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tv   Brad Meltzer John Mensch The First Conspiracy  CSPAN  August 19, 2020 1:51pm-2:45pm EDT

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available online at c-span2 or listen with the free c-span radio app. we are featuring programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span2 and that the eastern new york times journalist nikita stewart reported on a girl scout troop boarded for girls living in a homeless shelter in new york city. that's what the creation of similar troops around the country . and then american interests inhibiting editor robert offers her thoughts on why some americans are moving away from traditional religion. later journalist erica barnett looked at the addiction in america and discuss her own struggles with alcoholism and enjoy tv on c-span2. >>. >> c-span2, created by america's table television
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company as apublic service and brought to you today by your television provider . >> hey everyone, i'm in number of the event staff here and i'd like to welcome you all this evening to politics and prose. a few quick notes, but tv is here with us and we are filming for our own youtube channel so with that in mind if you could take a moment of silence your cell phones, the opry two to, snap, however you like to use social media, just do it silently and along those same lines when we get to the q&a portion we have one microphone set up over here and if you line up behind that for your
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questions andmake sure your short question is a short question and gets said into the microphone . we want to keep the dialogue running . books areavailable at the register if you've not yet bought one . we have copies of the first conspiracy and we also have copies of brad'schildren's book which are also really fun and interesting . you might want to pick up a couple of those as well which is of course why we are here to listen to brad meltzer for his newest bookthe first conspiracy. the secret plot to kill george washington. writing history with the same command of suspense and action that has made him one of the today's finest thriller writers , his deliberately replaced story of a plot to assassinate george washington, looking back at 1776 he shows the iconic year of american freedom was fraught with uncertainty . the patriot that stood for independence was anything but sure and washington pick a group ofelite soldiers to serve as bodyguards , only to becomethe target of a treasonous plot .
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ncr called first conspiracy an excellent book and drawing and beyond fascinating and sure to delight book fansof thrillers and american history . meltzer will be in conversation and his co-author josh mensch a documentary producer. please help help me welcome themboth to politics and prose . [applause] >> we want to welcome you here, this is my first hometown bookstore and i can tell you because i used to live here that this means a lot to me. yesterday i was in new york which meant i had to dealwith all my relatives . you have relatives in new york, you feel that and i understand but this is the moment i get to come home and to deal with my friends who sit in the back and roll
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their eyes at my fantastic jokes that i'm making but i do want to first say thank you to politics and prose. they hosted me for my first book, it was a big deal and i think, i know i've done every single book at this store but so first round of applause for politics and prose or puttingthis together . [applause] and i have of course also want to thank and introduce quickly josh mensch and i'll talk about him more but i'll tell you where this book came about it i found this story nearly a decade ago and i found it where all great stories high, in the footnotes. that's where they all are and i remember reading about the secret plot to kill george washington and i said is this true, is this some like internet made up stuff? but it was true, there was a secret plot 1776 where there was a plot, of course british
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behind it to kill george washington and when george washington found out about it together those responsible and took one of the main co-conspirators and they built a gallows and had him in front of 20,000 people, at that point the largest public execution and north american history red george washington brought the hammer down. don't mess with me. i'm george washington and i'm going to be on the money one day. that is a direct quote is pretty awesome also, not a paraphrase. new york did not laugh at that joke last night. i love when you laugh, i call you smart and it's a goodsign . when i started i thought how do you figure this out? how come we don't know this story and i went to joseph ellis, pulitzer prize winning author and one of the great washington biographies and i said to him you know this story about the plot to kill
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washington and he said i know the story read there no bother modern book written about it and there's nothing to go on except stuff that he knew was wrong and he said i have to tellyou this is a story that involves washington spies . and you can find exactly how many slaves george washington own. you'll never ever find all the spies by nature, what you're looking for will forever be elusive and he had but you got to try because it's best to get a book at it and the worst, what happens? you have an adventure and i love and adventure and i knew for five years couldn't get it out of my head by the time i spoke to joe but to me, when an idea is sitting i had five years that's when i know i've got to write it because it's just , it's haunting me and so the first thing i did is josh and i give you background on where we met i called josh and i knew i had to call him because josh and i met while working on our tv show lost mystery and loss history, the title of the
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show is brad meltzer's lost history. i was like, i said to my wife honey, why don't we have brad melcher for dinner because yesterday we had brad meltzer's chicken and she ends she said you can sleep on brad meltzer's couch but the first work we did was to find the 9/11 flag firefighters raised at ground zero. we were able to find it four days after the episode aired enemy filled here justoutside the city . we got a phone call from a guy in washington state who identified himself as a former marine and he said i saw the show lost history, the story they told, this is the 9/11 flag i had and i want to return and the reason it return is because josh was our executive producer and we
