tv The Presidency Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in Conversation CSPAN February 25, 2021 8:00pm-8:52pm EST
haven't raised the minimum wage. thank you all very much. i'll see some of you 2:00. to 15 for the equality act. thank you. up next on the presidency, a conversation between benjamin franklin and thomas jefferson, as portrayed by bill and bill barker. they talk about their roles and shaping revolutionary war era america and the constitutional government produced. moments cello hosted this event and provided the video. >> it's a pleasure to bring you once more to monte cello, but you can see that we have a distinct canvas because we are welcoming through this modern
element of technology and the pursuit of silence, our good friend who has always been at the forefront there upon, benjamin franklin, who is with us from philadelphia. >> good afternoon to you, thomas. >> i am pleased to welcome you here, as are all of our guests. before we begin to receive questions from the moderator, miss alice, who is with us to give us questions, friends, will you allow both dr. franklin and myself to remove our masks? thank you. we have their approval. >> this will not be pretty. >> here we are. >> i've always known you. >> i suppose you were much
younger. i was a bit older when we met. i believe by my count, mr. jefferson, i must be something approaching 37 years older than you or something like that. >> very closely there upon. >> when we met for the second continental congress, i was away for the first. when i checked on that, i believe i was 70 years old, but i believe you or something like 33. something approaching that. >> so you will forgive me by addressing you less formally than mr. jefferson i will call you thomas if that's all right. >> that's quite fine by me, doctor. in fact, you remind me that my
units, in your eyes, continued. because when we created one another again, and i was so taken by your particular reception, continually besieged by -- >> -- >> yes, but then when i asked you whether i can succeed as well to such an attention, do you remember what you said? >> i said you are young. i don't remember referring to you one way or another. >> you said you are still too young, thomas. >> doctor, shall we receive the questions from our friends who have gathered to enjoy the conversation? >> indeed, let's do that. >> if you well, we would like to begin the first questions from our friends. >> thank you. doctor franklin and mr.
jefferson, can you tell us about the circumstances under which you first met and what were your impressions of one another? >> can you start with that, mr. jefferson? >> i cannot forget my very first impression of you, doctor. it was long before we met. it. it seems like i had known you from the earliest days of my youth. when i had the privilege of an education, an oath that took a whole plantation, later at the reverend james classical academy out here in charlottesville, and then finally end of the two ledge of dr. william, your name remained the most consistent. and that's because of the universal knowledge of your creativity, particularly in the field of electricity, and you
were the foremost electrician across the globe, doctor. you were always at the forefront of science, so dedicated to the study, i read extensively upon what you had achieved. i knew you before i admit you. in philadelphia in the spring of 1775, the second continental congress >> i suppose you mentioned william and mary. i was there in 1756 i believe it was, and you probably were not there then. is that correct? >> yes. >> you were a rather young boy at the time. >> at that time i was tending to the latin school. but you had already become known for that visit to the college, because i believe, was that not where the degree -- >> yes. i never got past the second
grade in my formal education, and yet i received six honourary doctorates. we call them honourary, but i earned them. they were for my achievements in science and such. but yes, in one of them, i was proud to say it was william and mary. what's the other one up there? yale? i cannot forget yale. as a wrist styles i remember was the president. i probably left one, out sainte-anne druze, the first one, in scotland, my beloved scotland. anyway, yes, it was a pleasure
meeting you. you were young, already accomplished much in virginia, and i was looking forward to seeing one else you might be able to accomplish. and then we stuck you with writing the declaration. i had been an editor and said i don't want to write anything everyone will chop up. >> you are not the only, one doctor. i am afraid that john adams had a much heavier hand. if you are reflecting on the agrees that were gifted to you, when we first met in philadelphia, i remarked that though i heard you had come to the overall college, that i had attended only two years.
and when we were reflecting upon degrees, you asked me what degree i had received, and i lamented to inform you i had received no degree. a baccalaureate was not common at that time. >> i can give you one of mine. >> i've received some honourary us from yale as well. but i did not graduate either from a collegiate curriculum, doctor. but i find delightful is the fact that the two of us, regardless of that default if you will in the formal education by decree, have both founded collegiate curriculum's yourself, the college in philadelphia. i was working still at the university of virginia. >> the college i started, the
college of philadelphia, which i am told they now call the university of pennsylvania, when it became a university, we started the first medical school in america there. i wrote that a college ought to be, because other colleges were sectarian, involved with churches. i said we need something that's non sectarian and also offers the option of a very practical education. we were turning out lawyers and clergymen, but i thought architects and mathematicians, agricultural people, all sorts of people should have the access of an education like that. >> particularly, the two of us hold in kind of a desire to see the continued pursuit of natural philosophy beyond the realms of scientific investigation.
