Skip to main content

tv   QA Amy Greenberg  CSPAN  March 10, 2019 7:59pm-9:01pm EDT

7:59 pm
everyday with news and policy issues that impact you. monday morning, we preview the week ahead in washington with a bloomberg senate reporter at a cbs news white house reporter. also, a discussion about paid family leave proposals with someone from the american enterprise institute. be sure to watch washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. house rules committee meets to work on a resolution calling for special counsel robert mueller's report to be made available to congress and the public or it that is live monday at 5:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. online at, and on the free c-span radio app. at programmingok this evening on c-span. q and a start shortly with history professor amy greenberg talking about her first book on
8:00 pm
first lady sarah polk. prime minister's questions from the british house of commons. the russian ambassador to the u.s. talks about his country's relations with the u.s. ♪ q&a, amyeek on greenberg, professor of american history at penn state university on her book "lady first: the world of first lady sarah polk." brian: amy greenberg, why did you name your book lady first? prof. greenberg: it was not the title that the press wanted. when i thought about first lady sarah polk, and how she deployed power, i thought about the fact that, in her own mind, she was
8:01 pm
always a lady before anything else. she thought of for self as mrs. james k. polk. she was very invested in people deferring to her. but she was willing to defer to men. she considered herself a lady. i thought lady first was a good title. brian: what would you say about their relationship? prof. greenberg: james and sarah close andbout as positive of a relationship as any married couple can have. they were rarely separated. the reason sarah came to washington when james was a new congressman when she was 22 years old, was because they cannot stand to be a part. they were newly married. the whole time they were married the depended on each other far more than anybody else. she was james' closest confidant. he did not have a lot of male
8:02 pm
friends, but he and sarah were basically inseparable. prof. greenberg: why did he not have a lot of male friends? prof. greenberg: depending on who you talk to, there are different answers to that question. my reading of his character and all of his letters and studying his career over the past decade, i think that he was an introvert. he was, i think, a nervous person. guy.s not a voluble, fun he had almost no sense of humor. people did not really take to him. forging closetime connections with other people, with the exception of members of his own family and sarah. also that he lied to various politicians. he had a reputation of being an trustworthy. brian: did the public know he was lying at the time? prof. greenberg: i don't think they did. this is a question historians have debated.
8:03 pm
theicularly as pertained to declaration that he made about the united states going to war with mexico. rather than going to congress to ask for a declaration of war, he went to congress and he said, a war is in the process. just give me some money to fight this war. this statement that he made to congress was that, american blood had been shed on american soil. despite all of the united states' effort to avoid war with mexico, it was mexico's war. he basically said the united states is not responsible for this war. mexico is the enemy. that, i think, everybody knew it was a lie. there were probably people who did not know, but everyone in congress knew it was a lie. brian: you went to the university of california at berkeley. prof. greenberg: yes. brian: you got a phd from
8:04 pm
harvard. when did you first get interested in the u.s./mexican war? prof. greenberg: when i was in grad school, my dissertation advisor was a great historian named bill. his advisor, when he had first gone to grad school at berkeley was charles. sellers wrote two volumes of what was supposed to -- life.ogy on one afternoon, as historian grad students tend to do, i pulled these volumes down from the stacks at the library and i started reading them. i found the way that sellers wrote about polk, and the way that he brought the antebellum era in america to life to be utterly compelling. that is when i got interested in
8:05 pm
polk. i grew up in southern california. when i was growing up, very little was ever said about the u.s./mexican war. i am pretty confident our curriculum in school switched from the mission period, to the bear flag revolt when americans against mexican or spanish rule and eclair california free. i do not ever remember learning about the u.s./mexico war, but by the time i was in college i realized that california was taken from mexico. anan: we have, back in 2012, address you made at the abraham lincoln library in springfield, illinois about a wicked war. prof. greenberg: yes. brian: that is another one of your books. when did you write that, and what is the main message in that book? prof. greenberg: the way that i got interested in sarah polk was in the process of writing that book.
