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tv   The Presidency George Washingtons Farewell Address  CSPAN  August 8, 2022 7:13pm-8:36pm EDT

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weekly series, the presidency, highlights the politics legacies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. coming up, a conversation about george washington's farewell address, delivered 225 years ago. featured speakers are historians lindsay chervinsky and joseph ellis as well as cnn's john p. avlon. >> good evening everyone my name is kevin butterfield kevin butterfield, the mount lady ladies association that rescue mount vernon in the 1850s which continues to protect and preserve it today. i wanna welcome it to their conversation about george washington's farewell address. on september 19th 1796 drones
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in announce to the world that he would not seek reelection to the presidency. his letter to friends and citizens offered some of the most thorough, thoughtful, even inspiring advice which had everyone given to the american people. more than a few genuine warnings were concluded there as well. a good number of the hopes and fears that remain with us as the nation are discussed in this now 225-year-old document. much of what we debate and discuss in 24 century american politics is addressed here in one form or another. in recognition of the 225th anniversary of this document, we brought together a an incredible lineup of talented scholars to reflect on the relevance of the farewell dress today. we are joined by john avlon, the commentator senior political analyst, anchor on cnn, appearing on new day every morning. he is the author of books including the one we are discussing today, washington's farewell. a book on abraham
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lincoln coming out next february. his work is going to be important to our conversation here tonight. as will the work of one lindsay chervinsky an expert on the cabinet, presidential history, presidential institutions, a senior fellow for the president university at southern fellow university. a professorial lecturer at public affairs of george washington university. also an open rank fellow for the international study for jefferson studies at monticello. doctor lindsay chervinsky is the author of the award-winning book the cabinet, george washington in the american american institution. joseph j. ellis it's one of the nation's leading al author of more than a dozen books, alice was awarded the pulitzer prize for founding brothers the revolutionary generation. he won the national book award for american sphinx, his biography is thomas jefferson. his most recent book, the cause, the american revolution and its
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discontents comes out tomorrow. all of our guests are great friends of mount vernon. we are so pleased to be able to offer signed copies of the books. please look for links in the chat that can help you find those and also please feel free to visit us anytime at mount vernon dot org. joseph ellis, john p. avlon, and lindsay chervinsky thanks for joining us. >> thank you for having. yes >> we are here to discuss an important moment in american history it is the farewell address. i gave the tiniest a preview of what it is. imagine someone is walking into the conversation right now. what is the farewell address? john i will turn to you first. what is this text? >> it is america's first civic scripture it. was the most wildly printed document in american history, including the declaration of independence for around the first hundred years of the republic. it is the sum total of wisdom that george washington had accumulated in his life of war in peace, as president. he put down, working first with james madison and
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then primarily with alexander hamilton as a warning to his friends and fellow citizens how he addressed them, of the forces he field could rail the democratic experiment going forward. it is one of the most prescient irrelevant documents you can imagine. even though it fell out of favor for a time when it is read today it is a stark warning among other things of the things we will call hyperpartisan-ism, excessive debt, foreign wars, and also suggest some of the pillars of liberty. things we can draw upon to avoid those traps. and remembrance of the promise of national unity. the importance of morality in virtue. the importance of fiscal discipline. the importance of political moderation in foreign policy of independents. that is what i would say. >> these are a lot of teams who are gonna explore tonight. let me turn to you, lindsey. george washington
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created this text. although as john mentioned there were other authors. can you tell us a little bit about the years leading up to this? this is a moment where he decides not to be president any longer. as a scholar of washington's presidency, could you set the stage of those last month or days of the washington presidency as he is thinking about these addresses? >> i think the most important place to start is washington really didn't want to stand for a second term at all. he had wanted to leave office for a couple of years and then hightail it as quickly as he could. he didn't particularly like being president because he had to be away from home, he had so much stress and pressure on every single action that he took. he knew that every step would establish precedent for those who came after him. he did not like criticism. he was worried that this reputation that he had spent decades building would be damaged by a poor choice or import action. he also had a real commitment to be importance to him leaving office while he was alive he
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felt very strongly that the american people needed to choose his successor, that it could not come through death. let the process of transition and election and the peaceful transfer of power had to be learned and practiced and cultivated. he was determined to try to oversee that. that was his mindset leaving up to 1796. he had set his mind quite firmly that by early 1996 -- he decided in february and march of 1796, while alexander hamilton was in philadelphia in front of the supreme court, they had a conversation about this, and how the process would go. they then sat on it until september partly to keep the election season as short as possible. washington finally published in the newspaper in september, to reach the maximum number of people. to make it clear that he was speaking not to congress or to a different branch of government. >> we will be spending most of our time talking about the text itself, the kinds of themes that are defined their. what would you add about the origins that led up to the creation of
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this document, that you might want to share about washington before 1796? >> i would venture to guess, john, as a student of a modern presidents, and you might contradict me. no president in american history did not want to be president more than george washington. not only did he not want a second term, he didn't want a first term. and when he was going up to new york, he felt like a prisoner going to jail. and he really meant it. if you read the washington correspondence during the presidential years, almost half of them have to do with mount vernon. that's where he wanted to be. he really did. all of the views of the presidency are shaped by 20th century perception. washington did not
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regard the presidency as the capstone of his career. he regarded it as an epilogue, one that he wished he didn't have to do. the great thing he did was win a war. i think that's true of all four of the first four presidents. adams is great things before the revolution, to bring it into meaning. jefferson's was the declaration. madison's was the constitution, the convention of the federalist papers. all of them didn't think about the presidency as the great moment in their lives. and washington was in aficionados exits. in surrendering his sword, or even before that in new berg, refusing to become dictator, and then a few months later in baltimore when the capital -- no, annapolis, sorry, where the capital was. the surrender of his commission, when he did
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that, george the third said that that can't be. if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. he did, and for that moment, he was. what they were thinking, and jefferson writes about this afterwards, that he is there and i think jefferson quote some of washington's speech in annapolis, as a matter of fact. jefferson says that one man saved us from faith. they were thinking of caesar, they were thinking of chrome will.
