's part of the cycle to emphasize one theme over the other. but i really think it's important to at the same time that we emphasize the centrality of race, that we not lose the sense of hope and possibility for future inclusions that republican government and the principles of the declaration of independence hold out to us. >> i would completely agree with that. i don't mean we are damned because of this. i do think that the contingency part of this does give us hope. it doesn't have -- we aren't
bound buzz of what has happened before. >> we have done over 60 sessions and that was the first time that i had my mute on when i started to talk. my apologies. what i was saying is we could go on for quite some time. we scratched the surpass of a very rich provocative and important pook, but unfortunately time is up. it is 5:30. and i have to draw this to a close. i want to thank our participants as well as members in the audience. our thanks to the institute for both bringing this book out and for sponsoring this session. so thank you.
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