The Constitution and Executive Power

<> >>The following program is a production of the Fairfax Network, Fairfax County Public Schools >>This program was made possible through generous support of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens and by the generous support of Verizon Communications to the Constitutional Sources Project. Additional funding for the Constitutional Sources Project provided by Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP. The Constitution and Executive Power is a coproduction of the Fairfax Network, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens, and the Constitutional Sources Project <> >>Good morning. My name is Stewart McLaurin and I’m the Vice President of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington here at Mount Vernon and I’d like to welcome you to Mount Vernon as we celebrate for the very first time here at George Washington’s Estate, Constitution Day. We have students gathered from all over Fairfax County, we have a distinguished panel that’s going to discuss the Constitution, George Washington’s role with the Constitution, and I’ve a very special announcement for those of you who are here today and those of you who are watching by television. This summer Mount Vernon was very fortunate to acquire George Washington’s copy of the United States Constitution. It was passed by the First Congress of the United States. He took this document and in his own hand underlined every specific role and responsibility of the President of the United States. He didn’t have a predecessor in that role, he didn’t have someone that he could talk with about what being president was like, so he took the Constitution and he went through it line by line and marked in the margins his role and his responsibilities. That document will go on exhibit on Constitution Day, September 17, here at Mount Vernon and will stay on exhibit through next February on his birthday, February 22. I’d like to invite you and your families back and those of you who are watching by television to make plans to come to Mount Vernon for this very special exhibit After we close this exhibit in February, it’s going to go on a tour of other presidential libraries around the nation so we can share this wonderful document in partnership with the presidential libraries representing Presidents of the United States from Boston to Los Angeles When it returns to Mount Vernon next summer it will be the cornerstone of our special collection at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. Now what is that? Over decades, since the 1850s when the Mount Vernon Ladies Association acquired Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon has been a destination to study and to visit his estate. This library will be the first time ever we will have resources here at Mount Vernon for in-depth study by scholars and researchers to prepare to teach and educate the next generation of young Americans and people from around the world on our President I’d like to welcome you again here today, you’re very fortunate to hear from this distinguished group we have with us. Julie Silverbrook is the Executive Director of the Constitutional Sources Project, Joseph Ellis and Carol Berkin will also be with us and you’ll be hearing more about them by introduction in just a few moments; but I hope you enjoy your time here at Mount Vernon today and come into a deeper and better understanding about our first President, the man who presided over the Constitutional Convention, and the man who’s copy of the Constitution I hope you’ll come back and see here in our museum very soon. One last note of thanks to Nancy Hayward who is the Director of our education leadership program, or education programs, here at Mount Vernon, who does an extraordinary job with this program as well as teacher institutes and other programs we have for teachers from across the country, so if you’re watching today and you’re a teacher and you’ve not been to one of these programs I hope you’ll contact Nancy and come yourself or bring your class to Mount Vernon soon. Thank you very much and look forward to today’s program >>Thank you Stewart. Welcome and good morning Thank you for joining us for an appropriately timed and located program on The Constitution and Executive Powers. As Stewart mentioned, my name is Julie Silverbrook and I am the Executive Director of the Constitutional Sources Project, better known as ConSource. For those of you who may not be familiar with our Project, we are an online resource for individuals who are interested in learning about the documentary

history of the Constitution including its creation, ratification, and amendment. As we begin there are a number of people who I would like to thank for making today’s Constitution Day program a success. First and foremost I want to thank our speakers, Joseph Ellis and Carol Berkin, for joining us for this terrific program. I also want to thank our sponsors, Verizon Communications; Davis Polk & Wardwell; and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. I would also like to thank our partners at Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, and a special thank you again to Nancy Hayward who is fantastic and without whom this program absolutely could not have been a success. With that I want to introduce our distinguished panelists. Joseph Ellis is the Ford Foundation Professor of History Emeritus at Mount Holyoke College. He has published ten books on American history. His previous book, His Excellency, George Washington, was published in 2004 and became an immediate best seller. Founding Brothers, focusing on six crucial moments in the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize; while American Sphinx, received a National Book Award. Both were also best sellers. Carol Berkin is the Presidential Professor of History Emeritus at Baruch College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is also an author of many books on American history including A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution; Civil War Wives; and Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence With that I’m going to turn it over to Carol to talk a little bit about the Constitutional Convention and the development of the presidency >>Thank