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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Solemnize with Pomp and Parade

Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776: (Mr. Adams was off by a few days...)

...The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. -- I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. -- Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Pretty amazing stuff.

Posted by David Friedman on July 4, 2010 at 02:45 AM | Permalink


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Joe, I'm still game. I'm not ashamed to confess that I find the musical charming- but then again, I didn't walk out of JFK. I enjoyed Kevin Costner's fine acting and wonderful closing argument, based entirely on nonsense. It was fun. Probably socially damaging, but fun.

At least 1776 is mostly harmless and without any agenda other than to entertain- and perhaps to celebrate a great event.

Posted by: David Friedman | Jul 8, 2010 10:05:03 PM

The film's hero is John Adams, Franklin pals around with him, Jefferson is friendly with him, John Hancock says he's there for him and so forth. And, THAT is "the" main problem you have, when even Adams himself at the time feared many people didn't like him?

The fact you cite an obscure bad rhyme suggests deep down you like the movie :)

Posted by: Joe | Jul 8, 2010 3:18:00 PM

"Someone open up a window, Joe." The main problem I have with 1776 is that John Adams was probably one of the most respected people in Congress at the time. The play goes out of its way to show him as "obnoxious and disliked." Which may been true in later life, but not then. Not at all.

Law firm biographies? I've only read one to see if I was in the index. As a summer associate, I hadn't made it.

I will bet today that it is "hot as hell in Philadelphia..."

Posted by: David Friedman | Jul 6, 2010 5:15:12 PM

Sit down, David, sit down!

That is a pretty harsh review. Not saying it's great art or anything, but really, it is not "terrible" as all that. Thomas Fleming's analysis in "Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies" is to me more fair.

The book also underlines that loads of historical movies change history in a myriad of ways. Misinformation galore. I wonder if that is how some judges write their law office history?!

Anyway, I thought the song I quoted was one of the best in the film. The songs about the slave trade and the suffering of the average solider also were striking. The one about picking Jefferson to write it was cute; the one about his wife stupid, putting aside that at the time she was quite unwell. Overall, the film was more redeeming historical fare than many alternatives.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 6, 2010 12:33:03 PM

1776 was a lousy musical with a well-intentioned mission. Great opening number, but the rest was awful. David McCullough points out that with a a number of corrections, they could have made the musical worthwhile.

And most of the music is terrible. Rhyming etiquette with Connecticut? Almost as bad as the misinformation about Richard Henry Lee, who they turned into a uni-dimensional buffoon.

Posted by: David Friedman | Jul 5, 2010 9:35:16 PM

This letter was later translated to:

"Through all the gloom, through all the gloom
I see the rays of ravishing light and glory ...

I see fireworks! I see the pageant and
Pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans - all Americans
Free forever more"

"Is Anybody There," 1776 (John Adams)

Posted by: Joe | Jul 5, 2010 10:53:57 AM

My understanding is that the effective, legal action was taken on July 2, but that the public relations release (the signed Declaration) was issued on July 4. I have always thought it was fitting that we Americans celebrate the latter, although it was understandable why Adams did not foresee this turn of events.

Posted by: Jay Mootz | Jul 4, 2010 2:15:18 PM

From what I gather, things were moving quickly in Philly. On July 2, Congress passed a resolution declaring that the United Colonies of America would henceforth be known as the United States of America. I think. A big day worthy of a letter to Mrs. Adams.

Posted by: David Friedman | Jul 4, 2010 1:05:30 PM

Why the second day of July?

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Jul 4, 2010 12:41:19 PM

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