John Adams (2008)
Director: Tom Hooper.
Starring: Paul Giamatti (John Adams), Laura Linney (Abigail Adams), Stephen Dillane (Thomas Jefferson), John Dossett (Benjamin Rush), Sarah Polley (Abigail 'Nabby' Adams), David Morse (George Washington), Samuel Barnett (Thomas Adams), Andrew Scott (Colonel William Smith), Danny Huston (Samuel Adams), Madeline Taylor (Young Nabby Adams), Tom Wilkinson (Benjamin Franklin), Mamie Gummer (Sally Smith Adams), Kevin Trainor (Charles Adams), Michael Hall D'Addario (Young Charles Adams), Steven Hinkle (Young John Quincy Adams), Ebon Moss-Bachrach (John Quincy Adams), Landon Ashworth (The Senator), Rufus Sewell (Alexander Hamilton), Justin Theroux (John Hancock), Judith Magre (Madame Helvetius), Brennan Brown (Robert Treat Paine), Jules Croiset (Second Dutch Banker), Sieger Sloot (Dutch Man), Lex van Delden (First Dutch Banker), Zeljko Ivanek (John Dickinson), Tom Beckett (Elbridge Gerry), John Keating (Timothy Pickering).
miniseries of John Adams and the first 50 years of the USA
Part I. Join or Die.
Boston 1770. It's a very cold, snowy night. John Adams is riding his horse back to town. He stops at his house. Going inside, his wife gives him a hug. Abigail knows that he has lost the case because of his body language. John says: I did." He greets his daughter.
The shouts of "fire" are heard. It looks as though the "fire" is a fire requiring the firefighters. But then it sounds like shots being fired. Adams goes to investigate. He hears the command to reload. He comes around the corner and sees a number of people dead and wounded in front of a unit of British soldiers. Shouts of "Please, help me!" are heard. Also heard are the taunts of "murderers" thrown at the British troops. Sam Adams, the cousin of John Adams, is one of those who shouts "murderers". A black man is among those killed. John is very shaken by what he saw.
John Adams goes home. He greets his young son. He tells his family the British soldiers fired into a crowd at State House Square. Among the dead and wounded was a child.
Abigail teaches her three children. A man named Forrest, who is the attorney general, comes to the house to talk to John. He says he is here to ask John to help a man, namely British Captain Preston. No one else will take the case. John will think about it. Abigail warns him that he could become the most despised man in Boston.
John goes to visit the British soldiers in jail. He asks the men for their side of the story. They came to the aid of a sentry who was being abused by many people screaming at him. The sentry in question says that they were yelling for him "to empty their sh-- buckets." And the crowd was throwing things at him. Captain Preston wants Mr. Adams to understand clearly: "I gave no order to fire!" John says still there are five dead. Captain Preston assures John that his men acted in self-defense as God almighty is their judge.
John talks to Abigail about what happened. He says: "The hot heads have finally tasted blood." John also mentions that if he took the case he would become known. Abigail is aware of his ambitious side. She says that after all he moved to Boston from the country to become better known.
A funeral is held for some of the dead. It also serves as a protest march. They carry a sign that says" "Join or Die". The widow of the dead black man is there. Sam Adams criticizes John for taking the case to defend the British soldiers. John responds: "I'll prove that this colony is governed by law whatever you and your Sons of Liberty may say on the matter!" Sam retorts: "We're all Sons of Liberty here."
John and Abigail discuss the matter again. She says that he must at least acknowledge the people's resentment of the British soldiers.
In court a man named Goddard testifies that he heard Captain Preston give the order to fire. John asks him if some of his men were carrying clubs. Goddard says yes, but they were clubs for beating out rope. John retorts: "Or beating out men's brains." Adams gets the witness to say that Preston was standing behind his men. John says to the jury to take note that the testimony is the captain was standing behind his men.
A short, thin black man named Holmes testifies. He is going to tell the truth as he sees it, which causes the hot heads to draw close to him in a threatening manner. Holmes says that the crowd was throwing ice and oyster shells. Yes, he too threw things at the soldiers. The crowd consisted of around 200 boys and men. John asks if members of the crowd also threw their clubs at the soldiers. Yes. The mob was shouting: "Fire! Damn you, fire!" The witness says yes to John's question if the crowd dared the soldiers to fire. The men in attendance give John dirty, disapproving looks.
John calls Mr. Palmes to testify. He says that Captain Preston said: "I do not wish to see innocent men die." He was standing right by the captain and the captain was definitely standing in front of his men.
Captain Preston testifies that he heard the command to fire after his men had fired. It was Private Montgomery who fired after receiving a severe blow from a club. John shows the private's facial injuries to the jury. He fell to the ground and his musket discharged. The captain testifies that planks rang down on his men. And what was the captain doing? "I was telling them not to fire, sir!" The command to fire came from the ally behind the men.
At home John has Abigail read his summary statement. She tells him that the argument shows John's own vanity too much. He flashes with too much "ostentatious erudition." John is a little defensive about the criticism, but he does listen.
In court, John says that he acknowledges that the crowd was upset about taxation without representation. Good men under these circumstance may even rebel. But we must take care. "Borne away by a torrent of passion, we make shipwreck of conscience." He goes on to describe the assault on the troops and says: "Soldiers so assaulted may defend themselves to the death!" He summarizes by discussing that facts are stubborn things.
John is home when a man comes to tell him that the jury is back already. Of the murder charge, Captain Preston is found not guilty. Then the enlisted men's named are announced. Of the murder charge the men are found not guilty. The audience is extremely angry at the verdict. The British soldiers give John some money, gathered from all the men. But Captain Preston is worried. He is concerned for John's safety from the rabble and tells him so.
John goes home and acts very coy. He then says: "I have done it, Mrs. Adams."
Sam Adams and others from the Sons of Liberty comes to speak with John. His "impartiality" in court has impressed everyone. So why doesn't he stand for election for the Massachusetts Council? He says: "I have no talent for politics." He has lost half his clients. And he already served one term on the Council. The men apply more pressure. Adams insists: "I cannot oblige you, gentlemen."
The Sons of Liberty are not the only ones interested in John's serving in politics. The attorney general says that the advocate general office is vacant in the Court of Admiralty. The Governor thinks John would be the ideal candidate for the job. John doesn't really answer him.
Sam Adams tells John that John Hancock wants to get some advice from him. John will give advice, he says, but it must only be legal advice.
Three British ships filled with tea are docked in the harbor. John Hancock, who is a ship owner, says to the tax man that the men won't unload the tea. Hancock tells the crowd to teach the man a lesson. The shout goes up to tar the man. Adams is very upset and he shouts at Sam: "For the love of God , Sam! This is barbarism! Barbarism!" The man's shirt is torn off. Hot tar is thrown on his chest and the man screams in pain. A whole kettle of tar is dropped on the man's head and then feathers are doused all over his body. John asks Sam: "Do you approve of brutal and illegal acts to enforce a political principle, Sam?" There is no answer from Sam.
At home John argues a bit with his wife over what happened to the tax collector.