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were able to go and be in new york city, we found the flag and it came out and he authenticated it and he worked with the head of the fbi crimes unit to authenticate it and we got to unveil it the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and it's still on display, one of the most amazing moments of my life josh was by far the driving force behind the research of the show and i told him i'm like you're an incredible writer and i said let's work on this book, we don't have the show anymore but we can do this book and if you like lost history we can do this but it's book form and i said i've never written a book before and that the same time my publisher is sending all these writers who havewritten books before but they're missing the goodparts and to make a good book you got to take out all the parts people skip over and put in all the good parts . josh always , i found the
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best parts and he knew those little details read there's a scene in the first conspiracy where you see that one of george washington one of the first things he did when he was put in charge of the military if he started ordering books on how to be a better general . like the dummies guide of 1776 but you wanted to know what do i need to do and that's the kind of detail that tells you his mindset. i love those little details, it's the first rule of writing a book is show don't tell so i called and said let's do this, and i loved what came out of it and we found in this amazing story, i don't want to ruin it because that's the fun of the book you'll see details like george washington had his own private bodyguards. and his bodyguards, he asked all the regiments that he had , he asked to give them therefore best men. >> ..
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those became what were his bodyguards and they called them the generals guards but the name of the stock was this name, which was the lifeguards. their job was truly guard george washington but i know this is also the moment they watch comes from. [laughter] it had nothing to do with the beach assuming but in charge of guarding george washington's life. these were the men who turned who become involved in a pot to be killed george washington. i don't care how great a general you are or if you become the president or how strong you are, that is a devastating moment. i think what we do when they write these books and when people write about george washington and we do with all our heroes, we dip them in granite and build these great statues that these heroes are dead and they are just not alive anymore and people anymore but everything a person you look up to, anyone you consider a hero
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in your life, whether doctor king or rosa parks or george washington or anyone else but it's a moment who was scared and terrified and thought they could not go on and moments when they thought they could never do it but they'd decided go forward. i love the fact that what this book does is explores george washington when he is not the best and when he isn't doing everything right. one of the first things he does when he finds out about the plot is eventually they put together a secret committee to figure out what is going on and they call it the committee on conspiracies because they put together a super many you better give it a good name. the committee on conspiracy that is led by john j and the first supreme court justice and they now are bigger but then grow smaller to three people and it is john jay and governor morris and [inaudible] is the third. they are the ones eventually kicking down doors and doing interrogations and they have teams to do such things but what
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happens in those moments is you can see is truly america's first counterintelligence agency that is being born right there. they are trying to figure this out. in fact, right now in langley virginia, right here at headquarters there is room dedicated to john j who they call the father of counterintelligence. we all know the cia is the precursor in any book they will tell you it was the oss but it's really this and it's this moment and that is what john jay starts building and in the same way those are built, not with military people or civilians seeking out information in trying to find intelligence and using it but not just we have a great offense but george washington has the military but he also knows he needs a great defense to make sure that if those impacts, we're ready for them. i love that we can trace it back. it's not just the plot against george washington but also the birth of the counterintelligence moment for all of america and you get to see a developed piece by piece. i think one of the things i love
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is josh was doing research and i love to imagine where we are like indiana jones and we call on our hands and knees and find this arcane information and the theme song for indiana jones plays an author reviewed the weapon we find a great thing and that's how i picture us pretty much every day. [laughter] the reality is that most of these things are online. you can find so much especially at the national archives, the founders online, beautiful resource to use but no one wants to read some of these things. they are there but there's so much to read. we got to read it in full credit to josh, who of course, with bernard who is a great expert that helped us find these things, josh and i were constantly talking would be find enough information because if not, we can't do the book. remember josh turning up the transcripts of the secret tribunal when they tried the man who was hanged and i remember when he called me for that and i
