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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  February 6, 2016 10:00am-10:31am EST

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democratic and republican ads that aired in the granite state, including those of bill clinton and george h w bush. presidency, a history professor talks about her book and argues the 20th century was shaped by four elections that occurred during economic and cultural change, starting with the election of 1912. for the clique american history tv we can schedule, go to announcer: each week, american artifacts explores the story of the united states by visiting historic places and investigating important objects. next, a look at george washington's personal copy of 1789cts of congress, a printed record with the president's handwritten notes in the margin.
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the book was auctioned at christie's in new york city. >> we have come to a proud moment. we are selling george washington's personal copy of the acts of congress, signed by the estate of h. richard dietrich, jr. it is shown in the front of the room for those of you who have not had a chance to peek at it. you may do so. we will start the bidding at $1,300,000. $1,400,000, $1,700,000 $1,800,000 -- $2 million. now at $2 million. >> my name is carol and i serve as the senior curator and vice
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president of collections at mount vernon. it has been my great delight to work with our library and board team to think about the acquisition of this most monumental book for the mount vernon collection. george washington is very exacting with his books, and we see that he takes great care of them. he has them in full glass fronted shelves. he takes great care with each individual volume, often putting a flourish of his grand corner ofon the upper the title page. on important books, he puts a terrific bookplate. this is a bookplate washington ordered from england. it is engraved in london. 1771,s it as early as immediately before the revolution.
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through his presidency, they have the washington coat of arms with his name and motto embellished on them and he puts them in the inside cover, just like he does here with the acts of congress. this volume was probably pretty special to him because it has both his engraved bookplate, his signature on the title page, but what is more distinctive is that washington makes notes in the margin. we almost never see washington writing any marginalia. there are founding fathers known for their scribbles in the founding documents. as they tinker with the documents or put their comments on what they think should be the founding principles, george washington does not do that. is he rising above that level of commentary are trying to preserve the pristine pages of these wonderful and expensive volumes. we don't know, but this
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particular volume gives us extraordinary insight into washington because in several places, he carefully brackets his powers and his role as president. we see him in article one of the constitution writing the word "president" next to the duties that he is to follow and how he is to follow the enacting of legislation. how bills are ratified and sent to george washington as president for approval or veto. himrticle two, you see bracketing not only "president" but also powers. it shows the powers he has to appoint justices to the supreme court, to ratify treaties, to appoint ambassadors. he is understanding exactly
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those powers that are his and those that he must delegate to the other important branches of congress. >> $3 million. $3 million $500,000. $4 million. >> i am the head of international books and printed materials for christie's. we have one of the most significant books we have ever from george washington, annotated by him in the margins. we felt washington was the obvious place to bring it to.
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here is his own copy of the constitution outlining his role as president and setting the precedent for future role of president. it is so historically significant. we don't always handle things that are as historically significant at that level. they will be valuable, but there will be another copy of a book. something like this is unique and beyond compare. >> when i was first asked what i thought of this potential acquisition, immediately i knew it was a top priority. it was within our number one category of trying to return original objects back to mount vernon. in my mind, it exceeded that because it is so crucial to the formation of the early years of government as an american experiment in republican democracy. and also, just in terms of
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washington's wonderful and remarkable legacy. it really is above a top priority for mount vernon to have a magnificent work like this here at george washington's home where it can be appreciated and enjoyed by millions year. -- by millions of visitors each year. >> i am the 20th regent of the mount vernon ladies association. i represented the ladies at the auction at christie's. you could feel the energy in the room. and as it neared the actual sale, it heightened and suddenly the room was filled with people and members of the press at the very back. you knew that it was a momentous occasion. >> $4,500,000, $4,800,000 back to hall. >> i certainly have never held up a paddle for anything in a seven digit number, but i have attended auctions before.
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the reason why i attended is because we wanted to have a representative in the room and not someone who was an agent or a go-between. we wanted to be there ourselves because we knew that we would represent our best interests. it was only the night before that we made this decision and i got on the plane and went to new york to be in the room the next day. >> $5 million. $ 5,500,000 on the left. $5,600,000. >> i was able to join the bidding after the first round of fast and furious bidding but that was already at $5 million when i got in. it continued on until there were two bidders in the room. >> $5,800,000.
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$6 million. >> ladies association did not know that the book was going to auction until after the catalog had already gone to print. in that time we worked very hard , to find a donor or an angel who would help bring this book home to mount vernon because we are a nonprofit institution and we rely on no government money so we are very dependent on the generosity of individuals and corporations to help us. we looked for a donor and when we realized that that was not going to happen, we decided as a board to muster our resources and to go to the auction to be as competitive as we could possibly be. >> an item like that, it seems as an auctioneer, it seems like it takes forever.
