80 of 92 people found the following review helpful
In our modern politization of history, people are forced into two groups. The first are those who've only now realized that their larger-than-life image of Jefferson, Washington and the other founders as an uncommonly civil and reasonable bunch is just that, a myth. This group is hurt by this and looks at any attempt to point out the founders weaknesses, internal inconsistencies and what-have-you as nothing less than high slander. Then there is the group that realizes that the founders WERE flawed, contradictory and not quite the proper stuff of legends. This group, though generally out of political spite, not only embraces this fact, but loves to rub any history buff's face in it, pointing to our flawed history as certain proof that America was concieved in shame.
This video is refreshing because we get a good dose of amunition for both sides. Starting with George Washington's innaguration, this film takes us through a brilliant story of a people forced to govern from scratch. The film does a good job in pointing out that unlike today, presidents, cabinets, legsilators had no precedents. Who could Washington, Hamilton, the congress who in 1800 dealt with the first election recount in history; none of these, had anyone to look to anyone to see how it was done before. It wasn't done before! We go through the Washington, Adams, and Jefferson presidency; our dealings with France, a new economic system, slavery, and colliding visions of the federalists and the republicans (nowadays these would be termed the republicans and the democrats, respectively). Not quite a Ken Burns film but close!
With that said, this film is extemely biased towards the federalists. Whether in the battle of words between Adams and Jefferson, where only Jefferson is made to look hot-headed, or the constant understatement of Madison's intellect (well, that is the republican, not the federalist Madison). If you are like me, an olld whig republican (nowadays called a libertarian or classical liberal) you will be slightly annoyed at oversights like these. Jefferson was by no means a perfect or for that matter, a thorougly respectable individual but this film highlights these flaws while letting Hamilton's slide.
The only other quip I have is that the legislature and judicial branch are completely ignored. It's understandable because for a film on the History Channel must focus on what the general public is most interested in and this by far is the executive branch (can you name at least one federal judge?) but it would have been nice once in a while to be reminded of their existence.
Altough this film lacks some of the vigor that Founding Fathers had (with the fiery orations by speakers at the Constitutional Convention), it is still thorougly engrossing. It conveys what so few films, books and (PUKE!!) history lessons seem to almost, but never fully, get across; the founders and our history were/was living and breating.
47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2002
I love history and in recent months I have been voraciously reading / viewing various books / DVD collections. Founding Brothers is a documentary from the History Channel that is based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning book by Joseph Ellis. I would note that there is another DVD collection (created a few years ago by the History Channel) entitled Founding Fathers.
Both DVD collections discuss the lives and times of the founding fathers (brothers). This particular DVD collection starts with post revolution times (i.e constitutional congress - 1820 or so) and really dives into how, once the war was over the bickering and infighting began amongst the founding fathers. If you are looking for pre-revolution commentary than Founding Fathers is a better DVD collection to pick up as it starts with New England dissent to the winning of the war.
1. This DVD collection is well produced. Famous actors provided the voices for the characters as in Founding Fathers. Many of the voice overs are done by the same people in both collections.
2. While the DVD is certainly worth watching I found myself wishing it had more facts about the economy and its progress but, as the title states, this series is about the founding fathers.
3. The series did a nice job of discussing how various fathers had issues with slavery. It discussed whether they were pro-slavery or against it and how some had serious troubles dealing with it.
4. The one thing I thoroughly enjoyed about the DVD collection was that it clearly depicts how each of these men came together despite their different backgrounds and temperaments to found a nation.
Most of my reviews are in business / economics and I encourage people to read them, whether here on Amazon or at my personal website. If you are interested in economic history book I would encourage everyone to read The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner since it is more international in scope and deals with the lives and times of the most famous economists in history. If you are interested in economic development / evolution of U.S. property history I would encourage you to read Hernando DeSoto's Mystery of Capital but note his lack of focus on corruption in certain countries. A great general business book is by the management guru Peter Drucker entitled "The Essential Drucker."
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2002
I saw the History Channel show FOUNDING FATHERS and thought it was great. FOUNDING BROTHERS is even better. The stories they tell in here just make your jaw drop. I had no idea that their nasty political feuds were as bad as what goes on today - maybe worse.
The commentators great at telling what really went on and the images are fun to watch. The guy who plays Thomas Jefferson is his spitting image! They have a bunch of well known actors reading the letters of these men which works pretty well, too.