>> are you a member of our academy? >> it has evolved into -- >> the american philosophical society. >> they say i started that, but the idea was one of our friends, the most imminent naturalist in america, so imminent that he was called one of the great naturalists of the world. >> are we still answering that question? >> i am afraid we are enjoying our own rambling >> i tend to ramble. >> myself as well. had we not passed a happy hour that i would be engaged in this once again. the next question from our friend? >> doctor franklin, you had a
significant role for two decades in presenting the concerns of the colonies before parliament that included advocating for the repeal of the stamp act. explain how the status of the american colonies relative to the mother country changed in those years. >> i was sent to london by the colony of pennsylvania to advocate for their interests. later it was the agent for massachusetts. i met many fine people in the british government, and for many years i was very optimistic about the possibilities. at that time, most of us did not envision independents for the american colonies, but i had written as early as the 17 fifties about a wish for a bit more home rule, that our
decisions should be made not by parliament and by our colonial legislatures. parliament did not control the colonies in the constitution. as i went on in london more and more, my frustration with parliament led me to advocate that pennsylvania become a royal colony rather than a charter colony, as it originally had been. you mentioned the stamp, backhand win the stamp back to his first enacted, in order to recoup their expenses in defending us here in america, it did not concern me so much. and i must confess, i had been in england long enough that i
perhaps lost my finger on the pulse of the colonists, and i think this happens when someone spends too much time away from ones constituency. i would rather enjoy being in london and meeting all the intellectuals of the western world there. i think i underestimated the reaction of the colonists, particularly in a few places, to the stamp act. when i realized that reaction, i began to retaliate against the stamp act. i made the longest speech of my life, never won four speeches, i made it in the parliament to have the stamp act repealed, and it was successfully repealed. but go on, mr. jefferson. >> i wanted to add to this that
meanwhile, back in the colonies, we could not help but here are your extraordinary efforts to introduce the albany act, a particular method to allow our economy in american parliament. that was based upon the iroquois compact. >> yes, the albany plan of union, which i addressed at an albany conference in 1754, it would unite the colonies not in one organic way, but unite the colonies and matters of defense and trade and such, a loose confederation, based on the iroquois confederation. i think you know of the incident, mr. jefferson, where one of the iroquois chiefs, and
trying to put the confederation together, made a very visual illustration of the benefits of that. he took a stick and showed how he could just break that stick. then he tied six sticks together and showed that he could not break them and said this will be the strength of our confederation. . the and so, i certainly felt like -- i felt from very early on that i was a british citizen, i was proud of that but i was not an englishman. i was a british north american and that was a very special, i call this a rising people. i thought that, and i predicted population growth of the american colonies, and i believed that it kept being very accurate and i thought that we would be the center of the british empire eventually, well that did not happen. and so, as politics changed,
there in all, i became increasingly frustrated and so much so, that when i finally left in 1775, there was a warrant out for my hanging, if you will. >> well, you are not the only one with that warrant. in virginia, patrick and myself already had a bounty on our heads. >> in fact, i was so concerned when i left that i made out another will because i was going to be crossing the atlantic with british warships and privateer ships and i was for the first time in that whole conflict, i was concerned for my life. >> your next question please? >> gentlemen, you are both appointed by john hancock, president of the continental congress to the committee to draft a declaration of independence. how did you work together to achieve the final draft of our nation's founding charter? >> well doctor, i remember today, it was you that the four
of us invited to take up the ten first, there was you first! >> i was certainly, as i said, first of all, you were fine writer. you express yourself very well and you worry very favorable temperament, i thought to present these things. i was an editor for many years, you know, i had a newspaper and i did not want to write the declaration of independence. i think, again, deferring to your talents and also knowing that having been an editor, i did not want to be edited. and i knew i would be and i of course, mr. adams did take you to task on a few things. my feeling about it was, there was so much he wanted to say, i didn't really understand that but as an editor, we must focus
on a few things and make it strong and so eloquently, you echoed some people like john and although you changed a bit of his wording an emphasis, and i think you are influenced by probably mr. masons virginia statement of rights and how that was expressed. so, yes. those were my feelings about it. >> and yet, i wished that you know that dr. franklin, more than anyone on that committee and i dare say, more than anyone that i had advantage of in life as a mentor, that doctor franklin helped me to learn words something. rather than using 2025 words to just find a good ten maybe 12 words that would make the statement more profound and provocative, for instance, i remember the beginning of the