you Julie. I’m delighted to be here and I’m always so happy to see students in the audience as well as teachers. If you read the Constitution, it’s so beautifully written that it looks like they just sat down and it came flowing out like some magical set of ideas. But the truth is that it was a long, hard road. Things were debated; they were decided, they were undecided, they were re-decided, and sometimes it seemed a little bit like organized chaos. And this was certainly true when you think about defining the Executive Branch. One of the things you feel when you read the record of the Constitutional Convention is how fearful and anxious these men were that they couldn’t save the country and how worried they were that whatever power they gave any branch of the government would turn into tyranny and nowhere was this more true than the idea of creating an executive They brought all these fears to the discussion of the presidency; they began with that discussion because they thought it would be the easiest part of the Constitution. They discovered it wasn’t and they ended their session four months later with finally deciding what to do about the Executive Branch. They sent a lot of the information to my favorite committee, the Committee on Postponed Matters, <> which meant we didn’t know what to do with this. The issues were incredible. First of all, should there by an Executive Branch at all? Several people there said no, we don’t need one, it’s a bad idea, he’ll become a tyrant, or they’ll become a tyrant; because they also didn’t know whether the Executive Branch should be three men, one man, two men, some people wanted a representative from every region, that would provide anybody’s bias in case he came from New England or he came from the South. Oh no, someone else said, two people could gang up on the third and so they would have bias for their two regions And this is how the discussion went endlessly They were a group of lawyers after all, so they saw loopholes everywhere. They couldn’t decide how long a President should serve; should he serve for life, should he serve for a seven year term, should he serve for one year, should he be entitled to be reelected, if he’s reelected would he owe his reelection to some small cabal or conspiracy who might influence him and then he would again become a tyrant. The biggest question oddly turned out to be mechanical, how on earth could he be chosen. Should the Senate choose him? The nationalists said absolutely not, that would give the states too much power. Should the state legislatures choose him? This practically made James Madison’s head explode, the idea of giving that power to state legislatures Should he be chosen by popular vote? Well

how could they do that, this was a world before transportation and communication revolutions, most people didn’t know anyone from another state. My students all think that everyone in the country knew John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; not true, much to John Adam’s dismay, he was not a household word. So if they elected a President by popular vote there would be 500, 600 candidates because people would vote for someone in their state or their county or their town who they knew. How could they elect a President? And this is one of the things that wound up at the Committee on Postponed Matters and they created this really complicated, strange thing called the Electoral College, or as I called it when I was a kid, the Electrical College; not so The Electoral College to deal with this very practical problem that the only two people who were actually known by everyone, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. So, then the discussed what kinds of powers should the President have. Some people said no powers at all; his job was to administer the laws the Congress passed, that’s all he was to do. Other people said that’s not really a very good idea; how are we going to balance the power of Congress if we don’t have an Executive that has independent powers of his own. And so they went round and round on what powers he should have. That final Article that looks so polished and so perfect in many ways, though a little vague, was the result of hours and days of going round and round in circles over these very complicated issues One of the things that made it a little easier, and it was the unspoken understanding of the Convention, was that the person who would be the first President of the United States was the person presiding over the Convention, George Washington. And this eased everybody’s mind that a tyrant wouldn’t emerge immediately, they remained fearful that ultimately a tyrant would emerge, they were not optimistic about human nature, they thought all republics declined into tyranny; but they thought at least with George Washington at the helm this could be delayed as long as he was running the country And so I think you should think about the presidency not as some certitude, oh we know exactly what we want to do, but as something that was argued about, discussed, puzzled over, and when they were done really they left a lot of it, as I think Joe will point out, to the man who took the office to really define it >>With that, Joe, do you want to >>That’s a nice segue. That’s what I’m supposed to do, talk about. I’ll try to be really brief and set the framework for the rest of the program when we’ll depend on questions from Julie and from you. I think the most important thing about executive power as defined in the Constitution is nobody knew what it was. Nobody knew what a President was supposed to do and implicit in what Carol just said the ghost at the banquet is monarchy, the fear of monarchy. That, if you look at all the state constitutions that were set up in the 1770s and 80s, the Governors in most of those states had very little power with a couple of exceptions, Massachusetts because John Adams wrote that one; but they’re really terrified, think about the Declaration of Independence, what good thing does that have to say about monarchy? It’s all the evils that kings do, that George III did So that in some sense, in retrospect, the Revolutionary generation over-learned the lessons of 1776 and the lessons of 1787 became very unclear in terms of any exercise of executive power. The major achievement of George Washington was to define what those vague words in the actual document meant in reality. There is a poll every four years; I think it’s by the Chicago Sun Times, of scholars, that is political scientists and historians, as to who is the greatest President in American History. They have like 28 categories, Carol’s on this list, I’m on this list, for the

