The Road to American Politics with Joanne Freeman | History Hit LIVE on Timeline

published on June 30, 2020

hello everybody welcome to history hit

live I've got a total treat for you

today I've got absolutely brilliant

episode we're going to be talking to the

professor of history and America so he's

at Yale University

she's Joanne Freeman total legend hello

to Laura Hardy who's drinking drinking

cider in the West Country

hello also too it was good idea at the

time drinking beer in Australia it's

pretty late in Australia so so good well

done you I'm staying up and we're here

this week Monday Wednesday Friday has

locked down around the world it easy

we're gonna just we're gonna do slightly

fewer but we're gonna do better oh no

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hey hey sorry about that everyone Joe

and I managed to mute ourselves you

think I by now I'd know what I'm doing

I've been doing this for months

Joe and I'm so sorry you were speaking

with such enthusiasm that I'm gonna have

to ask if it's okay can you just run

some of those by us again so what's the

world looked like after the defeat of

after the defeat of the British colonial

overlords and what does the young

American Republic do with itself right

so what the war did and it's really

logical that the war did it was bring

people together the colonists together

with the monumental effort before them

of winning this war once that was done

there was really nothing to hold these

colonies together and basically the

1780s is a story of the states turning

their backs on each other everyone going

home and the 1780s is a decade of people

discovering why that didn't work so well

and and that ultimately brings you to

the Constitution interesting so it

wasn't a certain thing but all of these

beasts these states which were

independent I guess they would consent

sell sovereign it wasn't a done deal I'm

gonna come together in a kind of federal

structure no it was certainly not a done


I mean you know when you look back

before the Revolution the handful of

times when the colonies came together

for any reason where times when they

felt threatened and as soon as the

threat evaporated they went back to

their business so no there was no

assumption I mean during the Revolution

the United States created the Articles

of Confederation it was a very

decentralized government where the

states are sort of like delegates you

know a union of friends but it wasn't

anything remotely like the Constitution

that comes along and I think probably

that felt like to people at the time it

would have been plenty ever was it ever

realistic I mean is there a whole these

are a whole sort of tract of history

that could have gone on which was with

all these 13 colonies developing like

Europe into into a kind of competitive

system of independent states well I mean

based on a sounder historical record

something based on what actually

happened the answer to that would be no

because states begin to have problems

trading with each other engaging in

commerce with each other and the way you

get to the Constitutional Convention is

first two states

to talk about Commerce and then three

and then five you know so basically the

states are coming together in larger and

larger groups year by year trying to

coordinate things in the meantime

there's all of this other stuff

happening there's you know parts of

states trying to break away from states

to create new states there's people

revolting against paying taxes of

various source there's all kind of a

furor going on and one of the things

that people who want a new constitution

are discovering is that there's kind of

no way to put it down because of this

weak central government so all of those

things are happening at the same time

and I think because you have a real

force of people who I think join

together and thinking this during the

revolution when they saw what a weak

Continental Congress couldn't do in

running a war those people are really

out front

in the late 1780s really pushing to

strengthen the government and they have

all kinds of ways to substantiate that

and justify that and and they are the

people who push towards the convention

it's all sounding quite contemporary now

and whether it's Austin in Europe

talking about brings it back power

should lie within Europe or maybe a

little close to home for you as well

working out what the point the federal

government is in the period of crisis

anyway and what who some of the figures

who some of the leading figures are

making that case that you you talked

about stronger central government well

one of the people who was first to do

that and and particularly loud in doing

that was Alexander Hamilton he um and

part of the reason I think that he can

take this stance so readily is because

he's not from one of the thirteen

colonies he comes from the Caribbean so

he doesn't he's not tied to any one

state so I think he has an easier time

saying well we need you know

logistically speaking we need a stronger

central government and he doesn't feel

like New York is gonna be somehow

threatened by doing this but he's out

there front and center making this case

that for any number of reasons the

government has to be stronger to be able

to govern in any way James Madison joins

him in making those kinds of arguments

George Washington agreed on Washington

and Hamilton were writing letters about

this before the Constitutional

Convention one of the interest

things about the Constitutional

Convention is what you end up with is a

roomful of delegates some of whom are

really really powerful advocates for

