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tv   H.W. Brands Our First Civil War  CSPAN  January 2, 2022 6:55pm-8:01pm EST

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thank you all for coming. i appreciated the questions and it's a pleasure to talk about the book. [applause] and now on booktv, more television for serious readers. >> welcome to the miami international book fair. it is my pleasure today to introduce to you history professor at the university of texas austin. he's written numerous books on american history that have been received to great acclaim and i can tell you they are very readable and not at all the kind of things that give history books a bad name. the first civil war patriotic's
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in the american revolution and i'm looking forward to discussing this book with him. thank you so much. the book is a great read and i enjoyed it very much. i thought i knew a lot about american history, but i've learned so much. let's start with aic basic question of why did you write this book and what did you hope the readers would get out of it? you probably don't know by which the process they gained independence fromta great brita. >> thanks for the introduction. i wanted to convey a sense of
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how complicated history is in general. it is a very strong misconception [inaudible] and that is correct enough but it's more complicated than that. who didn't want independence from britain at all.
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it might not be an improvement and this is the part when for the first time george washington, maybe benjamin franklin and the redcoats are on the other side. it's between those americans who wanted independence and those who did not and who called themselves patriots and loyalists and there was a struggle between the two differentt parties.
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it wasn't between [inaudible] and just remind readers that it's complicated even if you don't know all of the details of the complication, it is indeed a complicated. getting the message across i do
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-- i do it in ways that i find myself gravitating to particular characters through the lives and experiences of several characters. i try to make these individuals come alive and try to convey to the reader my understanding of what prompted them.
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the standing was obvious. that's the part george washington was one of the least revolutionaries youu would find. they are dissatisfied with the status quo. it should be a little bit of a puzzle as to why he became a revolutionary.
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it wasn't obvious at all and that is the part of the story that i try to tell. it would be better for benjamin franklin he would become within the british empire and george washington wasn't a very excitable character so he didn't get excited about the bush empire. he was an enthusiast of the british empire and it was within the british empire and the opportunities provided that became the most famous american of his time. if there had ever been a
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revolutionary war they wouldn't have heard of george washington but if there is no independence, people have heard of benjamin franklin [inaudible] but he turned against the empire and to think of the very end as one persons gain. franklin's case [inaudible] but
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he was the more conservative one who stuck with thehe status quoo this is what i try to tell. >> the conventional revolution usually begins in schools and such and beginning with the signing of the declaration of independence or more accurate it's back to the french and indian war butcc even a decade before that.
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there was a conflict where you also point out he was still hoping for a reconciliation and then an arrangement could be achieved whereby the united states or what would become the united states where the colonies would become partners with the british motherland in the world empire so i found that really interesting and was wondering if you could elaborate on that because i think that's also a very fresh approach. >> i do start the story from
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looks like then concorde. what causes a person to turn their back on the country so how are they created i think they become rebels over a period of time. they are going to become patriots and for the most part, they are proud of this because they look at the rights they have and they have the right to bewe taxed without their consent
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so they looked at people that were in other empires. all people i write about are born english and somehow become americans and this is kind of the puzzle. it might be just sort of a generational thing and if they think of themselves differently but he is a proud subject of the
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empire. when i see all of a sudden, you do come around suddenly he basically claimed a new identity whereas for some reasons i get into they don't embrace this new identity and they still think of themselves as british subjects. so the question of who are you. there's this new country permeated with political elitism andd political identity but also all sorts of conflict and who are you, who do you think you
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are. it's much more rapid than in britain this was the future of the empire.
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if the british could see that it was in the identity and he had to spend 20 years in london. by the age of 17 he established himself but in his 50s he was sent franklin was one of those that studied.
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of the equality. basically he was aware of the capabilities.
