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tv   Robert Parkinson Thirteen Clocks  CSPAN  June 20, 2022 5:00pm-6:31pm EDT

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as 12% -- that is a notion of social justice that is legitimate to defend, like in a philosophy class, but it's not the one that i am committed to. afternoon, everyone and welcome to today's session of the washington history seminar historical perspectives on good afternoon everyone, and welcome to today's session of the washington history seminar. historical perspectives on international and national affairs. this afternoon, we will be focusing on a recent book by robert parkinson, titled 13 clocks, how race united the colonies and made the declaration of independence. by the woodrow wilson center and the omohundro insitute of early america and north carolina press. joining us this afternoon, is
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derek speier's of cornell university and -- of george mason university. i am eric arnesen, george washington communications -- and my co-chair and colleague christian austin is not with us this afternoon. i am delighted to report that today's session is cosponsored by the alejandro institute and with us this afternoon, to introduce our speaker, is the institutes interim executive director, catherine kelly, about whom i will say more in a moment. the washed -- collaborative the american historical association's national history center. for the past decade, seminar has been meeting weekly and pre-covid times, in person at the wilson center and since the pandemic, here in the virtual realm. this is the final seminar of the season, but we will return on january 23rd with a full lineup that will take us to the end of may. our announcement of this framed
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winter schedule will be available early in the new year. behind the scenes are two people that make these seminars possible. rachel we'd be of the national history center. we'd like to think our institutional supporters, the george washington university department of history, as well as any number of anonymous individual donors and as we say, every single week we invite you to join their ranks. on the logistics front, please know today's session is being reported and can be found in the institutions website. when we get to the question and answer section of the open, are we asked that if those of you with questions use the raise hand function. we will call unexplainable as we can. let me introduce catherine kelly, the executive director, interim director, and executive of books at the -- and affiliate professor of history at william and mary.
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a prize winning historian and editor, her focus is gender and politics in the early american republic. she's the author most recently of republic of taste, art, politics and everyday life in early america. published in 2016. and i am happy that she could join us today to introduce robert parkinson. >> thanks, derrick, i'm delighted to be able to join you this afternoon. i'm presenting from the alejandro institute for early in american history and culture. for those of you who don't know, the -- sponsored by william and mary with colonial williamsburg. our mission aims at studying american history and cultural [interpreter] -- we publish a flagship journal, the william -- we publish a book series which includes any number of important prize winning books, including this most recent book
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by rob parkinson. our mission, simply, put is to support the intellectual infrastructure that -- the methodologically transformative vision of the past. speaking of scholars who offer a trans formative -- it's a pleasure to introduce rob parkinson today. currently an associate professor at begin university, rob is a preeminent scholar of the american revolution. his path breaking work is helping us to understand stone porn race was for the american founding. most recently, as eric mentioned, he is the author of 13 clocks, a book we were fortunate enough to publish, and a book that is the topic of today's programming. his previous book, the common cause, creating race and nation in american revolution. was ordered jane say riley prize for the american -- and was recognized for
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journalism and mass communication. rob is currently finishing a new book titled, the heart of american darkness, savagery, civility and murder on the eve of the american revolution. this will be published and read. i'm hoping we'll hear a bit about that book at some point today. first, let's settle in for a lively discussion of thirteen clocks: how race united the colonies and made the declaration of independence. >> okay, so i will share my screen with you here. let's have a little bit of things to tell you about. we should be good, yes? the cover of 13 clocks looks like this. kathy, who just graciously introduced me, worked really hard to get this good.
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thank you to the designers at u.n.c. press as well. so this starts out with the concept of 13 clocks, meaning 13 colonies, comes from a john adams quote. john adams, when he looks like this. so, at 83 years old he -- the founding generation was approaching old age, or certainly ended the nips of old age, some people in the early united states decided they needed to know what happened in 1776. they sort of reaching out to people to get their memories were called before they left this mortal world. one of those people was baltimore journalist, and he reached out to john adams and said, hey dude, what went down in 1776? and john adams spent a lot of time thinking about this, of
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course, and he had been talking with correspondents with thomas jefferson about this very topic, often on, for the better part of almost a decade. he had a very prepared answer for this. it is a common answer that there is a series of letters that he wrote to jefferson about this, and also his response to denials. this has framed how we think about the revolution. and written about the revolution, for a very long time. since 1815 and 1818. but definitely in the last generation. so this is what john adams said. and remember, he looks like this. we have these we -- are gonna show you a younger version, which is a little bit different. then him in 1818. he said, the colonies grew up under a constitution of government so different, they were so good at a variety of religions, we were composed of
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so many different nations, the customs, manners and habits have no little resemblance that their intercourse would've been so rare. the knowledge of each other, to unite them in the same principles and theory in the same system of action with certainly a difficult enterprise. he said that of the enterprise being bringing 13 clock to strike as one. the complete accomplishment of it, and so short of time, and by such simple means was perhaps the singular example in the history of mankind. 13 clocks were made to strike together. a perfection of mechanism that no artist had ever before affected. so, adams is talking about the miracle of which he is hinting that there is providence in maybe god or god like folks like himself who really brought these clocks to strike as one. so, this problem of the --
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uniting the colonies as one is what i think has shaped a lot of my work. the question of, how july 4th, 1776, comes about. it was part of the heart of this book -- this book, which is 13 clocks, it is an abridgment of something we don't really do in the historical freshen any much anymore -- take really big books and make them small bucks for teaching. in many ways, that's what 13 clocks, or at least that's how i thought it was going to be and then it turned out to be something much greater than that. it is an abridgment of this book, which is my first one that came out in 2016, the common cause. the best way to look at it is this way. it is 750 pages long. and so, therefore, it makes it rather unteachable. in any generation, but it seems
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like especially this covid generation. so, i thought for a long time about how to instill the argument of that book and think about this particular problem of the 13 clocks striking as one. the common cause, the subtitle of that is -- why i found that research was that race lay at the heart of every single decision, every single -- the idea that there are different stories here, there is the american revolution, which is about ideas and about ideology and natural rights. and then there is the experience of revolution, which involves people of color, more women, or anything like that. those are entirely different conversations. when i found in my research is
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that those are so intertwined with one another, that the argumentation or how to make the cause, the cause of fighting the revolution common, was by turning to and employing all sorts of language, stories, images about slave insurrections and the potential of violence in the backcountry, but especially about indigenous peoples. that was the -- what's the leaders of the revolution turned to, over and over and over again. they thought about the roles that african americans, whether enslaved or free, or indigenous peoples played in this revolutionary time. they thought about them so constantly and on a almost hourly basis, more than, if not daily and certainly weekly,
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they thought about what role folks in those status -- i guess we can't really say that, would play in the revolution all the time. and so, where i first want to look for that evidence about that, it came from the next thing john adams said in this letter to hezekiah niles. he says, if you want to know why i'm right about what happened on the revolution, he said young men of letters of all states -- in his mind, he thinks about people who had become historians, should undertake a labourious but interesting and abusing task of searching and collecting the records, pamphlets, newspapers and even handbills of the 13 colonies to find out how the temper and the views of the people changed. this is in another letter that he writes about the same topic to jefferson, three years before he writes to hezekiah niles. so this is adams, thinking about how people are going to figure out what happened in 1776.