8:06 pm
when i look back at my career of roseng book, every books out of the previous -- rose out of the previous books. what i really wanted to do was tell the story of the u.s./mexico war in a way that was focused on individuals and how they were affected by the war. i felt like, as a scholar and as a teacher, there were no books about the u.s./mexico war that really made sense to students. there is a lot of battles in a lot of different places, and the u.s. wins all of them, then the u.s. takes all of this land. it is kind of a hard story to narrate, and less you just want to narrate it as the u.s. was incredibly advanced in terms of technology, and had an amazing fighting force, and a fetid mexico, and of story. i knew for a fact that a lot of people died in the war and
8:07 pm
impacted a lot of people. i thought, what if i wrote the story in the way that somebody might narrate a war, like world war ii. -- or thevil war civil war, so that people got a sense that it was a wart were people suffered and people sacrificed. abstract moment where the u.s. steamrolled over mexico. so, the main message of that war the main message -- the main message of the book was that the war matter to a lot of people in really profound ways. the war mattered to all the officers that later thought in the civil war. i got their start in the u.s./mexico war. ulysses s grant is a person that called it a wicked war. robert e lee. most of the generals in the
8:08 pm
civil war fought in the u.s./mexico war. it mattered to them, but it also matter to all of the men who went to mexico and thought. and it matter to the family members who fought. and it mattered to abraham lincoln, who gave his first national speech about how the u.s. slacks -- u.s./mexico war was immoral. i wanted to place the war in the context of the time period and show how it affected people. brian: the years of the war? prof. greenberg: 1846 to 1848. -- jamesd james pope polk lie us into that war? prof. greenberg: yes. brian: how many people died in that war? 13000greenberg: between and 15,000 americans. brian: what did america think of that war back then? prof. greenberg: the war started off with a burst of enthusiasm. there was a whole generation of young men who had grown up hearing stories about the texas
8:09 pm
revolution, which was a decade earlier, about the alamo. which we can never forget. these were these two moments where the mexican army put to death prisoners in a way that was horrifying to americans, and unethical from a battlefield standpoint. the u.s. were raised thinking of mexico as deceitful, and a country that had really betrayed america. said that american blood had been shed on american soil, there was a huge rush of volunteer into his yes and for the war. many more men volunteered to fight then there was room for in the volunteer infantry's. the war started out with incredible enthusiasm. not just enthusiasm among the democratic party, but also among
8:10 pm
the opposition party. we live in such a partisan time now that it is hard to imagine a president of one party declaring a war, and lying to get the country into the war, and politicians knowing it is a lie, but being very enthusiastic about the war. congress- members of quit congress to fight in the war. that was true of the democratic party and the opposition party. the thing about the war was that , everyone was convinced it would be a short corporate one battle, mexico would roll over and we would be done. mexico would give us everything we wanted. it would be an easy fight. 's brother wrote him and said, can i get a position of an officer in the war? said, don't even bother, the war will be done in three months.
8:11 pm
that a yeare know into the war the u.s. would have won a number of battles, securing both texas and california, but the mexicans refused to surrender. so, that was the moment when americans started turning against the war. when reports of casualties started coming back. died. lot of soldiers but also when it did not look like the war would end quickly. it said in in about a year. it was a whole another six-month time that, during which u.s. occupied mexico city. they still would not surrender. that was when the public turned against the war. by the time the treaty waterloo lupehill. go -- guada
8:12 pm
hildago made its way from mexico to the white house february of 1848, by that point, there is a huge upsurge of antiwar sentiment. over by has been taken the week party and there are public meetings all around the country to bring the award to a close. polk has been forced to accept it treaty and does not get him all that he wants. was no mexican war, what would be different about the united states right now? prof. greenberg: historians don't like to engage in counterfactual exercises because -- in general. i have thought about this a lot. we were not have california. mexico was in pretty bad and some sayuble mexico would have been eventually sold.
