tv The Presidency Thomas Jefferson and Abigail Adams CSPAN May 16, 2021 8:42pm-9:29pm EDT
where we are. and to continue to be as i've always written. the world's best hope i remain you humble and obedient servant thomas jefferson. happy birthday to all of you. and godspeed next on the presidency historical interpreters bill barker and abigail schumann bring thomas, jefferson and abigail adams to life in a candid conversation ranging from the personal to the political thomas. jefferson's monticello hosted this program and provided the video. gentleman, and ladies what a pleasure. it is to be in your company once again for all of you to come visit us here at our monticello. this is the most uniquely unrecorded moment in our nation's history and
particularly our history with monticello. to have our good friend mrs. abigail adams with us and to enjoy a conversation amongst all of us engaged good questions by miscarriage subram without a further coming from me. it is my great pleasure to introduce to you all. this is abigail adams now. i thank you, mr. jefferson. and welcome to you as i myself and welcome here. i look forward to our conversation mrs. adams if you will a chair. thank you, sir, please join. i thank you indeed. well. i'm very curious as to hear what we will be asked of today and considering the length of time. we have known one in the other and of course. my mutual friend and your dear husband john adams. so shall we engage the first question? ms what had each of you heard
about the other before you knew each other and what were your impressions when you first met? yeah, well, i i suppose i heard of you long before i actually met you in particular when my husband was attending the grand congress in philadelphia the continental congress where he and mr. jefferson became most well acquainted and john. to adams was forever writ. ing about your skill with the pins sir in addition to the arguments and compromises be worked out in that sweltering heat. it was terribly hot and during all of the congresses, but particularly the extension of the second in in that was in the spring of 17 and 76, but i had heard about your husband. well before that. oh, yes indeed.
he had become renowned throughout all of the colonists because of his defense of the british soldiers during that massacre in boston when that was march of 70 was it not it was indeed stands in start contests in my memories because my husband risked so much to stand in defense of the british soldiers who had fired upon a crowd and there had been lots of life. but john announced at that time and it has always been true to him that facts of stubborn things and if one seeks the facts one will find the truth and though he feared his reputation might be ruined it was it was that trial and the exoneration of many of those accused and blessed sentences for those that were found guilty
that brought him to the attention of those who invited him to join the congress in the massachusetts delegation. citizens. i certainly remember that the facts mrs. adams referring to so staunchly preserved protected stood upon by her husband. john adams were truly what united 13 individual nations. they brought us all together more than anything else and then i first heard about you. well, i think you've already discovered. i heard about you through a letter that you wrote your husband that spring of 1776 a remarkable letter indeed and speaking about facts. good heavens mrs. adams. that letter was disseminated among several in the continental congress, but i had the pleasure to be amongst the first to read it. and to my mortification my husband may practice of sharing
my private correspondence to him with members of the congress. he told me that it allowed it allowed the other men to understand the fight of those who were not misfortunate as they and i asked him since they were creating a new government in entirety. why not ben remember the ladies in that design and be more generous and favorable to them than had been their ancestors? i mean truly mr. jefferson, you must admit that men of good sense a poor customs that treat women like slaves and i simply intrigued mr. adams to make sure that the the desires of the ladies will remembered or we would we would be determined to come into revolution of our own and we would not be held by any lord which we had no representation.
exactly as i remember it at its very first reading. mrs. adams you spoke not for the ladies at that time, but i can assure you your words will resonate through generations yet. unborn to remind all of us of the ladies not only during times of conflict and contest but during times of peace. in my opinion is it is indeed the ladies that i want to maintain the peace perhaps more than gentlemen have been able to succeed throughout time. your next question is subaru. deborah asks if both would share their thoughts on influential women of their day. how did women make their power felt? hmm. how did we make our power felt? well, perhaps the two most influential women that come to my mind would be my dear friend mercy, otis warren.