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well, this is what they should do, they should look at print. and so that is for the common cause, that's what i did. i went and looked a lot of print. instead of doing with previous generations and historians had done, looking at newspapers, looking at other the essays that appeared often on the front pages or the advertisements that it would appear on the back pages of the newspaper, i looked at the really really boring stuff in the middle. the short paragraphs and small little notices that happened in the very middle of these newspapers. they talked a lot about british agents, military officers, indian super attendance in new york or south carolina, naval captains, you name it. people who are agents of the
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push empire who were, especially in 70 75 and six, doing their best to try to figure out how to end the rebellion by pulling any lever they possibly could. and as a lot of them were doing, -- they were considering what role enslaved african americans or native people in the backcountry might be the -- pulling that lever might be the thing that ends the rebellion. and, of course, they are because if -- the britain is broke, and this is an expensive prospect. if you could end the rebellion before the british had to do their really really expensive thing like equipping an army, and bang it and sending it across the ocean and funding it in america to put down this rebellion, you would be a hero. so, you have royal governors all over the place who are mulling over how they can make
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themselves a hero. they are thinking about making -- unveiling themselves of opportunities like these. what i found, in the newspaper, is that patriot leaders really seize upon that fact and publicize it as much as they possibly can. and putting those stories front and center in -- and we think about the news feed in using today's -- of what people knew about the revolution. they knew a lot about these particular stories. and so, if we were to follow elderly john adams advice, and look at print, what would we find and print? there's some stuff on there that i don't think he would be really keen about us finding. and what i found, and i was blown away by this, i was blown away by the amount of top, it is hourly, we it is all the
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time. and so, therefore, i wanted to really sort of have the archive itself, the thickness, the massiveness of this archive that i found, and started out with newspapers, but then when i looked on cross referenced it against the correspondence in the papers in congress in the founding fathers, it became this massive archive. the reflection of that, of course, this massive e is the thickness of this book. there could be this many stories and this much talk about trying to galvanize the colonial population by scaring them. it is something that really is at the heart of this source. to my surprise, it became because of the effect of these letters that jet john adams was
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writing. in that same letter, he says what do we mean by the revolution? the war? that wasn't any part of the revolution. it was in effect of it, a consequence, the revolution was in the minds of the people. this was from 1760 to 1770 -- this was a very very influential what. it is written by the elderly john adams, who appears here on the left. but it is a about the john adams of a younger man. and the one on the right is the john adams of 1760. she's about 40 years old. and i love this portrait of him because he's kind of giving us a little bit of side eye here. he is showing a little bit of playfulness and that i think reflects that if we were to go back and look at these things like i did, what would we find? we would not find that the war has nothing to do with the argumentation of with the revelations about.
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it would not be something that is affected from 1760 to 1775, by that, which he means, this is about natural rights, representation, ideology, and it is done by the start of the war. that notion has had a particularly strong historiographical effect. why? where do we find that letter? here of course, in this book which i can't see, how many participants are in this session, but i would bet, that just about everybody has read this book. that letter appears before chapter one, before page one, in chapter one of bernard baylin's book. the war had nothing to do with it. it appears as john adams plagiarized it, himself, when he wrote the same thing before
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hezekiah niles before chapter five. that notion that the war had nothing to do with it, it's a package thing, we have seen that lately in the last history wars, about dunmore's proclamation and even what's going on in the past couple of months. i'm sure we will talk about that more as the session goes along, but the idea that independence, that everybody is on board as soon as the shooting starts, and peoples hearts and minds have been changed to such a degree, by these ideological changes, that that has had a tremendous historiographical effect. i did not see that at all. when the war starts, these stories about enslaved people and wet role enslaved people and native people might play, that becomes the thing that people are reading about and talking about more and more, much more than talking about
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liberty or rights. and as i was reading all of these newspapers i was reading the same story, over and over again, i had this what i call in the preface of 13 clocks, the idea that i had this weird superpower that i developed, where i would turn microphone reels, look at newspapers that i had never seen before and try to predict what was coming next. which is a pretty lame superpower, instead of flying or being invisible. and i would drive home from the library and think about what power that actually was, what it meant for things like revolutionary mobilization. that's when i began to think about how these same stories, that would appear in the pennsylvania packet, that would be introduced by order of the
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continental conference, would then appear in boston, new york, indianapolis, williamsburg, charleston, like today, with modern news wires. or a letter that is, that may or may not be manipulated by patriot leaders and peers in boston, how it would appear in the exact same fashion because of how the newspaper business worked in new york and philadelphia and baltimore and williamsburg, charleston. what does that mean? that to me was an important gear in the 13 clocks, striking together. there are a lot of gears in the internal workings of those clocks, about what's made the colonies come together. but one of the ones in the very center that we have ignored a lot is how the, how patriot
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leaders like john adams and thomas jefferson, really seized upon some of these stories because they knew that they were not controversial, like things like religion or even slavery. these were things that, if you want to talk about wet 18th century colonists have in common, it's the nightmares about slave insurrections and native massacres. that is the one thing, no matter if you are quaker, anglican, catholic, people in america, that's what they really have in common, and you can get more people to buy in by making them afraid of this one thing that is the thing to be afraid of in the 18th century. but i don't think we have talked enough about, is how those stories are deployed. and what that means, what does
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it mean the idea of domestic insurrectionists and merciless indian savages working with the king? the 27th final and climactic dealbreaker grievance in the declaration of independence. what does it mean that the argumentation for why we should come together and the one country, and create a republic, is at the exclusion of certain people? what does that mean? i want to show you a couple more things. for me, the how of this is one matters. how 13 clocks come together, it means so much. we know that the revolutionaries did some really radical things. they made major changes to colonial political life. there was a significant attack
