tv American Artifacts CSPAN August 24, 2016 8:00pm-8:36pm EDT
has been built on. i think it's valuable that we remember those things and that we treasure them and take care of them, preserve them and with the anniversary of the national park service, i think this is a great place to remember. >> thursday morning we focus on the 100th anniversary of the national park service on washington journal, live. watch on c-span. 100 years ago president wilson created the park service and thursday we look back on the past century of these caretaker's of national treasures. at 10:00 eastern and throughout the day, we take you to national park service sites across the country recorded by c-span.
as 7:00 p.m. eastern, we're live from the national park service's most visited, historic home arlington house at arlington national cemetery. join us with your phone calls as we talk with robert stanton, former national park service director and the former arabling on to site manager who will oversee the year-long restoration. thursday, the 100th anniversary of the national park service live from arlington house at 7:00 p.m. eastern on "american history tv" on c-span 3. tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the national park service. coming up on c-span 3 we'll bring you a number of tours from our artifacts and reel america programs. some of the sites include congress hall, the battlefield in maryland and the courthouse.
each week american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. and 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 is park ranger matthew aifel. >> we are in the old house of representatives in a building we call congress hall. originally, it was built as a county courthouse for philadelphia. for most of its history, that's what it was. in the years that the city of washington, d.c. is being built, philadelphia serves as our temporary u.s. capitol. 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 about three and three-quarters 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. capital is the story where we take 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, the setting of state thomas jefferson would announce the amendments to the constitution by basically coming to congress here in this building and officially announcing that we have changed our constitution. which, of course, the bill of rights is a huge part of our history and will be in the future 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 is 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 that we 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 argue about debt from the revolutionary war, our early government alexander hamilton, treasury secretary wanted all the debt from the states to come to the federal government and then to use that debt paying it off to build credit for the young united states. 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. a lot of americans would feel like we owed france. they helped us in our war. we still don't line the british very much. 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 is going to present with his cabinet approval a neutrality proclamation which starts dividing us into this question of ought we be doing more to help france. 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. 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. he seemed like a good candidate for washington to send. the treaty that he brought back becomes very controversial and one of the tipping points in creating the two parties as sort of leading to what we know today. the treaty is basically starts becoming publically attacks in the press. the press of the -- what would become the democratic republican party, the party of thomas jefferson and james madison would start vilifying this treaty. what's interesting is nobody has read it. it hasn't been published.
but yet, it's going to be pilloried in the press to people hate the treaty that they don't know anything about. the federalist side, of the john adams and alexander hamiltons, is in favor of the treaty. they are in favor of building the young economy of the united states, staying out of a war, trading with all sides in europe, not being limited by alliance to france or something like this. so we're really seeing this treaty become kind of 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. the problem is the house of representatives -- this is our first treaty. the house of representatives 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. well, he says, no. senate approves it. you don't have anything do with
it. what the house essentially is going doing is they say, maybe what we will try do is take away the funding. we won't pay for this treaty. anything that has to be paid for, we will not spend the money. therefore, the treaty will die at this point this time. 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. on the last day, there's a big crowd in our public balcony. you have men like vice president john adams, supreme court justices in the balcony. the big -- this is, of course, an era where we love speeches, long, political speeches, deep, infused with rhetoric. the best speaker of the time is
a man named fisher ames. he is a federalist. he is definitely wanting this treaty to survive. he has been ill. he hasn't said anything. of course, this last day everyone is waiting to see if he will make the last statement. he does. he says, if my strength can hold up, i would like to say a few words. he speaks over an hour. it's about 55 pages in the congressional record, his speech. he collapses at the end. he talked about the last war we fought with the british and if people remembered all the devastation and did we really want to do this again, fight another war for years. apparently, some of the men have tears in their eyes. when he finally finishes, a supreme court justice turns to the vice president and says,
isn't that man great? adams says, yes, 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 of the committee was friend rick muhlenberg, our first speaker of the house. he breaks the tie. he is on the democratic republican and jefferson side. he is should be against it. he is convinced maybe not going to war is a good idea. 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 his seat in his next election to congress. but even worse, in the
short-term, he is stabbed on the sidewalk of philadelphia by his brother-in-law because of his vote. he survives but i'm sure family gathers are awkward. 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 the difficulties, works. probably the best day in this room's history in a lot of ways is the day john adams is inaugurated by the speaker of the house's platform. he will stand on the platform with thomas jefferson at the front of the room, outgoing president george washington. this is a big deal. changing presidents for us today is a fairly normal thing. we have parades and parties. 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 will not have george washington as our president. george washington is the only man to be unanimously elected president, which he was twice. he did not particularly run for office. at the end of the first term, he didn't want a second term.
