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tv   Eliza Jumel and Aaron Burr  CSPAN3  February 13, 2016 5:00pm-5:52pm EST

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what is going on inside. next, margaret oppenheimer talks about her book, "the remarkable rise of eliza jumel: a story of marriage and money in the early republic ." poverty, eliza jumel became one of the richest woman in new york. the author describes her unusual life, including her marriage to aaron burr. this is a 50-minute event. >> welcome back to lunch and learn at the museum of american finance. there's been a big resurgence of this year all things hamilton. now we are going to learn more about aaron burr and we are going to learn it from margaret oppenheimer. this is her third book. she's written extensive articles
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at the metropolitan museum journal. she has her phd in art history at theu and volunteers mansion in new york and we will find out about that connection and the book "the remarkable rise of eliza jumel: a story of marriage and money in the early republic." will be on sale afterwards. it is my pleasure to introduce margaret oppenheimer. margaret: thank you very much. on wednesday, july third, 1833, a distinguished new yorker and a former mayor of new yorker wrote a note in his diary. the celebrated colonel byrd was married on monday evening. the choice of at because was interesting. not distinguish but celebrated.
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celebrity have the same connotation it has today. someone who was known to the public but not always with a mixed approval. today, on going to talk about how alive the and aaron became public figures, why they married, and what happened after these celebrities joined hands. ladies first. here, we see allies are -- eliza on your right. she is painted here about a year before her marriage next to a picture of aaron burr six months after the ceremony. betsy in born providence, rhode island in april 1775, 2.5 weeks before the
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battle of lexington marked the outbreak of the revolutionary war. there was nothing in her beginning to suggest her name would one day be known about america around america. she was born in indescribable poverty. by the time she was seven years in a brothelliving with her mother. older, she a little stayed twice in the workhouse of providence won her mother was unable to take care of her. when she was only 10 years old, the overseers of the poor down her out as an indentured servant , meaning from the age of 10, she would be living and working in a stranger's home. this was not a promising beginning but the young betsy
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bowen was a survivor. she reinvented herself. she got herself to new york city and adopted a more fashionable name. she called herself eliza. she also worked at least briefly as an extra in the theater in the park theater on par growth -- park row. she met and married a wealthy french merchant named stephen juvenile -- jumel. this sounds easy but it was not in this day. without financial assets, without prominent family connections to offer.
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this marriage vaulted her into the upper-middle-class. stephen lived in lower manhattan. at one point off-broadway. they also acquired a country estate 9.5 miles north of the city. today, it is washington heights. country seat they acquired. historic house museum well worth visiting. the jumels purchase property three blocks south of wall street. they paid about $14,000, be
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envious. this is there broadway frontage. the building on the right is there broadway frontage in 1848. they owned about 3.5 times this much around the corner. at the fall of napoleon the jumels spent some time in france. is where they lived for several years, one of paris's most elegant addresses. eliza assembled an art collection. she turned herself into a connoisseur. this was the largest collection assembled by a private citizens of the united states up to that time. she had 242 european paintings.
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she also took great pride in having contact at the court of louis the 18th, would she would later exaggerate to inflate her social status. unfortunately, their time in france ended with the panic of 1825, which threatened her and her husband's security. put their country home in new possibly atd trust her urging. that meant it would be hers for life free to manage as she wish and safe from his creditors. predeceased her, she would not have to worry about spending her widowhood in poverty. ensured her financial
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security. 1826, she returned to the united states before her husband. she used a power of attorney he had given her to put almost all of the remaining real estate, including those broadway and liberty street buildings, in trusts to herself for life. she transmuted herself into something very rare, a married woman who was also a landed proprietor in her own right. of 67. died at the age , turning herater into a wealthy wife into an even wealthier window.
