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Andrew Burstein
Andrew Burstein
America's Jubilee
ISBN: 0307424715
America's Jubilee
On July 4, 1826, the United States celebrated its fiftieth birthday with parades and speeches across the country. But what ultimately sanctified the national jubilee in the minds of the celebrants was an extraordinary coincidence: the nearly simultaneous deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the last pillars of the original republic, already venerated as legends in their own time. It was a watershed in the nation's history, a bright moment when the successors to the Revolutionary dream examined their own lives as they took inspiration from and found nostalgia in the accomplishments of the founders.

In this fascinating book, the distinguished historian Andrew Burstein explores what it was to be an American in 1826. Drawing on private diaries and letters, daily newspapers, and long-buried publications, he shows us the personal lives behind the pageantry and reveals an acutely self-conscious nation anxiously optimistic about its future, eager to romanticize the Revolutionary past.

We follow the Marquis de Lafayette, the only surviving general of the War of Independence, on his triumphant 1825 tour of all twenty-four states. We visit an Ohio boomtown on the edge of the "new West," a region influenced by the Erie Canal and the commercialism that canal culture brought with it. We see through the eyes of ordinary citizens the wife of a Massachusetts minister, the author of a popular novel of the day, the family of a prominent statesman and learn about their gritty understanding of life and death, the nuances of contemporary sexual politics, and the sometimes treacherous drama of public debate. And we meet headline-makers such as the ornery President John Quincy Adams, the controversial Secretary of State Henry Clay, and the notoriously hot-tempered General Andrew Jackson, struggling to act in a statesmanlike way as he waits to be swept into the White House.

In this evocative portrait of the United States in its jubilee year, Burstein shows how 1826 marked an unforgettable time in the republic's history, when a generation embraced the legacy of its predecessors and sought to enlarge its role in America's story.
—from the publisher

America's Jubilee
Program Air Date: April 15, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Andrew Burstein, what is "America's Jubilee" all about?
Professor ANDREW BURSTEIN (Author, "America's Jubilee"): Well, this is about, strictly speaking, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. But it's really a human drama. I guess it ends with the coincidental deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on this date of national jubilee, a coincidence that caused the children of the revolutionaries to feel that the republic was, perhaps, immortal, that providence was looking down upon them and blessing their efforts. But really, this is a human drama about people who have been forgotten that were headliners in their own times, and they were the ones who enshrined the Revolution as we've come to appreciate it. The founding generation is a generation of geniuses. They were the ones who honored their parents, and this is really their story. It's about their world and what it is that made them tick: what they read, how they responded to it, how they romanticized the idea of America. It's really a story about American romanticism.
LAMB: I wrote some figures down that you have in your book: 12 million people...
Prof. BURSTEIN: Right.
LAMB: ...24 states; our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was in the chair. Thirteen thousand people lived in the District of Columbia, and it was the 19th Congress.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Right.
LAMB: A character I wanted to ask you about right away, just keep--kept jumping out of the pages at me, was John Randolph.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah.
LAMB: Who was he?
Prof. BURSTEIN: John Randolph is--he was a character. He was the most entertaining member of Congress for the several decades that he served in Congress, mostly in the House. But in the year 1826, he was a member of the United States Senate from Virginia. John Randolph-I think if it doesn't sound too anachronistic, if you could imagine the comedian Robin Williams in the House or the Senate, that was the kind of character that John Randolph was. He came dressed in white buckskin gloves. Henry Clay, a speaker of the House, one time had to throw out--order Randolph to remove his dog. He brought his hunting dog to Congress with him.

