tv Book Discussion CSPAN January 24, 2015 12:00pm-12:56pm EST
and taught high school history in new york. he is also native of new york and an intelligence officer in the naval reserves ' and the book he is going to talk about tonight is his first book and we're really pleased to have charles here, the author of "nation builder. john quincy adams and the grand strategy of the republic." >> thank you. good evening. thank you very much for the introduction and also for helping me set up here this evening. i'd also like to say i'm really excited to be here at island books, supporting a local independent book store which we should also purchase many, many books from and i'd like to thank judy crosby, the owner for inviting me here. for those in the audience, you look up, there's a boom mic. of you look back there's a camera. this means that c-span's booktv is filming this event, and shy tell you as an historian, as a professor, as a nerd i have hit nirvana.
i have made it. i'm very excited to be speaking here on booktv as well. most importantly though i'd like to thank my wife, keira in the audience and would like to tell you a story. i started this project many years ago just as keira and i were starting to date, and i believe it was on our first or second date that i turned to my future wife and informed her in no uncertain terms that as she was a u.s. diplomat and i was studying a u.s. diplomat, we basically did the same thing. so many years later and two boys along the road i'd like to thank my wife for developing such a keen interest in 19th century american diplomacy and speaking of 19th century diplomacy, i have a feeling that for most of you, this seems like an interesting enough topic to come hear a talk maybe to buy a book but pretty irrelevant and
pretty remote from mesh diplomacy in 2014. and all i can say is to start off the talk the current secretary of state disagrees with that assessment. this is a picture of secretary of state john kerry, and here he is hosting this chinese counterpart a couple of weeks ago, and when secretary kerry was thinking about which places he could bring his chinese guest to most impress him, he thought the adams estate in quincy would be a great place to wow him. so here they are. let me start by informally asking the audience members here, how many of you have either seen the hbo series john adams or read the wonderful biography upon which it is based? i can see that the cameras are rolling so everyone raised their hands. that's terrific. for those that have -- for those who did not or at home, let me summarize for you.
john adams, he was smart he knew it, he wanted you to know it and as you might have guessed, he was somewhat obnoxious about it. well for john and john abigail's oldest son john quincy, the apple did not fall far from the tree. and you will recall from the series young johnny was dutiful son, very intelligent young man and an intolerable brat. but there are couple of other things about young johnny that make him worth remembering. john quincy adams was born and came of age during the american revolution, when his father went to europe
as a diplomat he brought his son before he was even a teenager to accompany him to witness the birth of american states craft and diplomacy. when he returned back to the united states to attend college he was preponderances the most well-traveled american of his
ear ramp is appointed as ambassador to the netherlands at the age of 27, and this starts tis diplomatic career he continue are in presidents washington adams and madison, and then the is secretary of state are in president monroe and credited with extending u.s. borders to the pacific for the first time he follows these successes up with a single failure of his life. he is elected president of the united states of america. it's actually the low opinion of his life and career -- low point of his life and career, and his presidencies were generally regarded as failure. but it is worth noting his vision for the united states,
the progressive vision he lays out for the government, is probably the most progressive vision you sunny washington for at least 100 years, if not more, until fdr becomes president. if that's not enough, he then runs for office after his presidential years, uniquely in american politics. goes on to serve as congressman
for massachusetts for the final 17 years of his life, until literally dying on the floor of congress. think about this life. when he was young man he spent time with thomas jefferson and benjamin franklin. as an at that time he shared the national stage with henry clay andrew jackson and john calhoun, and as an old man serving in congress he was in the same congress as a very young abraham lincoln. when he went abroad he rubbed shoulders with the most famous men of the age, including austria's prison the czar alexander the i of russia and when they traveled to america, charles dickens, de tocqueville and lafayette sought out adams' country, and with good reason. adams authored the monroe doctrine should be called the adams doctrine but he was secretary of state and greatly influenced both washington's farewell address and lincoln's emancipation proclamation, his
career is so broad ranging his influence is so great, that in fact adams has something of a forrest gump like effect on american history. with almost every major event, almost every major figure, there's john quincy right in the background. let me give you a couple examples. the battle of bunker hill dirk the american revolution in 1775, there's a young john quincy adams, seven years old and climbs up the hill behind his house with his mother and watches the battle tapes. the first major treaty america signs as a sovereign nation, as a young diplomat it's young john quincy adams who carries the treaty to mr. james who is negotiating this in the war of 1812, john quincy adams -- he lost his hair at this point -- the lead negotiator that helps end the war. the monroe doctrine was actually adams that does the drafting of
the monroe doctrine which is inserted into president monroe's address. this is something of a quiz of your american history if you remember it from seventh grade. the gag rule. there was a gag imposed on congress that the issue of slavery could not even be discussed by name on the floor of congress in general. but specifically the gag rule was instituted to make sure that john quincy adams did not bring up slavery because he was such an aning a nist of it dnr antagonist of it in congress. and the famous case of the african who sued the u.s. government interior freedom. some of you might remember the movery amistad, where anthony hopkins played john quincy adams. it's john quincy adams that takes up their case at the supreme court and actually helps them win their freedom. really the most brood ranging and mose influential american of the entire 189th century, and think about what he is able to do. he is a lawyer.