last 37 years the same three people have always been the top three. Tell me who you think they are. Right there, sir >>FDR, Lincoln, and George Washington? >>You got it. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, not necessarily in that order, they switch around. That’s the American trinity, if you will, in terms of Presidents. And each new President thinks he might make it in at some point in time down the line. The lists shifts, Truman has gone up in stature, JFK has gone down a little bit. By the way, if you take a poll not of scholars but of ordinary citizens as to who the greatest Presidents in American history are guess who they are. Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy; that’s because most people don’t know anything about any of the other ones. At any rate, we know why Lincoln’s on this list. Lincoln ended slavery and saved the Union. And we know why FDR is on this list; FDR saved capitalism and defeated the totalitarian powers of Japan and Germany Why is Washington on the list? What did he do? Well, I’m not going to get into specifics here, they can come up in the response to requests, but if you, when I was writing the biography of him, His Excellency, I said, I wonder what he thought about his own presidency just as he was leaving it. On March 6, 1797, there was going to be an inauguration of the next President who was John Adams and he kept a diary, you know, Washington did. And so what was he thinking. You know, he was finishing a really a whole public career, a career of public service, eight years in the presidency, what did he think he had done? And you turn to his diary and it says, “March 6, 1797, temperature 38 degrees, a day like all days” <> He doesn’t tell you what he’s thinking And, have you ever gone to the Mall? You go to the Lincoln Memorial and there are words; “four score and seven years ago”. You go to the Jefferson Memorial and there are words; “we hold these truths to be self-evident” You go to the new Martin Luther King Memorial and there are words; you know, “I’ve been to the mountain” or the I Have a Dream speech. When you go to the Washington Monument there are no words except the graffiti scrawled on the staircase on the inside; they’ve gotten rid of most of that. Washington is silent. There’s a famous scene in the Constitutional Convention, it’s probably apocryphal, and they’re taking a break and Gouverneur Morris, who is a real eccentric character and has a peg leg, who is also the model, the torso, that is used for the statue of Washington later on, he’s standing with Alexander Hamilton and Hamilton says, “I’ll bet you a dinner that you won’t go up to George Washington, put your hand on his shoulder, and say ‘How you doing George?'” And Morris does that and Washington lifts his hand off of his shoulder and looks him in the eye with the most steely-eyed glare and that’s the last time anybody ever tried to get into that internal, that space around him. What he did was define the presidency So one of the reasons that he’s in the top three is he comes first and that gives him an enormous advantage to establish the precedents The precedents which become a two term precedent; the precedent that you’re going to have a Cabinet; the precedent, what does “advise and consent” mean with regard to the Senate; and will the federal government play an active role in making domestic policy, will that be a state thing, yes they will, they’re going to run the economy; will the President of the United States have a major role in making foreign policy, the major role in making policy. He has a proclamation in 1793 of neutrality, we’re not going to go to war with anybody in Europe, I mean, what’s proclamation, that sounds pretty monarchical. That’s what kings do. So, he becomes a President, if you think about the word President it means preside,

it’s a weak term. He transforms it into something different than that when we hear it now. He is both the symbolic figure who holds the country together as they said in the toast, “The man who unites all hearts” He visited every state which was hard to do then. He would get in his carriage and ride from one town, then get out, mount his white stallion, Prescott, polish up Prescott’s hooves, ride in with his military uniform, and Americans couldn’t agree whether they’re South Carolinians or Massachusetts folks, or Virginians, but when Washington was in town they were Americans. He was the symbol; but he was more than a symbol, so he’s like a British monarch in one sense but he’s also like a British prime minister; he manages the legislative and the foreign policy agenda And so at the end what he actually achieves is to make what in the document itself, the Executive Branch looks murky and clearly the central power in the document, in the Constitution, rests with the Congress of the United States By the time you finish Washington’s second term the presidency is a coequal member of that, coequal branch of that government, which is not what anybody sort of thought it was going to be when they wrote it but he’s made it into that. And then, finally, for me and for him, he makes the symbolic gesture of leaving office voluntarily, he did this once before as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Washington is an aficionado of exits <> He wanted to make a point. Even though everyone regarded him as indispensable and he’s the closest thing to an indispensable leader in American history, that is to say would history have happened the same way without him; but even though he’s indispensable, he’s disposable No American president will die in office as a king, okay. That’s a rather important point; it’s enshrined in the Constitution in 1951with a Constitutional Amendment. The only president in American history not to do two terms, or not to go more than two terms, is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But, he defined the