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tv   First Ladies Influence Image  CSPAN  April 8, 2013 9:00pm-10:30pm EDT

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e-mails and tweets. coming up later former secretary of state and first lady, hillary clinton.
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>> hope became something of a shine to her husband. she would invite anybody who wanted to to come visit and see the object i had collected through their political career. >> to live there for many years on her own. during the civil war, generals on both sides would come and visit her to get the -- to pay respects. an interesting commentary on what beloved status she held. >> she was honest about her husband's work. she went to every post she could go to with him. she went through the arduous journey. she was very well-liked in the diplomatic community. they met all kinds of people. friends and enemies and others. they had to make things work. they were very experienced people. they were more sophisticated than what is around them. she felt that women should develop their mind and cultivate
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scholarship as much as men. groundbreaking at that point in our history for a first lady to do. >> today, first ladies have causes, literacy and reading would have been abigail fillmore's cause. this bookshelf was of the first white house library. being in aeferred room with a good book to standing in a receiving line making mindless chatter. >> abigail was a wonderful seamstress. we do have her quilt here. a very colorful quilt. truee was one of the intellectuals. she loved reading. she was very caught up on politics and very much liked being a part of all the cultural accoutrements that came with living in washington. >> welcome to c-span series " first lady's influence and image your co."
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in this we will meet three first ladies. they served during the 1840's and early 1850's as tensions continue to grow over the issue of slavery. to introduce us to sarah polk emma margaret taylor, and abigail fillmore, we have two historians. an author and historian in historic preservation. historian and legal scholar based at albany law school, the author of a biography of millard fillmore. welcome to both of you. james k. polk is sometimes knownbed as the least influential president. would you agree with that and why? >> is certainly not are well- known, and he is certainly important. when he was nominated for president, he had no public office. he had twice lost the governorship of tennessee. before that he had been a one
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term governor, and before that a member of congress. he was a lawyer, practicing law in tennessee. he was what is known as the dark horse candidate. he had hoped to get the vice president's nomination, that is what he was pushing for. and suddenly, out of nowhere polk is the presidential nominee. most people don't know who he is. he becomes president and almost immediately puts us in a position to have a war with mexico. he pushes for the war. he is prepared to declare war on ,exico, and sends troops including zachary taylor, who will be the next president, he to thechary taylor mexican border in an area that is completely disputed at all international asset belongs to mexico. polk says it is american land. taylor's troops are there, he goes to his counted and they vote on a saturday afternoon to ask for a declaration of war against mexico.
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a message, he gets because it takes a long time to get information from mexico to washington. that night he gets a message that taylor's troops have been in combat. he rewrites his message to congress, saying, american troops have been killed on american soil. abraham lincoln would later give a speech in which he would say, show us the spot where it took place. it was not on american soil. he gets us into war in mexico. it also means the complete blowup of all the compromises and cushions the country headlong into what would ultimately be secession and civil war. but we don't know anything about him. >> his wife is also, frequently when you do modern struggle surveys of influential first ladies, she is always in the top tier. always. >> why? she was truly >> a political partner with her husband. they did not have children at a
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time when women were expected to be mothers and hearth and home, the keepers of the faith. she was very much her husband's political equal and his partner. she never went too far within the boundaries of what a proper victorian or early victorian lady should be in the 19th century. that everyone knew that they shared an office in the private apartments. she was active in discussions at the many state dinners they had. and he would ask her to mark newspapers and articles for him to read. she was a sounding board. franklin pierce before he became president, told her husband that he would much rather talk politics with sarah polk then with james polk. and yet, the women of the time excepted her. she was very highest, very religious.
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a strict presbyterian. she did not allowed to go white house. she got little -- rid of hard liquor. but i had wine and brandy with they had.nt dinners she was not a prude, but very much a woman who knew what she wanted and that her rules out and everyone had to play according to those rules. she was respected for it. she was very popular. >> to introduce you to the we will takes, you to the polk ancestral home. the house they lived in together no longer exist. but this historic site contains much of the history of the family. we will take you there next. this is the inaugural fan. an incredible piece of history. it was a gift from president , sarah.his wife she carried it with her on day of his inauguration. it is guilt paper -- gilt paper
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with foam styles and lithographic images of the first 11 presidents from washington all the way through james k polk. with her allt throughout the inauguration in the spring of 1845. the back is as beautiful as the front and features a lithographic image of the declaration of independence. the whitecame into house, a young, vibrant couple amidst a democratic party that was widely split. james k. polk said he would run for a single term only and then step down. sarah polk used the white house to enhance her husband political prestige. dining in their white house was a serious affair. twice a week, on tuesdays and fridays, mrs. polk would entertain 50-75 people coming to dinner. the china that they used was beautiful. it is considered some of the most beautiful of the white house china. it features the presidential seal embossed along the side,
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the dinners that is white embossed with gold. they had a tea set that was blue and a dessert set in green. she did not allow alcohol in the white house, her presbyterian upbringing precluded that. that is not exactly the case. she stopped the serving of whiskey punches, but mine was one of their largest goals during their years there. in more interesting objects the collection, speaks to sarah and her ability with music am a we have a music book that has handwritten notations. one of the songs featured inside is the song hail to the chief, which she is credited with starting as the official presidential anthem during her time as first lady. >> a moment to ask about that. there is a little controversy between our last program with the tylers, who are also claiming that they introduced " hail to the chief." onthere a definitive answer that jacko >> i won't touch it. [laughter] [laughter]