He was against everything that everybody else was for. And he made enemies easily. He spoke for sometimes three hours at a stretch, and nobody could stop him. He digressed. He talked about his personal demons. And he was a man who physically suggested that--that there was much inside him that was either odd or needing to be explained. And he was constantly trying to explain himself. So let me just describe...
LAMB: Where was he from?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He was from--he was called John Randolph of Roanoke. He was from south central Virginia, one of the old, distinguished families of early America. But what I wanted to just point out, too, was his--his physical stature, because this is one of the reasons why people, in his time, paid so much attention to him, why newspapers constantly wrote about him. He's really androgynous in appearance, and in consultation with some people from the medical field, it--I--I've concluded that he had a genetic condition called Klinefelter's syndrome. And this means that he was born--of course they didn't know this at the time, but he was born with two X and one Y chromosome, which means he was very tall, rail-thin. One observer described that he--his head looked like that of a child. And he was only 13 inches across from shoulder to shoulder and that--his legs seemed to--he was was formed sort of like a pyramid. He was beardless and he had a shrill soprano voice. So he was a man that people commented on all the time and, yes, he was a headline grabber. And in the course of the year 1826, he fights a sensational duel on the banks of the Potomac with Secretary of State Henry Clay.
LAMB: Well, explain that, because you've got a lot of stories about duels in the book.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah.
LAMB: How did that duel with John Randolph and Henry Clay come about?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah, I didn't intend for the book to be--to involve so many duels, but every congressman, every individual I seemed to focus on had at least one duel in his background. The--the way this came about was that Randolph was speaking in the Senate about the manner in which John Quincy Adams became president. He was elected by the House of Representatives. The election of 1824 didn't actually end; this may sound familiar to modern viewers. The e--election of 1824 didn't actually end until February of 1825, when the House voted John Quincy Adams as president, although Andrew Jackson had more electoral votes, more popular votes, but not--not enough votes to secure the election without it being thrown into the House, according to the Constitution. What...
LAMB: Let me just stop and--and just say--because I wrote your figures down. Andrew Jackson got 43 percent of the vote and John Quincy Adams got 30 percent of the vote.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Right.
LAMB: J--Andrew Jackson got 99 electoral votes and Andrew--and John Quincy Adams got 84.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Eighty-four.
LAMB: Then there was William Crawford, who got 41 electoral votes, and Henry Clay, who got 37.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Correct. So Clay was not part of the House run-off because he did not receive enough electoral votes. It was really between Clay--between Adams and Jackson. And what happened was that Henry Clay, as an influential member of the House, former speaker of the House, used his connections to arm-twist, to get his friends, north and south, to vote for Adams. Adams turned around and appointed Henry Clay secretary of State. This was then called the corrupt bargain, and it hounded Clay for the rest of his career. He ran for president two more times and was soundly defeated both times to Andrew Jackson in 1832 and James K. Polk in 1844.

So Adams became president and he was seen as an illegitimate president. Clay, however, was identified as the real villain in this drama. And Randolph in the House--sorry, in the Senate one day in the spring of 1826 referred to this corrupt bargain, referred to the arrangement as the alliance of the puritan and the blackleg. John Quincy Adams was the puritan; Henry Clay ostensibly the blackleg or a man of a corrupt heart and corrupt motives.

Clay took offense. He was somewhat impetuous and he had recently challenged another man to a duel who had not identified himself, but in fact was a meek Pennsylvania congressman. Randolph, however, was a crack shot, a man of Southern honor. And he acceded to the challenge, and they met on the Virginia side of the Potomac, accompanied by Thomas Hart Benton, senator from Missouri and himself a veteran of duels. He had shot and killed a man in Missouri as a younger man. And Benton tells the story of this duel. Newspapers pick up on it later on, but--I don't want to spoil the ending, but nobody's killed. The title of that chapter is The Secretary of State Fires Twice. So something does, in fact, occur, and the buildup is pretty exciting stuff.
LAMB: While we're on it, the--the Bentons were involved in another-I don't know if it's a duel so much, but their--one of our former presidents was wounded by somebody involved in a--tell us that story, the...
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...Andrew Jackson story.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah. Benton was an aide to Jackson in the War of 1812. He was a protege of Jackson. He was about 20 years younger, I believe.
LAMB: What's the date?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He w...
LAMB: Thomas Hart Benton.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Thom--Benton was born in North Carolina. He was thrown out of the University of North Carolina for stealing, I believe it was, yeah, and came to Tennessee, rough and ready like many of the early Western frontiersmen, like Jackson. And he was immediately attracted to Jackson. Jackson had charisma. Jackson was already by this time, early 19th century, had been a member of the House of Representatives, a member of the US Senate briefly, and was serving as a--a federal judge. Jackson himself is--was a frontier lawyer with very little legal education, but it didn't take much at that time to rise to judgeship.

In any rate, Benton was a close protege of Jackson, fought beside him during the War of 1812, the Creek campaign. And while Thomas Hart Benton was away in Washington, DC, doing Jackson's bidding, trying to get reimbursement for what Jackson had spent on his troops out there, Jackson became the second in a duel between Billy Carroll, future Tennessee Governor William Carroll, and Jesse Benton, Thomas Hart Benton's brother. For Jackson to take the side of Carroll against Benton's brother was a tremendous shock to Thomas Hart Benton when he got back to Nashville. So he decided to recover his family's honor. Jackson said he would horsewhip him, that he wasn't his equal and therefore he wouldn't duel him. So what finally happened was Benton made sure that he and his brother and their friends would be at the public square in the center of Nashville when Jackson showed up and to get in his face.
LAMB: All right, how--again, what year would this have been?
Prof. BURSTEIN: This was just before Jackson returned to New Orleans, so we're still in the War of 1812. He was back in Nashville--I believe it was 1813...
LAMB: And roughly how old would...
Prof. BURSTEIN: ...or 1814.
LAMB: ...would the Bentons and Jackson be?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Jackson at this time was a mature man. He was in his mid-40s, and the Bentons were, as I say, about--almost a generation younger, so they would have been in their 20s.
LAMB: What were the rules of dueling then and what was the purpose of it?
Prof. BURSTEIN: This is a--a complicated issue, really, Southern honor.
LAMB: Southern?
Prof. BURSTEIN: To...
LAMB: It was a Southern duel?
Prof. BURSTEIN: It was--by this time, it was largely--it had been done away with, pretty much, in the North. The famous duel between Hamilton and Burr of 1804 is well-known, but as a Southern institution, it seemed--well, the s--the Southerners had a strong military tradition and very often in lieu of a war, men had to prove themselves as--as--as the defenders of vulnerable womanhood. I mean, this is essentially what's behind it, although they had all kinds of constructions. And in--in this case, it was more of a--it was really a brawl. Jackson was--was wounded. It was the second time he was seriously wounded in a duel, the first time in 1806. He had shot his adversary and killed him but Jackson took a bullet in the chest which he had until the day he died in 1845.

