tv Jonathan Horn Washingtons End CSPAN April 7, 2020 8:01pm-9:02pm EDT
company to partake we have ever seen in this town on any occasion somebody has recorded. a remarkable moment for many reasons not the least of which offering a toast to the constitution, president, vice president, congress and then to the illustrious neighbor he truly had retired from public service his words in response are words i think of often no wish can exceed that to see our country happy. i can entertain no doubt of it being so if all of us act the part of goodod citizens. he included himself in that equation he is also a citizen that came with rights and duties particularly he would ansay a duty to maintain the constitution to support the laws and guard our
independence. as we will see it was a duty he took very seriously he did not retire so much as taken air different approach. tonight we get to hear about a wonderful book i am excited for you to learn about i read about in the prepublication stage which iub read over my vacation home christmas break. i was daunted how good this book was. i am excited for you to hear about it tonight. also our upcoming events in the very near future and just last couple of weeks thursday marc march 19 we have a free monthly event that will bring three authors together to talk about their experience as widows of war. their book the knock at the
door will be an important statement of that challenge and their approach from the news that came from what they heard also martha washington lecture which we have every march it will be march 24th to bring together three historians and one biographer all focused on mary ball washington and to explore different aspects of the mother of the founder of our country and will be an exciting event that will be on our website with more information. of course the other michelle smith lectures coming up to talk about franklin and washington and the american revolution in the hands of the american people not because it was led by philosophers but
the power of the ordinary american people so let's talk about tonight we will hear from jonathan warren graduate of yale a former white house presidential speechwriterve and assistant to george w. bush and was well known until the book came out decidedly not about george washington if you have read it you remember the title the man who would not be washington about robert e-lee and his times is written for the new york times and weekly standardn lives with his wife carol and his here tonight to discuss his book washington's and the final years and forgotten struggle. joining him is general david on - - general patraeus and mount vernon has a long and fruitful relationship serving
over 37 years in us military with a dedicated life of public service please welcome jonathan horn and general patraeus. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you for the kind introduction and your leadership of what is washington's library even though they didn't have those back in those days and thank you for being here. we were told it was a sellout we weren't sure if this would truly be a sellout in the end for those bold and intrepid souls here tonight not risking handshakes. [laughter] but a much more enjoyable evening than sitting at home
calculating how much you lost in the stock market today. [laughter] the most important position is that i am up partner of the kkr the biggest global investment firm so i also would be sitting at home calculating my losses. [laughter] congratulations jonathan on a great book. it will be a delightful evening tonight but i want to start by saying thanks for what you did when you were in government which just happened to coincide with the surge in iraq. the speechwriter for president bush during that time as he reminded me some of those speeches he did for the president. [laughter] but this is a terrific book. and with the. that is almost entirely overlooked by historians typically any history of washington when he leaves the white house gets very little coverage to what follows and i
also was very intrigued to read the book before it was published to find out how much it did take place with all of the other developments that took place during that period but first the previous book what was it that made you turn to george washington? did have to do with your speech writing in the failures of the president? >> first of all thank you so much general patraeus for being here at the home of george washington the part of that is rising to the republic i can think of someone more fitting to be in this house tonight then you so thank you for being here. k my previous book was called the man who would not be
washington but they said the next book should be the man who was washington.od [laughter] as the speechwriter that as the general mentioned at the end of the presidency so i saw what happened when a president leaves office and becomes a former president. one of the surprises i had was discovering the story of the first post- presidency was never told which is kind of surprising you think of all of the biographies written about george washington but you have little sympathy for them it's not quite as surprising because think of how much ground they have to cover a man who heard the first shots , held the continental army together during the revolutio revolution, presided over the constitutional convention and
served two terms as president and by the time you get through that as a biographer you're out of time and out of space the editor is on the phone i have sympathy for that to say where is your book? so the last years get shortchanged of his life. >> why did it take so long? [laughter] because those forgotten years which turn out to be incredible they are great fodder for historians and are tumultuous. >> your editors on the phone saying where is the book and it happened with me because george washington march 1797 he dies december 1799 a. a little less than three years. intarted to write the book 2015 so that means it took me
more years to to write about his post- presidency than he was in his post- presidency. [laughter] but it is difficult to surrender power and far more difficult than he ever imagined. >> you chose a particular style as you relay history from those who lived it. tell us about that style and why you decided to adopt that quick. >> that's a great question. that's one of the things one of the explanations i give why it took so long to write the book as a biographer you can tell the book through the comfort of the 21st century so with that hindsight gives you but the problem with thatbl approach is it gives you a sense you would have made better decisions than the people living in the past and
