March 14, 2014

Happy Fri. 26 degrees here and likely to go above freezing by noon.

We’ve been watching the HBO series of yore, John Adams, about our second president, rival and friend of Jefferson, VP under Washington. He was a complex man, son of a shoemaker, studied law and married up in the world, loving and respectful of his sensible and intelligent wife Abigail, cold and domineering toward his sons, idealistic about the Revolution and the new government, enamored of aristocratic titles, defender of the rule of law and of British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, signer of the Alien and Sedition Act that prohibited speech that brought contempt upon the national government.

The series, if you have not seen it, is extremely well done. It looks pretty authentic, down to the bad teeth everyone had after about age 30 in those days before dentists. Much of it was filmed in Williamsburg. The acting is excellent, bringing Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hamilton to life, while behind the scenes Adams pushed his oldest son John Quincy to excel but lost his second son to alcoholism along the way. We have one more episode to go, part 7, about Adams in the last years of his long life, after he lost his bid for reelection in 1800 to Jefferson, who narrowly won it over Aaron Burr, the latter now known mainly as the man who shot Hamilton to death in a duel a few years later.

Adams lived to be 91 and died on the Fourth of July, 1826, 50 years after he signed the Declaration of Independence, and the same day Jefferson died. The series highlights the difficulties of leading mostly illiterate Americans in an era of poisonous politics. Sound familiar? The scenes of slaves working on the new presidential house in “Washington City” remind us that much of the early centuries of our land of the free was based on a slave economy. Well worth watching.

John Adams dvd

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