presidency in a way that made it a coequal branch and that’s why he is listed by historians and scholars who know something as one of the most, I put him first, beating out Lincoln is to say, is saying a heck of a lot, but I’ll stop >>Alright, I have a couple of questions before we open it up to the audience. This one is for both of you because both of you have sort of touched on this. Why were the other framers so sure of George Washington’s character? You touched on it a little bit that he knew how to make an exit and relinquish power and that’s certainly part of that narrative; but for those of us that might be unfamiliar with George Washington’s history perhaps as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, either one of you can tell us about that >>I would say that they were not sure. My sense of them as I read the records of the Constitutional Convention is they had a deep, deep belief that every man lusted after power and that their job was to create a government in which maybe you might eventually become a tyrant but were going to make it really hard for you. And what is so striking to me is that at one point Benjamin Franklin gets up, actually James Wilson got up and read a speech for him because Benjamin Franklin was suffering from kidney stones and gout and he was in no condition to get up. He looks directly at Washington and he says, in effect, the president should never receive a salary, that this should be a voluntary position, and he says, in effect, even though he doesn’t name Washington, he says even George Washington might be subject to the lust for power. And so I would not say >>Washington never accepted a salary when he was Commander in Chief, that was the precedent they were setting, yeah >>But I think that it goes too far to say they all had a blanket confidence. What I would say is if they were betting men they

thought they had a better chance with Washington because he voluntarily gave up command of the army because he was a man of character But I do think one of the reasons that they thought he should be President, especially as the Convention moved on, was they were looking for a person, as Joe so eloquently put it, who would be a national symbol of unity and Washington and Franklin were the only two men who everyone knew, and so for them it was critically important that someone symbolize patriotism, that is a willingness to sacrifice your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor, right, for the cause; strength of character, that is decisiveness; and so he was the likely figure for that. But I would not, we’re glossing over too much when we say, oh everybody was confident this would be a perfect choice >>Would you not agree though Carol that if Washington had not attended and chaired the Convention its likelihood of success was much less >>Oh, absolutely >>He made it legitimate >>When, he didnt want to go >>Right, oh, he didn’t >>He said, I am, he was a nationalist and he did think the country was in danger but he says I do not think the genius of the people, meaning the sentiment of the people, is ready for a strong central government. And so he came up with all kinds of excuses; he said, oh, my brother died, I’m in mourning, oh I had a terrible case of rheumatism, oh, you know, a thousand excuses not to attend this Convention >>Well, there’s another reason he has reservations and that is his legacy’s at stake here >>Exactly. He did not >>And he had said that I’m stepping away from power when he left the army in 1783 and became the American Cincinnatus so Cincinnatus can’t go back >>And he was worried that if the people rejected what this Convention did it would be a stain on him. He gets letters from friends everywhere, you have to attend, if you don’t attend it will not be legitimate >>There’s actually a conspiracy; Hamilton, Madison, and John Jay to get together and say we’ve got to convince this guy and give him kind of an education, a political education of what’s at stake >>Exactly >>It’s almost like a coup de’tat, but one thing that you should keep in mind that when he steps away from power the first time this is a really big deal and he becomes a nationally, internationally significant person because, in fact, when George III is having his portrait painted by Benjamin West and West says, “the word is that Washington was offered the crown and refused it and stepped away from power and surrendered his sword” and George III said, “if it is true he will be the greatest man in the world”. Think about it. Julius Caesar didn’t do it, Napoleon’s not going to do it, Cromwell didn’t do it, Lenin’s not going to do it, Mao’s not gonna do it, Castro’s not gonna do it. Step away from power after you’ve led a successful revolution, they never do, one person did, Nelson Mandela. So then it’s an extremely rare occasion and it is the ultimate expression of virtue; the victory over your own ambitions for larger public purposes. So, even though I understand what Carol’s saying that he’s not a sure thing, nobody’s a sure thing, he’s the closest thing to a sure thing that America has to offer >>Exactly. The wonderful thing is he actually gets a letter from a friend who says if you attend the Convention and it succeeds you will be known as the father of your country I mean, for years I thought that was just one of those phrases school teachers and professors made up; right there in print, you will be the father of your country, and it is absolutely true. If he had not attended it would not have had legitimacy with the average American voter >>But he himself is not the father of anybody >>Right >>That’s the interesting thing. And he says this at one point; he says if you worry about me becoming a monarch and passing along the presidency to my progeny, I don’t have any progeny. The only person that had male heirs in the first six presidents was John Adams and guess what; his son did get elected president, too. But they were so terrified of this monarchical principle that he wanted to say, remember when I die I leave no heirs >>That’s it. Right >>So, Joe, you’ve touched on this, actually both of you have, why do you think that George Washington was close to immune to the criticism of becoming an uncrowned monarch, and this would be during his two terms as President?

