tv Book Discussion on Washington Rules CSPAN February 15, 2016 9:30am-10:16am EST
have some pause. originalism is sometimes misunderstood. it's not the idea that you use the interpretation. that's always been important part of how we interpret the constitutioconstitution but oris the claim that the only legitimate way to read the constitution is what people in basically 1787 who wrote the document or the people who ratified it there after thought the constitution meant, that no other minis are acceptable. i think for that group of people the sense of how difficult it was even at that moment for people to understand what the constitution meant, how many disagreements that are at that moment will be a little bit complicated. >> with time almost kind of want to come back to almost my original question about madison oftentimes thought of as the father of the constitution. after looking at those revisions and what he did in terms of trying to change them a little
bit, reflect his evolving views, is it fair to think of him still as the father of the constitution? >> i don't know that he was the father of the constitution, but the thing i came away with was how terribly important the document is. not as an object of record but for as a way for us to understand how difficult that task was that they face. i came away from the whole project with enormous respect for how close the country was too falling apart, and a much different people with different opinions struggle to try and hold it together, how remarkable the document was that was written in philadelphia, but how different it looked to them that it looks to us. as i say, this is not the document base of what they're writing. the fact end up on playing cards would be a great surprise to all of them. >> let me make it a couple things about the building. we have a place where you will
see a life-size models of the framers. so you will see how short james madison was, which may be a real victory for short people. but maybe most importantly marries a book will be on sale in the kurdish lobby outside as well. i really want to thank mary for taking the time ensuring this. >> thanks so much. [applause] >> you are watching booktv, television for serious readers. watch any program you see online at booktv.org. >> our guest tonight is tom lewis, professor english skipper pretty does not live in them. get the new to take metro on the lighting night.
and he came down from saratoga springs so despite the fact he is of all things a new yorker, i should say that no less a local source and the "washington post" has praised this book by st. louis succeed in showing us the human face of washington. and for washington, too often perceived as a phyllis. that is achievement enough. ladies and gentlemen, tom lewis. [applause] >> thank you very much. i'm glad that you knew to take the metro. >> microphone. >> i'll be getting to it. i'm glad you new to take the metro. i want you to know that i invited several people to come tonight as my guests, and i've been in the back of the green
room and i've gotten frantic messages on them saying we are stuck in traffic. and i said, ditch your cars, grab a natural and get off at federal triangle. they will be coming in late and i expect some others, too, will be that way as well. so i want to thank rebecca very much for her introduction and thank the smithsonian associates for inviting me. i'm delighted to be. i'm very honored to be here. and also want to thank james smithson, john quincy adams and joseph henry. no, you all know but it's good to remind ourselves that james smithson gave 100,000 pounds, which translated into $500,000
in u.s. currency and ultimately into 105 sacks of gold. and he said that that money should be used in america for a quote, the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men. and john quincy adams, we have to thank him, and i certainly thank him. i think he is greatly underrated as a president and as a congressperson, too. john quincy adams shepherded that money through, and often resisted and reluctant congress. john c. calhoun wanted to return the money to be to england because it would expand the role of the federal government in the states. and it would also be unwise to
take money from a foreigner. [laughter] be once he got it through congress, once he had to persuade congress again to take the money because it fell into the hands, temporarily, of president van buren secretary of the treasury, and he lost most of it in the shady arkansas bond deal. and he had come and now john quincy adams had to get the congress to put pressure on the treasury to restore the money, and that fortunately happen. i especially have to thank joseph henry, the pioneer in electromagnetism. we never touch a computer. we never push a little button on our cell phone. we never even turn on a light
without being touched by want of joseph henry's discoveries in electromagnetism. and he became, of course, the first secretary. and he thought that nature that everybody else huge to his thinking that the smithsonian should be quote, for the benefit of men of all countries and of all times, for the extension of the boundaries of thought. and he kept the smithsonian out of the hands of people like stephen douglas of the lincoln-douglas same, who wanted to expand all of james smithson's money on agricultural schemes and projects. and he kept it out of the hands of andrew johnson, the president, who wanted to rename the smithsonian washington
university for the benefit of indigent children of the district of columbia. now, perhaps his greatest achievement in washington is surviving for 30 years from 1846-1878 as secretary. that's no mean feat, especially as joseph henry in the civil war was a man of decidedly southern sympathies. but he stayed on and he served and he survives, and the smithsonian thrived because of him. so that's why thank yous, but if you want to also tell you why i wrote this book and what this book he means, at least to me. i began writing this book as a young child, standing up as
about five and six years old in the back of my father's 1946 studebaker as he drove from philadelphia to virginia, and would come in on what i later realized was new york avenue into the capital, and i would see it and be quite stunned by it. and then later as a young, and indolent schoolchild, i had a little bit of an argument with my high school teacher who said, who told me that washington people could not vote. and i said, that doesn't make any sense, sir. because he they are american citizens.