But then something happens to change John Adams. The British have decided to lay down the law. Massachusetts trade will be severely restricted. All disturbers of the peace will be taken back to England for trial. Soldiers charged with a capital crime will be sent back to England for trial. British soldiers will be quartered in the homes of the colonists. General Thomas Gage will be in charge of the troops. John realizes that the new trade rules will cut Massachusetts off from other colonies and countries other than England. Boston must suffer martyrdom., says John.
Sam Adams tells his cousin that a congress will be meeting in Philadelphia. Massachusetts will be sending five men there. And Sam has nominated John.
The British say now that Massachusetts is in a state of open rebellion. 342 chests of tea were thrown into Boston Harbor by vandals masquerading as Indians. John Adams is very concerned about the British reaction. He says that these acts strip the colonist of their rights.
John can't sleep at night. His wife gets up and talks with him.
John has accepted the position of delegate. He speaks to those assembled in church. He insists that we have inherent rights derived from our God. And he promises that liberty will reign in America. Back at home John doesn't seem so uncertain. He seems uncertain of the course before him.
John tells his children to behave while he is in Philadelphia. A brand new and beautiful coach arrives, a gift of the Sons of Liberty. John feels it is too fancy. But Sam demands that he come down and get in. John says goodbye to his wife who is pregnant with her fourth child. Once everyone is in the coach, Sam Adams shouts: "To Philadelphia!"
Part II. Independence.
John Adams is very disappointed with the congress in Philadelphia. He says: "The business of this congress has been to achieve nothing." Mr. Dickinson of Pennsylvania speaks out in laudatory words for the congress. Adams gets up and says he begs to differ. He then proceeds to say that every man primarily wants to hear himself speak rather than accomplish anything.
Massachusetts 1775. John works on the farm A messenger rides up to him and shouts that the British are marching on Concord. John rides out to see what is going on. He runs into a part of the battle aftermath. He asks his physician, Dr. Warren, what's happened. The doctor replies that Gage sent a regiment to seize their powder and arms at Concord. But hundreds of their militia turned out and the British got nothing.
John returns to his farm. He slowly rides up to his wife. He says to her: "There can be no mistaking Britain's intentions now." He says an army of plain country boys opposed the British army. He adds that they must support them. Abigail tells him to say that to the congress. This time congress will act. But John says that he cannot subject himself to that atmosphere in congress again. But he ends up going anyway.
John's two biggest opponents are Mr. Dickinson of Pennsylvania and Mr. Duane of New York. They emphasize reason, not arms. Dickinson says that one colony cannot be permitted to take its sister colonies headlong into war. There should be reconciliation with Britain. John gets up to say: "The time for negotiation is past." If they are to have their rights, they must fight for their rights. Duane is so upset with Massachusetts that he speaks of breaking off with New England and carrying on in their own way. Duane wants to send an olive branch proposal to the King of England. Only the New England states say no to this. John is so angry that he walks out.
John goes to speak with Benjamin Franklin. He criticizes him. The man agrees with John, but he does not say so publicly. Franklin defends himself by saying that all John did was make enemies in the congress. He insulted Mr. Duane in public. He says to John: "Go gently. I beg you." Franklin then suggests that he work on Virginia, since it is the most powerful state and he has reason to believe that they would be in favor of John's ideas.
Franklin goes with Adams to speak to Mr. Harrison and Mr. Lee. Col. George Washington is also there. John only makes limited progress with Harrison and Lee, but Washington tells John that he will raise an army of 1,000 men and pay for their subsistence from his own funds. He adds that he will march the men himself to the relief of Boston. John speaks briefly to Thomas Jefferson in passing.
The Adams's children are frightened by the sound of bombardment. The children run into bed with their mother. "Are those our guns, Mama?" Mother answers: "I pray they are." Abigail and two of her boys go out to see what is happening. They see Boston burning from the ship bombardment. In the afternoon she and the children give water to soldiers returning from battle. One soldier tells Abigail that they held the British back.
In congress John Adams says that General Warren has fallen at Bunker Hill, shot in the head, bayoneted and striped of his clothes. The man was his physician. Four hundred patriots have died, but at the cost of 1,000 British soldiers and 100 British officers. Adams moves that congress adopt the Massachusetts militia immediately. Dickinson gets up to say that caution must prevail. They must avoid any hostilities with the British. Opposed to this idea is the proposal for a continental army. Adams suggests that the commander of the army be none other than Col. George Washington. Washington is surprised. He is humble in his response, but accepts. Later John speaks with the now General Washington and congratulates him. But Washington says ". . . I do not think myself equal to the command . . ." Adams says that his army awaits him at Cambridge.
Abigail asks her husband: "Will Gen. Howe attack again?" She is very mad at the inaction of congress. Abigail says: "I am afraid this war will not end or begin." She would like to go to Philadelphia to box the ears of Mr. Dickinson and his cronies. Adams says he thinks that they are heading to a complete and irrevocable independence.
John speaks with Washington. Washington says he only has 5,000 troops fit to fight. A great many have gone home. Their ranks have also been decimated by small pox. Adams tells the general that he will present the congress with a declaration of independence. They both understand, of course, that independence means war.
At home John prepares to go back to congress. Abigail is very afraid of she and the children getting small pox and she thoroughly scrubs the floors as a preventive measure. John goes off in the snow. His middle boy says: "I hate the congress."
The congress receives a proclamation from King George III dated October 26, 1775. He says that a conspiracy is being led by dangerous and ill-designing men. He says they will suppress the rebellion and bring the traitors to justice. The leaders, if not conciliatory, will receive death by hanging. Some one says: "God bless the King!" Sam Adams says: "God damn the King!" Franklin tells John and some others: "We will now all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Adams emphasizes that they must have unity.
The Adams's children make bullets. Abigail hears a ruckus outside and grabs the rifle. The Americans are coming. Abigail recognizes Mr. Knox. She waves to him to get his attention. He tells her they are bringing cannon from Ft. Ticonderoga. They hauled the cannon over the Berkshires. The Americans place the cannon on a cliff overlooking Boston.
Howe pulls out of Boston for Canada. Adams speaks with Jefferson about speaking out more in congress. Jefferson only says: "I have no gift for oratory." Mr. Lee of Virginia introduces a proposal that the colonies should be free and independent states. Mr. Duane gets ups and says that the full might of the British army will fall on them. And the British have hired German mercenary soldiers known as Hessians. The British will attack New York and then come for the congressmen in Philadelphia.
Adams says that they will get France to join them in the fight. Many doubt that France will become an ally. John gets a little disgusted with the negativity of the conciliators and he openly criticizes them as more interested in their individual pocketbooks than the thirteen colonies. This offends quite a few of the conciliators. One calls it slander. Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina asks for a postponement of 20 days. John is very happy to accept the postponement, which will give him more time to act. They will reconvene July 1. Before John Hancock can leave John shouts out that they should form a committee to frame a statement in case the decision goes for independence. Since there is no objection, he tells Adams to go ahead and form his committee.
Washington speaks with Abigail. He says the British have employed 17,000 Hessian mercenaries. The general is once again bleak in his outlook of possible success. Abigail asks him if he will get her letters to her husband in Philadelphia. Washington says that he will send her letters with his courier along with his dispatches.