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was like oh, here we go. now we've got it. we got the actual transcripts of what people said and what happens. everything else is mysterious so george washington hangs a man in front of 20000 people and he barely mentions it in his diary. i killed someone in front of 20000 people i would be like, had a bad day. you got to put something in the diary but he is not like jefferson and not like adams who is writing letters to his wife about all of his feelings and beliefs. washington is not like that. george washington plays it much closer to the vest. you will see many books that say george washington thought this and then he thought that and you're like no, it's hard to tell you what he thought. he barely said a word and that was part of his enigma and part of his whole that's what made him george washington. we know him better than anyone and we see him every day our money but how do we know the least about him as a person and the most intriguing part of him to this day and here we are trying to pull apart his
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greatest secrets. it becomes this great adventure. but i love is what we did find and one of the things, we are a country right now, especially now, we are founded on legends and myths as a country. the legends and myths we love most are our own legends and myths. we love that story were a ragtag group in the revolution were and we ban together and hold hands and dream about this thing called democracy and take on the greatest fighting force, the british, that existed at the time and america is born and we are wonderful. great story. not a true story. the true story is far more completed than that. i think were divided as a country today? to think this town is divided today? in 1776 new york city has the first big battle taking place there is nearly as many loyalists in new york on the british side as there are on the patriot side and so you hate your neighbor and love your neighbor -dependent when they
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fall in that political spectrum just like today and even in our own military back then it wasn't like we all fought together and saying but we all had different regiments and they do not know each other and they do not even wear the same uniform but they had the connecticut regiments different than massachusetts that was different than the virginians and there is a scene i love in "the first conspiracy" where you see it's in harvard yard and the connecticut regimen, massachusetts regiment meets the virginia regiment and virginia where something really thing on their uniform because that is what they wear but does not one uniform like today but sometimes they just were work shirts and making fun or whatever and a fight breaks out and they are all each other in george washington comes in on his horse and gets off his horse, grabs two of the big guys and is shaking them in his basically saying to stop fighting with each other, we are on the same team. if ever there were for a med
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affair where we are today, that is it. that's where we are. what i love is we have leaders in politics who gave -- bade themselves and the flag and tell you how american they are. there wasn't a flag back then or a united states and george washington had to billet by willing it to happen. the men he was dealing with were a mess. 10000 men came to new york city to fight in all the rich people there are like i don't want to be here if there would be a war and i'm leaving. they got 10000 people descending on new york city and guess what they want to do? they want to drink, gavel and go to the prostitute house. george washington is a gentleman and horrified by this. you will see them in the book, his general orders come out, no gaveling, stop drinking, don't go to the prostitute house. just like my rules growing up. that's it. [laughter]
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not even joking. but the amazing part is you are watching just the sheer will of this man trying to make these united stats happen. we have lost the america today with the word united. we have forgotten it. it's the saddest part of this. as you read the book what was important to us is that you find something that is important today and you'll see exactly why we need the stories today. i think first and foremost among that and i think this is the vital part is you get to see the depth of george washington's character in this book in one of my favorite things in the book and then we can get to the q&a and all the fun stuff but is the battle of brooklyn and is one of the first great battles here in new york and again we think we just banded together in here we go and let's fight and win and we got our rear ends kicked. george washington got out generals and he did not have the experience of british generals. our own soldiers were getting
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out fought and did not have experience or have gunpowder and they barely had shoes. we get totally, you know, we should be dead. it's overpaid george washington's pins on the east river and to be dead and it is over. if he was a different kind of leader he would say we will go out in a blaze of glory and take out as many of them as we can and we will show them who is who. we will show them what a man he is. but instead george washington does not do that because the best thing he always does, he adapts. he adapts. he plans a daring escape in the middle of the night and what he does in this daring escape is commandeered all the votes that they can on the east river and slowly, one by one in the middle of the night, puts his men on these votes and the thing, the key moment, is that george washington won't get on any of the votes until his men are on and this man george washington is absolutely risking his life for theirs, no matter hi how or low their ranking is.
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although there were moments before it was not a singular moment that brought us together but those moments are the things that created the united states. that is the moment we are we realize what was important. again, i hope in those moments you get to see the depth of george washington's character and humility and why he should be, not granite, but some one we should look up to. that's the best part of what "the first conspiracy" does. it's titillating to say we found the secret plot to kill george washington but it's far more interesting to see why it matters today and why we need leaders like him today. that is why george washington it matters. with that said i will turn it over to my friend josh we can open it up for questions and i will sit here in joke at whatever josh says. >> okay. so, testing. >> here, take this one.