In this case, there's some confusion as to who fired first or whether it was Tom Benton or Jesse Benton who shot Jackson, but Jackson bled profusely from his shoulder and he was already a very emaciated man. It took him a long time to heal, and he wasn't in the best of shape when he went down to New Orleans.
LAMB: Were you supposed to kill people in a duel?
Prof. BURSTEIN: You--s--some people went into a duel intending to kill the adversary. Other times, the duel was--they would fire into the air and go through the motions merely to say, `I have asserted my honor,' and nobody's hurt and then they shake hands or they--they meet with their seconds for breakfast the next day and return to civility. But it's a way of making a public statement about your sense of personal honor.
LAMB: Was it legal?
Prof. BURSTEIN: It was not legal. Usually, the combatants agreed to meet on the other side of the river, meaning that--the adjoining state because whatever state they were in held that dueling was illegal. When Randolph took part in the duel with Henry Clay in 1826, he said that he wanted to duel on the banks of the Potomac in Vir--on the Virginia side so that if he died, it was in his beloved Virginia. But on the other hand, he rationalized that he wasn't doing anything illegal because he didn't intend to fire at Clay. He didn't tell Clay this, of course, but that was his intention, as he told Benton, that he would fire into the air or not f--in order to allow Clay to retain his honor.
LAMB: And then there's another duel that you write about, a George McDuffie.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes. George McDuffie is a--a splendid character, and one of those people who was very, very important. He was-his name was on the lips of everyone, every newspaper reader across the country in 1826. But he's gone from our historic memory and part of what I wanted to do was to resuscitate some of these people who were headliners in their own time and were considered great or influential.

McDuffie was born in South Carolina near the Georgia border. He was--he worked in a store growing up that was owned by the brother of John C. Calhoun, another famous Southern statesman, and he became a protege of Calhoun. McDuffie was a member of Congress from 1820, and a man who was described as--with a hooked nose and raven-black hair, deep blue eyes. But people encountering him said, `Well, you know, he's a most ordinary fellow. There's nothing distinguished about him. He's not particularly attractive.'

Yet, when he opened his mouth as an orator, they called it the-the harsh sound of a trumpet and that he had a convulsive sound when he spoke and that everyone had to pay attention. McDuffie, while a member of the House, dueled with a partisan of--of William Crawford, who was one of the presidential candidates from Georgia in 1824, and that man wasn't wounded, but--but McDuffie was, badly, and he was almost crippled for much of his life and he sought satisfaction a second time and a third with this same fellow from Georgia and he was wounded again. So, he kept coming back to Congress with more wounds. However, he was an outstanding speaker and one of the ardent early Jacksonians who was most vocal in opposition to John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay.
LAMB: This book also includes a lot of talk about the Marquis de Lafayette. Came back to this country for what reason in 1824?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Twenty-four. He spent a little over a year in advance of the national jubilee touring all 24 of the United States. He was invited by President James Monroe, who was then in his last year of office, and he was called the nation's guest because he was the guest of Congress, the guest of the Monroe administration, and he was the last surviving general of the war for independence. So, as Americans began to romanticize the upcoming jubilee of independence, nobody represented that historic moment, that nation-building moment, as General Lafayette.
LAMB: What had he done? He was French.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes.
LAMB: What had he done in the Revolutionary War?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, he had outfitted a boat, La Victoire, and sailed to America not long after reading the Declaration of Independence. He was inspired by the American dream, by the idea of helping liberty found itself.
LAMB: At what age?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He was 19 years old. In fact, he became a major general in the Continental Army at the age of 19. He was like a son to George Washington and he was an aide--aide de camp to Washington for a period of time. But he proved to be an able tactician as well. So he sailed on La Victoire to America in the dark days of the Revolutionary War. He fought at the undistinguished battle of Brandywine where he was, in his first engagement, wounded. He was nursed back to health under the roof of George Washington, and that's where they became close. He was a nobleman and, therefore, he was able to go back to France, report on the patriotic cause, and perhaps did more than anyone else, with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin, to enlist the French government in the American cause, which, of course, was the decisive re--reason for America's victory over Great Britain, winning its independence.