8:13 pm
inaco -- texas might be different shape. it might be smaller. own new would not mexico. maybe we would not have arizona. it is hard to imagine. what else would be different? james mcpherson and his battle a goodedom makes argument that the civil war happened when it did because the north and the south could not agree over whether slavery should be allowed in the territories taken from mexico. war,here been no mexican maybe the civil war would not have happened when it did. maybe it would have happened later. brian: i know james polk was only there for 40 years. -- for years, who was president on either side of him. prof. greenberg: the president that was right before him was a guy named john tyler. whentyler became president , when heenry harrison
8:14 pm
died suddenly. john tyler, who was this guy from virginia, and kind of on the ticket to balance the ticket with harrison, tyler became president, and he was the first president became president because the president had died. he first became president, everyone called him his accident , because itdentcy was an accident that he was president. now we take it for granted that if a president dies, the vice president is really the president. but at that time he never knew. maybe he should defer to congress. no one really knew. tyler was able to grab the moment and say i am the president. when you speak to me, you refer to me as the president, i will
8:15 pm
do everything the president does. i will veto as much legislation as i want. even though he was supposedly in the whig party, he vetoed a bunch of whig legislation. brian: what about the president that came in after? the presidentg: after james k. polk was another wig. it was zachary taylor. we have tyler on one side and taylor on the other sit -- other. james k. polk, when he became president he said he would only serve one term. he stuck to that. it was a lasting and the world he wanted, to hand over power to the opposition party. herod handed over to a war and the war that he started. , because ofor polk his war, a general became president and that general was zachary taylor who was a whig. book: the subject of his
8:16 pm
-- this book is his wife sarah. what would you say about her? prof. greenberg: there is a lot to say about her, i wrote a pretty long book. brian: she is going to be over at the house for dinner, and he wanted to tell your husband or friends, what would you tell them about her. prof. greenberg: we are not going to serve wine because she does not drink. i would say that she is a charming dinner companion. the conversation is going to be wonderful. she is very well read. we can talk about the latest look. to be a very good listener. she will probably listen more than she speaks. i think it will be a really fun dinner, but we will not serve her any wine. brian: how educated is she? prof. greenberg: she, for the time and being a woman, is extremely educated. she attended the salem academy, which is in north carolina. it was either the first or
8:17 pm
second best school for women in the entire united states. this is a time period when colleges are not open to women at all. educated,ted to be and your family had the means, your two options were to have a private tutor, or to go to a women's academy. women's academy for a long time were pooh-poohed by historians and colleagues -- and scholars because they focused on things like needlework and piano. stuff that we tend to think of now as not real learning. in addition to learning , theework and piano girls at the salem academy science, political philosophy, mathematics, they were reading the same books that men were reading in men's colleges in the same time period. brian: how many children did they have? prof. greenberg: sarah and james
8:18 pm
polk had no children. the reason for that, everybody is pretty sure, is because when james was a teenager he had crippling bladder stones. there was no known treatment for this at the time. about a doctord and to james over 100 miles to meet this doctor. the doctor did surgery on james to remove the bladder stone. it is pretty clear that the surgery left james unable to father children. so, he and sarah never had kids. one thing i would love to know, but they left no letters about this, is whether, when sarah agreed to marry james she knew they would not have any children. all of their at correspondents, and all of the correspondents who knew them the best, i have seen no evidence
8:19 pm
that they missed having children, or that they wanted to have children, or that they felt sad about not having children. one thing is for sure is that, the fact that sarah polk had no children is what allowed her to flour into a political partner for james, and really the most powerful political person at the time period. own sister gave birth over 10 times. most women's lives were taken up with childbearing. i did not have-- that thing to worry about. brian: the world -- the word piety you referred to her. why? prof. greenberg: she was extremely religious. she was raised presbyterian. out ofthat was going style at the time. she believed, like her mother,
8:20 pm
and like what were called old-school presbyterians, that god had basically determined whether or not you were going to heaven or hell at ahead of time. god was maybe unknowable. cannot ensure you salvation. one reason why it even came popular is because they said to people, talking about baptist, methodist, and presbyterians, they said that god is knowable. if you look into your heart and you find the lord, the lord will lead you to salvation. sarah did not believe that. she believed in hierarchy, and tradition, and the catechism, so it is a very, very traditional view of the world in which men
8:21 pm