he was talked into it. essentially kind of almost guys on both sides talk him into another four years. he doesn't really run. he is unanimously re-elected. at the end of the second term, people try to talk him into a third. he is not having it. he wants to retire at this point in time. it's somebody else's turn. he will step aside for john adams. now, we don't know if this works. we have never done this before. we have never changed our president. 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. these two had been friends, obviously, they wrote the declaration of independence together. now opposite sides of the fence. they don't want to talk to each other. the election is very ugly, it's nasty, very close. it's sort of for us today a normal presidential election. john adams wins by three electoral votes. we have never had a president who got half the votes. we have never had a president who had to really fight for an election. of course, the other problem in the early days is if you come in second, you are vice president. the new president is one party. the new vice president is the other party.
pick any modern election and put them together and you can see how neither would be particularly happy. they are not happy to be up in the front of the room together. this is a full house that day. the balcony, seats, you have most of the government here. a lot of curiosity. 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 happy to see thomas jefferson up there. nobody is happy that george washington is leaving us in this time. john adams would kind of look around the room and see a lot of people who weren't very happy. he would see people with almost tears in their eyes that washington was leaving them. he kind of would later say that as he looked around, he only saw one person that day who particularly looked happy, which was, of course, george washington who had a look on his face that said, you are in and i'm out. now let's find out who is the
happier. 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 are seeing the throws of political fighting going on. but it happened peacefully. we proved that constitution worked. we proved that we could continue in times of difficulty like this that we could continue forward with the system in place. in 1800, they would leave this building and move to the current capitol in washington, d.c. adams and jefferson would have another difficult election at that time. this time jefferson winning. he would be the first president inaugurated in the new capitol 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. 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 being built during the constitutional convention. so when they are finished construction is around the time that philadelphia offers it to the u.s. government. i think philadelphia's secret hope is if we're nice, they will stay here and not go to the new city. so they give them the new courthouse building. they end up actually expanding it a little bit to make more room for congress. we think the setup looks like this. we 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 we 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. so today all of 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 have three chairs exactly like this. we don't necessarily know which was which. we have one today that we assume was for the speaker of the house, one for the vice president as president of the senate and the third for the chief justice of the supreme court. now, 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. as far as this room went, in the early 1800s when the federal government moved out, it went to become a courthouse again. in fact, this was divided into two rooms for a long number of years. they built a hallway down the middle to have two courtrooms instead of one large one. about the time of the first
world war, the city government has left this block and moved to our current city hall in philadelphia. the city is recognizing the historic value of the buildings, has some restoration work done. they kind of want to turn them into museum space. if you visited this building in the years around the first world war, the 1920s, you would have seen the building -- the room rather restored back to the big single room it would have been. but it would have been just a room filled with old stuff. kind of the old-fashion museum. after world war ii when the national park service comes in to take over the historic builds here, again, the goal is to get them back to how they looked in the important days. that's where we try to study, how did they have the seating set up? we have one chart that we have 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 -- enough sketches and show the platform for the speaker of the house. we have enough original furniture that we can match up things that were -- we think were here. unfortunately, a lot of the items that are here, if the city needed them, like chairs, they kept using them. desks, not so much. 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. wasn't the library of congress as we know it today, but it does begin here. 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 the early things. that's one of the challenges with a building like this, you don't necessarily have all the things, but you make due the best you can to give people the 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. we're in the senate chamber here at congress hall in philadelphia.
the room as you can see is quite a bit more grand than the house of representatives would have been. there's 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 lords, lower house, house of commons. 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 lords. we don't have dukes and earls and noble titles like that. we have states. every state is equal in the senate. so the states kind of take the place of our house of lords and our senate chamber.
the british often using that green color in government. the colonies would use it and into the american government. but the red would be much more the house of lords kind of color. you will see red in that early senate here in philadelphia. definitely has that kind of look to it that seems higher end. the interesting thing about the senate is they are created with more power. the power is a tie to the president that the house of representatives does not have. treaties in the united states are with the advice and consent of the senate, approved by the advice and consent of the senate. the senate has to approve all treaties. the house does not. the senate does. so there's one power. also any time 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. so here in philadelphia, we have our very first treaty approved by the senate, which is the jay treaty. that led to the big fight in the house of representatives over whether or not to pay for it. but over that same issue, we have the first rejection of a presidential nominee by the 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 accepts but then resigns the post without ever really 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. washington will eventually tap john rutledge of south carolina. rutledge will come back to philadelphia this time and 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 senate comes back later that year to return to session, they then take up the question of approving john rutledge. now, george washington's never had anyone rejected that he's appointed, so this has never happened in our young history. john rutledge has a couple of things going against him. there are guys in the senate that think the guy's a little crazy. he's had some kind of strange things that he's had to say in the years in the 1790s so he's got a reputation but also where
he's going to get into trouble is he made very pointed comments about that j treaty that was negotiated by his predecessor. he was very critical in some speeches and they tended to be a bit of rambly speeches. he was very critical 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 came in front of them they would remember these sorts of things and then they would decide perhaps this guy is not the best choice to be the chief justice of the supreme court. so even though he'd run the court for a while he was sent packing and back home. so the very first rejection of a presidential nominee. so 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 happened. the one other power of the senate 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 the president should be removed from office. so again, you look at the powers of the senate and you see these things that you can do that tie them to the president in a lot of ways, and so therefore, give them that little bit of extra advantage over the house of representatives. plus, they're a smaller body of men with only two senators per state. you represent an entire state,
which means if you're from a large state you represent a 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. the senate gets into their own controversial bills like the j trayty. one of the early senators that is sent by pennsylvania is a man most famous for being a long-time secretary of treasury and he is of the democratic/republican side and so the federal aside of the
early senate and basically locking at the strict rules would say that albert galton has not lived in the united states for the requisite number of years to be in the senate. so the senate voted him out. he's later elected to the house of representatives but he's rejected from the senate. so they 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 house of representatives is sitting in public saying why do those guys get to meet in private when we have to sit in front of all these people?