My main complaint -- I wish it was two hours longer! Kudos to the History Channel and their producers for making this wonderful show. I'm buying DVD's for all my kids.
54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2006
It pains my heart to see what is happening in the realm of the so-called American historian. And though I have a gleam of hope that the statements I am about to make do not apply to all American historians, one thing is true, and that is there is a bias among historians towards Hamiltonian principals of government to the disgust of the true American spirit of liberty and freedom. And though I support with vehemence the principals of Jeffersonian government as it existed during the early nineteenth century for about a quarter of a century, that does not blind me to the fact that Jefferson was a man who did make mistakes. But to exaggerate those mistakes to then become a staunch supporter of Hamilton is a grave mistake in this day and age. Hamilton is placed upon a pedestal constantly and applauded and showered with such laurels that these very praises make one suspicious to wonder if he deserves it. And a close examination of his philosophy will show that he is unworthy. My design is not to say we should attack his character as each man was flawed, but his principles of government are dangerous to the American people, and I am baffled to see how historians who are so astute should be blinded by his principals. It almost makes one wonder if they purposely are trying to shape the American mind to accept principles that would make us conform to our rights are being trampled upon. I want to be fair to those who may be naïve, but at the same time not to be willfully ignorant. We know currently we are living under a consolidated form of government never intended by the founding fore fathers, and I pray that our leading historians and teachers are not trying to make us accept it. I believe it is time to rise up against these abuses and to allow the common voice of the educated American to be heard again. Where is the voice of liberty?
And what I have just shared above is no different in this documentary. Hamilton is praised to such an extent where the historians evade certain issues as created by Hamilton himself and try to sweep it under a rug, while slashing Jefferson with such determination that one is left with a one sided view to the issue. More energy is placed upon Jefferson's character as a person. If we judged by that alone and put these men side by side we would have an endless list. The issue is not on character alone, but government strategy and foresight to lead a nation and a people to have a Democratic Republic. To fulfill the purpose of government and this is to protect the rights of the people. This is the crux of the matter. And I feel like they have fallen short in this documentary. The following is an enumeration of the biased view of Hamiltonian principles as shown in this documentary.
1.) The Alien & Sedition Acts - This documentary brings out the point that Adams made a bad decision by instituting these two laws, but it fails to show the Federalists view as a party of these bills. Anyone who knows their history understands full well that it was the radicals among the Federalists who wanted the Alien Bill. Furthermore it is true that Hamilton urged moderation but Hamilton didn't seek to prevent the bill. So in this documentary all that is sweep under the rug with Abigail Adams gave him poor advice. Shocking!
2.) Character Flaws between Jefferson & Hamilton - Over and over again Hamilton is made the saint and Jefferson the heathen. Hamilton's affair is covered in about five minutes, while the Sally Hemmings story covers about fifteen minutes. It speaks about how Jefferson NEVER freed any slaves except the Hemmings slaves. Now either this historian is ignorant to historical facts or just using another opportunity to slash Jefferson. Everyone knows that Jefferson freed more than just the Hemmings slave. He freed several slaves that had a trade because he felt like they could survive in a hostile environment, but of course you don't get that in this documentary. The documentary makes Hamilton a Christian and never clears Jefferson of not being Atheist. If you know your history that title was given to him because of his support to the French Revolution. And the documentary left out how Jefferson did not suppor the violence of the French Revolution and that towards the end of the French Revolution he was against it.
3.) Government Policies - While the documentary descibes the Presidential terms of Washington and how Jefferson and Hamilton were a part of the cabinet. Several decisions that Washington made were influenced by Hamilton. Many times especially on critical issues Washington would accept the advice of Hamilton above Jeffersons to the detriment of the country, but that is left out. Hamilton is praised for his financial genius (which we can't deny) but it was done without the consent of the people. This documentary leaves out how Hamiltons plan on Assumption (assuming the debts of states from the American Revolution)totally ripped off the people who fought in the American Revolution. These men were given notes with the promise that they would be paid, and because they needed money they gave these notes away to the wealthy men (Hamilton's supporters) way below costs, and later Hamilton helps push a bill to force the Federal government to accept those notes later at face value making Hamilton's supporters rich. But again that is left out! And the worse of all it doesn't mention the deragatory statements that were made by Hamilton about the American Constitution. If you think that Hamilton was a staunch support of preserving the rights or a Democratic Republic you are sadly mistaken. He supported it because it was the closest thing that he could get to wield sovereign power. Over and over he makes broad interpretations to the constitution, he assumes power that was not delegated. That is why Madison turned against him when he wanted to establish a National Bank. It was against the Constitution!! American's we forget that. Yet we praise what he did in establishing it. You are praising a violation of the very back bone of our nation. But of course this was all left out. I could say more, but these are my observations.
