7 June 2008 | bkoganbing
Our First President
Continuing the story of George Washington the mini-series from two years earlier is George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation. Taken again from that most accessible and readable of Washington biographies by James Thomas Flexner, this series deals with Washington as our first president under the new Constitution.
Barry Bostwick and Patty Duke continue with their roles as George and Martha Washington and have a good cast of supporting players in roles that step from the history books.
Washington as president dealt with working out the forms the government would operate under. In every single decision he made, he was mindful of the fact would set a precedent for all 42 of his successors to follow. In fact it was the general understanding that Washington would be the first president by the makers of the Constitution in 1788.
This series unfortunately gets a little too deep into the complexity of the issues facing Washington. Historians would love it, but I do fear that the general public would have trouble following it. Though there's no doubt of what they would see in the antagonism of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton played here by Jeffrey Jones and Richard Bekins respectively.
Washington did have one rather foolish notion that today would strike us as quaint. He really believed that political parties such as developed in the British Parliamentary system would be left behind in Europe. The quarrel between Jefferson and Hamilton with both eventually leaving the cabinet was the foundation of our two party system. Washington did make a concerted effort to at first govern non partisanly, but eventually came down on the side of Hamiltonian Federalists. It was with a Federalist cabinet that he left the presidency after his second term in March of 1797.
George and Martha must have been lonely figures in retirement. He did in fact come down on the side of the Federalists. But his native Virginia was now under the domination of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. With the exception of future Chief Justice John Marshall, all the prominent figures in Virginia were Jeffersonian followers down the line.
The Forging of a Nation is a good mini-series for classrooms, but it's very scholarly tone does not make it as good as the first series dealing with Washington through the American Revolution. I liked this series a lot, but fear it might be too complex for the average viewer.