tv Book Discussion on Washington Rules CSPAN February 19, 2016 7:25am-8:58am EST
>> next on booktv tom lewis talks about the history of washington, d.c. from george washington's decision on a 10-mile site as the capital of the united states in 1791 to the early construction of federal buildings and ever-changing social and political landscape. posted by smithsonian associates in washington, d.c., this is an hour and a half. >> our guest tonight is tom lewis, professor of english at skidmore.
he does not live here in town. yet he knew to take metro on tree lighting night. and he came down from saratoga springs so despite the fact he is evolving a new yorker, i should say that no less a local source than the "washington post" has praised this book by saying lewis exceeds in showing us the human face of washington and to washington, too often perceived as baseless, 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 that you knew, glad that you knew 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 from them saying we are stuck in traffic. and i said ditch your cars, grab a metro and get off at federal triangle. so 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, anything the smithsonian associates for inviting me. i'm delighted to be here. i'm very honored to be here. and i also want to thank james smithson, john quincy adams and joseph henry. now, 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 money should be used in america for quote, the increased and diffusion of knowledge among men. and john quincy adams, we have to thank him, and i certainly thank him, i think is greatly underrated as a president and as a congressperson, to hear john quincy adams shepherded that money through and often resistant and reluctant congress. john c. calhoun wanted to return the money to england because it
would expand the role of the federal government and the states, and it would also be unwise to take money from a foreigner. [laughter] 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's secretary of the treasury, and he lost most of it in shady arkansas bond deal, and now john quincy adams had to get the congress to put pressure on the treasury to restore the money, and that, fortunately, happen. and i especially have to thank joseph henry, the pioneer and electromagnetism. we never touch a computer, we
never push the little button on our cell phone, we never even turn on a light without being touched by one of joseph henry's discoveries in electromagnetism. and he became, of course, the first secretary. and he thought and make sure that everybody else skewed to his thinking that the smithsonian should be quote, for the benefit of minute 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 lincoln-douglas fain -- fame, who wanted to expend 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 was surviving for 30 years from 1846-1878 as secretary. that's no mean feat, and especially as joseph henry in the civil war was a man of a decidedly southern sympathies, but he stayed on and he served and he survived, and the smithsonian thrived because of him. so that's my think is, but i do want to also tell you why i wrote this book -- my think use -- and what this book means at least to me. i began writing this book as a
young child standing up as five and six years old in the back of my fathers 1946 studebaker as he drove from philadelphia to virginia, and coming on what i later realized was new york avenue into the capital, and i would see it and be quite stunned i. and then later as indolent schoolchild, i had a little bit of an argument with my high school teacher who said, who told me that washington people couldn't vote. and i said, that doesn't make any sense, sir, because 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 the states to vote. this didn't sit well with me, and 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 downtown but washington doesn't everybody's mind who doesn't live here, and i came to think
that this was a city i wanted to investigate and explore more and 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 themes 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 the importance has rippled through the two centuries plus of washington's history, and in many ways it has mirrored what has gone on in the
united states. and, finally, of course, washington as the great symbol that it is of our democracy. i came to the conclusion, this might annoy some people, that washington belongs to washingtonians, but it also belongs to me. it belongs 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 that i will be returning to time and again that 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 book,
a history of our national city. 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 picture, edward savage is portrait of the washington family at this goal. i actually like the title. the president and his family, a full-sized of life, which is the way it was presented in 1796 and
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. and you might if you were art historically inclined ask why, and i think there are several things that are important in the picture. despite what are some shortcomings your i've never seen less eye contact in a painting in my life las band i e in. and yet we have to take this into account.
use the of course that it is an extraordinarily symbolic portrait -- you see. and you see washington with his hand on the table beside his this sort. this is washington the military man, and his tricorn hat they are, and then you see him in his full military dress that you were especially for paintings. he liked this dress for paintings. i think washington, by the way, i've fallen in love with george washington, and that's in some ways not easy to do. but i think he's really very, very important. we always, and i've fallen in love, everybody is in love with lincoln, but washington always seems somewhat more austere and distant figure.
and, indeed, he shows that in his painting. but look where his right hand and arm rests on the shoulders of young george washington custis, known to the down as washy -- known to the family as washy. george washington custis, if you look down you will see has a custis -- compass on his head and his hands rested on the globe of the world and surely we've got to see that george washington custis is the future of the country that 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 the side of course we have martha washington and young
eleanor custis. and martha washington has of course 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 and actually told washington he made $10,000 on it. i still think i 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 at mount
vernon. and i always love you think about that when i'm at mount vernon. 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, an extremely important in the history of the country. it was popular because this picture represented what the country was calm and we will talk, have more to talk about that painting in a minute but we have to talk about what washington was up against.