strengthening government some of whom

aren't sure about that

but the people who really don't trust

strengthening the government don't come

to the convention so that's that's a

problem right that that puts them at a

disadvantage gonna be in the room so

because of course the USD states had

just fought a long and tough war against

an oppressive distant central power so

you can see how within those individual

states there would be quite a strong

argument against kind of jumping back

into a big kind of transnational Union

all right you know I think the Articles

of Confederation get kind of a bum rap

because they're perfectly logical for

the moment that they were in precisely

for that reason right these colonies and

now states break away they in their mind

it's tyranny and you know lack of

control we couldn't control our destiny

political destiny so they're distrustful

of executive power and it makes perfect

sense that the first thing they try to

do is create a government that is not

does not have that kind of strong

central executive power at its center

it's only in living under that

government for a while but some Minds

change and people move or at least some

people move in a different direction

Shane thank you very much for your

donation that will go to the cove

internationally fund rate generous of

you as always I'll get to your question

in a second so now in the late 1780s

what are the what are the one of the

inspirations what are the what are the

examples that these people these

thinkers are drawing upon to try and

create a new kind of government well you

mean as far as examples of other

governments that they're well the most

interesting example of that to me is is

James Madison you know so Madison

prepares for the federal convention

Oh constitutional convention which are

the same thing prepares by studying past

Republic's he just sits down and this is

soul enlightenment desk right it's like

I shall study all Republic's over time

and I shall determine universal patterns

of Republic's and then we could we can

create one here that will take advantage

of all the good things that avoid all

the bad things and that's what he sets

out to do and it's this document where

he's just sets out the pros and cons

republic after Republican after

Republican goes all the way back to

Greece and Rome and arrives at the

convention with in his mind a sense of

what doesn't doesn't work in a republic

now what he would have known from

looking at all those examples and what a

lot of other people would have assumed

as well you know it's a world of

monarchies and they're trying to create

something different and Republic's

historically speaking never survive

right historically speaking they

collapse why well cuz sometimes because

a demagogue you know comes into power

based on the very democratic essence of

a republic and then that destroys it

sometimes they collapse in on themselves

and anarchy you know so history taught

this generation that Republic's are

really fragile things so that was part

of what they were trying to work against

when they came together in the federal

convention what is a federal convention

they all come together physically in one

place to just and it is our

understanding that by the time we leave

this place we're gonna have ourselves

we're gonna work something out was this

part of just an ongoing process no it

was so delegates were named for this

convention to address problems in the

government now the key thing to

understand is the convention did not

come together with their mission being

let's create a new government their

mission was to revise what was already

there in the room were a lot of people

who thought that what was already there

was you know beyond hope so what you end

up with is people those people pulling

at loopholes in some of the instructions

that states gave the delegates to enable

themselves to justify having bigger

changes and really basically having a

new system so they end up creating a new

government but of course you know you

already suggested you know is it

inevitable or not there was nothing

inevitable about that document right the

states could have said you might be on

your mission we don't want to read this

you know the Congress could have said

what were you doing you know go back and

do what we told you to do there are any

number of ways in which that

Constitution could have been rejected as

not allowed because it broke the the

mission the understanding of what they

were supposed to be doing so you know it

one of the fascinating things about

history generally but for me

particularly about studying the founding

no one everyone thinks about the

founding and everything that happened in

it as inevitable right well of course

you know of course we won the war and of

course there's a constitution of course

the Constitution worked of course

Washington became president and there

are no of courses in that ever but

particularly in the founding you have to

toss out the of courses because no one

knew if anything would work at a given

moment and it's easy to forget that when

you're talking about founding documents

you know and sort of major structural

decisions and what with the stuff I've

read around it including including the

wonderful books you've written is that

Laura Hardy thank you very much for your

donation is that there was an awareness

that they were doing something pretty

unique at the time you had this had any

Society I've already gone through this

process of trying to sit down bring

empirical evidence in debate and fresh

out how to build an entirely new

government from scratch right and that's