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>> it came about in the 1840's it is possible that the tylers used and the pokes -- polks and confirmed its use. it is silly to worry about something about that. there are so many more important is to talk about. >> you drew the contrast with juliet tyler who brought dancing to the white house. who ended her brief tenure by throwing a huge party as they left the white house. was sarah polk more in touch with the times? -- it has been called an imperial presidency. meaning that the couple fought the office of the presidency and the white house as the official executive president -- residents needed to be highly respected. protocol andormal
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so on. it was a very liberal approach. you could come with an introduction to any of their receptions. polk was a democrat. at the same time, they were well dressed, there were more formal dinners. there were multiple courses. it was considered an honor to be at the white house. said,lly, sarah polk dancing at the white house is not dignified. >> she was known for frugality. the president making a $25,000 a year salary, and expenses for the what has huckabee paid out of that. how was her frugality seen by washington and the public? reorganized the staffing at the white house. she was very well organized. what she did was hired a steward. they brought in their own servants and got rid of some of
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the paid that the white house. she then got her steward to cut deals with the various vendors, grocers, and so on in the washington area. if they give them significant discounts, they would give them the royal seal, as it were. >> endorsement? [laughter] >> it is the american version of that. if you want us to buy all of your roles for all of our white house dinners, which were a lot, then you'll have to give us a discount. it worked. they were very frugal in that way. during the entire time they were married. >> just to clarify, she brought in her own servants, these were slaves. ownedas about to say, she those servants. that is important to understand. that they come from very wealthy circumstances and our
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slaveowners and bring a lot of assets with them. again, they can afford to be president, just as john tyler can afford to be president. >> we have a quote from her, i would like to have you put this into context. so writes -- if i can be fortunate as to reach the white house, i expect to live on $25,000 a year and i will neither keypads nor make utter -- keep house opr make butter." >> like hillary clinton the cookies. someoneontext of it, said, i think i will vote for the race,nt in because they say his wife keeps a good house. and makes her own butter. that was sarah's retort. on the she did live $25,000 a year and did not keep house. she ran the house. she did not make butter. she made sure that utter was
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made efficiently and the place was run well. slave mistresses don't make butter must they enjoy the handicraft of making butter. it is important to see this love for sarah polk and for margaret taylor. >> i want to tell folks that this is an interactive program. we are working facebook comments and tweets in already. we also want to take your telephone calls. who put the phone number on the screen and began taking your phone in questions as well throughout our program here. the three first ladies we are featuring in this part of the series. ellen madison has been -- dolly madison has been part of our series -- this is her last hurrah. what was her role with the polk white house jacko >> she had come back to washington. sarah polk and dolly became very close. and sarahor to sarah
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fed her. >> which was important because she was very broke. pre-k's she treated her as the honored her in their entertainment. firstere the two war ladies. war of 1812 in the mexican war. there are many parallels between the two. , the sense ofelf fashion, the understanding the role of the first lady and sort of, of the -- indirect that would support her residency. it is not easy to be a first lady during war. you were many detractors as the war went on. polk went in and said i will do the following things in four
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years, and he did. the first time we have photography. and we have a fabulous photograph to show you on screen right now. which brings together a number of these characters all in one place. dollyre the polks, madison is the second from the right with her turbine. and we have an opportunity here served asriet lane, white house hostess later on areas and sarah polk and dolly madison and james k. polk. photography as a political tool, how do politicians absorb this new technology and begin to use it for their benefit? >> they are just beginning to figure this out. you really don't get it until and maybe the 1860 election when photography is everywhere. now it is almost a novelty. it is not all that terrific.
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you have to sit for a long time. it is not a single shot in the picture is there. you have to sit there rigidly and not move while the photograph is being taken. they are moving toward photography. much more important than photography is the very andisticated line of type art in newspapers. you have wonderful campaign posters being done. currier ofruns, currier and ives does a campaign poster for his opponent. with a picture of henry clay. they are using that kind of technology. photography you probably want to save for the fillmore's and beyond. >> we also have the first known photograph of the white house areas we will show it next.
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we are working with the white house historical association throughout the series. as we look at this white house sarah polk brought some innovations to the white house. central heating and gas lighting. >> she didn't actually bring them. [laughter] let's say they arrived. central heating and asked lighting, she didn't hold out when they put in the gaslight and insisted the oval room of the white house be left with candlelight. when they turned on the gas light, when they shut it down for the light, the whole white house went dark. the oval room was still lit with the beautiful candlelight. there were experiments. it ultimately failed the presidential family a lot of money. they had to keep the white house out of that $25,000 salary. these efficiencies did come in,
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starting with the polks. >> central heating in the white house must've been a great innovation. >> it must've been a joke. [laughter] i don't think you would have been very warm. >> other than the alternative. >> got it. >> you wonder, the nice warm fireplace in the right room keeps that will -- room warm. what you are getting at, which is always true for the white house, for every presidency, is that technology is going to change the way president campaign, the way they betray themselves and the way presidential families live. notice, by the way, you just had a picture of him sitting there. that is what you had to do when you are getting a photograph taken. i just saw a picture of john kennedy giving a speech with his fist in the air. you can almost see his fist shaking in the photograph. you can do that here.
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>> not as much sense of personality in the us photographs. >> we get a bad sense of personality. that these people are absolutely stiff and frozen and have no personality. they are dead. >> it is daybreak to keep them still. >> they are not smiling. it would be too hard to smile that long. >> the question from twitter -- what was sarah's educational background that allowed her to be so politically savvy and an equal to her famous husband? >> her father was a great leader in educating women. she and her older sister were educated at academies in murphysboro, nashville, and then he sent them to the salem academy in winston-salem. today.ollege 500 miles away. it took him a month to get there. they were there for two years. she was unusually well-educated for her time.