is chief desire was to put the capital, the seed of governance as it was known, seat of government as it was known on the banks of the potomac. and washington was given that task of citing it in a 100-mile swath of the potomac, he actually was given up to come 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, and all that, it gave him not 1 penny to carry out the job. so it was a rather, a trendsetting of the congress at the time to vote for something and yet not given any money. washington had to contend with that, and we will talk a little briefly about that. he also really had to contend with thomas jefferson on the one hand who had a vision of the city which was 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 building. jeffersons capital would take you about 20 good dwelling houses for those who belong to the government, and about as many lodging houses, and a half a dozen taverns, which i'm not sure wasn't enough for the time. [laughter] then washington didn't think that way, and we have to remember that washington invited
me l'enfant -- invited l'enfant to come up with a plan. this is by the way they altered plan done by andrew ellicott, was for the city of about 750,000 people took at the time the largest city in the united states was 40,000 people in 1790. ellicott's plan would you see before you is adapted from l'enfant's. l'enfant used the words like empire, american empire. he used words like wealth, it used the word -- and that was important. he thought not of the united states as it was but as the united states would be and could
be. jefferson had designed a town. l'enfant design a city. and washington of course when with l'enfant, and there's another story which is in the book which i won't get to you tonight which tells how jefferson really undermined l'enfant at every turn. because of washington not having any money to build this city, he had to resort to ridiculous schemes, like a lottery. of course, that's not so ridiculous today. and lotteries have been very much a part of the united states history, and raising money in the united states but this was a lottery, and you will see down at the bottom a man named samuel blodgett was the man who started it. it was going to be a great
lottery. it completely and utterly failed at actually cost money. had it succeeded it would've been about close to $5 million they would have gained to build the city, but he actually cost the city, the government money. blodget lured others into land schemes, and one of those was james greenleaf of greenlee'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 had returned to the picture. we've really talked, excuse me, we've really talked about -- apologize. we've really talked a lot about the federal government come 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've left out something, and that is the slave in this picture. the slave is wearing washington delivery which interestingly enough -- livery and mayors washy's over here. the slave has a car that is very much like washington's as well only it's turned up. -- has a collar. i think this lake is quite important. he has a gray coat and a salmon red waistcoat. he possesses i think almost a princely quality.
is black combed back hair frames that dark face, which is unknowable. and a prominent nose that he has. his left and is i think somewhat in it magically concealed in that waistcoat. the slave remains in jeddah. i want to say something about the slave. the slave is responsible for, i know to doctoral dissertations and been written on this slave. that is that people are walking around with doctorates, one of them claimed the slave is without question billy lee. and another one has claimed without question that it's james riley who was actually not one of washington's slaves, but a slave whom the artistic captured
in london where he worked on the painting. savage captured that slave in london. i say it doesn't matter. i think what's important about it is that the slave is so unknowable. i think that's absolutely important. but it does point out something that is captured in this work, and that is that slavery is a 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 sold it in savage's son sold it, it went from various places and it ended up in new york where, in 1892, the "new york sun" reported that it's been given a very vigorous and good cleaning with soap and water and solvent.
[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 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. either 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, his ballad, they are pretty rough on the idea of slavery. 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 their we your yard of his father's house. now, 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 slave house which was being driven across come in front of the capital of the united states.
that is the capital. remember the british had something to do with its destruction in 1815, and what you have here are the two houses, the senate and the house. the dome of the capitol has yet to be built, the center part of the capital. that dome will undergo many changes over the years. and we have to understand that when johnson came here, and he came from state of maine by the way, on what was later the state of maine. he was born in massachusetts but after 1850 it of course divided into main. johnson came here. he was quite appalled by the idea of slavery. and the fact of the matter was that by 1840s when johnson arrived, slavery and slave trade
was in full form in both washington, d.c. at an alexandria. and most especially in alexandria. one of the reasons for the retro session which took the bottom of the diamond away was that alexandria was one of the major slave trading emporiums in the united states. there were plenty of slaves, places, slave pens as you are all aware in washington, d.c. but decatur house was for a time fell into the hands of a slave trader and slaves were kept there. that was the old capital and then the old capital prison, which was also a slave holding pen. and there were several others situated around the capital.