second paragraph, i wrote, we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable, that all are born free and independent. it was doctor franklin, it was you sir that said, set us cut to the quickness of jefferson, simply given, we hold these truths. >> self evident! >> that all men are created equal. done! that is your words. >> i did pretty much the same thing, mr. jefferson. but, you know, i found as a writer and again, perhaps i was writing and at times, well, as an editor and as certainly in a more self serving commercial gain, so i had to sell my newspapers with all sorts of different things, but i found that economy upwards, you know, people will sort of begin to slumber a bit if you go on and i don't think one of the
dangers for riders falling in love with one's own words. they are our children, but it is as much as we might think that editing is not killing our children. >> so very true. well doctor, no matter what we collaborated upon, those five on the committee, we had to push that further to our congress. we had to give it to them, and then sit back and say we had no further support because of the proper parliamentary procedure. and >> indeed, our work was done. and i believe that it is probably stood the test of time, don't you sir? >> i believe it has and i'm happy to say indeed, it has. and it has become universal and being the inspiration for untold what would be upwards of 250 declarations of independence of many political
economies, 200 years into the future. >> i don't believe that that was in my mind at the time. i was i think perhaps one who looked to the future more than many of our contemporaries, but i certainly didn't look that far into the future sir. >> miss wagner, your next question for franklin and myself? >> doctor franklin, you mentioned a time as an editor and writer. one of her members of audience wants to know if your time as a printer influence your political career at all? >> oh goodness! well, i suppose it influenced my political career. my political career, justice specifically political risk pretty short-lived, i served as the clerk of the pennsylvania assembly while we were still
colonies here and then later i was elected to the colonial legislature for two times, although i fell into disfavor as anyone who stays long enough guys and was relieved of those duties and i'm grateful for that now. but, it certainly brought me into contact with a lot of people. and it also was more important to me that it really -- being a printer from the age of 12, when i started as a printer with my brother was the most monumental and contributory part of my life, to whom i would become. i -- first of all, it gave me access, i mentioned my limited education two years, being a printer gave me access to perhaps wet one might call an information highway.
i don't know if i may use that term, but i was surrounded by books, i was pointing, booksellers publishing books, i was writing books. first of all, it gave me my education. that and the travel i engaged in later. it also made me enough money that i could -- that the printing and the newspaper, more specifically, that i could engage and i could leave my business -- data data business at the age of 42 and engage in the study of electricity, specifically and other studies. it gave me that and i was able to make a pretty good living as a newspaper publisher but here's a scan angela snowed all interject. i was the british postmaster for the north american colonies, and they didn't pay me much but i was given the privilege,
which meant i could male things free. and so i mailed my newspaper to every one of the american colonies and the pennsylvania case that became the largest circulation newspaper in america. i suspected they put me in jail for that now but at that point, it was illegitimate. but the other thing i did, which as a businessman, i managed to do what you would call franchising. i had set up young men in printing shops all up and down the country and then when i did retire from the day-to-day work, i took into partner my printing shop in philadelphia and i would provide the equipment, the training and take a percentage of the profits for a number of years. and, so i was able to continue to profit from my printing business without going to the office every day and -- so that led to the study of electricity and my published findings and that made me the most well-known american in europe, which led to my
diplomatic career. i had no education and diplomacy. but that made me famous, if you will, in london and paris and so i was the one sent to many of these people, i was the only american they had heard of. so my printing business led to so many things in my life, such that if you asked me today after all those things that i've done, which we will talk about, what's my occupation is, i would gladly say printer. >> mr. jefferson, after the victory of our american revolution, you are commissioned by congress to succeed dr. franklin as ambassador to france. chester would like to know, what did you learn about diplomacy from dr. franklin? >> oh my! doctor franklin just said, you have all heard it that he had no particular, shall we say, call us or instruction in diplomacy and yet, in
representation of our young nation, he was received and not only of the court of lewis and france, put through all the kingdoms of europe as the man. the man in nature. we recall this doctor. >> modesty forbids mr. jefferson. >> no it was are extraordinary! the policy almost painted the most marvelous portrait of you, sir, with the heavy coat and the four color and a fur hat as well and its title was, the man, man in nature. >> you know you mentioned that you succeeded me, and i want to give you a bit of a compliment sir because i was not the president at this particular conversation, but i did hear later that someone asked you if you were there to replace dr. franklin and you said, no one can replace dr. franklin. i am merely his successor or something to that effect.