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on aristocracy, and established churches, and they really did transform meanings of representation and consent. they also decided, made the conscious decision to throw away morocco -- and that is something that didn't happen before. the idea that, yes, peter silver is exactly right, in the seven years war, story about native massacres scared everybody and galvanized people. or developer is right that those things happened in the new york conspiracies in 71, or going back to the very beginnings of the colonial period. what did not happen in any of those cases before, there was not also an effort in making a new nation. a new republican regime based on a very different political
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theory of citizenship that they didn't even really understand in 1776. and that therefore, the members of the club were able to make decisions about who was in and who was out and that's why these kinds of founding stories about african americans and indigenous people supporting the crown still have a very significant effect, about who was deemed to be in and out of the country. that could be directly, logistically the case, in some places, legally in and out. but it also contributes to this notion that some people belong here and some people don't. what's 13 clocks really looks at is the prevalence of these stories and why they matter today. in what john adams and his colleagues did, in 1776 when he
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was a younger man and not an 83-year-old man, how they made that happen is really important for us today and we should take a look at that and not rely on his elderly say so, for what it is. >> thank you very, very much. our first discussed in this afternoon -- at cornell university. he specializes in early african american and american print culture, citizenship studies and african american intellectual history. in his first book, the practice of citizenship, lacking pulse and culture in the united states, published by the university of pennsylvania press in 2019, won the prize for -- in the st. louis mercantile library prize and was a finalist for the first book
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award. also an editor of genealogy's block maternity's published in 2020. his work has been -- social science research council and other initiatives. there are, the floor is yours. >> thank you. thank you for the organizers for bringing us together and thank you robert for writing this incredible book. the teachable version. two incredible books, i should say. i also want to acknowledge that i am speaking to you from the traditional -- that figures in part in robert's book. reading 13 clocks, a book about white historian revolutionaries told about themselves, i couldn't help think about --
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that purports to be the authentic encounter of the years leading to the revolutionary war. james travels to several colonies, not unlike adams, it's just that each freezing had its own character based on climate proximity. he compares it to south america, instead of more spanish and british style of life. scwhat eventually become settled and describes the americans as a new race. quote, they are a mixture of english, scotch, irish, dutch, germans and sweets. from this promiscuous breed that race now called americans have arisen, and quote. that is white men of solid anglo-saxon stop who read their newspapers, kept a religion to themselves and were on the
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whole, benevolent insulators. this account of who is an american takes me into moments of this book. the first days, parkinson's contingent that quote, a shared feeling a ventricle o'neill trust and unity requires some forgetting. kids going back to the notion that trust in unity require -- it feels like déjà vu. that is an alchemy and which all the differences can be trans mcgraw fired into a shared project of creating a new american race. we can see how patriots and their supporters intentionally amplify, for instance, fear around indians -- not only in newspapers but also book covers. for instance, i will share with you one of my favorite books to teach in the early american lip seminar. this is the cover, from mary roland since, captivity
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narrative. the first one is from 16 82. one of the first additions published in cambridge. the second one is from 1773. you can see a really notable difference. i would say, especially after reading parkinson's book, this difference is not just about the technology in having an engraving on the cover. suzanne robinson's narrative initially emphasizes her devotion to christiane adi, her safety, et cetera by 1773, they have a gun. granny is the patriot, she is protecting the household. this is from boston in 1770. this is by, granny with a gun, and i say this because my grandma had a gun. this is the 1773 cover. it really illustrates the ways that a particular brand of american -- americanism is shaped as the
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patriot protecting home from the savages of various kinds. so, parkinson's account of revolutionary cultures, especially in the newspapers, helps us visualize the kind of circular process in which an event, or a specter of an event, a slave, a conspiracy, threat of british alliances with indigenous people, for the convulsions that would become a published account. shaped intense -- both in print and in action, which would then lead to an event. a self refilling prophesy in a way. this account of print is the reminder of benedict anderson's imagined community thesis, which suggests the proliferation of print in early 19 century in particular, created a sense of print nationalism through chaired text. what we learn, though, is these shared texts were not passively
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generated shared texts, they were intentionally crafted. this stands with what's trish locker in argues in the republican print about the way that early national print culture wasn't actually this evenly distributed, happy community. it was actually pretty fractured. so what we see in this moment between 73 and 76, is a moment when, through a number of shall we say crafted coincidences, the 13 clocks click into place both because of circumstance but also because of patriots taking advantage of that circumstance and realizing not just that fear can create a sense of cohesion in this moment, but people responded to it. it's one thing that patriots
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played up on. the particular kind of racial or red judicial -- it's another thing to see how people responded to it or work galvanized by it. another moment i want to reflect on in the book is that, if print was the lifeblood of the revolution, the business of enslavement helped keep that blood pumping. the book gives fresh context for how race gets made in the print through freedom ads, for the sale of people. the boston gazette. offering an ad for a likely negro, and for a fugitive named cesar. important to note that you would go to the newspaper office to collect your reward. it's not just that newspapers were sort of passively reprinting ads, it was part of the business model, and this bleeds into the kind of feedback that the newspapers
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could actually generate revenue. and create a sense of cohesion. questions. why does this reframing of the american revolution, as essentially a history of american whiteness, important? i think part of the answer is the way that parkinson arranged them as a choice. they made the calculation that some tools would be more effective than others. the other thing i want to note, is that by the end 1830s, black historians would be taking up this moment as well. so for instance, in 1838, pennsylvania, as the state of pennsylvania, was about to restrict voting rights to white
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men. black pennsylvanians published an appeal, 40,000 -- and the site the article as the confederation. and then, they cite minutes from the convention, noting that states voted down by a margin of eight to 2 to 1, a notion from south carolina to include the word white. i bring this up because it reminds us that revolutionaries were constantly thinking not only about enslavement, but also race. they were making race in the moment, through letters, articles and law. these pennsylvanians remind us in 1838, once again, that other choices were available. the revolutionary is not only knew better, they could do better. some tried. it leads me to rethink the notion of citizenship as a club.