he is a political essayist. a politician, a diplomat a poet a professor, a life-long enthusiast and proponent of science and technology an enthuseas sick amateur astronomer gardener even a wine expert. he really has so many interests that are so broad but -- so i think you get the point. he is really important to early american history. and he is famous. and he is endlessly fascinating and interesting and talented but there's another reason that make him critical not only for understanding the early american hoyt -- history but also thinking about america's place in the world today. that's because john quincy adams is america's first grand strategist, and it's his implicit strategy that helps drive the rise of the united states to a continental hemispheric and ultimately a
global power. i said it was his implicit tragedy that helped drive the groth of the u.s. implicit is key. he never sat down and wrote out his world view in grand strategy in prose. that is nose for lack of evidence. as a historian, i should say that john quincy adams is a gold mine human word machine. these are some of his voluminous writings. thousands of letters of the course of his life. he wrote congressional reports gave congressional speeches one of which lasted for three weeks straight. he wrote treatises. he wrote scholarly articles on everything ranging from his opinions on shakes spears to his thoughts about islam. he rote letters about the bible and its teachings to his son. he had supreme court addresses. this, by the way, isn't even half of it. oh and my favorite one, which i wanted to throw up here. he even wrote a 266 stanza epic
poem about henry 2en in's 12th 12th century conquest of ireland. the man had a lot of time on his handed but this isn't even half of it. his diary his journal, is an amazing resource. it comes in at more than 51 manuscript volumes and totals nearly 17,000 pages. it's a remarkable resource. it's probably the most thorough american diary of the entire 19th century. every day john quincy wrote down who he met, what they talked about, and what he thought about that. accomplish it's really a very interesting, very intriguing look into what he thought he was trying to accomplish. now, at the naval war college where i teach, we impress upon our officers that before you execute any strategy you have to first know what your aiming at -- what you're aiming at. what you're trying to do, what
you're trying to accomplish what your goals are. on this john quincy adams was crystal clear help thought the united states was destined by god to be the most -- he saw the american revolution as embodied in the declaration of independence was going to be the first ideology destined to spread over the entire earth. destiny is not a strategy, and john quincy adams was certainly not a bad strategist. it seems clear when he talked about destiny, he had a very clear conception of what the goal of the united states was, and was to preserve, protect and expand the republic and the idea've republic republicanism. you also have to understand what threats there are to your vision and then be able to formulate
response that take in light both the interest and threats in order to do this you have to have a pretty clear understand offering the strategic environment that you dwell in. you have to know what you want and have to understand what threats, what challenges what constraints might stop you from getting there. now, look at these two paintings. these rather stylized rather white-wash paintings you probably vaguely remember from seventh grade about american expansion. yes, there's some native americans in the corners, and they look somewhat sad, but this is not a painting from native americans' perspective. the perspective her is overwhelmingly positive. to quote john milton on this, their world was all before them. where to choose their place to rest to prove providence their
guide. in the paintings all america had to do is march across the continent. to be sure americans at the founding had a fair amount of reason to have some optimism. they had an ocean separating them from europe. they had a rapidly expanding people who were commercially oriented and a government that was specifically set up to safeguard they're own liberties. but that was an aspiration more than a fact. and america was not at its infancy, at its birth, a country that was necessarily going to influence the rest of the world by its example. this is the cover of my book. for those in the back, squint really hard. you might be able to see that there's a map in the background. you can stop squinting because here is what the map actuallies, and if you can't read the legend, the title of the map is, north america as divided among the european powers. this is 1774 map and here you have on the map spanish,