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don't worry, just c-span is watching live. >> can everyone hear me? i will talk for very long so we can get to the q&a but i briefly want to say again, thank you to politics and prose, this wonderful bookstore for hosting this event allowing us to be here. thank you to brad for inviting me on this journey with him and writing this book. i will just say quickly brad alluded to this a little bit but at a time now when by any measure there is political turbulence and a lot of disagreement and divisiveness and confusion and fear in the country the ability to research history and to learn about history is so important and so vital and especially to go back and look at times in the country's history when things were very, very uncertain and there was a lot of fear and no one knew what would happen but it's so illuminating and so informative and helpful to be able to really study other times in history. i think of it is a privilege to
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learn history and hopefully those who read the book will go on that journey with us and find something to learn and hopefully you will find it entertaining to print that is all i have to say. >> we will go to questions and the best part is you can watch about whatever you want. you can ask about this book but he could ask about the thrillers and the kids book or like ron meltzer's lost history. [laughter] >> who would like to ask the first question? >> you know i love dc, not just because c-span is here but i'm just going to say this not because when you come to do an event at politics and prose everyone who is watch this around this country is the one place in the country where there always be some guy comes out of the audience and tells you what is wrong with your book so yes, please bring your questions. [laughter] >> did we talk earlier? is this on? no, i think it's a great topic. full disclosure my name is
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christian mcburney and i am cited in your footnotes who thanks that the plot was to kidnap washington as opposed to kill him. i am not convinced it's necessarily to kidnap him and it could have been either but it's i'm curious how your marketing it as to kill washington and how you arrived at that conclusion? >> thank you for proving my point. [laughter] so, god, i love being right. there is nothing better than being right on national television. it was so good but thank you. i should have paid you to ask that question. and it's a very good question and one we struggled with. to clarify, debated this title a long time and the plot to kill or kill george washington in this we say this and will see this in the book is there some people who say the plot was to kill him and some people say the plot was to kidnap him. when you look at what they did with anyone they kidnapped at
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the lower level in the military if you are low level officer and if they kidnapped you they would trade you and make a trade because you would capture our guy and you got washington's level at that general level and they hung him. there would be no trading. either way whether they kidnapped him or whether they kill him as a fascination in a tent, he's clearly in danger and potentially they will hang him. you will see the original title to the book when we originally titled the book is the first conspiracy was the secret plot against george washington and the birth of a counterintelligence movement which we felt was the best title. the publisher it was like can't you just say you're going to kill him? that's not the answer but we were like we don't no, should be, which we do and what we did was is we said we could do that title but rather than wait till the end to tell you why this title is on their and i love you
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got to the footnotes because only a good author immediately checks the footnotes for their own name. [laughter] i've been there. trust me. i'm no different. but that is why the author's note opens with the answer to that question but it says this is why we thought this and it can be one or the other and we thought this because of this reason and that's where we but we felt very strongly that we could not put that title without right up front answering for the reader and clarifying that because it is a good question and we feel like the plot isn't clear to the end but it was spoiled -- foiled so we never know what happens in the answer and why i personally and josh and i we have different views of this but sometimes but my answer to that is eventually i don't want to ruin it but the final theme in the book when you see david matthews and what he
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reveals when he wants his pension is what convinced me. that detail is one that got me and that was the one. >> i did take a quick look at the text and i thought it was a very fair discussion and an excellent point that if washington had been captured perhaps they would have hung him and he and john adams were the top guys and i was sorry i did not think of that. [laughter] >> his question is why are you so often -- no, kidding. signed the footnotes, by the w way. [laughter] i won't delve into the discussion but i want to say thank you because i read your book and i appreciate it and we cited your book for reason and i'm glad you read it and would love to hear more of your thoughts some other time. thank you. >> what is your name again? >> christian mcburney. >> what is your book? >> constructions of the american revolution. >> thank you for your amusing
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presentation. you mentioned david matthews who was the tory mayor of new york city and he was arrested and imprisoned in the mistry for me is why wasn't he tried, convicted and hung and so this poor irish born sergeant who is the low guy in a small cog in the whole plot? >> again, i love this. you will see in chapter 34 and the answer to one of the things that happened is he of all these involved in this plot to kill washington and everything that is going on against him you have all these people and the mayor and these lifeguards and all these people that play a small role but oddly the person who is hung and i'm trying not to ruin the book but i want to answer your question but the person who gets hung anyone it was even read the book is not at all the person who is responsible but oddly you are like why did they pick him when they got the big guy and why did they go after the governor or the mayor and those are the ones who are