she has penned in her own hand and after many years of study a history of our american revolution and although there are those who did not find her assessment of them favorable mr. adams in particular. i believe that that mercy has indeed captured a moment in time in such a way that it will be remembered through generations. so hopefully much much longer than my personal correspondence. the other i would have to name in that pantheon would be lady washington herself. she was so gracious to me when my husband was vice president and when john adams was elected to the presidency. she tendered very wise advice to me to to remember that that is
really just a moment and the moment is is for the people it is not about us and that was the best advice i have yet received. i remember mrs. washington quite well. indeed a lady who always spoke with great manna and and great concern and great interest in the affairs of others and who could deny that she was of great support to dear husband the general but miss deborah if you ask me the lady's most influential in my life. i certainly cannot deny my own mother jane randolph jefferson. i realized a dog too early in age. i was only 14. when my father passed away leaving my mother a widow to present over the rearing of 10 children. what happens with a weight upon my shoulders i did the best that i could. and to think that as i was preparing to leave to go up to philadelphia to sit on the committee with your husband and
draft our declaration of american independence that last day in march. of 1776 my mother was suddenly taken ill and passed away within a short time. oh my heavens. i was almost i was almost done in by a migraine headache that accompanied me for two weeks. there's no question and you've heard me speak of her before my late wife. martha wales, skelton jefferson will always remain very deep in my heart. i cannot deny the number of women here about shadwell farm where i was born and grew up around monticello and and our neighboring farms who labor for my happiness. never to be forgotten in that regard and finally as deborah.
this was abigail adams her self. oh, this is adams. just the recitation of few moments ago of your letter. your letter that will resonate throughout the angels as indication of the influence that you have had not only in your own time, but will continue to have you know, they refer to another says the founding fathers. please do not forget the founding mothers. or you do flatter mr. jefferson, perhaps we should move on to the next question. you both sailed separately to europe in 1784. what were your shared experiences while in france and then leader in england? we almost sailed together. intention and it was much appreciated that you would try and and intercept me. this was when i was in boston to book passage to come and join
mr. adams after a five year absence from one another and mr. jefferson. i remember you coming and making yourself known to me and saying that you would travel with me to see that all of my needs were met a board ship for my husband had cautioned me that being on a ship was no place for a lady. but you did not have passage on the active as i did. i had already paid my way and spoken with the captain and could not pull out for we were to leave the very next day. but i was very grateful to you. and that turned out to be off very first meeting the very first time me we met one in the other having heard so much about you beforehand to think that it to was nearly 10 years later that i was able to to meet you personally and perhaps it was far too much of a presumption to think that after five years not
seeing your husband you might welcome to travel with me and after thought i am happy that you'll ship sailed the earlier and that i following not too long thereafter and then yes to to meet in in france. do you know i believe that the ship i sailed upon arrived in france or for me to be able to travel once landing in france to paris before your own arrived. oh. indeed, perhaps it may be true for i did not fail to france. i sailed to england and was there for some short time waiting for my husband to who was to come and sin for me on his way from the netherlands, but he he came by surprise as i waited for him there thinking at last that he would not be able
to keep the wrong debut and well as poets and artists say we must draw avail upon those things that surpass expression suffice it to say we were delighted to be reunited an understatement indeed. miss super your next question. would you tell us about some of the ways that atoms and jefferson's children were connected to each other and to you too and adrina would like to know what mrs. adams thinks of mr. jefferson's daughters. oh, well, mr. jefferson's daughters are a delight when we first arrived in france, mr. adams and i and we're at last acquainted with you and your daughters. well with your elder daughter she was staying at a convent at the time, but would come on occasion to a company to theater or to come to dine and charming
charming young woman and some years later when mr. adams was appointed as the ambassador to the court of saint james. which i take great pride even today your daughter polly came to stay with us in england as she made her crossing after her father sent for her polly traveled with the young girl sally sally sally hemings. she was before 14 polly nine and i dare say that sally could take care of holly was probably not exactly the way to put it they seemed of the same age and and countenance but it was it was a pleasure to have your daughter with me for that time. although i must say it would have served her. well had you come to collect her
in person rather than sending a servant whom she could barely understand and certainly did not know. i'm afraid that i was delayed if you recall my attention i had to pay of course at the royal court, but louis the 16th. and well, you became all too aware of that when finally you joined your husband in paris before sailing back to england where the two of you lived there, and he attended to saint james's palace our children. may i say were friends with one and the other and intimately so and i cannot help but recount the great privilege they had did they not in being able to engage a society quite different from that in boston let alone out here in the wilderness in the forest prime evil. remember that we all attended the theater together a nabi of course and john quincy adams and
my daughter nailed mrs. randiff, but patsy martha all of us engaging theater and oh several repairs the elegant dentists that you and your husband provided at all toy. that beautiful hotel where you lived in paris. no our children were very very fortunate and though there was somewhat of a disengaging if you will of both them correspondence and and friendly association during the two terms. i was cheap manchester to the nation. well now john quincy adams did come to visit at the president's house. what a roast remarkable boy. he is. i must tell you that that boy has more knowledge universal than anyone i can possibly think of he should make a very fine chief magistrate someday is my opinion. oh, yes.
