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tv   American Artifacts Congress Hall  CSPAN  July 6, 2021 1:18pm-1:55pm EDT

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weekends on c-span 2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story. and on sundays book tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span 2 comes from these television companies and more. including charter communications. >> broadband is a force for empowerment. that's why charter has invested billions, building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications, along with these television companies supports c-span 2 as a public service. tonight on american history tv a look into a supreme court landmark case, plessy versus ferguson which solidified the separate but equal doctrine and provided legal protection to segregation laws passed by the
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states. scholars look at its impact on education and housing and how we still live with the legacy of the decision. we will look at the life and legacy of the first african-american supreme court justice thurgood marshall and his impact on u.s. history. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern. >> each week american history tvs american artifacts visits museums and historic places an up next we travel to philadelphia's independence national historical park to learn about congress hall, the meeting place of the u.s. house and senate between 1790 and 1800, our guide a park ranger matthew ifill. >> we are standing in the old house of representatives in a building that we call congress hall, although originally it was built as a county courthouse for philadelphia for most of its history that's exactly what it was, but in the years that the city of washington, d.c. is being built philadelphia serves as our temporary u.s. capitol,
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this room serves for the house of representatives, the second floor of the building that we will see in a moment was the united states senate, the house of representatives each representative at that point in our history represented 30,000 people. we had a population at our first census of around 3.75 million. we had 106 members of the house would sit in this room and eventually from 16 states. the story of philadelphia as the u.s. capitol is the story where we are taking a new constitution and actually operating it, doing things like adding new states to the original 13. also the bill of rights would become a part of our constitution while philadelphia was the capitol, in fact, secretary of state thomas jefferson would formally announce the amendments to the constitution in -- by basically coming to congress here in this building and officially announcing that we've changed our constitution, which, of
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course, the bill of rights is a huge part of our history and will be in the future and a continuing talking point in our political life, but also it's the amendment process itself, we're proving that that part of the constitution works, that we can update and make changes to that constitution without having to start completely over again from the beginning. but really for this building it's to a large degree it's sort of creating the american political system, the two-party system that we know today is going to begin here and it's going to begin with issues, much as you would expect. early issues we would face as the united states would be debt. we had debt and spending arguments and debates in this building, it's not any different except for the details as to what we do today in washington, d.c. we argued about debt from the revolutionary war, our early government, alexander hamilton, the treasury secretary wanted all the debt from the states to come to the federal government
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and then to use that debt paying it off to build credit for the young united states and not everybody agreed with his plans. so you start seeing division. and then foreign policy questions would arise. britain and france go to war in the 1790s and a lot of americans would feel like we owed france, they helped us in our war, we still don't like the british very much but for george washington the first president the notion of neutrality is preferable. we don't really have any money, we didn't really have a navy at all and our army was not much to speak of so we certainly weren't in a position to go and fight a war, certainly not in europe and probably not even fighting our neighbors in british canada in those days. so he's going to present with his cabinet approval a neutrality proclamation which starts, again, dividing us into this question of ought we be doing more to help france.
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now, in the same notion of keeping us out of war george washington will send john jay who was at that time our first chief justice of the supreme court, send him to britain to negotiate a new treaty with the british. and, again, with the idea of keeping us out of this european war and settling some of those questions of border and ocean rights and such that we were arguing with the british. john jay had been on the team that negotiated the peace treaty that ended the revolutionary war so he seemed like a good candidate for washington to send. well, the treaty that he brought back becomes very controversial and really one of the tipping points in creating these two parties as sort of leading to what we know today. the treaty is basically starts becoming publicly attacked in the press. the press of the -- what would become the democratic republican party, the party of men like thomas jefferson and james madison would start vilifying this treaty. now, what's interesting is
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nobody has actually read t it hasn't been published yet but yet it's going to be pill aried in the press to where an awful lot of people hate this treaty that they don't know much about. the federalist side, the john adams and alexander hamiltons are in favor of the treaty and building the young economy of the united states, staying out of a war, trading with all sides in europe, not being, you know, limited by alliance to france or something like this. so we're really seeing this treaty become kind of a symbolic head point between these two sides and the senate approves the treaty. now, according to the constitution senate approves treaties and they're done. now, the problem is the house of representatives, this is our first treaty ever, the house of representatives basically says we want a chance to discuss this treaty as well and so they demand of washington to see all the papers and so on.
