A Great American Family
(UBC and NaBloPoMo Day 4)
In the United States today we celebrate Independence Day, the day that the Declaration of Independence from England was signed in 1776 by a group of farsighted and courageous men who have come to be called our Founding Fathers.
My own particular favorite among them has long been John Adams, a feisty, opinionated, cantankerous, and brilliant lawyer from Massachusetts (our next-door neighbor) who was the sparkplug of the Revolution and a thorn in the side of many of his compatriots. My interest in Adams began when I saw 1776, the Broadway musical, in which Adams is the lead role. William Daniels fit the part perfectly both on stage and in the film, which I own and try to watch at least every other Fourth.
I’ve read several biographies of Adams (by far the best, in my opinion, is the two-volume work called simply John Adams by Page Smith); I’ve read a book of letters exchanged between John and his wife Abigail over their lives; I own DVDs of both the John Adams miniseries starring Paul Giamatti and the older PBS series, The Adams Chronicles.
My admiration extends to the entire Adams family, especially Abigail and their son, John Quincy Adams (our sixth president for readers outside the U.S.), also a brilliant man and a president far ahead of his time, in my opinion. John Quincy was undoubtedly the most vociferous opponent of slavery up until that time; his defense of the Africans in the Amistad trial was portrayed in the film Amistad, starring Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy. (Another of their descendants, Henry Adams, was a famous writer and historian.)
Neither of the Presidents Adams was popular in his time—they were far too honest and unyielding to be popular. Nor has history done them much better. Washington and Jefferson are seen as the biggest heroes of independence. John Adams has never even been honored on a piece of American currency (until the recent Presidential gold dollar series). Yet without him the birth of our young country would have been a much more fragile and questionable enterprise. And without John Quincy, so might the eventual end of slavery.