your next question is super. your friendship, of course as you all have mentioned included mrs. adams husband, john you traveled through england together mr. jefferson then lived in new york at the same time while both of you were serving in the us government. can you tell us some of the highlights of your times together? did you share tastes in the arts and literature? remember when we were all together in london and we decided that mr. adams and myself should have our portraits painted by brown mather brown. i'll never forget that setting. and then we exchange the portraits one to the other. i believe you still have my portrait that you'll be beautiful homepage field. yes, and that you should mention a portraits and the like it was a portrait of mr. adams that i first saw when i was coming to
england to join him mr. copley had painted a very fine lightness of my husband and enjoyed it invited me to come and view it but it was after seeing that which would in he showed us through his galleries and there was a painting the death of pearson and i know it would have moved you greatly colonel pearson lay in the arms of his officers with his wound in his side the blood you could almost see it flow. you could hear the groans of his men and there stood by them a black servant with his peace raised pointed at the one who had an inflicted the wound. i vow i stared at that portrait until i felt faint it was so alive on the canvas. and i know that we have shared
our love of art and and of theater and have you ever been so moved by a painting? i have indeed been moved by the paintings of david. i think his oath of the karate is absolutely stunning when it reminds us of what a brotherhood of man can accomplish on behalf of protecting and defending the inalienable rights of their fellow man. you were not there at the time, but i was recalled by our new government under the constitution at the time when general the marquis de lafayette and i were working on a french bill of rights and the citizen this was the spring of 17 and 89 and during daily trips to to their sigh i was able to bear witness to the gathering of the three estate generals. and oh, yes, yes, of course the clergy and the bourgeoisie and
end of course the the third class itself and always the royal and noble line there at the top. the third class was prohibited to enter into the menu palace where they had been greeting them you recall that great banquet hall and they're shy and so do you know that they finally all gathered in a jean the poem a tennis court and they all took an oath to remain together over 570 together. the tennis court oath they refer to it. this was a subject that david pursued as well. remember when we attended the salons frequently in the tweedlery powders as they are the louvre where it was and so many wonderful portraits and and paintings and sculpture and kind i beg your pardon here.