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well, he says, well, senate approves it, you guys don't have anything to do with t the house says maybe what we'll try to do is take away the funding. we won't pay for this treaty, anything that has to be paid for we will just not spend the money, therefore, the treaty will affectly die at this point in time. so that's not necessarily a new strategy that you see with things in washington, d.c. today. so the big fight in the house of representatives in this room is whether or not to pay for this treaty. there's days of debates and on the last day there is a big crowd in our public balcony, you have men like vice president john adams, supreme court justices sitting in the balcony and the big -- this is of course an era where we love our speeches, long, political speeches, deep infused with rhetoric and the best speaker of the time is a man named fisher aims, he is a federalist, he is
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definitely wanting to treaty to survive, but he's been ill, he hasn't said anything and this last day everyone is waiting to see fell make the last statement about it and he does. he stands up and begins by saying if my strength can hold out i'd like to say a few words on the subject. he proceeds to speak for over an hour, i think it's about 55 pages in the congressional record his speech and he collapses at the end into his seat but he talked about the last war that we fought with the british and if people remembered all the devastation and do we really want to do this again, fight another war for years. you know, apparently men -- some of the men have tears in their eyes. when he finally finishes supreme court justice james iredell turns to vice president john adams and says, my god, isn't that man great. and adams says, yes, indeed, he is. so the treaty will end up passing by just a couple of votes, at one point there is a committee of the whole vote, the head tft committee of the whole
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was frederick muilenburg who was our first speaker of the house. he breaks the tie. he is on the democratic republican and jeffersonian side so he should be against the treaty, maybe not going to war is a good idea so he ends up voting to pass the bill for the funding of this treaty and he is vilified. he is vilified that he voted for this treaty against his side to the point where he loses had i seat in the next election to congress but even worse in the short term he is stabbed on the sidewalks of philadelphia by his brother-in-law because of his vote. i'm sure family gatherings become awkward after a while. it tells us how high our political tensions can be in our early days yet -- yet at the same time we're also proving that that new constitution despite these sort of difficulties works because probably the best day in this room's history in a lot of ways is the day john adams is inaugurated at the front by the
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speaker of the house's platform. he will stand on that platform with thomas jefferson also at the front of the room outgoing president george washington. now, this is a big deal. changing presidents for us today is a fairly normal thing, we have big parades and parties and it's -- you know, it's a big thing but this was a really important day because this is where we are proving that the system where we the voters elect our leaders and we change them when we vote, we're proving that that system works because the john adams election is a lot of firsts. it's the first time we are going to not have george washington as our president. george washington is only man to be unanimously elected president which he was twice. he did not particularly run for office. at the end of his first term he didn't even want a second term, he was kind of talked into it, essentially almost guys on both sides talk him into another four years, he doesn't really run, he is unanimously reelected, at the end of that second term people
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try to talk him into a third but he is not having it. he just wants to retire at this point in time. it's somebody else's turn. so he will step aside for john adams. now, we don't know if this works. we have never done this before. we have never actually changed our president. so will the people accept this? we don't know. the other thing to remember is john adams was contested in his election. he actually had to fight a battle against his opponent who was thomas jefferson. now, these two had been friends obviously they wrote the declaration of independence together but now opposite sides of the fence, they don't even want to talk to each other so the election is very ugly, nasty, close, it's sort of for us today a normal presidential election. john adams wins by three electoral votes so slightly more than half. we have never had a president who got only half the votes, we have never had a president who had to really fight for an election and of course the other problem in the early days is if
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you come in second you are vice president which means the new president is one party, the new vice president is the other party, just pick any modern election you like put the two opponents together for four years as the executive and you can see how neither of them would be particularly happy. so john adams and thomas jefferson are not happy to be standing up in the front of the room together. this is a full house that day, the balcony, the seats, you've got most of the government here. a lot of curiosity but you can also figure about half of the men in this room are not very happy to see john adams standing up there, the other half of the men in the room are not very happy to see thomas jefferson standing up there and generally speaking nobody is very happy that george washington is leaving us in this time. so john adams would look around the room and see a lot of people who weren't very happy. he would see people with tears in their eyes that washington was leaving them and he kind of would later say he only saw one person that particularly looked happy which was george washington who had a look on his
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face that said john adams you are fairly in and i am fairly out so now let's find out who is the happier on this day. but washington would quietly go to private life and i think very happily withdraw from the scene. adams himself would be inaugurated. he would have a difficult presidency because now really we're seeing the throes of political fighting going on, but it happened peacefully. we proved that constitution worked and we proved that we could continue in times of difficulty like this so that we could continue forward with the system in place. in 1800 they would leave this building and move to the current capital in washington, d.c. as a.m. and jefferson would have another difficult election at that time, this time jefferson winning and he would be the first president inaugurated in the new capital of washington, d.c. but these years in philadelphia are setting the tone for the rest of our early history and all the way up to today.
