Have you watched the TV miniseries John Adams? While it suffers from some inaccuracies of time-line, and scholars will forever argue over personality portrayals, I liked it. It was very well acted and wonderfully set.
There is a scene in the last episode where John Adams is shown John Trumbull’s painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams becomes upset and makes the following statement.
Do not let our posterity be deluded with fictions under the guise of poetical or graphical license. It is a very common observation In Europe, Mr. Trumbull, that nothing is so false as modern history. Well, I would hasten to add that nothing is so false as modern European history except modern American history. In plain English, sir, I consider the true history of the American Revolution as lost forever.
Now the fact that this scene, in reality, took place through correspondence is interesting. The show has John Adams remarking that license should not be taken when portraying the American Revolution, as license is taken, while portraying the American Revolution!
There has been much written and acted about our revolution that is false or inaccurate. While I think some errors can be disregarded as small or unintentional. Many are, exactly as Adams warned, intentional for the benefit of the artist or audience.
That all seems innocent enough, a better movie, a more dramatic story, who wouldn’t like that? The problem comes when we have a handsome young Sam Adams jumping from roof tops, Paul Revere riding around with a lantern in his hand yelling “The British are coming!”, and our Children believing that was our American Revolution.
We must remember the facts of our revolution, and little things like time-lines and personalities are important. We cannot leave out events thought too mundane, or raise other events to stand on their own, without giving credit to the causes of those events. To do so risks not understanding why the revolution happened. More importantly, it risks not acknowledging our role in the country we have inherited.
The truth of the times leading up to our revolution are more exciting, and the personalities more complex, than Hollywood would show.
Here are a few things to get you thinking:
- Paul Revere was maybe this country’s first Industrialist
- General Joseph Warren died a Private in the first Continental Army holding the last redoubt on Breed’s Hill
- There were multiple riders on April 19th and we know their names.
Let’s talk about some less remembered players over the next few weeks and see if we can find their motivations for risking “Life, Fortunes, and their Sacred Honor.” Don’t be surprised if I bring a guest writer in on some of these.