and i thought that was the most gracious thing to say and it says a lot about you, tom. >> i can only tell you that video door and i will only carry into time that you cannot be replaced. and, well i can assure you that when i first that foot on the soil of france and by the way, i was littered by terrible seasickness, it remained with new me for an entire year, if you recall doctor, many question whether i could succeed, doctor franklin. i felt that i fell into a well court of humility of myself, most humble indeed! how i could possibly a sustain the most remarkable representation of dr. franklin. and if you remember doctor, right after we voted on our declaration of american
independence, our new congress of our nation, there in philadelphia actually commissioned the two of us and me to be cohen or is of our young nation and i cannot go. our new commonwealth of virginia required me to continue to work on the constitution of virginia, and you may remember, now i was so concerned about the health of -- ice >> i certainly do and we all wish do very well and understood why you couldn't. >> it was mr. dean, stylist enough connecticut who went and accompanied me. but sir, who are the one. you are the one who became renowned. >> well yes, you were -- had, say virginia was happy to see their. not so much mister lee, who i apparently tended to poison the congress against my efforts there, writing back to his brothers, but i suppose the
less said about that better. well doctor, every one of us have had those are nemesis who are determined to force us into a rears, as you know general washington was caught in that and yet, what helps us to succeed doctor, would you deny is very simply, character. good character. and when i heard you say that you brought so many in as apprentices to acquaint them with printing, to be able to engage the spread of enlightenment doctor, the entire world has become your apprentice and the pursuit of enlightenment, in the pursuit of liberty and in pursuit of what constitutes good character. i have to say this because for certain, that humility that i encountered when i first arrived in france, could only
be persuade by following the footsteps of such great men, as doctor benjamin franklin. >> you're much too kind mister jefferson, but i do appreciate that. >> in 1787, when the constitutional convention met in paris, doctor franklin played a central role once you're jefferson, you were still in paris, can you tell us about some of your discussions about the framing of the constitution? doctor, you were there. >> i was there, indeed. we were all supposed to keep things a secret while we were, there although understand mr. madison may have some correspondence with you about it. is that correct? >> with a constant correspondence with mr. madison, and he continues to enlighten me upon many different subjects.
the most luminous mind i have ever known save for yours, sir. >> certainly, a most admirable man who had the mind of, a wonderful mind, and a wonderful manner about him. , he was not an intrusive person, but you always knew what he was thinking. it was a wonderful thing. in fact, as i recall, i understand that, i know you are friends, i understand that the capital is determined that the capital will move from philadelphia to that swamp somewhere south of here. i believe that's partly in virginia, is it not? >> partly in virginia.
>> you had a hand in determining that, i heard. you end mr. hamilton? >> you had to get the nation's new capital city out of the urban markets. we had to get as far away as we possibly could. you remember the constitutional convention. i certainly was not there, but general hamilton was incessant and his idea that the new federal government under our constitution is stronger. ande retired though, mr. jefferson, but sir, you know, hamilton scheme was considered to be an amelioration between the small states and the larger states and from what i remember in correspondence what mr. madison that was the great concern of the constitutional convention. how would the smaller states continue india in association with larger states? the larger states would overwhelm them.