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so the room itself will start out as a courthouse so this would have been a courtroom, but around the time this building is finished construction it's actually being built during the constitutional convention. so when they're finished construction is around the time that philadelphia offers it to the u.s. government. i think philadelphia's secret hope is that if we're really nice to them they will stay here and not go to that new city down in the potomac. they give them the new courthouse building and expand it a little bit to make more room for congress. we think the setup looks like this, we actually have a seating chart from one session of congress that shows the design of the desks and all. we don't have any of the desks that have survived. we're fortunate that we do have some of the chairs today, unfortunately we only have about 30 of them between the two houses of congress and most of them we don't know necessarily which house they were in.
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so today all you have our original chairs are in the senate. for this room as far as original items goes, the chair on the platform for the speaker of the house is an original. we actually have three chairs exactly like that. we don't necessarily know wisconsin but we have one today that is for the speaker of the house, one for the president as president of the senate and the third for the chief justice of the supreme court. we don't, again, know which one is which so what we can fairly say is that somebody important sat in that chair for the speaker of the house, whether it was the speaker of the house or not we're not sure. but as far as this room went in the early 1800s when the federal government moved out it went to become a courthouse again. this was divided into two rooms for a long number of years. they built a hallway down the middle so they could have two courtrooms instead of one very large one. about the time of the first world war the city government has left this block and moved to
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our current city hall in philadelphia and the city is recognizing the history value of these buildings, has some restoration work done. they kind of want to turn them all into museum space. if you had visited this building in the years around the first world war, the 1920s you would have seen the building -- or the room, rather, restored back to the big single room that it would have been, but it would have just been a room filled with old stuff, the old fashioned sort of museum. after world war ii when the national park service comes in to take over the historic buildings here, again, the goal is to try to get them back to how they looked in those important days so that's why we try to study how did they have the seating set up, again, we have one chart that we've been able to find, one of the members drew showing who was sitting where at least for one snapshot of a session of congress. we have some -- you know, enough sketches and all that show the platform for the speaker of the house, we have enough original furniture that we can sort of match up things that we think
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were here. unfortunately a lot of the items that were here if the city needed them like chairs they kept using them, desks not so much so they didn't save. things that the government might have owned, for example, the library of congress started in this building. they started buying books for congress here in philadelphia. it wasn't the library of congress as we know it today but it does begin here but a lot of the things that went to washington, d.c. are burned when washington is burned in the war of 1812. we lose a lot of those early things. that's one of the challenges with a building like this that you don't necessarily have all the things but you try to make due the best you can to give people that sense when they come in to see them of what it looked like when men like james madison or young andrew jackson were sitting in this room as members of the house of representatives. well, we are in the senate chamber here at congress hall in
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philadelphia. the room as you are about to see is quite a bit more grand than the roupts would have been. there is a couple of reasons for that. our roots as a nation go back to when we were british of course, the british have a parliament with two houses an upper house, the house of lord's, the lower house, the house of commons and there's definitely parallels with our congress today, the house of representatives is very similarly set up to the house of commons and then the senate would, therefore, be left to be based on the house of lord's but obviously we're not going to have dukes and earls and noble titles like that, but we have states and every state is equal in the senate so the states kind of take the place of our house of lord's and the senate chamber. so the british, you know, often using that green color in government, the colonies would use it and then into the american government, but the red would kind of be much more that house of lord's kind of color so you're going to see red in that early senate here in