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i think that atmosphere encouraged her to speak her mind and participate in discussions. she grew up in a political household. >> next question on twitter -- we will answer by video. dave murdoch asked -- let's watch this video. with youill talk about this, because you have done some work on her downs. let's watch. -- gowns. let's watch. >> hauser looked was important looked wasow sarah important to her and how she was perceived by the public. theas also a reflection on presidency itself. she was known for having beautiful dresses and looking incredible in a white house that was equally beautiful. the blue dress was purchased in and worn by her
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late in the administration. it is basically a robe. undressed dress costume of a first lady if she was taking visitors before she was properly dressed. the white dress is a ballgown, also made in paris, france. 1840's. fashion for the the cat in the center. a stylesheet used again and again. we get the indication she found a style she liked and kept with it. it is a beautiful gown in silk and satin. a great deal of lace attached, as well. always the frugal woman that she was, she often purchased dresses and would buy a great deal of material to go along with them so she could enhance them and change the way they look. instead of having to buy five or six gallons, she would buy a and change -- gown, them. she had a wonderful collection .f handbags and purses
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her jewelry was of the american mode in the 19th century. it was thought to be un-american for women to wear precious gems and semi precious stones. you would wear gold and silver, french paste and enamelware. her headdresses were unusual. only a few have survived from this time. because they are made out of silk and satin and tend to get worn out. we have a wonderful collection of headdresses. one unusual piece, a turbine. by the 1840's which probably would have fallen a little bit out of fashion. sarah polk may be adopted that style after dolly madison. >> the author of this cover story in the white house history magazine, published by the white house historical association, showing that you have done a lot of work on sarah polk's approach to fashion and what it symbolized. what can you tell us the bikes she had a well-established
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sense of style from her childhood. during the white house years, she dressed elegantly for evenings and receptions. they sentmer of 1847, an order to paris for some downs for the first lady. it was not the usual style. all the invoices arrived, and so did the gallons, which is amazing. which is amazing. the top designers in paris were asked to make some gowns are the first lady. this is usually done by a commercial agent that they had. he got the order and immediately found his good friend, "good friend", when around the paris shops and --nd and made three downs gowns.
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one at the smithsonian, the pink one, and the blue gown survive. it was very unusual for her. , lots ofr for clothes accessories, about $450. order in 1811's cost $2000. to give you an idea. the pink gallantly saw had more more-- gown you saw had lace on it. the others were about $25, made by seamstresses in washington. the fabric would've an extra. >> she was trying to find that sweet spot between frugality and image. >> she did so so well. everyone said she was beautifully dressed, had been full deportment. she carried herself like a lady, acted like a lady and was very gracious.
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>> at the same time we are learning about sarah polk and her modern approach to being a political partner, what is happening to women out large and united date? -- states? what is going on with women overall? at a beginning to ask for more power in society? >> the people in seneca falls are. it is important to have some perspective on what is happening to women at this time. for most american women, not much is changing and being asked. the most important changes for women, the cutting edge of women in politics, is coming out of the antislavery movement. whohave thousands of women are politically active, really for the first time in american history. starting in the 1830's, the great petition campaign. thousands of petitions show up in washington, asking congress to do things like not annexed texas.
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it was seen as a great slave conspiracy, which it was. end slavery and the district of columbia. many of these were gathered by women, and many women sign these petitions. what you get is women actively participating in politics to change america for the better. the other great women's movement is the temperance movement. they are active in movements to prevent prostitution. these are things that are close to what would be considered domesticity for women, but is outside the house. it is in the public space. ammann like sera polk with the exception of temperance, would have been appalled at what these women were asking for. eventually, by 1848, someone in
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and a few men, such as frederick douglass, are asking for the right to vote for women. that is a long time in coming. it is beginning at this time. >> headers on the phone from jackson,, mississippi. what is your question? who ranld like to know against james k. polk when he was running for president and did sarah polk play the part? runsk once again -- against replay from kentucky. clay had run twice again before this. he thinks it is his turn. he expects it will be a cake walk ammann because nobody has heard of jim spoke. he makes a number of mistakes during the campaign, and in the end, in a very close vote, clay loses to cope -- polk. oddly enough, he carries [polk's
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home state are. >> the issue of a presidential campaign at that time, very different from what we see today. a wrapper forred the candidate to be called to office. -- proper for the candidate to be called to office. active campaigning went to state offices like the governor. the candidates did not show up at the nominating conventions., afterwards when the were drafted and accepted the nomination, air with letters and the editor, but very little stump -- no stopping at all. sarah was her husband's campaign manager for his congressional campaign and gubernatorial campaign. during the presidential campaign, it was very much,
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basically, whatever you do they say, don't say anything. >> when he ran for congress, he would tend the district. he ran for governor three times, -- wentonce and one all all over the state of tennessee. one wonders what was going on >> next is a question from mary in little rock. hi, mary. somewhere that barbara bush is related to the polks and she used their dinner her and george bush was in the office. is that true? >> i don't know. good question. >> as our series progresses, as we get it barbara bush, we'll that question for you. we'll go back in time and learn about how that political together.p came you told us sarah polk was from a wealthy family in tennessee. she and james polk meet? >> they ran in the same circles.