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but, she was celebrity. until quite late in her life, people always remembered that she wasn't for the manor born. word had gotten around about how she transferred her and her husband's property into her own name and most people -- at least most men -- disapproved. she remained an outsider and was not a member of new york's elite. in contrast, her soon-to-be husband aaron burr was born to the social status she only dreamed of entering. president of the college of new jersey, today's princeton, which aaron also attended. on his mother's side, he was the grandson of the famous cleric jonathan edwards, who wrote the
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sermon "sinners in the hands of an angry god." he served quite bravely for five years in the war of independence. here is a scene from the battle of québec in which he served. after the war, he trained as a lawyer. in the new york state assembly and served a term as new york attorney general. he also served a term in the u.s. senate, beating out alexander hamilton's father-in-law. 1800, when thomas jefferson was elected president of the united states, aaron burr became vice president. here he is during his time in office. in spite of his fine beginnings,
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by the time of his marriage to eliza, he was celebrated, even notorious, rather than distinguished. trouble began in 1800 41 he ran for governor of new york. he was defeated in part because of slurs about his characters disseminated by his political rival, alexander hamilton. he lost. the election, hamilton said something derogatory about aaron burr at a private dinner party. -- aaronback to erin burr and you all know what happened. challenged hamilton to a duel. they fought on the dueling grounds across the river. burr shot hamilton in the abdomen. dammartin died the next day. burr's reputation never
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recovered. between 1804 and 1807, he made a quasilegal attempt to seize spanish lands of mexico and what is now the southern united states. this resulted in a trial for high treason by the u.s. supreme court. he was acquitted. jefferson and his second term as r, whoent was against bur he saw as a political rival. further attempts at prosecution more likely -- or likely. fled to europe. when he came back, he slipped into the country under a false name. to theely, he returned practice of law in new york city and that is what he was doing in
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1833, the year of his marriage to eliza jumel. remains, what brought these two celebrities together? the undoubted, attraction was eliza's money. in many a brilliant man ways. he was a genius at seizing opportunities but a compulsive debtor, totally unable to save money for tomorrow. records ofte a few the new york courts that have not previously been examined in literature and they show him time after time promising to pay money back and defaulting. example, i found five cases between 1819 and 1829 in which , given arrowed money
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promissory note saying he would pay in a few months, and then one -- then was unable to pay. then in 1833, two months before his marriage to eliza jumel, he had to find a new place to live because he was addicted at his lodgings for nonpayment of rent. -- evicted at his lodgings for nonpayment of rent. here, i have circled the address where he lived. these cases are only the ones that made it into court. there must have been far more instances when he borrowed money, didn't return it, and the lender wrote it off as a bad debt. say i defense, i will
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think he typically intended to pay back the money he borrowed but was simply unable to control his spending. the most telling argument in support of this is something that occurred three months after his marriage to eliza jumel. burr took the risk of conducting a deal that was highly questionable ethically because it would provide him with a regular income of $500 twice yearly for the rest of his life. immediately did himself out this valuable annuity. he used the agreement as fromity to get advances the future chase manhattan bank. two of his received
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promised $500 payments when he was so overdrawn on his account that the manhattan company seized ownership of the bond he had given as security so he wouldn't be able to claim any more of these payments which otherwise would have been his for life. he squanderedet in perspective, as late as 1850, a working-class family of four could live in new york city for $600 a year. seem to be able to husband money in a matter the cost. a marriage to eliza jumel would give him a big pot of money to spend. eliza had motivations for the marriage. on the one hand, she would soon
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have to begin settling her first husband's estate. burr could help her protect her assets. but the main attraction of the marriage for her was the opportunity to enter social circles that have been previously closed to her. burr still had enough friends that she could anticipate this marriage would pry open social doors. rr was a very charming man. for women who had the struggle for social acceptance come it must have been very flattering to have the courtship of a man who had held this country's second highest office. both parties had something to gain from the union and they entered it willingly.
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married july 1, 1833 in the 's mansionor of jumel in washington heights. she was 68. he was 77. how long do you think this marriage lasted? [laughter] margaret: any guesses? your optimistic. july 1, 1833. they were separated by the end of september. november -- well, by the end of september, aaron burr left the mansion. i november, they were separated for good and a year after the 1834, elizajuly 11, jumel filed for divorce.
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she filed on the 30th ruinousary of burr's duel with hamilton. [laughter] host: well, what went wrong? [indiscernible] margaret: it seemed a promising marriage on the surface. as to what went wrong, the closest indicator comes from an juneent that occurred in 1834 and month before she filed for divorce. was out and about in manhattan and she saw william dunlap. here he is. he had been the manager of the park theater where she had worked as a next her 20 years --
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as a next her 20 years -- an extra 20 years before. dunlap records this in his diary. and she said burr "i don't see him anymore. my property00 of and spent it away. i have a new carriage and a pair of horses. " was appalled at her frankness. int confidence can be placed the words of such a woman is hard to say, he said in his diary. woman to be critical of her husband to a near acquaintance just wasn't done in dunlap's social circle.