>>That’s a good question. You know, like he was, like he was immune to smallpox because he had been exposed to smallpox in the West Indies early in his life, and so, it’s like at some point in time, I guess to call it an immunity is a metaphor but as a young man, reading his correspondence as a young man when he’s just inheriting this estate, he’s not immune. He’s very ambitious and he marries the wealthiest widow in Virginia to get, and then inherits this estate. Something happens to him in the War, it’s during the War Remember, he’s fighting for eight year, eight years in the field, never comes back, and I think that he became psychologically certain of his own significance and didn’t need any additional confirmation of that He knew we would be sitting in Mount Vernon in 2012 <> Listening to historians blather on about his significance. He knew that. And he wasn’t sure that there was life after death in a traditional Christian sense of the term. When, in the death scene at Mount Vernon there’s no minister in the room, I think he thought he wasn’t going to heaven he was going into the ground. But there was another form of immortality; he knew he was going to have it. Being remembered in the history books and by posterity. And that’s what he cared a lot about. But he knew, so he could afford not to be conspicuously ambitious and to be under complete control >>But Joe, he was finally criticized and it upset him tremendously. He was really, I think, accustomed to being seen as a near perfect fellow and after the Jay Treaty, when the democratic republicans began to really attack, and they attacked him personally. We think today newspapers are scandalous and scurrilous but in the 18th Century it was no holds barred because the newspapers were financed by the political parties very openly and when you got attacked you got attacked >>It’s hard to believe but even though it’s highly partisan now it was worse then >>It was much worse >>It’s almost impossible for you to believe that, but it’s true <> >>And he was attacked and he did not respond philosophically to that. He was really enraged that they would attack his motives >>But somebody attacks, you know, again, some of the attacks were ridiculous. I mean, during the war the British in an attempt to undermine General Washington’s power had created some forged documents that allegedly showed that he was trying to sell out the American cause You know, it would be the American Benedict Arnold before there was Benedict Arnold. So, they were forgeries and they were shown to be forgeries, nobody worried about that. The Republican Party, it’s not the same Republican Party, in their journal called the Aurora they published these and say, look, Washington is really a traitor, okay. You know, it’s like Barack Obama is really a Muslim, and as he was getting ready to retire Tom Paine, the author of significant American publications, most especially Common Sense, says we all devoutly pray for his imminent death. We hate him because he’s exercised too much power Anyway, he is the great; he is the greatest political leader in American history >>[Laugh] >>He levitates above the pack in that regard and part of it is the level of self-control he has over his own emotions and his own ambitions >> Let me ask one more follow-up question before we open it up to audience Q&A. We’re talking about sort of monarchical power and today the President is accused of being sort of an imperial presidency and he is, the President today is critically important to the policy making process. Can you tell us a little bit about sort of how the founders originally

conceived of the presidency and how that differs from the modern role >>Well I think one thing is clear, it’s Schlesinger who wrote this wonderful article, The Rise of the Imperial President, and his point is and this is a really important point I think for all teachers and students because we tend to be presentists, we think the past is just like today except that the wore different hairdos, and the truth is that post-World War II we have a country that is now the dominant country in the world except of course for the Soviet Union, President with enormous powers because he controls embassies and he controls ambassadors and he controls a lot of foreign policy, and then what the New Deal produced which is the notion that the federal government really is responsible for the general welfare of the people which means an enormous expansion of government agencies under the President. Washington, that is the government, for really many, many years if it had vanished a lot of people in America would not have even noticed. I always joke because I grew up in Alabama that when you said “the guvment”, which is how we said it, nobody thought of Washington, DC, it was Montgomery, and so I think the expansion of the power of the national government creates this imperial presidency. My own sense from what I know of the Convention is that people thought that the heart and soul of a republic was the legislature, it was to be supreme, it was to make the laws, it was to determine policy, and really the President was kind of a gopher. You know, we make the laws and then you make sure that they get administered, you go out and you take, you know, and also you make the coffee I mean it was really a kind of level of you do our bidding and what is remarkable, I think, is not only that Washington transformed it as you said into an equal branch with the Congress but events occurred such as this war between France and England, between Napoleon, that required a kind of foreign policy that