i'm i suppose hearing what you say about the one of the reasons for moving it. i suppose i'm comforted to know that in the future that the united states larger states. >> i suppose hearing what you say about one of the reasons for moving, i suppose i am comforted to know in the future that the united states capital will not be influenced by markets or urban affairs or anything else. we will continue to be in this quiet spot. i >> we are 100 miles removed from the ocean. the rapids, the fault lines. >> general washington will be happy about that. >> very much so. it is located into small towns, which i think he had visited.
they are on the north bank of alexandra. >> great towns. speaking of your thoughts about the constitution, i know i brought up mr. hamilton. one thing that really concerned you was the fact that there was a potential for the executive to stay in office for a considerable length of time. i just wanted to hear from a president serving for life based on good behavior, but didn't you say something about having people who are just continuing in office? >> precisely, sir. it would be no difference than the prerogatives of nobility and monarchy. it was about this time, if you remember, when you are still in france, we had discussed the
continual tyrannies that would result from allowing anyone in office over to long a period of time. this is one of the reasons why in about 1786, you returned to our nation. i acquired for myself, and have it right here, a seal, a watch seal, upon which are my and michelin. your great statement, rebellion is reduced to god. remember? that >> yes indeed i do. i think the potential of tyranny is always present, no matter what system.
i still believed that, certainly, while general washington was with us, as long as he will continue to be with us, i was concerned about tyranny in the highest office. but none of us will be around forever and it's a concern. >> i am pleased to inform you that the general did not want to stand as a second term. i had to visit him at mount vernon and convince him. after he did successfully stay on for another four years, he set a precedents of only eight years in the office of the chief magistrate. and i was the first to be able to follow it in kind. doctor, when we speak of the first, i know enough of would i've heard of that
constitutional convention that when it was discussed to ought to stand as the first president of our nation, you were the one that came up in conversation more than any other. >> do i need to tell you why that's not going to happen? i would be happy to. i have several reasons if you have enough time. first of all, when general washington took his oath of office, i was already 83 years old. i was not in the best of health. i had never been an executive of anything, and never wanted to start being an executive. everyone wanted general washington. there is probably reasons that i could go on with about why it was never meant to be the chief
executive of this country. >> doctor, you are most gracious. >> i was the governor of pennsylvania, briefly, but that's it. >> the next question? >> steven would like to know both of your thoughts on the institution of slavery. >> doctor, as you know, i am the one who continues to oversee what cannot be denied as the most barbarous institution. >> a stain upon america. did you not say that, sir? >> i did, and how well you understand. >> i am not guiltless myself in that regard, not nearly on the scale you are talking. but i am not guiltless. >> i will tell you that history
shall be harsh, though trying to promote a future emancipation of this practice, i am not succeeding. >> you said it's like holding a wolf by its ears, i believe? >> the pope made a statement about slavery during his time in the ancient world. you hold justice in one hand while you hold in the other your livelihood. we talked about slavery many times in philadelphia, first and 1725. you yourself had already begun a slave emancipation society, even though as you inferred earlier, you own slaves. >> i suppose i was never as invested in the institution,
certainly of the livelihood of the situation, and i know you inherited that. let me talk about slavery, because i cannot sweep it under the rug and i do not choose to. i did hold a few household slaves for some years. i began to change. it was certainly my good friend anthony here in philadelphia who influenced me in this, and i was also influenced in london by samuel johnson who exposed me to a school for young negro children, as we called them at the time.
i began to see both and mr. johnson and later in my own neighborhood, these children, if given the opportunity, are every bit as intelligent and capable as the white children. we grow up under the myth that these people who were of a different species practically, and not the same sentiment being that we are. and so when i began to see that, that that was false, i could no longer consider holding people in bondage. it just would not work for me, and i honestly believed that what happens in that evolution of thought is when one sees and
accept the fact that this is not property, these are human beings, exactly like us, only in different circumstances, one cannot justifiably continue to engage in holding people and bondage. that's the evolution of my thought and i also wrote in my newspaper a satirical article about the ridiculous thought of holding slaves. i reversed it once i wrote about a sultan in the far east who was holding englishman and americans in bondage and seeing how the other shoe would work. then later, in my recent years,
despite the agreement we made in the constitution, to not talk about the issue of slavery for 20 years, i had to write a letter to congress on behest of the quaker's in philadelphia to take up the question of, excuse me, of abolition. those have been my thoughts over the years. >> and doctor franklin, as we have been speaking about, was it not one of the most remarkable compromises to realize, though bound by heaven and customs and particular laws of the time, and particular the year of 1787, and creating if you will the electoral system for the office of the chief magistrate, recognizing the balance between the small states and larger states and creating slavery, three fifths of an individual, which is an
abomination. >> that will give you an expert lecture. >> the point of the matter being that we realize our constitution is open to amendment. though that might be present and bound by generations of these laws, that it does not mean it must remain the custom and law for the future. our constitution must be amended. how often we discussed. a child of 14 cannot wear the same clothes at the age of 40. our institutions must grow as we grow as a people. that's a deference to enlightenment upon the subject to construct the constitution that will grow as we grow as a people. >> i felt that i was not of a mind to lead that convention without a constitution.