so the abolitionists who were really growing in congress by this time in the 1840s and 50s were also sitting in the center of the slave trade. and it was everywhere. here's another picture that's actually blown up from the one that you just saw which shows the slaves being driven across the capital, which has its dome. this is the view of the patent office looking across backyards about 1846. and i think it's very important to see this picture because it does show that we are of houses.
the painting of course as these wonderful vignettes going, i love this man who's having an interesting conversation with his mulatto woman. the fact, the color of her skin speaks volumes about what might be going on in the house next door. interestingly enough, there's a ladder up against the house. this is obviously the white gentrified house is here, and across almost virtually next door. in fact, virtually next door is the house in just appalling repair. a child right here at the window, the roof about to collapse. the terrible disrepair of this
particular wall, and then coming through here is a white woman coming from, obviously the owner, the white owner's house into the back cover into this house. and she is almost startling these people come interrupting, intruding on their space, if you will, just as obviously there's been other intrusions as the color of the skin that suggests of this woman, suggests from the house on the right, the white owner's house into the black area. i think it's an extraordinary painting. it's in the new york historical society. it's always up, and i urge you to go see it.
it's worth studying and thinking about. we have to move on quickly to a wonderful image, and that's the washington monument. now, robert mills, as i think i told you, designed the washington monument, designed the washington monument in 1836. he won a competition for it, for doing so. but in that competition he beat out other people, and the competition, and they were people who are unhappy about his winning. mills at the time was riding high. yet just secured -- he had just secured the patent office which he also designed, and he also
had secured the addition to the treasury, which destroys pennsylvania avenue. and that was not come he was not so much responsible for that as perhaps the story is, it was andrew jackson who put his cane into the road and said this is worth a dam building is going to be calm and that's supposedly the story. well, let's take a look at what mills had created in the washington monument. it was an enormous, tall obelisk, much taller than the present one of 555. i think it went up to over 700 feet. it wasn't surrounded by this colonnade which would have inside statues of american greats. now, this is one of the stories that i think does not speak well
were there linked to the past at the ceremony and a young congressman who didn't serve long in congress, abraham lincoln, happened to be there as well. well you, probably know what happened. it got up to 255 a feet where you see it in this picture. and in 1854, in 1854 the washington monument started to look for stones to be sent by foreign governments. you've all been in the washington monument and i expect you've seen them. but unfortunately the pope sent a stone and, that didn't sit well with the no-nothing party and the no-nothing party virile
you endly anti-catholic, anti-papist, and they wouldn't have a papal stone in this, in this building, so they broke into the lapidirium in the middle of the night, smashed the stone, dumped into the potomac. people have been dredging and looking for it ever since. nevertheless i think it is also important they kicked all of workers off. they said we'll take over and it will be built by americans, not by, not by foreigners. and what happened was kind of funny. they got three courses up and that was about it and the
civil war came along. even before the sill war, by 1857 they had slunk away. if we think about this for a moment there is something severely wrong in this story. here we are in the front of the capitol of the united states and people have taken over the washington monument. if you, i mean it just boggles my mind to think that the federal government, even at that time, would allow it to happen. i think it suggests a certain fecklessness on the part of the members of congress and how they regarded the city at that time. the monument had a troubled history. after that it became, i think you can read that the great beef
depot monument. during the civil war and that's because, of course we had all these troops massing to go into virginia, you know, george mcclellan was amassing them, not doing much with them but he was amassing them. what happened they had to feed them. so there was an enormous, an enormous slaughterhouse. where are you going to put it? why not at the washington monument and why not do it there they can slaughter the animals, the blood drains down into the potomac and everybody's happy. and so, anyway, that's essentially what happened in the
civil war, the washington monument was nothing like an old chimney. now after that, finally in 1876, in spirit of fervor of patriotism, the united states congress was spurred into action and it actually voted to complete the monument. and as soon, they voted $200,000 for this. as soon as congress got involved, guess what happened? everybody started to attack all of mills's proposals and come up with their own. there were many, many proposals like this one. there were proposals for for a