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what might take minutes feels like hours. is high drama when you're getting into that stratosphere of value. >> $6,500,000. >> it is the enactment of the first session of congress which had just ended. you cannot have been printed before the legislation was enacted. the fact it had the text of the constitution at the beginning was the key here. i think washington used it at some point to refresh his memory as to his own duties and responsibilities as president. first >> he did not mark uniformly everything that he was supposed to do as president, but what is interesting is that in one bracket he does note required
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. and i think this is very telling because it's washington noting what he absolutely must not forget to do and that addresses what would call today the state of the union address. the reports to congress on the state of the nation. what is so interesting about the book in terms of its printing is that it is printed here in . washington's copy was bound by a gentleman by the name of thomas allen who also bound books very beautifully for other distinguished gentlemen in the early republic like john jay, and thomas jefferson. we see that washington and his colleagues are really putting into printed form those concepts that they had been struggling with over the constitutional convention where they have been laboring for many hot days trying to figure out exactly the shape of the new nation. they all realized that they were setting precedent to be followed.
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it is incredible to think of all of those thoughts being printed here, bound here in america for circulation for those who not only contributed to them but for , those who became big proponents of how to exact a form of government exactly like the one they were envisioning. >> this is the first page of the constitution right at the beginning of the book. you can see the bracketing here is very pale, very light. this particular passage is contained in that bracket. "the president shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy." further down, he noted that the president has the power to an -- enact treaties with the advice and consent of the senate. so, spelling out his role in the
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new government. >> to me it struck me almost as , though he were looking at manual and this is the roadmap of what were his responsibilities. i believe he was keenly aware of the use of presidential power to further the public good. he also knew that the world was looking at america to see how this new nation would be governed. to see it in person, it is chilling. >> $6,500,000. new bid, $6,800,000. $7 million. >> here we have the constitution at the front of the book, at the back we have the draft bill of rights which had been proposed but not yet ratified by the states. it is interesting. you can tell this is very early.
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there are 12 amendments here. in all, only 10 were enacted and became law. >> i think it is enormously instructive that these two documents were seen together as part of the founding documents of this country. it was not just the constitution . it was also its coupling with the bill of rights and how that impacted the freedom and liberty's of an of 18 centuryes and how that influences today. >> $7 million, the bid is on my right. >> my eyes were locked onto the auctioneer, but there was apparently a group on the other
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side. and every time the did went to them, they would lean in and confer with each other and come up with the next bid which to , me seemed like an eternity because i knew where my limit was. the board had given me strong marching orders and i knew where we were going to stop, so i was just ready to go to the next bid . >> $7,500,000. $7,600,000, i will take. $7,700,000. >> the most serendipitous thing about preceding the auction is when i arrived that morning at christie's, i went into the room and chris cooper took the acts
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of congress out of the case and the two of us stood there and looked at it. and i realized that this was probably the only time i would see it in such an intimate setting. after that, i went upstairs to a room to wait until closer to the sale and paul johnson, who works in the office of the president at christie's asked me if i was , registered and i said of course. he said do you have your paddle number? i said no i do not. so he disappeared and came back in a few minutes. he handed me the paddle and i looked at it and took one glance and said paul, do you realize what this is? this is washington's birthday. he went, "oh, my goodness." i took that as a very good sign that it was going to be a good day. what's we don't know if he ordered
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the bindings or if it was done -- ordered for him by someone else. there are three similar books, one is john jay's copy. a similar layout and binding in a private collection. thomas jefferson had a copy. that copy is at the university of indiana so this is one of three, but it's the only one that belonged to washington himself. the exterior is a very fine binding classical style with a guilt-lettered morocco label. >> $7,700,000. $7,900,000. >> he had a lot to do with the adoption of the constitution. he served as president of the constitutional convention in
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1787 and afterward he exerted himself behind the scenes to make sure it was ratified by the states. congress is meeting, and in the course of its first session which was several months long, enacted at least 90 pieces of legislation. some are very important. it was this session that created the department of state, the department of treasury and established the judiciary. they were formulating a government based on the constitution. >> $8 million. $8,100,000. was $2 million to $3 million. million, weres $8 you getting nervous? >> there was a letter written by washington that sold for $2
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million to a frenchman. we knew that the interest in this -- this is a unique and rare book. we knew that that was low. we decided what we thought it might go for, and we decided to go up to that point. no, we were not surprised. >> why not? >> $8,400,000, $8,500,000. >> the acts of congress has had a remarkable journey. it is truly inspiring to think that it is today in pristine condition and still so beautifully bound, just as it was in the 18th century despite its remarkable journey. george and martha washington did not have any children of their own.