Adams speaks to Jefferson. He wants him to write the declaration of principles. Jefferson asks: "Why me?" Because he's from powerful Virginia, is popular and can write English very well.
Abigail tells the doctor that she wants her family inoculated against small pox.
Franklin and Adams read Jefferson's document. Adams likes it. He says that it is not only a declaration of independence, but of the rights of all men. But Franklin is disturbed about the comments on slavery. Jefferson says that slavery is an abomination and should be proclaimed as such. But, says Franklin, the southern states will not accept an attack on slavery. The remarks will be stricken.
The doctor inoculates the Adams family. He takes puss from a small pox sufferer, cuts the arm of the patient to be inoculated and places the puss in the cut.
Adams says to his colleagues that New York and Pennsylvania are too Tory. And there is the problem of Rutledge of South Carolina. Dickinson opposes independence and Duane backs him up. John stands up to debate the issues. He says that where Mr. Dickinson foresees apocalypse, he sees hope. They will not establish an empire, but a republic of laws, not men. He adds: "The end we have in sight is worth all the means." He goes on: "While I live, let me have a country, a free country." He sits back down. Many of the congressmen stand up and tell him "well done".
Sam Adams comes to John to say that they have the majority, 9 to 4 in favor. That's not good enough, says Adams. It must be unanimous. And where is Rodney of Delaware? He is back in Wilmington. Adams tells an aide to find him and fetch him back. It's the only way to assure Delaware's vote.
Rutledge asks Adams for a private word. He says that South Carolina would consider casting their vote with the majority but they want Adams to assure them that there will unanimity among the states on the vote. Now John goes to speak with Duane. the man is very worried because the British have 150 ships in view of Manhattan Island. John asks him to at least promise not to obstruct the majority in their drive for unanimity. Duane says he's willing if they can get Dickinson to deliver Pennsylvania.
Adams and Franklin talk with Dickinson. Dickinson says he will not compromise his beliefs. It's just not the right time to push for independence. He won't hasten their own ruin. But Franklin has an idea. Perhaps Dickinson could be indisposed tomorrow?
Abigail tends to her daughter who has a worse case of small pox than all the others.
The time has come to vote on the proposal dealing with independence. Duane of New York abstains and Dickinson is not present for the vote. The final tally is 12 for, none against and 1 abstention.
The Declaration of Independence is read in public. From her bed Abigail's daughter reads part of the document to her family and Abigail reads the rest. John Adams writes a letter home in which he says: "Now the work begins."
Part III. Don't Tread on Me.
John Adams praises Abigail's farming skills. She has done very well. She tells her husband that she thought she had lost him when news came that the British had taken Philadelphia. Abigail says that they have been married for fourteen years, not more than half of which they have managed to live together.
John tells his wife that congress will be meeting in Kingston, New York. The Americans need French money and French ships and congress is thinking about sending him to France. Abigail virtually shouts out: "No, John, no!" She says that his children need his example and she needs him at home. She says: "Do not rob me of my happiness." John says that this is not his wish. Abigail wants to at least know how long he will be gone. He cannot tell how long he will be away. Abigail tells her husband that when he goes he will take Johnny with him. John says it's 3,000 miles away, but Abigail doesn't care. He will take Johnny.
John says goodbye to his little girl Nabby. She holds on to him so long that he has to say enough. Then he says goodbye to Charles, who gives him a hard time. He says: "You said you'd stay this time." Charles refuses to give his father a kiss goodbye. But Tommy, the littlest one, gives his dad a kiss.
A storm rocks the ship back and forth. John becomes very seasick and throws up. Meanwhile, Johnny studies French. Later a British ship is spotted. The captain of the American ship says that they will engage the British ship. John has to go below deck. He does so, but he can't sit still. He jumps up, grabs a rifle and heads back on deck. John takes a shot at the British ship. Very quickly afterwards, the British fire a volley of cannon. The Americans return the cannon fire. One of the cannons explodes and Lt. Barron, standing behind the cannon, is struck by a large piece of shrapnel. He goes down screaming in pain. John runs to him and drags him over to and onto the surgical table. The doctor saws off the lieutenant's wounded leg. After the surgery John hears the news that the enemy has been taken. They struck their colors.
At home Abigail and the children work in the garden.
John and Johnny arrive at their destination. There is no one there to greet them. So John goes looking for Franklin. He finds Franklin being sculpted by the celebrated sculptor, Monsieur Houdon. Franklin introduces John to Mr. Bancroft, Franklin's secretary, and the sculptor. The latest news is that Burgoyne and 7,000 redcoats fought and lost at Saratoga, New York. The treaty is, as the French say, a fait accompli, says Franklin. John is somewhat stunned. He recovers and tells Franklin he will demand an audience with King Louis. Franklin tells him that one cannot demand to see King Louis. You have to be invited to court.
Franklin takes John to a party given by Madam Helvetius. The older man tells John that he is a moral man, but not a man for Paris. "Paris requires a certain amount of indecency in thought and action." Franklin introduces John to the hostess. John looks very uncomfortable at the party. He is even more uncomfortable at dinner. Chevalier de la Luzerne will be France's first ambassador to the USA and he serves as an informal translator for John who speaks no French. John is too blunt at the party. Franklin has to tell him not to talk business (or in his case politics) at the dinner table. John is a little too earnest. But in his description of his plans for his children, he impresses the French and they clap for him.
Back at home Abigail can't sleep. She goes around checking on the children.
Franklin and Adams are invited to court. They are escorted into the room where the French King talks to his staff and visitors. The King tells Franklin that all the court is talking about his experiments in science and his experiments with the ladies. Franklin introduces John to the King. The King asks John something in French, but John can only stand there quietly. One of the staff tells the King that John knows not a word of French. The King laughs heartily.
John and Ben now visit with Monsieur le Comte. Mr. Adams says that he feels duty bound to press for greater naval support from France. Le Comte responds that Admiral d'Estaing is now sailing toward New England John laughs slightly and says: "I deem it insufficient." Le Comte does not like that remark. John goes on to say that twelve ships of the line and five frigates will not dislodge the British fleet from American shores. Franklin looks very uncomfortable when John speaks. John leaves the room. Franklin then promptly apologizes to le Comte.
When Adams and Franklin talk, Franklin scolds John for his conduct. He asks John if he is deliberately trying to wreck all that has been accomplished with the French? John gets angry as usual and shouts at Franklin that he will not coddle the French. The French look at the pair and, in particular, the yelling man.
At home Mrs. Adams has dinner with the French Admiral and many important Americans aboard the admiral's ship. The man sitting next to her is Dr. Rush of Philadelphia who is now the Surgeon General of the American army. The Admiral pays a nice compliment to Abigail about now he knows why her husband wants to get back home so soon. Dr. Rush complains that 3,000 men were rendered unfit for duty at Valley Forge all because Congress allowed their supply lines to wither.
Sister writes Johnny and asks why doesn't dad write mom more often? Johnny asks his father and dad says that he has little to talk about but his failures and frustrations. John receives a message delivered by Bancroft. While reading the letter, John gets very angry and he marches off to confront Franklin. Bancroft tries to stop him, but he can't. John bursts into Franklin's room only to find him in the bath tub with Madame Helvetius (in a thin robe) playing chess. John is embarrassed by the sight. He finally says that congress has named Franklin the sold Minister Plenipotentiary to the court of King Louis. Indeed, says Franklin. John leaves sheepishly. But John is still mad at Franklin and gives Bancroft an earful of resentments.