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philadelphia and definitely has that kind of look to it that seems a bit on the higher end, but the interesting thing about the senate is they are create wd a bit more power, the power is a tie to the president that the house of representatives did you see not have. treaties in the united states are with the advice and consent of the straight approved by the advice and consent of the senate so the senate has to approve all treaties, the house does not, the senate does, so there's one power. also anytime the president makes an appointment to his cabinet, ambassador, supreme court, of course, those folks would have to come in front of the senate and be approved by the senate or rejected and so here in philadelphia we have our very first treaty approved by the senate which is the jay treaty and that led to the fight in the house of representatives of whether or not to pay for t but over that same issue we have the first rejection of a presidential nominee by the
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senate. john rutledge who is actually a signer of the u.s. constitution, actually, one of the players in creating that constitution is one of washington's first choices for the original six justices on the supreme court. he actually accepts but then resigns the post without ever having served on the supreme court. he will later become the chief justice of the south carolina supreme court when john jay who was the first united states supreme court chief justice resigns, he is elected governor of new york, he leaves the post of chief justice that leaves it empty. washington will eventually tap john rutledge of south carolina. rutledge will come back to philadelphia this time and actually serve as chief justice, however, he is appointed during a recess of congress and so technically the senate hasn't confirmed him but he actually serves a session of the court as chief justice and leads them through some cases when the
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senate comes back later this year to return to session they take up the question of approving john rutledge. george washington has never had anyone rejected that he has appointed so this has never happened in our young history. john rutledge has a couple things going against him, number one, there are guys in the senate that think the guy is a little crazy, he's definitely had some kind of strange things that he has had to say at different times in the years of 1790s so he's got a bit of a kind of reputation amongst some people but also where he's going to get into trouble is he made some very pointed comments about that jay treaty that was negotiated by his predecessor. he was very critical in some speeches and they tended to be a bit sort of rambly speeches, he was very critical some of the things he said about the senate itself, which of course senators would read the newspapers and they would read what the south carolina supreme court chief justice had to say about them and when he actually came in front of them they would remember these sorts of things
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and then they would decide then that perhaps this guy is not the best choice could be the chief justice of the supreme court so even though he had actually run the court for a little while he was kind of sent packing and back home. so the very first rejection of a presidential nominee. so, again, here in philadelphia you're seeing the constitution in a lot of different directions being explored and used for the first time and of course you go through our history and you see other occurrences where this happens. now, the one other power of the supreme court or of the senate, rather, that's not going to get exercised here in philadelphia is the power of impeaching if the president is impeached the house would vote to have an impeachment, the senate would be basically the jury in what is essentially a trial to decide whether or not the president should be removed from office. so, yeah, again, you look at the powers of the senate and you see these things that they can do that tie them to the president in a lot of ways and so, therefore, give them that little
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bit of extra advantage over the house of representatives, plus they are a smaller body of men with only two senators per state, you represent an entire state which if you are from a large state means you represent an awful lot of people. finally the other thing about the senate that makes it a bit unique is you get that longer term, the longest elected term in the united states with six-year term, but early on senators were not even elected. senators are appointed on the basis of the constitution originally, senators are appointed by their state legislatures. so senators do not have to run for office so as a result senators here in philadelphia met in private. they did not meet in public. the house of representatives always did. so the house was open to the public, the senate was not. now, the senate starts getting into their own controversial bills like the jay treaty. one of the early senators that is sent by pennsylvania is a man
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named albert gala tin, probably most famous for being a long time secretary of the treasury and he is of the democratic republican side and so the federalist side of the early senate and basically looking at the strict rules would say that albert gallatin who is swiss has not lived in the united states the requisite number of years to actually serve in the senate. so the senate actually voted him out. he is later elected to the house of representatives by pennsylvania, but he is rejected from the senate. so naturally people of pennsylvania want to know why their senator has been kicked out of the senate. so you start getting this growing public feeling that we want to see what's going on when the senate meets here in philadelphia and add to that the press obviously wants to know what's going on because they've got guys sitting in the balcony watching the house. they want to have guys sitting up here watching the senate because that's news. finally i am sure of it that the