french british and russian territorial claims in north america. this map is a much more accurate depiction of how the founding generation saw america. european monarchs hostile to the idea of a republic had designs on the territory and were suspicious of the founding of a republic. when the founding generation thought about the world it looked a lot less like dismiss much more like either this -- here's a famous image of williampit and napoleon bone apart carving up the rest of the world for themselves, or this, where the european beast would cross the atlantic and challenge america. these are only the external threats. internally america hat problems of slavery and the threat of partisan politics from the
beginning. neither of these were too cute at the founding but both had the potential to rip the nation apart before it had grown to any amount of power in addition to the external and internal challenges adams thought that america had what we might call a psychological problem. americans wanted to run they wanted to sprint before they could even walk. that is, they were so excited about the idea of republicanism and spreading the republic, and supporting people who claimed to be republicans around the world, that they might rush off and support them before they had established their own institution and that would leave. the highly vulnerable. so to adams if his goal was preserving, protecting, and expanding the republic, and he faced all these threats his strategy -- he thought the united states needed three different things to become that powerful nation that could influence the rest of the world. national development physical
security and morality. that is the strategy i think he had. let me talk about each one of these. first, physical security. to achieve physical security adams thought that america needed to reduce the menace of europe in north america. think back to the map with all the other european countries claiming different territorial possessions in north america. spanish, french british russian. adams wanted to make those countries go away. most of this, this strategy would occur by undermining their sovereign claims in north america, and most of this would happen naturally. as the united states grew and spannedded it would push out the interests because they were an ocean away but adam cautioned the country had to be careful not to give europe any kind of excuses or pretext to come over here and challenge them.
now, think about this in the context in which adams was operating. this is particularly true because the world was really divided between france and england at this time. a world driven by ang anglo-french competition. that meant if america wanted to stay neutral, wanted to be able to ignore either london or paris' claims it had to have the means to do so and specifically that meant having a navy. now, this was somewhat problematic for the young nation because americans back then hated taxing themselves. very much has changeddedded a you can tell. adam was very worried that nation absenting a major threat white be too late would not tax itself at a sufficient rate to build up a capable and deterrent force. adam cautioned his fellow americans that their unique experiment didn't come because
they had unique republican government. it came because they had a military establishment that could protect it defensively. but having a unique military establishment was not the goal. it was a means to an end. this is the end. this is a wonderful image. tells you what i'm going to try to depict. it's american -- here's the american eagle, spreading across the continent. this looks more like the american pigeon. you can see this most clearly when adams as secretary of state and worked to push spanish british, and russian interests out of or nearly out of north america and did this by shrewdly come binning diplomacy and force. if you're dealing with the british empire the strongest empire in the world you're probable going to as win extol
churchill said, jaw jaw and not world war, diploma include deal with them. but the spanish empire is weak and you'll threaten to use force. now, if spreading across north america sometimes do demanded aggression adams also argued it rite restraint. so when adams was secretary of state, america was offered the opportunity, as some took it to spread the republican values spread liberty around the world. the greeks had gone into rebellion guess the turks. in south america you had a lot of of rebellions against the spanish empire and all of these rebels sent envoys to the united states. they claim they had read their declaration of independence, they were doing exactly what we had done and they requested the support and assistance and the money and the arms of the united states. they were wildly popular causes in the united states.