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if we are going to be critical of behavior here, burr was far worse. to put the $13,000 he had spent in perspective, that some has the buying power of $378,000 today. he just went through it in a matter of three months with nothing to show for it. had $13,000 jumel to spend a few years later. she used it to buy 217 acres of land in saratoga springs, which she rented to farmers, assuring herself of a steady income. part $13,000 investment was worth about $400,000. here, you see the land she owned. they were ultimately sold 15 years after her death. fact,s an interesting
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notice the man in charge of the sale is a man named philo t. ruggles. 40 years before, he was a young master in chancery. he was assigned to collect the burrence in the jumel- divorce. new york can be a very small town. itself, spending patterns. dominant financial strategy was by and hold. burr's was borrow and spend. when eliza jumel filed for divorce, she obtained an immediate separation and divorce
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so you would not have access to her money during the divorce proceedings. most of the bill of complaint in which she requested details the ways in which he had been running through her money. strictly speaking, none of this financial business had any weight in the bill of divorce. in 1834 in new york state, there was only one ground for divorce. anyone know what it was? adultery. for jumel, burr was a ladies man. year before his marriage to eliza jumel, he had been closely acquainted with a 25-year-old woman and almost certainly have been her lover. eliza jumel used this relationship against aaron burr. she arranged for a servant of
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to having seenfy him engage in adultery in a house in jersey city in august 1833 one year after his marriage to jumel. hadosedly, the servant spied on them through windows. she had crawled up on a shed adjacent the back window of the pese, turned back a blind, eked through and saw the couple entangled. she had been married three times so she knew what she was seeing. i realize from the laughter you think this evidence sounds a bit implausible but i must point out in order to get in new york divorce at this time, you had to supply date, time, detailed
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circumstance of the adultery. that meant that virtually every divorce awarded in new york state relied on any factual evidence. for instance, i read another divorce case from the 1830's. . dressmaker according to her story, she had gone upstairs to her better and to get fabric. she opens the door to the room, she observes the couple in the act of adultery on the bed. at this point, most of us would mumble some sort of apology and back out. not this witness. she testifies she went into the room, retrieves the fabric, and exited, having had ample time to
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assure herself of the identity of the couple on the bed. l's case was better than most because she brought in other witnesses to testify that burr had a relationship before his marriage to jumel, including his former landlady. burr for his part contested this divorce strenuously. the question is why bother? he was already separated. the marriage had fallen apart. what did he want? just let it go. jumel's firstr is husband's estate had been settled yet. once it was settled, if burr mel, all married to ju
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of that money would be his. in common law, man and wife or one person and that person was the husband. burr could have spent every penny of that money without asking her permission. retain hised to recently acquired money pot, he had to avoid a divorce. he gets his own paid witnesses. jumel of committing adultery herself with eight different men no less. , presumably the site of some of these exotic trips. wasreason for these charges a divorce petition would be dismissed if the person asking
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for the divorce was unfaithful. burr's case turned out to be nowhere near as good. his accusations against her, which included one of adultery with her coachman, these were soon found to be totally implausible. tonevertheless continued fight the divorce proceedings with at least 15 different delays and adjournments. jumel was ultimately awarded the divorce on july 8, 1836, he appealed the decision immediately. ended with hisly onth two months later september 14, 1836. in an indication of the typical state of his finances, his
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executors declined to serve. jumel was left of the victor. urr,won her dual with b unlike alexander hamilton but the marriage cost her dearly. he ran through massive amounts of money in a short time she could have used for her future security. she also had to pay for lawyers to secure the divorce. thenl say that legal cost were just as bad as they are now. cleverly, she managed to turn this disaster is marriage into an asset. it as a way to go in the social status she -- to gain
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the social status she desired for so long. by the 1850's, she was traveling in europe as madame burr. as to whether she could actually claim the title as opposed to being the divorced wife of burr, well, that is an interesting little wrinkle in her biography. but i don't want to spoil the story, so the answer to that thetion, whether she was by 1850's the widow or divorcee, you will have to read the book. thank you, ladies and gentlemenmen, and we are open to questions. [applause] yes? >> what was burr's primary mode of -- [indiscernible]
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margaret: he wanted to speculate, because he felt that his speculations would bring so much money that he could live as he wished and not worry about finances. unfortunately, he tended to be wrong about these speculations. but that was the idea, anyway. yes? >> the mansion, they have a plaque that says, at some point after burr moved out, he got dale and was -- ill and was tended during his sickness at the mansion? margare: that is correct -- margaret: that is correct. i mentioned that burr moved out of the mansion by september 1833, and jumel and burr were separated for goodbye november. by reason for -- for good
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november. the reason for this wording is that in october burr was walking down broadway when he lost the use of one leg. he had suffered a stroke. jumel took him back into the mansion to take care of him, and he was there for about a month. argued quite a bit during that time her appl-- period, and ultimately burr was moved out again to his law offices, and that was it. so there was an attempt at a return. i saw this hand first. hamilton purposely missed. was going toburr be president?