I will make it clear that I am a Jeffersonian when it comes to my political beliefs. And I am not because I agree with everything that Jefferson did, but I support his principles becasue these principles are the ones that guarantee that the rights of the people be protected from the encroachments of the Federal government. Anyone can see now that America is following Hamiltonian forms of government and as a result the rights of the people and the constiution has been trampled incessantly, and we have those who want to praise Hamilton, shocking! No wonder we are in a mess. I encourage you to get the facts. I recommend Claude Bowers book entitled Jefferson & Hamilton. It will open your eyes to the true facts so you can make intelligent decisions in regard to how our government is currently being run.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This series is based upon a book by the same title, 'Founding Brothers', by author Joseph J. Ellis, who also has written books on both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - hence it makes sense that there would be one book that brings the two of them together, along with other movers and shakers of the early American nationhood. Often referred to as 'founding fathers', in fact toward each other, they were more of a brotherhood. Hence Ellis' title.
We live in a time where the aging generation has been celebrated as 'the greatest generation', but for this title (and not meaning to take away anything of their achievement) they certain must acknowledge a rival, that being the generation of Americans who lived at the time of the Revolutionary War. Of course, this generation had a sense of greatness about it that made them conscious of what they were doing - George Washington deliberately lived and moved as if his every action would be the stuff of precedent; John Adams had his wife Abigail to begin saving his correspondence long before the outbreak of hostilities in the war.
Even with this sense about themselves, according to Ellis, 'Uncertainty, in fact, was the dominant mood at that moment' - the time when the Constitution was being drafted and ratified, there was no clear sense of what was meant by certain of the compromises, particularly the meaning of who 'the people' were in the legal and constitutional sense. If they weren't the federal government or the state governments, then just who were they?
Ellis identifies different possible ways of telling the early history of American nationhood, but most simply recapitulate the political debates of the time. Ellis sees these debates and early issues as setting the political stage for ongoing American development. He says, 'the revolutionary generation found a way to contain the explosive energies of the debate in the form of an ongoing argumetn or dialogue that was eventually institutionalised and rendered safe by the creation of political parties.' The issues of the Revolutionary period were not solved by the Constitution and early government development, according to Ellis, but rather enshrined and codified, indeed, woven into the very fabric of the nation as ongoing (and, as Ellis points out, only broke out into warfare during the Civil War).
This series develops the narrative across eight major characters, all of whom knew each other rather well. These figures are George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. These stories include the famous duel between Hamilton and Burr, a dinner party in which the location of the nation's capital city was decided, and George Washington's farewell address upon declining to run for a third term as president. He also recounts the on-again, off-again friendship and rivalry of Jefferson and Adams, up to the very point of Adams' death - his reported last words were about Jefferson, who died on the same day, in what seems like divinely inspired timing for both: July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the nation.
The history is necessarily brief in the series; the book companion is not a lengthy one either - however, history is necessarily selective, and the point of this series seems to be to emphasise the personal relationships and interactions that led to the greater developments of the nation. The series does gloss over some of the better-known aspects of history to focus more intimately on the central characters and their lives - in such a short space of time, I feel the series has done a very good job at making this period in time come alive for the viewer, and will hopefully stimulate the viewer to read, both Ellis' book and beyond, to learn more about the foundation of the nation.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2002
Founding Brothers is a phenomanal DVD. This documentary is one of a kind. Founding Brothers wet my apetite to learn more about this time period and since then, I have read many books on the same subject matter. What makes Founding Brothers so unique, is that it puts the politics of the era in perspective. For example; the myth that the founding fathers cooperated and worked peacefuly to found the single greatest document in American History, the constitution, is not true. These men were passionate, ambitious, and lived with codes of honor that rival American politicking even today. What could drive two outstanding fathers, Hamilton and Burr, to fight a duel to the death? How could the very man who wrote the words "All men are created equal," enslave his own children? And why is there a dark cloud over the Adams presidency? In Founding Brothers, you will find answers to these questions and more as this film takes you into the greatest crisis of American history, even greater then the Civil War.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2004
This DVD set combined with the book of the same title offers excellent insight to the birth of a great Republic. The DVD is limited in breadth due to time constraints, though it does offer a nice amount of information. Because there were so many heroes and important figures of this historical time, the film makers chose to focus mainly on a few key people: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Almost two whole segments are spent, and rightfully so, on George Washington.