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clearly behind it and we put our theories in there. the irish part is one of the answers and i think that is a big part of it and we say that in the book but as to why, to this day we say in the book we don't all know and we still don't know it is crazy to me that they let them go and i think for me especially as a fiction writer if i don't like the ending and something that happens in my thrillers i change the ending. i don't like their character and i kill them. that is it. ass but because i'm a fiction writer i knew we would beat or scrutinize for this. i knew there were people who would come and say if you would just change history, what we do do with it was very important for us to be more honest i think the most books are in the subjects. most books want to tell you flat out here is what is happened and we say very honestly anyone who tells you is a liar and there is no way to know because the plo
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plot -- it got boiled before it happened so that is one of the question marks. you will see in the book one of the woman who disappeared and this is a hole that will never be answered. my whole hope is in this what happened with loss history is whenever we told the story on television every single item we look for unless history we have, everything go on but we found the 911 flag able to track down the hitler diaries but there were leads on everything because when you tell the story publicly like this there is someone out there who has a relative summer who knows something and i said this to someone last night, the thing i'm most excited about this book is that whether it is mary smith or whether it is, you know, obviously the people you're talking about right now, someone when we put this book out there and tell this on national television, i promise you this will happen that we will get a letter from someone related to these people and they will say here is my family history and here is what really happened.
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go look for the name mary smith an american history, good luck. it's like googling mary smith. that was a better joke than you gave it credit for. i just want you to know. [laughter] do feel like i'm hoping some of those answers and question marks do come from relatives who feel like they know the truth out there. >> brad, nice to see you back here at politics and prose. >> always. >> i love the peace that you wrote about [inaudible] some wondering if you could write or talk about stan's influence on your work and whether you are asked by entity met weekly to write the book? >> and everyone in the back here okay? just nodded. my question is from my friend who is come to every single event at politics and rose and always wears a unique different t-shirt every time but knowing what it was obviously this crazy honor and not when you want but
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when i got to do. i truthfully, what i wrote is what i wrote online and social media and adapted for them it was the one thing i wrote that poured out of me. i didn't think about it and i just, it was my feelings when i heard that this guy who was so nice to me, stan lee, had died. when i heard he had died everything came out of me. what i mourned in that moment was, you know, we all know spider-man and his creations and his coke creations because so many of them were good creations whether the fantastic four, for or black panther, all these creations that he had those were great and wonderful but to me the reason why they are so important is because the lessons that they shared were so good and they were at the foundation of who i am and that idea of being good for good sake is vital in that something we have lost sight of.
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and no one says that anymore, no politician says that anymore, no corporation says that, no advertisement says that but i feel like those are vital lessons we want and need. i got them and i were was a kid from these comic books. if you look at stan lee original writings would write these in the comics but this was the early 60s he would have these things called stan's soapboxes and in the back he would write racism is a terrible thing and if you are going out there and saying that someone is different from you because of their skin color or lesser than you because of their skin color or religion or where they are born or that they are in immigrant and that means that there is something wrong with them, that is wrong and we must stand against that and he is writing that in the back of spider-man comics, telling us to all these people growing up in the most impressionable moments and i loved that. i love that stan lee had that
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soapbox and decided to use it for good, for justice and for equality. that is something that we all love those words and we all, whatever your politics are we say we stand for those words but do you? because if you are singling out people because of the color of their skin or where they are born or where they started their lives as opposed to where they ended, if you are doing that, you are doing it wrong and i wrote this whole thing and it came out of me and i put it on facebook and my twitter page and was the only thing i've written that has gone viral and in fact i was watching the news that night and it was on cnn and i was like those are cool words and wait, that's me. ass entertainment weekly sought and asked me could you adapt this for the column we would like to make it his obituary. what could i possibly say it, it was humbling. i knew stanley because i was researching the birth of superman for one of my books and