everyone wanted to support him in monroe's cab not everyone wanted to support them except for john quincy adams. he told them, and said so in several famous speeches, we wish you well, we their well-wisher of all but the defenders only of our own. the most famous words america goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. what explains this restraint in i would argue that the same thing that explains adams' desire to push across the north americans continence. undermining european claims for territorial control in america. what adams argued was that if the united states were to support these rebels if it were to send money, men and arms overseas, it would provide the pretext of a justification for any european power to intervene in north america. he also thought it was a
distraction and waste of time for the republic. the most permanent thursday america could do is set an example of what a republic should do and growing abroad would be a distraction. and he said those who would council aggressive foreign pom si that the power of america was in its example, not in its ability to intervene in foreign revolutions abroad. and if america in fact wanted to provide this mission for the world about what a republic could do, it would do that best by restraining itself and focusing its resources at home. this leads to the second strategic goal of adams, which is national development, we one idea to set 'king up the long-term drivers of growth of the american economy. adams want the united states to become the most progressive nation in the world and would do this through investment investments in infrastructure, investments in new industries, and investments in what we would call today human capital through
education. he promote when he was president the american system, and in broad strokes this was three interwoven policies. a tariff that would protect american industries, it was a series of roads and canals and infrastructure that would link the country together and help bring new markets, new products to market. and national bank that would promote and facilitate trait and -- trade and commerce for the nation. i was talking bat strong foreign policy. this is the flip side of that. a strong and diversified american economy. die veer identify. agriculture, manufacture and trade would make the united states more unified and richer at home and more able to project force abroad. it would strengthen the american economy. but adams as per normal took this one step further and said it wasn't the government's role to only promote the improvement of the american economy but in
fact to promote the improvement of the countries citizens in cultural intellectual even in moral terms. he wanted to make the united states a positive example of what a state could accomplish. this was the home of this entire presidency and his inaugural address he uttered the word improvement 27 different times. the first or second most popular word he used in it. and i said his presidency really failed but it is the most progressive vision of government for more than 100 years. finally, morality. from the start americans thought of their country as an idea even as an ideology, as much as it was a place. and if this was going to be an idea that could be spread around the globe, it had to be both logically compelling and morally persuasive.
and if that was going to happen, america's promise would have to be brought in line with its practice. if that was going to happen it would mean that america would eventually have to take on the problem of slavery. slavery, biggest understatement of the year, was a big problem for the united states and such a meddlesome problem because slavery was verien -- was woven into the fabric of america and at odds of the -- the declaration of independence's promise of equality is at oddded and contradiction with the tacit approval of slavery in constitution of the united states. in 1804 adams is saying publicly that abolishing slavery will fundamentally strengthen the united states. but if you do it too soon before the nation is ready, it will rip the nation apart. adams, when he does decide to take on slavery, i think he
waits and he says three things have to happen before you're ready to take it on. first, if you don't take slavery on it will betray the country's mission. if you wait too long to take on slavery, it will retard this progressive vision of what the united states is. and also if the country is not strong enough defensively in security terms the european powers will rip it apart when it takes on its own problems. so when adams does take on slavery, he makes to primary arguments which abraham lincoln will take advantage of. the first one is, the founding document of the united states the founding legal document of the united states, is not the constitution. it's the declaration of independence. and he says publicly, for over -- almost two decades, you have to read the constitution with the framework of the declaration of independence
guiding and illuminating what it means legally. once you read those two together and in tandem it becomes clear the direction american history will march in. the second argue. he makes possibly again for almost 20 years is only the federal government can do this. and therefore state sovereignty has to be subordinated to federal power in order for this to happen. now, resolving this moral contradiction is not something that happens in his life, but it is the third component of power that adams thinks the united states needs before it can back a power bit of actually influenced the rest of the world. the three different components of national power, physical security national development and morality, i believe are linked are prioritized, and they're sequenced, and they go at a far far way in explaining not only the different staged of adams' career but the evolving strategy of the united states and also the link between the founding fathers and lincoln.