Back home Abigail cleans the windows late at night. Her daughter comes to her to ask her to come to bed. Nabby says: "There will be something tomorrow from papa." Her mother responds: "It is of little matter." But obviously it does matter. Abigail feels terrible that her husband has not written to reassure her of his love for her. She asks: "How can he not know what his silence costs me?" Her daughter hugs her.
Having nothing to do in France, John speaks with the Dutch. The Dutch group looks very stern. They get right to the point and ask John how much money does he seek. The answer is a loan of $10 million dollars. The Dutch talk amongst themselves saying that it is a modest amount asked by a modest man. But one Dutchman tells John that the French Admiral's defeat at Newport, the loss of Charleston, South Carolina and Gen. Arnold's treachery at West Point is not promising for the success of America's revolution. Another Dutchman says: "There are rumors that America will accept a negotiated peace." John thunders out with: "No, sir, no!" They will only accept complete and irrevocable independence.
The Dutch talk amongst themselves again. John coughs so much that the Dutch ask him if he is ill. He says no, that he finds the climate "insalubrious". The Dutch says that the Americans are asking them to imperil their trade with Britain and to encourage their French enemies. The head of the group says: "That is not an option." They turn John down.
Back in France John reads a letter from Benjamin Franklin to the congress. The letter mentions that John gave great offense to the French court. "Mr. Adams's character and turn of mind are inappropriate to proper diplomacy. And sometimes and in some things he is quite out of his senses." Mr. Dana, the new American ambassador to Russia, tells John that the letter was read to the congress. He then says they have reason to be optimistic. Thousands of men under Rochambeau joined General Washington and Admiral de Grasse is sailing with a large fleet. John responds: "Well, at long last." Mr. Dana says: "Dr. Franklin's efforts have been amply rewarded." John makes a snide remark about Franklin also being well remunerated for his services.
Mr. Dana needs a secretary who speaks French and can teach him the language. John suggests his son Johnny and Mr. Dana accepts. Dad is sending his 14 year old son to St. Petersburg. Johnny does not want to go to Russia. But his father says it is about time he put his skills and talents to good use for the betterment of his country. He tells his boy that he must not mind feeling sad at times. Feeling sad is only natural. John also tells his son that he himself has never turned down the country when they needed him. And this in spite of his having to leave his beloved Abigail. John sends his child off with Mr. Dana while his eyes become watery.
John learns that the French are very mad at him for speaking with the Dutch without their knowledge and without their permission. At the time the sick man is being bled by a doctor. John goes on and on talking to himself and ignoring the doctor's requests that he remain still. The Ambassador gets up and walks around wailing about the French. All of a sudden he faints. The doctor desperately tries to revive him.
At home Abigail receives "glorious news". Lord Cornwallis has surrendered at Yorktown to the Americans. The kids want to know if it means dad will be coming home. Abigail says: "God be praised. . . . And Mr. Washington. And papa will be back."
John is very sick. He becomes delusional. He has a near constant cough. He calls out repeatedly the name: Abigail.
Part IV. Reunion.
There is a knock on John's door. The voice outside calls out for Mr. Adams. John finally makes it to the door to let the man in. There is great news Mr. Adams. The British are defeated. John cries and kisses the man's hand.
Now the Dutch come to John Adams. They are willing to lend $2 million dollars to the USA at 5% percent interest. The Dutchmen tell John that American credit is now fully established. John tells them he is needed back in Paris. He wants to be there to make sure that America's independence gets clearly expressed in the peace treaty.
France 1784. The treaty is finished, but the congress wants John to stay in Paris to secure trade with other nations. Confronted with many more years in France, John writes to Abigail to come to Paris. She comes. Their meeting is very formal partly because all the servants are there. The place John is staying in is ridiculously huge. All alone, the couple kiss and kiss. When they take a break Abigail says: "I came here with many harsh words for you, John." John says he knows his pen was silent, that he did not write very often. He says he didn't write much not because she was absent from his thoughts, but because she was too much in them. He adds he did not want to write her of his disgrace, to burden her with his many trials. And this especially since he knew all the trials she had to face at home alone. He asks of Abigail: "Can you forgive me, Abigail?" He says he needs her to steady him. Without her he becomes weak and vain. He adds: "You must stay with me always to prevent my ruination."
Thomas Jefferson is in Paris to succeed Benjamin Franklin as American Ambassador to France. He speaks with John and his wife. John tells him that he has found that American concerns have very little consequence to anyone in Europe. And this is especially true since they are dealing with thirteen separate states. Jefferson asks Abigail for her first impressions of France, but she says she will not reveal them until she has had more experience in France. John Quincy has returned from Russia and is resting. They won't bother him. Walking together with Jefferson, Abigail gives him her condolences for having lost both his wife and a child in one year.
Abigail comes down the stairs all dressed up like a French lady of the court. John says she will dazzle them all. They go to a ballet. Abigail is absolutely entranced by what she sees. Later when she speaks with Jefferson she tells him that she is not accustomed to seeing such "intimacy" on display. They both burst into laughter. When Abigail is with her husband she praises him lavishly. John seems perhaps a little jealous. She teases him by calling him "Petulant John". She says she would not change a single thing about him.
Ben Franklin arrives at the Adams's place accompanied by Madam Helvetius. He delivers a letter to John. John reads it and tells his wife that he has been appointed minister to the court of St. James. Now he is Ambassador Adams. Franklin tells John that he is very qualified for the job. After all, the English love an insult. Franklin says he is looking forward to going back to the United States. He wants to be there for the discussions of the constitution. Franklin says: "We have our Republic. We must endeavor to keep it if we can."
John, Abigail and Thomas watch the trials for a hot air balloon. John says it won't fly, but Jefferson insists it will. It actually flies. John says: "I stand corrected."
John and Abigail are now in London. John receives instructions on how to approach the King of England. He has to bow three times: once at the start of the long walk to the throne; the second one mid-way into the walk; and the third one just before coming to the King. John looks very uncomfortable bowing and does it badly. John gets his audience with the King. And man is he ever stiff. It takes him a long time to do the three bows and none of them are pretty to watch. He looks nervous. And when he speaks it is in a very low voice and at a very slow pace. He carefully chooses his words. He says that he hopes to restore confidence and affection between their two peoples who share the same language, have a similar religion and kindred blood. He also says he is thrilled with his assignment to Britain.
The King has been looking at Adams like he was a creature from Mars. But the King surprises John. He is actually pleased with his performance. He says: "I am very glad the choice has fallen on you to be their minister . . ." He comments that although he was the last to consent to separation, he always said he would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power. John thanks His Majesty. Before John leaves, the King mentions that the talk is that John did not like French ways. John laughs and confirms the talk.
John reads the newspaper reviews of his performance before the King. He is at the breakfast table with Abigail and his private secretary, Col. William Smith. A few call him vain. One says he was so embarrassed as to be tongue-tied before the King. And one even calls for him to be hanged. Abigail asks Col. Smith to remove the papers from the table. Her husband is just getting to riled up.
