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tv   Washington Journal John Cribb  CSPAN  November 22, 2020 1:16am-2:00am EST

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>> former president barack obama live monday at 11:30 a.m. eastern on book tv on c-span2. ♪ john we are back with cribb, historian and author of the historical novel "old abe." he is your to talk to us about
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the 157th anniversary and the lasting significance of president lincoln's gettysburg address. good morning. guest: good morning. thanks for having me. host: you wrote earlier this today the gettysburg address is more important for our nation than ever. tell us why. guest: because the gettysburg address speaks to a problem that has been around as long as human beings or at least society has been around and that is the problem of our people going to rule themselves or are they going to be ruled by others? people who would otherwise take their freedom away. lincoln knew that problem never goes away, it doesn't. he said it is an age-old problem . that is really what he in the end was speaking to in the gettysburg address. day, -- today as
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in his day, there are forces around the world who want to take freedom away from people here and abroad. we always have to be on our guard against them. lincoln knew that. if you look at the gettysburg address am a he talks about rededicating ourselves to the principles that will keep us free. that is why the speech continues to be so important today. host: thursday was the 157th anniversary of the gettysburg address. i think what surprises many people about the gettysburg address is that it is so short. probably took him less than two minutes to actually deliver it. long.about 272 words for our consideration today, that would be just a politician clearing his throat. [laughter] that would not be the whole speech. right.exactly host: what was lincoln tried to tell america through the gettysburg address? guest: you are right, it was so
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short. long.rds and 10 sentences it was so short that he wrapped had known people he had started. the fellow in charge of taking his picture for the address was still getting his camera set up, because he thought he had all the world, and all of a sudden lincoln was done. it was a very short speech. almost an invocation. went to gettysburg to tell the northern people why they had to go on fighting this horrible, god-awful war that had seen so much death and bloodshed and seemed to be dragging on and on. he wanted to speak to them and give them a higher purpose for continuing the war. in the end, he was speaking to both north and south, to all americans, but lincoln in that
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great speech, he starts off talking about four score and seven years ago. that is 87 years, a very old-fashioned and the local way of saying 87 years. he gave the speech in 1863. abstract 87 years -- subtract 87 years. that takes you to the declaration of independence. he was taken audience back to 1776. as he put it, the nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. that is pretty much straight out of the declaration of independence, right? he wanted to take his audience back to those founding principles and remind them that in many ways, that is what that war was about, rededicating ourselves to those founding principles. host: you said that he was aiming this discussion at his citizens in the north.
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all, why was he actually there in the first place, and who was there to hear him? guest: he went to gettysburg to take part in the dedication ceremony of the new cemetery there. that summer in early july of 1863, the nation had seen the most cataclysmic battle it had ever known. about 50,000 casualties, may 8000 people dead. after the battle, the burial crews with the armies would quickly bury the bodies in shallow graves the best they could and if they could identify them, they would put a board with the name and the whatever information they had scratched on them and they left. there was no federal authority to come in or state authority to come in and take care of that.
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gettysburg was left with this horrible scene on their hands, thousands and thousands of bodies on the hillsides around their town, and shallow graves. it is not a long-term situation at all. so they decided in conjunction with the state of pennsylvania and other states to establish a cemetery and move these bodies into a hallowed ground where they could rest permit me. now, best where they could rest where they could rest permanently. some of the bodies were taken home. they were still being buried when the invocation took place. first thing blenkinsop and he got to get as berg was stacks of coffins on the railroad tracks that were being shipped home. he was invited to come in and give a few appropriate remarks at this dedication ceremony. so he knows when he goes up there, it will be a brief
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address, he is not the main speaker of the day. he is not going to speak for long, he knows, but he goes because he knows it is an wasrtant invocation and he to use it to send a message to the nation. he wants to tell the people of the north why they need to keep war,ing on in this awful but he also had a broader message for the whole nation, and that is a reminder that self-rule, the democracy is at stake in this war, and if this war, if the country breaks apart in this war, the hopes of freedom and democracy might well be snuffed out. host: if you haven't been to the to see the cemeteries and the money meant in gettysburg, i promise you, it is worth the trip, especially if you can social distance and wear your mask, you can still see it.