so here's the million dollar question for historians. who cares? who what? interesting story from the 19th century. adams is most famous words, america goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. those were uttered when america was a small and rising power that could ignore or stay neutral on events happening around the world that didn't immediately effect its interests. when he was in washington dc, adams also used to in the o'toll macevery morning without my clothes on and good for a swim. it's hard to conceive othe american president having the luxury of either of two today. i would say there are four broad lessons that are as applicable today as they were back in the 1820s, 1830s, 1840s. so let me lay them out before you challenge me. first, embracing america's power means being as conscious of its
limits as of its reach. i if you define american power as limitless, paradoxically, you are limiting american power. now, make no mistake, adams was not shy about promoting american values nor about using military force. but he also worked at the same time throughout his career to scale back what he thought were overbroad commitments. second the source of american power is domestic. that's true in military, in economic, and in moral terms. so before or perhaps as the united states projects power abroad, it needs to pay attention to all three of those elements at the same time. third, regarding autocratic and tyrannical regimes, adams advocated change but not upheaval. upheaval is every bit as dangerous as is change so the best type of change in the international system, adams argued are the united states would control it -- which was
not clear -- was gradual and organic and not precipitous and sudden. fourth finally, sequencing. i call this the you can't have everything at once principle. so adams was pretty clear about the stages of development he thought a rising power had to go through. securing itself against foreign attacks. building up it own defenses. making sure that its resources are harnessed properly for its own citizens and gradually aligning its actions with its ideals. but some things were more important than other things at different times, and knowing which was which meant that adams could not only prioritize but also sequence. what made adams such a great grand strategist what makes him continue to be relevant now is that he projected and thought through a long-term strategy for the united states, and that requires not only vision but also priorities and tradeoffs. you don't have to take my word for this. we cut off the slide a little bit but i read it.
this is george kenyan, america's greatest grand strategist, and writing after the end of the cold war, in foreign affairs magazine in 1995 this is what he had to say about john quincy adams. finds adams' principle albeit with certain adjustments to meet our present circumstances and commitments, entirely suitable and indeed greatly needed as a guide for american policy in the coming period. at this point, i'm going to stop speaking and i'd love to hear what is on your mind, what you other would like to discuss, hopefully something other than his bizarre bathing costumes in the pot tome -- potomac. >> i'm curious about your take on the presidency in light of his legacy, so overqualified for the job. >> someone was asking me the other day who is your favorite
president, we know to the answer is john quincy adams. the answer is, no, he is not my favorite president. he didn't get very much accomplished. but the sources of the failure are interesting. first, default answer is, read chapter four of the bookful it's got it install there. -- got it all in there to summarize it, couple of failures make him fail is in job but succeed wildly in other jobs. the reasons for the failure are kind of a multiple and overlapping and they're personal, there's political and structural in american politics. personally he doesn't do compromise well. he is an adams. if you're an adams there's one thing you have to know about an adams. they're the smartest person in the room, they've got the best and clearest long-term vision for the it's, and they're so annoying everyone stops
listening to them after about the first five minutes, which means they lose control of their own policies. if you're an advocate that is a great personality trait to have. if you're secretary of state and you're behind a very popular president, that is a very good trait to have. if you're a president of the united states that needs to build consensus within your own cabinet and within the american policy, it's a less useful trait to have. so he is predisposed against compromise. he thinks his is michigan politicians don't do, shouldn't do makes you dirty. think he has trouble with that. politically, i spoke of. this is not a quiz, i'll just inform you what you forth got from seventh grade. the corrupt bargain. in 1824 presidential election, there's no clear winner. andrew jackson comes out of nowhere and in fact it's a tossup and is thrown into the house of representatives. the way that this happens, there are leading candidates, john quincy adams andrew jackson,
william crawford, and henry clay but you can only have three, so henry clay that the least votes and i thrown out. he is also the speaker of the house and the most influential personal there. the alleged corrupt bargain is that he trades. if you swing the house to vote for me because we know andrew jackson is more popular, got be secretary of state. now, there is no compelling evidence that this took place although there's some suggestive evidence. i showed you pictures of john quincy adams diary where he writes pains and pains every day. the night he meet with henry clay there's a page and a half that is blank. now, historians speculated forever, well, clearly we all know what this means. but i actually think you have to step become from this a little bit. doesn't matter whether or not there was an explicit quid pro quo, henry clay would have never supported andrew jackson. he had been making speeches for the previous five years this julius cesar he will rob our