So Lafayette was a hero to Americans. He had not been in the United States since 1784, so 40-odd years later he was invited back and everywhere he went, he was--people fainted at his feet. Newspapers carried stories. James Fenimore Cooper, the distinguished novelist whose book "Last of the Mohicans" was published in 1826; it was that year's best seller--he wrote for a newspaper called the New York American, about the lavish display, the--the tent and the thousands of people and the triumphal arc and everything that was put together to welcome Lafayette to America. And everywhere Lafayette went, cannons roared and speeches were made and balls were held and everyone who was anyone came out to shake his hand. It was...
LAMB: How old was he in 1824?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He was 66 years old in 1824.
LAMB: And how many states of the 24 did he go to?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Every--every one of them.
LAMB: How long was he in the country?
Prof. BURSTEIN: About 14, 15 months.
LAMB: Had he been wounded in the Revolutionary War?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes. As I said...
LAMB: I mean...
Prof. BURSTEIN: At the battle of Brandywine he was wounded in the leg, but only that once.
LAMB: And I--I know one of your footnotes says he was imprisoned in France. For how long?
Prof. BURSTEIN: For four or five years. After the Bastille fell and the French Revolution was under way, Lafayette was a leader of the liberal nobility who were then overtaken by the revolutionary terror and he was imprisoned in Austria, actually, until 1797. Washington, as president, was unsuccessful in getting him out of jail. But curiously, during the time that Lafayette was in prison, his son, the aptly named George Washington Lafayette, was a teen-ager who lived at Mt. Vernon with Washington for a little over a year and Washington supported him and paid for his education at Harvard.
LAMB: How many Frenchmen fought in the Revolutionary War, do you know?
Prof. BURSTEIN: I don't really know the numbers.
LAMB: This book, "America's Jubilee: How in 1826, a Generation Remembered 50 Years of Independence" was an idea you got from what?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I--I'll admit that I was curious about what they, at that time, described as the astronomical odds that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could have exited the national stage, could have died on this glorious day, the 50th anniversary of America's independence. It seemed too good to be true. And I treated this as a mystery that needed to be solved. John Adams' last words, as they've come down to us in history, were `Thomas Jefferson survives.' Too good to be true. So I had to go back and find out who said what, when. Who recorded Adams' last words? Who was in the room? Who promoted it in--in the public, in the newspapers, in speeches? And it's a curious story.

And again, I don't want to spoil the ending, but our historic memory has been conditioned by the myths that were created by this generation, the generation of 1826, the--the sons and daughters of the revolutionaries. They needed to hallow the day, and what better way than to take John Adams' words? He did, in fact, say something about Jefferson on his deathbed, but the words were indistinctly uttered. And so what I do is trace how the people of 1826 made sure that they bequeathed to history this, you know, wonderful providential occurrence.
LAMB: Thomas Jefferson died at what hour in what city?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Jefferson died at home at Monticello near 1:00 in the afternoon on July Fourth. He was surrounded by his servants and his family. John Adams died about four and a half hours later around 5:30 in the afternoon at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, surrounded by loving family as well.
LAMB: Now where was John Quincy Adams, the president of the United States, at that time?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, John Quincy Adams had been in the White House until--he was there for the jubilee celebration. He attended the celebration at the Capitol. There was a long parade and he went in a carriage with military honors and thousands of people marching behind. He learned of Jefferson's death a couple days later.
LAMB: How about his father?
Prof. BURSTEIN: And his father's death he had--that--it was anticipated because he received a letter just prior to the jubilee in which one of his relatives said that it looked doubtful that he would survive more than a few days, a couple weeks at most. So John Quincy Adams decided that he would go home and try to make it back to Quincy before his father died. He learned, however--I think he left on July 7th--and he learned--before he even got to Baltimore, the news had already reached the newspapers in Baltimore that John Adams had died on the Fourth of July as well. So John Quincy Adams got home on the 17th of July and the last--most of his journey he was aware that he would--wouldn't be able to see his father again.
LAMB: What kind of shape was the United States in in 1826?
Prof. BURSTEIN: The United States in 1826 was really an enthusiastic moment in its history. The canals were being built. The Erie Canal had become operational in 1825 and on July Fourth, 1825, the father of the Erie Canal, DeWitt Clinton, broke ground on the Ohio Canal. This was thought to be the way that the whole--all of the 24 states were going to be linked. Canal building seems rather pedestrian to us at this point, but at that time, it was as enthusiastically greeted as space exploration is in our own time.

Americans believed in the idea of improvement. They called this-John Quincy Adams coined this as the age of improvement, the era of improvement. So it was before the industrial revolution, but Americans were very much on the move. They heralded the revolutionaries for having given them a sense of unity, of harmony among the states. And if there was a political issue that dominated the scene at this time, it was to what extent should the federal government, representing all the states, make policy for internal improvements--canals, road-building, turnpikes--and to what extent should the states be permitted to retain the full power to conduct internal improvements in their own states.
LAMB: Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems, from reading your book, that the--and I don't know what--the word I want to use--the vitriol, the negativism that was generated by 1824 and the election and the corrupt bargain, as you say, was a lot worse than it is today after this last election.
Prof. BURSTEIN: It--it was a lot worse, yeah.
LAMB: I mean, it just seems nastier. It di--you know, you've got the dueling going on...
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and--and the barbs toward the president and corrupt bargain and didn't think he was a legitimate president. But it just seems s--was it stronger?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah, I think it was stronger. The Jacksonians--although emotionally, it's probably closer to the election of 2000 than any other election in American history. There'd been a lot of talk about the election of 1876 when the winner of the popular vote lost the electoral vote. I don't think there was the same degree of emotionalism as there was in 18--after 1824.