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all the people at dc said i needed to interview him because he was at the start. he knew jerry and joe who created superman when they were 17 -year-old kids and i got to talk to them and they were and he was nice to me and every time i needed anything he was always just the first to say how can i help so i/o him for his kindness but far more from those lessons he gave me growing up. thank you for asking about him. >> when i think of the great betrayal of the american revolution i think about benedict arnold which was also a personal betrayal against george washington. how does the story fit in chronologically to that and did they have an influence on his reaction from one or the other? >> yeah, let's very quickly and you can talk about this too if you want but benedict arnold, i done or a different book on benedict arnold and of course he's the great patrol of george washington. in fact, when my greatest thrills was i went out to the
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national archives years ago and had these treasure vaults there and in the treasure vault it's like off the course where they keep the best stuff. they open up the drawer and the pull out one of these sheet of paper this old sheet of paper that looks like an index card and it was an oath of allegiance at the top and that old classic writing. the oath of allegiance was one of those things you factored in the start of the revolution george washington wanted to make sure everyone would literally swear an oath that you would make sure not to betray us and all the oath are numbered in the corner. one, two, three and the one they can meet with these gloves on was the oath of allegiance number five. we still have oath of allegiance and still ask for military men and women to raise their right hand and swear your allegiance, so help me god but this oath of allegiance number five that i was holding was signed by
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benedict arnold and benedict arnold was one of those like silly names people call each other but don't be a benedict arnold but he was never a person but in this moment when i was downtown here in dc and i'm looking this sheet of paper benedict arnold, at some moment on this date swore this oath and use this pen to write his name and suddenly became a person and it is an amazing moment of history. i can tell you that when he escapes and runs he immediately writes a letter to george washington and the letter is hand delivered by alexander hamilton who delivers it, not in song or rap -- [laughter] that joke does not work as well in ohio. i can tell you that. dc and new york it crashes and in boca, boca knows. but he delivers this letter and the letter says one, please don't kill my wife. she didn't know. and two, don't kill my staff. they did not know.
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he also says could you return my belongings. he wants his stuff back. as if he is some girl that wants her record collection back. amazingly, george washington actually collects it and sends it back into the state nobody knows what is in those belongings. no one has any idea what is in those belongings. i certainly would not have been as nice and that story became the basis for a book that i wrote, one of the thrillers i wrote, and i love that we got to do that story but obviously my obsession with george washington, betrayal of him is huge, and i tell you all of that to say obviously, all that happened far later than the plot to kill george washington. that happens much later but this is all in 1735 but runs until 1776 and then you get to see the early battles of the war. we don't do the benedict arnold side but the early betrayals. our sequel will be the later betrayals.
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>> only thing i would add is what is so interesting is that george washington, one thing he brought with him from virginia, as brad said, he was a virginia gentleman and he really did have a sense of honor and a code of honor that he believed in very deeply and there was a notion that what we would call institutional honor or he thought that if you are part of an institution like the army, like the army he created, that your actions reflect on the entire institution and he really believed this and yet, through the course of his leadership he kept encountering these situations where people on his side, on the team we arbitrate him or betraying the army and it was really hard for him to understand how anyone could do that and yet it was happening again and again so part of the interesting part of our story and the benedict arnold story that happened later was how george washington comes to terms with the fact that not everyone has the same notion of honor that he does but he has to
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control all his officers, all his soldiers and has to try to instill this idea that does not come naturally to many people and that is some of the tension in our book is george washington adjusting from the ideas he has in his head to the reality of all the people around him so it is a really fun and interesting part of the story. >> a lot of this happened between george washington and john f. kennedy. are you now motivated to take on another one of the presidents attempted assassination? >> question is who are you doing next? i appreciate that question. i will say and it gives me a moment to tell you what is coming next, josh and i are working on our next historical deep dive. it is not jfk i can't tell you who it is yet because they want to announce it but we are working on her next and we love
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doing it. with a great time doing it. we did not know what to expect. i can't speak to josh in the process but we loved doing it together pretty we both have this similar drive and when we are working on the tv show together it was his voice that i thought was mostly like my voice and he sensed off and i sent stuff back and he sensed off and i sent it back in its this merger that becomes the best part of the process so we are working on the next one and you will see who it is soon. the next book that comes out by me is with chris elliott opelousas in the next book in our im series and for those who you don't know it's a series of kid books. we started with i am emilio ehrhardt and we started to give them the my kids but now we are on 16 books we've done albert einstein, jackie robinson, rosa parks and we did lucille ball because i want my daughter to have a female entertainment hero who is not just famous for being thin and pretty.