so finally after about five years of meeting behind closed doors, the senate relents and they start to as well meet in public here in philadelphia. and that's one of those long standing traditions. but 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 paragraphs that say duties and powers that they have. george washington essentially invents the job of president here in philadelphia. again, just going on some, you know, paragraphs in the constitution and figuring out, okay, what does that mean i do every day? so when he wants to negotiate a treaty with various indian tribes, what he'll do, the first
time he's going to do something with this is he'll come into the senate and sit down and say, well, 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 goes wait a minute, yeah, weir not interested in talking about that with you in the room. why don't you give us some stuff and we'll talk and get back to you later. and so that's when the president comes and goes from the senate. it's that more strict separation that we're used to. now, for washington, he's not a guy who likes tons of, you know, public accolade and he doesn't like to give a lot of speeches if he can avoid it. 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 we saw downstairs in the house of representatives with john adams which was a much bigger deal. washington just going to a second term basically comes in and 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 of course when you move down to washington you start having inaugurations at the new capitol building so that would be a change. so we're growing into what the united states is today. 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 be then sent by their states to philadelphia. one of the ones that's not as is james madison and he runs into
the problem in virginia that patrick henry is one of the great powers in virginia. henry's not a big fan of madison and his big role in the constitution so essentially madison is sort of -- we call him the father of the constitution, the obvious plumb of getting a seat in the constitution doesn't happen. he has to suffer through getting elected and becoming a member of the house. but as for election of senators that's a recent phenomenon in our history. so 1913 when he'd start electing our senators. so all the men prior to that just have to court their state legislature, so you think of the lincoln/douglas debates over senate, they're not debating for people to vote for them, they're debating for people to vote for the people of the state government to vote for them. so it's a very complicated system.
and people are saying you know what? we want to be able to vote for our own senators. we vote for everyone else in government, why not the senate, so that's one of the things that changes, but we have to grow into how some of these things work. but the remarkable thing when you go back to these years if philadelphia, other than that, most everything does operate pretty well the same way. we're using the system designed in independence hall that they 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, 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 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 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've got a bunch of these chairs, a couple dozen chairs and at some point somebody thinks maybe they were the chairs for the continental congress so they stuck them in the room but of course they were for the federal congress but these were displayed in independence hall for a long time and when we are restoring congress hall, the old u.s. capitol to look as it would have
we had 29 original chairs. some of them were in the house based on simple proportion, but a couple of them were marked senate, a couple of them had bits of different colored upholstery. some of these are probably in the house. we said, well, let's just put them all in the senate chamber. so we'll fill it with 29 of the 32 chairs being original. the eagle on the ceiling is -- we're not 100% sure of the date on that. the one thing i can tell you is there's 15 stars above it so it's sometime after the 15th state enters the union. we don't know exactly when and may never know when that was painted, but the seal was another thing created here in philadelphia actually by the continental congress and independence hall in 1782. something they'd worked on throughout the war, the different committees and kept changing a little bit here and there until they 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 likely went to washington when they moved, but whatever happened to it, it's long gone. we don't know what happened to the senate carpet but it was
made specifically for the room 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 seal of the united states, but it would have been encircled by the original state seals. it's set up as a chain which was a common motif of the time. chaining the states together. so a lot of those interesting symbols whether for the states themselves or the united states have their roots here in philadelphia. the one original desk we still have is the secretary's desk and the vice president would sit in the back of the room and that's another interesting part of our story. the vice president which we'll start with john adams and he'll be succeeded by thomas jefferson, they would be here a good bit of the time. probably a lot more than the vice president today. today the vice president can sit in the senate any day they want, but early on they made it clear to john adams they didn't want him talking so he can 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 the years, so if there's a tie vote the vice president is always the tie breaker. so any big day, any big vote, the vice president will be there and other than that, the vice president, you know, 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 and found it dissatisfying and for thomas jefferson, when he's vice president his opponent is the president so he doesn't necessarily agree with a lot of the policies that he has to be part of the executive over so it was a very difficult situation which is what leads to creating the system where we're going to elect president and vice
president a little bit more carefully because rather than the electoral college voting for two men, the guy who gets the most votes being president and the guy who gets the second most being vice president we would create a system where it's a candidate for president and a candidate for vice president and the real impotus to that is the jefferson election in 1800 which is when they're packing up and moving to washington, d.c. so there's no one election day in those days but they will start meeting in the new capitol december of 1800.