republic. william crawford was a front runter but suffered a debilitating stroke during the presidential race and henry clay didn't like him anyway and this american system i talked about, it's henry clay's idea. john quincy adams supports it early, supports some policies, but they see the way the country needs to develop similarly. so, for personal and political and policy reasons they're a natural fit on this. so they make the deal or don't make the deal but he becomes president. so, from the beginning, before he even takeses of, this is a tainted presidency. jackson got more votes than he did. jackson was a much more popular figure than he was. look what he did. whether or not it ever happened look what he did, and this taint, i think, was part of what the administration had to deal with from the beginning. now, john quincy adams wasn't very good at dealing with this, i should say also. it's worth noting we all think of american politics, two-party system. at this time it was note a
two-party system there was only one party. the federalists shot themselves in the head after the war of 1812. only one party, the national republican. it was beginning to have fissures within it but there was really only one party at this point. while johnins adams -- john quincy adams is president, the opposition, the andrew jackson supporters, stand up a political party. it's the second party system what we call in american history. so, if you're john quincy adams you feel stuck on the horns of a dilemma. what are you going to do? you don't like the idea of party politics. you don't think of yourself as being a party politician. you're an adams. you have been called to office. so, what do you do when another party arises? well, you have one of two choices. you either engage in politics yourself, which adams refused to do because that would taint his name, or you leave the playing field to them. so politically he is in a lot
of trouble from the very beginning, and when he is told by his cabinet members, they're standing up a political party rewarding their people back-stabbing the administration as is, he doesn't fire anyone because he doesn't want to be seen as playing politics. so politically he has a big problem. the only other ones i mentioned in broad stroke are structural. structural live the united states is changing at this point. different states are rewriting their constitutions and what in the qualifications are to vote are changing. and becoming much more broad. the franchise is broadening at this point. john quincy adams versus andrew jackson, doesn't have a chance. the democratic party, the party of the common man issue is something that's going champion these reforms against that elitist john quince adams who went to harvard and was a professor. this is at least the campaign dirt that is thrown out against are against him. the other thing that i say, too is that slavery begins to enter the national conversation more at this time.
the missouri crisis hits during 1820 and goes away gets ignored, but john quincy adams of all the virginia presidents presidents and then john quincy adams. so you begin to hear rumblings he seems to want continue crease executive -- wants to increase executive power. what does that mean for the interests of the south? he doesn't attribute it too much to slavery but he thinks southern interests are bidding against the presidency at that time. so it's a long-winded answer why hi presidency failed, and its an overlap of personal political and structural issues. other questions? >> in terms of finding monsters overseas, i think that is still true today, and even the american people today are saying hey let's take care of ourselves and let's not deal with these monsters overseas. what do you think adams would be thinking about that? >> i think i'm very cautious about answering that question
and here's why. i think anyone who tells you even someone who has written a book on john quincy adams what john quincy adams would do about isis how he would respond to vladimir putin or how he would deal with the south china sea and china's aggressive behavior you might hear a load of stuff which may or may not be true. people like to cherry pick quotes from the founders to support any position so on the one hand, john quincy adams, we know as you pointed out sir, would be against all forms of intervention. america goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. that's an 1821 when he says this. yet two years before he is supporting aggressive military policy expansionist military policy into florida, which is spanish florida at this time. because preemptively it can begin to nudge through the threat of military force, spanish power out of florida to make sure it falls into our owner bit. so i would say just as a
caution before i begin to answer your question be wary of understanding what john quincy adams would say about a threat today. now with all that background, what would john quincy adams say today about the threat of going abroad? i don't know if he would be against it, nor can i really say he would be for it. think he gives us some good caution to think about. i wanted to make the point with my very beside joke about him going swimming naked in the potomac that circumstances of the the united states are fundamentally different now than in his time. if america is the rising power, it's not the anchor weight of what we see as the international system britain was at the time -- he can ignore the revolution because they barely threaten his interests. now, can america today safely ignore things that might not not threaten its interests,
that's a much more open question. and so i think in broad stroke -- i don't want to channel john quincy adams to death. that's bad history. i think he would caution very much that if something is a clear threat to the united states and its interests no matter where it is, he might be not also opposed to it as we might think but he would caution us our abilities weighted against our other interests and concentrate on home at the same time. so that's my somewhat vague answer to your very good question. >> given that he had been at the founding all the way through the mid-century and had seen i would slavery had to be compromised with as far toes the government go goes, did he ever write down or come up with how is this going tend to, peacefully or not piecefully? did he ever predict how this would end?