There is snow on the ground. Abigail tells John that she has learned that the Vassall-Borland estate has become available. It is the estate near their farm They can buy the mansion and 80 acres for 600 English pounds. She confesses to John: "My body is in one place, my soul is in another." She wants to go home. She is worried about their children and she is tried of "this weary place". John admits that he too feels adrift. He missed the Constitutional Convention. He tells his wife that he will write congress and demand his immediate recall.
John and Abigail arrive at the dock in the United States. They are received by a large, enthusiastic crowd. It has been a long time. He receives a rifle and cannon salute. John is very moved to see this three boys, now men, and his daughter, now a woman. And Abigail is ecstatic to see her children again. The family gets in a coach and are driven to the estate.
A man influential in politics comes to see John. He says that retirement is not an option for a man like him. He is not meant to sit in the shade of life. And the nation needs men who will unite the people. He asks John if it would be alright if he put his name forward in political circles. Abigail says that the position must be at least Vice President. Anything less would be beneath him.
The family have lunch on their porch. John tells Charles that they have received some bad reports about his behavior at Harvard. Charles says it was all innocent, including being naked on Harvard Yard. Charles changes the subject by mentioning John Quincy's courtship of Mary Frazier. His parents are very interested. John Quincy says he has been seeing her for a year and that she is a lovely, well-spoken girl. How old is she? Fifteen years of age. This shocks his parents somewhat.
When John gets John Quincy alone he tells him that he is too young to accept a romantic relationship. He tells him that he will set him up in his own law practice if he drops the relationship. John Quincy says he needs some time to consider his offer. But John says: "No! Now!" So John accepts his offer.
Col Smith seems to like Nabby. He tells her that he served under General Washington on Long Island. She tells him that she loves that the family could be all together at the table.
John is very disappointed with the results of the presidential race. Washington received 69 votes, Adams 34 and John Jay 9. He tells Abigail that he considers it a stain upon his character. He says: "I will not and cannot accept it." Abigail reminds John that now he is the Vice-President of the United States. This changes John's mood.
John speaks before the congress, but has a hard time finding a topic to discuss. Washington comes in and gets a big round of applause. John feels obviously overshadowed by the great man. John tells Washington that they are ready to administer the oath of office. When Washington steps out onto the the upper porch, the big crowd goes wild for him. The oath is begun. Washington speaks so low that hardly anyone can hear him. But it is done! The shout goes up: God bless George Washington, President of the United States. John comments to George: "A fine day! A fine day!" George urges John to come to the fore with him to greet the crowd. John does so and gets a round of applause. He looks happy.
Part V. Unite or Die.
John Adams sits in on the senate. He insists that there must be magisterial titles for the president of the United States to indicate the importance of the office. So he goes through several titles. He seems to ignore the fact that his audience does not agree with him and are somewhat disgusted that he pursues this. His suggestions are laughed at and rejected.
Abigail tells her husband that if George Washington wanted his advice he would ask for it, period! John continues with his theme of the titles for the presidency. He ignores the fact that he is making her angry with this line of pursuit. She says that with all the magisterial titles, people will say that his mind has been tainted by foreign courts. In fact, they are already saying such things in Boston. Instead of backing down, he continues pressing the issue. His wife, now furious, tries to get away from him, but he keeps pursuing her. She becomes more stressed and angry as he keeps coming at her.
And then he suddenly realizes that he has gone too far. He tells his wife that he will be more patient in the future. Abigail is stressed for another reason too. She tells her husband that they cannot get by on his income from being vice-president. Abigail says she will tend to the farm to supplement their income. This upsets John . He says to her: "I need my balance." (And he surely does need her balancing hand as just demonstrated by his conduct.) Abigail is frank with him: "You need to mind your tongue." He tells her to stay with him and she shall see that he will be reformed. She only says that she will stay with him until the end of the congressional session. He kisses her hand.
At a gathering of Washington's cabinet, Hamilton and Jefferson are at each other's throats once again. They seem to disagree on everything. Jefferson even asks Hamilton what is the purpose of the treasury department. He speaks of the "monied interests" being accommodated by the department. John Adams is of the opinion that they desperately need a powerful central government, which is the opposite of Jefferson's thinking. Washington stops the back and forth for awhile to welcome Mr. Jefferson home.
Washington says that the men will now discuss cabinet matters. He asks John: "Would you excuse us, John?" John is hurt and it shows on his face. He wants to stay, but Washington does not look as if he wants John there. Before John leaves, Washington says to call him "Mr. President" and nothing more. This also hurts John's feelings. In fact, he feels humiliated. And when John speaks up in the senate he is told frankly that the matter is none of his concern. John makes the comment that the role of the vice-president is nothing. It is the most insignificant office ever devised by man, he says. And this is a torture for a man of action and debate like Adams.
Dr. Rush visits John. He tells him that there are rumors and intrigue concerning John. In the election someone urged the congressmen to hold back votes for Adams in order not to embarrass Washington. John wonders who was this "someone". It also looks as if two basic parties are developing. The group that supports a strong central government is referred to as the Federalists. The Republicans, on the other hand, want a relatively weak government to protect the sovereignty of the people.
Jefferson speaks with John and Abigail. The couple are alarmed by the great violence that came with the French Revolution. But Jefferson seems to be the complete idealist. He says they should rejoice in what has happened in France. He adds that in the United States the president has too much power and the congress not enough. After Jefferson leaves, Abigail warns John about the man. She says: "He seems much changed."
Captain William Smith speaks to Mr. Adams. He asks to marry his daughter. Adams actually seems infuriated by the question. When he gets home he gets an earful from his wife: "You mean you vetoed Captain Smith's proposal?" She is definitely not pleased. She says that if Nabby is content with the match, then they should be as well.
Washington speaks with Adams. The president is very upset about the formation of political parties in his administration. He regrets that the cabinet meetings are often a matter of Jefferson versus Hamilton. He insists that he will not have this government undermined by party politics. John tells Washington that he is leaving for Peacefield (his estate). His daughter is getting married. And then Washington surprises Adams. He actually invites him "to table". Washington says he is in need of "more reasonable advice". Adams is pleased indeed. John advises neutrality, neutrality, neutrality. Washington once again speaks of "the gangrene of faction" in his administration.
Nabby marries Captain Smith. They are going to England. Smith wants to be involved there with what they call "speculation". Adams does not approve, but does not get too carried away with his opinions this time.
The talk is that Washington is not going to run for the presidency after eight years of service. And John will obviously be one of the candidates.
Ambassador Genet of France speaks with some of the congressmen. Jefferson tells Adams that actually American neutrality favors Britain. He is more inclined to support France. And he says that Adams seems blind to Hamilton's scheming. He goes on to say that he has offered the president his resignation. John says this will be a great loss for himself personally. Even though he doesn't agree with Jefferson on most of the questions of the day, he personally likes Jefferson and vice-versa. Jefferson offers a toast: "To the revolution!"