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at the time of her death in 1802, many of the objects of mount vernon were either dispersed to her direct descendents or members of george washington's family. mount vernon itself past two george washington's nephew who was also a supreme court justice . items in thef the library. many of these pieces at mount vernon, later handed down through the family, came up for auction. certainly we know that it was very hard for washington family members to part with the material reminders of george washington, but keep in mind that these were troubled times in america, especially during the 19th century with the upheaval of the civil war. just as the washington family was not able to direct all of their resources to keeping up mount vernon, there were also
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not able to preserve all of these remarkable objects themselves and thought they might be best cared for in the hands of a greater american public. at that time we see a lot of , different objects coming up for sale throughout the 19th century. interestingly, this volume was seen as so important that it was purchased by a series of well known american philanthropists, benefactors, and collectors. it was purchased by phoebe hearst of california, who eventually became mount vernon's first vice regent for the state of california. she was enormously influential here at mount vernon, also as a collector in the field. her son, william randolph hearst was , also a tremendous collector and i think that mrs. hearst passed on her love of collecting as well as her passion for american history to her son william
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, randolph hearst. it's not surprising that he held onto this volume for so many years before it again appeared up for sale in a public realm. at that time, it returned to private ownership by another collector, richard dietrich who , held on to it for many years. we have known where it has been for some time and we were always hoping we would have the opportunity to have it returned to mount vernon. >> another conference. $8,500,000. $8,600,000. $8,700,000. she is bidding all by herself. ok. $8,700,000. is there any advance?
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then selling for $8,700,000. [applause] and that goes -- [applause] >> and that goes to mount vernon. thank you very much paddle 222. >> applause erupted in the room , and i think there was a sense of joy that this rare piece of history would not go back to a drawer for another 50 years. it was coming home to mount vernon where it can be shared with scholars who can see it for themselves and research and write about the legacy of george washington and the founding of this nation. we were delighted to be able to welcome it home after so many years. such a long journey, but clearly very good caretakers in the meantime.
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>> i'm the vice president at mount vernon for the national library of george washington. the acts of congress was extraordinary book. the price was hard, but it was priceless. this is a very special book of george washington's. i call it his owners manual of the presidency. occasionally in life, there are opportunities you cannot miss. as we are planning to build this exciting new library that will open in september 2013, we want to have the best resources available to scholars who will come and study, the other researchers who will spend time in this wonderful new facility. later this fall, the public will have an opportunity to see this at mountur museum vernon. it is a wonderful display that will show the story of the book, but also where you can see this that georgerginalia
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washington indicated in the margins of where he saw the role and responsibility of the president. when we open a museum in 2013, it will be the cornerstone of our special collection. in this library, we will have primary books that belonged to george washington in his library, papers, letters, manuscripts that he did as a young boy. also in this extraordinary new facility, we will have an education program where we would will continue to reach out to teachers across america to engage them in training to teach young people about the life, leadership, and legacy of general washington. the purpose of this library here at mount vernon, george washington's home, where scholars from around the road can come for serious time and focused study in the context of mount vernon. the mount vernon ladies association has given leadership to this extraordinary estate for
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about a century and a during half. this time, they have been extraordinary stewards of this place as a destination for students, families, visitors or to a conference or event but the , library is the next evolution of that great vision of theirs. this will be a place where scholars can come for weeks or months and submerse themselves in these wonderful resources that we have and do so right here in the shadow of mount vernon george washington's , home. >> it is a presidential library and george washington wrote to a friend two years before he died, he said i have not houses to build except one to house my manuscripts, papers and books which are voluminous and may be of interest. after 200 years we are building , that library and bringing home the acts of congress where it belongs. >> i think one of the beauties of having the book at mount vernon is not only do you
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understand the book as a physical object as a scholar, but you understand it in context. there is no better way to understand george washington , to to come to mount vernon walk the grounds, and understand not only america during george washington's lifetime, but also his private residence which is his window into the world. you understand how each item listed in the acts of congress whether it is presidential ,duties the duties of the state , or congress, the duties of the justice system, how all of those relate to issues that were very important and very close to washington and certainly influenced the development of his farm and estate. i think what is even more powerful is to look at that volume in the context of others that george washington read, used and his notes. to understand how he and others were really struggling with what
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should be the founding and governing principles of our nation in those early years. i think the scholar who comes to mount vernon to try to understand the volume will be fortunate enough to receive a much broader window of insight into washington through everything that is here at mount vernon. in recent years, we have been asked about the prices being realized for george washington objects. every time that a new record is set, i have to say it does not surprise me. it's more americans and more people around the world understanding what we already know. that is that george washington is a remarkable figure that provides us with not only a tangible reminder of all of the hard-won battles of the american revolution, and the attempt to set up our unique form of government here in the united
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states but he also touches us in , a way that is truly inspirational. i think although sometimes we at mount vernon are always chagrined to see a new price realized, we realize we will have to build up bigger war chests for the future, it is a terrific validation of what we already know. that is that george washington is truly our founding father. announcer: this program was recorded in 2012. the national library for the study of george washington opened september 27, 2013. you can view the opening ceremony and all other american history tv programs at our website announcer: c-span's campaign 20 is taking you on the road to the white house. >> thank you and god bless you.
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announcer: in iowa, c-span brought you candidate speeches. meet and greets, town halls, and life caucus coverage. leading up to the first in the nation primary. startsection coverage tuesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, c-span radio, and in july, 1962, martin luther king, jr. was the first african-american to speak at the national press club in washington. recently, members of the club located 53-year-old recordings of the speech and organized a panel of civil rights leaders and journalists to discuss its importance. this event includes portions of king's remarks. it is about an hour and a half. >> here is little background on the speech. dr. king was the first african-american to ever speak


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