Wednesday, March 08, 2006


"Dear Sir, you are without any doubt a rogue, a rascal, a villain, a thief, a scoundrel and a mean, dirty, stinking, sniveling, sneaking, pimping, pocket-picking, thrice double-damned no-good son-of-a-bitch."
Stephen Hopkins, delegate from Rhode Island: 1776 (Restored Director's Cut)

I'm watching this movie for what is probably the 200th time of my life. My parents recorded it on VHS when I was little and I've always loved it. When our copy died a natural death from overuse, especialy since Hello, Dolly! and The Pirate Movie were on the same tape, I bought a new tape. Of course, the VHS had pieces cut from it, so when the buzz came out that a restored cut was going to be released, I was thrilled. To finally see Cool, Cool Considerate Men peformed was something I was really looking forward to. I had already purchased the 1972 Broadway soundtrack and loved the song. I even went to see it on Broadway during the revival in 1997 as my present to myself for my 21st birthday (I missed Brent Spiner! Drat!).

For some reason (even knowing it's not totally historically accurate) watching the Founding Fathers struggle to take the baby steps in the creation of our country is extremely uplifting. Peter Stone's book is simply a masterpiece. He manages to make each of the players a hero in his/her own right as much as showing their flaws. There was John Adams (the hero of the piece) an arrogant, egotistical, sometimes-jerk whose whole being was focused on independence. Franklin, the "sage" who serves as the conscience of the people in the play/movie. I even love Dickinson and Rutledge, whose reasons for staying part of the British Empire resonate even now: Dickinson, the man who represented the Tories who wanted to make sure they held onto their money, properties and status they never would have achieved in England proper; Rutledge, the man who wanted to keep his traditional way of living alive and his state's rights paramount. Dr. Hall, whose part is small, but pivotal, reminds me of the ideal delegate. He wants to serve the people, but has to work out how that is best done and even uses the words of Sir Edmund Burke, of the British Parliament to decide exactly how he'll vote.

I guess it's naive of me, but I hold the Founding Fathers as prime examples of what we hope for in our politicians. I know that they had their faults. I know we get the phrase Gerrymandering from Elbridge Gerry, a delegate from Massachusetts. James Wilson died penniless after having helped write the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, as well as having been on the Supreme Court. Dr. Lyman Hall was dismissed from a pastorate for doing something naughty. Samuel Chase of Maryland was thought to have a mental illness and was later impeached while on the Supreme Court (acquitted). Each of the Founding Fathers had some foibles. They were human, after all. I'd prefer they have faults. It makes it seem so much more amazing that any of this could actually happen.

I also like a couple of lines by Franklin as he and Adams are arguing about taking the slavery clause out of the Declaration to appease the South and get them to agree to sign:
"These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about. They're proud, accomplished men. The cream of their colonies. And whether you like it or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation you'd hope to create. Now either learn how to live with them or pack up and go home."

This little speech brings home the very idea that we all hope for. No matter what we think of each others' political beliefs, the fact that we can all express them and come to a consensus is the point of this "experiment."

*snort* Now just don't ask me to concede too many of my beliefs and we'll be fine. ;p


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