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because the killing destroyed his political career. margaret: i'm sorry, do you mean if burr had not killed hamilton, might he have become president? i think probably not, simply because when burr was jefferson's vice president, jefferson had been very careful to marginalize burr. he saw him as a great political rival. i think burr would have had a very difficult time recovering from that. the parties am of who think that burr did not intend to kill hamilton. i think it was meant to simply be a wound that would end the duel. he apparently was quite upset after he saw that hamilton was mortally injured, and tried to come up and talk with him. he knew what a disaster hamilton's death would be.
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but also, his time to be president had come and gone. us a little bit about what happened with the mansion after she died? margaret: well, eliza jumel's estate was tied up in court for years. the fight over her estate ultimately went to the united states supreme court twice. as the estate began to be dettled, the mansion was sol in 1882 in an auction, and it elizaught by the widow of andl's adopted daughter, eliza jumel's great-niece and
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her husband. the three of them, all relatives of a liza jumel, lived in the mansion until 1887. and then they sold it. the last private owners were brigadier general ferdinando and his wife -- ferdinand earl and his wife, lily. when ferdinand died, his widow sold the house to the city in 1903, and it was turned into a museum. margaret: we will withdraw that question. another question? separation? a legal andaret: first of all, burr jumel did not have children.
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they married when jumel was 58 and burr was 77. with her first husband, stephen, jumel did not have children. but about six years after the marriage, when they had concluded they were not going to be blessed with children, she and her husband adopted the illegitimate daughter of her sister. mary, was raised by the jumels, the coming mary jumels. it was herctually, daughter who became one of the owners of the jumel mansion after the estate. the second half of the question, remind me again? in late september, burr
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just left the mansion. he was brought back. he left in november. there was no formal separation. on july 8, 1834 on the anniversary of the duel with hamilton, when jumel filed for divorce papers, she requested and received a form of separation in goods from burr until the divorce proceeding should be concluded. so she did have a legal separation at that time. eliza jumel left a will. it did not please her family. they went to court. they overturn the will. -- overturned the will.
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when you overturn a will, that means the decedent is declared to have died without a will. that opens up the door to any other claimant who think they have a right to the estate of someone who died without a will. when eliza jumel died, thanks to her buy and hold real estate tactics, her estate was worth about $1 million, which is comparable in buying power to $15 million today. there were a great many people who wanted that money. there were many claimants, of whom the most persistent was a an named george washington bolin, who claimed -- be herwho claimed to
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illegitimate son by george washington from her days in providence to you laugh, but she brought her case all the way to the supreme court. there was a lot of litigation. when she died in 1865, as late lawyers whos, the had represented the various parties in the estate litigation were still fighting among themselves over the legal fees. it went on and on. yes? that's a difficult question to answer. in 1865. the, her family had reached settlements with all of the semi-valid claimants. estate weres of the
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not sold until 1888. but as late as the end of the century, maybe even 1903, there who claimed to have inherited george washington claim to the estate, and the best-selling pieces of the jumel estate, which by then belonged to other people. so he got into quite a bit of legal trouble over that. sales --erms of actual or but in terms of actual sales of the estate, i would say it ended in 1888. in terms of the fights among lawyers, i would say the end of the 1890's. in the back? do you know if that was
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legal, for women to do that? well, themost of, united states then was under common law inherited from english law. this was a bit complicated for notn, because they could purchase property without their husband's consent. he had to give them a power of attorney. the only way they could hold property separately was if it was put in trust for them to be managed by them with the help of the trustee. and some parents actually put land and property in trusts for their daughters before the daughters married. now, widows were in a different situation. being a widow was the most advantageous financial situation for a woman with means, because she could then buy and sell property as a single woman,
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without the consent of any male relative. was much freer as a widow than she would have been as a wife. is that answer? ok. [indiscernible] the intention of burr, it was was after my. why was she planning to get married in the first place? margaret: she wanted a social status that would come from being the wife of a former vice president of the united states.