>> a great question. did he every -- we was watching slavery. did he ever have prescient views how this would end. yes. so, it's very interesting to speculate where his antislavery views come from. you can atribe beaut perhaps a lot to his mother, abigail there is a very interesting incident when the schools up in brain tree massachusetts, during the american revolution, a freed black applies to get in and john is off to the continent tan congress. the towns people come to her and say we don't want him here. don't argue with abigail. she is the minute hammer of the family and she reminds them the towns people very seriously, that let's remember what the american revolution is before and shames them into integrating the school at this point. whether or not that translates directly to john quincy adams, who knows. and it is interesting to note that john quincy adams privately
is making a lot of observations about slavery. publicly, he is much more equivocal and that's also because he is a politician. so, while he has a lot of private thoughts about this if you're a politician that is seeking to be elect, not for massachusetts but for the entire country and slavery is legal, you will temper your thoughts or you won't be elected. he even -- it's very interesting. in his inaugural address, there's only one party -- i said that in his address, the main buzz word he can hit is, monroe, monroe monroe and mormon row. i'm a legacy president. everything that he did, i'll do. and i will be a -- he uses the term closely -- a strict constructionallist which is a nod, nod witching, wink, i'm not challenging slavery. now, his first annual address, the "state of the union" where he uses the word improvement all the time, this is a very
different vision of the government. he stopped saying i'm just going to do what monroe did and has 35 different policies he is going to roll out which gets a lot of southerners nervous very quickly. let me backtrack for one second. the most important moment for answering your question comes in 1820 in 1820 the question of missouri's ascension from the union is being debated and the most important question that comes up is, is it going to be slave or free and can the federal government itself control and dictate what it will be? and the way that things are none presidential cabinets at the time there's only one party, so cabinet secretaries really are meant to be indicative of different parts of the entire country. so you have john quincy adam from new england southerner westerner, someone who represents agriculture and one who represents commercial interest. policy needs to be done by
consensus so he solicits the opinions of secretaries and john quincy adams is dead set against the extension of slavery and argues vociferously in the cabinet and is overruled decisively. the only one pushing this, and what is fascinating is his diaries -- i haven't read all 17,000 pages. i've read maybe thousand pages. the most anguished passages in the entire diarieds i can find are on the night following the cabinet debates. he is writing three five, 10, 15 pains about how awful it is and how he didn't understand slavery quite how southerners see it. his best friend the person who has the same vision closest vision of him in the cabinet is his good buddy the old national war hawk, john calhoun who is the war secretary. now, if you know calhoun's history, they go on very
divergent paths later, and when they're talk being the debate happening about missouri and slavery, calhoun says look, adams -- has this all written down this journal, animations resource -- let's walk around washington and let me educate you on how we see slavery in the south. what john quincy adams hears is shocking. so here's the answer to your question. he says i am secretary of state. i've made my arguments and i've lost. what he doesn't say is i'm also going to run for president so there's so much i can do. but this is clearly going to be the make or really the break issue for the union, and it's very clear that someone needs to start thinking about what arguments are going to be rolled out against slavery and actually starts doing it at that point. in his private diary. it is not public pronouncements.