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perhaps it is a club, i like that metaphor, but there were already people inside, and those people inside were going to have their say. thank you. i'm looking forward to the discussion. >> thank you. robert, would you like to respond? >> yes, i will say this, derrick spires, i have papers taped to my monitor, to remind me of what this is really about. and there is one, circularity. event, discourse, policy, event. i don't know have you've been snooping around my office? for you to pick up on that is an excellent point. that is one of the things that
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i am trying to think about, how an event would happen, how it gets portrayed, that is the real sort of moment that is extraordinarily important for things like wyoming massacre for example, how that then gets portrayed, leading to different policies including things like the sullivan campaign, to eliminated the hot mcconney in 1779 and how that goes back. that is really important. contingency is the really important subtext of the whole book. things could have turned out very differently and you see that in for example, something like the french. certainly the french are seen as, four generations since the end of the 17th century, they are the most hated and feared
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enemies. by 1782, boston eons celebrating the birth of the fog. how is it that the french can be redeemed in such a quick manner but some cannot? what's going? on there are moments of revolutionary forgetting, of amnesia. creativity on the fly of thinking of other people. i talk about the german mercenaries in the same kind of way. but some people can't. it is about that kind of moment of storytelling that i think can get doubled down, that are really important at this moment. >> thank you very much. before we move on to our second speaker, i would like to ask those of you in the audience that you can use the raise hand function, and get in the queue
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now. or you could answer function itself, if you prefer not to use the chat function. i have a limited ability to multitask between parts of the screen. so q and a function if you want to write your question, raise hand if you want to direct it yourself. now our second speaker, university professor and professor of history, she received her ph.d. from yale university and is a specialist in early american political history and women's history. the author of numerous articles and books, including the politics of size, represent action in the united states, 1776 to 1850, a woman's dilemma, merci otis warren and the american revolution and revolutionary backlash, women in politics in the early republic. in 2009 to 2010 she served as president of the society for historians of the early american republic.
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rosemary zagarri, the screen is yours. >> thank you for coming, and the american historical association for sponsoring this. in these pandemic times, this intellectual community is really important and necessary. to keep going. thank you for having me. thank you rob, for writing this book. 13 clocks. i should say upfront that i am an avowed champion of this book, i am a talker on both books, my support and enthusiasm for the books, i don't think it is in doubt. i think what rob has done here is an extremely important intervention in our
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understanding of the american revolution, of the history of race in the united states, and our understanding of the origins of some of the contemporary dilemmas that we find in our nation today. i know that you did not write it, actually originally, with that purpose in mind, that is to explain our current dilemmas, since you began writing it in the early 2000s, but it is an extremely timely work that i think really reflects very importantly on a lot of the issues that we are dealing with today in the united states. so that said, i want to highlight a few things that i find especially important or insightful about the book. and then i would like to move to some criticisms, reservations, or at least points that i would like to discuss further with you about the book. or the audience.
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so here is what i would like for us to think about. first of all, i think one of the things that strikes me about 13 clocks is that it's an amazing accomplishment, distillation of the 700 page book into 200 pages, that preserves the core of your argument about the importance of race in the lead up to the revolution, because your book concentrates on the 15 months prior to the declaration of independence, and to the declaring of independence itself. and so i think that that is extremely important, that you do that and show how profoundly fractured the country was. i think that is a point that a lot of in the traditional narrative, or the popular narrative of the american revolution, people don't
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understand how divided the colonists were. even white colonists were just spread out across a very large country, a large north american continent i should say. and they were much more attached to their own individual colonies or to great britain, then to each other. so there were often boundary disputes, fights about who should pay for fighting indians for example. there were, there was not a lot of mutual understanding or recognition of the commonalities that united these mainland north american british colonies in the decades prior to 1776. i think it's really important that you stress that, and the question you pose is, what made
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americans come together? what makes the 13 clocks strikeout once? i love that metaphor of john adams, because it points to, how difficult, if almost impossible, it is, to make that happen. and so i think that is a really important groundwork that you lay in the book. that gives people a really big sense of the state of play in the colonies, the north american mainland british colonies before the revolution. you also provide an incredible level of insight into the nature of the technological revolution occurring in the colonies in the decades leading up to the revolution and during the revolution. that is the revolution in print culture. you don't make the contemporary analogy, but that revolution in
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print, in the printing of newspapers and particular, of pamphlets, all sorts of documents, revolutionized the way people thought. and some historians say the number of newspapers doubled in the decades prior to the american revolution, venn doubled again after. this kind of change is only comparable to the kind of change we have experienced in our own lives with the advent of the internet. with digital media. and again, you didn't write the book with that analogy explicitly for grounded, but i think it's important for readers to know. and they see through your extremely exhaustive research into the print media of the time, how thorough going about print culture revolution was.