i knew it would not be perfect. it could not possibly be perfect and have nine states ratify it, sir. but i was heartened by the fact that it was a process of amendment, and yet it was not something that we could just do every other day. it was not the easiest process, but i have faith in that evolution of thought, in that evolution of justice american character, if you will. that it would be addressed. i also knew that, you know when you pick something down the road, you are going to trip over it when you get there and i fear, and feared then that this issue would not go away. and that given the fast differences about it that there was every fear of just tearing this new nation apart.
>> gentlemen, i'm afraid we are running out of time. if you could just share with us a last couple thoughts about your hope of your future for the nation? >> doctor franklin, if you will, my hopes and thoughts for the future of our nation or that so much of what you accomplished may continue to live on, that we will continue to be devoted to your sincere and deep attachment to the pursuit of science as a reconciliation for anything nature hurdles against us that might be a detriment to our further pursuit of happiness and particularly, the maintenance of our health, that your interest to continue to pursue the enlightenment of the family of man, not only in our nation, but across the globe may continue of jealous attachment, that our nation can be at the forefront of such
universal enlightenment. and, in particular, that your university of pennsylvania will continue. the findings that you will devoted to an institution, say a franklin institute may continue to provide an emporium where people can go and realize what you have provided for the future and happiness of mankind. that newspapers will continue to inform demand to be their own charges of what they read and the newspapers. in order to have that knowledge, and to have that foundation of fact, because as you well know, the true competition of newspapers is which newspaper will have the facts first and they might, thereby provide the appropriate food for their representatives in the future.
hi there say, i could go on and on and on for my hopes for the future as vested in the great opportunity and friendship to know doctor benjamin franklin. do you sir with whom -- as always, you are the last word. >> may i just say my hopes for the future, sir, briefly. i know you could go on and on, but i just want to say that i will endorse everything you have said, mr. jefferson, and i will also add that i hope this country will continue to be wet it has been for me. the son of a candle maker with a limited formal education, the opportunity to become what one needs to become. i hope that is always there, as it's been for me in this country and, this city of philadelphia, the opportunity to find my place in the world
to create my place in the world, not simply to find it but to create it and i hope that everyone in this new nation will have the opportunity that i've had to educate oneself and to have the finest education that one can have and to be a contributing force in this country and to pursue the happiness that you described so eloquently in that document and thank you very much, it has been my sincere and the pleasure to engage in this conversation with you, thomas. >> my pleasure as well. citizens i think for the opportunity that we have been able to welcome doctor franklin our company today. particularly to thank miss alice wagner for being with us to engage your questions. we look forward to visit with
you again and rest assured doctor, we remain, to we, not your humble and obedience servants. >> indeed we do, thank you. weeknights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. friday night, frederick dog lace, an american life is a 1985 national park surface biography, the former slave an abolitionist. the film was directed by william greens, an african american filmmaker and producer who created a variety of fiction and nonfiction films from the 1960s to that 2000s.
watch friday night, beginning at 8 pm eastern and enjoy american history every weekend on c-span 3. >> up next on the presidency, the friendship between thomas jefferson and benjamin franklin with philip position, the associate editor at yale university's papers of franklin brought tremaine project. and provided the video. >> good afternoon everyone. welcome to another installment. this week, we're focusing on the relationship between thomas jefferson and benjamin franklin and it's my pleasure today to moderate this live stream posted and we are going to be talking with philip ziesche. i'm really excited to have philip as our guest today, i'm