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house of representatives is sitting downstairs meeting in public going, why do those guys upstairs get to meet in private when we have to sit in front of all of these people. i'm sure there's pressure coming from many different directions. after five years of meeting behind closed doors the senate relents and builds a small balcony and they start to as well meet in public here in philadelphia. that's one of those long-standing traditions but, again, when you go back to our earliest days this is where you're seeing that they don't have everything set in stone. they have a constitution that's only four pages long, these men have to figure out what their job is all about based on a few presidents that say duties and powers that they have. george washington essentially invents the job of president here in philadelphia, again, just going on some paragraphs in the constitution and figuring out what does that mean that i do every day? for example, when he wants to negotiate a treaty with various indian tribes what he will do the first time he's going to do
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something like this is he will actually come into the senate and sit down and say i'm supposed to do treaties with your advice and consent so i want your advice and consent on these issues i want to discuss and the senate kind of goes, wait a minute, we're not interested in talking about that with you in the room, why don't you give us some stuff and we will talk about it and get back to you later. that's about when the president comes and goes from the senate, since then it's more strict separation than we're used to. now, for washington he's not a guy who likes tons of public accolade and doesn't like to give a lot of speeches. he will do an address to congress every year, they don't call it the state of the union yet but his address to congress which he writes with his cabinet, he will come to the senate for his inauguration for his second term as president, he kind of keeps it low key, he doesn't do the bigger event that
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we saw down stairs in the house of representatives with john adams which was a bigger deal, washington going to his second term basically takes his oath of office and more or less goes back to work because he didn't really want the big public ceremony to take place but that's something that would change with adams' inauguration and when you move down to washington you start having inaugurations at the new capital building so that would be a change. we are growing into what the states is today, now, as you look around this room a lot of the guys that sat here in the senate were the architects of our constitution because senators being chosen by their states a lot of the guys that had a big impact on writing that constitution would then be sent by their states to philadelphia. one of the ones that's not is james madison and he runs into the problem is virginia that patrick henry is one of the great powers in virginia, henry is not a big fan of madison and his big role in the constitution so essentially madison was sort of -- even though he's one of --
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we call him the father of the constitution, the obvious -- getting a seat in the senate doesn't happen for james madison, he has to suffer through being elected and running for congress and becoming a member of the house. as for election of senators that's actually a very recent phenomenon in our history that would be the 17th amendment so 1913 when we would start electing our senators. really just over a century ago. all the men prior to that just have to court their state legislature so you think of the lincoln douglas debates over senate, they are not actually debating for people to vote for them, they're debating for people to vote for people for the state government to vote for them. so it's very complicated system which is why when you get into that 20th century populism people are saying, do you know what, we want to be able to vote for our own senators. we vote for pretty much everyone else in government why not the senate so that's one of those things that changes. but, again, we have to kind of grow into how some of those things work, but the remarkable thing when you go back to these years in philadelphia is other
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than that most everything does operate pretty well the same way. we're pretty much using the system designed in independence hall that they kind of take into this building and use and continue on when they move to washington in 1800. now, as you look at this room unlike downstairs in the house of representatives, the second floor of the building with the senate is a lot more original as far as the things in the building go. we have -- we have the setting for 32 senators, we start with just, of course, 26 representing 13 states and as each new state, vermont, kentucky, tennessee will come into the union you will add two new senators so up to the 32. now, when they leave for washington 32 senators would go, the room would turn into a courtroom, eventually actually it was the united states federal district courtroom in the 19th century. they don't necessarily need the