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and how extensive it was. and how penetrating it was. and how it really had a profound impact on the way ordinary people thought. not just political elites, but the way ordinary people thought. and i hasten to add that the rate of literacy in the north american british colonies was among the highest in the world at that time. even higher than in great britain. in new england, among white males, it was approaching universal literacy and even for white women in new england, perhaps 60 to 70%. maybe about half of that in the south, but still, that is a lot of people reading, a lot of people could read these new printed materials, that are doing what you show us, which is spreading fear. and so, i think that what you see here is that there is an
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effort by political leaders owned by news makers, news printers, partly to sell publications by the way, as derrick pointed out, to capitalize on that fear by printing these articles that scare people. and they scare people about things that they are most susceptible to being scared about. especially indian massacres and slave ensure actions. funded by the british, promoted by the british. i think those are really important things. they take a center stage in your book in a way that is very powerful and i think help people to really understand the revolution in a very visual way, that is very different from a traditional narrative.
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i also appreciate your nuanced understanding to the question of race. race is in your subtitle. but in your introduction you point out that you don't use that shorthand word in your text. and you do it for good reasons because the idea of race as a coherent category is a biological essential-ism did not coalesce, as you say, and i think most historians would say until after the revolution. it was coming into being, but the words you use our very carefully chosen. prejudices, stereotypes, attitudes. you use the words of the time. merciless savages, domestic insurrectionists. so you convey to us what people of the time felt. you help us translated into our modern term of race while warning us that the category of
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race had not yet taken on the rigidity or the means or the implications that we have attached to it today. and finally, this is a kind of historiographical point, but i think what you are doing here in many ways can be considered as moving us beyond ms morgan's classic work, american history, american freedom, which posed the paradox and opened the eyes of a whole generation of historians, not that other historians have not seen the problem before, of slavery, and talked about it, including some very important african american historians, but he framed it as a paradox. and i think for a long time we have talked about the paradox of slavery for black people and
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freedom and liberty for white people. but i think what you are doing here is showing, it's not a paradox. it's that white people actually used the subordinate condition of people of color, to advance the cause of liberty that in fact it was a motivator, it was one of the things that made the revolution possible. and so, i still like that idea that it's a paradox. it's a paradox for white people, not really for the people of color that are being portrayed in this way by white political leaders and white rioters. so, my thoughts, the issues that i would like you to discuss, or other people to discuss, the first issue is kind of historiographical, and sort of, for those in the
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audience who aren't early americanist's, it might not be of much interest. but since i have you here, i can pose it anyway. how do you align your argument, along with bay let's ideological thoughts of the revolution? or with the classic arguments of coming of the revolution, as being motivated and caused by the objection to the infringement on american liberty, and representative government, taxation without representation? famously i think you kind of, you are not quite fair to baylin. he also uses print culture, but he is mainly talking about pamphlets, and a triad, slavery, corruption, conspiracy. that he sees. that he sees in these pamphlets
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that americans are mobilized by. he has a parallel argument to you, or you have one to him, that the motivation is different. and he is saying that americans opposed liberty against power. perch you against corruption. are your arguments compatible? how does your argument fit with the more intellectual arguments about taxation and representation, in representative government? arguably, and as many other historians have argued, those did provide causes, bonds of unity between the colonies. in one of those quotes, the 1818 quote of john adams, he says, what united the people are principles, opinions, sentiments and affections.
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you are talking a lot about sentiments. what about those principles and opinions? how would you, are these interpretations compatible? are you arguing that regionally, the slavery and race argument, are more powerful? i do want to note, you do a very good job of looking at newspapers from all over the continent. from all the colonies. but is it as powerful, say, in new england, as say, south carolina? that is one of the things i wanted to ask you. but related, is the whole question of fear as a motivator. an older generation of historians objected to a
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similar argument. propaganda in the american revolution. they said, it's these elites manipulating these hapless masses who can't think for themselves. and a whole generation of social historians said, no. the ordinary people have agency. they have their own ideas. they took what they wanted from the revolutionary movement. so how do you respond to a charge that you are moving in the direction of propaganda and elites manipulating the hapless masses? i'm just curious about what you would say to that. and then i guess, sort of related to that, is, and this
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is where i think you are caveat, to not call it race in the body of the book serves you well, because as you know,, there were many other others during the lead up to the revolution, and during the revolution itself. catholics. anti catholicism was rampant in the american protestant british colonies prior to the revolution. and was used as a motivator to get people riled up about british policies. you mentioned the germans, and at one point, the germans weren't considered white. so that broadens our notion of who these others are, pretty much, in a way that could work if you are just talking about the use of this kind of fear
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during the war itself. but after the revolution, in terms of talking about white supremacy and our more modern conception of racism, it poses some problems. which leads me to my last point, and you can take the easy way out here or the hard way, on page 185 you say, republicanism and exclusion are inseparable. not only is white supremacy and ideology, it is intertwined with and dependent upon republicanism that was born in 1776. the easy way out is to say, this is in the conclusion and it's kind of hyperbole and i was just stretching things. the hardest thing is for you to justify it. which i'm interested in. i don't actually object to the idea that white supremacy is an ideology, or that it was
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intertwined with republicanism. but is it dependent on republicanism? i know you are trying to explain that republicanism required the definition of a citizenship, and that requires inclusions and exclusions, but does founding a republic require exclusion? and if it requires exclusion, are you certain that it's the exclusion of the same groups that you are identifying as the motivators, or the unifying force, for the american revolution? i will stop there. once again, to say i think it's a terrific book. i think it's an incredible teaching book, and i think it is a book that non historians can learn a lot from and really has a lot to teach us in many ways about the present moment.