capmonelli, a proposal for pyramids. there were bizarre number of proposals. fortunately at that time, it was the hayes administration. there was a man in charge of all of washington civil engineering, that is this man thomas casey. you can see him here. i'm sort of betraying the end of the story here, he is at the top of the washington monument in this non-osha approved project. [laughter]. and i is doing, he is doing very well. casey is the hero of the washington monument. and also another man, who, i was a little embarrassed as i was looking over my notes in my book. he only get as couple of sentences in my book but that is a man named george perkins marsh
george perkins marsh was appointed by lung con to be basically the ambassador to the italian republic or states i should say, kingdom of italy in 1861 and he lasted until 18881 and actually died in italy but he was also brilliant classical scholar and he went and figured out what the size of the monument should be. and the dimensions he figured out having studied lots of pyramids or of monuments should be the dimensions should be 10 times the width at the base. that made for monument that was 555 feet. now it is really basically good in a way that the first
washington monument wasn't built and the washington monument we know was because unfortunately it was already beginning to pitch a little bit. the ground underneath it was not solid. casey had for years to work underneath the monument, shoring it up. most of his great engineering feats were underground. marsh figured out the dimensions and casey then ripped off the three courses that the no-nothings had built and began building. you can see in the washington monument, i'm sure you all noticed the difference in the coloration about 155 feet up. thomas casey was a wonderful man. he was incorruptible and he was
also a bulldog. he had a great ability to simply ignore congress. [laughter] he decided, as he said in a letter to his father, the monument has become a football for quacks. and, and it's exactly what it was. but he's the one who persevered. by deif 7, 1884, it was finished. the monument we see here in cherry blossom time is complete. this is a picture, i chose it a couple dice ago because it was so foggy here and i that is nice. i love the photograph for a couple of reasons. first there is lovely woman
adjusts her camera. there is this artist who is sketching. there is another woman here who's also taking a photograph. i think it is just a marvlous little picture. so to move on. what a wonderful moment this is. in the history of women's sufferage. what annoying moment it was for woodrow wilson. [laughter] i must sell -- tell you as a personal matter i came out of this book with a even more profound dislike of woodrow wilson than i had what i started it. and it wasn't too high before. but on, and i came to really
like and fall in love with a wonderful woman named alice paul. alice paul, as i think i suggested to you was the woman who started really putting the screws on the federal government about women's suffrage. there had been all sorts of little genteel things happening but nothing like what alice paul did. it makes me wonder about her tactics and how brilliant they were. this day, march 3, 1913, when the grand woman suffrage procession will begin is the day before the inauguration of woodrow wilson. that wasn't a mistake. nobody was at the station to welcome wilson when he came in or very few.
and his car got stuck in traffic with the parade, and they couldn't even, they had difficulty getting him to the hotel where he was staying the night before the inauguration. the inauguration took part, place like, so? but it wasn't enough. but alice paul wasn't about to fade, that's for sure. and so -- [laughter] first world war came along and alice paul was at the ready because women were coming to washington in extraordinary numbers and wilson needed them as he had never needed women before. and so we have this wonderful words, have you forgotten your sympathy with the poor -- have you forgotten your sympathy with the poor germans because they were not self-governed?
20 million american women are not self-governed. take the beam out of your own eye. well that was bad enough, but then they decided to chain themselves to the white house fence. and then they got arrested. and then they went to jail. and then they were force fed. then alice paul slipped messages out of jail to waiting and willing and happy reporters of all the indignities that were going on in the jail and wilson was over a barrel. and he had to capitulate. and by november 1918, wilson was really in retreat. and he was decent, and this is something i have to give him in his defeat. he came to support the 19th
amendment. he got it passed in the house. it failed in the senate by two votes, and he came and sent a cable from europe where he was working on the so-called peace and he implored the senators to vote, which they finally did in june of 1919. it took a little over a year until august of 1920 before the 19th amendment to the constitution became a law. but i want to just briefly talk about some of the women who were brought to washington at that time. and this woman is josephine lehman right here. josephine lehman did me a very nice tribute.
she left me a very lovely rich diary of all her experiences in washington during the war, including by the way, she lived through the influenza. and here she is on an outings with some of her, three of her female companions. have interesting hand gestures in this photograph. and three of the male companions. this of course was unheard of. by the way they're at the washington zoo in this photograph. and i want you to know that josephine lehman was very careful with men because she said in her diary, she did not wish to be known as a fast piece of fin ture. [laughter]. -- furniture. so.