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subsequently, we can think of napoleon, we can think of mao, we can think of castro, we can think of a variety of leaders who never want to leave office. but i won't mention one who might still be alive in american politics. the president, he said that it's often discussed as a two term president. that is ratified as a constitutional amendment in 1951, i believe. the real precedent is in a republic, all the leaders, no matter how indispensable, are disposable. that you do not die in office like a monarch. that was the real precedent. i will conclude here, the dominant thing we need to remember is that this was not ever delivered as an address. now, both of our committee members know that. it wasn't a speech, it was an open letter to the american people that first appeared in a philadelphia paper, and i think
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it's in the new hampshire paper that gives at the title, the farewell address. the initial reaction to the address was, oh my god, he can't leave us. the american effort had not existed without him at its head. it was like the father saying to the children, you are on your own. and that was a trauma. nobody thought he was ever going to retire. they presumed he would just win elections until he died. and again, he couldn't
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wait to get back to the place where you are sitting at. >> john, jill referenced something, the stepping away from power in annapolis. you thought about this in your book. this is not the first bit of advice that washington shared widely with the nation. could you tell us a little bit about washington back in 1783, and how he also shared his guidance to the nation? it's called the circular letter, i think. >> the circular address to the
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states. that was originally called his farewell address. >> really, i didn't know that? is that true? >> yeah. >> you're not making that up? >> nope. no, true story. and what's fascinating about that is there is broad continuity. but most importantly, with the power of the gesture itself, the simple act of voluntarily relinquishing power itself was revolutionary. and the quote that joe was referring to is the epilogue to my book. i think it so perfectly crystallizes washington throughout his career, but particularly as it culminates in a farewell address. jefferson said, the moderation of a virtue in a single character prevented this revolution from being closed as mothers have been, by a subversion of the liberty it was intended to establish. and certainly, those were the stakes in 1783, as well. in the normal course of events, the military leader would displace the tyrant and then become a tyrant himself. so talk about
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the prevalence of ancient roman and greet precedent on this young republic, this was a real cincinnati step he took. he was voluntarily relinquishing power to return to his farm. it was completely genuine. and the advice he gives in 1783 is very similar, albeit seen through the prism of political fights he saw as president and the fights over the ratification of the jade treaty and foreign policy. but he says, first of all, this is not a time for celebration. it's a time of real responsibility. the revolutionaries one, but now we have to establish the republic and show the world that we can establish a democratic republic on a scale never before seen. right? because among other things, it was wisdom that a democracy couldn't exist. and if he could, it could work in a couple of swiss canton's. it
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would never work in a country is because the 13 colonies. he warns about the need for national unity. he was fighting with the continental congress all throughout the war because they couldn't find a sense of collective resolve or focus on the common good. they didn't want to levy money to support the troops. he said that we need to have discipline and focus on a sense of unity. and to really think as citizens. one of the important points is independents and freedom can be a state of nature. liberty requires responsibility, and that is what some -- excuse me, i am just finishing a lincoln book right now. that's what washington said in the 1783 address. and again in 1796. >> one of the things i can do tonight, and i hope they can start this now, is bring up a few of the short quotations that people can pull out of the farewell address. this one, i would like to bring up because as we were just discussing, if you read down to the bottom there, he refers to the fact
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that he is given this kind of advice before. but you see the warnings of a parting friend. he reminds us about the circular letter in 1783. this is the way that he begins. this is right after -- i don't member the exact phrase, here perhaps i should stop? is that right? he has a few paragraphs, and then he says here perhaps i should stop, but then he goes on for many paragraphs longer to give some serious advice to the american people. when you see phrases like this, disinterested warnings, a parting friend, is this -- how does this fit with washington as leader and as president as you've come to study him? >> washington really wanted to see himself as above party spirit or faction. he really did see himself as president for all of the american people. at least white american people. and he wanted to represent represent them, regardless of their party. that might be a little bit rose colored glasses. he certainly had some partisan
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biases by the end of his presidency, which he didn't necessarily want to admit. because he felt like certain sides have been more critical of him, had stirred up domestic rebellions, things like that. but he wanted to see himself as above those things. and certainly, the most a political president had to be sure. leaving office, that gave him more credence to do that. had he still been in office, there would have been no way he would have been interested because he would've been standing for a third term. by leaving office, he put himself in that elevated position. he could claim to be disinterested, even if people don't necessarily agree with him. what's fascinating about the reception to this farewell
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address is that people who are inclined to think well of him saw that -- i saw it as disinterested, as he had intended. those who were inclined to see him as a more political actor, like jefferson, thought that it was very political. >> what would you add? how would you read that? >> i agree with what lindsey just said, and let me try to build on that a little bit. political parties, the founders as a group, including washington, all regarded political parties as evil vultures that were floating through the political atmosphere. jefferson even claimed, he said if i must go to heaven in a party, i would prefer not to go at all. they all talked that game. and washington believed in that game, and i think john adams is the only other president that did as well. they really regarded parties as a threat to