were put on the top of the latter, white men, and women were below them, and slaves were below white people, and this was all ordained by god. she took the sabbath extremely seriously. the only time i ever found her oneeny james anything was sunday that he asked her to do some work for him. political work, and she said she would not do it. she did not work on sunday. she did not allow business to be done on sunday. she did not drink, she did not dance, she did not play cards. this raised some eyebrows. washington, d.c. at the time when she moved there was a freewheeling city. people drank a lot. cards were extremely popular. everyone loved going to the theater. she did not do any of that stuff. brian: putting james polk in perspective, i wrote that he was in a house from 1825 to 1839,
8:22 pm
.as speaker he was governor of the state of to 1841. 1839 why did he run twice and lose after he was governor? the. greenberg: maybe better question is, why did he leave washington, d.c. where he had become speaker of the house, he had a great reputation, his .ife was extremely happy they just both loved it there, so why did he leave? the reason he left is because the opposition party, the whigs, they were taking the southwest by storm. kentucky was firmly in the hands , and tennessee look like it would fall into their hands. the whigs or interested and willing to put serious money into improving roads and bridges and canals in the west. everybody in the west wants to
8:23 pm
be able to get their crops to market, they want to be more connected financially with the east coast. they feel like farmers east of the appellations have an unfair advantage because there is no good roads and no good shipping. thisare all falling for big government whigs platforms. said, i will go to tennessee, run for governor, because i am basically the only democrat and the entire state of tennessee who is beloved enough to win. the fact of the matter is that he does not have a successful two years. he ultimately cannot stop the slide of the party into the hands of the whigs. reelectedns to get and loses, that is the first time he has ever lost any race in his life and it comes with a huge shock. thatnot think sarah after
8:24 pm
expected him to run again, or wanted him to run again. sense to stay in tennessee, deal with business and wait for a call to come from washington. either he could be a senator, or he could return to the house. she did not see the appeal of staying in tennessee. he wanted to give it another try so he ran again and lost again. brian: you say in your book that she helped him past the gag rule? . how did she help? rule iseenberg: the gag james signature victory. was a rule that table, without discussion, any petitions that came to congress that dealt with slavery. the right to position -- petition is enshrined in the constitution.
8:25 pm
in the 19th century it was a huge deal. there arebefore telephones, when travel is difficult, petitioning was one of the main ways that people could communicate with congress. a group of like-minded people would get together and write a petition and send it to congress. 1830's, in the early groups of anti-slavery americans, particularly, or notably women would get together and write a petition and send it to congress. the petition would say something like, we petition congress that slavery be made illegal. this is never going to happen, that thesey fact petitions were being read out loud in congress was so thatting to southerners the were able to convince american public, and the house of representatives that one of
8:26 pm
the main rights in the ,onstitution should be a bridge so that they and their sentiments were not offended. slavery was seen as so sensitive that you just cannot talk about it. suggest that slavery was wrong was so unacceptable that southerners could not have it. managed to get this through congress. .t was shocking it was a shocking thing, particularly for northern's. john quincy adams, who had been president years before, a one term president, he went to congress as a representative for massachusetts and he made it his main work to bring up slavery as much as possible in response to the gag rule. so he would not began -- be gagged.
8:27 pm
he was constantly being called to order because he would talk about slavery. brian: how did she do as a health worker? prof. greenberg: james, not naturally good at convincing people to do things, not a good communicator, not necessarily a persuasive person. sarah opened up rooms in the boarding house that she lived in. particularly to entertain. triweeklyiweekly or dinner parties were she would invite members of congress to come and talk. they would talk over issues. she would lobby them carefully, always saying, the speaker of the house thinks this, or the speaker of the house thinks that. brian: was he there? prof. greenberg: sometimes. often times he was not. he loved to work, so many times he would work and leave it to sarah to do the negotiating. you talk about how sick
8:28 pm
he was and that he died three months after he left the presidency at 853. one of the notes i wrote down was that, at james polk 's death, sarah had 56 slaves. and what about the mississippi plantation? prof. greenberg: this book that i wrote is a biography of sarah polk, but it is about all the people she owned. there were a lot of people and it is about slavery. slavery was central to the polk presidency and central to sarah's life. one of the reason that -- reasons that sarah was such an eligible marriage prospect was that, upon her father's death, she inherited eight or nine slaves. valuableaves were human property. men were lining up to meet her. she was wealthy, and a lot her wealth was based on slaves.