well, you all know this iconic picture which i absolutely love. of marion anderson. and i have to now bring back mr. wilson and jim crow. we have to remember what woodrow wilson did almost immediately after he became president. he allowed his cabinet to put in jim crow regulations. henceforth people who were advancing, black men who were advancing in the civil service were stopped. he made no appointment that had to get through the congress of blacks. he was in many ways one of the
worst presidents for washington, d.c. in fact i have to say he was the worst president for the city. of washington. which makes it very, very odd to me. he didn't like the city. he really disliked the city. he never mentioned the city so far as i could find in a state of the union address. everybody mentioned the city in the state of the union address. john adams in the first state of the union address in washington, which was really a message to congress, mentioned it. dwight eisenhower mentioned it. fdr mentioned it all the time. calvin coolidge mentioned it. not once woodrow wilson. which makes it very curious. he is buried in washington. i have never quite understood that. [laughter] but wilson of course did
extraordinary damage to the city of washington through his racial, allowing these racial events to occur. he was, i would say, almost entirely responsible, i wrote about this in "politico" recently, for the 1919 riot which was the first race riot of the summer of 1919 which was called the red summer because there was so much blood, not communists, but red was the blood flowing in cities across the south but it began in washington, d.c. it began very close to the white house. it ended up in extraordinary deaths but all of that past, and yet the, de facto segregation
remained. and by law, too. here was washington, on the cusp in 1939 of being a world power and at that moment in the nation's history, in the capitol of the democracy, a black man or a black woman could not stay in a hotel in downtown washington. they had to go out to what is now shaw. and marion anderson, when she came to washington for this concert that morning could not go to a hotel. she had to go to former governor of pennsylvania's house and rest there before she began to sing her great words which i think i mentioned in my, in my notes
about my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, to thee we sing. it was a very important and dramatic moment for the country. and not only for the 75,000 who were around the washington -- the reflecting pool of the lincoln memorial. and backed up toward the washington monument, not just for them, but for the millions who were listening over the nbc radio network. but even though, and this is something that i find very disturbing, even though there are these great symbolic moments in our history, the practices still go on and for that i turn to gordon parks and this really
wonderful work. gordon parks came to washington in 1942. he came from kansas. and he found that racism as he wrote was busy with its dirty work, eating houses shoed me to the back doors. theaters refused me. scissoring voices of the clerks and julius garfinkle's prestigious department store riled me with curtness. he was about to leave and his boss in the administration, he was working in a what was basically the settlement administration merged into another roosevelt administration was taking photographs of american life and it was happy
photographs for the most part. and, gordon parks came to stryker and side i'm about to leave i'm so frustrated here and striker said, why don't you go down the hall and see that lady who is the char woman and talk with her. and he met ella watson at that point and what you see is that he went to he will la watson and he befriended her and we'll talk about this photograph next. which is of course american gothic washington, d.c. and is an absolutely dramatic and wonderful picture. and what you see is the downward falling stripes of the flag of liberty contrast so magnificently with the upward
thrust of that broom and the mop and suggests that there is ella watson and blacks, all blacks, trapped in a new form of servitude. and i want to just go back to the more intimate picture of ella watson. which is ella watson and her grandchildren which i think is absolutely sublime. american gothic is political and brilliant. this is sublime in a divided, in many, many ways. it is such a neatly divided image. he has us looking through a doorway into watson's cramped kitchen. small children in the left foreground. one right here, she is clutching a doll. they sit at this table with their dishes and hine them watson sits, almost madonna-like
as she gazes with a smile upon the infant in her lap. behind her, behind those the cans and the jars, they ascend upwards to meet that refrigerator and beyond that they go to the doorjamb be and through the doorjamb be we catch an expansive glimpse of the tree and a sky. they contradicts expands and contradicts with this compressed interior and makes us think, makes us think it is even more impressed and compressed and than to the right we see that dark dresser with a served frame mirror standing against a grazed plaster wall and photograph of watson's own parents on, before the mirror and, then, we manage, i think in this part of the
picture to evoke a dignified past of those wonderful parents, posing in that picture. the noble distress of watson's present circumstances. and the uncertain future for all of these children and for the child who is here. to me it's, a terribly important and moving image and tells us a lot about the racism that has informed not just this city but also american life. and i want to just close, i can't close on this somber note. so i want to talk about a wonderful painting which i did not put in your packet and i think quite wonderful and by a great artist, a cuban artist named of jorge perez rubio.
it is an aerial deconstruction of the american capitol. and what you see here in this great picture is the wonderful energy that washington exhibits because when i was walking around this city, seeing what was going on, looking at the various neighborhoods, studying the various documents, just absorbing the energy of the city, i found the city with remarkable energy. that despite the compromise governmental situation, despite the racial difficulties alas continue but are getting better i like to think, we see washington, this great symbol, the energy, the future, the importance of washington as our
national city. thank you very much. [applause] >> [inaudible]. i would like you to use them [inaudible] >> this is your moment. >> this one's on too. >> yes. >> [inaudible] in all -- >> i'm sorry. >> in all your research of everybody you chronicled in the book, who would you like to have dinner with and why?