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the stability of the republic. and so in washington's second term -- political scientists think that the creation of political parties is one of the major contributions the founders made to political thought, because it disciplines dissent and creates the possibility of a legitimate opposition, which is a good thing. washington and adams were cognitively incapable of thinking of a political parties anything other than an evil intrusion. he could not see himself as the head of a party. you might think he is an anachronism. but he is a classical figure. and i would build on something again that lindsay said. in the second term, the aurora, they -- you will look up in textbooks and they will say, the opposing party that comes into existence is called the democratic
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republican party. wrong. it's not called the democratic republican party, it's called the republican party. the word democratic democracy is an epithet in the 18th century. it means mob rule. democratic republican doesn't come into existence until 1860. it's tricky, because that party morphs into the democratic party, but it's even worse than that. the federalists morph into the whigs and the whigs morph into the republicans. it's really tricky. but the aurora is the 18th century version of, john you might comment on this, fox news. and when they publish forged documents, forged british documents claiming that washington throughout the war was a traitor, he was trying to be benedict arnold and got beat
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to the punch by benedict arnold. this was just off the top stuff. and actually, among the people commenting on his farewell address was thomas paine who hated him because he didn't think washington got him out of france fast enough. he said, we must all devoutly pray for his imminent death. the criticism he was getting -- >> which is pretty funny, by the way, because he was famously an atheist. >> that's true, he was. henry payne, not washington. the level of partisanship in the 17 90s is comparable to what we are facing in washington now, okay? the press, and avalon, you have to listen to this. there was no rules for the press. all the news fit the print. washington stands firmly against that
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whole thing. he thinks if you have any problems, you can just vote me out in the next election. but the level of partisanship in the newspapers in the 17 90s's scatological. and washington really can't understand it. he just doesn't understand it. and i think he is hurt by it. i think that he survives the french and indian war, he should have been killed when he was a young man. he should have been killed several times in the course of the war for independence. he wasn't even wounded. but they wounded him in his second term. they really got to him. and he couldn't wait to get out of there. i know we want to move into the discussion of his
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attitude towards political partisanship. i think the context is what i described in this specific legislation, that it really explodes on. that is the jay treaty. and his defense of that. here, i will shut up on this, i promise you. the word is republic. and that means raise public of, the things of the public. the public is different from the people. the people are usually misinformed. they are foolish in their opinions. that is the reason democracy is not a positive term. the function of a leader is to act on public interest, even when it's unpopular. adams carries this two extremes. he is the guy that defends the british troops in the boston massacre. but he always thought, if what i do is really unpopular, it must be
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right. he could have won the election in 1890 by going to war with france and he refused to do it. he always said it was a proudest thing he ever did. the public is a big word here that we need to look at. and washington internalized that. it was the job -- one of the reasons the senate has a six-year term is supposedly to make them more likely to vote in the long term interest of the public. of course, that is the most partisan person in the government. all right, i will shut up. but the public, he represents them. >> lindsay, when joe mentioned the aurora, you wanted to say something. >> yeah. one quick thing that i just wanted to highlight, when joe was talking about how partisan washington was, that was on the part of the newspaper editors. the editor of the aurora delivered print
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copies of his newspaper every day to the front steps of the presidents house, even though washington was not a subscriber. he did so intentionally to get under washington's skin. we know that it worked, because they write about in cabinet meetings and jefferson took several notes. so this kind of political warfare, they were trying to inflict was quite intentional. >> let's get a taste of washington on parties here, and we can further explore this. this is some of his language, and is much more of it in the address. it serves always to distract the public councils and feeble the administration. it agitates the community. it candles the animosity of one party against another, foments the occasional riot and insurrection. it opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself, to the channels of party passions. john, first crack at some of
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this language here. >> leave it up for a second, because i think if you had to pick that headline today, this would be a particularly -- it agitates the community was ill founded jealousies and false alarms. and candles the animosity of one party against another. it opens the door to foreign influence. we just had a riot and insurrection that was partisan in its nature. this calendar year, resulted on the worst attack in on the capital since the war of 1812. it was fueled by misinformation and disinformation channels through partisan media and exacerbated by party figures who put party over country. it kindle the animosity of one party against another based on a lie. perpetrated by the then president. but amplified through partisan media. and also amplified via social media by some foreign actors who saw an interest in dividing america against itself. it is all there,
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folks. right there. george washington warned us, he predicted us. and so especially if anyone out there tries to -- another phrase from the farewell address, act like a pretended patriot. you know, act like they are more patriotic than anybody else, which is itself washington would say a sin against national unity. if they fed into that stuff that washington warned against, they are part of the problem. let's not pull any punches about that. washington made a very explicit warning, we just live through evidence of it. so we could not be more relevant, and that's precisely why we need to be listening to the farewell address and now, today. because we are falling into the traps that he warned us about almost 250 years ago. >> john, quickly, you are the one who has looked at this most recently. when did they stop making it mandatory to read the farewell address before -- is at the full