Andrew Jackson, the--who had lost in 1824, happened to be the candidate from Tennessee. Jackson had such charisma, though, and so many followers that when William Crawford's Southern partisans disbanded--because Crawford suffered a stroke and he was no longer capable of campaigning for the presidency--and the Westerners who had supported Clay over Adams were dismayed by the corrupt bargain. They, too, shifted their allegiance to Jackson. So everyone was up in arms about this so-called corrupt bargain, and the vitriol toward Clay and Adams caused the Jacksonians--now Jackson himself tried to remain aloof and allowed all his supporters in Congress to do his bidding for him. And they made long, passionate, often angry speeches about the conduct of the current administration.

The writing was on the wall early that Jackson had been robbed of election; that he would be the victorious candidate in 1828, and all he really had to do was sit pretty out in Tennessee, and his supporters would go to bat for him and were kind of competing with each other to see who could speak the loudest.
LAMB: Well, the parallel--just for a second--John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, the former president...
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...George W. Bush, son of George Herbert Walker Bush, the former president; Andrew Jackson, Tennessee, Al Gore, Tennessee. Can you take it any farther with this? Al Gore's going back to the state of Tennessee and--and waiting for 2004?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I--I'm a historian of early America, and I don't want to project what might happen in the election of 2004. I-I really couldn't say. But the--the connection between son of Adams and son of Bush, I think, is a very tenuous one because George W. Bush and John Q. Adams have nothing at all in common. John Quincy Adams was probably better prepared for the presidency than any president. He had been a professor of rhetoric at Harvard, who had published a book on rhetoric in 1811. He had grown up in diplomatic circles; as a--as a teen-ager, was accompanying the American minister to St. Petersburg, to Russia; later himself, under Madison, became the ambassador or the minister to Russia, was involved with the czar, Alexander I, in attempting to negotiate a--an end to the War of 1812. He was, at the end of the War of 1812, the American minister to Great Britain at a time when the British were dismissive of America, angry at America for--in part, for Jackson's magnificent victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

