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American Experience: George Washington: Man Who Wouldn't Be King
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George Washington: The Man Who Wouldnt Be King is the story of a man who grew into greatness by accepting the challenge of leading a fractious, rag-tag army against the might of the British government. Using impressionistic photography and rare paintings, etchings and prints from museums, libraries, and private collections, this film goes beyond the standard textbook portrait to reveal the real George Washington.
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In the past 20 years, a more balanced and appreciative view of Washington has emerged. He may not have had the tactical brilliance of Patton, but his military leadership was crucial to our victory. He may not have had the political brilliance of Jefferson or Hamilton, but his political leadership skills, reputation, and, significantly, ability to use the talents of people like Jefferson and Hamilton, were crucial in establishing the new Republic. Maybe most important, his example and instincts were important in establishing many of our democratic principles, including the peaceful transfer of power and the supremacy of civilian leadership over the military.
This video presents the interesting -- and I think spot-on -- view that Washington started out as a striving social climber, primarily interested in his position in society and reputation. But over the course of his long political career he grew in important ways and came to realize that his reputation -- and service to his country -- would best be served by turning down the opportunity for total power. The video describes the temptations that were placed in Washington's path and his steadfast belief that the civilians -- fractious and incompetent as they were -- had to remain supreme. The video movingly describes Washington's intervention with his officers at Newburgh, when he prevented his impatient army from marching on Philadelphia to demand their back pay at the point of a bayonet. This was perhaps the most dangerous moment in our democracy's early history and one where Washington played his part supremely. Then, once the peace treaty was official, when many military heroes of the past would have demanded honors and power, Washington went to Congress, reported that he had completed the job they had given him, and begged their permission to resign his commission and return home.
Like the other reviewer, I felt it would have been nice if the video continued to tell the story of Washington's important role in the development of the Constitution and his time as president. But the video tells a strong story. Far from being a wooden figurehead, Washington emerges in this video as the essential leader of the revolutionary army as well as the revolutionary cause and the vital figure in creating many of our democratic institutions and traditions.