8:29 pm
both her family and james family got rich off of slavery, growing caught in. slavery was part of their family makeup. james started out as a lawyer, but he did not make a lot of money. it did not seem like he cared about money that much. he was not a rich man. he bought his first plantation when he was in congress. he bought it in tennessee. he just hoped to make money with it. this required buying slaves to staff the plantation. he eventually sold that plantation and bought a whole bunch of land in mississippi that the choctaw indians had been pushed off of. this is another big story of the book. the way in which indians are pushed off of land that they own so that slave owners can move in and use african american people with his at
8:30 pm
legislation and presidency but he's also making money off of that. plantation in mississippi and he tells sarah that he intends to make more lose more money. this is the only time in his ife that i see him really gambling. he says, look, we need to make a this plantation and try and make some money. from the he slaves tennessee plantation there, and e also moved some of sarah's family slaves. some slaves that she inherited from her father. slaves that had been living with them in tennessee but hen he starts buying slaves because the mortality rate on this plantation and in the plantations alley, is really terrible. the work is unrelenting. of malaria.ot disease climate is terrible.
8:31 pm
young people moved. african-americans are sold to they die.i and this is one reason for african-american slaves, who live on the east coast, being mississippi, as one of the worst states that anyone can imagine. it was basically a death sentence. they have to keep buying more to send to the plan tastes to work the cotton because they keep dying. president, so this is kind of one of the things about period, is that southerners are insisting that natural, even e, god's plan. ome southerners are claiming slavery is less exploitative factory for an a immigrant. crazy ve a lot of arguments like this. but that said, a man could not, 1844, run for president and have it be known that he was
8:32 pm
selling slaves that. he was involved in any way in dirty business of slave sales. polk had his friends say, the only time he ever bought or sold slaves was to keep families together. this is what you had to say. it look like you cared about your slaves. in fact, even as he was saying that, he was buying more slaves. had sarah work as the middleman or middle woman in etween himself and the people he was buying the slaves from so to take the her money to hand over for the slaves to be purchased and sent plantation.ssippi now, all that said, i don't hink sarah was particularly
8:33 pm
involved in this plantation. they had an overseer that was there. the idn't deal with day-to-day business until james died er a widow, when he in 1853. yeah. >> 18 -- 1849.49, when he died in brian: he was 53. >> he was 53. at that point she inherited this plantation and all of its occupants. forced her to face the plantation, ning a which is, as much as southerners, especially southern might like to think that they were good to their on a , growing cotton plantation was a money-making ultimately making money meant forcing the slaves work oftentimes beyond their capacity. she was thrust into, for her,
8:34 pm
a difficult position. f course, nowhere near as difficult as the position of all the men and women that she owned of running a , plantation, and she did so up civil war. brian: you say she was alive 42 years after he died? yes. the longest term that anyone is aware of. brian: she got a privilege, to be able to send mail. how did that happen? >> the franken privilege is kind interesting. it was an honor that was given death. after james' this right to send letters, and it was a right that was also former presidents and former first ladies at that point. and -- but she lost it around the civil war. people.k it away from but she didn't make much use of it. she didn't write a lot. one of the interesting
8:35 pm
things about the slave business, she bought paul jennings from madison. >> yes. brian: for what purpose? jennings frompaul dolley madison to help madison out. was substitute. she had a son who gambled and gambled away all of their money, and she was basically broke. she was living in washington, by , as this figure beloved everybody, but she was for all intents and purposes, broke. buying paul jennings from able madison, sarah was to give money to dolley. fact she only rented paul jennings from dolley. so she employed jennings and her out. brian: have you ever read the memoir on jennings? yes.
8:36 pm
i have. he was a remarkable figure. brian: why? really smart. of as very -- he saw a lot stuff. i think the auto biography is and he was very dedicated to the madisons, who badly. him extremely especially dolley, i think. a small item, but not earth shattering. what role did she play in for the washington monument? >> it's very funny as you say that. d.c. todayiving into with my 12 year old daughter, she said, look, there is the washington monument. said, did you know that james polk laid the first stone of that monument, and do you know raised the money? >> sara polk. >> that's right. her trained dolley madison had this dream or a monument, father of the country, george washington. convinced sarah to help
8:37 pm
with the fundraising effort and rich ch out to all of her friends to build this monument to george washington and sarah top of it and together they raised the the money for monument, not for the entire monument but laying the cornerstone of the monument and the origins of the washington monument. james laid the first stone, i on the fourth of july. brian: you mentioned your daughter. can i mention her name? >> violet. brian: violet. how old is violet? >> 12. children do you have? >> i have two. how many months did you spend working on sarah polk? proud of she's very her mother. little bufuddled. ask, why reason i
8:38 pm
should people care about this, you started out by saying james lied&we've heard that a lot in the last several years. lied?politicians all >> i think james was the first president that i have seen lie. better the middle of the 19th man's honor was so important that politicians couldn't be known to lie. actually, there is plenty of that alexander hamilton lied. mean, politicians did lie but you had to lie in a way that you ability.sible deny you couldn't lie in a way that you could be caught because that dishonorable. this honor culture lasted up to about polk. wrote this book is that, when i was researching the war, i was a wicked so as stoubded by all the stuff that sarah polk did and the way exercised power.
