Last night I watched the 7th and final episode of the HBO Miniseries “John Adams”. While I’ve been intrigued and educated through the entire series, it was the last episode that gave me the most insight into the man himself. I attribute that to the fact that it covers the last years of his life, out of political office, spending time with his family and reflection of the history he helped create.
I know that television and movies cannot present the whole of 60 years of history in a brief 8 hour miniseries, but I have to say that this particular miniseries made a good attempt to pick the more important and insightful points that give the character of the overall. Adam’s relationship with his wife was well explained and the careful line an intelligent woman has to walk was subtly explored. Using quotes from the actual exchanges between Adams and Thomas Jefferson during the last years of their lives gave a brief but true view of their thoughts on what they had accomplished. (Interestingly, both Adams and Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.)
The miniseries also adequately portrayed the stresses of the times. Contrary to the visuals seen in epic movies about the founding of America, in “John Adam” we saw more reality – bad teeth, worse medicine, illness, long delays in communication, long absences, hard work and lots of mud. We also saw the ravages of aging during that period, and in that aspect I think the movie was stellar. One critic I read mentioned the tar-and-feather scene and said it was “gratuitous nudity” because the guy was stripped before being tarred. I don’t think so – it was shown basically the way it happened at the time, which was far more violent and brutal than most things in our lives today.
Life then was hard. Men like John Adams, who risked their lives, family and health to fight for something they believed in, touch me profoundly. It takes courage at a level we rarely see today to stand your ground when only a few agree. Those men didn’t know they were creating a new country that would become the greatest nation on earth .. they didn’t even know if they would be successful or arrested and tried for treason. They just did what they felt they had to do, with honor and integrity. I admire that very much.