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>> thank you so much. robert. some thoughts? >> yes, thank you for that rosemarie zagarri. three things to talk about. one, bernard bailyn, two, propaganda, three, republicans. i think i was at the page proofs stage of the common cause in 2015, when i finally realized 15 years in, i remember driving in my car and thinking, it dawned on me that really when i was doing was having a big fight with bernard bailyn and gordon-levitt. i did not realize i was doing that for 15 years. maybe that shows a little bit of historiographical forgetting on my part. and i think, maybe it is because that baylin's book,
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which i admire very much, is very close to what some of the things that i am saying, i see the limitations of it in a couple of ways. i would say some of the argumentation that t h breen makes as well, in that, one of the points that i, make in the larger book but also in 13 clocks, once the shooting starts all the stakes change. that is when we have some sort of artificial, when we teach these things we have this broader american revolution that we talk about, that starts somewhere in 1763, and ends in the 80s. when i teach my era of the american revolution class it's a 30-year thing or longer. the revolutionary war is just a small part of that.
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we like to bifurcate these two things but that's not how people of the time lived in. the idea that this is a packaged finished deal on april 18th 1775 is where i part ways with baylin. i do think the arguments that do resonate with some colonists, not a few but some colonists >> those are, argumentation's about those are argumentation's about masculinity. masculinity. about honor. about identifying liberty and conspiracy and making the right choice here. those things are highlighted from the 18th century past, from the 17th century past, from the roman past. the idea of the virtuous, liberty loving, masculine
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republicans will take action to defeat tyranny that is right in front of their face. we can add potpourri to that as well. that argument, i think, does hold a lot of water. but then, as the stakes go up in 1775 and 1776, i think they have to go deeper than that. and i know that because that is what a lot of people start to talk about. the same guys who are writing pamphlets in 1774 about those topics don't really write about that stuff anymore. what they write about, and it's almost like now the test has come, and they start talking about the test, and the test is the tyrants who we thought were tyrants, now they are doing this. and now, it's very obvious what
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tyranny has become. it's become naked and obvious right in front of your very eyes. and i think, as the stakes go up, and you have to broaden the base, it can't just be other elites who are also reading the pants that look like you in other colonies. you have to broaden the base here, and you have to get a lot of people to put their bodies and their families and their fortunes on the line. that is going to require a different level of argumentation that i think goes past economic arguments. it goes past just sort of purely political theoretical arguments. and where do we go after that? you know, and to colonial imagination? you go to race. you go to those kinds of things. you open the tool box and those kinds of fears are laying right at the very top of the tool
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box. so i think my argument here, and again, i'm going to get to ideology here as well, propaganda. now, i have struggled with that word for a really long time. and it is certainly not -- when historians in 1930s and 40s thought about propaganda, they were thinking about the idlers committee, goebbels, world war, mass media totalitarian stuff. and so then when they thought about the american revolution, they said is this right? is this the same kind of manipulation? as you said, the same kind of elites hoodwinking an unsuspecting people? and i think we are now, i struggled with that, is that really what is going on here?
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i thought about that word, propaganda, for a very long time. and over the course of many years of staring at the wall, i began to think about the base word, propagate. and propagation, which is a very 18th century concept about growing your own things, whether the society, propagation of the gospel, or propagating crop yield, propagating families, or limiting the propagation of smallpox. that is something 18th century people are really, really familiar with. that is, i think, what the patriot leaders are trying to do. propagate more patriots like them. they were trying to do their very best to get people to agree with them, and make the best arguments to get people to agree with him. and sometimes that worked and sometimes that really didn't work. and of course, there is a tremendous amount of ageism. you know, robert burrows,
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another line i think about that is not taped to my monitor but very close in my head is, which brought people to the concord bridge? what brought people to the bridge? why were the minutemen there? everyone, i think, who was there would have a very different reason for that. foot when i came back to over and over again was adams, jefferson, franklin, and washington, went back to these stories over and over again because they thought they would resonate with the people. they thought this is something we should spend our time and money telling the american people about. tbecause we only have a very small box here of arguments that will work, -- because people disagree about what liberty means. about whether or not we should have freedom of religion. i finished a new book, the brethren, and it's about, in north carolina, the enlightenment ideas about
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religion, people are very unhappy about that. so the revolutionary leaders in north carolina, in 1777, our secret catholics. this is sort of a pope-ish thing because they are saying they don't really believe in the trinity. so there is a plot to try to kill patriot leaders. and those guys consider themselves patriots! so the window here of how you make this argument is a very, very small one. so how do you sort of thread that needle over and over again? and again, i think that race is really a safe argument as opposed to other ones. and page 185, i'm glad you think white supremacy is an ideology, that's good, because i agree. maybe if i were to change that sentence, what i should say is republicanism in the form that it takes in finding the united states in 1776 deleted white
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supremacy. i'm not exactly saying republicanism across the board in every context, and every age, does. although, maybe exclusion is an important part, especially if you are going to throw out, pull up a lot of different anchors, like aristocracy. and you are going to enfranchise a whole lot of people. you are going to have to figure out how to exclude people. i mean this is sort of the, because not everyone will be happy with bringing everyone in. that's not historically -- you know, we think about the universalism of 1776 and 1789, it leads to a backlash of exclusion all over the world. nationalism really changes shape in the 19th century as a backlash against that, which you know very well. so i think the republicanism,
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the form that it takes in the united states, it is dependent on that. i think it needs that to make it a co-cure and project. >> thank you very much. we are now going to our audience and the questions they have posed. i have a very basic one here that we can start off with, that you actually address in paragraph one of your preface, but i will let you answer here. david stork writes, please clear up some confusion for me, i just ordered a copy of the common cause. now, i get the impression that 12 clocks is a distillation of common cause for college classes. did i order the wrong book? >> no, david. i don't think you ordered the wrong book, but, so the common cause is something that
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stretches over a much longer period of time. it goes into the 1780's, but then it really goes into the 18 teens. and this book focuses on just a few different chapters, and really those 15 months between april of 1975 and july of 1976. i call it in abridgment, sort of, because there's a lot of new writing in it and there's something, believe it or not, in the 700 page book, there is a paragraph i turn into a chapter about all the very different ways in which, you know, not only the colonies disagreeing with one another and fighting with one another. that is getting worse in the 17 70s. all of these problems are getting far more exacerbated. the pennsylvania and virginia are on the brink of war over the ohio river country.