8:39 pm
supreme letters to a court justice and members of completely t were confident a hundred percent bout politics, and were not noticeably different from a letter that a man would write back to her in the same vein. no speak down to her. her brother as well. had a brother named john. he would write her and say going on with the circular or can you tell me hat's happening with this election? i assume no one knows as well as you do, so in her circle, it was me that she was treated, i can't say necessarily as an equal, but in a way that to me given the way that we talk about women's time period. and it struck me that the women ve that we have of gaining power when they gain the vote, and of course, we've got anniversary of women winning
8:40 pm
the right to vote coming up next that the narrative, where political powers stems from the me as in no ruck way representative of what i saw oing on with sarah polk, and the more research i did on women that she knew, women in washington, women who were to politicians, or children of polices, but who ived in a political world, i saw more and more of. his women who were not being treated as mentally inferior or politically, ate that they were being treated as political actors. political ey weren't actors. they couldn't vote, but they were influencing legislation. clearly expressing their opinions about things, and keyought sarah polk was the to telling that story. of an alternative political which just because women couldn't vote didn't mean that they didn't have political
8:41 pm
power. brian: on page 117 you refer to polk's inaugural address. so you sent me there and i read it, and i have it in front of me. the reason i want to read this, though, this is what he said or 1846, whenever he gave his speech. ask you about this because at the time -- lacks weren't american citizens? >> no. brian: women couldn't vote. did men have to have property then? >> no. thanks to andrew jackson you did ot have to have property to vote. brian: here's one line from the speech. native or s, whether adopted, are placed upon terms equality.e >> yes. brian: all are entitled to equal rights and equal protection. said that in his speech. >> yep. yes?: did everybody go >> that was the democratic belief, yeah. democratic party grew to
8:42 pm
power because andrew jackson came into office and he said, white men should be equal. we're all equals here. based on erarchy money, or based on rank. rank.doing away with this is the united states. white men are all equal. we're all equal to each other way he interpreted that is that no group should have any special privileges or special opportunities that a poor white man didn't have. so it wasn't saying everybody needs to have the same amount of money. but that everybody had the right to become as rich as they could, and nothing should stand in your way. uneducated an farmer, nothing should keep you rom having the same opportunities that the welborn son of a bankner boston had. appeal of the g democratic line. andrew jackson said it and veryone who followed him and emulated him and no one loved and emulated jackson more than james polk.
8:43 pm
they said the same thing and they believed it. that ot a coincidence blacks can't vote. this is part of it, right? because if all white men are everybody elsens is unequal. right? to the ot to go back speech. this is another paragraph. regret source of deep that in some sections of our ountry misguided persons have occasionally indulged in schemes is agitations whose object the destruction of domestic institutions existing in other sections. existed at which the adoption of the constitution nd were recognized and protected by it. james k. polk, his inauguration speech. >> yeah. what do we think that institution is? slavery. so here we are him speaking up out of the stay south's business. it's none of your business. no national banks
8:44 pm
or other extraneous institutions tonted around the government control or strengthen it in opposition to the will of its authors. same thing that andrew jackson said. >> exactly. about, helove the part talked about national debt has become almost an institution of monarchies and he goes on, i went back and looked at the budgets. 1845 it was $16 million. >> yeah. 15.5 million, but $47 47, $38 million and million. why did it jump? with mexico. it's amazing that you brought up the debt line in there because about that line normally but it's fantastic, right? does he u.s.-mexican war is it forces the u.s. to borrow all of this money from european bankers. to start paying off all of that debt. brian: i've got to read that, given today, we're at $22
8:45 pm
trillion in debt. the national debt has become almost an institution. t's view by some of them as an essential prop to existing governments. melancholy is the condition of people whose government can be by a system which periodically transfers large mounts from the labor of the money to the -- coffers of the few. story around that back in those days? >> the story here is that, like said, the wigs are really the government, and they are willing to use debt in build infrastructure. terrified ocrats are of debt. they don't believe in debt. expending believe in federal money for anything except the protection of the country.