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probably through -- either through andrew jackson or through her own father's family. polk went to the -- graduated from the university of north then went into law and studied in nashville and the legislature and they met there or they met jackson's because the polk girls were often at the jackson's home. certainly jackson is known or we think that he advised polk to marry her. this is who you need as a wife, he would say. commonly said that she told polk she wouldn't marry him unless he ran for course he did of and he won and they were married in 1824. so andrew jackson played something of a matchmaker here? he and his wife did not have children of their own and had many, many different young took they jackson would write to sarah and
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call her "my daughter." >> and patricia on facebook it true that a nickname for sarah polk was the spanish madonna? yes. >> where did that come from? >> she had extremely dark hair and olive skin and they thought european, exotic. >> the jacksons had no children james k. polk had no children. what was the impact of being from housework and not having to do that and her political become a partner? >> i think they breezed into that through the years when they tolized they weren't going have children. by the same token, they spent a lot of time with nieces and nephews and sarah, as first lady, brought her nieces into to help her with entertaining and returning calls because she did not return calls. as first lady, she did not it,
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which was a change in tradition. but and then when of course she was a widow, she had a niece and lived with her. >> can i also add, had they had she would have had slaves who would have raised the children who would have done all who woulds and slaves have been wet nurses when the children were infants so the notion of the burden of families for someone like sarah polk than,be very different say, when we talk about abigail fillmore who is a woman of means and those raise her own children without the help of of slaves to do the work for her. >> so sarah and james come to here in washington. what is washington like at that time and how involved was she in to congressional debates? very actively
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involved. his first term without her and never tried that like because she didn't being left alone at all. it was at that time he lived in boarding house and several different elected officials lived together and shared meals and they did that for years until he became speaker and then they had to apartments but she attended the sessions of congress. very, very attentive to theissues of the day, and elected members of congress who were in the mess with her knew tuned in very congressional wife. >> james k. polk makes it to speaker of the house. how did that happen? >> politicking. i mean, he's a very good politician in the house. the first time he runs for speaker of the house, he loses. and he loses to a man who would 1860,run for president in
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aroundn in the next time he manages to win. part of it has to do with jacksonian politics. polk is jackson's man in the house of representatives and so when jackson has a strong house, polk gets to be speaker of the house. throughout ourugh history seen the ascendancy of the presidency and the ascendancy of congress. at this point in our history, which branch of government has more power? would say congress. >> so being the speaker was important? >> being the speaker -- now, asng the speaker is not powerful as being president and we should understand that. terms of the politics of isrica, more, i think, happening in congress than in .he presidency andrew jackson is an extraordinarily strong and pushes thesident who envelope of the presidency and really alters the dynamics of the presidency for his presidency. johnverts back, say, when
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tyler becomes president. he's a very weak president. being speaker of the house was important just as it's important today. from thisds like quote that sarah polk had a view of this when her husband was in the role. here's what she wrote -- "the speaker, if the purpose person and with the correct idea of his position, has even more influence over legislation and theirecting the policy of parties, than the president." says she. polk -- particularly when he became president was a powerful president. waging war, he pulled a lot of power into the executive branch, but henry clay the one we all think of as building the job of the speaker the house, the man who ran for president forever. but through the years the speaker's job grows, the in power. grows it ebbs and flows, the balance
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to the wholehe key thing in that nobody ever just completely runs away with it and so that could not happen. >> our next video demonstrates the role of sarah polk as the is reallyveling desk indicative of sarah's life with k. polk mainly has his help mate. james k. polk had no staff politician or president of the united states. withraveling desk she took her on the long trips to washington, d.c. as a congressman, they traveled to washington in trips that could take 30 days and she's of communicating with family and friends back home which means she wrote tens of hersands of letters during lifetime so the traveling desk is indicative of communication
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in the time period. portraits are painted by ralph earl when james and sarah washington as congressman and lady. sarah was a help mate to him through the his political career. when he was writing speeches, he would get her opinion and she for her.tique them daily she would read the newspapers and underline to read.for him she was a regular fixture in the gallery in congress and this is speeches of to hear politicians like henry clay and john calhoun giving their greatest speeches in the time period and she was in the middle of all of it, very much a part career so 14cal years a member of the house of representatives, last four of those the speaker of the house, the only speaker to become president, which brings with it status inl of social washington, d.c. and sarah very much played the part of one of the official hostesses in washington. typically, congress would enact a memorial to the outgoing house officially thanking him for his service.
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when james k. polk left congress to run for governor of tennessee, the congress was so refused to do that but in the newspapers a number of politicians wrote poems in time shesarah at the left. one was united states supreme court justice joseph story who a lengthy poem lamenting the loss of sarah polk to society.n >> today we would be amazed at a speaker of the house stepping down to run for governor. did he decide to do this? >> i think because being speaker is something that you didn't do for a really long time in those days. congressional careers are often short in the 19th century and inee or four terms washington is probably enough. again, think of the arduous task to washingtong from tennessee, once or twice a year. work, a lot of effort, and being the governor is somewhat easier. it's probably less expensive. are home and being the
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governor is a good way to build career for the vice presidenty or presidency. what polk's eye is on is the presidency. think he could be president. he could be vice president. >> next, the vice president next. >> and the pathway to the white house? >> the vice presidency is not a to the whitehway house. since thomas jefferson, only martin van buren had made it as and tyler did only because of the death of the president. >> sandy is watching from new new castle, delaware. question is, what did sarah think about slavery and a kind slave master? the -- james k. polk in his will made an expression that he
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shed that when she died would manument their slaves. theirturned out, she sold plantation before the civil war slavery was not forefrontught to the during -- either in this marriage or during his administration. it became much more critical with the administrations that follow polk. >> i think in some ways that's not true. >> go ahead. of america from the 18 30's to the 1860's is swirling around slavery all the time. the opposition to the mexican starts and which we did not have to have, the inosition to the mexican war part comes from northerners who see it as a vast conspiracy to mexico so that slave owners can have someplace to go southerners say as much. they say we want mexico because
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we want a place for slavery to slavery is on the table. the reality is. the polks are slave owners, they opposed to slavery. they like being slave owners. slave owner is very good for the polks and i suspect that she treated her slaves as kindly or as unkindly as was necessary to get the labor and the support the slaves that she wanted. heath in franklin, tennessee, your question. of mine is a nephew of general lucious polk. he served with general patrick to get thend tried petitioned the confederate government to end slavery and get fight forericans to the south. he was wounded several times during the war and at some point was sent behind lines and
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columbia, stay in he would, and klanually run the ku klux out of murray county but sarah somehow, keptrd, him from going to union prison any other confederate prisoner would have been sent to union prison camps. i heard she was afforded power the union people just respected her so much. >> heath, thank you. because our jump in time is short and it's important to say james k. polk announced a one-term president and we will get to your question comese the civil war does and sarah polk is a widow. how long does james k. polk live after leaving the white house. >> three months. >> three months. and so what happens to sarah and especially during the civil war? >> she becomes a widow.