gave Washington an avenue by which he could become a coequal branch of the government But it was nothing like what we have today And the last thing to remember is they did not envision political parties. Hard as it is for us to believe, they thought “factions”, which is what they called parties, were one of the great threats to a republic and so you didn’t have a man in office who controlled the Senate, his party controlled the Senate, his party controlled the House, who could appoint Supreme Court Justices from your party, and so Washington is operating in a completely different historical context than a president today. You would not see a headline that says, “Important to determine whether one party controls both the House and the Senate”, that would be inconceivable in Washington’s day >>I’ll be really brief here because I think we need to hear from you guys. But, if you look at the three Presidents that are at the top, the trinity, they’re all really strong Presidents. If you want to make it, and the further down, Theodore Roosevelt, same kind of thing, Andrew Jackson, same kind of thing, that the Presidents that earn the highest marks with historians are people who do most actively use the power of the Executive Branch and the federal government to achieve particular results. And I think it’s true that even as early as the Jefferson administration in the early 19th Century it becomes pretty clear that if you don’t have a strong Executive things don’t work. Like, if you have an opportunity to purchase the Midwest of the United States and officially you don’t have the power to do so, you just do it, which is what he did. Okay? And similarly with Jackson later on, so that I would call it an imperial presidency, and that is only possible once we become an empire and that’s after 1945 in some sense. But a strong presidency with a strong federal government, Washington sets that, he’s the one who does that >>Alright. Now we’re going to open it up to all of you. There are microphones on both sides. When you get up there please remind us of your name and where you’re from. Don’t

be shy >>Ah, good deal >>Hi, my name is Alicia Tucker and I’m here from the Society of the Cincinnati and I’m mostly curious of how Washington’s experience as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army influenced how he shaped and defined the President >>I’ll start >>Okay >>The Cabinet system is such a movement from the Continental Army to the presidency of his, what in the war was his, general staff They would meet to discuss do we or do we not attack New York. And it wasn’t just a discussion, you had to submit a written brief and you didn’t know what Washington’s opinion was. He wouldn’t say, “I think we should attack New York, what do you think?” He would say, “We have the following choices, we can attack New York, we can not attack New York, we can move in this direction.” And then they had to, and he does the same thing with the Cabinet. Specific example, the most important example, the national bank 1791. Very controversial. Hamilton’s baby, okay? The beginning of the Federal Reserve System. Very dangerous in the eyes of a lot of people. And he says to the Cabinet and he asks Adams to throw in his opinion, too, even though he’s not in the Cabinet as Vice President, what is your verdict, is this or is this not constitutional. Jefferson says no, Edmund Randolph says no, Henry Knox says no, Alexander Hamilton says yes, and he agrees with Hamilton. But it’s a process of decision making that is a direct consequence of his experience during the War as Commander in Chief and General, and in some cases it’s some of the, you know, Knox was his artillery officer and Hamilton was his Aide de Camp through much of the War, so that his transference of that group. And they really were a band of brothers. The, Cincinnati comes in for enormous criticism when its created because it passes membership to the male heir >>Right >>and therefore is regarded as an aristocratic institution. And Jefferson and everybody dumps all over it but for them it was genuinely an attempt to sustain a level of friendship and patriotism that was not being rewarded by the American people otherwise, they never got their pensions >>And Washington calls his aides de camp, his most trusted advisors, >>His family >>his family. But I think one of the things, much more general, is that that experience made Washington a nationalist. You know here he was, a Virginia planter, so many of them were reluctant to join the Revolution in the first place, they had to be sort of shoved, they are going to be the heart and soul of the anti-federalist movement. Washington understood, first of all he traveled the length and breadth of the country and so he had, in Hamilton’s great phrase, he thought continentally. He understood what was shared by all of these disparate communities and states that other people who were more provincial, like Patrick Henry who till the day he died said Virginia is my country and who only left Virginia in his entire life twice. Washington had had this experience of really understanding that it was, had the potential to be a country, to be a nation, and I think that that is something he carries over to why he eventually said yes, I’ll go to the Convention, why he supported so many of the things that Hamilton wanted to do, which was contraindicated for a Virginia planter. And I think that that experience in the War is what really made him and many people, if you look at the little bios of the people who attended the Convention, they share three interesting things in common; many of them were not born in the United States and so they didn’t have these deep roots in one state that made them provincial, many of them had been educated abroad, but many of them had been officers in the Continental Army and shared that sense of thinking continentally with Hamilton and with Washington and I think that’s critically important in the role