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congress, or both houses, or just the senate? >> the senate still reads it every year. yes, it does. >> how ironic. >> well, yeah. i would argue the house is more partisan in the senate, although it's kind of a jump ball. what i thought you were going to say is, in the wake of the civil war, teaching the farewell address, memorizing it is actually part of the public school curriculum. so it is foremost in peoples minds, even though it is easier to memorize 272 were gettysburg address. it is in the wake of world war i, for a lot of interesting reasons, that it begins to fade. and then the original america first movement, the isolationist's in the run up to world war ii adopted the farewell address. it fundamentally creates a miss impression that it's an isolationist document. it was read it a german american nazi
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rally, but we will get into that later. >> we will get a foreign policy soon. john gives us a great way that this speaks the 21st century. how would this have been red in september 1796? like you said, there's an election just around the corner. >> yeah. as i think john alluded to in the very beginning, this was an intensely partisan atmosphere. when we think of the challenges we are facing today, in terms of misinformation and disinformation. party structure no, nativism, fears about foreign interference. all the things that we hear today, they have done it before. and as joe talked about, they were students of history and they knew that republics failed. let's not forget the constitution was actually a second chance. this government was already having a second chance of getting it right. there were some fears at this
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time that one misstep would lead to the nation's undoing. and washington shared that fear during the treaty debates that joe talked about. adams wrote in his letters back to abigail that he thought the civil war was coming. he thought maybe the constitution last another ten years, at most. that is really the vibe of this moment. one of the things that i think washington highlights in this party section of the farewell address is that the party animosity and intensity of the party spirit can lead us to forget the simulators we have to one another. yes, we might have regional differences and contextual differences, but we actually have much more in common as americans than we do as federalists or as
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republicans. and that is a lesson we really need today. >> can i take it for a second? i think that we need to recover the historical context of the 18th century for our viewers. she is doing that right now. i am building on her book in this remark. if you read article two of the constitution of united states, i will bet you can't tell me with the president was going to do. the definition of the presidency isn't shaped by the constitution, it's shaped by washington's own administration. i always vote for him as number one president, even ahead of lincoln. he creates the republicans, lincoln says. but let me tell you, the average american in the 17 80s and 90s lived out his or her life and died without a three hour bus ride.
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the mentality was local, not continental or national. and this is what underlay the perception that was strong, that we created a national government before we were a nation. and so it's what one historian called a constitution was a roof without walls. washington is the embodiment of a nation that doesn't exist. it's one of the reasons that he goes on the trip in his first two years to visit all of the states. somebody has got a book on it right now. what we need to remember is the united states in the 17 80s and 90s was a plural noun. okay? jefferson will go to his grave believing if we are still confederacy, not a nation. washington is an attempt to
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create -- and it's one of the reasons why in the address itself, he keeps trying to get hamilton to insert a long paragraph on a national universal. and hamilton keep saying, what in heaven's name does this have to do with the document? he keeps saying, no, you've got to put it in. it ends up two sentences. when you read this, they are creating an institution where americans from all kinds of different states and sections can come together and interact and inter mary. i don't think george washington university makes
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that plane, but the first institution that does that is west point, which comes into existence in 1803. >> washington is proposing a pacific college, and purchases some land for it. that idea dies. and hamilton will go back and forth on it. he keeps proposing to send it to congress, and that's where most of it goes. but if you look at the original farewell, which is at the american public library, they literally cut and paste that section. >> i think we are carrying too much of this, but john, if you look at that last address to congress, it's almost fdr. you know it i mean? i'm sorry. >> go on. >> you have to get beyond that, john. you know what i'm saying. it's a vision very close to what john quincy adams will have as president. and it's a vision of
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a nation state with fixed domestic and foreign policy and a robust west. in that view, washington is a member of a very small minority. and anybody that opposed it, he is a tory because he is attempting to recreate a monarchy. jefferson is the main guy that's doing this behind the scenes. douglas malone who spent 50 years writing about jefferson, they said that jefferson in the 17 90s, i don't really understand what he's doing. it's been 50 years, and you don't understand what he's doing? what he's doing is lying. what he's doing is treason. he is stabbing washington in the back. and i might be wrong, i've often said
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to students, i hope i was right. that jefferson wrote to martha when he became president, because he was only close to mount vernon. can i come see you? and she never answered, i don't think. but she said, washington said, i never want that man on my property. >> and it's right after washington's death in particular that martha has a very powerful statement about her distaste for jefferson. let me bring up a little more language here. we've already been talking about the union quite a bit, but it is all through this address, right? the word union, it appears so much you almost think you are reading abraham lincoln. it is all through this address. words like unity and union. here's a taste for it. the unity of government which
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constitutes you want people is also now dear to you. that word now also jumps out to me. it is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independents, the support of your tranquility at home, your piece abroad, of your safety, your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. this statement of a union is powerful. this is not the only chunk of the address the touches on this. john, how do you take this? >> this is core, and it's a little bit would show was just describing, which is that washington is building the creation of a nation. he is very conscious of the fact that he is creating a national character through the example of his character and decisions he makes as a president, which have precedent, as lindsay writes about, for the american government. but it is a hard sell, because everybody still thinks of themselves as a virginian first, or a new yorker first, or a south carolinian first. so washington is trying to say, all the time that no, this works because of the federal government. it is the guarantor of your liberty.