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connecticut and pennsylvania are at war with one another over the wyoming valley. and new york and new hampshire are fighting with one another over remarked country. and this is all happening in the 1770s. sometimes within months of the fighting at lexington and concord. slavery is a big problem. the loyalists are actually making really, really good points. and so those are the kind of things i highlight much more in 13 clocks, to give you the stakes here about how difficult and enterprise this really was. >> thank you. we have a number of questions that center on the question of fear. sarah cunningham asks, whose interests does the fierce serve? who writes and promotes these inflammatory pieces? she's thinking granular lee, particular authors and
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newspapers. and allen -- asks, did scare tactics create fear, or more importantly, confirming existing theories and biases? and then finally, paul bloom heart asks, there seems to be an implication of demagoguery in the accounts of how the founders exploited fear of the other. is this an oversimplified observation, or an indicator of how well the appeal has succeeded throughout american history? was it merely a commentary on the universal appeal of well positioned propaganda? >> okay, who does it serve? i do think, and who's benefiting most at a grander level, so -- the john adams that is kind of side eyeing us. right? the 40-year-old john adams. that portrait is done in the
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1760's. in 1769, john adams, things are going very badly in boston for the patriot cause. this is before the boston massacre and things aren't going well. there are competitors, print competitors who become sort of loyalist newspapers. they are threatening the sam adams and john adams and john hancock the world with calling them hypocrites. they think the patriots are breaking the boycott. so it's a very precarious moment. a precarious moment for the revolution in boston. so adams and james otis go to the print shop of the boston visit. adams writes about this in his diary. he says, we had a wonderful night. we cooked up all kinds of things to put into mars newspaper. we cooked up occurrences and paragraphs and all kinds of fun
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stuff. he says it's working the political engine, quote unquote. working the political engine. it's my favorite thing other than my daughters in the whole world, this paragraph. because it's the one moment where john adams tells us really a big thing about how the revolution comes about. and so if you look at the next days boston gazette. some time before it, 1769. you would have no way of knowing what was cooked up and what was not. and what are the things that are cooked up is kind of difficult to know. there are letters in their. there's poetry in there. that's obviously hooked up -- cooked up. but there's some stuff that, in the term of today, would be considered fake news. then the boston said issue goes all over the place. it goes all throughout new england. it goes into new york. it doesn't go deep into the south after that, but it gets exchanged and taken directly. so the work john that ends and
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sam adams are doing, that sunday night in the print shop, it goes all over the place. and i think they really do figure out this is a very important ingredient to revolutionary globalization. and so john adams will then later on after that, when he's in philadelphia, he will write very explicit letters back home from philadelphia to boston and say. put this in the newspaper. this paragraph, not this paragraph. don't give this one to the printer, give that one to the printer. and those will appear in boston newspapers under the anonymous headline of, from a gentleman in philadelphia to his friend in boston. and you have no way of knowing that is actually john adams writing to another patriot leader. so we begin to see the architecture of these things, and how they then -- so there is a management, we are talking about propaganda, there is a management to this whole thing. because there are no reporters
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and there's no journalists in the 18th century, the only way these things appear in the newspaper is if someone like adams gives their correspondence to the printer, or there are letters that are printed from, you know, that come across the ocean, or they are taken from someone else's newspaper, an exchange between newspapers. so these things are, there is a direct miss to this. it is not accidental and it's not sort of pale male. so i do think that's an important part. did i get to every point -- part, eric, or is there a part i missed? >> i suspect you could go on for the next two hours about fear, but i think that hit some of the highlights. >> first of, yeah. >> so let me -- >> the fear stuff, yeah. >> let me combine to questions. the first is from martha farnsworth who asks, bernard -- wrote in the 1960s, what do you
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think if you are still here he would think of the direction that you have taken? and then joshua kaufman wrote earlier question i suspect many people are thinking about, and it's a very simple question. does your research align or conflict with the propositions taken in the 16 19 project? >> right. i figured this would come up. in 2017, there was a 50th anniversary conference about the 50th anniversary of his ideological origins. some of those papers were published in the new england quarterly a year or so after that, and so i can actually tell you some of the talk about, some of his students, where
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we'll be fans. mostly because it moves away from the idea that -- of natural rights and this more heroic interpretation of the revolution. it gets into, for me what is important is not the why, it is the how. adams and jefferson and franklin and these guys are going to have regrets about what they do during the revolution afterwards. they are going to talk afterwards about, and that is what i think, adams doesn't want us to do the work that i was working on. he wants us to really work to think about those pamphlets. he does not want us, you know, it's the kind of don't look behind the curtain about this. after 1775. please focus on this really sort of heroic period when it's about pamphlets and rights.
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don't think about what we talked about when it comes to scaring people about slavery afterwards. i think the historians who really believe that adams's interpretation is the right one don't really love what i'm seeing here. what was the other part of it, eric? >> 16 19. >> 16 19! there we go. okay, so -- you would think i would be a 100% wholesale supporter of 16 19, and i won't put a number on it, but i am a supporter of the larger project. for sure. that we should, i mean, what i'm saying is that race is at the heart of the founding. that's the main point, the take away from 13 clocks. as i said before, that people you would not expect to be thinking about, people of color, at the moment that they are creating, that they are writing
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institutions and declarations of independence, they are thinking about people of color all the time. those are not separate stories as i said early on. when it comes to that very controversial line in the original 1619 project by nikole hannah-jones, that slavery was the main driver of the revolution, she's talking about causes. what caused the revolution. 13 clocks is not about causes. it is about what happens after. and slavery, on april 18th, 1775, something people are talking a lot about. and some people are talking about seeing this opportunity of a crisis in the empire as a way to get rid of slavery, and some people are talking about it as a way to protect slavery. it is one of those controversial things. you have people at the first continental congress who
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include the african slave trade as part of the continental association boycott. they want to eliminate slavery. jefferson writes in some review of the rights of british americans, the big pamphlet, he says in 1773 and 1774, the quote unquote, great object of desire is to eliminate slavery from the american colonies. which was voiced to depart us by the king, and we never wanted slavery. it's a really sort of clunky argument that he makes about that. but the great objects of desire, this is a popular thing. to get rid of slavery. double downthen there are peope also there from south carolina who are saying, get rid of slavery? what are you talking about? we want to double down and triple down on slavery. it is one of those fault lines that could create -- destroy everything. what is interesting to me starting the next day. that really changes.