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if you want to learn more about the monuments of gettysburg, watch american history tv's american artifacts tour of the battlefield with historians. at if you want to check out some more and learn more about those monuments in gettysburg. we know that the speech that president lincoln gave, he was not the main speaker, he was only there for a few moments to talk about -- only on stage for a few moments. what was the immediate reaction to the words he said? guest: i think the immediate reaction within the first few seconds after he finished may well have been silence, just because people didn't expect him to wrap up that quickly. his friend, and fellow attorney back from his illinois days, served as kind of his chief actingrd in washington
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as master of ceremonies. he said when he finished, and it can turn to him and whispered, the speech went sour. a good plow will turn over the land and scour the land and a poor plow won't. hist is possible that bodyguard was right about that, that lincoln thought it didn't work because of the silence. but very quickly people began to cheer and applaud. some accounts say that three giant cheers went up in a thunderous wave of applause. i think people listened to it and were moved by it. the press reaction, of course, in some ways was partisan. the press was extremely partisan back then.
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there were republican in newspapers and democratic newspapers. the democratic newspapers didn't like it. cheekicago times said the of every american should tingle with shame at a flat, silly, dishwatery -- of the president. republican newspapers were apt to praise it. the springfield republican in massachusetts for example called speech.fect gem of a after the initial partisan reaction, i think quickly people realized this was a great speech in.praise began to pour it didn't take long for the speech to be anthologized and people began to even learn it. host: let me remind our viewers they can take part in our conversation. we will open up regional lines for the last part of the show.
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the means if you're in eastern and central time zones, we want to hear from you at 202-748-8000. if you are in the mountain and pacific time zones, we want to hear from you at 202-748-8001. remember, you can always text us 202-748-8003 and we are always reading on social media, on twitter at @cspanwj, and on facebook at john, do we know if lincoln himself realized how important this speech was and how it will go down in history before his death? guest: i think he certainly knew that it was an important speech. he meant it to be important. it was after he gave it, the most requested speech. madetually -- copies were in a couple were auctioned off to raise money for the war effort.
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he meant it to be an important speech. he began working on it before he went to gettysburg. he told an aide he had half of it written out before he got on the train to go to gettysburg, but he had been thinking for quite a while on how he could crystallize his thoughts, his message. he finished writing his speech the night he got to gettysburg. he stayed in the house of a fellow named david wills, one of the people responsible for the establishment of the cemetery. the next morning he got up and ade a few changes, road out clean copies before joining the procession to go to the dedication ceremony. but he wanted it to be an important speech. host: let's go to our phone lines and let some of our viewers join the conversation. we start with dutch calling from pennsylvania.
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how far away are you from gettysburg? caller: hi, how are you? conversation.ble this is just a really refreshing conversation. at wharton,course pennsylvania, that took us to gettysburg and it really enlightened my eyes as to how executive commander-in-chiefs all the way down to generals would work, and it spurred a lot of interest because i work in the criminal justice system, so deeply. i happened to be in winchester, virginia, and i read th a book that was about several women who were in their homes where the transition occurred between rebel to union, over and over in the same house, across the street with neighbors.
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no one knew who was on which side. sound familiar? gettysburg, went to that really struck a match. here,en i have people what i want to share is a few things. first of all, gettysburg is fascinating. just the decisiveness and the holding back and the explosions going on around your head where you are spending, you don't know ,hat is left, right or center and the just fantastic, almost miraculous situations that occurred were just breathtaking. to see on those stones, the actual tree that they hid behind to save their own lives, that is amazing. host: go ahead and respond.
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guest: it is an amazing place to visit, i wish every american can go there. it is worth visiting vote for the battlefield and for the spot where lincoln gave that great address. one thing i can recommend if you go, there is a great organization called the gettysburg -- that has been around for over 100 years. they specialize in getting people to wars of the battlefield -- getting people battlefield. you can call and get in touch with them through the park service. they will even drive your car for you so you don't have to drive. a lot of them are retired school teachers and historians and they really know that battlefield. you can call them up with any aspect of the speech or battle you want to know about and they will tailor the tour for you. that is a great way to see the battlefield.