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you are not safe from strife. you don't even necessarily have property rights unless we have a strong central government. you see even in that first constitutional convention, the constitution does not mention political parties. it does mention journalists, i'd like to point out, but it doesn't mention political parties. people show up to new york and the bill of rights, they are representing their constituencies and their conscience, not political parties. that is a later invention as has been discussed. i'm sure it will come up again washington is constantly trying to say, look, all of our interesting differences are nothing if we cannot focus on what's unites us rather than what divides us. in that very early debate about the ratification of the
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constitution we see so many arguments we still see today. a debate about a largely urban vote saying we need a stronger central government teen 19 nation to given certain powers. primarily rural folks saying no, a stronger central government is a threat to our way of life. that is a continuity in american debate that goes from the constitutional convention through today. i think washington, clearly on the side of a stronger central government, emphasizing that there is a balance to be struck. this is not all on one side of the ledger. the primary mission, the primary product is emphasizing the creation of a nation. full stop. >> lindsay, your thoughts on the washington with regards to the union. >> i lost with john said, he talked about the importance of the constitution and what he's stating is you cannot have the nation without a strong central government. again, this is another incredibly relevant architect for the 20 it's century and especially in 2021,
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we goal is to have certain rules, the recognition of authority, the adherence to the rule of law which will actually safeguard our liberties. you don't get to just have a free-for-all of whatever it is you want to do. as a modern society we accept that we are supposed to stop for a red light. you are not allowed to drive drunk because that is a limitation we except to preserve more of the liberties and the freedom and the safety of more american people. obviously they didn't have cars in 1786 when he was writing this but the concept is true. as a part of a free society, you have to accept certain limitations. this is incredibly relevant coming on the heels of the whiskey rebellion. it wrapped up less than two years prior to this address. he does actually allude to the whiskey rebellion in which he says there is a constitutionally
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mandated way where one can area grievances. one can seek redress for the things that you don't like. the measures that you don't think are appropriate. unless the constitution is changed, obedience to the constitution is the true way of being an american. >> joe, let me ask you to address one specific thing washington spends quite a bit of time on in his discussion of union and unity, that is regionalism. he talks about the north, the south, the west. could you help people who are less familiar with the 18th century, what is he seeing when he looks to the north and south and particularly the west? what
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is that regional concern of his? >> the north south, the obvious issue is the threat of the civil war and the underlying issue there is slavery. later in the program i would like to say that i wish there was one thing he did talk about in the farewell address that he didn't, he said to jefferson, this is i think even before he was president that if there ever is a war between the north and the south you need to know i will be with the north. >> he says that to randolph. yeah. >> does he really? i think jefferson repeats it. i'm familiar with it through jefferson. he sends his kids, not his kids but to columbia rather than to william & mary. he becomes a trojan horse in the middle of virginia in some sense. that is that. the other thing is the west. you know, i think john was mentioning that first farewell
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address the circular letter of 1783, that is his most lyrical statement of all-time in terms of his vision for the republic. you can see it implied in the farewell address but you would have to know about it beforehand. that is, america's future is not with europe but to the west. lafayette says, come with me and we will do a grand tour. we will do paris, rome, we will do berlin. i don't think we'll do london. [laughs] he says, now, you come with me we will do detroit, we will do new orleans, we will do savannah. that is the future. that is the future out there. as a young man in the seven years he knows about what that is out there more than most other political leaders at the time. when you get to the louisiana purchase, it is funny because they think dinosaurs are out there, you know?
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mammoth and all that kind of thing. washington, i might be pushing this too much to diplomacy but i think washington believes we begin with the largest trust fund that any new nation has ever enjoyed. we have this geographic advantage as well, with both sides of the atlantic in the pacific. he's mostly concerned, obviously, with the atlantic but -- maybe john and lindsey can disagree with me we can play this out as an argument. washington's definition of american exceptionalism is exactly the opposite of what most contemporary thinker think of
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as american exceptionalism. in the contemporary view, which we saw after we won the cold war. the russians are gone! we can make the world safe for democracy as wilson believed. we have the model that works everywhere. washington said, our model is distinctive and unique and exceptional! for that reason, don't expect it to work in france, okay? the french revolution is probably going to fail. when the iraq war was going on, i was working on my biography of washington everyone wanted to know what's washington would say about iraq. i said, he wouldn't know where iraq was. later, when they kept pressing the ised, he would say how did we become britain? >> [laughs] explain that one to me. i am pressing towards foreign policy, maybe you don't want to do that yet, kevin. >> let's go there now. >> the west is what drives in their. he believes that that is certainly the future for the next hundred years. >> okay, let's go to foreign policy. this is another small segment of a fairly lengthy discussion
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within the address. here is a taste. the great rule of conduct for us in regard for nation is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. so far as we have already formed engagements, let them be filled with perfect good faith. here let us stop. this is washington at the end of his presidency, is this how washington presidency played out? did he exercise this kind of foreign policy vision as president across eight years? be beholding to any one nation. he recognized the line to the country for support, for economic support especially at a time when france and great britain were essentially having a second 100 year, they are costly in each other's throat. their counseling throwing others into the mix. the best weight was not get
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too close to any one side. for example in 1793 when france declared war on great britain the united states and france did have treaties on the book. they had a treaty of commerce left over from the revolutionary war. and they decided that jefferson's encouragement to interpret the treaty of defense as a defensive treaty it says in france in the united states were bound to one another if they were attacked by their enemies meeting great britain of course. but, france was at the former they were not attacked and there for the united states was not obligated to come to francis assistance bit which was convenient because the united states didn't have a way to lend it. the concept has bound these two global superpowers was i
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think his main goal for the majority of his presidency trying to not get too close or having too intense of a relationship with either. >> it's one of my favorite moments he praises washington to maine train net neutrality and insist no one else could have done it that always jumps out at me. , john this foreign relations statement washington has here can you talk about the legacy of that? take us in the past the 18th , 19th, 20th century. >> sure. first of all the statement of neutrality between france and britain is self revolutionary. washington is really fixated on the fact we have a strategic asset that is in unlike any other. i joke in my book it's a version of what will rogers used to say is america got the two best presidents the atlantic and pacific ocean.