well, he said, they don't vote because there are not many of them. [laughter] and they don't really live there. they just go back to their states to vote. this didn't sit well with me. it rankled me and bothered me for many years. later in the 1980s and 1990 1990s, i did a variety of projects which brought me to washington, d.c. i spent a great deal of time wandering the streets at night walking in all sorts of neighborhoods, not just downto downtown, but washington that's in everybody's minds who doesn't live here. and i came to think that this is a city i wanted to investigate and explore more than write a
history of. and i came in the course of my wanderings, and even in the course of my writing and research to have these ideas reinforced, to understand i think that there are three things that are working in my book and working, things that will work in my book and in washington's history right from the very beginning. and that is washington's troubled governance, the importance of race in the city, and the fact that that importance as we pulled through the -- rippled through the two century plus of washington's history, and in many ways it has mirrored what has gone on in the united states. i really, washington the great
symbol as it is of our democracy. this might annoy some people, washington belongs to washingtonians, but it also belongs to me. it belonged to every citizen of the united states. and it should. and after all, it is our representatives, our senators who control your destiny as washingtonians. and that, of course, is something i will be returning to time and again this evening. washington is, i like to think, our city, not just the capital of the united states, but as i put in the subtitle of my blog, the history of our national city.
and so let's talk about how we are going to do our job tonight. i have five principal images, and she received i hope coming in a little sheet about them which will tell you something about them. but don't think you have been cheated. there will be many other images that come along as the evening progresses. so without further ado let's take a look at this nature, edwards savages portrait of the washington family as it's called. i actually like that title, the president and his family, a full-size of life which is the way it was presented in 1796 on
washington's birthday at the columbian gallery in new york city. now, washington had sat for edward savage beginning in 1790 and he really seemed to like savage as an artist. vegemite, if you are art historically inclined asked why. i think the are several things that are important in the picture. despite what are some shortcomings, i've never seen less eye contact in a painting -- [laughter] -- in my life that i see in this one. and yet we have to take this into account. you see, of course, that it is an extraordinarily symbolic
portrait. and you see washington with his hand on the table, beside his sword. this is washington the military man and his tri-cornered hat. and then you see him in his full military dress that they were especially for paintings. he like this dress for pennsbury i think washington -- by the way, i fall in love with george washington. that in some ways not easy to do. i think he's really very, very important. we always, and i've fallen in love, everybody is in love with lincoln, washington always seems somewhat more austere and distant figure. and, indeed, he shows up at any thinking. but look where his right hand
and arm rests on the shoulder of young george washington custis, known to the family as washy. george washington custis come if you look down here you'll see that he has a compass in his hand and his hand is resting on the globe of the world. and surely we've got to see that george washington custis is the future of the country. didn't exactly work out that way for george washington custis, some of you might know, but that doesn't matter. this is democracy coming down through washington, through george washington custis, and spreading across the world. and on this side of course we have martha washington and john eleanor our nellie custis and
martha washington of course has her hand on what is so important to us, and all of you tonight as well. and that is the map of the city of washington. and we will return to this painting again as we go forward. the painting became as i think i wrote in my notes, it became an engraving. and edward savage wrote about that, actually to washington he made $10,000 on the. i still think that was almost cheeky of savage to say, making money on washington. but this picture, and washington ordered for engravings, and you can see one of them had mount vernon. and always love you think about
that when i am at mount vernon and i go into the breakfast room, the morning room, and there is george washington and his family looking down on the table where george washington and his family used to take the breakfast. it's almost like the morton salt girl. going down and down and down. but i do think it's a magnificent engraving, and extremely, extremely important in the history of the country. it was popular because this picture represented at the country was. and we will talk, have more to talk about in that painting in amendment -- in a minute. his chief desire was to put the capital the seat of governance
as it was known, the seat of government as it was known on the banks of the potomac. and washington was given the task of citing it in a 100-mile swath of the potomac, and he actually was given up to you, as the constitution says, to create a federal district up to 10 miles square. he created a diamond district, if you will, diamond shaped district. and you could see the tops of the diamond going up to maryland as they do. as i'm sure you're all familiar. but they went down across the potomac to alexandria. and that's i think an important thing to consider. he was taking in both sides of the potomac.