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for the most recent of which had a two-party causing millions of dollars in currency. [inaudible] he suffered in silence -- and in that two-hour
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ntsession he went into that session and walked out an american. one ofni the ironies is what franklin was striving for he tried to re-create in the 20th century what came to be known as thisis special relationship of e anglo-americans. churchill often talked of the anglo americans and had a position in this because his mother was american and his father was british but what they finally came around two in the 20th century including arguably to today was recognition that a partnership between america and britain and of course it 12 world wars and so churchill wasn't wrong then and maybe
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franklin wasn't wrong 200 years earlier. >> what was interesting also in the books is while members of parliament were not sympathetic to the american colonists there was considerable support among ordinary britons for the position they were asking for and i thought that was an interesting thing that i had never understood before. i am sure that many people listening now have not heard of thatng support among the nongovernmental elite for the idea of the colonists having the rights they were asking for. >> just as the americans were not unified in the opposition to
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britain, they were not unified in the refusal to grant americans the rights that is the patriotss they were claiming. this underscores the fact that first of all all the wars are political events and they are driven by political motives and at the end when the politics say they are going to end. then the military force is very important but the warar is stila political act and what the americans understood was the patriots understood they didn't have to destroy the british army. all they really had to do was convince the british electorate that the war in america was no longer working end of the and the americanrevolution was t necessarily the first but an
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early example of a revolution of a kind that would become common and in deed the united states would get on the wrong side and so george washington and the american leaders understood is something thatg the leaders understood as well you don't have to defeat the ford and occupiers all you have to do is wear them down to the point where the decision-makers back in that other country yet of the american revolution of the united states and the war in vietnam when they say we've had enough we don't think it's worth continuing the war, that's when you win this so in the case of george washington, george washington didn't have to win the war all he had to do is avoid losing the war because sooner or later they were to say this isn't worth it anymore and in this regard the position of the two sides where they were
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not symmetrical because the americans were fighting for their existence and if this didn't work that would be the end of it but by no means the end of thehe british empire andf course there was british home territory so it was easier for the british to say enough is enough for than i would have been for the americans because ethey would have had to give up this thing that they h created d that there was the small fact they werema identified by the government and there would have been sanctions and penalties to pay. >> can you also talk about the rivalry between britain and france not only how the american revolutionary war was fought, but the french and indian war before it and how critical
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french support was to the ultimate victory of the colonists. >> since you bring up the french and indian war it is worth a reminder to the viewers and listeners the french and indian war wasn't against the french and indians. it was the americans at this point we will call them americans and british and their indian allies against the french and at the french and indian allies into the reason i mentioned this is it wasn't simply americans and british fighting for control it was the british and french and native americans, and the indian tribes had to decide which side do we choose. side or do we choose the french side and some of this had a to do with how they had been treated and the relationships with the british
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on the one hand and french onsh the other hand but it had a lot to do with who do you think is going to win the war, or which of those forces is going to win because you wouldn't want to choose the slide that loses because then you would catch punishment for the side that had one. so this sets the scene for all of this and from the perspective of the american revolutionary war it's simply the sequel to the french and indian war that preceded it during the previous century. so from a european perspective, what was going on is the empire of britain fighting the empire of france and then an empire of spain involved in this as well and they had a position within europe and north america.
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when they decided independence they knew they would have to fight for it. they were not going to simply walk away soal in this fight, it would be a great help to have an ally that had money and resources that could provide military support and the fledgling united states, the the united states had no navy and so one of the first things the congress stated upon declaring independence was to prepare to send benjamin franklin off to france to try to negotiate a treaty of alliance between the united states and france and it was a difficult undertaking because while the french wanted revenge against britain for france's defeat in the previous fighting at the end
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of the french and indian war, france had been ejected so britain claimed all of canada, spain wound up with louisiana and the french were looking to get back and the americans knew this so they were thinking france is going to be inclined to support us but it wasn't automatic. it had to be negotiated and the french had to be persuaded because from the standpoint of france, taking on britain, weakening the empire is a plus. we like and will support them but the other side was these are revolutionaries and they began by overthrowing and king louis started thinking we don't want the french people getting ideas like this, so it was a difficult negotiation.