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stuff that's here. so desks kind of go away, we don't know what happened to them, these are sort of our best guess, but chairs you always need. so when the mid 1800s when people start actually thinking about american history like we do so much of today, they started saying, well, we need to collect things for independence hall, and somebody says, well, we have a bunch of these chairs, a couple dozen chairs, and at some point somebody starts to think maybe they were the chairs for the continental congress so they stuck them in the room, but of course they were the chairs for the federal congress, but either way these chairs were displayed in independence hall for a long time and so fortunately when we actually are restoring congress hall the old u.s. capitol to look as it would have we had 29 original chairs, some of them actually probably the majority were in the house based on just simple proportion, but a couple of them were marked senate, a couple of them had bits of different colored upholstery so we were able to figure some had the senate, they
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had a different colored one in the house so some were probably in the house. we said let's just put them this all in the senate chamber. we will fill the chamber with 29 of the chairs being original either for the house or senate but original nonetheless. the eagle on the ceiling is -- we are not 100% sure of the date of that. the one thing i can tell you is there's 15 stars above it so it's somewhere after the 15th state enters the union, we don't know exactly when. may never know exactly when that was painted, but it is sort of an artistic rendering of the seal of the united states. the seal was another thing created here in philadelphia actually by the continental congress in independence hall in 1782, something they had worked on off and on throughout the revolutionary war, different committees and kept changing a little bit here and there until they finally worked out the final version of the seal. we have a carpet on the floor that is a reproduction of the original carpet. the original carpet more than
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likely went to washington when they moved but whatever happened to it it's long gone, we don't know what happened to the original senate carpet but it was made specifically for the loom here and there was actually enough written description of exactly what it was that enabled us to sort of recreate the carpet and it would have also featured the it would have also the seal of the united states. it would have been encircled by the original state seals. it set up as a chain which was a pretty common motif at the time. chaining the states together to create this bigger thing. the united states of ours. so a lot of those interesting symbols they have their roots in philadelphia. the one original desk we have. the second as he desk. and then the vice president would sit in the back of the room. and that's an interesting story. the vice president and john adams. he'll be successes succeeded by thomas jefferson. they would be here a good bit of the time. today the vice president can
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literally sit in the senate any day they want. early on they made it clear, they didn't want him talking. he could sit there and run the meetings which left him very disappointed. he's the first but certainly not the last vice president to complain about the limitations of that job. he is allowed to vote only to break ties. which again, that carries through years. if there is a tie vote, the vice president is always a tie breaker. so any big day, any big event the vice president will be there. other than that, the vice president, john adams would find he was kind of stuck here in philadelphia running a bunch of meetings with a bunch of guys who wouldn't let him talk. very dissatisfying. for thomas jefferson when he's vice president, his opponent is the president so he doesn't even agree with the policies he has to be part of executive over. so it was a very difficult situation which is what leads to creating the system where we'll
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elect president and vice president a little more carefully. the guy who gets most votes being president and the second most being vice president, we would create a system for candidate for president and vice president. the real impetus to that is not the adams election in 1796 but the jefferson election in 1800. when they're packing up and moving to washington, d.c. so there is no one election day. they'll start meeting in december. in the midst we're electing adams versus jefferson again. the two sides have learned their lessons. they say we'll both run two guys but you can't specify which is which. when jefferson wins the election, tech nick will he ties his own vice president aaron burr who had been a senator from new york. and of course being tied, it means by the constitution, the
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election goes to the house of representatives. the first big thing we do in our new capitol is the house of representatives has to elect the new president and they have to vote more than 30 times before the tie can be broken. so you're saying, okay, we've learned our lesson with the past two elections. let's fix it so the 12th amendment comes along to straighten out how we get a president. they're finding out what doesn't work and they find that most of the constitution does. so today it is much smaller than senate today but the senators who sat here pretty much do the same things as the senators in washington today.
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next, vanessa smiley. a project manager for the national park service discusses the myths and misconceptions of the southern campaigns during the american revolution. the office of historic alexandria, in partnership with emerging revolutionary war hosted this talk and freud video. >> we are going to introduce ne


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