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lucy's idea was it was fantastic to be different. today we have so many problems with people who are different. the best part of the people in this room is that we are different. we did helen keller when she goes blind in the book goes black. we put real braille in the book so it's this amazing thing that happened. as donald trump and hilary were fighting it out two years ago as the election in november was approaching something crazy happened with a book series and that is to book started selling more than any others and they were i am george washington and i am martin luther and king junior. summer two, three years old but they took off in sales. it wasn't a democrat or republican thing which we all are attempted to divide everything by these days but was parents and grandparents were looking at the tv in that november and seen every day politicians and what they wanted to show their kids were leaders. we all know there's a huge difference between a politician and a leader and a lovely
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grandparents and parents around the country were fighting back using our books. the sales of the series have taken off from that moment because this is a moment in the culture where we are starving for real heroes again. i don't care what side of the aisle you're on but we look around and see that it's the perfect place to talk about it but were in the middle of the shutdown and the government and the only good thing is there's no traffic on connecticut right now but you know. you got here. usually you got to start late to get to politics and prose but with no traffic, it's easy. we've done gandhi and jane goodall and jim henson which is one of my favorites. thank you. marilyn in the house. when i was five years old jim henson and mr. rogers taught me about putting creativity and making it good in the world. that's what i'm trying to use. the next book that comes out we just did neil sonya sotomayor that came out last month and in february we do im billie jean king, first gay and lesbian hero
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a book about equality and for my daughter it's all about women getting a voice. after that come november we are doing, we cannot say officially, pbs is making a cartoon tv show out of our i am series -- [applause] i appreciate that. it's called xavier and his best friend brad who looks remarkably like me and they go on adventures and go back in time and they come to the present but in the meantime i'm working on the escape artist, sequel to the escape artist coming out in paperback next month. after that i am taking a nap and you get the final question. how are we doing on time? go ahead. >> are you going to make an eye am stan lee? >> requesting that i will sue
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entertainment weekly for my rights back. yes,. [laughter] he is on the list 100%. most of the people you hear me speak about tonight whether jerry or joe or stan lee, of course, i want to do and i am book on great who is your favorite one? >> jim henson. >> you have good parents. not everyone here has good parents. but you know what also worked? to have all the books? >> no. >> here is my suggestion, you say, if you love me, you buy the full set. then you can use it for anything. if you love me you will buy me and then just fill in and with whatever you want. that's my advice free for you. is that fair? you can get a free set tonight because your parents are nodding in the back and they will have been built into it. but yes, i want stan lee one
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day. >> could you describe more of the day of the hanging and it sounds more like a football game than a hanging with 20000 people because that's a lot of people. >> sure, we found pretty much every bit of evidence there is about this incredibly dramatic day and it's surprising that more people know about this event but june 28, 1776 which is about a week before the signing of the declaration of independence there is a public hanging with 20000 people watching, not just anyone hang but a continental soldier hanged with all the officers watching and the entire army was there and there were about 10000 residents of new york city in nearby. that is one of the things that made us really dig into the story is what was this event and how did it happen and why did happen and why don't people talk about it more? it's hard to imagine a more dramatic event and it happened, not only on the eve of the signing of the decoration of independence but on the eve of the first really great battle of the revolutionary war and the battle that brad referred to when americans got absolutely
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demolished. to some extent, the event might have been obscured by history because it is around by these incredibly huge events but we were totally fascinated by it and hopefully you will read the book can learn a bit more about it but it was a defining event at the time. everyone was totally obsessed about it and there were rumors and newspaper reporters writing about it and people writing letters about it so it was fun to uncover as many details as we could about this long forgotten event. >> i will also say to that the first hand accounts of people watching the hanging and writing to their family members are amazing to read. received someone who doesn't -- you think twitter messes up today by misinformation getting out there but they don't know exactly what they are seen and why did they know what they are seen. they know amanda died but you can quickly see how in all those letters different reactions and theories for what is going on
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and immediately becomes like twitter or any other game of telephone. all these different theories abound as to what has happened and why. you will see in the chapter called [inaudible] that people are inventing new words because they're so devastated by what they are seeing. it's an amazing moment and one good to see for sam because trust me, when 20000 people watched somebody there will be evidence left behind. >> so, there is a lot of leaf that the official narratives of the assassination of key leaders, jfk, martin luther ki king, official narrative is not necessarily true so i didn't take this long for us to learn about george washington? >> gosh, you kind of set it in your last answer but if you look at the date of when the hanging happened because that is a question, we sat here a washington and they are going after the first president so why
