Ah yes, the Fourth of July. A day off work and an excuse to eat to excess while lighting explosives. America.
Though we have celebrated this holiday for hundreds of years, few know that John Adams was the one who foresaw the pomp and circumstance of July 4th. “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival,” he wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail. “It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”
If you’re so inclined you can also listen to Mr. Feeny himself (William Daniels) as John Adams sing about this in the musical 1776.
Most of the parties happen in the late afternoon or after sundown. That leaves a decent chunk of the day to lounge around in anticipation for the festivities to come. Why don’t you sit down and give 1776 a watch on Thursday? It’s a bit of a doozy (nearly three hours!) but a hilarious interpretation of the events of the summer of 1776. Franklin’s a bit of a creep, Adams is always angry, Jefferson is swoon-worthy, Lee is hilarious, and Hancock just wants to go home. (You can rent it for $2.99 on Amazon! Do it! Start a new tradition before you put your liver into overdrive! Or drink and watch it! Take a shot every time someone tells John Adams to sit down! Don’t worry, you’ll catch on fast.)
Documentaries can be dry and a book is hard to swallow in day. A film isn’t. Granted, you’ve been bottle fed the story of the Declaration of Independence since you could wipe your own butt, but I’m sure there’s at least one aspect of it you never knew.
There was originally a slavery clause in the Declaration of Independence? Yup! New York abstained from voting on anything of importance? Sure thing! The delegates fought so much that a motion to even discuss Independence almost didn’t pass? You betcha!
I’m quickly reminded of the recent Spielberg film, Lincoln. Though we obviously knew the 13th Amendment was passed, many watched the final scene with baited breath. 1776 is incredibly similar. At the very least, you’ll notice that 18th century politics doesn’t differ too much for today.
The musical also does an excellent job of rounding out some Founders who aren’t the household names Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin are. John Dickinson is Adams’ main opposition. A delegate from Pennsylvania, Dickinson believed that independence was necessary but the time to declare it could wait. Adams, obviously, disagreed and Dickinson gets to sing a really cool song about being a conservative. (I’m serious. It’s one of my favorite songs in the whole show. Anyone doing a reverse gender 1776? Call me. I do great renditions in my car when driving to work.)
Fun fact. This song was cut from the theatrical movie release because President Nixon thought it was a personal jab towards him.
If this is too much of a history lesson overload, don’t worry there’s a romantic break. The only two female characters in the show are Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson. Abigail only appears in visions John has and their dialogue is based upon the actual letters of the Adams’. Martha Jefferson is introduced when Thomas refuses to write the Declaration of Independence because he misses his wife and Adams is forced to send for her. She also gets an awesome song.
She’s really into dudes that play the violin…
If you’re someone who knows a lot or nothing at all about the Congress of 1776 and the passing of Declaration of Independence, you’ll learn something while watching 1776. And you won’t even know it.