then it robs the past of everything of which people experienced it. and another approach is to actually tell the story of the past of those who actually lived it and that you only give the reader information that was then available to people who lived in the past and present new information as it came new to them in this story acquired that so to understand why surrendering power was so difficult for george washington and wyatt brought his life to an end it was a little more after the presidencycy he found himself drawn out of retirement and put back in command of the armies of the united states but his immediate and future successors really is the
opposite of what he was expecting euro from the capital in philadelphia and to see how we got there you have to see it through his eyes and his friends and rivals and family members of other people who made of the mount vernon community. >> washington claimed he was counting the days until he left office. i have heard a lot of people say that over the years but very few of them make it. normally that's what they say right before they inquire if they are invited to stay on in the current cabinet position. but he seems sincere. granted it was philadelphia and not washington dc but why was he so eager to leave? and how people viewed him? >> that is a great question. he was extremely eager to leave the presidency. the truth is he wanted to leave after the first term in
office. he got very close to doing so it went so far to write a farewell address but then he was convinced the country would come apart if he left office and people told him and then he immediately regrets that decision to serve a second term. he said he would rather be anywhere then be president of the united states by the time the second termhe ends nothing in the world could have convinced him to serve a third term at that particularm moment. he wanted to return to mount vernon to see himself living out his days as a farmer. he wanted to fix up the mansion house here he felt had gone into ruin, and put his personal papers in order. because he knew people like yours truly would one day want to write his biography. that is how he saw his post- presidency going he thought it
would be peaceful and it was anything but with all the controversy and personal torment. >> presidents now days set a precedent. there is a sequence of events and to raise money for your library, but there was no precedent at that time. was there any example at all to look to the future? >> you do have to raise money now to the presidential library and then to have the idea one of the things he did when he got back to mount vernon is he wanted to build an archive for his papers. so back to the question of
precedent the american people are very well aware of thean story of the roman general who save the republic and then returned to his farm that is a story they were very much aware of but it wasn't modern for washington and to understand how impressive this was, you have to look across the ocean to france of what was happening there. louise 16 recently left power and afterwords literally lost his head in the guillotine. and that is how things tended to go in the world at that time. if you are head of state giving up power you lost your head. so there really was very revolutionary so something to keep in mind about the way the post- presidency may diverge from today. >> if you reflect on the fact
to fall very far from philadelphia but that it was never far from washington's thoughts. how did he adjust to life back here at mountar vernon? >> he tried to put himself back into a routine to find and keepd himself busy to monitor the improvements and was lying around his farm and did throw himself into his old papers to get them in order. at the same time he had a very hard time to separate himself from what was happening in the then capital of philadelphia he was eager to get moved. he is a voracious reader of newspapers but they don't satisfy him. he wants to know more so he goes to the people who know tthe most the members of john adams cabinet and they just happen to be the same members of his own cabinet because adams made the mistake to
retain all of george washington's cabinet secretaries. ca[laughter] so he says send me an update of philadelphia. so he really does push the boundaries of confidentiality he really does want them to go further and says don't go too far but let me know what's happening. so what is happening with the foreign-policy crisis developing between united states and france. france has been seizing american ships at sea and john adams has sent envoys to france to negotiate a settlement is a long period of time everybody's waiting to find out you can see washington getting more and more agitated. what happened to the envoys they said were they guillotined? the answer comes it will up
and his peaceful retirement. >> we will get to that but first we hear a lot these days about the relationship between presidents and the press what was thatpr relationship like back in washington's days? did he read the press to supplement what he was getting directly from the former appointees in w office? >> that's a great question. if you look back at this. it was always a difficult relationship. george washington, one of the reasons he so eager to leave is he is attacked by newspaper editors by the emerging opposition party they say the even forged letters to suggest he was a lukewarm patriot during the american revolution. to give you an idea how far
this goes washington spends is also they in office putting documentation down those letters are not true not only he wastr a patriot of the american revolution. >> some of these were funded by certain politicians. >> that's true. one of the first opposition newspapers the editor is working for thomas jefferson secretary of state. so yes a very interesting y relationship with the press them the president during this period of time. it is important to understand about washington. he really cares what's put out that criticism wound him deeper than you might imagine. but at the same time he doesn't want people to think
they are reading the newspapers but to find creative ways that doesn't require him to be a subscriber. he is a voracious reader of newspapers and the tension is so high many people have learned the alien and sedition act that is legislation against some journalists that were associated with the opposition party to be put in prison in the unitedd states and george washington supports this. >> like we don't have that these days. [laughter] some of the concerns washington had of the post- presidency sound like today. what else do you see between the late 17 nineties and today?