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widows weave for the she diedears until practically at the age of 88 and the house they purchased and fixed up for retirement was a shrine for her husband. she was reclusive, only went to church,but received people. during the civil war, she did not take sides. came to her and said the union is coming into the city, what should i tell the general and she said, you may tell him i am at home so he came to call and the confederates and the union troops respected her. she did not take sides. was completely neutral and she isolated herself into that prior to the civil war. people put their artifacts in polk place to preserve them but she just went
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right on through and she earned great deal of respect for that. >> from both sides? both sides. >> you have any more comments to add to this period? contrast ofthat the course would be with president tyler who becomes a member of confederate government having once taken an oath to support the constitution of the that sensees so in the contrast i think with sarah polk was revealing. jenny standard weber on facebook who apparently portrays docent in canton, ohio. mrs. polk lived more than 40 years as a widow. did she continue to be involved after the president died? >> no, she did not. she would speak about her husband's time. any honors that were sent to her, she accepted on behalf of his memory. was conversant with what was going on but not an active political player. we have one more video from the polk era.
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watch. >> james k. polk was a promised one-term president. as such, after four years, james and sarah polk were going to were innd while they washington still in the white house, as they were outfitting house as part of that restoration, they took the opportunity to purchase things home in place, that nashville they were going to retire into. they purchased all of the placehings for polk through alexander stewart's shop in new york city and they picked finest american furniture made at the time. they are rose wood framed with so we have gentlemen's chairs and sofas. the side chairs, they had 33 of them. we have 18 remaining of the original set so they would ring the room with little chairs so would have guests and bring them into the room. we have interiors of what it taken like probably around the time of her death in 1891 and the house is still theyd with objects collected throughout their political lives together.
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unfortunately for james k. polk, three months after leaving the white house and sarah began a 42-year widowhood. every new year's day she opened polk place and held a levy for legislature as a body. polk place became something of a shrine to her husband and she invite anyone who wanted to to come for a visit and see the objects they collected throughout their long and illustrious political career. >> patricia lynn scott on writes, "when i visited nashville, i was amazed at the plaques that recognized the polk thatoffice of .ere razed why would they allow those down?"gs to be torn >> progress. i worked in historic over 40 years. if we didn't need to preserve history, i wouldn't be in the field. the polk home was torn down in
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nashville and the great niece kept the artifacts together until they could find a home and museum int the columbia is but montpelier, the madison's home, in private hands for years and really not saved 1980's.e these things go on and on all time. the homes of the presidents are deemed to be among the most yourtant but in some cases have multiple homes that one president lived in. we say goodbye to dolley sheldons influence, cooper -- we can't do a program dolley in it. sheldon cooper asked, did sarah guidance to future first ladies? >> yes, 50 years after she was see, until the early 1990's, dolley died in 1849. so sarah was the embodiment of
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first lady proper ther dolley died and respect passed down with her, yes. >> so building on that, the is, what is sarah polk's legacy? >> i'll let her answer this a great dealritten on sarah. >> i think that james k. polk have beenight not able to achieve his ambitious herterm agenda without help. she certainly kept the white house running because he himself toorked death and she handled his legacy well after his unfortunate early death. the legacy isf his, first postage stamp, treasury department, thest doubling the size of united states. and many things to be thankful for. the first ladies themselves are
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theyo much innovators as are sometimes they embrace those the american character that the public needs it very,nk she did very well. >> the election of 1848 brought the white house and as we continue our program tonight, we'll learn more about zachary taylor and more for our first ladies series tonight, his wife, isgaret peggy taylor but it a brief stay in the white house so it will be about 10 minutes' worth of exploration here. tell us the -- set the stage for the 1848 election. leaving office. he chose to be a one-term president, which probably was good because he probably would not have gotten the nomination again and probably would have been defeated. he was not very well liked when he left office. started and at he butwas successfully won when he was over, he didn't want
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to have peace. mexico ands envoy to his envoy to mexico negotiated a peace treaty after he had been fired and sent it back to washington and polk was forced to bring a treaty to congress that he did not actually want to sign or have congress ratify but he was forced to do it. during the war, he became very veryus of the very, successful general zachary taylor and so he demoted taylor and put general winfield scott over him and then he got jealous scott wasecause getting all the headlines. so when the war ended, polk is leaving, and taylor is the great war.of the taylor had never voted in an election. done anythinger political. he had been a career military his entire life. wife, margaret smith taylor,
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peggy taylor, as she's known, to traveled with her husband some of the most remote military bases in the country. she had been a military wife, who started asan a lieutenant and ended up as a major general and taylor's almost unknown other than that he said over and over again, he wanted henry clay. henry clay, of course, had lost to polk, and henry clay believed his time to win, 1848 was clay'so be a wig year, party is the wig party. clay thinks he will win and out theowhere taylor gets nomination and clay is heolutely devastated that doesn't get to be nominated and gettingion to taylor the nomination, a completely obscure almost unheard of person, millard fillmore, who, the mostnated, is obscure person ever to be
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nominated for president at the the vice presidential nomination so you have this axis taylor, a louisiana sugar fillmore,unning with the comptroller of the state of new york. for me there's a personal thing currentlyve to say, i teach at albany law school where fillmore was living and next year i will be a visitor at l.s.u., a law school in the embodiment'm of the albany-baton rouge well., as >> i'd like to say, let's don't discount at this mexican war us all of the western california, new mexico, et cetera. he was the commander-in-chief like it and if it upset winfield scott who had temper, and zachary taylor, so be it, but as it out, that's what history has recorded.