we are supposed to be discussing upon new york and our times in new york, but i'm certainly they're not trying to denigrate at times in york, but there was a particular urgency. there was a particular. hmm, what should we call it? a tension political tension that was beginning to accrue during our time in new york while we were testing out. are very young constitution and its bill of rights. i believe the contest was certainly not so much with your husband at that time and i beg your pardon citizens, but the the contest was between myself and our new secretary of the treasury general hamilton. yes a little general indeed those were contentious times and they were times that tried
friendship to the the utmost in the years to come but there were enjoyable evenings together dining and laughing and and sharing our travels and memories of our travels abroad that france's tavern. that was not very far from my residence down there. it made in lane. no, they were they were wonderful respikes away from the rooms of politics. your next question. well drake would like to know about each of your relationships with alexander hamilton and additionally would you be willing to tell us something of those tensions and differences you just mentioned between you two as well as john adams and how they arose. oh my you have asked quite a
question as to my relationship with mr. hamilton. i i prefer to be brief and short whenever in his company, although he did dine with us when we were in in new york and and he was an engaging man in his way. but his politics i found to be very underhanded and i i don't have a good word to say so i shall stop my mouth. the most gracious mrs. adams i i wish i could be as gracious in my replied drake. for i could not possibly make a comment that is is but temporary. i shall introduce you to the entrance hall of monticello, and you will see they're in mrs. adams a rather overly barge large bust of myself cut by
karachi, but then as you look over opposite at the other side of the room to the left as you entered you will see a beautifully. car bust of general hamilton oh and when people are there as you shall see and i will be standing next you. and i will comment that yes, they're the two of us will gaze cross at one the other in opposition. throughout death as we have been in life. so no, i should not go into if you will but i could extensibly the differences of opinion between general hamilton and his self and knowing that your husband felt the same as i did and particularly mr. madison. i should simply say that the arguments between us drake have existed from time in memorial and they will continue to exist the great question of how man ought to be governing himself ought to be those of property
and prestige and means if you will even titles who hold a great deal of financial influence? to govern over men, or should it be the common man? and general hamilton understood these differences if you will these differences of opinion. he understood why we fought our american revolution on behalf of the common man. but i think that what your husband john adams understood and i know you do and i certainly do. was understood by general hamilton that is americans a difference of opinion ought never be a difference a principle. now what? what evolved between your husband and myself i'd look at as i look at it. simply politics itself. simply the the twistifications of the facts and the like that can come in to the affairs of mankind and provoke a greatness
understanding that is what i think about that. last time that we were all together in the president's house that february of 1801 remember the the election the presidential election was as yet undecided. in the electoral college i've received the majority of the popular vote. indeed and as you have stated mr. jefferson, i believe it is true. there is a distinction. that should be drawn between friendship and politics. our friendship has endured for nigh on 50 years and our politics have weathered quite some storms. i believe that factionalism is the enemy here. not any person. well said mrs adams. can you certainly understand how? how you were of such great
support to your husband throughout all of those occasions in which we differ in our politics in which we secured more substantially the political platforms. um the last time we met in the president's house that february of 1801 you were so gracious to be with the two of us for a time and then you left us alone, and we've realized that we were but victims of political schism that two others could be standing in our shoes and fallen victim as well and no difference of opinion. between two friends in either politics or religion should come into the friendship and dissolve the friendship because if it does then there has never been a friendship to begin with. and that was the thread that. i am glad did not break when you and mr. adams had your how does one say falling out over the election of 1800?
it was a very very painful time for mr. adams as you know, we had lost our son charles at about that same day. and so he was taking on the personal front and on his reputation as a politician and it was quite a blow for him to know mrs. adams that i certainly would have arrived personally to express my great remorse and my sadness and there's no need there's no need to make apology now searches in the past and in the past it should remain. as you have said mrs. adams and happy indeed to hear that our friendship has survived. although lamentably there has a period of a good 11 years from that month of february 18 or one when your husband and i were not in correspondence now happily happily. well, yes happily the two of us.
were able to correspond to upon equally as sad circumstances. that seems that in all circumstance of our correspondence. i have been the first to write i wrote to you first from england to france when mr. adams and i had removed there. and after this long separation in our friendship, i wrote to you upon. the death of your sweet polly she had been quickly a fast a fast child of my own heart when she stayed with me in england and to lose her i know was a searing pain where i too have felt that loss. in particularly if you recall when she had to leave you. oh, yes, when when what was his name petite petit to you sent to to take her away the servant. oh the porch child.