>> that was the biggest surprise was discovering so many of the things we are worried about today with sound familiar to george washington. for example, we are worried about foreign intervention in elections. washington was worried about that too. in fact the first foreign intervention was 1796 the foreign power intervened on behalf of the republican party which79 fha was then tried to gt thomas jefferson elected president of the united states of the ford power waspres franc. we were worried about new forms a of media they were worried about new forms of media back then it was the newspaper that is what they would describe this fake news and also worried about the
emergence of political parties and polarization tearing the country apart. in a way to see that they have these concerns that our concerns today should give us great confidencee because they were worried it would come up part and they endured that should give us confidence that we can endure challenges as enwell. >> what was observed over the years whenen foreign countries what's going on in the us not just recently but many occasions b to be noted that we had been through very tough times before. so tough one episode had to be settled with a four year civil war and plenty others as well but it is constructive to go back that far to realize that even then at the beginning that our founding fathers literally were put on a pedestal all over the country
were actually engaged in such intrigue. >> so let's turn to france the first foreign-policy crisis that dominated at least the successors turn of john adams so give us some background in the sequence of events from 1798 and ultimately end up cutting short washington's retirement. >> right i mentioned adams sent envoys to france and especially waiting what happened to the envoys in france and that the french would not receive the envoys unless they got a bribe. into the parallels that day.
[laughter] so as a result, there is an uproar in the united states and immediately the country goes into prepare for war there are preparations made, a new army reparations at sea and as part of that, john adams nominates george washington to be commander-in-chief for the armies of the united states without pausing to ponder why the constitution might specifically reserve the commander-in-chief or the president or bothering to ask was washington had any terms or conditions for acceptance. it turns out he did have some conditions for acceptance and
that would cause problems between john adams and george washington.oh >> so what will be several fax i have many and i must confess i completely overlooked the factsh washington served again as the commander of armies but how did he react to this request and what were his thoughts? >> he is torn and feels he cannot sit on the sidelines for everything he has worked his whole life for he is the father of the country. for him to come out of retirement but at the same time he is hesitant because he has some questions. for example he's worried about what people will say he sensitive to criticism or all the things he said during his second term or his farewell
address itself is a sham he is worried if he is too old for the job or if there is someone younger who is more qualified the french are having terrific success with bonaparte who was very young and the final thing he's worried about if it would damage his legacy his legacy is so important to him at this stage he is very conscious of his role in history and doesn't want to do something that will sacrifice the fame he has earned and that is one of the reasons he has a condition he doesn't want to take active command of the army unless there is an actual invasion from france and wants to choose the second command to serve as the chief and for
that he ends up choosing somebody that he has been warned john adams specifically does not want and that is the star of everyone's favorite musical, alexander hamilton. r][laughter] >> i wish i could set conditions before a couple of my commands. [laughter] so right away here we are settling into post- presidency of the relationship between washington in some respects and the chosen successor turns contentious was this unavoidabl unavoidable. >> there are a friday of juctors in just to give you an idea in 1798 and february
george washington's birthday john adams now the sitting president gets an invitation will you come to a ball in honor george washington's birthday. ensure enough shows up in the newspaper to say no. i will not go to a ball an washington's birthday and this causes a social scandal in philadelphia and acrossso the country and other factors to consider because adams goes back to quincyo massachusetts washington is at mount vernon secretary of war mchenry that everybody seems to agree is not qualified for the job serves as the man in the middle between mount vernon and quincy and information did not travel very quickly it