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we greatly expanded the united states during that time and we got those properties for very, very little. in terms of the history of real rates high. >> on to zachary taylor. >> only if you think that going with a country to steal half their country is an and legitimate thing to do and significant numbers of believed that the landan war was purely a grab and a war of aggression and many americans, including john c. calhoun, a great defender of slavery, believed the mexican a huge mistake because calhoun predicted correctly that once you had the mexican war, open up again the question of slavery in the territories and that would cause it does.ophe, which >> zachary taylor, old rough and ready. he was the last southerner elected for 64 years until
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wilson and the last president to while in office in the white house but his partner in all of this was margaret, known as peggy taylor. what do we know about her? >> she was not particularly keen first she had gone around to all of his postings with him. they had innumerable children. that theirsting daughter, knox, married the young jefferson davis, who with taylor in mexico and unfortunately their daughter after only three months of marriage but later when they the in the white house taylors became quite close with his secondavis and wife, varina, and varina was the first lady. the first lady let her daughter entertaining and it was such a brief amount of they were in that
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that -- what else? in march inaugurated of 1849, elected in 1848 but didn't take office until march of 1849 and taylor dies in july so there's essentially a 15-month period when they were shehe white house and doesn't want to be there. >> she retreats to the upstairs of the white house. she basically retreats to the upstairs of the white house. enough, like her predecessor, she came from a political family. her aunts was married to a three-term governor of maryland. her cousins was married to senator reverty johnson of maryland. came from a very, very wealthy family of maryland although she grew up most of her early years in the washington, d.c. and northern virginia area. among other things, one of her
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custis whoas nellie was the granddaughter of martha washington. somebody who's been around politics, as well, but the opposite of sarah polk. she doesn't want to be involved in politics. she didn't want her husband to president. >> here's a snapshot, according inthe census of america, 1850, as this president is serving. that pointion was by 23 million and there were now 30 states in the united states, almost 36% growth since census. slaves in the united states 13.8%ed three million or of the population and the largest cities in the country in 1850 were new york city, baltimore and boston. washington, d.c., we've learned throughout the series, as a traded on gossip and the gossip about peggy rachelwas much like jackson, that she was a pipe
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smoker and didn't bring style differentnce, very than what paul described. what's the truth about her? >> i don't think -- she didn't smoke a pipe. let's start with that. the pipe smoking is utter nonsense and in fact all of the people close to her say she was andact allergic to smoke nobody smoked around her so the militarys she is a wife who's traveled from base to base. gone -- she lived in some style even on those bases the taylors were very wealthy, they had lots of they had a plantation in louisiana. some of the slaves would travel bases but she was not a high society woman. she was not a woman who wanted and thisund a crowd was not a world that she felt at all comfortable with and i'm washingtonhe got to and dealt with the gossip and feltarties, she simply that this is not where she was
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didn't knowand she how to compete and she didn't know how to operate and so she the second story of the white house and let her daughter do most of the entertaining. >> and the gossip continued because she was an enigma. she wasn't there to defend herself from the gossip. >> how did zachary taylor die? cholera, didn't he? >> no. july 4 taylor went to a parade and watched the parade on a hot july 4 day. zachary taylor was a tea and he either spent the day eating cherries and milk or milk, depend on who you ask, and if one imagine what is a bowl of milk would like after a hot july day in washington, d.c. without ice he got someold, kind of intestinal disease and very tough man. he had survived winters in
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michigan and minnesota. survived the deserts of mexico. he was rough and ready. the one thing he could not was mid-19th century ,hen he got sick, he was bled and they did all sorts of other things including giving him mercury, which would have killed him if he had gotten enough. he may have died from an intestinal virus. he may have died because the doctors killed him. what we do know is that he died very suddenly. perhaps taylor was the last president who could have theged to somehow change civil conflict. he did not believe in spreading
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slavery to the west. the territories taken from mexico ought to be free. he was a man who was willing to stare down and if necessary, lead an army to suppress southern, at the nationals, the suggestion of secession. at one point, but texans were planning to march into santa fay, and taylor sends troops. they didmagine that if this again, he would have said i would that be happy to personally lead the army to austin and personally hang the governor of texas. >> a couple of quick questions. aread that mrs. taylor was devout episcopalian and she
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promised got to give up the pleasures of society if her husband returned safely from work. >> i have read that as well. in several different publications. i don't think she realized that when her husband came back from the war, she was going to end up being first lady. bethany johnson went to questions about margaret taylor. did she play any instruments that we know of, and how old was she when she died? born in 1788, so that makes her about 65. accountsed by many from a broken heart. she was convinced that zachary taylor was poisoned. >> that is right. >> that was a story that stayed with that retailer for many years. in our lifetime, that retailers
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body was exhumed. taylor's body was exhumed. no poison. becomesfillmore president, he gets letters from people saying that taylor was poisoned. americans or all conspiracy theorists. >> we are probably not alone in that. let's listen to sean in columbus, ohio. you are on the air. >> i was wondering if it is true that when margaret taylor prayed for her husband's defeat for the presidency, she was that much against it. the whiten invalid in house because of difficulties of having so many children? >> i don't know that she actually prayed for his defeat. he was the first to admit that she was not very happy with his victory. >> many of these stories are
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written well after the fact. as a historian, we have to question where is the source of these stories? if you hear the stories told in five different stories and it turns out it is the same story told over and over again. we don't know if it is true. there's a story that apparently he was on the steamboat when the movement was to make him the nominee and somebody asked him who he was going to vote for. taylor said i am not sure, and the man said i am voting for taylor. he does not know he is talking to tyler. he said i would not vote for taylor because i personally know his wife does not want him to run for president. very unassuming and often did not appear to be who he is. there is a true story that when he was in mexico, he was sitting in front of a tent, not with his general's stars on, and a young
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officer came up to him and said, will you shine my boots? the next day the officer came to him as commanding general. >> this is the second time in history a president dies in office. did we do a better job with it the second time around? it was not a constitutional crisis the first term. neverte frankly, they pasted with -- than ever fixed it until after the kennedy assassination. -- they never fix it. >> when harrison dies, the question is, does john tyler become president or does he remain vice presidents and acting president? that is something the constitution does not addressed. john quincy adams, who hated john tyler, used to refer to him , rather thanntcy
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his excellency. by the time bill more becomes president, there's no question the vice-president will be inaugurated in storm in -- and sworn in. fillmore and graciously asked margaret taylor to stay on in the white house as long as she wishes. she moved out two days later. she had had enough. >> you told us earlier about the new york and baton rouge access. we will learn more about that from video. here is a bit of the millard fillmore home that you will see now on the videotape. [video clip] the home in -- to our little home that belonged to mildred and abigail fillmore. they did meet when they were both teachers. they both had this desire and love of reading. abigail was brought up in a family that had many books.