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and all the park rangers are great. it is such a huge battlefield, almost overwhelming, but it is gorgeous. nobody should go without going to the cemetery where lincoln gave that address, because when you stand and look out over those gravestones and over those fields, is a very, very moving experience. host: i can tell you that when i took my family to gettysburg, we did the driving tour and it included back then the cd that tells you about all the history of certain spots in the battlefield and the cemetery. -- leads you eventually to the cemetery where you get to listen to an actor reading the gettysburg address. i can vouch that this is an absolutely wonderful tour. and you can do a driving tour which means you can keep yourself and your family safe. we used to be able to do a driving tour where you could keep your families safe while
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you are seeing this great american institution. one of our social media followers has a question for you. they want to know what influence that frederick douglas or others had on the gettysburg address. guest: well, they had a profound influence in that the gettysburg is part of the pivot from the civil war, starting out mainly as a war to save the union, to hold the country together. that is lincoln's express purpose at the onset of the war anyway. in 1862.changes really the preliminary emancipation proclamation after the battle of antietam in maryland in september of 1862, and then signs the official emancipation proclamation on
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january 1, 1863. of course, the emancipation proclamation, he declares southern slaves free. war changes the war from a just to save the union to a war to both save the union, and free the slaves. abolitionists like frederick douglas had an awful lot to do without. lincoln and frederick douglas had a very interesting relationship. they respected each other a great deal. came to see lincoln at the white house once and chide him a little bit because raisess was trying to black troops for the union, a very important part of the war effort. he came to lincoln to see him at the white house in a very historic meeting. here is an african-american coming to meet one-on-one with
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the president in the white house. he said, mr. president, i will be honest with you, i will not be able to do this much longer if things don't change. i am trying to ask these men to risk the lives but they are still being discriminated against -- they are not being soldiers,e white not receiving the same promotions as the white soldiers. lincoln talked with him. douglass was right. lincoln basically urged patience. he said, these things take time. time douglass left the meeting, i think he was satisfied. i suspect one of the most meaningful moments in lincoln's presidency was after he gave his second inaugural address at the end of the war. douglass was in the crowd listening to him, and afterwards, that evening there was a reception in the white
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house and lots of people came. frederick douglass showed up. first there were people who tried to keep him out of the white house because he was black. somebody told lincoln douglass was here and make an immediate beside, show him in. in a very loud voice as douglass enter the room, he said, here comes my friend douglass. he wanted everybody to hear that. he asked douglass, what did you think of my speech? he said, mr. president, you don't want to know. lincoln said, no. he said, mr. president, that was a sacred effort. i think that probably pleased lincoln just about as much as anything could have pleased him at that point. in answer to your question, abolitionists like douglass certainly had a big influence on lincoln, and therefore, on the gettysburg address. host: our next caller is calling from brooklyn, new york. good morning. caller: good morning and thank
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you so much for taking my call and thank you so much, sir, for speaking on the subject. can you hear me all right? guest: i. caller: can, thank you. caller: ok. i am about to turn 87 years old on january 1. october, i think i was nine years old, in the fourth grade. we had assembly every wednesday. what we had then was brotherhood week in the month of october. and our class, my teacher thought i was a difficult child, and she asked me to recite the gettysburg address. i took it home and they showed it to my mother and i said, i have to read this tomorrow in assembly. she knew that i had a good memory and she said, you are not going to read it, you are going to memorize it. all that night i had to memorize that speech. the next day i got up and recited it.
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for the last 15 years i recite it every day just to work on -- preserve this memory. my question is, what you are discussing, in the second paragraph -- and what i am very concerned with today having survived all these wars is that, in the second paragraph, he says, now we are engaged -- this is from my memory -- now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. i see where we are today and i keep asking myself, have we failed the test? that is my question. guest: thank you for the question. and congratulations, first of all, on turning 87 on january 1? 1.t: she said january
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guest: you were born on the first day of the emancipation proclamation. that is wonderful -- the birthday. i hope schoolchildren are still memorizing the gettysburg address. i had to memorize it in the fourth grade, i hope they are still doing that across the country. that is a great question. let me talk for just a second about why he said they are engaged in that test of whether democracy can survive, can long endure. lincoln knew that, when he give that speech, that the country was still very young, less than 100 years old. lincoln also knew that for the vast majority of history, most human beings had lived without much freedom. they had lived under the rule of kings and tyrants, or they had lived as slaves, or as serfs, in bondage of some kind. most people didn't have much freedom.
