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John Adams: Unite or Die

Last night we watched episode 5 of the HBO series 'John Adams', Unite or Die. At the end of the previous episode we watched George Washington take office as President (“Mr President”) of the USA, with John Adams as his vice-president. Unite or Die speeds via selected conversations through the 8 years of Washington’s presidency, and culminates in Adams' election as the second President.

Bear in mind as you read this that I am ignorant of the finer details of the history of the US, and thus this series is my education in the subject. (Ben Yalow: if you ever read this, you are vindicated as to the educational value of tv.)

For me, the series very successfully personifies the enduring ideas of its time. Jefferson argues for revolution and the rights of man, and allegiance with revolutionary France; on which last point, he loses. Hamilton acts to found a central bank and establish the new nation as creditable by putting it in hock to English bankers; unsurprisingly he favours an English treaty, and on that point, he wins. Adams, who is shown as a powerless vice president, has spent years in both France and England. He is a friend of Jefferson’s, and supports ideas of revolution, but favours strong central government. In the election for President he beats Jefferson by just 3 votes (71 to 68).

I have no idea what happens next.

My daughter proclaims she hates this series, and is bored, but she watches with apparent attention and comprehension. I wonder what watching such a clear delineation of the essential philosophical arguments, so clearly personified, before she has any historical or economic or cultural perspective, is doing to my daughter’s mind?

I highly recommend this series for interested persons. For others, the jury will remain out for some years.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
13th Oct, 2013 09:10 (UTC)
I like that sort of thing, so I've ordered the DVDs from Lovefilm, we'll see what there is to talk about at the next Ton.
13th Oct, 2013 09:13 (UTC)
We started watching this series (and later bought the DVD) on the recommendation of melodyclark who knows a helluva lot about the founding fathers and is a great John Adams fan.

As are we. Wonderful series. The correspondence between Jefferson and Adams is fascinating too.
13th Oct, 2013 12:57 (UTC)
I saw this series when it went out on one of the Channel 4 channels several years ago. I'm also quite interested in American history so knew some of the story (and reading up afterwards to see the bits they had to miss out - Adams lived to be 90). There is a curiousity about Adams' death and a year or two ago I found myself doing a crossword themed around his last words, although I can't remember if these words turned up in the series.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline M

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