>> all of the people i'd like to have dinner with? hmmm. i wouldn't mind dinner with alice paul, i'll tell you that much. but i, i would probably like to have dinner with james madison, not in washington, d.c., but in princeton, new jersey because the origins of washington, d.c. are actually in princeton, new jersey. and just to briefly encapsulate that story, in 1783 the congress of the united states was meeting in philadelphia. they didn't like, southerners didn't like philadelphians, that's for sure.
madison certainly didn't. he lost his body slave. billy, had run away. he was recaptured and he had to sell him because he didn't want him to go back to virginia and give the other slaves any notions of what freedom was like. and madison was the one who was part of what happened to that day in philadelphia. in that day in philadelphia, july or june of seventeen 83 the the -- 1783, the pennsylvania soldiers started to rally in front of the statehouse, that is to say, independence hall for their pay. and they weren't actually angry at the congress. they were angry at the state legislature who was meeting on the second floor but they were pointing their guns in to the congress on the first floor and
the continental congress was not happy. they were scared. they got the hell out and they went to princeton and they met in nassau hall for a while. i would have loved to have had dinner with madison at that time who was sharing a bed with a man named james jones because there were no, lots of people shared beds at that time but there were no accomodations in princeton. and he was sharing them in a 10 by 10 room which actually shrank in his letters. it was not 10 by 10 by later in the letters. but, what happened was, what i would like to do is say, you know, james, you really got to reconsider this whole proposition that you have created, you're creating that is forming in your mind. that you want to create a place for the government which is what the district of columbia is, a
federal district, apart from the people of this democracy. and you want to do it so those people in the congress can convene and deliberate without pressure by anybody. no million man marchs. no, no martin luther king speeches, nothing like that. we can't have that in madison's world. and i would like to have said to madison, who i have great regard for, we have to look forward and think what the democracy will be and it is about the demos, it is about the people and we, we, maybe i could have talked him into it. [laughter] yeah. sure. >> [inaudible].
c-span is depending on you. >> at what point did things like the control over monuments still being build, i mean there is always controversy every time somebody wants to build a museum, every time somebody want to put up a monument. when did that really start to get formalized? >> i will give you a broad answer but it is really in the 20th century. people were putting up monuments pretty, pretty freely but fortunately the capitol planning commission, the arts commission,
came into being at the turn of the century. really as a result of the mcmill loon commission. i'm truncating a lot of hit here. as a result of the mcmillan commission which gave us the magnificent design for where we would put the washington, excuse me, the lincoln memorial and actually gave us union station which is, was quite remarkable because at the time in 1900 trains were actually going right across the mall and there was a huge station across the mall. so the mcmillan commission really changed that. out of that and through the agency of william howard taft a lot of the arts foundations
commissions were created and so it's really at the beginning of the last century. and -- >> can you talk a little bit about -- >> i'm sorry. >> in martha washington family come all the way down to the cemetery in arlington where we still have -- seems like, we don't know a lot about them but they -- [inaudible] >> that's wash think. that's george washington custus who did that. let's tell a little bit about him. george washington custus was a bit of disappointment to his step grandfather, george.
there is some letters that say, he is not doing so well in school but he really, as of course washington died without issue. those cusstus children, especially george washington custus held the mantle, took the mantle of washington. and he created the custut mansion on the hill over looking the city and i'm sure you've been there to the mansion itself, you've seen the slave quarters behind it. it is quite a remarkable place. it was filled with memorabilia of washington. he then became a playwrite who wrote some of the most insipient, awful words i have
ever seen. i copy a few of them in the book but he married off one of his daughters to a lee. and it became then, and then it became robert e. lee's. so in the civil war it was taken over and then you'll see, if you read a little bit montgomery banks, who he became really virulent anti-confederate and kept moving the graves, closer and closer to the mansion itself. so it is really, the mansion has a wonderful history of its own. and i think i have about done it on the custus-lee family.