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he knew that when the united states was born in 1776, which was his favorite founding document, the one he goes back to in the gettysburg address that was such a radical idea that a country would be founded on these propositions, that all men are created equal and all have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. people around the world had been waiting for centuries for a country like about to come along -- like that to come along. the eyes on the world were on the nation. it was still a very unproven idea. it was being tested very hard in that civil war. lincoln knew that other movements or freedom around the world had not fared as well, like the revolutions, for example of 1848 in europe, and the french revolution, in a lot of ways went the wrong way. so lincoln knew that in some
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severehis was a test of the whole idea of democracy, that if this civil war, if the country ended up -- a lot of people thought it fit broke up it would go down the road of europe, this continent would end up looking like europe, a bunch of smaller countries and republics in name only -- but it looked to the world that this grand experiment in self-rule and democracy was blowing itself up in this civil war. in the eyes of the world, they were on it. the hopes for freedom around the world, lincoln felt were at stake. at the is why he says end of the speech, he said -- they have to keep fighting so the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall
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not harris from the earth. notice he doesn't say from the country. he says from the earth. in his view, that is what is at stake for people around the world, the idea of self-rule and freedom. to get back to your question, lincoln is saying that the american people had to rededicate themselves to the principles in the declaration of independence that we are all created equal, we all had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. we had to dedicate ourselves to the principal if we were in fact to be able to prove to the world that a nation so conceived could long endure. his message still resounds down to us today. it is always an open-ended question. that is why your question is such a great one. every generation needs to dedicate themselves to those
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principles. it would help if every generation memorized the gettysburg address to remind them of that because if we don't remain dedicated to those is the bulls, then -- to those principles, than in lakeview, the government for the people, .y the people, will not survive host: linda is calling from akron, ohio. good morning. caller: good morning, mr. cribb. of abraham fan lincoln historically. he is my favorite president. his conviction, his bravery. you that iestion for don't know if anyone could answer, but it seems to me that you would be a prime candidate to do so. if lincoln had not in
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assassinated -- if he had not been assassinated, what do you think he would have accomplished in his second term? that itaid, i know might be fortune-telling a bit, but i am eager to hear what you , ink the possibilities are will hang up and listen. thank you so much. this has been a wonderful program with you on today. i really, really have enjoyed it. guest: thank you so much, and that is a wonderful question too. it is fun to think about. of course, we really don't know the answer and we can't know, but i can tell you my guess. lived, we can hope, let's put it this way, we can hope that he would've helped guide the country to a smoother
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reconciliation. that perhaps -- or construction was a very tough time -- reconstruction was a very tough time, in many ways it was harder on the south than the war it self was. wanted the really country to come back together in the worst kind of way, he really did. he was all about the union. he loved the union. he loved the idea of this country and he always thought of this as one country. he never gave in to the idea that the south had actually succeeded. he used -- that the south had actually seceded. he didn't want to give in to the fact that they had seceded. he called them my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, which is an
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understatement if ever there was one. [laughter] he started out his first inaugural address, toward the end of that address, he reminded americans, we are not enemies. he said, we are friends, we must not be enemies. their passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of affection between americans. he spoke of the mystic court of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave across the land to hearts. he spoke of the day when they would touch the better angels of our nature and bring us together again. in his second inaugural address, which is like the gettysburg address, truly a magnificent speech, he closes with those famous words -- he wants americans to treat each other with malice toward none and with charity for all. by charity, he met the old-fashioned, biblical sense of the word, brotherly love and
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goodwill toward each other. so lincoln was always about unity. towards the end of the war, the terms offered by unisys us grant to generally -- offered by theys s grant to general -- ulysses s grantby lee.neral one of the generals said, how do we treat these people? lincoln said, let them off easy. wanted -- his idea was for a true reconciliation of north and south after the war. i would like to think if he had been around, maybe he could have helped that happen. as i said, faster and smoother than it did, but who knows?
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host: one of our social media followers wants to point out the things he sees in the address does the most beautiful and successful thread that runs through the gettysburg address is the equal amount of respect and dignity he gives to soldiers from both sides of the war. it's not every person who looks at their enemies with such respect. i think it goes to what you are saying, he did not consider the south on enemy. they were his disaffected countrymen of the north. guest: that's right. right.ewer is he was trying to treat those with respect. when i said he was speaking to the northern people, i meant, in one respect he was, he was trying to tell them why they needed to fight on, what he really was speaking to all americans when he was talking look tow we all need to those founding principles that hold us together as one people
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and as one nation. host: thickly before we get back to calls, i want to talk to you a bit about your novel. abe." why did you decide to make this a historical novel rather than history book? guest: i am a very passionate amateur historian, like a lot of americans are. not professional by training. i was a literature major. in some ways doing a novel was natural to me. the reason i wrote this book as a book of fiction, basically it is a story of the last five years of lincoln's life. so it starts with his nomination for the presidency in 1860. we are at his side every chapter and every page as he goes through the presidency and the civil war.