So John Quincy Adams was in the heat of American political life at home and abroad for many, many years. In fact, while Jefferson had defeated his own father in the election of 1800 for president, John Quincy Adams, as senator for Massachusetts in the--the--the last two years of Jefferson's presidency, in his second term, embraced Jefferson's diplomatic initiative, embraced Jefferson's foreign policy. And as a result, the Federalists kicked him out of office, and he was out of a job, like his father had been eight years earlier. So these irascible, cantankerous Adamses are--you know, like to be in the heat of things. They're--they're diplomats who aren't very diplomatic.
LAMB: When the next election came about in--What?--1830...
Prof. BURSTEIN: '28.
LAMB: Yeah, '28--I'm--I'm thinking of 1826--in 1828, what was-how badly did Andrew Jackson beat John Quincy Adams?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He beat him soundly. I--I'm not sure precisely how many electoral votes he received, but he beat him soundly. Adams only won portions of New England, his home area. Jackson won most of thecountry.
LAMB: When you researched this, where did you go?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I did a lot of work at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is a remarkable archive. I go back there almost every summer. I also spent time at the Library of Congress, and interlibrary loan is always valuable. You can sometimes find 19th century texts available that way, so I didn't always have to travel. But the American Antiquarian Society, the Wisconsin State Historical Society, which is another wonderful archive, Tennessee State Historical Society, Maryland Historical Society with the papers of William Wirt, who was another one of these curious individuals, who's no longer talked about, but was one of the great orators and statesmen of this period.
LAMB: W--how often did you find, in some of the characters you've written about, that they hadn't been written much very about in history, and who would that be?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, that's what I wanted to bring to this book especially--was to talk about the people who were important in 1826, who are no longer important to us, but who have, in fact, had a great impact on shaping our historic memory of the Revolutionary era. And I chose William Wirt, for example, because he was attorney general of the United States during the administrations of James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. So for 12 consecutive years he was attorney general. He argued some of the most important cases before the Supreme Court before and after his tenure as attorney general, yet he was, perhaps more importantly for my book, the author of a biography--a well-read biography of Patrick Henry, the orator who, some said, brought the Revolution into being, who cried `Give me liberty or give me death.' And it was William Wirt, as a biographer, as a--a literary man, who gave us the Patrick Henry that has come down to--I know when I was in grade school, we--we learned the story of Patrick Henry. In fact, Henry's orations were never recorded, and the truth kept running away from Wirt as he wrote. And he wrote letters to his friends deploring what he was doing. He knew that he had happened upon what I guess we could describe as a romantic truth, but what come down to us as facts, in fact, were not facts. He romanticized the Revolution, romanticized Henry, but he shaped future Americans' impressions of the Revolutionary generation.
LAMB: Wh--what's romanticized about Patrick Henry?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I--Jefferson, who was not a fan of Henry, once said that `he spoke as Homer wrote.' So Henry was considered an orator of the finest quality, but vintage American in that his roots were obscure; he was one of these rags-to-riches types: an ill-educated, frontier, failed storekeeper who kept his law offices in a tavern in Hanover County, Virginia, but who somehow had a mesmerizing power that caused all the great minds, the geniuses, of the Revolutionary generation to pay attention to him; that he was the uniter, he was the harmonizer. He was the man whose great speech-making brought the revolutionaries together, and Wirt presents it in such a way as to suggest that, without Henry, the Revolution may never have happened; that everyone else was too polite. It needed a rough-hewn frontiersman like--like this.
LAMB: When did he write the book on Wil--on Patrick Henry?
Prof. BURSTEIN: It was published in 1817, which is the same year that Wirt became attorney general of the United States, and it went through dozens of editions by 1826. And the--the edition that I own is a--an 1833 edition, so it was published throughout the 19th century, read by many people.
LAMB: You pointed out that William Wirt ran for president?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes.
LAMB: Attorney general of the United States. Also, prosecuted A--Aaron Burr for what?
Prof. BURSTEIN: For treason. He was hand-picked by Thomas Jefferson, who was president, who was bitter at Burr, his former vice president, for conceiving what Jefferson believed to be a plot to detach the Western territories from the United States, perhaps to invade Mexico. This was considered treasonous. And young William Wirt, the young Virginia attorney, became a superstar overnight. Again, his courtroom oratory--this was a--a courtroom presided over by then-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, and Wirt's orations were memorized by schoolchildren in later years, they were supposed that good.
LAMB: Did--did Patrick Henry ever say, `Give me liberty or give me death'?
Prof. BURSTEIN: We believe so.
LAMB: Do you believe so? And did--did it...
Prof. BURSTEIN: I--he probably did because there are people who were present who heard it that did not dispute Wirt's rendering of it.
LAMB: Well, was it William Wirt that wrote it for the first time?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Who popularized it. I can't say for sure that he was the first--he may have been the first to write it, but he certainly was the--the man who popularized it.
LAMB: And he never knew it?
Prof. BURSTEIN: No. Patrick Henry died in 1799, and Wirt probably would have been in a position to meet him not long after, but...
LAMB: When did he run for president, by the way?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He ran for president in 1832.
LAMB: What happened?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He ran against Andrew Jackson. He ran as a member of the Anti-Masonic Party. The Freemasons, at this time, were considered to be a secretive organization that was inimical to the idea of freedom and democracy. So this Anti-Masonic Party, which was supported by ex-President John Quincy Adams, nominated William Wirt as their candidate for president. He won the electoral votes at the state of Vermont.
LAMB: Only?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Only.
LAMB: This line--back to what we were talking about in the beginning of our discussion--`Five years later, just after Patrick Henry was published, Attorney General Wirt felt insulted by rival lawyer William Pinckney and challenged him to a duel.'
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes.
LAMB: Did it happen?
Prof. BURSTEIN: No, it did not because Pinckney, who was Wirt's predecessor as attorney general--and they tangled in Maryland courtrooms often--Pinckney apologized at the scene, which was part of the code of the duel. If you apologized at the scene, which was in the courtroom, said that you had not intended to dishonor the individual, then all was well. So they didn't have to actually go to the dueling ground.
LAMB: Did--in all your research, have you ever seen a book written about all the dueling?
Prof. BURSTEIN: There--there are some historians who are interested in the duel, and I think--I know Joanne Freeman at Yale, who has written on the Burr-Hamilton duel and the culture of dueling in the 1790s and she's coming out with a book soon.
LAMB: Was it a violent society back in 1826?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes, it was a--a violent society. I think when Americans think of the Wild West, they think of the period after the Civil War because we have Hollywood to give us our history. In fact, the Wild West was pretty tame compared to the way America was, particularly on the frontier, in--in the early 19th century.
LAMB: Where do you make your home?
Prof. BURSTEIN: I live now in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I teach at the University of Tulsa. I grew up in New York.
LAMB: What do you teach at the University of Tulsa?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I'm co-holder of an endowed chair in 19th century American history. I co-hold the chair with my partner, Nancy Isenberg, who is a--a feminist intellectual historian, and she's written a book called "Sex and Citizenship in AnteBellum America," which recasts the origins of the women's rights movement. And we each teach one semester a year, so I teach courses that deal with the early American republic, the Revolution.
LAMB: And you say you went to the University of Virginia for your what?
Prof. BURSTEIN: I received my PhD from the University of Virginia. Prior to that, my bachelor's degree is from Columbia University, and I received an MA in Chinese history and politics from the Univers--University of Michigan.
LAMB: Where are you from in New York?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I mostly grew up in Westchester County, not too far from where the Clintons make their residence.
LAMB: Can--can you remember the first time you got interested in history?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes, I--my earliest interest in history was in Chinese history. It was during the Chinese cultural revolution, when America and China did not have diplomatic relations, and I was curious about this--this place, this culture that we weren't taught about in school. So I started reading on my own, and I was fortunate to have a high school history teacher who taught a course on Chinese history. And I became enamored with it and went on to major in Chinese history and politics in college.
LAMB: How did you get to the University of Tulsa?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, it was a long road. I spent a lot of years in international business dealing with China.
LAMB: Doing--where?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Mostly in the 1980s. I--I started a consulting firm in the early '80s to bring American entrepreneurs to China and help, in essence, create business marriages. I took them to out-of-the-way places and introduced them to factories that had never done business in America. I became disenchanted with China and business, finally, about the time of the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, and early American history was what resuscitated me, I guess, thinking about a time in history when hope was alive, contrasted very much with the--the-the sorrow and, really, institutional cruelty that I saw happening in China.
LAMB: What disillusioned you about China?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, I guess, the more I got to know China from the inside, the more I saw that this was a culture that was being denied its life by an arrogant oligarchy; that these are probably the--inherently, the--the brightest and most creative people on Earth, and their government prevents them from achieving what they ought to be achieving.
LAMB: What did you learn about business in that whole endeavor?
Prof. BURSTEIN: And--I learned that I should be an academic.
LAMB: Why?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Oh--I mean, I did--I did well enough to pay for my graduate school education, but I guess I had a love of reading, a love of the archive. And to be interested in the bottom line, I think, is a different kind of personality than to be interested in doing archival research. So it took me a while, it took me about 15 years, to figure out that I wasn't designed to be a businessman.
LAMB: How long have you written books for Knopf?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, this is my first book with Knopf. My first book was "The Inner Jefferson." It was published by the University Press of Virginia in 1995, and that's a study of Thomas Jefferson as a--self-fashioning himself as a letter-writer and creating a publicpersona on the basis of what he read and how he responded to it. So Ilook at Jefferson as a man of sentiment.

