American Experience: John and Abigail Adams
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Relying heavily on the extraordinary correspondence between the second president and his wife, this joint biography sheds light not only on the characters of two remarkable people, but also on the tumultuous times through which they lived. John and Abigail Adams played a critical role in many of the pivotal events of their era: he was a vociferous participant at the Continental Congress; she was an important eye-witness reporter during the Siege of Boston; he was an important war-time emissary to France. This AMERICAN EXPERIENCE reminds us that the Founding Fathers - and Mothers - were not men and women of marble following a script that made independence and American national success a pre-ordained conclusion, but rather real, flawed, multi-dimensional people, who had no idea how things would turn out.
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This PBS "American Experience" episode includes extended segments with two outstanding actors who bring John and Abigail to life. The dialogue is all genuine, based on their letters and other recorded documents. The program explores their personal devotion and their passionate commitment to American independence. It covers everything from the Boston massacre through Adams' presidency and long retirement. Abigail's incredible strength and intelligence shine through as do John's legal acumen and seriousness of purpose (along with his occasional ill-temper, which alienated many colleagues). The video is particularly good at conveying their complicated relationship with Thomas Jefferson, which was alternately warm and contentious. The experts' comments are brief but enlightening and the narration by David Ogden Stiers moves things along briskly.
I think most viewers will be awed by the sacrifices and remarkable contributions John and Abigail made to our country. You may become part of the growing band of Adams' junkies! To learn more, I recommend David McCollough's biography of John Adams;My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, a fantastic collection that takes you right into their most intimate thoughts; and Irving Stone's those who love, a biographical novel that tells one of the greatest love stories ever, of John and Abigail for each other and of this amazing couple for their country.
Consider George Washington's Prayer for the Nation June 8, 1783, that was sent to the governors of all the states:
"Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy Holy protection: that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally, that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On March 4, 1805, President Jefferson offered "A National Prayer for Peace," which petitioned:
"Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen"
President John Adams stated on October 11, 1798: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." "We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!"
I recommend reading, "The Light and the Glory" by Peter Marshal, and "America's Godly Heritage" by David Barton. God Bless.
After seeing this, the viewer must come away with a high respect for both John & Abigail. One was nothing without the other.
A little acting, and a bit of historian narration, this DVD is both entertaining and informative. The actors do a wonderful job of conveying the lives of the people of the times.