The visit of Genet causes a stir in Great Britain. Their attitude is that just accepting the visit of Ambassador Genet was a violation of the stance of neutrality on the part of the United States. Washington tells Adams that he is sending John Jay as special envoy to London too soothe things over. But, actually, Washington wants to speak to John about his son John Quincy Adams. He wants to send to the young fellow to the Netherlands as ambassador. The revolution has spilled over from France and Washington is concerned about the possible results. And again John urges neutrality.
John is pleased by the political appointment. He talks with John Quincy about it. John Quincy tells him that he wished the appointment had not been made at all. This upsets John. John Quincy says Washington did not consult him on the decision at all. But not to worry, dad, he will do his duty. But, he wants to take his brother Thomas Adams with him as his secretary. John says that Thomas has to stay and study law. John Quincy informs him that Thomas has no liking for the law whatsoever. This takes John by surprise. (He's a bit out-of-touch with his sons.)
John Quincy talks to his brother Charles. Their brother-in-law has given Charles some contacts that will help Charles engage in "speculation". John Quincy gives him $2,000 dollars of his own money so Charles can invest it "wisely". John Quincy and Thomas are leaving for England. John tells him: "All my hopes are in you both for our family and for our country. Do not disappoint me."
John is needed back in Philadelphia. He tells Abigail that John Jay will be pilloried for making a treaty with Great Britain that gives away too much.
John speaks with Charles about his future. He says that Charles's girlfriend Sally seems like a good girl. But, an aspiring lawyer should never marry early. John's advice and attitude get under Charles's skin and he strikes back at his father. With great bitterness, he asks him why he and mother abandoned him and Thomas to the care of tutors during his long stay in Europe. John should have apologized for what happened to the boys, but instead he gets angry as usual. He tells his son that he is a "frivolous boy" and that he knows nothing of honor. Indeed, he disregards the matter of honor. Thomas complains that his father very seldom ever wrote them and when he did the letters were full of advice, but no affection.
In Philadelphia the senate is split 15-15 over the ratification of the John Jay treaty. There is a lot of anger between the two sides on the issue. John says that since the issue is a tie, he will decide the matter. He votes for ratification of the treaty. One side erupts with joy while the other side shouts in anger.
The Jay treaty causes Washington a great deal of pain. He says that people are mad at him for siding with the British. They even call him a traitor. The only bright side is at least it keeps them out of their "blasted war" (between France and Britain). Washington says: "Now I know what it means to be unpopular." He will not run again for the presidency.
John speaks with Abigail. He tells her that he, of course, is the heir apparent to Washington. She asks if Jefferson will oppose him. John says yes. Jefferson is as ambitious and another other man. He thinks that by staying out of politics at Monticello that people will be attracted to the idea of his becoming president. And Jefferson has the south behind him. The republicans have New England on their side.
But another name is floated concerning the presidency: Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina. John Adams laughs at the very idea. He says Pinckney's record is nothing as compared to his. But Hamilton likes Pinckney. John later learns that Hamilton has one central idea: Jefferson must be defeated at all costs. So, John says, it was Hamilton that intrigued against him in the first election. He gets angry thinking about how Hamilton was sneaking around behind his back working against him. He says: "I have no stomach for cowards."
The final tabulation of the electoral college is 30 for Aaron Burr, 59 for Pinckney, 68 for Thomas Jefferson and 71 for John Adams. Adams will be the next president. He receives a luke-warm response form his colleagues.
John Adams takes the presidential oath. Thomas Jefferson is the vice-president. Adams is happy about this, since he and Jefferson are friends. Adams speaks to the congress saying that the constitution is a great instrument of government. He also praises Washington for his service to his nation. There is a great applause for Washington. Washington says to Adams: "I am fairly out and you are fairly in. Let's see which of us is the happiest."
John and Abigail visit the president's house. They are absolutely shocked. The place is an absolute mess. The previous staff took everything in the house. It is almost completely bare. Abigail comments: "Deplorable." John becomes very discouraged. He just sits on a chair. He starts talking about his various physical infirmities and one of his teeth seems to be causing him pain. He says he hates speeches and wonders how he will talk to large crowds. Abigail does not like to see him so down. She tells him that he can and will rise to the occasion. John's mood does not improve. She loses patience with him. She even seems a bit disgusted by his mood. She says they have a lot to be thankful for. Nothing seems to work. Finally, she just says repeatedly: "Up, John, up. . . . Up John, up!" John gets up. (He needs that lady!)
Part VI. Unnecessary War.
France has been capturing a great many American trading vessels. And the captain of the Cincinnatus was even subjected to torture. But John Adams is determined to remain neutral and not go to war with either France of Britain. In fact, this neutrality becomes a dominant theme of his administration. John would like to send Jefferson to France as an envoy extraordinary. But Jefferson is not really interested. Jefferson tells him: "Some may say you seek to remove a rival for public office." John just says: "Well, let them prattle." So Jefferson has to tell him directly: I cannot accept." They don't even agree on the basics of how the government should function. He also criticizes John for taking over Washington's cabinet without making a single change. To make things worse, Jefferson says to John: "You're Hamilton's man." And Hamilton wants a war with France. But John insists that he will not take the USA into a war with France. Jefferson tells John that he should put his own house in order. The famous Adams's anger comes out. He tells Jefferson frankly that the Virginian offers him his friendship, but not his support. He says he won't trouble him again. "Good day to you, Thomas."
John resists the calls to go to war. He insists that war should be the last resort. And Washington's cabinet (minus Hamilton) wants to go to war with France. Mr. McHenry wants to establish an army. He says the state militias are inadequate for any defensive purpose. John expresses his disappointment that his cabinet is moved more by Hamilton than by him. He is upset by the lack of support in his own cabinet. He insists that the USA cannot afford to go to war. At home he speaks with Abigail. She has good advice: "Hold firm to the course that you have set and if war comes, John, we must be prepared."
John speaks with his son-in-law William Smith. In case of war , the young man wants John to vouchsafe his reputation so he can get a position on the army staff. But John tells the man he cannot vouchsafe his character. He says William has bankrupted himself in the pursuit of easy riches. William expresses his anger about his father-in-law not putting in a word for him so he could get steady employment. John replies: "I will not and cannot countenance your ceaseless efforts to trade on our family name." William says John did it for his own sons, regardless of whether they deserved it or not. Adams just says: "I have nothing more to say to you, sir. Good day!" William leaves.
John sent Mr. Marshall over to France. But now he learns that Talleyrand all but refused to see the American delegation. John is angry.
John speaks with Jefferson. He has a letter from Talleyrand asking for $250,000 for himself and a loan of $10 million dollars to prove America's good intentions. John is considering the arming of American merchant vessels and fortifying the harbors of the United States. And he will need an army. Jefferson is disturbed by the emphasis on what he sees as preparations for war. He tells John that war has been his administration's agenda from the start. John replies: "If there is to be a war, it will be France's doing and not mine."
John goes to the theater with his wife. The actor on stage yells to the audience to give three cheers for President Adams. The audience stands and applauds. Apparently, at least for the moment, he is very popular. But he is going to become pretty unpopular with his next move. He reads a proposal for what will become known as the Aliens and Sedition Acts. The bill says that aliens and enemies from hostile nations resigning in the United States can be punished if their presence in the country can be regarded as dangerous. There are 25,000 French men in Philadelphia alone that the acts could apply to. The bill also says it is a crime to utter or publish writings that defame the government (which is a direct violation of freedom of speech).