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he had a lot of persuading to do and it required a major battlefield victory because the french wanted to know the americans were serious and had a chance to win. to join the site of the americans and then have the americans lose and then they would be left taking on britain alone it just so happened they were building up the army and navy and they were not ready to take on britain again but the timing okay this seems opportune but the last thing they wanted to have happen was france to side with the americans that would promote britain to declare war before france was ready to do it so franklin had to persuade and french officials that the americans were in this for the long term until they won independence in fact franklin
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and others tried to convince the spanish of the same thing. they wouldn't form a direct alliance. they had an alliance with france and indirectly supported the united states but the spanish were more skeptical and then this also brought up something the french had to consider and that is okay and maybe we will help the americans now but are we creating a monster for the spanish this was a big deal because they were happy to see britain but they didn't want this powerful united states because spain had lots of territory and if the united states got to strong then spain would have to defend the territory against thee united states so as i say the basic lesson things are complicated and if you weres the leader of
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spain or france you would have to figure out how is this all going. >> you mentioned canada in a very interesting situation, and i think that the american revolution and the french and indian war before it otherwise you pointed out it wasn't the french against the indians you had native americans on both sides, but i had occasion to visitwa an exhibit in washingto, d.c. that gave the war of 1812 from a canadian perspective that's a little ahead of the game in this book but certainly the factors that the canadians had a very different perspective and canada occupied a grant many
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of theis colonists would have liked to make part of the newly independent colonies and from the book it makes it quite clear that americans even had a hard time understanding the patriots and why canadians would want to remain part of the british empire rather than join them in independence. we might have some canadian listeners and also this subject is quite interesting a so i wonr if you could elaborate. >> basically the 13 colonies to declare independence wanted to get canada to join as well and this way all of british north america would be fighting and as you say quite reasonably it would seem to the patriots if the canadians share the british rights and everything else, but
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the canadians didn't see it that way in l the first place a lot f them were french to begin with because canada had french until verych recently and so it's nots though they were sensitive on the subject of the rights of englishmen because if you are french you don't think about the rights. there was. a second thing and that was the grievances that the americans claim against britain were not shared by the canadians and for many of them in fact it was a better deal than being part of france had been so they weren't particularly upset. another way of framing the question, i talk about the patriots versus the loyalists in the 13 colonies. in fact that was going on in canada, except in canada the loyalists outnumber. there were some canadians that said we want to join this new
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united states and fight for freedom, but they were dramatically outnumbered. they said we got what we want, let's keep it. it's notot out of the question thatt something similar could have happened in one or more of the british colonies data so it wasn't out of the question that north carolina could have said we don't want to join this independence movement and then it wouldn't have been all 13. another way of thinking about it is actually it wasn't all 14. one of them stated british, except there was a difference and that is that because canada didn't become part of the british and prior until ten or 12 years before the outbreak of the conflict of the american revolution. the other american colonies didn't think of canada as one of their own and so they were not part of the continental congress
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or aio part of the committees of correspondence against the stand back and that sort of thing. they were always a different group and during the revolution they sent forces to invade and join the rebellion. if it takes an army of invasion to persuade you it's true george washington and other people tried to talk the canadians into it but when they didn't agree they sent an army and that made it even harder but this raises other questions because canada today of course isn't part of the empire, it is an independent country so if the revolution had never taken place one could imagine a scenario where the loyalists actually in the 13 colonies continue to outnumber the patriots and so maybe there
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were complaints but they didn't rise to the level of starting a war. so how would american history have evolved? presumably, it would have become independentre at some point just as canada became independent, u and then all sorts of things associated with that for example the british empire and its slavery before the united states so if the united states had been part of the british empire, would american slavery have ended before in the 1830s and maybe on the other hand maybe the existence in what i'm calling the united states and the british empire would have made it harder so it's kind of a counterfactual question, but in thee end the futures of the united states and canada diverge
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in the 1770s when they declare canada remains loyal but they come backk together when canada, by the 1860s, is in effect independence and canada today is fully independent and much more like the united states than it is britain so just as there was a separation between the united states and britain and of the americans and british came back together, the canadians have done the same thing which raised the question could all of this have happened without this violence, without the war. could you see past it at all and have the same vision benjamin franklin had? look at where this is going and maybe we can arrive at this but of course that's not what happened. >> you mentioned slavery, and i found the different aspects that are raised in the book and.