8:46 pm
today?anybody like that [laughter] >> i think there must be somebody like that today. can't name him off the top of your head? tell all my students if it happened after 1899 i can't say head.e on of my brian: here's some more from the speech. it's confidently believed that system may safely -- may be utmost extended to the pounds of territorial limits. it shall be extended, bonds of union, so far, from being weakened, it will become stronger. out, did dn't work knit what that's in response to again, wig party, where they really didn't think that we hould be spending all of our money in energy. taking territories way out to, where no one what we should be doing is strengthening the economy where so that e did live
8:47 pm
factories, improve ports, extend credit so that who didn't have any money could take out some loans and start a business. so they really believed in conomic development, where as the democrats just believed in territorial expansion, and the that for that is democrats thought the most virtuous and best way to live in be a ited states was to farmer. to be an independent land farmer. don't live in the city. grow your crop. your community, and own your own land. in order to do that, we needed to get more land. it's two very different views of how the united states should develop. write in your book manifest destiny. what is it and who invented the
8:48 pm
term? >> john sullivan, who was a journalist, he coined the term, the idea goes back almost to the founding of the united earlier,or perhaps even and this is the idea that the experiment, the movement of europeans to this continent, and especially anglo europeans, that it was destined to be the greatest history of in the the world and that god had singled out this european people moved to the americas and formed this amazing country, the the first racy with constitution, and political this experiment, the united states, would expand, indefinitely, over all of the territory anywhere near it superiority to all other governmental forms. deeply it was a deeply,
8:49 pm
held belief. even among wigs. hey didn't agree with the u.s.-mexican war. they didn't think we should go to war in order to claim territory. a y thought it would be natural process, that anybody, anyone s, mexicans, living near the united states would look at the united states and say, wow, everything is a there.ter in.s join brian: what was your key to getting new information? you mentioned earlier to t people that she wrote the supreme court, john, who was on the supreme court and also aaron brown, who was a law james polk. >> yes. brian: you seem to have a lot of letters. them and had find they ever been published before? before i wrote this book, scholarly een no biography ever of sarah polk. biography ne short
8:50 pm
written by a doctor some time ago that had some very good information in it but ritten also used some source that is professional historians don't accept as because they are fictional, and that was about it. putting together, trying to write sarah polk's story of ired building an archive all of her correspondence. of politicians and first ladies left ample amount of and diaries.e sarah polk didn't do that. here have been a number of biographies recently that have ome out about louise adams, john quincey adams, and i'm so scholars those because she loved to write letters and she kept a diary and a remarkable correspondence with her father-in-law and there is all this material and sarah possibly has very little schol because she loved
8:51 pm
material. what i started out with is i collected all the letters that i and then i wrote to archivists. they put me in touch with people letters that hadn't been published. the editor of the polk papers, he was so id cohen, remarkably helpful. any time they came across any anything to do with sarah, he would forward it to me. lot of people all around the country helped me out. you pass an't let without mentioning what you mentioned in your he sharedements, that was the only known example of james polk laughing. it?t was letter where james was looking at the plans for this remarkable house he hoped in nashville, which he did in a building, and there was about maybe one room
8:52 pm
would be the ballroom for dancing, and the reason this was was because, of course, james and sarah didn't dance at all, but it was actually a joke he was making. it wasn't a particularly funny joke but it was a joke. yeah. he didn't joke at all. he had no sense of humor. i wantbefore we end this to make sure i ask you, how long have you been at penn state? >> 24 years. brian: what do you teach? >> american history, 19th century history. course on the early american republic which goes to the constitution u.s.-mexican war. one of my favorite classes. seminars on 19th century. have a class that i teach called "sex and violence" in century america which i do to attract students to the class. they had sex and violence in it, they would come. >> did it work?