she she clung round my neck, and and she proclaimed now that i have learned to love you. why must they take me away and oh, i was heartbroken and that is why mr. jefferson and i will not bring it up again in future. i promise but this one last emphasis on the fact that you did that young child the service not to fetch her yourself. i know you had engagement, but you could have delayed coming for she was quite content with mr. adams and i i read with her every day and we had wonderful conversations for a 9 year old. she was quite lively. i remember my greatest fear as she was taken off was that he would send her to the convents along with her el sister their temperaments are not matched and i did not think she would thrive there, but i'm sorry i don't mean to oh mrs. adams you speak
directly who speak the facts as i recall them and in such knowledge i continue to do myself a disservice. when you wrote me upon the death of my dear pali, this is epps. she was only 24 years of age. and he was so kind to write and to share your sympathies and your empathy. and to think that when i replied and so interested in and fervent if you will to continue our friendship that i should reply. after but a few lines and dig up the hatchet if you will. the political differences between your husband and myself i shall not go into those midnight appointments. it would do all of us a disservice particularly with having mrs. adams here in our company.
sir, if you shall not go into them, why should you even mention them? you have dug up the hatchet and you have wielded it sir. and mr. adams was within his power and duty as the president of these united states to fill each of the offices as they became vacant. and he did so so and there should be no contention that he did so and all these years later i am. i am robert distressed that it's still. bothers you i have dug it up yet again. you should go to another question. no, i am thankful that even here. at my own home you have expressed so well yet again what you expressed. in your last letter to me. you are correct.
i should better my manners. my apologies just nothing, mr. jefferson. truly your next question is susan. mrs. adams bridget notes, you described sleepy as a sin. however, she wonders if you believe in racial equality. and would you each share your views on slavery? and how do they differ? yes, i do believe that slavery is a sin. i would that there was not a slave throughout our republic. but i have often found myself perplexed that we would fight for that. very thing that every day. we robbed and plundered from other people who have every right to freedom that we do i stand by that mr. adams and i
have never owned slaves. we have hired free blacks we have hired on occasion in slaved people with the assurance that they would keep their own wage. i think perhaps the question and the conundrum it presents my best to be answered mr. jefferson. is bridget and this is adam snow's? well that this is a question that i cannot answer. sincerely all with evidence and the history of my efforts to do what i can to. seek its abolishment. to rectify the inheritance that i've received not only from my parents and my grandparents but my late wife. because all of it would seem most trivial.
and but excuses mrs. adams, you know indeed that it is felt far more by me here and by all of us here. in our new southern states and common ways then up north and yet not to deny that that we showed the rest of the world that we could bring together 13 individual nations employables on them that there was slavery in every single one of them that they are continues if you will since 1809 when i signed the bill to end the importation of slaves hit our nation, they're continues the smuggling their back in newport, rhode island, new haven, connecticut i am not trying to cast aspersions. believe me. and so it's a complicated question and it's a complicated question for all of because it remains protected. now how constitution in these times by decisions of our supreme court, and i know your
husband understands as i do particularly a husband your son john quincy adams that it is a fault in our constitution. our constitution is but a compromise upon the subject. is that i and i would remind you sir. i would remind you that from the very formation of our republic. there was the opportunity to call it out for the egregious perpetration upon our nation that it was and i recollect you see just as mr. adams would share my correspondence with his friends in congress. he would share with me what was transpiring there and sinned me sent me indeed an early copy of a draft of the declaration of independence in which amongst the the offenses called out in the crimes against the king was that of the if the slave trade
and you were eloquent and i thought at the time when i read it that that john himself mr. adams that he had rooted because it expressed his sentiment but no it was you was it not? oh precisely so had already expressed it several times when i was a young member the virginia burgesses. that on thereafter when i first heard the declaration read i was in boston at the time with my children to be inoculated the smallpox was ravaging or towns and cities and and the army as well, but nonetheless i was in boston and heard the declaration of independence read from the state house balcony and i marked that that was no longer in it that manly statement that that that that stand against this
great sin had been omitted. and i wondered and no one else listening new. what almost could have been? why was it stricken? protests protests of certain delegates from what we're still at that time. we were drafting the declaration, but we're still colonists. i almost hesitate to to pronounce what colonies these delicates represented because here we allow it to continue to fester, but the answer is simply. compromise was a compromise and and as i mentioned the constitution later followed in kind. you know. perhaps and i realized your husband understands this even the late general hamilton understood. there's dr. franklin certainly understood it. he he was nearly chairman of the committee to draft a declaration. he nearly took up the pen first.
