Customer Reviews: Founding Fathers
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on December 5, 2000
If you are interested in early American history, specifically the period of the Revolution, I recommend this series of tapes. The four episodes are a recent series carried by The History Channel and although the tapes can be ordered from that Channel's website, you are better off ordering from Amazon since Amazon offers a discount. The series humanizes the founding fathers. For example, did you ever realize that dour John Adams was a very hot young lover deeply in love with Abigail and whose letters to Abigail were tinged with coded sexual references? I found particularly engaging the treatment of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. The two were so very different yet they combined into a powerful voice for the revolution. Hancock was very wealthy and part of his reason to support the Revolution was to protect his interests and, perhaps, to avoid the payment of taxes. Samuel Adams, on the other hand, was a failed businessman and a frumpy dresser (whereas Hancock was always perfectly dressed). However, the two worked together to form a passionate voice. In this series we learn how close the Revolution was to failure as Washington had only a few troops whose terms of enlistment were due to expire. However, these troops were rallied by Thomas Paine's famous words, "These are the times that try men's souls." Paine earlier had rallied the populous with "Common Sense." but equally important was his rallying of the troops. All of the founding fathers, Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Franklin etc. are presented in an engaging way. They are humanized and their contributions to our fledgling nation are illuminated. This series is particularly well suited to a middle school or high school history class. I recommend it highly.
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on August 6, 2004
First of all, this DVD is NOT about the American Revolution. If you want to know about the American Revolution and how the country was built, then "Liberty: The American Revolution" from PBS is a much better choice. Nevertheless, this is still a decent DVD, if you want a quick overview of the biography of the Founding Fathers. Each Founding Fathers biography is covered equally in length. They are Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. You will learn that each Founding Fathers has different reason to join the revolution, not all of them get along with each other, they came with many flaws just like humans, and not all of them were respected after the end of the revolution. The DVD is begin with the seed of the revolution, why each Founding Fathers decided to join the revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the creation of the U.S constitution along with the Bill of Rights. Overall, this is a decent DVD. My only complains are sometimes they talk about the Founding Father's character that are not important to the revolution and there is very little coverage about the war. But overall, this is a good DVD if you want a quick overview of the life of the Founding Fathers.
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This DVD offers an interesting and useful perspective on the Founding Fathers. It is a relatively painless way to learn a great deal about these men, their ideals, and some of the things that gave rise to the American Revolution.
I personally thought that the historian-commentators were largely mouthy and annoying. The narration was pretty good, and in fact I wish there were a way to simply edit out the commentators while leaving the narration. It is possible to present the Founders both as the human beings they were without losing sight of the fact that America was extraordinarily fortunate to have brought forth such men at this critical time. At times I thought that this series missed the mark in this regards, and went out of its way to focus on minor personal quirks that frankly are of no importance and only minor interest. The Founding Fathers were, after all, giants.
Nevertheless, at least this piece deals with the American Revolution and the Founders, which are underrepresented topics.
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on August 10, 2002
I love history and in recent months I have been voraciously reading / viewing various books / DVD collections. The Founding Fathers, which I believe is based on the book by M.E. Bradford, is one of 2 DVD collections available by the History Channel that discusses the lives and times of the countries' founding fathers. The other DVD collection is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis. This DVD collection was the first one created by The History Channel.
Both DVD collections discuss the lives and times of the founding fathers (brothers). This particular DVD collection starts with a discussion of Sam Adams and the rise of discontent amongst New Englanders. It focuses on the events that led to the American Revolution much better than the other DVD collection, Founding Brothers. After viewing both of them again I would say without a doubt that this series deals with pre-revolution to the constitution whereas Founding Brothers is more constitutional conventions to post revolution times and the establishment of parties / bickering amongst the founders.
1. This DVD collection is well produced. Famous actors provided the voices for the characters.
2. While the DVD is certainly worth watching I found myself wishing it had more facts about events of the American Revolution. 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 ... 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."
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on December 3, 2000
I was hoping for FOUNDING FATHERS to be so much more than it is. Though touted as an examination of the personal lives of America's early leaders, and how those personal lives impacted on the formation of the country, in truth it's a very thin history of the revolution and constitutional convention.
Try as it might with great voice acting and interesting featured historians, FOUNDING FATHERS can't make up its mind on how it wants to tell its story. It follows neither individuals nor the narrative of the revolution in a coherently chronological way. Yes, it's generally timely--each episode delves into the people and events of a particular set of years--but often the need to spin a biography of a founding father gets in the way of documenting the events themselves. Just when it starts to make progress on explaining, say, the course of the war itself, it has to stop and give a biography of an individual. Similarly, just when you're being made curious about Alexander Hamilton's Caribbean youth, you're thrown back into a discussion of the war's progress.
With more episodes, it might have been possible to have made this schizophrenic storytelling style work. But the problem is that there are too many founding fathers to examine, too many events to chronicle--and only four hours to do it in. By trying to do too much, FOUNDING FATHERS can't help but do too little. It took Ken Burns, after all, 11 hours to tell his story of the Civil War--and that covered fewer years than this series attempts.
This series is thus best left in the high school classroom, or with others who haven't got a basic understanding of revolutionary America. It works well enough as an introduction to the period. But ultimately the series will bring up more questions than answers for most viewers. And if you already know a bit about the formation of the country, you'd do better to turn elsewhere to further your education.
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on February 4, 2004
What a waste of time. I wanted to learn about the founding of America, instead I am force-fed moronic "professors" obviously chosen for their willingness to say stupid things. One said he was surprised the Founding Fathers were able to function because they were so drunk, using about four different descriptive slang terms rather than "intoxicated." Another said that John Adams was a candiate for Prozac and implied that the first child he had with his wife may have been illegitimate despite being born 9-10 months after the wedding (married in October, baby born in July).
I am so sick of the tripe A&E and the History Channel release. The History Channel used to seem more legitimate than A&E, now it's just the same nonsense. Something calling itself "The HISTORY Channel" should do more than try to revise it.
Don't waste your money.
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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2011
Nowhere in this film, depicting the early stirrings of Revolution in Boston, is James Otis mentioned. James Otis, the brilliant British Attorney turned rebel, and his rousing speech against the "writs of assistance" (broad power based search warrants of the British) that coined such phrases as "taxation without representation", "a man's home is his castle", was actually the catalyst, the one who was first and foremost instrumental in starting the movement. A young John Adams, sitting in the courtroom listening, made the remark later that "Otis was a flame of fire. The child of liberty was born then and there." John Adams also remarked in one of his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson much later in life that "The only person who served our cause better than Sam Adams was James Otis." Yet Otis is largely forgotten (or ignored) in these chronicles, possibly because he suffered from mental breakdown later. A tragedy of history, and a disgrace to historians, because Otis was a "founding father" himself.