Nothing new is exposed for well-read historians, but for casual history buffs there are some great details presented. Interesting analysis, questions, answers, and anecdotes throughout. We get an insiders view of the events and people. We see political tactics used by the key players that would make modern politicians shy up. We get a picture not normally found in text books of the stage set for this experiment. Washington, for example, after being elected President had an interesting ride from Virginia to Philadelphia in a carriage with a driver so drunk that his baggage was tossed over several times. Once in Philadelphia, Washington wondered, how should a President act? After all there was no model. He had to act important, but not monocratic, a tough thing to do.
The filmmakers do a nice job contrasting the Federalist and Anti-Federalist (Republican) differences and the very strong personalities involved. They do a nice job weaving the relationships in and out as the years progressed. DVD one starts at the tail end of the American Revolution and DVD two wraps up with the death of Jefferson and Adams on July 4, 1826. It would be very tough to make a two DVD set that properly covers all the material, events, and people involved with this important time period. I think the filmmakers did a fine job here. A one star hit for all but ignoring Franklin's political, philosophical, diplomatic, and social contributions. Even though Franklin was in his advanced years, his contributions to the development of the young nation were very significant. Maybe they felt Franklin too overwhelming a figure for this project, I don't know. Still an effort should have been made.
I applaud the material offered and find this to be a worthy set to own and plan to view it many times.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I decided to watch "Founding Brothers" as background research for my class on the American Presidency. My surprise was great when I realized the beginnings of America resemble a modern day soap opera, with just as much drama and deception. This production of the History Channel is based on the best-selling book of the same title by historian Joseph Ellis, and presents an intricate, highly political and oftentimes highly manipulative picture of America's first steps towards self-government.
The series is four hours long and covers the first three presidents - George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - in all their mandates, along with the politics that surrounded not only them as individuals but their cabinets as well. There is superb acting from the cast in period clothing and a great job has been done in making them look like their alter egos. The voices of the patriots were entrusted to actors of the caliber of Brian Dennehy, Michael York and Peter Coyote.
"Founding Brothers" provides great insight and scholarly analysis on other politicians of the time as well, those who did not occupy the executive's office, yet had just as much influence in the shaping of the political future of the country. Thus we have extensive background on Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton to name but a few, this last one a shrewd man, also known as the American Machiavelli, and responsible for the engineering of America's financial system.
I don't have anything to say about the quality of the material in the series, which is all discussed by first grade historians and researchers. I was surprised however, by the charisma and integrity that seemed to have been the distinguishing marks of George Washington, the irascibility that precluded John Adams from becoming an effective leader, and the appalling manipulative and conniving personality of Thomas Jefferson, a man known for having betrayed his closest friends.
"Founding Brothers" presents a picture sometimes hopeful, sometimes disdainful of American politics. An eye-opener for anyone wishing to understand the nature of the country's government.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2005
If you are looking for answers as to how the Federal Bank began,how the branches of gov't or executive offices were created, this is the DVD for you. It is excellently put together. It easy to understand and engagingly presented and narrated. These men, such as Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams & Madison will come to life for you. You will also be introduced to famiiar names such as Aaron Burr, John Jay and John Hancock. The American Revolution is neatly woven through, letting you see how friendships were forged & rifts widened. And it leaves you wanting more! I read the book by J Ellis first however,and it was more interesting & exciting and gave more depth, which videos are usually lacking. Buy the book also and read it while you are watching,before or after!. True History buffs will love it, and you don't HAVE to hold a Doctorate in History to understand it. You will keep saying throughout, "oh, that's why it's that way today!" Well worth the money & the time. You'll watch it more than once. Guaranteed.
on June 2, 2010
Lately, I have been concentrating my studies of American History in the period immediately proeceeding the American Revolution to the conclusion of the Civil War and then the Civil Rights Movement. To this purpose, I have purchased a bunch of VHS & DVD titles. This is just one of many & it is definately worth the price & time n viewing! I enjoyed this video set very much. So many titles have intermingled in my memory, that I can't seem to separate this set from the others I have purchased & viewed. I just know Ireally enjoyed watching it & would recommend to anybody interested in this period of American History.