but it is still our declaration. which is excellence a president washington referred to as our promise. which will remain through generations yet. unborn a representation of the inalienable rights of man given to man not to any government and not be any ruler but provided each and every soul by nature and nature's god. and i know your husband understands that all eyes are open and will continue to open. to these rights of man but history has every right to be arch upon us thank you bridget the subaru. yeah next question. well this brings us. question which mrs adams you you and mr. jefferson have been speaking of the declaration of independence. would you comment on how you see
the declaration of independence? and mary, lou asks, what is your wish for the future of women and of america? oh, well, how do i see the declaration of independence? i i believe despite my disappointments that as mr. jefferson has stated it is a sublime document and it will hopefully guide our republic through many generations ahead. with its promise and one day may have that promise will be fulfilled. and part of the fulfillment of that promise is to remember the ladies and to make sure that they are treated equal to the men the daughters are educated in the same way as sons because how can we have learned statesmen if we do not have
learned women who are teaching their children in those very formative years of their lives. and how can women who? are unfortunate to tie themselves to profligate men to gambling or drinking men? it hurts my heart for i i have within my own family seeing the experience of of women left with no recourse of women loved with no ability to claim their own property to claim their own money to care for their children if their husband not willing or able and i hope that the future for women will be much brighter indeed than that current situation. i hardly know how i can follow your comments mrs. adams. hey, i hope that the declaration
will be. why as i it already is a clarion call to future generations. i could not hit possibly achieved any sort of recognition in drafting the document without the aid of your husband. he was the one on the committee who spoke most often. in order to provide further alterations and clarity and precision in fact and yes, though the general referred to our declaration is the promise he referred to our constitution as its guarantee and yet you heard me say that our constitution is a compromise in itself and still protects the barbers institution of slavery and yet there is one recourse that allows it. to continue to grow and to be of effect and encourage and more
and more to speak their mind freely and to be represented directly and distinctly and that's the first paragraph the first line in itself we the people even now mrs. adams to think that as we enjoy this conversation. in the majority of the states of our wonderful nation, which as you know, i consider the world's best. hope you still have no vote? mmm, and in jersey, they allowed the women to have a boat vote for but what 30 years i think no more. they allowed by accident of circumstance. i would say otherwise it would have continued. so there you are citizens to think that now we're bound to have the representation of weed the people given only by the white male freeholder. a very small percentage of the population of our growing nation.
it still remains that very first line. that in my opinion will be the beacon light to move us forward. to continue our arguments and debates to continue to bear witness to witnesses adams and said in particularly to read what you have written. that it might continue of the greatest inspiration as it has been all ready me in many others. i am i'm thankful for this time that have had together. i am thankful for miss carrie soubra to have profit your curiosities and questions here. i look forward to our next gathering and i look forward now to. to welcome. this is adams into our monticello. but i think it quite proper. to always allow the lady. the last word you are too kind mr. jefferson and and there's there's little like an ad to
such eloquence as you have just shared with us other than to say that it was. you and mr. adams hand in hand that were instrumental in bringing about the declaration of independence. i know there were others at congress who contributed and commented. and called for compromise. but i believe that. john adams and thomas jefferson are the ones who will be remembered and rightly, so for looking at our new republic across the divide. and finding a way to maintain friendship. throughout all of the trials and tribulations of forming a new nation i'm grateful to have known you post. so next on american history tv
monticello gardeners in plant curators talk about how thomas jefferson planted his gardens and how they recreate those gardens now. they also provide demonstrations of various steps in the gardening process thomas, jefferson's monticello hosted this event and provided the video. welcome to our monticello live stream with curator of plants peggy cornett and manager and curator of historic gardens. jason young today. we are discussing monticello's gardens during both jefferson's time as well as spring planting and plant production at monticello today, please post your questions in the comments and let us know from where you are joining us. so jason and peggy, can you each introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role in the stewardship of monticello's gardens? well, i'm peggy cornett, and i'm curator of plants at monticello. basically, i'm