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we are insulated from the chaos of continental europe for them and killing each other for centuries. that is a strategic asset paper tickly at the time when distance really inoculates us. and so he says look, there's no way were going be a satellite of another nation we need to be an independent nation. he also says we need at least 20 years he says in the farewell address to build their own strength economic and then we can start making our own decisions rooted in our sense of interest and justice. we are not an isolationist estate we do not have criminal alliances with other nations were not going to be a satellite of anyone else are not going to get dragged into a foreign war. that would be a huge mistake for who we are now as a young nation that needs to build up strength. and it would squander our greatest strategic advantage which is her geographic isolation. this plays out to the 19th century and is considered sacred. it is easily enforced by the
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distance, by the fact the world is not -- you cannot attack america very easily albeit it has happened, so we were thoroughly isolated. who is abraham's private secretary and secretary of state said america's foreign-policy can be summed up in two words the golden rule in the monroe doctrine. that basically says work on instead of your business, do not come in our sphere of influence. but, there are temptations to empire. he saying we are republic not an empire. that is a four foundation father wisdom. late 19th century that starts to get strange. by the time we get into the debate over world war one and i write about this in my book, it is really fascinating. the debate in getting involved in world war i is conducted in
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the league of nations a book by two biographers woodrow wilson and henry cabot lodge. both are arguing they are defending the washington tradition. he served with a little more authenticity saying we've never gotten involved in a continental fight, why would we start now? wilson is saying note the ideals of washington are at stake. and a lot once we do get involved in the first world war involves calling on washington's legacy. and then something really interesting happens. it happens fairly quickly all the sudden maybe it looks like washington was not this perfect profit. we can get involved in foreign wars, pretty short or do good make the world safer democracy. so it takes washington down a peg. in a significant way. there is a backlash to
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involvement in the first world war. when the second world war comes about, you see a group called the america first committee. some were isolationists, but they use washington's farewell as a real avatar to be against the united states getting involved in the second world war. this hits an absurd assistance when they host a rally at madison square garden in new york city that functions as an american nazi party rally. there is a giant, giant poster, flag, billboard of george washington in the background. the keynote address to a settlement misappropriating the text of the farewell address. this is paid for by a foreign government. it shows we need to be careful about misappropriations and washington warning about foreign influence in our policy that's one of the reasons to stay out of it. now you have a foreign
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government misappropriation of farewell address to argue against getting involved in a foreign war. so that by the way it backfires badly on them. but the legacy of the farewell address, really starts to fall away for a time as a result of that association. and the incorrect belief that it is an isolationist doctrine. it's not a song about a foreign policy of independence of not squandering our strength through false alliances we should not try to export democracy or get involved in foreign fights we should focus on strengthening ourselves. once we are strong and independent then we can make decisions based on her own national interests and it's different than isolationist. >> joe, and dialogue have a long section on washington vision at large looking not
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just at the farewell address but his actions across all of time as commander-in-chief both times. what is your read on the foreign policy vision washington that you would share? >> there is a portion of his legacy that is no longer relevant. i hear john and it's not really isolationism, but i don't ever envisioned us. he did envision us as a world power. but i think his vision of us is a world power is close to it john quincy adams would say. we do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. but, i flossed my train of thought when you asked me again? foreign-policy isolationism. >> it seems to me another
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dimension to washington's legacy that is very much alive. there are different people who claim loyalty to it do not always agree on what it means we should do. that is the realistic tradition in american foreign policy. it has its origins in the dialogue in washington terms nations act solely on the basis of interest. you should not expect them to act on any other grounds whatsoever. in all since all trees are temporary because the interest might particular change. if you carried into contemporary american world, we care a lot about human rights but we are not going to war on that. and i think the person that most embodies it in the mid and late 20th century is
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george kennan and his and doctrine of containment. what realism does well, you have to distinguish between what you can and should do and what you cannot and should not do. it cannot be an open ended foreign-policy. which regions our national security interest and which are not. at least in my humble opinion if you could somehow bring him out what do we do about iraq. it's involved. their graveyard for all western values is afghanistan
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not look for scapegoats but let's try to figure out how to make this mistake in the first place. and i think, in some sense our own understanding of why britain makes the biggest mistake in its history but making war on the united states in 1775 -- 76. we could understand that now in a way we could not before. how does the recently arrived world power brimming with confidence certain of its military and economic supremacy step into a quagmire that is unwinnable and unnecessary? we should know about that. >> there is a lot i agree with but let me just push back for debate sake. >> i saw a grimace on your face i knew you're going to push back. >> on two points. first of all what you're
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saying is exactly right it can be summed up in a number of different ways one is america's not a colonizing power. that does not mean we don't have interest as an independent nation but we are not a colonizing power. if you look at our involvement in world war i and world war ii that's another definition of american exceptionalism. we beat back people who were not simply disrupting the balance of power, but attacking free and allied nations. [inaudible] pre- >> not world war i, world war ii but not world war i3. >> world war i was a mistake. >> you and the commission can debate that but i'm not going to do that just yet. the only ground is cemetery to bury our dead. yes in germany we have an air force base i won't go into that level of detail right now. what intrigues me is the case which does not occur under
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washington but if we are attacked, what do you do? how far do you extend that? how much does morocco apply? these are inference to parallels given what we've got with the apertures of the time and of course where it begins as were attacked on 9/11 it's an unprecedented situation washington could not have imagined. i don't know if he could have imagined americans attacking their own capitol that to separate important conversation. >> i think he very easily could have imagined pre- >> whiskey rebellion in the past. >> but just to finish foreign-policy, if you are attacked, then we responded. the problem is we responded with an open ended commitment rather than a more realist -- we have a limited objective and then we are going to
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achieve that and get out. that is where the balance is dealing with the different geopolitical realities of the day versus 1796. : : : >> and the energy and all of the angst and the english was created by the event on september 11th, was diverted into an unnecessary war. >> iraq or afghanistan and they give dramatization between the two rated. >> erect was not containing their weapons in iraq had nothing to do with al qaeda pretty. >> i agree with you on that pretty and i'm going to take you back to 1796.