um Hamilton basically says that in the

first paragraph of the first federalist

essay and and part of what he is saying

and part of what others recognized was

that not only were they trying to do

something that wasn't a monarchy but

almost more important than that how they

did it

mattered a lot so it was a process they

involved they allowed States to name

people they brought people as you said

into a room they debated it then they

let the States side again whether they

wanted to ratify it or not it was very

deliberate very planned house and says

in that first paragraph basically we're

deciding for all time whether you can do

that whether you can bring a bunch of

people in room and have them debate and

compromise and create a system of

government or whether were forever

destined to have our governments a

product of accident or force it's an

incredibly powerful those of you

go find the first paragraph of the first

Federalist I say online everywhere

because you'll get a sense of the

significance of what that moment felt

like to them Sean thank you for your

donation that's very generous of you

it's in such an invigorating and

exciting time and join what what did

whether was there a partisan divide in

that convention or is there a sense of a

kind of a free assembly of individuals

all with different points you all do

quite quite did you get quite tribal I

wouldn't say got tribal I would say that

it was not unified you know there were

people there who were not comfortable

strengthening the government to that

degree were not comfortable moving that

far away from the Articles of

Confederation poor Hamilton you know New

York brings in three delegates to be at

this convention Hamilton is like mister

like strengthen the government new

constitution and the other two delegates

are distrustful of the entire thing and

since each state gets one vote he's out

voted so he exactly so he you know at

one point he stands up and gives a

six-hour speech you know declaiming like

this is what I think must happen but he

knows very well that ultimately his vote

doesn't matter so no but there were

divisions but as I said the most extreme

distrustful people the most the

strongest opponents to this weren't in

that room thank you very much Sean for

your donation and Hanna for your

generous donation as well but but

speaking about in the room because I'm

also fasting about deliberative bodies

because today we sadly have the

impression of Parliament's and Congress

on both sides identic that it's kind of

whipped and it's all arranged before and

the debate doesn't change many people's

point of view these great speeches but

you kind of know this is a ton of people

change their minds when people listening

engaging changing their minds I think

more people were listening you know and

but there's a reason for that in part

you know what we have now is a system of

systems in committees and all of these

other ways and backroom areas where

things get done and then the floors of

Parliament or the Congress the halls of

legislature become places where things

done off the floor are put into practice

right are ratified basically are passed

in this time period and particularly in

the Constitutional Convention there's no

other structure the understanding is

whatever they do in that room is

whatever they do in that room and they

understand that people back home in

their home states are watching they have

some of them have strong instructions

from their home states some don't but

pretty early on once they've decided we

are just gonna toss the articles and do

something new they're all operating

slightly against the folks back home and

so they have to listen to each other and

you can you know the James Madison was

sort of the the king of process right he

he took these amazing notes on what

happened throughout this entire debate

over the Constitution and they're also

those of you watching and listening

they're helped their online um he kept

them because explicitly he wanted to

preserve the process he wanted to show

people how you do this since what

America felt it was doing in part was

something different the how was very

different and so you can see when you

read that actual debates going on and

people arguing back and forth so actual

debate and compromise sixth or think

Jenna thank you very much your donation

well I became very familiar with the

Madison account because during the

impeachment process he wrote extensively

about impeachment and the thinking

behind Indian governor Morris and all

those guys talking about what they

thought what about some of the big

topics I mean we should probably talk

about about slavery first of all was

that on the table was that being

discussed all that put to one side as

there were institutions of government

well that's a that's a sort of yes-or-no

answer that the

one big question was representation

right because that was going to

determine who had power and how much and

you know there were small states that

wanted each state to have one vote there

were big states who wanted to get credit

for being big states and have population

matter and counting representation for

Congress so that was a real debate and

it went back and forth but obviously one

big question was what do enslaved people

count as do they count in that as part

of the population and then in that case

southern states have a lot more

representatives because they have much

larger populations than they might

otherwise so they're not debating there

there are a few days where the actual

practice of slavery is debated but the

fact of the matter is I think everyone