would take three weeks for a letter to be relayed from mount vernon to philadelphia to quincy. so it was plagued with miscommunication so john adams s did not want alexander hamilton in command and tries to find ways to get out of it. why didn't he want him a second in command? he knew he had conspired against his election in 1796. that he and his wife don't believe alexander hamilton resembled a caesar and then to have this fear publicly but
george washington makes clear he will resign if he doesn't get his way so alternately adams does have to give way in washington gets his man. so much for the former presidents not meddling with their successors f. >> as an aside adam was so touchy later he cuts off all communication with jefferson and refuses to communicate directly with him and would only do so through abigail and this lastedd just right up until the death. >> a lot of the founding fathers were touchy by the time washington dies, he is no longer on speaking terms
jefferson, james madison and james monroe those are third fourth and fifth president of the united states. [laughter] in washington is no longer on speaking terms with them when he dies. [laughter] there is a variety of reasons why that happened and there are serious personal reasons but that should give you an idea and to remind us all the eafounding fathers. s>> i'm glad there's no were egos in the oval office anymore. [laughter] >> but nowadays we think presidents leaving office are less partisan i do think that is the model if you think george h.w. bush coming together with clinton and defeated him for the second term for a variety of good causes almost all the presidents have most recently gotten together through a variety of causes.
that you suggest leavingat office made washington more partisan how does that transpire? >> i think george washington did become more partisan after he left the presidency we do have that perception today that it's above partisan feuds but really it is the exact opposite. involved himself in congressional elections in a way he never would have as presiden president. he supported the alien and sedition act that led to printers with the opposition party being locked up and also favored excluding members of the opposition party from the new army being formed in this was a partisan army.
the reason this is so surprising today is that we are all reminded of the political party but to remember during the last years of washington's life that all americans have the choice to be a member of one party or the other and that was either a federalist or republican and george washington was a federalist. there is actually a concerted effort as it becomes clear that john adams will lose the presidency in the election of 1800 to convince george washington to seek a third term as president. and there are influential people that are impressed with the members of the cabinet to make the case to washington
and he tried to silence all idea and one of the arguments heo makes he could command no more votes than any other federalist would at that point because the country is so polarized. but a broomstick could run for president in the united states because here is the father of our country pondering losing the presidency to a broomstick. >> [laughter] let's ponder that for a moment but washington of course had no biological children but yet you point out as a little known fact he did raise
children he would raise martha's children so what kind of father was he from the father of our country? >> he back down to find that challenging especially with his grandson. because we have the letters that washington sent and there are variety of schools that he went to because he kept dropping out in washington would have to find a new school to send him to. constantly with letters for advice like don't trust yourself listen to your teachers. [laughter] so what is interesting to that for me was that many years late later, another virginian
was very similar to all the things washington learned that he turned out to be that was his son-in-law robert e-lee and that in some ways was another connection that led me to washington's last years. >> those that survived the letters that survived it was that relationship like during the post- t presidency. >> tragically martha we think burned the letters that george and martha exchange. but we do have a sense of what they might have said because washington inscribed them during his last years and said if anyone read them they would get the sense of friendship and that's a good way of thinking about their marriage. rarely were they alone but they always like to be
together he would describe it as a friendship or a partnership and that passion to underpin a marriage. but he was still thinking during these last years of sally fairfax. we know that she was a married woman i think we can safely say washington fell in love with as a young man before martha. and we know he's thinking aboutan her because he wrote a letter to her where he said all the things he had done afterwards in his life the revolution in the two terms as president had not meant as much to him that the time he spent with sally fairfax as a young man. >> i guess martha did not see that.