My second book is with Hill & Wang, and that's called "Sentimental Democracy," which enlarged on the Jefferson Project and looked at Americans as a people of feeling, a people who are responsive to this vocabulary I--of--a romanticizing vocabulary. They--what it is that causes Americans to believe that we are the most generous, spirited, warmhearted, benevolent, sympathetic people on this Earth. It's something that is derived from the vocabulary of the late 18th century, of the Revolutionary era. So it's really a--a study of the American language.
LAMB: You dedicate the book to Nancy. Who's that?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Nancy is Nancy Isenberg, who is my-both professionally and personally my partner. We teach together at the University of Tulsa, and, as I said, her book is "Sex and Citizenship in AnteBellum America" that discusses the origins of the women's rights movement.
LAMB: At the end of the book, you have an epilogue in which you kind of wrap it up, where everybody ended up. And one of the things I noticed, you say that Henry Clay, at 70, turned to religion. And then on the next page, you say that William Wirt became religious. How much of that did you find?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah, this--that was not unusual. Some of these men reared in the Revolutionary period--they were children during the Revolution at a time--the Enlightenment, when the fervency of religion, was--had diminished somewhat. Certainly the--the Founding Fathers of Jefferson, Adams and Franklin are examples of--th-these were men who--who didn't broadcast their religiosity. And so people like Clay and Wirt grew up under their aegis. But late in life, and as part of the romantic resuscitation of ecstatic religion, they-they found solace in the return to a life of faith.