8:53 pm
yes, it did. brian: do you talk to sarah polk to your students? little, not yet. brian: when do you think they will get interested? away with sex and violence but was there much sex violence -- >> there was plenty of sex an had no part in that. yeah, i talked about, there were in t of broth buildings cities. sarah, of course, did not go those places. boxing was an incredible popular sport. brian: was she a gossip? -- broo brew s brian: you say in the book she wasn't. >> yes, i think she was a gossip. if you look at the letters she wrote, they were clearly gossip. brian: what was her relation ship with aaron brown? friends.eve they were
8:54 pm
just straight up political friends who would rather talk to politics than t anybody else, because they both say that about her. 42 years, as we talked about, after he died. he? sick was >> he never had a strong constitution. i think he just was never a particularly healthy person. he didn't like eating. he ate very much. brian: was he smaller than her? well, the people have talked about her being tall but when dresses, they r are tiny, like she was no more than a hundred pounds and at the 5'3". she had a size 2 foot. she was a tiny woman, but he was small. think he was 5'6", 5'7", very skinny, compared to him he looked tall. she wear black for the rest of her life? >> she did every day. among the was out
8:55 pm
public? >> she was out among the public. er black clothes were well trimmed, well turned out. they were well tailored. but yeah, she never stopped wearing black. she really embraced the role of polk's widow. her job in the last decades of her life to convince the american public had been a great president, because by the time the civil war is over, the mexican war ishe really not high in the united states. he republican party has taken over the government and the republican party basically of the wig party. it really came out of a lot of different forces but the looked to theally wig party as their forebearers and they thought the democratic the bad party because it had been during the civil war and certainly it was problematic so basically no one had anything good to say bout the u.s.-mexican war or polk, so sarah made it her business to say, i am mrs. james
8:56 pm
polk. i'm james' widow and i'm going to talk whenever possible about president he was war hat a great war the was, and she made that her mission. brian: how many letters did you up collecting? >> over a hundred, less than 200. to do what are you going with those? >> oh, they are all on my computer. brian: are you going to put them where everybody can get to them eventually? >> that's a great idea. yeah, i should do that. brian: did you get another book ut of this time you spend with sarah polk? >> is there something else you of to write about because what you saw here? >> i have been thinking about writing a book about the polk plantation in mississippi because, like i said, i got interested in the people that lived there. some of the people who were by the polks and lived on hat plantation, ended up fighting in the civil war on the union side, and then went on and
8:57 pm
had lives. thanks to pension records, after of civil war, you can kind trace what happened to some of these people. i'm thinking about writing more brian: last question. s-- meet a chance to meet sarah polk, do you think you would like her? i think i would like her more than james but there would be definitely things we would not talk about. couldn't talk about. brian: like? >> like slavery, which she and i'm as right actually not a huge fan of the emocratic political platform either. i think roads and bridges are great. rian: the cover with her portrait is from where, and was it your idea? great. hat's the cover has a portrait that was written when she was in the portrait that was painted when she was in the white house, which is a really ice portrait of her, and what the design people did, this was not my idea at all, i don't tell what the design people to do
8:58 pm
they have better ideas than me, is they took one of ames' campaign ribbons and the design on the campaign ribbon and put it behind her, so it's as if she were running for president. it's very effective and i was really impressed. brian: the name of the book is "lady first, the world of first and our guest ," amy greenburg. thank you very much. or to free transcripts give us your comments about this visit us at q& rograms are also available at c-span podcast. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] > time for peace in
8:59 pm
afghanistan, and an end to the lies. that's q&a next sunday at 8:00 and pacific time on c-span. washington journal, live every day. coming up monday morning, we'll in iew the week ahead washington with bloomberg senate and cbs steven dennis news white house reporter watson. also, a discussion about paid proposals what the --rican enterprise institute be sure to watch washington journal live monday morning. in the discussion. >> next, british prime minister takes questions from the members of house of commons the russian ambassador between the united states takes question. p.m., another chance to hear amy greenberg talking about
9:00 pm
first lady sarah polk. >> with just a few weeks before e teresa may leaving the european movement, the talks included scottish referendum and concern over racist practices in the government's immigration policy. this is just under an hour. >> colleagues, we are joined for prime minister' questions today. i know that the honor rabble general member stone will be keenly interested in the announcement rather than the fascinating private conversation by the former australian prime minister malcolm turnbull and by the australian high commissioner. they are extremely welcomed. we value our excellent relations with your country. we admire your nation. we rct


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on