[laughter] >> he wrote a separate letter she drafted the markup. [laughter] >> how did the marriage complicate the clause he wrote into the will to emancipate the slaves? >> most of the slaves them out vernon were not washington's the plurality of them belong to martha's first husband and it was not in washington's power to emancipate the slaves it is in martha's power but is not clear that would have been her choice if it was in her power because he acknowledges consequences will result
because for the eventual emancipation for his slaves to acknowledge mary marriages have been formed between his slaves and the estate of the first husband would be broken up. so essentially mount vernon shares that as a whole to be half slave and half free. >> by the way did we talk about collecting questions? you are supposed to send questions down. you are collecting them? good. there are several more questions then we will reach the time of audience participation that comes by you submitting questions to me which then i will ask of jonathan. washington dies a really tough
and excruciating death in 1799. was there any hope to save him? >> certainly the medical care he received did not help matters. essentially he dies the epiglottis swells because of his infection and he can't breathe. so he is slowly suffocating and choking to death. there is one doctor, a young doctor who have the idea for a tracheotomy which would basically try to bypass what is obstructing his airway and that doctor said maybe we shouldn't be bleeding him as much as we are. but back then it's important to say it was a practice
because when he woke up on the day of his death somebody who worked at the estate and martha was worried that too much was being taken and george washington saysak more. the doctors who followed took a lot more blood. the younger doctor said at some point i don't think leading is the right thing to do. he needs his strength. but under normal circumstances so would the tracheotomy have worked? maybe but probably not considering 18th century medicine he surely would have died of complications. >> is fine law wishes with the care of his personal papers he was very conscious of his place in history.
how conscious was he in particular during the final years? >> he is very conscious and he was very worried about his papers he wanted to get them in order he was spending so much time during this period editing his all letters so what kind of edits are it is he making try to change history? really he's just trying to fix up his grammar. [laughter] he was worried about the way he wrote certain things back then so it is important to say because a lot of people back then they said he was a literate and other one - - illiterate and had other people write his letters for him he was extremely good writer and a very effective letter writer.
so he is very conscious of his place in history and so much so that long before most of us got the idea of the social media world that anything you say can live on forever george washington already understood that duality he knew after you had dinner with george washington you went home with a letter and you put it in your diary and that was for historians so he always has to be careful about what he said and what he wrote he knew that people would be reading his letters. >> churchill observed history would be kind to him because he intended to writend it. [laughter] did washington ever have that idea? >> there was the attempt at
the official george washington biography actually and that it actually was published before the official biography didn't turn into much because you can see with washington it is interesting to look at but at the same time for someone to write biographies for a living to write the official george washington biography. >> he needed a speechwriter like you. >> just months after washington died they moved into the city can you talk about the relationship between the man in the city of washington?ty >> this is not lost on people that washington dies a month later a new capital city opens with the name washington.
it's very fitting the city of washington was called washington washington had chosen the spot on the potomac river it is washington who spent a good deal to oversee the construction and ultimately he gave his name and it started to call washington himself by the end of the presidency but he thought the city could do what he no longer could to pull together that factions and of course there is some irony today that george washington held together america to say look at the city of washington is almost synonymous with political division so that is
the irony that attracted me to the story that in some ways the story of his last years is actually the story of the beginning of the city of washington. >> to all of us on the back of the book writing about what a great book it is and the changes of the way that we view washington's last years how to learning this history change your view overall and what lessons should former presidents draw today from his last years? >> you might say he watches struggle retirement does that make you think less of the man but actually i come to understand how difficult it was to surrender power gave me all the more appreciation for what it took for george washington to do it.
and then to load back into power and what it took for him to surrender power as for former p presidents today is the way from which should act but one lesson is that in some sense former presidents get their perception of power from the idea they are above politics and above partisanship so the second you reenter that is gone. so in some sense that gives that perception of power in these them powerless. >> just a few weeks ago we
celebrated his birthday. what would surprise him the most? >> you would be surprised how many people called the holiday presidents' day. first of all the official name is washington's birthday of course everybody in mount vernon knows that. but it would surprise him that so many people that the president succeeded him in office didn't like to celebrate the day at all i tell you the story about john adams refusing to attend the ball. james madison 1796 celebrated the representatives refusing to adjourn he thought this was a great feat. and james monroe don't want -
- to write of the idea of washington's birthday and thomas jefferson the only one he would celebrate was july 4th so that is can particularly convenient for jefferson because of the document that he had written the declaration of independence. >> that makes you feel a lot better about today. so you discuss thet parallels of washington cincinnatus and george c marshall can you discuss any similarities or mention any other states and those parallels? >> it is so interesting. >> i didn't have a farm to go back to. [laughter]
i think there is a modern equivalent of a farm today but that is a tough question. part of that is the reason it is so difficult so many former presidents fall in the morals of americans cincinnatus. the reason that's the case is washington has to go through the struggles that he did and not even to appreciate how revolutionary that the words now sound so cliché but it's a testament to what he did he made it normal to become that cincinnatus figure. >> i'm sure that beautiful building the beautiful headquarters i assume you visited that looking into the history of washington's final years? >> yes.