in that room assumed that that was a

that was going to break it entirely if

they took that seriously and so the

point was what kind of compromise can we

create on the process of slavery the

practice of slavery that will enable

this to pass you know I mean it's one of

many many many many moments in which

slavery becomes the thing not to be

discussed right a sort of political

football that's punted because the

people in the room are not the people

who are most profoundly affected by it

so this is one of those moments when

there's some debate again if you look in

Madison's notes you can see some debate

about it you know it's inhumanity but

then what you end up seeing is what

becomes known as the three-fifths

compromise right it's a compromise on

how enslaved people will count and

figuring out numbers of representatives

for each state and the idea is that

three-fifths of an enslaved population

will count and so you know that

essentially says that you know and

enslaved person equals 3/5 of a person

it's an ugly compromise and it shows you

the degree to which slavery wasn't the

thing really being discussed it was it

was representation another thing that

they discussed that vital importance and

it's not surprising to anyone watching

modern politics is executive power right

they had broken away from a king

someone with a lot of executive power is

scary how much executive power

should there be and how should we

organize it and they talked about having

a like a Council of presidents like

several of them that was dismissed

because the idea was well if you have

three presidents one can do something

wrong and hide behind the other two

whereas if you have one he's responsible

for what he's doing but there was a lot

of debate and that's why actually

impeachment was a big topic of

discussion because the idea was if we're

gonna give that much power to one person

we darn well better be able to remove

that person if we need to and and that

was the logic was fear about a

tyrannical executive arising out of this

new constitution well so John is Britain

a big influence on us I mean is there

kind of starting point Westminster and

they're just moving on or or is it more

abstract to these seizing ideas from

from political thinkers like Kay no lock

oh no I think I think Britain England is

a huge influence but what's interesting

about it is sometimes Americans are

really conflicted about how to be

influenced so in other words sometimes

people look towards England and say you

know well that worked really well and we

know that and and and that seems like a

fine way to do things so let's do it

there are always other people who stand

up and say are we really trying to be

like them like is that our mission so

for example there's a debate in the very

first Congress about whether to when the

president enters the room that the

Senate to get inaugurated and become

president should the Senators stand or

sit and they have this huge debate

because if they stand are they treating

him like a king but if they sit are they

not giving him enough respect and

someone who says as someone always says

well you know I've been to Parliament

and here's what happens when the king

gives a speech and everyone in the room

sort of nods and then someone else says

so is that what we're supposed to do or

what we're not supposed to do because we

didn't like that

before so definitely an influence but

it's a complicated influence and then

and then what about that the divisions

that we see do you recognize these

divisions that start to emerge in in

this in this gathering and do they sort

of foreshadow the divisions that would

eventually rip the Republic apart during

the 1860s during the civil war do you

find the southern slave owning states

have quite unified and against the

northern states of new england and the

middle colonies well I'm being such a

historian yes or no

there is definitely one of the things

that surprised me I guess when I first

began studying this period was I assumed

that in the very beginning of the

government 1789 1790 the first couple

years there would it be at least a

little time when everyone was like this

is exciting or in a national experiment

we're all in this together

you know let's think about the nation

over section or over whatever over our

home states but the fact of the matter

is really early on I found a letter I

remember um I might have been to James

Madison I can't remember now but it's a

letter from a southerner to another

southerner and what it basically says is

you know we better get a lot of southern

men in clerkships and minor positions in

this new government because I'll be

darned if I'm gonna want to be ruled by

a bunch of Yankees and if they start out

in the bottom posts they'll rise up and

basically have all of these positions in

government so you know if there's not a

northern versus southern division in the

way that happens later because of the

issue of slavery leading up to the Civil

War but there definitely is not a sense

that everyone has one unified and United

interest there's a sense that there are

different people in different areas with

different preferences and different

hates and different systems and somehow

or other those have to be you know

debated and something has to come out of

it I mean that's iam James Madison so

Federalist one I love cuz of that first

paragraph Federalist 10 by James Madison

talks about this in which he says you

know in these essays which are written

to convince people to ratify the

Constitution he says well you know the

government this nation is huge and you

