Monday, April 7, 2008

John Adams on HBO: 5: Jousting of Ideas

An intellectually powerful and sophisticated Episode 5 of John Adams on HBO last night - the most vivid so far in the mini-series in portraying the contest of political philosophies that made this country. Indeed, the most compelling I've ever seen on television. We see:

.John Adams, who believes the best (and only reliable) path to a continuing, free America is a strong central government. Towards this end, Adams even wants a monarch-like way of addressing the President - an idea soundly defeated in the nascent U.S. Senate. Adams protests that he's not really a constitutional monarchist, but it's difficult to see exactly the ways in which he is not.

.Thomas Jefferson, who shocks even Abigail Adams with his famous statement that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" - not insignificantly putting patriots ahead of tyrants in the blood letting. What's really at stake here is Jefferson's view that government is not the protector (as Adams believes) of the peoples' freedoms, but the worst threat to it.

.Alexander Hamilton, who is no friend of either Adams or Jefferson, but wants a strong central government (making him closer to Adams) to build a strong American economy. Hamilton is in many ways the most modern man in Washington's cabinet, provoking Jefferson with Hamilton's suggestion that the Federal government should take over the debt of the states, to demonstrate to foreign powers that America is a worthy borrower. The beginning of deficit spending...

.George Washington, who is not very successful in keeping his combative cabinet together, and clearly has no taste for politics...

All of this is fought out against the backdrop of war between England and France, which Washington desperately doesn't want America to be pulled into. Jefferson sees
France and its revolution as a natural ally of the United States. Adams and Hamilton, for different reasons, see our interests best residing in England.

A fascinating, vivid portrayal of one of the crucial moments in the creation of the United States of America.

See also: John Adams on HBO: Good Founding Father, Bad President ... John Adams 3 and 4: Jefferson and Space Travel of the Soul ... 6. President and Father ... John Adams Concludes ...

Further reading ...

The Flouting of the First Amendment - my 2005 Keynote Address at Fordham University, in which I talk about the vying opinions of John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson on human nature...

The Soft Edge: A Natural History and the Future of the Information Revolution - my 1998 book, with more details on this time in history, and the roles of Adams and Jefferson

And ...

Post a Comment
InfiniteRegress.tv