to answer your question even more specifically what does he see as the end to this, nothing good. he sees it as a bloody civil war that will come over them and what it will be to him and when it will come he is not sure. this feeling only grows as he is a congressman, particularly with the issue of, again, the united states expanding texas oregon this question comes up again when he is in and why he is so -- very interesting why he is so against the policies he previously was so for. he promoted expansion across the north american continent to push out the european powers. what he probably hadn't cob send to allized at that point or maybe just -- is that as you push out you're creating more territory, and a lot of that is below the missouri line and that means not only are you going to get more slave states but if you think about texas, big chunk of land that's lot of states and that means they're going to have
a lot of voting power and it's going to be that much more firmly imbedded within the united states of america. so he does think about that. other questions. >> what were the issues that made him -- by 28 was it the clay deal still around? the slavery issue a big thing then? >> what were the issues in '28. 1828. he wins in 1824 and then what happens in 1828? you got it on the first part of the question. the jackson thing. so i talk about the corrupt bargain. gentlemen, gentlemen, in a republic do not run for the presidency. you sit on your porch not even that. you don't even put your name forward. because the second party system is just start at this time, andrew jackson, about one day after he loses the 1824
election running in 1828. the story is a little bit more complicate than that. he is actually a senator in washington at the time and resigns the seat and goes back home at which point everyone who didn't like adams, martin van buren was in the lead, bunch of others -- started co lessing around jackson, drafting him into running for president, starting in 1824. now, america has never seen an election like that at this point. we're used to permanent election cycles. this is not the case back then. so the issues became adams adams, and adams. and he is illegitimate. now, on top of that, if you have a president who has a taint of that on him, or at least so his opponent put out and then you point to all his policies that have failed because you have made them fail you then get to tar him with the branch of ineffectual as well. so this is what happens during that campaign, and you're right,
it's not a landslide. adam actually makes a pretty decent showing but does not win and it's not that close, either. [inaudible] -- held a lot of high-level postings any indication in your read of his memoirs of his performance, what posts was most successful in achieving his grand strategic vision or which one brought him the most satisfaction? >> question was, which of his many multiple posts achieved the most in securing his strategic vision and/or that brought him the most personal gratification. the answer is different for those two parts of the question. the first part is i talked about a grand strategy that has a bunch of different components and also talked about sequencing. you have to know what to concentrate on when.
so his different roles in different places gave him different strategies that were appropriate to what he was working on executing at the particular time. i don't think -- i think i would -- to answer your question directly when he was secretary of state, with the primary goal really being driving american -- on the continent -- it wasn't always attractive but successful in securing that objective. on slavery i think he had the vision thing but not the -- the country was not there yet. so strategy means more than one thing. doesn't mean only having a vision. it's having the ability to convert your vision into actual policy. so it depends. so, we might be led to say based on that part of the
answer, he was most satisfied with being secretary of state and if you read his official pronouncements, that is true. he is writing unofficial campaign biography to various newspapers and he has this great series of letters, they start to his wife but he think it's such good fodder for his campaign he redirects it to a newspaper and says if anyone is going to talk about the successes of the monroe administration, they're going point squarely at the department of state, and those are the only successes i have to say it was me that achieved all of them. but i was also talking about some of his failures aft that point, too. slavery is not the main issue he is working on but he loses that cabinet. personally from a satisfaction point of view, adamses are happier when they're in opposition. they're new englanders. you want to have something to rail against.
so i think that being a national politician that has to smooth things over and reflect interests you feel a little queazy about is always a precarious position for him. he can do it. he wants to do it. but when you can argue full throated and vociferously against something you think is not only bad but is a moral evil, that feels much better for you. for both john and john quincy adams, they have a way of interpreting their unpopularity. it means they're doing the right thing. now, sometimes that's true and sometimes it's a very self-serve type of justification. but in terms of what he feels the most gratification on, i think it's when he is no longer a national politician. i think it's when he is a congressman who can rail against slavery. he feels liberated in some senses. he doesn't have to make excuses or justification. in some ways all his failures as president -- he is not good at
consensus building -- he doesn't have to the anymore. so from a personal motivational point of view i think he is happier in that. but i use the term with caution because he is an adams. so whether or not he is ever happy is another question. any final questions that people might have? with that, let me thank everyone very much. let me thank island books for hosting me. i'll stick around if you have further questions. i you've want to talk about what john quincy adams would do to vladimir putin i'll answer those once the cam race off. thank you very much for coming. [applause] >> you're watching booktv on c-span2. with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. this weekend on booktv, former arkansas governor mike huckabee
discusses america's current political landscape. representative steve israel on his novel. julian examines lyndon johnson's great society. plus books on the history of washington, dc and inside report from north korea and much more. for complete television schedule booktv.org. booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors. television for serious readers. >> live from new york, it's saturday night. and the authors are james andrew miller and tom shales. mr. miller, what was the point of this book? >> we had written a definitive -- we wanted to be a definitive hoyt of "saturday night live," ended in 2002 and decided to update it. and turns out the last 12 years of "saturday night live" were very busy and there's a lot to write. we added another 200