Also, a lot of it had to do with the deaths of their children. One of the people who appears in the book several times is Agnes Wirt. In 1826, she's 10 years old, and William Wirt--I--I portrayed him not just as a biographer of Patrick Henry, but as a doting father, but an absent father. And his favorite child was Agnes, and little Aggie died when she was 16 years old. And the letters that Wirt wrote, that her father wrote after this to his closest friends, suggested his return to religion because it was the only way that he could deal with the loss of this favorite child.
LAMB: A couple little things. You write about the rumors that William Henry Harrison seduced the daughter of a Cincinnati doctor. Is that well-known?
Prof. BURSTEIN: No, it's not well-known. This was in the context of Ethan Allen Brown, who was born on July Fourth, 1776, and the father of the Ohio canal system, former governor of Ohio. Ethan Allen Brown was a member of the US Senate at one point in the late 18-teens, I believe it was, and William Henry Harrison was contesting him for his seat. A friend of Ethan Allen Brown's suggested that he bring out the known fact that William Henry Harrison had slept with the daughter of a Cincinnati doctor, with the consent of the doctor and William Henry Harrison had been married since 1795. It--it could have been scandalous, but Ethan Allen Brown decided not to do anything about it, not to make it public; if it were up to him to do so, not to make it a campaign issue.
LAMB: Where'd you find that little tidbit?
Prof. BURSTEIN: In the Ohio Historical Society in a letter that was written to Ethan Allen Brown.
LAMB: Another thing. I've never heard anybody sing "Hail to the Chief," and you say in your book that they used to sing it.
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yes. It was when toasts were given at national events or celebrations, such as the Fourth of July. Sometimes "Yankee Doodle Dandy," sometimes "Hail to the Chief" was sung after the toast was made to w--the president or whatever political luminary was being toasted.
LAMB: When you talk about the--1826 and the 50th anniversary, when you went back to look at the newspapers then...
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah.
LAMB: And I sh--were there enough newspapers to find?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Oh, yeah, there were loads of them.
LAMB: How much was written about the tour of Lafayette? How much was written about the election? Was it a big story back then?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Sure.
LAMB: Jefferson and Adams dying on the same day. How much of that did you find?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Yeah. Each one of those news stories that you mentioned were big stories. Lafayette occupied the front pages of the newspapers throughout his tour.
LAMB: Everywhere he went?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Everywhere he went. It was reported everywhere in the United States and--including who toasted whom and what was said. The--the canals then replaced Lafayette as a major, if not the chief, issue in turn--on improvements that was being discussed in the newspapers. The election of 1824, there were strong editorials in regional presses; different candidates put forward. And their friends would write supportive articles hailing them. So, yeah, it was-it was comparable. It--the newspapers, at that time, tended to be short; they were usually about four pages long, and maybe a third of them were filled with advertisements.
LAMB: Of all these characters that you write about in your book, who would you like to meet the most?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Oh, that's a good question, Brian. Perhaps William Wirt. I think he was a true romantic, and he wrote a lot of newspaper essays as well as the--the speeches that he--he gave, such as his joint eulogy in--in the US Capitol in the fall of 1826, eulogizing Adams and Jefferson. He was a man who had a lot on his mind and dreamed of being a novelist. He wanted to give up the courtroom, give up his legal career and become a professional writer.
LAMB: Was there telegraph? Was--were there trains? Were there, you know, any of the conveniences that we have today?
Prof. BURSTEIN: No. There was the letter. People wrote letters, and that was how all emotional information was conveyed and all information was conveyed. The telegraph was still a couple decades away. And they marveled at steamboats. This was the new means of getting people from one place to another closer--faster and--just as canals were another means of getting people to places that they would otherwise have to hobble over tree-stumped, pock-marked roads.
LAMB: How does this celebration, the 50th anniversary of the-since the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, compare to the 100th anniversary or the 150th, the 200th in the way of celebration, from what you know?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, the--the fireworks, the bonfires and the illuminations, to--to use John Adams' pre--prediction for how the Fourth of July would be ce--celebrated. They were comparable. Everywhere you went, there were 0ireworks and parades and speeches. I think what makes this moment so special is that it was the consecration, really the immortalization of 1776. These were the people in 1826 who made the Revolution immortal. They were the ones who put the age behind them, finally, by declaring it a masterful age. They were the ones whose invented the romantic revolution.
LAMB: Who took to using opium?
Prof. BURSTEIN: Well, John Randolph did.
LAMB: Well, I was looking right at the--the sentence, and the--and on the page before, it said, `The obsolete politician John Randolph sailed to England.' What was his--what was the end of John Randolph's life like?
Prof. BURSTEIN: He was--he was sickly. He came to support Andrew Jackson in the election of 1828.
LAMB: Surprised?
Prof. BURSTEIN: No. He was--he hated the Adamses more than anyone else. W--in one of his long-winded orations in Congress, he talked about standing on--on the streets of New York when the coach bearing--the `vice regal coach,' he called it, bearing then-Vice President John Adams in 1790 spurned him; that the--the driver of the carriage whipped him or whipped his brother. So he hated the Adamses, father and son. He called the son worse than the father. He supported Jackson quite vocally. He did everything quite vocally. And he was appointed minister to Russia by Andrew Jackson. And he sailed to Russia, got there, complained about the flies and the bugs, swatted them away and then returned home after not long a stay. He died at the age of 60 in 1833 in Philadelphia.

He had gone to Washington, DC, to see Henry Clay one more time, his old adversary, to sort of patch things up. Randolph was a romantic. He was relentlessly romantic, and some suggested that he could have been America's Lord Byron; that he could have written Lord Byron's haunting poetry. He was haunted, but also one of those forgotten Americans who is certainly worth reviving to understand the emotional life of early Americans.
LAMB: And at the beginning of this book, "America's Jubilee," Andrew Burstein uses a little bit of poetry from Lord Byron. This is what the book looks like. And we thank you very much for joining us.
Prof. BURSTEIN: It was a pleasure to be with you, Brian.

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