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don't i know that and that is what we asked and, again, you can have all of the series that george washington did not want to put the word out there that his own men had turned out there and that's not how you portray strength. that is one theory of course. we'll see all the theories in the book and one of the key ones to answer your question is that june 208, 1776 that is when it happened and the first draft of the declaration of independence handed in around then and the british are coming. when that happen and you're investigated and write about this place is sad to say but even 20000 people watching a man hang becomes a footnote compared to those headlines. headlines like that take over the world. you can find the story about this plot. most really good george washington biographies, it is in there. they have a sentence or paragraph in the most we found was a page and a half or a footnote and but it's always
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this tiny thing and that is why when joe said to me there was no modern book that we could find we have to ask why. that is when we said, you know, this is the story we need to tell. that is why we sit here today for it one last and then we will find some books. anyone have a last one? >> it's a little bit of a fluffy question but having done this now and with the i am series, if you were to write a historical fiction book where or when would you set it? >> yeah, for me, it's funny, if we cannot find what we wanted to find with this book this would be it. i would be like we can't find a lot and there's nothing there and no evidence in nothing from the hanging sword no transcript of any trial and there is nothing but i might have put this as part of one of the thrillers but i tend to not want to go backwards but i like using the stuff today but make no mistake, i was a history major at michigan and this is where i
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studied and always the time i loved most. there's a reason why the first ever nonfiction book that we are doing is set right in my favorite part of history but this is always the best part. i think it is because the best stories in life are not the ones that entertain you but they are the ones that tell you something about yourself and that is why the bible is the bible. the bible is not a list of rules to live by. it has the ten commitments but it is not a list of rules but a book of stories. there is nothing in this whole world more powerful than an idea that is all a story is, a collection of those ideas. i think the reason the stories, the ones that persists, we talk tonight about whether it's jim henson and kermit the frog or stan lee and superman or george washington but to me they are all the same story. i understand that some of those people are imaginary and george washington israel but to me although stories are about what we aspire to as human beings and what we aspire to be the best
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and what we can be every day and time and again the most important part of the story is not superman but most important part of the story is clark kent because we are all clark kent and that is why he takes off because he has that side of us in him. show me who you hero is and i will show you who you are. it's great to say about the threat against george washington and they come and tell him but what i love is that it really enlightens that moment in time to show us more about ourselves. we tell the story in history class right now with the declaration of independence is signed and george washington is in charge and we went and he's the president, next section. and maybe it is because we love to whitewash because we do it right? especially about ourselves and how great we are and maybe it's just because we got a lot of information to cover and we can't cover every detail but i'm not inspired when it is easy. that everyone banded together
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and we beat the british. that doesn't impress me. what impresses me is when it's hard. that is when it is better to do something. i love the fact that when you read this book you can help but read the book and go what happens if he dies? that is the question i can't believe no one aspirate what happened and it's like it is begging to be asked when you write about something like this. when you see that he is not the leader that wins everything but in the battle he doesn't win and win but he loses and retreats and loses in brooklyn and loses on long island and retreats and goes to jersey and connecticut and he keeps retreating, george washington does. but the only thing he wanted to is give up, he never ever will give up. that is why the british are like man, that's enough. they just know that he's like a jewish mother. enough already. i love the fact that you get to see how hard it is.
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when you see what the person you look up to and how hard it was for him to and so with that said again thank you to politics and prose and c-span for doing this and thank you to all my friends who come. thanks so much. [applause] >> thank you so much for it once again, books are available via the but if you'd rather not wait to get your book in line, we do have signed copies. the line will start in front of me and they will be up at the stable happy to sign. please fold up your tears and put them against the wall in the bookshelf because it helps us get started again. >> coming up this afternoon, present time holds a news conference at the white house and we have live coverage at 5:30 p.m. eastern here on c-span2, online@c-span .org or you can listen with a free c-span radio app.
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>> our live coverage of the democratic national convention continues tonight with former secretary of state hillary clinton, democratic vice presidential nominee molly harris and former president barack obama. watch live coverage of the democratic national convention tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, live streaming and on-demand at c-span .org / dnc or listen with the free c-span radio app. c-span your unfiltered view of politics. >> next, on book tvs "after words" john yoo, university of california berkeley law professor and former deputy assistant attorney general in the george w. bush administration weighs in on presidential powers and the constitution. he is interviewed by


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