might argue that that's a bad thing and

how will it ever survive but you know

what that nation is huge and that means

there's lots of different interests and

that's great because they'll all bang

against each other and then something

will emerge out of that that's good so

that's their starting logic you know

it's five well it's a handful of years

later when you begin to see things that

nowadays we might call a party we're

gonna come on to the politicians in a

second ask question we've got pot to us

and Nene says you mentioned men a lot

what about the role of women at this

point other women of influence are they

they're obviously not in the conventions

are they working behind the scenes they

corresponding studying ideas yes well

again yes and no good history um there

are women working behind the scenes and

one of the interesting things about the

1780s and 1790s is that the revolution

in the 1770s women who were very

involved in the war effort they're their

home normal practices were politicized

right deciding what to buy boycotting

goods that's taking part in the war

effort so women for any number of

reasons got a sense during the

revolution that they were part of the

political process in a really direct way

and the 1780s and 1790s part of what was

being determined was that men did not

feel entirely comfortable with that so

women are always behind the scenes

working particularly elite women are

engaging with people and are part of the

pathways of power but the politics of

the street it's always men and women who

are there but there's an ongoing

nervousness and an ultimately resistance

to the idea of women having any kind of

political influence at all there's a

there's a great book by Rosemary's agari

called revolutionary backlash and it

talks about this very thing which is the

revolution seem to open a door for women

and the next couple decades

close that door sounds very familiar

with me French revolutionaries all that

as well

um right let's talk about politicians

this new these new crop politicians and

we see people like so

the people that were too compacted part

in this convention then start to they

become the kind of senior politicians of

this of this new this new government

right and you know kind of relates to

what I said before one of the really

interesting things about this and so

okay if you've written a constitution

it's been ratified by all the states

let's go like that there's a lot of

space as to creating whatever they it is

you know there's a lot of improvisation

going on in this new government and the

people who we now sort of take for

granted as symbols of authority right

the power figures the Washington's and

Jefferson's and Hamilton's and John

Adams of the world it's not like they

had all the answers they didn't and so

what you see very early on is people

sometimes actually just asking each

other what do you think about doing this

that would work and sometimes really

smacking up against each other because

they anything that happens in this

period they well understand could have

huge implications right it could it

could taint or move the government in

one direction or another in a way that

might be irretrievable that's a really

interesting point they did they did

really feel like that there happened

that the gaze of history was on them

they knew how important this was right

and so therefore did they did they

everything they did must have even been

a politician is pretty stressful anyway

but these guys they weren't just making

decisions for their own food but for the

ages they thought about posterity a lot

it's a thing to think about in the

modern age when we don't tend to think

about posterity you can't look to the

past and say those people were better

than us there's never a golden age of

anything there's always a different form

of conflict going on but the fact that

matter is thinking about posterity was

important it mattered and it did mean

that even if they were serving their own

interests are acting for themselves or

just trying to slime their enemies they

were also aware of the fact that there

would be a long-standing impact on what

they were doing that had to be figured

into the equation they

honestly assumed and you can see this

throughout all of their letters in the

1790s that one stupid choice could

destroy the entire thing and that's

that's a lot of pressure and what what

how do you divide up what was what kind

of the character of the American state

what was written down hammered out is

legal and constitutional and what was

down to the individuals at the beginning

and this kind of incredibly intense

crucible of ideas and practices what are

the things that fits in the latter

category whether it's the powers that

accrue the presidency or or the

filibuster and things like that well um

there are a lot of things that fall into

that second category of things to be

figured out um

and George Washington had a lot of the

figuring because he was this one

isolated figure as the executive I saw

once at Mount Vernon and I find this a

really poignant kind of document

Washington's copy of the Constitution

and it's clear that when he became

president he read through it very

carefully and in the margin whenever

there's a duty or a prohibition on the

president he writes president so he read

through the Constitution and very

carefully noted his job like the things

that were his job so he was really

thinking along these lines but you know

a great example of the thinking process

in action that wasn't a lot of thought

the Constitution says that the Senate

that the president should get advise and

