Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Let’s say hello to our old friend, Professor Dr. Kevin Gutzman. Why was Taylor the brains of the operation? We talked about him in so many different ways and in so many different instances and so many different things that few people know he was involved in. Why was he the brains of the operation? Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Let’s say hello to our old friend, Professor Dr. Kevin Gutzman. Why was Taylor the brains of the operation? We talked about him in so many different ways and in so many different instances and so many different things that few people know he was involved in. Why was he the brains of the operation?
Kevin Gutzman: Well, he’s the one who penned the pamphlets for public consumption. He was, I guess, the main publicist of the Virginia Republican Party. He’s the one that took the program of the Hamiltonians and wrote several explanations for public consumption of the reasons why republicans were opposed. Ultimately Jefferson said he’d never differed from Colonel Taylor on any significant public issue. One has the feeling that often Taylor was kind of leading Jefferson. I call him the brains of the operation because that’s essentially the way other people treated him. Of course, the federalists understood that he spoke for the republican high command, too.
Mike: The interesting part about Taylor’s life and his career and the things he did pamphlet about is that he seemed to have this penchant, or maybe it was just the fact that he was a Virginian and he was involved with Madison and Jefferson and Pendleton and the men who were founding fathers, although we can’t really consider him a founding father, although he hung around with them. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. I was reading the Congressional Globe leading up to the debate on the Louisiana Purchase. I can’t find an instance where the man ever stood up and said a word. I went back two months. They called the roll and he was certainly there, but he didn’t say anything, until that day when the Louisiana Purchase came up and John Taylor stands up — this speech is in the book, by the way. He just takes Timothy Pickering and the New Englanders’ case — of course, Pickering and friends basically used the Louisiana Purchase as the case upon which they’re going to build why they want to secede or why they want to form the Northern Confederation in the Hartford Convention in 1814. Most people are thinking, I guess, at the time: Jefferson really blundered on this one, I think including the president, that this isn’t constitutional and they’re going to have to have an amendment and all that. But Taylor just swatted that one right out of the park, didn’t he?
Gutzman: Yes, he did. I’m persuaded myself, although you hear all the time that what Jefferson did was unconstitutional, and Jefferson thought that what he did was unconstitutional. I’m persuaded that it wasn’t unconstitutional because Taylor made that clear. Generally his argument was that the Constitution says, in Article II, that the president can enter into treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate. At the time there were four common types of treaties, one of which was a treaty to buy or sell territory. So since the Constitution didn’t specify what kind of treaties the president could enter into with the advice and consent of the Senate, we have to understand that word in its common signification, and that includes treaties to buy and sell territory.
There are a couple of stories about Taylor’s personality that I think are worth knowing. One is, when he was an old man, right before he died, he apparently got a letter from his granddaughter complaining about the Missouri Compromise. She said something to the effect that she hated Yankees. John Taylor of Caroline wrote back to her and told her something like: Well, you better be careful what you say about Yankees. You may find yourself in love with one and wouldn’t that be a problem.
Another instance, he was long a friend of Wilson Cary Nicholas from the very prominent Nicholas political dynasty in Virginia and Kentucky. Wilson Cary Nicholas was a senator and a close friend of Jefferson’s. Ultimately two of their progeny married each other and so the two of them became in-laws. Jefferson signed a note, co-signed for Nicholas when he borrowed some money, and then Nicholas ended up going bankrupt. This is why Jefferson ended his life essentially bankrupt. Nicholas and Taylor had had corresponded about things that were going on within the Republican Party. Then Nicholas told the public some of the things Taylor had said to him. Taylor wrote a letter to Nicholas and said, essentially: Look, I thought you were a gentleman, but instead you made our correspondence public. I don’t want anything else to do with you.
Then, when Nicholas died, Taylor secretly sends money to Nicholas’s widow to pay for Nicholas’s children to go to college. Mrs. Nicholas never knew where this money was coming from because Taylor had a third party give it to her. He retained this feeling about Nicholas even though the two of them had had this falling out and he was sorry that Nicholas had gone bankrupt and left his wife in this sad situation. He paid for Nicholas’s kids to go to college.
Mike: The eBook is already out and you can download it. The hardback will be available later on today, John Taylor of Caroline – American Statesman. I could tell John Taylor stories all day long. One of the other things, and you kind of alluded to this in his response to his granddaughter: Be careful how you say that because you might wind up marrying one. To me, after re-reading a lot of Taylor’s stuff and putting this book together, a lot of his writings, and re-reading them not as reading republican dogma, which a lot of it is, but reading it — just pretend that someone went back and said: I’m going to fictionalize this character and I’m going to make him a wisecracker and call him John Taylor. He’s going to get all the punchlines in. He does get all the punchlines in! If you read Taylor’s correspondence and some of the things he wrote, if you’re thinking: Some of this stuff is satirical. Some of it is just outright 18th century funny. He certainly had a command of what we would call in the business comedic timing.
One of the ways I saw this, and I must have seen ten or twelve references to this, is his common punchline was: Satisfied or hungry are preferable to hungry flies. He uses it all the time. Of course, as Kevin and I were talking about, he appears at the most opportune times, like the Louisiana Purchase. He also appears — James Madison and Thomas Jefferson choose John Taylor to go into the Virginia Assembly to promote the Virginia Resolution, what James Madison would later call interposition; you call it nullification today. They chose Taylor to deliver that speech. There’s only one speaker that day, John Taylor. The roll was called at 10 a.m.; they adjourned at 4 p.m. He spoke for six hours and then he spoke after everyone else had made their case. He spoke again and then he answered all the objections to nullification. If you want to know why interposition or nullification, why Jefferson and company thought it was constitutional, all you have to do is get John Taylor of Caroline County – American Statesman and read the speech. In that speech, he used the “satisfied are preferable to hungry fly” line. I pointed this out.
Also, if you can suffer through — I’ll let you tell the John Randolph of Roanoke joke. If you can suffer through New Views of the Constitution of the United States — it took me almost a year to read it because I would just get tired of reading Taylor. He grates on you. If you can suffer through it and you actually make it to the last chapter — I never did until I started working on this book. I never made it to the last chapter of the book. I think I made it to three chapters before I went: I get it. I don’t need to read any more, dude, I got it. Well, I should have gone to the last chapter because the last chapter is an outright satire. It’s comedy. He’s making fun of John Marshall and Alexander Hamilton and the federalist version of government by using a short story by Jonathan Swift. I didn’t know this, but as I’m reading it my wife — Mrs. Church read it. She said: I laughed out loud a couple times. She said it was like a modern satirist making fun of the Democrats.
Gutzman: There’s essentially no distinction between what he’s complaining about in several of his writings and today’s Democrat Party. I think the classic Taylor book is a book call Tyranny Unmasked where he describes Henry Clay, the early 19th century advocate of high federal taxes, a lot of federal spending, and basically handouts for various well-connected corporations and so on. Taylor says: This is unconstitutional. Of course, if we allow this, we’re going to have unlimited government by these politicians. It will all be about buying votes and favoring friends and so on. The other thing he says is, of course, what it will do is create two classes of people. Of course, we know this all around us now. It’s going to be the givers and the takers. It’s going to be the people who do the paying and the people who do the receiving.
End Mike Church Show Transcript