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when a great conversation and i hope we have a time for a few audience questions i will keep you long but julie, and the scenes has a couple of audience questions that we want to come to. where was it written, when was it written and names that camacho and agility versus people as a writer but the when is interesting. >> aware his executive branch that was existing in philadelphia, pennsylvania. and, washington begins writing the farewell address at the end of his first term and he does not want have a second term and at that time, james medicine was there and jefferson's way and all that. basically he is persuaded that the one thing the jefferson have to agree on is that washington
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is along the president of the civil war that we literally pointed away and shelf in a drawer and hamilton's secretary and in new york city but washington is making fun of him because jefferson hamilton informed the democratic of the republican party is this and he brings adams in our hamilton and and start to correspond with him. that is a primary collaboration and bring john j in at the very end, see sort of they performed an on-site edit with hamilton new york but the process of back-and-forth and the point is that they're doing a very good job of describing it and for my book, which began before the play came out. i was delighted today of a song about it and they use actually some of the lines but they were
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that he designed it so that that hamilton would be delivering it has an washington would turn it into poetry. but the music and the spirit of the song is washington for the public delivery. >> importantly because among the whole string of partisan in his under pennsylvania, son of partisan paper, is a federalist paper canonically imparts because it has a congressional conduct but he chose a nonpartisan paper to publish it pretty. >> i always wondered why hamilton because washington had so many people that he trusted and can work with any of hamilton somehow was the very top of that list and can you tell us about that anything that you would like to add to the story. >> washington sort of had this relationship with the department of secretary in office and i
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refer to this as washington certainly. [inaudible]. they didn't want to have certainly the trust in their writing abilities to the same degree and is frequently and thought out hand and addresses on these are moments during the presidency mask hamilton to draft this for him. one really important element is that washington insisted upon is that from the hamilton we first talked about it and march of 1776 and then washington essentially drafted and the first draft for medicine rated and he insisted that the final include several paragraphs and it was basically a shot across e aisle because washington said the madison and jefferson would
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be critical of this address and somehow the address to garner more power to the executives and so by including this paragraph, he was basically saying, what will you do about a farewell address new participated in the drafting of the farewell address. this very intentional savvy and sure enough medicine was not publicly critical of it. >> briefly think that he picked hamilton is because hamilton had the most expensive and taking throughout the seven years of the war he was writing doses and when you read the general rivers blackened 1770s, and signed by washington but he did not write it most was written by hamilton or one of his upgrades. he called at penn man braided is insecure about his own lack of
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education printed items went to harvard and washington with the war. that was his educational experience and then he was conscious of his own net lack of literacy and surrounded himself with people who were well educated and that was hamilton in the arms and that was the people. >> let's go to another audience question we had one from jim about some specific tear pretty how much of the policy driven by the fact that the spanish maintain control of louisiana territory the british on canada so we have talked about the ocean, keeping america away from foreign powers and yet, they were there. it was to take it first specifics about the geopolitics. >> cultic first up.
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publishing is hard but what is it called the continental army. truly only the coast thinking continental he from the beginning. it begins at the mississippi. washington understood it as well. the declining european power they were like inverted this sense until you take over predict his stage is the perfect european nation and a power because we know as soon as the demographic blankets and come
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they are on. and i don't think anybody could easily foresee the louisiana purchase. but this sense of manifestation before 1840, but it becomes a term and canada well, remember the time we are talking 7096, we thought we would get canada and then the war of 1812 were supposed to win canada and of course it did not work out that way but the continental vision and people sand like ehrenberg crazing on the record of it i think the consumption was that florida and most of the west would eventually coming our way rated. >> what i think demography doing it rather than rule printed.
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>> so i think that has he said earlier, washington was of the lesson he understood in 1795, the treaty was saying that the americans accessing the mississippi river was a hundred which is a critical element and he has the ability to send the goods of the mountain ranges in philadelphia and desperately needed access to the water before they were trains and cars that kind of thing however, washington was realistic about the fact that things and friends were kind of running off of each other and regularly there were complaints of these individuals towards florida motherboard goals, that had not happened yet predict so much of this policy was about getting to 100 because
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the get too close to britain and france will get annoyed in the southern border and maybe it will be more friendly self emancipated are individuals we get too close risk, the jealous and than that, the reverse of his religious this element of trying to hold all of these pieces together before the united states had these in recognizing that as great as we thought we were in 1796, this point we work still a relatively national power and very much subject to international superpowers in washington really understood that. >> remember most thought the detailed and you just regard up continent at the time and the
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whole delay of washington's second term is related to treating the fact that jefferson matters in basically because washington from washington, they say it means that are really setting with the english. so they played that game to great effect and then the french revolutionary and part of his deal was other sweaty aspect to sign bill in louisiana the destabilization. there were a lot of foster that in the time. and ultimately, even jefferson realized that there was a big deal and they got wind of the fact that that he was about to get his head cut off and he retired to jamaica, long island pretty. >> and married the governor's daughter pretty. >> correct.