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i put a lot of research to try to make it historically accurate. just about everything happened in this novel. i don't leave a lot out. the characters walking around the pages were real people. his family. lysses grant. i wanted to bring lincoln to life for people and make him a walking, talking, breathing fellow and not just of the image you see on the penny or the five dollar bill. that was the main purpose of the novel, was to bring him alive. i hope that people will read it and they will feel like they know this flesh and blood man. and i also hope that it helps them understand and remember just what an extraordinary service he performed for this nation. lincoln really was a giant hero in that epic struggle to save our country, defend our founding
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principles, and, of course, free millions of enslaved americans. i tell people that i think you will understand the american story better if you understand lincoln's story because in so many ways he stands centerstage in that magnificent story. the best way to tell the story is to say once upon a time and bring it to life through fiction and that is what i am try to do here. host: let's see if we can get through some of our callers before we run out of time. we start with tom: from el paso, texas. cribb, thank you very much for this wonderful talk and all the information you are giving us. one thing i wanted to ask you is, what else did president , how did he look at the declaration of independence and what else did he feel about it? one thing is the declaration of
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independence, our rights are derived by our creator in that document, and i am wondering if there is additional insight you can give on what he thought about the founding fathers and what they laid on the line during the independence. guest: i think he had profound respect for them. ." called them "iron men he was just one generation away from the founding fathers. the declaration of independence was his favorite founding document. that pretty much tells you what you need to know. that is the document he looked said, i have ats single political thought or sentiment that does not spring from the declaration of independence. who iset's go to lou, actually calling from gettysburg , pennsylvania. good morning. caller: thank you for taking my
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call. i have been in gettysburg over 40 years. i worked for the tour company for a few years. i noticed how many people would go to see the gettysburg address, not so much the battlefield. in particular, asian families and all their children had memorized the gettysburg address. i was wondering, my question was, president lincoln's international effect today and in the past. thank you for taking my call. guest: he had a tremendous international effect. today, it is one the most recognized american names in the world. briefly, leo tolstoy, the great told an novelist great story at the turn of the 20th century to a
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reporter who went to see him and talked to him about lincoln, and tolstoy went on and on about what a giant lincoln was, the greatest of all americans. he said every american should know lincoln. i think we ought to take tolstoy's advice on that. host: let's go to wes calling from north south carolina. good morning. caller: i read gore vidal's novel about lincoln years ago. at the end he said he -- there was a speaker before lincoln who spoke for one hour and then lincoln's speech came off as a dud and it was only years later that it came into the popularity that it is. is that the truth? or was it really accepted at the time as a great speech? guest: it is true that the
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speaker was edward everett, one of the most renowned orders of his day. he spoke for two hours before lincoln -- one of the most o of the day. rators -- he spoke for two hours before lincoln. one of the most renowned orators of the day. there's a comment that talks about, lincoln said to him that speech will not scour. lamon, was the one responsible for people later on thinking that the speech was a newspapers, i said, people like henry long wordsworth longfellow, really prominent people soon after the speech were writing glowing things about it saying what a great speech at was. host: one of the things we know that lincoln thought about back
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then was he was worried about the future of the government of the people, by the people, for the people. pew, as ofng to the 2017, 96 of 177 countries with populations of at least 500,000 were democracies of some kind, and only 13% were not. do you think lincoln would be less worried or more worried about the future of democratic governments today? guest: i think he would be astounded at the progress we have made in many ways. he and frederick douglass together, in many ways they could come back today, would be delighted with all the progress we have made in civil rights and other freedoms. as they looked out around the world, the march of democracy has been amazing. but i think they would also caution us again that every generation has to rededicate themselves to those founding principles.
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lincoln uses words like dedication and resolve in the gettysburg address, because he wants americans to realize that each generation has to take that test, and if we want to keep freedom alive both here and around the world. lou is calling from somerset, kentucky. good morning. caller: good morning. i love the fact that our great general dwight d eisenhower and retired president chose to spend his last years overlooking this great battlefield. i feel like he did it in love for abraham lincoln and in memory of lincoln and all that he did to save our country. thank you. guest: thank you. yes, the eisenhower farm is a wonderful place to visit. if you go to gettysburg and you
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have time, go to eisenhower farm. it's been several years. my wife and i toured it several years ago. you get to see how he lived in retirement. it is wonderful. they used to sit together with the tv trays. sit and watch the evening news with each other over their dinners on tv trays every night. that.t to see all of you are right, it is a fantastic place to visit. host: we would like to thank john cribb, historian and author of the historical novel "old abe ," for coming and discussing the 157th anniversary of the gettysburg >> every day we are taking your calls live on the air on the news of the day. we will discuss policy issues that impact you. sunday morning, a political reporter talks about the latest
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