thank you. >> you said -- >> i apologize. >> you said that originally washington consisted of a 10-mile square in the shape of a diamond. >> yes. >> later on, part of it, i believe centered in alexandria broke away. >> yes, in 1846. >> could you just give a bit of background about that. and also, is that cast in concrete because the reasons for it breaking away i understand no longer exist. >> how interesting that you should bring that up. this was called in 1846 retrocession. it was because of the, as i
suggested, there's some evidence at least that it's because of the great slave trade that was going on in alexandria, virginia, at the time. and if alexandria were a slave, part of a slave state and not part of a district where slave commerce was becoming illegal, then at that point you had to, you would be free to engage in your selling of flesh. and so that was exactly, or that was part of what the retrocession was about. but the other part of your question quite intrigues me because as a matter of fact there have been people who have been head of the senate committee on the district of columbia who have floated the
idea that there should be a new accession of, in a sense return to the diamond state. i think this is not likely to happen. [laughter] >> go ahead. >> i have two questions. the first though, i was wondering if you could go into a little history about the naming of the city, particular lit d.c. part, and were there any alternative names suggested. and the second question what you think about the fact seems john adams is missing in a lot of memorials in the town.
>> wow. well, let's think about that. first question which had to do with the naming is, it was basically washington, it was not to be washington. the congress did not designate it that way at the beginning. they designated it just as the federal seat of government. that's the way it's stated in the residence act of 1790. but what happened was washington appointed three commissioners, i go into those commissioners in some detail in my book, and they decided, along the way, i think it was several years into the course of the city's creation, that it should be called
washington and declared it should be called washington. about your question about john adams? excuse me? >> [inaudible] >> i apologize. christopher columbus. columbia. >> d.c. >> oh, that was in, that's in the, i believe that's in the federal act of 1790, that it would be the seat of government in the district of columbia. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. as simple as, columbus had a great importance to this land at that time. there was a poet named joel barlow who wrote extraordinarily long poem, called, the
columbiad, about this nation. so i apologize for al lighting over that. the other part of your question was about john adams and i think you're right. i, john adams has over the years not been received very well for several reasons to be sure. i think that david mccullough 's magnificent biography of adams has begun to change that. he is very important to the republic. he's very important as one of the founders of the nation and he was a person, person by all means we should be thinking of memorializing in the city. i agree. i would be hard-pressed to
disagree with that, as a matter of fact. you've got -- >> would you talk a little bit the development of railways in the d.c. area. >> a little bit? might be the operative word. when it started washington became in a way midway between the north and the south for the railroads as it was for the country. so the railroads of course shunted their trains across what is now the mall. the mall was, had enormous tracks on it that went, enormous number about of tracks that went down to, down maryland avenue. they were, and when, in the
cleveland administration, the railroads had a very big push to make the mall the that they were filling in, the mall we walk across today has been largely reclaimed beyond the washington monument toward the lincoln memorial. and they wanted to use that land for a freight yard. and it didn't work out that way. the more interesting story i think is about the creation of union station in 19, in, as part of the mcmillan plan. and what happened was that the macmillan plan, if you're not familiar with it, was a group of, a senator, james
mcmillan, from michigan, who was very much involved with the district of columbia and very much appreciative of everything in the district of columbia. he really cared about this city. and one of the things he wanted to do was bring some design organization to it of the largely by 1900, while falls plans had been ignored in terrible ways, so mcmillage got through the senate in classic senate fashion. they turned down the proposal. he waited until they were out of town and through lots of maneuvering, created the mcmillan commission. it's a recounted in my book. i do it very quickly i recount
it in the book too. it was typical senate maneuvering. he had a assistant named moore who was brilliant pulling things off. mcmillan appoint ad commission. it included the designer the world fairs and fred olmstesd and two of the most brilliant architects, and youd ha the son of the man who was the most brilliant and foremost landscape architect, olmstead. they are two olmstead. they went by the same name. easy to confuse them. gaudens who was near the end of his life was having difficult doing his work but was certainly
a part of it. they went to europe and studied all the great cities of europe. i often thought about that researching and thinking. my god, what tabloid would love to get ahold of this story. all these guys going to the great capitols of europe and having a great time. well they really studied very hard. one of the people that they met actually was, they were all in, i think paris, but burnham had to go off to a meeting with james casat. casat, father of mary casat was head of pennsylvania railroad. he doesn't want the railroad war it was. burnham sure didn't want it where it was. what they arranged for a tunnel