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if they fought on the loyalists side or the patriots side, they would receive their freedom and then a point of fact it got a lot more complicated than that and many of the promises that were made were in fact not honored,ou so i thought that waa really interesting aspect of the book and because one reads quite often about how this promise of freedom was granted to slaves particularly in the north, but the point of fact as you say, many of the slaves were actually returned to their owners who
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fought on the british side even though y they had been promised their freedom but they had only been promised to their freedom if the british won the war in areas where the british dominated so if you could just say a few words about the issue and complexity and there's tremendous ambivalence about giving slaves their freedom on both sides of the civil war. >> when the war began it was within the empire and slavery was practiced in all 13 of the colonies that rebelled against britain and other british colonies as well. when the fighting began then it occurred to the government that the promise of freedom might weaken the patriots side because it was observed that slaves were
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a workforce for the patriots so if the british government could promise i freedom to slaves of patriot masters then perhaps they could entice those to leave the masters and cross over. initially it was a matter of weakening the patriots and this was an enticement from the patriots side and then before long the british also decided to put people who left the side, over where the military aid capacity into the british army so they would be used to augment the british forces. now, for the enslaved peoples, this was an opportunity and a potential carol because it was a big deal to decide i'm going to
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escape my master and it's worth noting when you left the plantation you lived on you often had to turn your back on your family and the world that you knew and basically take a leap of faith in the first place that the british side would win and the second place, they would keep their promise to you. there were of the fortunes and the hazards of the war you had to deal with and that was even if you were trying to escape to the british society and you were captured then what would happen because they would return to their masters or in some cases they were sold to even less so with her a person took up the british offer dependent on the whole bunch of different
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factors, first of all they had to even know that the offer had been made and so for fairly obvious reasons, they didn't publicize so second there was the question of how far do i have to gos to reach the britih audience and what happened is slaves on plantations took up the british offer because it was too hazardous and risky to get from where they were to the british lines but when it approached then it looked okay, more reasonable. and there was also how did the particular person look at his or her situation. as i say do they have to leave the family, the ones that are the most likely were the males of military age so they had all
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sorts of calculations and some of them did take up the offering and he watched as the british army was getting closer and closer when they finally came close, and this is critical, it might require a broadening of the prospective in the case of boston king he felt that he felt his parents, his father in particular was a skilled labor and on the whole he thought life was relatively okay given the alternatives to him but there were a couple of incidences of
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mistreatment and where he thought the situation was going to get worse. he made at the break and went over to the british lines and he sort of went along with the british army and he suffered the various hazards of war. he became badly ill, he was left behind, caught in the middle of battles and was recaptured by the patriots side but got away again and finally wound up in loyalist new o york city and ths is an important reminder that even during the best times of the patriot cause, new york city was a stronghold of loyalists partly because people that lived in new york city had close commercial ties with england, and theyey were not eager to brk those but also it was relatively easy for the british maybe add
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marines from british ships to occupy and hold new york city as a strategic spot so boston came down and was there when the war ended and he heard through the grapevine that there were british army, more precisely the british negotiators were going to abandon the promise that they had made so he thought this is a terrible thing andua i'm going o be worse off than ever before but in fact that didn't happen to him it happened to some of the slaves that took up the british offer for freedom and he was evacuated with tens of thousands of other loyalists and so he was a black american loyalist and with the other american loyalist, as many as