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list talk about another topic and we do have an audience question coming in to help us explore that and asking about george washington's last testament in a different kind, or something to this table addressed with particular respect you and this is what i was suggesting may not export but enough. >> i explicitly say in my book is that his platform was considered a farewell address by all means if he hasn't, he should look at, to washington's discarded, certainly by contemporary perspective, the farewell address assignment on the issues now washington, is in his last long testament which could be considered the ultimate farewell address takes the
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decided if an unusual founding father steps and of his life upon martha's death predict so there is a million different reasons why this is insufficient emotionally unsatisfying by contemporary perspectives all of which are so obviously don't even need to be discussed and it is core contradiction to the promise of america that said, the washington knows he's going to be public and there is a lot of things that he doesn't do say the dynamic that a lot of people are looking. this was intended to be in written to be a publican a lot of drama around the drafting and
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they don't do this, they don't report their slaves upon the death but washington was making it very clear statement to the country so 100 percent i believe in arguing my book that i can and should be considered the dakota where slavery is finally addressed by washington. >> i wish we had a part of this and told his leaders and americans, that he intended to free his slaves. easily dead and at that moment try to follow his is not easy, he is committed to freeing his slaves once he can get money off the sale of us western lands but he cannot get that sold and so he keeps forging in until 99, he does not finally commit any can only free his slaves beyond which are slightly less we can
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prove that but i think that martha's reluctant to see the slaves rebar because neural intermarried in the plantation. i would think that washington is the greatest leader in american history i think the slavery is marcus original sin and racism is its enduring toxic residue. i'm still living with it and was there a chance to ended in a land the road to extension. before the numbers became impossible pretty quiet tragedy but a great one pretty. >> aspirated most effectively moved it from that direction,
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washington. he fell as a leader on this issue and that is a heckuva scanner to apply and agree in the sense that they know, the perspectives gives us an enormous advantage of the hill washington in the slavery was a contradiction to the values of the market revolution. he said that in a new bed and what he kept saying was that we have to wait, he's wait until 18 away because that's one of the slave trade will and and so in some sense, i would like to to have said i would like to the constitution to exit public were not going to put in the deeps date self now but the core
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principles in this publican allow this to exist forever the house cannot stand divided, and a method minister he is to use that phrase in 1778 in this were lincoln got it. >> so gordon reed has said that he thought the george washington was concerned that if he filled out about slavery during his lifetime, he was terrible harm and divisiveness that is true, i don't know but that is certainly what he thought. that is what he didn't say anything during his lifetime the bill was certainly more than some people dead and it was less than others did and so i think that in some ways it is a little bit not taking the easy road out
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because it wasn't but it also was not really taking the stand because of the labor and time while he was still alive so i think that the way i see it is it was more than nothing but it certainly wasn't much pretty. >> let's remember that we begin with the union and in the commitment to the union and if you the question of slavery and away, you risk that in this thing he was most terrified of and would gotta keep it off the national agenda until at some point in time we can really basis squarely and until the republic is sufficiently stable to survive the debate. >> i'll ask each of you a question. we wanted you to close on this point, take away for you and also john, why would you want
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the people to continue to read the farewell address now 225 years later was a take away for you. >> washington warned us about the forces that is stored the democratic republic and document contained all the wisdom of his life and it is a prophetic document and in particular, is warnings against hyper partisanship, or success of death for death or domestic politics are chris from the headlines of today. and i had to pick one of those that i would argue that washington is most concerned about and we should be most concerned about, hyper barn and bipartisanship putting party over the country is in the forces of today and is risking the success of our republic. >> why should people continue to turn in this document now pretty. >> i would agree with what he said i would add one element to this foreign policy issue is
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that washington lord against allowing motions for the nations to color our ideas is our fellow americans and encounter our ability to see him as a united nation and i think that it talks about an interesting point that p partisan identity your foreign-policy identity, to make us forget what we have in common to make us forget our common side and instead the differences so it's really just looking for the divisions and instead look for the things that we have the brightest together. to have both of my colleagues here have done a good job, so i can echo their views and as a teacher, for 44 years, through students these days don't think anything happened before they were born.
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and because of the document would be so alien to them i want them to understand it like the a foreign country and learning to think and speak a different language in the language that washington speaks is further reasons john legend, desperately needed are absent from the center of american politics especially the congressional and presidential level. in the public interest is something that nobody understands now. to even suggest that your highest priority is made they are not qualified to serve. washington would never neither would any of the other four presidents i mentioned earlier, they would never run for public office in the current climate. they went regarded as prostitution.
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>> comparing to where we weren't where we are looking back and learning something is the future. >> thank you so much, this is been a great conversation and i have learned a lot is an important document and thank you for having so many people out there better understand it and on behalf of mount vernon, thank you so much for joining us here tonight we have seen you


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