but in the residence act which allowed the president, directed the president really to place the seat of government on the potomac. it gave him not 1 penny to carry out the job. it was rather a trendsetting of the congress at the time to vote for something and yet not give it any money. and he also, washington had to contend with that come and we will talk briefly about that, but he also really had to contend with thomas jefferson on the one hand who had a vision of the city which was a very different. in fact, it wasn't a city at all. it was a federal town. and this is it right here.
this is rock creek coming in here. you see the town. it was to be about 15 acres in 1500 acres, excuse me. 1200 will be divided into quarter acre lots and the remaining 300 acres would do just fine for public buildings. jeffersons capital would take in about 20 good dwelling houses for those who belong to the government, and about as many lodging houses, and a half-dozen conference. which i'm not sure it was enough for the time -- caverns. [laughter] washington didn't think that way. we have to remember that. washington invited, invited l'enfant to come up with the
plan. and the plant patty came up with, this is by the way the altered plan done by andrew ellicott. no, was 40 city -- was done for a city for about 750,000 people. at the time the largest city in the united states was wardy thousand people in 1790. ellicott's plan what you see before you is adapted from l'enfant. l'enfant words used like empire, american empire. they use words like wealth and he used the word -- he thought not of the united states as it was but as the united states would be and could be. and jefferson had designed a town.
l'enfant designed a city. washington of course went with l'enfant. and there's another story which is in the book which i will not get to you tonight which tells how jefferson really undermine the l'enfant at every turn. because of washington not having any money to build the city, he had to resort to ridiculous schemes, like a lottery. of course, that's not so ridiculous today. lotteries have been very much a part of the united states history and raising money and the united states, but this was a lottery. ulysse down at the bottom a man named samuel blodgett was a man who started it. is going to be a great lottery. it completely and utterly failed and actually cost money.
had it succeeded would've been about close to $5 million he would have gained tbilisi but actually cost the government money. but they did lower, blodget lured others into land schemes and one of those was james greenleaf from greenleaf's point, a man who was one of the most remarkable scoundrels in the history of the united states, and a great deal more should be known about him. but we can' kept returning to te picture. we've really talked passionate excuse me. we've really talked a lot -- apologize. we've really talked a lot about the federal government, and what i have chosen to call troubled
governance. but now we have to think about something else. and you notice, i'm sure you have known that i left out something. and that is the slave in this picture. the slave is wearing washington delivery which interestingly enough mirrors washy's over here. and the slave has a collar that is very much like washington's as well, only it's turned up. i think it's slave is actually quite important to. he has a great coach and a salmon red waistcoat. he possesses i think almost a princely quality. his black combed back hair frames that dark days, which is
unknowable. and eight prominent nose that he has. his left hand is i think somewhat enigmatically concealed in that waistcoat. the slave remains in shadow. i want to say something about the slave. the slave is responsible for, i know of to doctoral dissertations that have been written on this slave. that is that people are walking around with doctorates, one of them claimed that the slave is without question billy lee. and another one has claimed without question that it is james riley who was actually not one of washington's slaves but a slave whom the artist captured in london where he worked on the
painting. savage captured that slave in london here i say it doesn't matter. i think what's important about it is that the slave is so unknowable. and i think that's absolutely important. but it does point out something that is captured in this work, that is that slavery is very, very much a part of the structure of the united states. before moving on from this painting, i can't resist telling you that the painting went, after savage salted and his son sold it, they went from various places and it ended up in new york where, in 1892, the "new york sun" reported that its been given a very vigorous and good cleaning with soap and water insolvent. [laughter] somehow i don't think the national gallery was involved.