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her father was a baptist preacher, and he loved to read. so she was surrounded by books her whole lifetime. when she moved into this house with millard fillmore, she continues that. they had their own personal library, and she wanted to let young people learn extensively about the world as it was. this room that we are in is actually the focus of the entire house. history is made right here. she independently employed herself as a teacher. she tutored young students in the evening, mainly in the course of history. this would have been living room, but also serve as their kitchen. here in front of the fireplace, they would spend hours by the light of the fire. they would do their reading and writing, and abigail fillmore cooked in this very room. this was her kitchen.
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here we are in the field more bedroom. their original staircase had quite an angle to it. we do believe there was a wooden ladder at the time when they lived here. mother,ng wife and dressed in a long skirt, and with a toddler on her hip, she ascended that ladder into the bedroom. have the fillmore bed and dresser. we know that abigail was a wonderful seamstress. we do have her quilts here, a very colorful quilts here call the tumbling blocks pattern. place.s a very busy east aurora was a barber and community. she would have had many -- a vibrant community. she would have had many people come in to have tea. we can envision abigail having a very full life.
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we do see her as a hospitable young woman, young life, young mother, a teacher. >> that house is still available to visit if you are ever in east aurora, new york. the 13th president of the united states was the last whig president. all came from modest means. all the presidents before brought personal wealth to the white house. this begins a series of presidents who are more or less middle-class. what is the impact of that on the institution? >> long-term, i think that what we seek was -- what we see with the fillmores was something of a change that will follow through in the 20th century, looking forward. -- the civil war is a giant hiatus in terms of
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business. who were the others that are not wealthy? >> there are four presidents before this, counting fillmore, who are not welcome. is probablyadams close to being wealthy at the time. martin van buren comes from a middle-class family. millard fillmore grows up in abject poverty as does andrew jackson. millard fillmore's family does not own their land. abigail fillmore, abigail powers grows up, her father dies when she is two. they don't have very much money. she becomes a schoolteacher. she is the first first lady to have worked outside the home. she not only worked outside the home before she was married, but after she is married for the first few years, she works as a
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schoolteacher. people who have experienced poverty and have not achieved anything other than middle-class status. marriedr death, millard very well. >> paul has written a book on millard fillmore. here is his biography if your interested in reading more about our 13th president. it is still available where you shop for books. we have about 20 minutes to learn about the fillmore presidency and about abigail. she brings a sensibility to the role of first lady. how'd she approach the job at a >> what she is known for, her legacy, is that she created the first white house library. left to ourher mother when he died when she was just a little girl was books. they kept those books and it
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became the core of her education, and obviously instilled in her and love of educating others. the congress appropriated $2,000 for the president to establish a white house library, but it was pretty much understood that she would be the one who worked on the library. she really prefer to read and engage in introduce -- intellectual pursuits. husband, and she had a bad ankle, as i recall. >> she has an injury shortly before he runs for vice president and she cannot stand. she cannot go to receptions and stand, so she avoids things like that as much as possible and let her daughter do much of the role of the white house hostess.
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>> the introduction of the white house library became a controversy with congress. that she successfully lobbied key committee members to bring the library to the white house. >> she would go out to dinner parties talking with them. it was the standing that she could not do. but she obviously convinced them. here comes to thousand dollars to staff up -- to set up a white house library. set up the white tha house library. apparently she did a very good job of selecting a broad category zero volumes for the library. .he was interested in music they were also very interested in geography. they loved that. they are very interested in the world in that respect. she is the schoolmarm.
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the little film about the fillmore house, there was one slight error. they were not both teachers. millard fillmore was actually her student. she was 21 years old and she was teaching in a private academy, and millard fillmore had been apprenticed to a textile factory to learn how to run of making machinery. this was during the 1830's in the middle of the depression. the factory late of everybody for a while. so oakfield more use this term to go back to school, and fell in love with his teacher, and she fell in love with him. -- soap film more use the term to go back to school. sayn victoria would later that he was the most handsome man she had ever met. that might be and exaggeration. here you have these two young, handsome people, and miller
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fillmore is over 6 feet tall at a time when most men do not grow to be that tall. he must have been a striking figure. they glom onto each other and have a very long courtship. that ultimately do not marry until about five or six years later. at first the court ship was by it letters. did was just wondering, -- what did she do after she got out of the white house? >> let's deal with the white house years first, and we will come back to your question in just a little bit. their role is in tuscaloosa, alabama. >> did the white house have
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plumbing, and if it did not, when did they get plumbing? today echoill in use >> we turnabout gaslight and heating coming into the white house. what about plumbing? >> fillmore is credited with having the first bathtub in my house. it is not clear if it is true. this is the problem whenever you say what is the first in the white house. we do know they installed either the first bathtub or a new bath tub in the white house. >> do you know if religion played a big part in their life and their presidency? >> that we take that, because it is important to understand how it worked. abigail is the daughter of a baptist minister and she is raised in a baptist community in rural upstate new york. they are raised in the middle of
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nowhere in central new york. has various religious training growing up. but they were married by an episcopal priest, because in the town that abigail lives then, the most prestigious churches the episcopal church. that then moved to buffalo and become unitarians, because of the smart and successful people are becoming unitarians. in fact, religion for the fillmores reflects what i would call as their journey from ,overty to middle-class status to ultimately a secure position in society. that changed churches as they go up the social ladder. >> we are going to learn more about her love of books and her establishment of a white house library in this next video.