And in an apparent switch of roles in the family, it is now Abigail that rails and John who tries to be the calming influence. She is angry at the vitriolic comments in the press and elsewhere about her husband. And there are a number of terribly harsh articles about the President. John describes himself thusly: "I am a party of one."
Adams speaks with Jefferson, who warns him of the dangers of shipping out the entire French population of the United States. And he is concerned that the new acts will violate freedom of speech. He says frankly that John is trampling on the constitution. He warns that the states will resist. John would like Jefferson to use his influence in the senate to support some of Adams's goals. But Jefferson tells John he will have no part of it. He says: "I cannot preside over a reign of witches." Instead he will go to Monticello. Adams says he himself does not have such an option. At home Abigail tells John to sign the bill. She says: "For once in your life the people are with you."
John speaks with Alexander Hamilton. General Washington will only serve if Hamilton is his second in command. And Hamilton blabs on about the tiniest of details for the new army leaving John completely bored and impatient. John says he is going back to Peacefield to avoid the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia.
John Quincy has come back to speak with his father and see the family. He says the situation has changed in France with the ascendancy of Napoleon. John says France went from monarch to revolution and back to monarchy. John is happy about the news, saying it "is the very news I have been waiting for."
At Peacefield Abigail asks Nabby if there is any news from her husband. Nabby says he will return as soon as he's able. Abigail is worried for Nabby. She asks her to come to Philadelphia with her and father. But Nabby says she will stay at Peacefield. She says it would create a scandal if she was in Philadelphia without her husband.
John is in Trenton because of the yellow fever problem. Hamilton comes to visit him. He proposes that they grab all the remaining land not in American hands east of the Mississippi River. He goes on and on until John says: "Never in my life have I heard a man speak like such a fool." What Hamilton proposes, he says, would lead to the dissolution of the nation. Indeed he questions Hamilton's very sanity. "Good day, sir."
John requests that congress disband the army. This makes some in the cabinet very angry. They want to know why? Why did he disband the army when the nation is preparing for war? John tells McHenry and Pickering not to speak to him about the politics of the matter. And he is sick of hearing about Hamilton. He rails against the man. John gets so angry that he asks the two men to resign from the cabinet. But they don't wish to resign. John says good, then he can have the more immense pleasure of removing them from office. McHenry and Pickering leave.
Abigail learns that her son Charles is a very sick man. And he won't help himself. He just keeps drinking and drinking. And his has money problems. He is especially worried about telling John Quincy that he lost the $2,000 dollars that he gave him to invest. It's all gone. He was cheated by speculators and can't bring himself to tell John Quincy.
John Adams goes to a terribly run down area. He asks for the home of Charles Adams. John finds the place and goes in to find his son sleeping with his head on the table in the room. He uses his cane to smash the glasses in front of Charles. He says that Charles is nothing but a mere rake. And he has his mother completely beside herself with grief. He goes on insulting Charles calling him a miserable, drunken cheat. Charles retorts that John has made his whole life a curse. John responds with "I renounce you." Charles drops to his knees saying: "Have mercy, father." John leaves. Outside he has to steady himself by placing one hand against a wall, since he is very emotional about the state of his son.
Abigail tells John that Charles has been "a graceless child, but I cannot forsake him." It makes her wonder what they may have done wrong in raising him. But John has no doubts. He says: "I won't find fault in my behavior, to excuse his."
The work on the capital buildings proceeds using slave labor. John and Abigail will soon be moving into what will become the White House. The place is a mess, especially the area around the house. The foreman says it will be done soon, but it sure doesn't look like it. And both John and Abigail are concerned about the slaves. Abigail is disgusted that half-fed slaves are being used to build the nation's capital.
The couple moves into the White House before it is finished. Hamilton writes an absolutely scathing indictment of John Adams. One of the less offensive things he says is that John Adams has an ungovernable temper. John throws the booklet "Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams" into the fire. His belief is that the booklet will secure the election of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency, something that Hamilton said would be even worse than more years of Adams as president.
Abigail comes home to Peacefield. Nabby says: "Thank God, you've come." Charles is with them and he is in a terrible state. Nabby warns her that his mind is much deranged. Abigail goes up to see her son. She tells him that he has a wife and children who are in great need of him. And she needs him too. She says: "You will return to us." Charles begs his mother to please forgive him.
Mr. Marshall has great news for the President. The treaty was signed October 3. John says thanks be to God. And Napoleon has said that any riffs between France and the USA are just family disputes.
Abigail has to return to Philadelphia. She tells Charles's wife Sally that she must be strong now more than ever.
The results of the election are in. John Adams received 65 votes and Jefferson and Burr each received 73. The election will now be decided by the House of Representatives. John says he will be going home soon. He is recalling his son John Quincy back from his exile abroad. The family's been apart for too long. Abigail reads a letter and cries. She tells her husband: "He's dead John. Our son is dead. . . . That poor, poor unhappy man." While his wife cries, John only says: "I will not forgive him." Without saying anything more, Abigail gets up and walks out of the room. Abigail takes a coach the next day to go to Peacefield. John stays home all by himself.
Jefferson comes to visit John. After 33 ballots the House of Representatives is still deadlocked. Jefferson says a word from the President would end the uncertainty of the matter. John replies: "I have no business in that matter." He suggests that Jefferson let it be known that he would consider some of the concerns of the Federalists. Jefferson starts to leave. He bows before going out the door, but not another word is exchanged.
Mr. Marshall brings the news that on the 36th ballot Bayard of Delaware changed his ballot. He did so because Jefferson had said he would consider Federalist demands. John says that he feels as if a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Marshall is shocked when John tells him that he will not attend the inauguration of Jefferson. He has no desire to see Jefferson take over the office. Marshall tells the President that he will be missed, but John Adams only says: "I very much doubt that."
A buggy with plenty of seats, but almost all filled, waits at the door of the future White House. Mr. Adams comes out and is helped into the wagon. He sits surrounded by slaves and a few whites. They can't believe he is riding with them. John gets irritated and tells them to stop their "gawking". He says: "I'm just an ordinary citizen the same as yourselves."
Part VII. Peacefield.
Dr. Rush visits. He has come to see Nabby. She complains about a hotness in her right breast that often causes her a great deal of pain. Dr. Rush examines her. Finished with his exam, he speaks with John and Abigail. Nabby is suffering from cancer of the breast. The entire right breast must be removed. The news is devastating to John and Abigail. The operation is done in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Mr. Rush says that the operation itself was successful, but he cannot guarantee that the cancer is all removed.
Thomas reads an article in the paper making fun of Jefferson's sexual relationship with Sally Hemmings. Nabby says that it is hard for her to believe it. Thomas says that Jefferson was willing to pay Mr. Calendar $50 dollars in order to silence him. The talk about politics has upset John. When he works on rebuilding a high stone wall he gets distracted when talking politics to Thomas and drops a large stone. It hits his food and he goes down.