basically to go under capitol hill to the south and than they would build union station. so the trains were terminate there. and i think i have exhausted all my knowledge of railroads. >> what is the origin of the district residence being disenfranchised? >> excuse me. oh, now you got me started. the origin is in the constitution of the united states. article i, section 8, i think clause 17 which says this is a part from the country. that's where it began but i think you might want more about it. that's been reinforced. i often think about, well, i will say that in a minute but it
started, nobody knew how to govern the city. congress didn't want to govern it when they came. and so they allowed for a mayor. and then they allowed for a mayor that was first appointed. and a council was appointed. then the mayor was elected, et cetera, et cetera, and it came up to 1871 and, yeah, 181 i think and they made the district into a territory. and therefore it had a territorial governor. and it didn't have any elected officials at that point. and that's when man named shepherd, alexander shepherd had reign. i don't want to get into sheppard because it will take us
many moons away from her but anyway, shepherd was a man who largely rebuilt the city, who was very controversial. what happened after that, because of some of the things he did, there were great claims of malfeasance, of funds, in what happened after that was, in hate teen 74 i believe -- 1874, i believe they decided it wouldn't have a territory. it wouldn't be allowed to have a mayor. they'd have three people who would be appointed to be, run the city of washington. two would be appointed by the president. they all would be appointed by the president but one, the third was always reserved for a military man. that's why thomas lincoln casey could build the washington monument and take over the construction of that. well this is all very well but
it lasted as the city grew from, oh, gosh, i think it was about maybe 65,000 at that time to well over 800,000 during the second world war. and what you had was three commissioners. they were usually cronies of the president or often cronies of the president. when marion anderson, and this will give you an example of government dysfunction, when marion anderson first wanted to use the daughters of the american revolution hall, constitution hall, she was refused that. the hall didn't allow a black performer. then they saul hirach who was
creating the concerts, well, what about the school? well the white schools turned her down. then at the decided maybe allow it for just this once and then everybody got angry. at that point harold ickes stepped in, how about the lincoln memorial with roosevelt's approval. roosevelt was dying to approve it and eleanor resigned from the dar. how many commissioners were there, there were three commissioners and one had died and one of the commissioners was more interested in the easter seals campaign and passing out certificates to good drivers. things like that. i mean it was, it was preposterous what was going on. this by the way, this situation existed up, for 100 years. from 1871 to 1971 washington really didn't have a mayor.
>> [inaudible] >> i have a speculative question. if the jefferson view of the city had prevailed, how would that have changed our history? >> hmmm. well, i think i want to broaden the question. if jefferson had prevailed how would that have changed our history? jefferson was an agrarian. he believed in an agrarian democracy. he distrusted cities that over 20,000. in fact that was the outer limit. and he said things like, of new york, which was in the largest city, it was the cloquina of civilization. the out house of civilization. that is putting it nicely.
so any way any jefferson wanted a very different world than the world that we have. and i think washington wanted a very different world from jefferson's. he chose a man who created a huge city, who brought him up to jenkins hill where the capitol is and outlined that city for him. and what it would entail. and you have to understand that, that george washington, who had never left the shores of the united states, was a person who really understood the land of this country. and he understood the land beyond the alleghenies and he was worried about what was going to be happening beyond the alleghenies. would those territories be taking their goods down the river to new orleans and
through, and through a spanish area into the world? that was something that was terribly worrisome to him. he had. that is why he pushed for a canal for washington through maryland in order to, through the cumberland, in order to get the country into the west, to expand it. and it's interesting to me the capitol itself faces west. i think that's very important. so i'm afraid evaded your question and, but, maybe not. do we have time for -- >> i think we're going to leave it there. thank you, tom lewis, thank you so much. [applause] >> [inaudible]
>> stay with c-span, live this morning 9:15 a.m. eastern for the ceremony in the great hall of the supreme court in honor of justice antonin scalia. president obama, michelle obama, supreme court justices and members of congress are expected to be among those attending. following the private ceremony, the body of justice scalia will lie in repose and the great hall will be open to the public. watch on c-span, and c-span.org. >> c-span's coverage of the presidential candidates continues this week with campaign events in south carolina and nevada leading up to the south carolina gop primary and nevada democratic caucuses on saturday february 20th. our live coverage of the results starts on saturday at 7:30 p.m. eastern with the candidate
speeches and your reaction to the results on c-span, c-span radio, and c-span.org. >> road to the white house coverage continues in south carolina. first texas senator and republican presidential candidate ted cruz holds a rally in columbia. he will be joined by a&e's "duck dynasty star phil robertson. live on c-span. donald trump will speak to his senatorrers at a rally in north charleston. we'll take you there live at 7:00 p.m. eastern, also on c-span2. >> director of the federal housing finance agency, mel watt, urged congress to tackle reforms and was critical of presidential candidates not talking about the issue on the campaign trail. fhfa is a independent federal agency that regulates fannie mae and freddie mac. from the bipartisan policy center, this is about an hour.