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Founding Brothers
Founding Brothers
Actors: Peter Coyote, Brian Dennehy, Joseph Ellis, Edward Herrmann, Hal Holbrook
Director: Melissa Jo Peltier
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2002     3hr 20min

The "self-evident" truths were intensely debated. In America's first years, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Burr struggled to transform their disparate visions into an enduring government. — Ba...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Peter Coyote, Brian Dennehy, Joseph Ellis, Edward Herrmann, Hal Holbrook
Director: Melissa Jo Peltier
Creators: Joseph Ellis, Melissa Jo Peltier, Adam Hyman, Bonnie Peterson, Kelly McPherson
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 07/30/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 06/25/2002
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 3hr 20min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Good but slanted intellectual history
Kevin Currie-Knight | Newark, Delaware | 03/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Praising the Federalists (Hamiltonians)
Aaron J. Baker | Rapidan, VA USA | 05/24/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)

"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.
One of the best I've ever seen
lalex7 | Los Angeles, CA USA | 07/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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.
A Feel for the Era
J. D. Best, author | Arizona | 06/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Founding Brothers is typical of the History Channel when it is at its best. The four hour program not only describes the pivotal events of the early years under the Constitution, it provides insight into the human characteristics of the Founders. Even more than today, politics was a contact sport in our early days, and the program does an excellent job within the time constraints of describing the emergence of political parties and their respective stands on the issues of the day.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph Ellis, the program uses the Ken Burns effect, short reenactments, and interviews with historian to tell the story. The History Channel uses a quick pace and frequent cuts between segments to hold interest. This is an educational series that's fun to watch. I also enjoyed getting a glimpse of the personalities of famed historical authors as they commented on the events and Founders.

My only disappointment was that there was not another two hours dedicated to James Madison's administration. The emphasis seemed to be about Founders who were revolutionaries. Madison played a minor part during the shooting revolution, but his leadership in getting the United States Constitution enacted, in my opinion, makes him the biggest revolutionary of all.