consent of the Senate on Foreign Affairs

and on treaties so Washington has some

kind of an Indian treaty he walks over

to the Senate goes into the room with

the treaty says I need your advice and

consent it's read aloud and we have the

diary of one of the senators senator

says well it was read aloud but there

like a lot of carriages on the street

and we really couldn't hear what it said

and so we ask them to read it again and

then they read it again and then I stood

up and said you know I think we'd like

to think about it but I don't think we

want to give you advice and consent

right now I think we want to talk about

it and apparently Washington threw a

temper tantrum and said well this

defeats the whole purpose of my coming

here stormed out of the room and from

then on presidents did not go through

the Senate for that kind of advice of

consent so that's happening

a lot of levels a lot of the time that

kind of opposition and so as Georgia

third said when Washington relinquished

power after being president he said he's

the greatest man of all time because I

mean who walks away from its supreme

power like that I mean are we is the

us in depth to Washington the fact he

didn't throw more time trips and sees

more executive power to himself I mean

yet how I mean or did he do it too much

or did he throw too many functions does

have an example of him you know being a

president I think I mean he did throw

some tantrums and we have some of them

on paper and they're really interesting

to study cabinet meeting there's a great

cabinet meeting tantrum to the Thomas

Jefferson took notes on so he did I

don't think that made him a bad

president because I think um he was

really really very deliberately thinking

about the powers of president should

have and he wasn't a president trying to

get as much power as he could get and he

was someone who you know he had Hamilton

as a secretary of the Treasury

Jefferson is Secretary of State

initially we did it was not known how

much they disagreed with each of each

other that happens over time but even

when it's clear that they're opposed to

each other and their ideas Washington

wants to hear from both of them and then

make a decision so he's trying really

hard to walk a line of what he considers

to be enough power to matter but not so

much that he's moving in the direction

of a king it's a difficult path and so I

think we're indebted to Washington for

not being someone who clearly was after

power you know part of that is also he's

worried about his reputation and as

president his whole reputation is on the

line so like Hamilton worked alongside

Washington during the Revolution and

House knew if you want in Washington to

do something you play the honor card

right you play the reputation card I

don't know what people are gonna think

if you do this

Washington was very susceptible to that

but that means that he's being careful

in his actions and behavior so that that

adds to his responsibility that doesn't

sound like such a bad thing maybe she'll

be more careful about our reputation

we might encourage good baby um what

about party because you hear a lot that

the founding fathers when they gathered

together for this convention they never

they never realized the extent to which

party would which they were trying to

escape from this as a partisanship of

British politics would come to well in

fact if that's the right but US politics

as well so how does that start slippin

well you know the idea that there would

be two or three parties that would be

nationwide seemed impossible at an early

point you know before the government

takes off because the states had a hard

time holding together in any way there

are dozens and dozens of interests and

cliques and and power maneuvers the idea

that all of the states somehow would all

agree on one thing together did not seem

to be in the repertoire of what was

going to be happening in this country

what happens over the course of the

1790s is you have one person Hamilton

and people who agree with him who have

one very strong vision of what the

Republic should be and then another

group of people and Madison and

Jefferson belong to that fold of people

who have a very different vision and

they begin fighting against each other

in a very public way because in a

republic the public public opinion is

really what governs and you end up with

a division forming not in a way that

felt to them like ah now we have a party

system right they didn't assume that

they thought oh oh something's gone

wrong we now have groups of men joining

together to satisfy their own interests

this is bad

so we need to defeat this happening and

go back to what we had before we had

these two groups banging against each

other so you know throughout the 1790s

Federalists and Republicans are smacking

away at each other and it's all it looks

to us with our modern gaze like a party

system but when Jefferson becomes

president and takes office in 1801

hmm he says basically okay now that's

done we're all Federalists we're all

Republicans let's get back to work so

what we now take for granted about our

system was not taken for granted

at the time and over the course of the

first half of the 19th century really is

when a party system really emerges and

what else what else to be whether it's

the electoral college or and I think is

there anything else that the the

founders were surprised by was

unintentional as like hey wow we did not

we did not think this would happen

well um interestingly the first thing

that pops into my mind is something that

we might not think what happened but