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100,000 that fled the country, fled to the united states that "war and its largely overlooked in the standard of treatments because it's kind of like the good guys win at the end of the war and all is well. no, all was not well and i was thinking about this when we watched the end of the war in afghanistan. people that had assisted american forces were doing their best to get out of afghanistan because they knew that they would be subject to reprisal and bad feeling on the afghans fighting against the rules. that's exactly the situation including the former slave that we are in so they needed to get him out of there and to the credit of the british, they evacuated i'm not going to say as many as they could, but many
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including many of the former slaves that had taken up their offer and he went off to canada eventually found his way to sierra leone so that's kind of a straightforward story because a slave like boston king can make a move out of his own self-interest for freedom. i look at the situation of another american slave who was the slave of a patriot master and he didn't opt to fight on behalf of the patriots. he's fighting on the side and is going to deny and that decide
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one this question is a huge deal but it's utterly forgotten in american history. misrepresented in popular culture we have the visions of the w continental army troops. your book makes it quite evident that much of the war was fought by state militias which had a hard time feeding and funding the militias fighting on the
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patriots the emphasis that you put on the fact that the war is expensive the very vivid descriptions that you provide. they take away the cattle and food to feed the soldiers and to another affiliated on the opposite side they take away the cattle and the grain and yet the troops were often starving. i wonder if you could elaborate on these descriptions you give about the difficulty of feeding
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and clothing and housing troops for the number of years the revolutionary war went on and how expensive it was. >> the logistical problems of blsupporting the continental ary were enormous especially for those times because this was an overwhelmingly agrarian society that was america in those days and it didn't have railroads. the relatively few places where people gathered in large numbers were modest in size but they had been there for a long time and so the network of supply had developed to feed philadelphia it's not a coincidence so you can bring in shiploads of stock. when anna army goes to war, all of a sudden you've got a 10,000
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people, 15,000 people and it's worth's bearing in mind that the numbers of soldiers engaged in the campaigns and revolutionary or small by comparison with wars that we think of in world war i or world war ii or iraq and afghanistan so his army was typically between ten to 15,000 men but still that is ten to 15,000 that have to be fed and they are in a location that's not necessarily on an importantt crossroads and it's not set up to bring all the things they need to so when you point out what they often have to do is simply go scrounge on the countryside. because they were farmers and in
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fact one of the things washington had to weigh and so did general howell is how do you feed your forces without utterly alienating the people that you're taking the food from. the british had an advantage because they controlled the water and they could to bring in food stuff from the west indies the way that the continental army could not. they had to live off the land and so washington for example in the winter at valley forge this is when the uniform such as they were they are getting frostbitten feet and they are low on food, he has to weigh out
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i've got to keep the soldiers from starving but on the other hand, i can't starve the farmers and the surrounding area by depriving them of what they need to live, so it's a difficult balancing act. in the same vein, washington became extremely frustrated in the continental congress because the congress was supposed to be providing the wherewithal to fight this war but the congress was operating well it wasn't operating under anything before 1781 but eventually under the confederation it had no coercive authority. it couldn't compel virginia and pennsylvania and new york to pay up to deliver so many cattle or so much of this or that but very often the states refused to
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honor the request and so a great amount of george washington's time was spent writing letters pleading with congress and governors of the states you've got to send us food and uniforms and a supply or the army will fall apart and just as i said earlier, where the british ultimately had the option of saying enough is enough, we are going home, so did washington's soldiers. if they found that they were starving or what was often worse they would get letters from home saying wives and children were starving so they said they would simply take absence without leave. washington says how do i hold the army together against this and there were times when
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washington found himself having to shoot soldiers for desertion but it's not as if they were to go join the british, it was to try to feed their family. so many people on both sides, the loyalists and patriots side lost so much in terms of their homes and their farms and resources. the winners took all and had a very little sympathy for example for loyalists who had lost everything so i wonder if you can talkk a little bit about the post war relations between the patriotshe and loyalists.