we will go on to another painting which is actually quite a wonderful one. which is negro life at the south, which was painted the by eastman johnson in 1859. now, johnson was a very fine artist, and i think somewhat underrated in this country, but a very fine portrait artist. this is actually a remarkable painting. by the way, it immediately became, after it was presented, it immediately became, called the old kentucky home. and i'm not sure what that was, whether it was an uncomfortable
fact of people thinking about this as washington, d.c. and if you look at the words of stephen foster's song, is valid -- is valid, they are pretty rough on the idea of slavery, too. i've not really sorted that out but let's get back to the things that are important in this painting. he probably captured this from the rear yard of his father's house. we are just going to step forward and look at what was going on in slavery at this time. this was an image of a -- being driven in front of the capitol of the united states. that is in the capital. remember the british had something to do with its
fixed at the bottom of the diamond way was that alexandria was one of the major slave trading emporiums in the united states. there were plenty of slaves pleases and pens as you are all aware in washington, d.c.. the dictator house for a long time they were kept there. there was the old capital and the old capital present which was also a slaveholding situated in the capital. the abolitionists were growing
in congress by this time in the 1840s and 50s were also setting sitting in the center of the slave trade and it was everywhere. here's another picture that's actually blowing up from the one you just saw purchase -- which shows the dome. this is the view of the office about 1846 and i think it's important to see this picture because it does show the houses and if we can now return to the picture itself which i find endlessly fascinating, they have
these wonderful vignettes and i love this man that's having this interesting conversation. the color of her skin speaks volumes about what might be going on in the house next-door. interesting enough there is a latter against the house and this is obviously the wave of the gentrified houses here and it's just appalling the child right here at the window in the roof about collapse, the terrible disrepair of this particular wall.
and then coming through here is coming through the owners house into the back and she's almost startling these people interrupting and intruding on their space if you will just as obviously there've been other intrusions as the color of the skin suggests from the house on the right. i think that it's in the painting and the historical society. it's always and i urge you to go see it. it's worth studying and thinking
about. we have to move quickly to a wonderful image and that's the washington monument. robert mills as i think i told you designed the washington monument in 1836 and won a competition for doing so but in that competition, he beat out other people and at the competition there were people who were unhappy about his winning. at the time he was riding high and he just secured the patent office, which he also designed and had secured the addition to the treasury which destroys
pennsylvania avenue and he wasn't so much responsible for that as perhaps the story is that was andrew jackson who put his came into the road and said this is where the building is going to be. and that's supposedly the story. let's take a look at what he had created in the washington monument with an enormous toll on the list much taller than 555 i think it went up to over 700 feet and it was surrounded by this colony which would have inside the statues. this is one of the stories that doesn't speak well for anybody in washington except for one
person. if the society that began raising money put a scripture on the amount it would accept. i suspect that is not a good way to raise money. it took them until 1848 when the have the ability to at least start the monument that they didn't have enough money. but they finally did in july of 1848. they were there also with alexander hamilton's widow
linked to the past at the ceremony and a young congressman who didn't serve while tom abraham lincoln happened to be there as well. you probably know what happened it got up 255 feet which is where you see in this picture in an 1854, the monument started to look for stones to be transferred by the government and you've been in the government and i expect that you've seen them but unfortunately that didn't sit well with the know nothing party
and they wouldn't have a paper stone in the building so they broke in the middle of the night , dumped it into the potomac and people have been looking for it ever since but nonetheless it's important that they take all of the workers off. they said we are going to take over and it will be built by americans, not by foreigners. and what happened was kind of funny they don't three courses, and that was about it and the civil war came along.
and by the et 57, they had slumped away. but if we stop and think about this for a moment, there is something severely wrong in the story. here we are in front of the capital of capitol of the united states and people have taken over the washington monument. it boggles my mind to think that the government even at this time would allow it to happen i think that would suggest a certain thing closeness on the part of the members of congress and how they regarded the city at the time. the monument had a troubled history in after that, it became the great depot monument during
the civil war and that's because we had all of these troops going into virginia not doing much with them but am asking them and they have to feed them so there was in an honest slaughterhouse. where are you going to put it? they were down in the potomac and everybody's happy. so anyway, that is essentially what happened in the civil war or the washington monument was
nothing like an old chimney. after that any team 76 in the spirit of server, the united states congress was spurred into action to complete the monument and they have $200,000 so guess what happened? everybody started to attack the proposals and come up with their own. there were proposals for payment
in the administration there was a man who was in charge of all of washington's civil engineering and that was thomas casey. it's at the top of the washington monument in this approved project. [laughter] and he's doing very well. casey is the hero of the washington monument and also another man who. a man named george perkins marsh was appointed by lincoln to be
the ambassador in the republic or the states i should say the kingdom of italy in 1861 and he'll lasted until 1881 and died in italy but he was also a brilliant classical scholar and he went and figured out what the size of the washington monument should be. and appeared in the monument should be the dimension should be ten times the width at the base. cell is 555 feet.
in the washington monument that we know it was because unfortunately it was already beginning to pitch a little bit. the ground under it wasn't falling. casey had for years to work underneath the monument shoring it up. most of his great engineering feats were underground. they figured out the dimensions and casey then ripped off the three courses and i'm sure you've you all noticed the difference in the coloration about the 155 feet up thomas casey was a wonderful man. he was incorruptible and he was