that they thought could happen um we

assumed Boyd that presidential elections

in presidential election there's an

election someone's picked the end or at

least we used to assume that um they

assumed that again so many states so

many views so many different kinds of

parties and organizations and ways of

banging up against each other they

figured that probably elections would

get thrown into the house to be decided

not not like once a century but that

that might need to happen um what

happens in the election of 1800 when you

have these two

pardis Federalist and Republicans really

divided on what the nation ought to be

you end up with a tied election the

election of 1800 and it gets thrown into

the house but it seems as though it's

not gonna be able to be decided it's

there voted on and voted on and voted on

in some states people are arming

themselves in case the government needs

to be seized for their side it's a

really ugly moment that was not expected

and so after that election they actually

amend the Constitution so that you can't

have the kind of tie but they hadn't had

election the president and vice

president of the same party tied and

they revived a I'm in the Constitution

so that can't happen again but I think

they were surprised all the time I mean

you know look at that you mentioned the

French Revolution I think they assumed

that foreign nations would have

influence over this little infant

Republic but the unfolding of the French

Revolution suddenly taught them that wow

are we vulnerable like that revolution

could sweep over here and and either

take us over and make us put us in a

state of anarchy or keep the spirit of

Liberty alive whatever you thought I

don't think that they fully appreciated

the degree to which a foreign country

could affect national politics until

that happened in the mid and late 1790s

then someone invented the internet okay

so let's come just quickly on that note

it's impossible to Ellis without

thinking about the president day but

what I mean recognizable week is the

thing is you think of the American

Constitution it's all written down it's

all you just do you just there's an

instruction manual but actually our

modern American politics would almost be

unrecognizable would it – to that

founding generation yeah I mean I think

um you know I always drove with people

when they asked me you know what would

the founders think about what's going on

now and the first thing they always say

is they would say what is that machine

in the sky why is there a box talking in

your house I mean they technology all by

itself let's blow their minds but as far

as the government is concerned on the

one hand they might be surprised

that the Constitution lasted as long as

it did Hamilton for one didn't think it

would last he thought it was a good

first stab he didn't think it was a

strong enough government being produced

by it and he says repeatedly during his

career after the convention like when

this collapses I'll step forward and

I'll help with whatever happens next

so that might surprise them I think they

would appreciate the fact that the basic

system of government outline in the

Constitution is still there I think they

would also be stunned to see the ways in

which it had been built on and changed

and moved around and and altered so that

things were happening that they never

could have imagined I mean they could

not have imagined that the president the

the National Executive that they created

could be as powerful as a president is

in the 21st or even 20th century so the

process you know I when I teach about

the period one of the things that I

always stress is process because and

that's kind of where we started that's

what they thought they were doing that

was particularly distinctive it was that

they were putting a process in motion

that could always be turned to during

moments of crisis that would exist and

would be there as a structure a kind of

pact that people could stand around

agree upon and that would really be a

working system of government the process

mattered a lot that was their main

legacy I think and so that's what they

would be most interested now in seeing

would be how is that process working how

is it not working and what does that

mean well perhaps we at whatever

separate will have a separate show about

that dream and thank you very much for

coming on the podcast you or your you've

written a series of wonderful books most

recently was about violence in the bill

back to the us Civil War what's it


it's called the field of blood violence

in Congress and the road to Civil War I

go and check out the field of blood and

we got more good books coming up soon um

I you can listen to my previous

interviews I've done with Joanne at my

on my new history hits TV channel it's

like Netflix where history head over

there and if you're on type you're

watching on timeline use the code

timeline the voucher time- special

introductory offer so go to history at

TV and use the code timeline it's

awesome I know go and join I pipe in

with one tiny little plug yeah um

Thursday mornings the National Council

for history education sponsors a sort of

webinar called history matters and so

does coffee and we from 10 o'clock to

roughly 11 o'clock we talk about looking

at history and how that informs the

present and I encourage folks to find it

it's at NC H net backslash conversations

istreet maxes and we're gonna check it

out right now Jo and thank you brilliant

broadcaster as well as teacher and

writer it's great Savion show everybody

else I'll see you on Wednesday


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