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she also could not have known was money burr was. it was something that was known within certain circles in new york. lawyers would have known it, because burr was in and out of the courts. people of his social status would have known it, because he would have tried to borrow money from them. but she was not in the loop of those upper-class circles and the gossip that went on, so she could not have known he was he was. be as >> is there any evidence that george washington even knew eliza jumel? margaret: i hate to spoil the were, but let's say there problems with george washington bowen's claim. did raise a lot of talk at
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the time. i'm sorry. i don't want to give away the end. [laughter] know how many people know who he was. i have an attachment to him -- i read through a leather bound set of his diaries. he's a pivotal person in the whening of new york, so he made that comment, were burr or eliza jumel within their social circle?
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margaret: they were not in his social circle. at a number ofed occasions where the new york elite gathered together. parties, a famous costume ball. never showed up on those occasions. they just have not cracked that social circle. in fact, another new yorker who was accepted commented on the marriage. jean pintard. about theote marriage, he started with the words "wonders will never cease." id, -- i can read you what said.
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wonders will never cease. last monday, colonel burr , at herms. jumel elegant country seat in harlem heights. isadded of burr, "he remarkably alert for his years and what he has gone through, ."d can now retire this is a play on a latin expression. withys, burr can retire gentlemanly leisure, but certainly not with the giddy. he clearly thinks this is a very declasse marriage. burr is marrying down. that gives you a feel for what they lies a jumel had to deal with -- and eliza jumel have to deal with. origins,uld forget her until ultimately she lived to the age of 90, people forgot and
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she got what she wanted. other questions? interest in studying -- margaret: i began volunteering at the morris jumel mansion, her former home, now a museum, in february 2011. within a couple months, i gealized she was a fascinatin subject. i got interested first in her a very, who was successful merchant, but really nothing is known about him. started to learn about eliza, and realized there were many legends that could not be true, and other legends that were interesting to explore. from there, i went on to spend
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four years researching and writing this book. heard a veryly small part of eliza jumel's story. there is more. she got into a riproaring battle with her first husband's brother and sister over his estate, which was in chancery for seven years. then there was the story of his trading activities. he was a very clever merchant, trading with france during the napoleonic wars. privateers and naval ships on the waters at that time. there is definitely more to that story. ok. [applause] one more? >> one final question. how close was the relationship with the family?
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she claim she but there furniture and carriages. their furniture and carriages. margaret: the relationship with first grew up a little later, when it became popular to know about napoleon. termss actually on good with some of the people at the court of louis the 18th. this was one of the incongruities that attracted me to the story. she was said to be a supporter of napoleon, but also moved to the court of louis the 18th. there appeared to be a little contradiction, because louis the 18th replaced napoleon. there's also an interseting sentence that her husband wrote to one of his nephews in france. he said, we are going to dieppe
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for the summer, but not until after the coronation. i don't know if that suggests he an eliza may have had invitation to the coronation of charles the 10th of france, who followed louis the 18th. so they did have imperial connections, just not quite the ones you always hear of. . we have -- >> we have a lot of canswered questions, which only be answered if you buy the book. i will be happy to sell it to you. market will be happy to autograph it. thank you for coming today. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every
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weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at cspanhistory. >> the reality is, the best presidents, the greatest presidents have been willing to recognize they are not the smartest person in the room, and surround themselves with people they thought were smarter than themselves. "q&a,,"y night on former secretary of defense and director of the cia robert gates passions his book, "a for leadership." mr. gates served under several presidents, most recently presidents george w. bush and barack obama. >> when i was the director of central intelligence at the and of the cold war, i came to believe very strongly that the american people had given the cia a pass on a lot of things because of this existential conflict with the soviet union,


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