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when the war begins, you don't see that kind, i mean, the pamphlets that are talking about using this crisis of the empire as a way to get rid of slavery, the volume gets turned down to almost zero. while the volume gets turned up dramatically about, and then, now, the british are trying to use their best -- enslaved people to try to end the rebellion, to stop this. we see that in the declaration itself. jefferson writes a very beautiful paragraph, the language here, talking about what could be used in the 1830s by abolitionists, by african americans in the 1830s, jefferson has this beautiful -- he calls the slave trade a tyrannical form of warfare.
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he talks about and -- slavery as an assemblage of horrors. he has these very powerful words. in his rough draft, they are capitalized. he means for them to be there. and they all get struck out by the congress, except for the bit at the end of the paragraph when he says, and now they are using enslaved people against us. that bit stays. so the great object of desire gets struck out completely. the domestic insurrectionists part. then they are using them against us, that stays. so, slavery becomes something that is not controversial because they are only talking about one part of the equation, and that, to me, that part very much holds water. the 1619 project argument that slavery is super important this, that part holds water. as a cause? it's more difficult.
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as a consequence, you bet. >> thank you. so i get to exercise the co-chair prerogative to get my own question in. and at the very end of the book, you conclude, we have, for too long, taken adams and his colleagues at their word. you begin the book by taking apart what he said. what they wanted us to forget, and we largely have, was that the drive to have those 13 colonial clock strikers one was also a campaign stamped by the vicious, the confining, and the destructive. you pose a question about the word we in a different context in the book, but i want to know about this we. so who are at the we that are not forgetting? >> what page are you one? >> 185. >> okay. >> if you look at the historiography. yes, there are there --
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these celebratory accounts, but there's also a substantial list of people who are not doing precisely this. david waldstreicher, gary nash, many others, so there's a portion from the historical press -- profession that addresses aspects of what you want and offer us a somewhat less romantic picture here. i assume that the we are talking about in this passage is the american people. the broader culture here. but professional historians are often quite aware that what we write in our little academic studies does not always make it into the larger public domain, or at least not as much as we want it to. so talk about the we if he would. who you want to know this stuff and how they might get to where you want them to be? >> oh, good. wow, that was a very fantastically first thing.
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we came around to, yes, the we really is the american public. or, the we, the we hold these truths to be self evident, we. and that is one of the reasons why i wanted to write this book. i feel like i get my cake and eat it too. i wrote this big long break of a book that only my publisher could have published. every other publisher would have had words for me, and they did to, but i got to make the entire argument, and put all this evidence out there, for graduate students and scholars. which is important, and i do think we underestimate our importance a little bit when we think that people aren't going to find out about this.
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i think they do. i think it takes time, but i think that they do. but i wrote this book very much for 19 year olds. i had 19 year olds in mind, and this was part of the challenge here. it was to write it, to work on the language, to work on the ways that i made the arguments. the five sort of takeaways, the conclusion, are in bold for a reason. to help teachers out there. i just want to hit you on the head with these are the five things i think really are important. and because i want the we to know these things. i want this to be something that, as we head into the 250, have 250th anniversary, these kinds of arguments are part of the equation. if we are thinking about race as a central part of the
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founding, as part of the cornerstone here. you know, understanding the stakes. if we thought we could get rid of racism by passing a few laws in the 1960s, the reason it didn't work is because we did not understand the depths of the problem. this kind of work is trying to get at the depths of the problem. we need to go much, much, much, much deeper into the crust and the mantle of north america to understand how racist penetrated it. and this is what, i think, if you grow up with these things, i also think it's about climate change, our children will learn this at a very young age, and it might be different. that we might be different in a generation or so. >> if i could jump in. this is why i pushed against your other statement about republicanism and exclusion being inextricably linked. okay?
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i would say they are contusion ali linked. and i would say it's really important for the future of our society and government, that we understand that choices were made contingent lee that excluded certain groups. >> right. >> and we can make decisions to include other groups. and of course, we have failed over and over again. but that first part of the declaration of independence, you know, calls us to equality, and equal rights, and so, i think it's part of the historiographical cycle to emphasize one team over the other. but i think it's important, at the same time, that we emphasized essentiality of race, that we not lose the sense of hope and possibility for future
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inclusions, that republican government and the principles of the declaration of independence pulled out to us. -- hold out to us. >> i would completely agree with that. i don't mean for that to mean that we are because of this. again, i think the contingency part of this does give us hope. we aren't bound because of what has happened before. yeah. >> eric, you are muted. >> i just caught that. thank you. [laughs] we've done 60 sessions, over 60 sessions. that was the first time that i had my mute on when i started to talk. my apologies. what i was saying is i think we can go on for quite some time. we scratched the surface on i think a very rich, provocative, and important topic, but unfortunately time is up. it is 5:30 and i have to draw
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this to a close. i want to thank our participants today as well as members in the audience. our thanks to the omohundro institute for both bringing this book out and for cosponsoring this session. so thank you, robert, derrick, rosemary, and kathy. fun. that's a serious conversation. >> well, and take out the lifestream for this year for welcome to sweet taste of liberty. the kickoff livestream for this year from the leaving center for american history. i am and 13. with c-span's


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