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whether it took new forms in american society that would leave a legacy behind and maybe we are still dealing with today. >> i'm going to look at two examples of what happened with the loyalists. joseph brant was a leader of the mohawk tribe of indians, of the confederacy, and he was a talented young man people had a scene from the time he was young. he became a leader of the mohawks just about the time the troubles between the american colonies and the government were developing, and it looked as though the mohawks and the larger group of iroquois have to make their choice to decide with the americans or the british and just as this decision split the ranks of the anglo-americans, it
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split the ranks of the indian tribes and the confederacy this is partly because he had close family and friendship ties to british officials who had actually forged good relationships with the venetian but also because he believed if the americans gained their independence, they had turned their vengeance upon the indians. brand recognized the best thing for the iroquois would be for the americans to maintain part of the british empire because the british had been protecting against american settlers and one of the revolutionary war had a proclamation by the government in 1763 saying that you no
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longer can legally settle across the appalachian mountains because you are constantly getting into squabbles and fights with indians. they said that is a good thing for us. he wanted to keep that so he and theth the british british wound up losing. brand and his people were driven into exile and they took refuge inef canada where the british government set aside land for them. the lurkers of the patriots didn't hold against him or at least not for too long because he turned out to be an astute
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diplomat as well as a military leader and he recognized the american side won the war, we have to make our peace that is washington recognized okay we are going to have to deal with the confederacy which is the equivalent and brand became a favorite of george washington in fact when he visited washington he was treated with great respect and everybody wanted to go to dinner with him so cold that a happy ending to the story where a loyalist forges a good relationship with the winning side off the patriots side a sad story is william franklin split with his father over this question who are you going to be loyal to me and benjamin franklin says my loyalty is to
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my new country. william franklin says no, my loyalty is to my existing country. he held onto that position as long as he could, but when things changed he was driven by force by his office. he was arrested and he was held in custody for many months. he became ill individually he was exchanged and was allowed to go to new york city which as i said earlier was a hotbed of loyalist him and from there he organized a loyalist militia that engaged in a guerrilla warfare against the patriot forces across the hudson river. he criticized for not fighting hard enough and for giving up too soon. we think of the last battle of the revolutionary war as the
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battle of yorktown 1781, and it was. cornwallis had to surrender his army.. the british could have kept fighting, but they decided along the lines we spoke of earlier that it's just not worth it. the government and a briton fell, a new government came in and is it okay, we are going to change this and end the war and william franklin was very indeed he was very dismayed with the british. i risked my life for you and now -- his feeling was like sure akin to the feeling of many of the afghans who were shocked when the americans said we are pulling outll so william frankln went to england and nobody really wanted to talk to him, this is sort of a little bit like the reception given to some american vietnam vets after the war where we lost the war and nobody wants to talk to you.
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this is the same thing he receivedil a modest pension from the british government, but he still hoped for one thing above all. he knew he couldn't be could bed with americans generally. he could be reconciled with his father because the split, the at the end of the war benjamin franklin had been in paris negotiating with the french government and returns t to the united states. he stops and william franklin meets him there and holds out the reconciliation but let bygones be bygones we were family before let us be family again and he had nothing to do withen it. he felt really wounded by the factno that his son hadn't decid within against the british government and they parted never
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to see each other again. this is a case it is almost hard to explain because he had h in england that he felt away from that after the war was over, let's kiss and makeup but he couldn't do it with his own son. a. >> that was very sad. i think our time is just about up. is there anything that i should have asked you about the book that i didn't? >> no, you've done wonderful questions and all that i can add is if the viewers are still curious, they should buy the book, read the book. >> i highly recommend it. thank you so much. appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about it. >> thank you.
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just watching her work, part of that creation that she is capable of pulling out of herself and then giving it to the world was a totally extraordinary experience for me personally. i use to read how authors of fiction would be asked did you know where the story would end in a couple would say i have it plotted out but not until i start writing. not until i need to the characters and i would think to myself as a reader what do you mean, you are creating the
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characters and then all of a sudden, through this process, talking about okay what would this secretary of state to do and what was her best friend and counselor do and sometimes we would be talking and this burst of creativity what if we did this what if we could have her or him say that. i found that is so exhilarating and it was such a great gift for me to watch my friend create this incredible scenario and help to come up with the people it was an amazing experience, nothing like i had ever had before. and not like anything else i had ever had before. it's impossible now to parse hooted what because as you said
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i don't think that works how about this and we trusted each other. we could be diminished without being dismissed, that we could be as creative and crazy as we wanted to be and out of that we could find the gems that is what is so interesting is one of the themes through the book i'm not sure that it's one we started with, but i think it's one of the ones that developed as we went on, the ongoing theme of trust, who do you trust and i think that in this collaboration, we learned we could trust each other at a more profound level than we ever would have otherwise. kati marto
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discusses her biography of chancellor of germany anglela merkel. >> presiding over today's discussion. it is as you see virtual which is a little sad that it means we have 400 people signed up instead of 100 in the room so it could be worse from that perspective. let me introduce you to our esteemed panelist today. we have to offer and


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