that he comes to play as President >>We have a question from the gentleman over here >>Yeah >>Hi, I’m Alex Warren from George Mason High School >>We haven’t mentioned him have we? <> >>No, and if you would after, you know, you answer my question that would be cool. But, what beyond legitimacy did George Washington really add to the Constitutional Convention? >>He didn’t say, he said not a word until the very last week when he made one request that they amend a decision they made and everybody said sure George. He took very seriously that role as Presiding Officer but you think about how, it’s like herding cats, he had a group of men not shy about speaking, not un-opinionated, discussing critically important issues and Washington said we will be civil. One of the first things that decide to do is have a set of rules of etiquette for the Convention; that you will not interrupt anyone speaking, you can’t speak more than twice on the same issue, and Washington enforced this, and I guarantee you if he hadn’t it would have been total chaos. My friend Joanne Freeman has written a book called Affairs of Honor about how many duels men in government had with one another or near duels and she’s now, I mean we think people misbehave today These guys were fighting on the floor of Congress, punching each other out, hitting each other, and she’s doing one now on the government before the Civil War. There were fistfights everywhere and all I could think as she was talking about all these episodes of people beating each other up, if George Washington had been presiding none of this would have ever happened. So, I think his role in keeping civility, which mattered a lot to Washington, keeping civility was critically important They never would have finished what they were doing if he had not been there to preside over them >>Carol, I want to ask you, there’s a story that I love to tell as a teacher but I’m not sure it’s true. In the Convention when they’re going to have this this debate about how representation should be, whether it should be by state or by population, and it’s going to be a big compromise, you know this >>Right >>But this is the central debate in the Convention >>Yes >>And it’s going to be acrimonious and Franklin, allegedly, this is what I’m not sure about, says that “given the importance of the occasion perhaps we should call in a minister to say a prayer” and Hamilton says, “I see no reason to call in foreign aid.” <> And if that’s not true, it ought to be true >>What is really funniest about this is, of course, Franklin was being as tongue-in-cheek as you possibly could be. But people have used that statement to prove that the Convention was a godly convention so you have to, when you just read the words, when you just read the words you don’t, you can’t understand it. I’m sure there was a little twinkle in Franklin’s eye and he was being as sarcastic as possible. This is a problem that Gouverneur Morris had all the time because he was really a wag and a wit and he would make these outrageous statements. Someone was worried that the Senate would become a cabal, an oligarchy of the wealthiest men in America, and Gouverneur Morris says, “I think we should require that the wealthiest men in America all be in the Senate because that way we can keep an eye on them easily”. And you read these words 150 years later and you think what an elitist and you don’t realize he’s being as sarcastic as possible. So, I don’t know if Hamilton, there’s no record that Hamilton made that reply but there is a record that Benjamin Franklin did say, you know, we are going to have so many fights let’s bring in a minister to call down peace on us from God >>We have a question from a young lady over here >>Hi, my name is Bess [inaudible], I’m from Parkview Middle School, and I was just wondering why did George Washington not serve as President for the third term? >>Why he didn’t serve a third term? The answer is he really didn’t want to serve at all >>Right <> >>That when he went to New York, which was the first capital, he left this place to go to New York, his last words were, “I feel

as if I’m a prisoner going to the gallows” He didn’t think of the presidency as the capstone of his political career. You know, in the 20th and 21st Century, you know all these presidential historians, the presidency, but for Washington the presidency was not at any way the most important thing that he did. That was also true for John Adams, it was also true for James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Their major contributions to American history were made earlier in the 1770s and in Madison’s case >>Jefferson doesn’t put it on his tombstone >>He didn’t put, yeah, he didn’t put any, and he doesn’t want to have any exercise of power on his tombstone. But he also knew, Washington did, that male members of the Washington line died in their 50s. Not a single one had made it to 60 and he was 58, and he wanted to get back here and spend the golden years with Martha at Mount Vernon in a bucolic, under his vine and fig tree as he said. He really, really did want to do that. But he had attempted not to be elected, once he finished his first term he attempted to resign after his first term, so it’s no