So now John Adams is stuck on the porch with a damaged foot. His wife brings him food and drink. She also brings him a letter from John Quincy. John complains that he finds the boredom at Peacefield very hard on him. The talk turns to Mr. Jefferson. Abigail says the man did great harm to John. John points out that now they are expanding American territory by making a deal with Napoleon. Abigail suggests that he write his memoirs giving his side of the story. John rejects the idea. But in the next scene we see him writing his memoirs. He has Thomas and Sally running around trying to find various papers containing the early criticisms he received.
Nabby tells her mother that the cancer has returned. Abigail wants to call Dr. Rush, but Nabby tells her that she is beyond Dr. Rush's art. This time it is much worse than the earlier occurrence. Abigail is very upset and Nabby hugs her to console her. Later Nabby speaks with her parents. She says that when she is gone they must not bear her husband any ill will. She asks her father to promise her. He comes over to her with tears in his eyes and kisses her forehead.
Nabby has died. Abigail and John pack up some of her things. Abigail cries and cries and John hugs her. William Smith arrives. He tells his in-laws that his children will want for nothing. Abigail tells William that Nabby never lost her faith in him. William says that he is very sorry that Nabby could not have lived long enough to see his success.
John Quincy arrives with the two portraits of his parents done by Gilbert Stuart when they were in the White House. John says that President Madison has no interest in the paintings for the White House. Abigail says of the paintings: "We shall have them here to remind us of all we have accomplished.'
Abigail reads John's writing, but he gets impatient and takes the manuscript back from her. Abigail goes outside on the porch to be with Sally. She comments to Sally that old age is dark and unlovely. Sally wants to emphasize the positive and mentions that she and her husband will be soon celebrating 54 years of marriage. Abigail tells Sally that both she and her husband love her and want her always with them at Peacefield. All of a sudden Abigail just falls asleep. Sally has trouble waking her, panics and shouts for John to come. John is very scared too, but suddenly Abigail opens her eyes. John sits by her bedside. Abigail says that she is the first to depart. John says: "I will not let you go." You don't really have any say in the matter, John, says Abigail. Soon after these words, Abigail dies. John cries and calls for Thomas.
Thomas goes out into the fields to see his father. Dad tells him: "I wish I could lay down with her and die too." He also says that the longer he lives and the more questions he asks, the less he seems to know.
Dr. Rush visits John again. He asks John if there is anyone to whom he would like Dr. Rush to write to about Nabby and Abigail. John says that so many of his friends are deceased now. Dr. Rush suggests that he could inform Jefferson. Adams wants Dr. Rush to write the letter, but Dr. Rush strongly recommends that John himself write to the famous man. John says the man did him and his reputation great insult. Dr. Rush urges John to show magnanimity of a great mind and write Jefferson. The doctor then flatters John by saying he always thought the the two key thinkers of American politics representing the basic political differences that exist in the nation were Adams and Jefferson. John agrees to write Jefferson. He writes to the Virginian about the loss of his beloved daughter and then the loss of his wife.
Jefferson writes back to express his sorrow over John's losses. He mentions that he should take great comfort in the fact that John Quincy will be the next president of the United States. When John reads the letter in the presence of John Quincy he says to his eldest son that he has made him the "proudest father in the United States." It is John's 90th birthday. Later John Quincy asks his father for some advice. John Quincy says he would like to strengthen the federal government and build up infrastructure like roads. John says that his enemies will call him a monarchist. He then says John Quincy should not be asking his father for advice, but look to his wife. He says: "Your mother was always my most faithful adviser and the wisest."
It will soon be the 50th anniversary of the birth of the United States of America. John says that they are all dead except for him and Mr. Jefferson.
The famous painter John Trumbull shows John and John Quincy his huge painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. John doesn't want to comment on the art work. What upsets him about the painting is its very bad history. The scene depicted never took place. There was never an occurrence when all the delegates were together. There were delegates always running in and out and signing the independence document when they could.
At night Thomas comes to take his father to bed. John is all sweaty. Thomas and Sally have to help him to bed. At about the same time, the doctor attends to Mr. Jefferson. Both men seem to be dying. John calls out for Abigail. He also says: "It's time." Jefferson dies with Sally Hemmings at his bedside. John tells Thomas that Thomas Jefferson survives. He dies. Thomas cries.
The last scene involves the reading of passages from the writings of John and Abigail expressing their love, admiration and gratitude to each other.
Very good mini-series with lots of history. I did not realize that John Adams was so critical to the independence process in those early years when there was so much reluctance to take the stance of independence from Great Britain. He was willing to be brutally frank in order to push the idea of independence forward. This did not make him popular, but he seemed to enjoy the role of the man of action regardless of the unpopularity that might result from it.
As a diplomat, Franklin was right about John Adams. The man was just not suited to be a diplomat. He was a stubborn man with a fixed set of rigid morals and he stuck to them, even when they led him to insult and hurt others. He was a little too sure of himself and his beliefs. As a result he was very unpopular in France and made Benjamin Franklin's job much more difficult that it had to be. His rigidity of mind, also made John Adams a less than satisfactory president. He decided to be what we now call a McCarthyite looking for "dangerous" people to expel from the United States and searching for political writings to declare seditious. Jefferson was right. Adams was trampling on the constitution. He was not flexible enough to compromise with others to get things done. He referred to himself as a "party of one", which basically sums up the situation and his personality. The one good thing he did was he kept the United States out of war, which could have been either with France or England.
Adams took a beating as far as criticism is concerned. And this left him with considerable resentment. This made it harder for him to retire happily. He resented that once back in Peacefield he was pretty much a forgotten man.
But perhaps the worse thing that John did was what he did to his family. The middle boy Charles greatly resented his father's lack of affection and his long absences from home. He wound up an alcoholic drinking himself to death and leaving his wife and children without husband or father. When his son was desperately ill of alcoholism, he disowned his son without ever trying to help him overcome the disease. (Although in those days, they would not have considered alcoholism as a mental health problem.) John refused to help his son-in-law Captain Smith in getting steady employment. He would not even put in a word on his behalf to possible employers. His attitude to Mr. Smith was terrible, petty and uncaring. John send his 14 year old son John Quincy to St. Petersburg to be a secretary to the American ambassador to Russia. John Quincy told his father he did not want to go. He wanted to stay with his father. But no, John Quincy had to go "serve his country" at age 14. Even hasrd-ass drill sergeants know you don't take 14 year old boys to war to "serve their country". This was a totally inappropriate handling of a 14 year old. (We never heard what Abigail thought about his little shenanigans.) John also hurt his wife greatly by being absent for many years in Europe while writing very few letters to his wife and children. He seemed only to care about himself and his failures and how they would appear to others. Mr. John Adams was a very flawed person with a flawed personality and he damaged his family considerably because of it.
So the movie was great because it was so honest. John Adams was a great man. No doubt about it. But he was also a man with many problems of personality. Both these sides are shown. It's not all black or white, it's gray. Good job. Mrs. Adams sometimes appeared as saintly, but they did show some of her bad side too. She could get carried away with her political views too that did not help her husband. (This was especially true of her bad advice on the Aliens and Sedition Acts, which was so damaging to his reputation as president.)
Both my wife and I like the movie. We both feel we know John and Abigail Adams now and not just some caricature of them.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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