of course that was controversia controversial. again it is amazing everything causes controversy. >> i'm not sure what the modern criteria is spent with the descendents or any others. [laughter] >> the question of who should be part of that. that's just another example how they cause controversy back then and nothing haser changed. >> this is a great question. thoughts on the new york times sponsored 1619 project. >> that is a fabulous question. what i would say about that come it comes back to that you
believe the american revolution is the cause of slavery. but i have to admit i'm not an expert on the project but happen to believe the founding fathers certainly helped that for slavery you can't speak for all founding fathers but washington hoped slavery was put on the path to extinction. in the person that believed in that the most was abraham lincoln. so i like to put myself on the historical side to believe that the founding fathers did know how to get there but hope eventually but slavery would be put on the path to extinction. >> if he lived another ten years what were his plans for mount vernon?
>> that's a great question. george washington actually hoped to rent out some of the farms here on mount vernon because they were on a fixed income the best way to do that but you have to understand mount vernon was vastly larger than it looks today. it was five separate farms including the farmer around the mansion house he wanted to rent out the outlying farms. but it turned out it was pretty difficult for him to rent the farms to because he had strict criteria for who he wanted he did not want virginians. they were bad farmers. [laughter] so who will come in to run the farm in mount vernon? theho british.
[laughter] he thinks they are the best farmers in the world so you can see in the way that he operates so it's difficult for george washington for somebody who likes to be in control he has estate manager helping to manage the estate for his retirement and he keeps threatening to quit because he doesn't like the fact that washington is micromanaging and how does he say it's my estate and not have an opinion how you run the place? that tension is there and he is constantly looking for different ways and right before his death he puts together a new plan for the way he hopes mount vernon would be run.
so he gets the sense he did not expect it to end when it did 1799. >> was washington active as mason throughout his presidency? >> there was a big role at george washington's funeral. they were here for the funeral rites but at that moment washington specifically in his will says he doesn't want any military procession at his funeral at mount vernon but there's no way that is stopping that from happening anyway because the troops would not follow. >> somebody says they give for your time tonight what do you think washington with think about the fact that we as a
country have many of the same problems he witness 240 years ago? what he despair at the lack of progress? [laughter] focus on the positive. [laughter] he would be very impressed how quickly we could get around the country. g back then he was hoping the potomac riverma word be central it didn't turn out that way but he was impressed by trains and airplanes but he would be impressed of the progress we have made but it's difficult to say i should preface by saying what some of the past
with think of the present we can't say what he would think of twitter for example. >> always remember churchill's gray observation and democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. this has been a delightful evening. we thank you very much for a terrific book on a period of washington's life that has been overlooked and thank you for doing that so brilliantly. i know you are still in the book tour phase it was only published a few weeks ago and is doing very very well and number 13 of whatever category it is which is quite significant. but is not too soon to ask you of the subject of your next boo book.
[laughter] >> oh no. i was thinking about this because what is the subject of your next book? what are you doing? choosing a topic i'm not sure that metaphor is original to me but you have to research some topics before you make a commitment t because it is a five year commitment and then you have to live with that for the rest of your life. [laughter] so it is a very delicate way to dodge the question that i'm otill looking for the next book. >> are there subjects with which you are flirting? >> all have a range of american history and we are
lucky to live in a country with so many great stories to tell. >> you don't want to come closer to the present? >> maybe the 19th century. >> i have seen enough of the 21t century. [laughter] >> congratulations on a great book and thank you for wonderful conversation. [applause] . . . . bookstore in.
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