surprise that he’s not ever going to even think about a third term. And in the process he sets almost accidently the two term president >>The young man who asked about George Mason, the reason we haven’t talked him is, of course, he opposed ratification of the Constitution <> Virulently and powerfully >>Hello, my name is Martha Levi and I’m visiting from Buena Vista. I’m here with my children. You know, we kind of live in a hero-less time period in American history where we don’t have that leader that can unite the American people as Washington did What can you say to the leaders of our country today, or more importantly to the people, the characteristics that Washington had that made him that hero worthy of following and looking to >>Well, I don’t mean to fudge the answer but we just live in a completely different world than Washington lived in; powerful political parties, powerful lobbying groups >>Washington would never run for office in this country >>Yeah, none of them, I think, would really be interested in the complexity of being the president today. They were not hounded by 50 different interest groups. One of the reasons Franklin Roosevelt, I think, is so admired by people, historians and political scientists, is he was a brilliant juggler of all the different voices in his coalition. I don’t think that’s the kind of problem Washington faced. I, for one, think Derrick Jeter makes a wonderful hero for our times <> That’s what I’ve been reduced to. But I think the kinds of integrity that a man like Washington was able to have in office is really quite, quite difficult today >>It is and it’s one of the reasons why we look back and over the last 20 years there’s been this enormous surge of interest in the Founders. I’ve been a major beneficiary of this so I don’t want to investigate it too closely and to have it go out of existence and then they not buy my books anymore, but they are the gold standard for the political leadership in American history. They are Washington is on Mount Olympus and the rest of them, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, slightly further down the slope. And then our modern guys are way down there in the valley someplace The thing they did that’s probably impossible to do now is they really said there is such a thing as the public interest. That’s what a republic is, res publica, things of the public interest. The public is not the same thing as the people. The public is the long term interest of the people which at any given time most people don’t know. Your job, therefore, is to act in the long term interest of the people and if they vote you out of office that’s okay >>Yeah >>Adams doesn’t go to war, knows if he doesn’t go to war with France he’s not going to be reelected, he says, great, I knew I did the right thing

>>Yeah >>So that, and they embody a definition of the publica, res publica, that is difficult to sustain in a democratic world and in a modern world with all the technology and all the blogs, the things are coming. But no member of the Revolutionary generation would agree to run for President of the United States in this political culture. It would be demeaning They wouldn’t do it >>We have one >>One more question and somewhat brief answers from both of you if possible >>[Laugh] >>I’m Austin [inaudible] and I go to George Mason High School, Falls Church, and I was wondering if you thought that the appointment of Thomas Jefferson to Washington’s cabinet was a good choice by him seeing as he was of a different party and if you thought that affected the political parties that formed afterwards >>He wasn’t of a different political party at the time that he was appointed. That is, there were no really functioning political parties at the time and I think certainly bringing in people of, Virginians, very influential state, bringing in people who were a little lukewarm about the Constitution. Jefferson wrote a 20 page attack on the Constitution, wanted Virginia not to ratify it. I think it’s typical of Washington’s effort to bring in all the voices and to listen to the points of view of everyone >>And it was, if you think about it, he’s got a great eye for talent. Washington really picks, you know, like he picks Hamilton out of the ranks and picks Nathaniel Greene who becomes a great general. And you’ve got Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison’s in the unofficial cabinet and he’s the major liaison with the House of Representatives, and not only that, when Washington arrives the House of Representatives welcomes him to New York and to the government and Madison writes that and the response is, Washington’s response, Madison writes that, too. Okay? He’s actually answering himself <> But you’ve got incredible, I would say, in the history of the Cabinet of the United States there’s more brain power in the first Cabinet then there is in any other Cabinet after that. So, but I’ve written a book on Jefferson and this, and he ends up being traitorous. He ends up while Secretary of State hiring people, Scott Freneau, Philip Freneau, to undermine the very presidency that he’s supposedly serving. Anybody that would do that in a modern context would be, would not only be fired, but probably taken to court and charged with treason >>He would be a pariah, absolutely >>Yeah, so he is in this moment of his political life, his great biographer said, “I don’t quite understand him in the 1790s.” >>[Laugh] >>Joe, I’m going to interrupt you. I want you guys to join me in thanking Carol and Joe for spending the morning with us and thank all of you for coming with us today <> <>