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[video clip] part of thelf was first white house library that they were able to get congress to give her money to start the first white house library, which still exists today. literacy and reading would have been abigail fillmore pasquale's. it was very important to her as er cause. -- mary abigail would have been a hostess for many of the bed. this. zero would have been one of the many items used during entertaining at the white house. mary abigail followed in her mother's footsteps and was very educated herself. she spoke five languages.
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forwould play the harp congressmen who came to visit the white house. we have her piano in her music books that she would have played from, and we also have her heart, that was in the white house. she literally entertained. house room in the white that the bill morris established as their library was in fact an oval room. this is from our white house documentary when we visited there. that room during the fillmores time was filled with bookcases and musical instruments. it became a salon. how did they use it? wasn't useful in their legislative role? >> she participated in the formal dinners downstairs, but there was receiving always going on. the white house had very little privacy.
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she was known for her interest .n a writer's -- in writers brought some of the leading lights into the white house. moreas interested in these intellectual, literary pursuits, and with her bad ankle, i don't think anyone understands what those receptions were like when they threw open the white house for thousands of people. hours and hours of standing on your feet. >> but this a largely created, it would seem like a very intimate place to bring key members of congress and others. was it a way to be at the inner sanctum as the president and advance her goals echo >> i think there were few congressmen in those days that were interested in talking to a novelist or a cultural figure
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like that. shoot brought the woman known as the swedish nightingale -- she brought the woman known as the swedish nightingale. i think that in a sense, there is a bifurcation here between abigail fillmore creating a cultural setting that the former schoolteacher really wants to do. as a mother, she is always a schoolteacher. she writes letters to her children at various times in their lives. correcting their spelling in these letters and giving them lists of spelling words to learn. always educating her husband, who is not quite as well educated and she was. titles andns of offers were in the first library
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in the white house? >> a lot of shakespeare. it was a mixture of the classics. probably lots of histories. >> and i know a lot of geography books. they were very interested in foreign countries. s president film work since commodore perry to open up japan, this is in part because fillmore has a personal interest in it things foreign and exotic. >> it is so important, but we have to talk about the major legislative peace, because zachary taylor died just as the compromise of 1850 was being debated. millard fillmore picks up the debate over that legislation. what is the significance of the compromise of 1850? what did millard fillmore do? >> it was introduced by henry clay, the disappointed guy who did not get to be president. the goal is to solve the
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nation's problems. as it emerges in congress, it is a series of separate bills, not one bill. among other things, it will organize the new mexico territory that includes arizona, the utah territory which includes nevada and utah and parts of colorado. intould admit california the union as a free state. sale,o would prevent the the open auction of slaves in washington d.c., but it would also give millions of dollars to texas. it would subdivide a portion of the mexico and give today what this west texas to texas, which previously, no one had believed blanc to texas. and most importantly, created the fugitive slave law of 1860. laws an outrageously unfair
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in which alleged fugitive slaves are not even allowed to testify at hearings on their own behalf. black issues in new york, the man cannot say no, you have the wrong person -- if a free black is used in new york. fillmore pushes the fugitive slave law, sit, almost immediately after it is passed by congress, and in very aggressively enforces it. >> how did the compromise of 1850 work into the timelines of abigail fillmore? do we know about her position on slavery and how it might have complemented or been different from her husband? >> what is odd about millard and abigail is that they come from a part of new york known as the burned over district. it is said that the fires
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revival has been burned over so often, it was the most antislavery part of the united states. it was the center of the anti- slavery movement. william seward a, is starting his political career. just down the road, frederick douglass will live in rochester, new york. morris everhe phil lift a finger to fight slavery. they never show any hostility to slavery at all, and they showed no sympathy whatsoever to free blacks. it is really quite shocking that they are completely clueless about this. when he is running for a vice- president, and accused him of helping runaway slaves escape. in a letter that is so shocking i would not say it on air, he says incredibly horrible things about black people, like why
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would i ever lived my finger to help them? it cause any trend in national education or in the library expansion? >> to my knowledge, no. but you have to look for the long term. they did not have the instantaneous communication. her books were not going to set off a trend for banks like modern communications do. what we are beginning to see as we go into the second half of the 19th century is normal work for middle-class women, teaching and so on and so forth. obviously they would be aware that they had a first lady who was a teacher, an honorable profession, and having that library certainly was known. i was just wondering how many
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children did the fillmores half? >> two. of them served as the official hostess in the white house. time is short, let's hear from ben next, watching in los angeles. what was his foreign relations policy like back then? it was to enhance trade with europe and other countries, so rescinds perry to japan. at the term, japan was completely closed to the outside world, and still more sense of the united states naval vessels and says we are here, you are going to trade with us whether you like it or not. the japanese refer to it as the dark ships. i saw an exhibit in japan of
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japanese cartoons in which perry is portrayed as a monster. that thought this was horrible. he also negotiated treaty with switzerland to allow trade on equal terms for a swiss and american citizens, but the treaty has a clause that says this can only happen if people in america would be eligible to own land or have businesses in switzerland. allowwiss cantons did not jews to own land. when fillmore was told about this, he said it should not really be a problem. he does not seem to be interested in issues that would involve minorities. he later becalms and know nothing. a know- >> thank you for this series on the first ladies. a phil morris met charles
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dickens in washington in 1842. they did not host him at the white house. also, they did entertain washington irving and william make peace thackeray. "avatar reportedly is biased millard not to sign the fugitive slave law. one of her best friends and buffalo was the most prominent abolitionist there, george washington johnson. tell us about abigail fillmore's legacy. >> learning and literacy. >> and the fact that she might have influenced literacy by being a working woman. shortly, she dies very after, and her daughter dies two years later. i can only say that there is no documentary evidence whatsoever that she advised fillmore not to sign the fugitive slave law.


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