Other issues arose in this film, in my opinion. While I appreciate the fact that the founding fathers were, indeed human with feet of clay like the rest of us, and want the full story told because it adds so much dimension to the overall saga of the Revolution, I also felt some of the dwelling on subjects unimportant to history smacked of disrespect. For example, the drawn out section regarding the state of Washington's teeth - everything from a possible set of wooden ones on down to: " awful thing after another; bone, teeth of other people, animal, you don't want to know about the teeth." Really? Then why are you taking us there? Frankly, I have never been a fan of sensationalism masquerading as history, and this was the chief issue I took with this documentary. It would have been quite enough to say he had problems with his teeth; perhaps even show the grim set of teeth if they were so inclined - without the drama; but who really cares in the scheme of things?

It was adequate, but there are better accountings out there that deal with the personal issues interlocked with the heroism of these people, sans the unnecessary side tracking.

I haven't found many documentaries that begin at Faneuil Hall in Boston, but for those wishing to track the Revolution from it's beginnings, there are several books that do so, two of the best are (IMO) :

** "Three Men of Boston".

** "The Defiance of The Patriots - the Boston Tea Party"

** "Patriot: The Men Who Started the American Revolution " - by A.J. Langguth
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on December 12, 2000
We often think of historical documentaries as a bunch of boring pictures with a cracked voice describing events like a list. This is however something very different. It tells the story of how we (USA) became a country through independence and the formation of a constitution as a true yet still continiously fasinating story. The history channel does that by telling the COMPLETE BACKGROUND (like how Franklin was a womanizer, or John Hancock was kind of a rich playboy, Patrick Henry's recitation of Church sermons that developed his speaking and ablities & much more that I encourage you to find out by buying this video) and from that they show you how those past personal experiences influenced all the actions of our founding fathers that resulted in the founding of America. By doing that the history channel allures any viewer to hold there breath and feel the amazement of how as humans such different yet all bright men found a country. And with that along with the hollywood style of clear, realistic-like voices of our founding fathers and with broadway like re-enactments that makes watching this movie feel like watching Braveheart. By shows end any viewer will be off better informed about the true founding of America (I learned so much, I even stumped my 9th grade teacher) and have this great feeling of how lucky we are to be Americans thanks to the amazing contributions of human people (for those overseas, the feeling of how extraordinary America is).
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on March 10, 2001
THE FOUNDING FATHERS is almost certainly the most fascinating and entertaining cinematic saga of the American Revolution. Related with poignancy and depth as a story of men - with all of their human foibles - rather than of icons, it is told with much greater candidness than the usual pedantic chronicle. This stirring account of American's finest hour is presented as a tapestry of the lives of the great, but very human, men woven together with the momentous events they created - events that still shape the destiny of this Nation. It is true, as one other reviewer mentions, that this is not a typical historical narrative: it has no plot and, at times, may seem somewhat disjointed. Given its brevity, and the nature of the material it treats, this is probably inevitable. The American Revolution was, after all, a congeries of events covering an extremely large area, full of the utmost diversity, at a time when the fledgling United States of America was in turmoil. Also, a presentation of this type must be extremely selective, which THE FOUNDING FATHERS is. Nevertheless it depicts brilliantly how the unique personalities of the Founders made possible the astonishingly unlikely series of events that permitted a handful of disorganized colonies to wrest their freedom from, arguably, the greatest military power of the time. If you like history, or if, having managed to escape the mindless America-bashing so prevalent today, you harbor even a vestige of patriotic feelings for the USA, you will not be disappointed by this series.
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on July 17, 2002
Apparently the former reviewers just haven't studied the Founding Fathers and the War for Independence enough to discern that this video set doesn't do them and their cause any justice. Furthermore, most insights of historical value are usually accompanied with some politically correct rejoinder that holds the founders in contempt. It is fittingly post-1990's, post-Clinton since it earnestly strives to lower them to Bill Clinton's level. It focuses on making their cause lofty while caustically attacking their character... with such witty anecdotes as "John Adams would have needed Prozac..." Moreover, most of the panel of 'scholars' consulted for this puff-piece, haven't proven themselves in any way. A revisionist tale of the American Founding typical of the mass-media, which cynically reveres the founders. The good presentation and production put into the film is still unredeemed by the shoddy scholarship. It wasn't hardly worth watching when the History Channel aired it for free on TV- so why drop money to buy it on DVD.

The books, tapes and videos of Thomas Fleming's 'Liberty! The American Revolution' are a much better work.
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