Make a Good Use of It

 

“No, posterity, you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

“You could not be, nor did I wish to see you, an inactive spectator.”

Those are just two moments of concluding dialogue from HBO’s “John Adams,” a seven-part series, currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

The first quote is John Adams, speaking to the posterity of Americans, who are the beneficiaries of his life’s work, and the work of all the founding fathers. Is he repenting in heaven, all these centuries later, for the sacrifices made on our behalf?

The second quote is from Abigail Adams. She is reflecting on her life with John, especially his many and lengthy absences from their family. Throughout the series, Abigail is a key figure, presented as a trusted advisor, if not an equal, to John.

Has this notion of America proved worthy of their sacrifice made during the founding? Or is she repenting in heaven?

Another moment I clearly remember is President George Washington, standing at a window, looking out on a mob, raging with shouts and fire, about a treaty with France.

Washington reflected, “I’m weary of being unpopular.” The next scene he was stepping down, and mention was made of how his character shone in his willingness to give up power. Power he could easily have kept or expanded.

I found myself wondering if Washington stepped down, to check his own fears of abusing power? Was he afraid of acquiescing to popularity, rather than sound judgment?

The final quote I’ll share is Adams saying, “A mob is still a mob, even when they agree with you.” That speaks for itself, and even if he didn’t say that, the idea is as relevant today, as it was in the 1790s.

I really enjoyed this series. I’m not sure if the dialogue is from quotes or letters, or other written history. At the very least dialogue was crafted to seamlessly meld history and artistic license.

I rejoiced Abigail and John’s triumphs. I wept in their sorrows, many of which were rooted in Adam’s commitment to duty and country. I found myself in awe of what our founding fathers, their families, and the citizenry, overcame, during the birth of our nation.

Has anyone else watched this series? What is your takeaway?

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There are 36 comments.

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  1. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Jules PA (View Comment):
    Additional fiction and redirection, in the tar/feather. The series showed black and boiling tar, and made me think of road and roofing tar. Again, I’m happy to find that 1700’s tar was pine tar.

    Pine tar also has a low melting point, and would not burn the skin the way that hot petroleum tar would.

    Pine tar was mainly used on sailing ships (tarring the rigging, etc.) and so would have been abundant in Boston and any other port along the colonial American seaboard.  Petroleum tar (and other petro products) weren’t widely exploited until many years later.

    • #31
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Jules PA: I found myself wondering if Washington stepped down, to check his own fears of abusing power? Was he afraid of acquiescing to popularity, rather than sound judgment?

    No. Washington stepped down for two reasons:

    1. He never wanted the stinkin’ office in the first place. He wanted to be home at Mount Vernon. He had already turned down an offer by his army to become “Lord Protector” of the United Colonies in 1783, surrendered his commission later that year, and was only dragged back into public life because of the Constitutional convention.
    2. He wished to establish that power could transition smoothly from one man to the next. He accepted his first term because he felt obligated to do so because he helped draft the constitution, accepted his second term because everyone told him no one else could do it, and refused to run for a third term to demonstrate someone other than him could.

    No less than King George III called Washington the greatest man of the age because Washington stepped away from power.

    (Washington is Britain’s favorite enemy.)

     

    • #32
  3. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I love the series (to be fair, I’ll watch anything with Paul Giamatti in it). I’m do for a re-watch; thanks for the heads up.

    John and Abigail’s years apart and prolific letter writing left a wonderful record for biographers. One wonders about biographers in the future, present leaders and modern communications …

    When I had problems with my kids I was consoled that even John and Abigail Adams didn’t bat a thousand with their four (though one became president).

    • #33
  4. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    Annefy (View Comment):
    I love the series (to be fair, I’ll watch anything with Paul Giamatti in it). I’m do for a re-watch; thanks for the heads up.

    John and Abigail’s years apart and prolific letter writing left a wonderful record for biographers. One wonders about biographers in the future, present leaders and modern communications …

    When I had problems with my kids I was consoled that even John and Abigail Adams didn’t bat a thousand with their four (though one became president).

    One storyline of the series that floored me was the breast cancer.  Made me realize again how far medicine has come.

    • #34
  5. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Jules PA: I found myself wondering if Washington stepped down, to check his own fears of abusing power? Was he afraid of acquiescing to popularity, rather than sound judgment?

    No. Washington stepped down for two reasons:

    1. He never wanted the stinkin’ office in the first place. He wanted to be home at Mount Vernon. He had already turned down an offer by his army to become “Lord Protector” of the United Colonies in 1783, surrendered his commission later that year, and was only dragged back into public life because of the Constitutional convention.
    2. He wished to establish that power could transition smoothly from one man to the next. He accepted his first term because he felt obligated to do so because he helped draft the constitution, accepted his second term because everyone told him no one else could do it, and refused to run for a third term to demonstrate someone other than him could.

    No less than King George III called Washington the greatest man of the age because Washington stepped away from power.

    (Washington is Britain’s favorite enemy.)

    To me, George Washington was, is, and will always be the ruler for measuring American Presidents. I always pictured him as the general and 1st president. Didn’t realize how much he had to do with United States founding beyond that until listening to an author on C-Span (can’t remember the author or book) describing some of his correspondence.  The man had alot of influence on how we started out I think.

    • #35
  6. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Mim526 (View Comment):
    To me, George Washington was, is, and will always be the ruler for measuring American Presidents. I always pictured him as the general and 1st president. Didn’t realize how much he had to do with United States founding until listening to an author on C-Span (can’t remember the author or book) describing some of his correspondence. The man had alot of influence on how we started out I think.

    And he only had an 8th grade education.

    Proves where you learn is less important than how you learn.

    • #36
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