It has been a very long time since I’ve watched the movie Lincoln. In fact, the last time I saw it was when it came out back in 2012. Yes, I should probably rewatch it, but that movie has got me thinking. Hollywood managed to give us a very compelling and (mostly) historically accurate film about a United States president; can they do it again? The answer should be absolutely. Our country is going through some dark times and I believe looking back at our history would do us some good. Socially or politically, Americans should be interested in taking a look at the men who helped shaped this country into what it is, even if it means taking in the good along with the bad.
History is not a fairy tale; our country’s line of leadership is rife with womanizers, drunks, and even some slave owners. However, we should not be too quick to condemn our nation’s past leaders, because despite their flaws, many of them did magnificent things for the American people. Frankly, the presidency is a job title I can’t imagine too many people would want for obvious reasons. No matter what, people will hate them, and others will continue to love them, no matter what they do. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was loved by many, but he also had just as many enemies. Heck, his enemies were right next door. That being said, he is one of nation’s greatest presidents because of what he accomplished during his time in office. The president that is responsible for abolishing slavery? No wonder he earned his own movie.
After watching some interesting documentaries on the fourth of July, I wondered what other U.S. presidents deserved their own movie. Well, these documentaries gave me an idea on the best contenders. The first I watched was about Ulysses S. Grant. What was most interesting about it was that it focused more on his time as a soldier than his time as president. As commander of the Union Army during the Civil War, Grant was the man who actually fought for the freedom of African-American slaves. Lincoln was indeed a part of it, but ultimately, he was the man giving orders, while Grant was the one doing the dirty work. We should all keep that in mind, because Lincoln does deserve credit for pulling the political strings to make freedom for slaves possible, but it was Grant who literally fought for it.
And what about his presidency? In the eyes of the American people, he was a conquering hero, but his administration was highly corrupt. As a result, he went bankrupt, and dedicated his final years to having Samuel Clemens (or Mark Twain) write his memoirs. He died surrounded by his family and his bestselling memoirs saved them from penury. If he were to have a movie of his own, it would have to be about his struggle during the Civil War and how he succeeded more as a soldier than a politician. The best scene I can imagine with him would be accepting Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. He had his adjutant and military secretary, Ely S. Parker, draft the surrender documents and personally hand them to Lee. And guess what? He was a Native American. Grant not only fought for freedom, but he himself was a believer in equality.
What other presidential contenders deserve their own movies? The next documentary I watched covered the best of the best of the presidents. Any guesses? He is the first president our nation had and his name was George Washington. His journey from Virginian plantation owner to the first U.S. president is a tale of rare magnificence. It’s very rare in history that you find a man like Washington, because he achieved what very few men in history have done. Many men have led some kind of rebellion against oppression. However, when those rebellions succeeded, they only opened the door for another tyrant to replace the one they overthrew. This wasn’t the case of Washington, however, as he led a rebellion, won the war, and when it was all over, he didn’t crown himself the king of the colonies. Instead, he just went home and wanted to be with his wife, Martha.
Not only did he win the war, but he also refused the title of king. In fact, the title of president was something he didn’t really want. He only took it because in his eyes, no one else would take it. If they did, it’s highly likely they wouldn’t of done the job half as good as he did. Needless to say, he set the standards for what every U.S. president should be. He was noble enough to refuse the crown, and yet he was courageous enough to become the nation’s first president. During the revolution itself, he was in command of an rabble of half-starved, untrained colonists, and managed to defeat the most powerful army in the world. What’s so amazing about this is not his great tactical abilities (he lost many battles) but his unrelenting resolve and willingness to endure the same hardships his men went through.
Washington was an effective leader and for a man of his time, he was a decent one. His time during the revolution is one thing, but his time as president is what we need to see be made into a movie. From his handling of the Whiskey Rebellion, to his relationship with Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, all of this encompasses the beginning of how America’s first presidency was being conducted. Again, it’s no fairy tale. Did Washington have his flaws? Absolutely. Like many colonists of his time, he was a slave owner. From his point of view, slavery was necessary for the economy of the men of the south, since plantation work required many hands. However, while he may not have believed in it fully, he didn’t work to abolish it.
Why is this so? He was aware of how adamant the southern colonies were about keeping their slaves and wouldn’t be so keen on losing them. Washington spent years fighting to unify the colonies and form a united nation of their own, so abolishing slavery very well might’ve split them apart. Ironically enough, he was right, as the future of slavery in America eventually led to the Civil War. However, despite Washington’s refusal to abolish slavery, in his final act before his death, wrote in his will that his slaves would be freed. This included his personal valet who served him throughout the revolution, William Lee. Not only that, but he wrote in his will that all the slaves owned by his wife would be set free after her death.
This is something we should all take not of, because as a man of his time, slavery was a regular thing for him. But I also believe that overtime, his views on slavery changed and during his final years, he began to hope that freedom would become a reality for all slaves. As the first U.S. president, it’s fitting that he would free his slaves. Did Jefferson do the same? Quite the opposite actually, but as the nation’s first president, it truly symbolizes and foretells a bright future for all Americans.
There you have it. Out of all the past presidents, I believe Grant and Washington should be the ones to get the movie treatment. This is a dark chapter in America’s history and we should all take some time and remind ourselves of how we began. Again, it’s no fairy tale, but where we faltered, we always found a way to get back on the right path. What past U.S. presidents do you think deserve the movie treatment?
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