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John Adams: I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress! And by God, I have had this Congress! For ten years, King George and his Parliament have gulled, cullied, and diddled these colonies with their illegal taxes! Stamp Acts, Townshend Acts, Sugar Acts, Tea Acts! And when we dared stand up like men, they have stopped our trade, seized our ships, blockaded our ports, burned our towns, and spilled our BLOOD! And still, this Congress refuses to grant ANY of my proposals on independence, even so much as the courtesty of open debate! Good God, what in hell are you waiting for?
John Dickinson: Mr. Jefferson, are you seriously suggesting that we publish a paper declaring to all the world that an illegal rebellion is, in reality, a legal one? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, Mr. Dickinson, I'm surprised at you. You should know that rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as "our rebellion." It is only in the third person - "their rebellion" - that it is illegal.
John Adams: A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I'd accept with some despair. But no, You sent us Congress! Good God, Sir, was that fair?
[Jefferson's wife visits, and they retire behind closed doors] John Adams: Good God, you don't mean... they're not going to...? In the middle of the afternoon? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Not everybody's from Boston, John!
[Adams has barged into Jefferson's room, accompanied by Franklin, to read the results of Jefferson's work on the Declaration of Independence] John Adams: Well, is it written yet? Well, you've had a whole week, man. Is it done? Can I SEE IT? [with his violin bow, Jefferson picks up and hands Adams a discarded draft] John Adams: "There comes a time in the lives of men when it becomes necessary to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto rem-"... This is terrible. Where's the rest of it? [Jefferson indicates dozens of rejected drafts strewn crumpled about his floor] John Adams: Do you mean to say that it is not yet finished? Thomas Jefferson: No, sir. I mean to say that it's not yet begun. John Adams: Good god! A whole week! The entire earth was created in a week! [Jefferson turns to face him] Thomas Jefferson: Someday, you must tell me how you did it. John Adams: Disgusting.
John Dickinson: Fortunately, the people maintain a higher regard for their mother country. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Higher, certainly, than she feels for them. Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and recklessly managed, than this entire continent by the British crown. Our industry discouraged, our resouces pillaged... worst of all our very character stifled. We've spawned a new race here, Mr. Dikinson. Rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined. We're a new nationality. We require a new nation.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Please Mr. Dickinson, but must you start banging? How is a man to sleep? [laughter from Congress] John Dickinson: Forgive me, Dr. Franklin, but must YOU start speaking? How is a man to stay awake? [More laughter] John Dickinson: We'll promise to be quiet - I'm sure everyone prefers that you remained asleep. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: If I'm to hear myself called an Englishman, sir, I assure you I prefer I'd remained asleep. John Dickinson: What's so terrible about being called an Englishman? The English don't seem to mind. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Nor would I, were I given the full rights of an Englishman. But to call me one without those rights is like calling an ox a bull. He's thankful for the honor, but he'd much rather have restored what's rightfully his. [laughter] John Dickinson: When did you first notice they were missing, sir? [laughter]
John Adams: At a stage in life when other men prosper, I'm reduced to living in Philadelphia.
John Adams: This is a revolution, dammit! We're going to have to offend SOMEbody!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: John, really. You talk as if independence were the rule. It's never been done before. No colony has ever broken from the parent stem in the history of the world. John Adams: Damn it, Franklin! You make us sound treasonous. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Do I? Treason, eh? [thoughtfully] Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers. John Adams: [scoffs] I have more to do than stand here listening to you quote yourself. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: No, that was a new one.
[Adams and Frankline wait expectantly on the street below Jefferson's apartment] John Adams: [reading a note tossed down from Jefferson] "Dear Mr. Adams, I am taking my wife back to bed. Kindly go away. Your obedient, T. Jefferson." Incredible! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [chuckles] You know, perhaps I should have written the Declaration. At my age there's little doubt that the pen is mightier than the sword.
[Standing awkwardly nearby as Jefferson and Martha embrace] John Adams: Jefferson, kindly introduce me to your wife. [pause] John Adams: She is your wife, isn't she? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Of course she is. Look at the way they fit.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [to Dr. Hall] What are you staring at? Haven't you ever seen a great man before?
John Adams: They won't be happy until they remove one of the F's from Jefferson's name!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [to John Dickinson] Be careful, Mr. Dickinson. Those who would give up some of their liberty in order to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
John Adams: Damn it, Franklin, we're at war. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: To defend ourselves, nothing more. We expressed our displeasure, the English moved against us, and we in turn have resisted. Now our fellow Congressmen want to effect a reconciliation. Before it *becomes* a war. John Adams: Reconciliation, my ass! The people want independence! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The people have read Mr. Paine's "Common Sense". I doubt very much the Congress has. John Adams: Well, that's true. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: John, why don't you give it up? Nobody listens to you; you're obnoxious and disliked.
[Adams tries to persuade Jefferson to stay in Philadelphia and write the Declaration of Independence rather than return home to Virginia] Thomas Jefferson: Mr. Adams, I beg of you. I have not seen my wife these past six months! John Adams: [quotes from memory] 'And we solemly declare that we will preserve our liberties, being with one mind resolved to die free men rather than to live slaves.' Thomas Jefferson "On the Necessity of Taking Up Arms," 1775. Magnificent! Why, you write ten times better than any man in Congress. Including me. For a man of only thirty-three years, you have a happy talent of composition and a remarkable felicity of expression. Now then, sir... will you be a patriot? Or a lover? Thomas Jefferson: [thinks it over, then] A lover.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Congratulations, John. You just made your greatest contribution to Independence: you kept your flap shut.
John Adams: Look at him, Franklin. Virginia's most famous lover! Thomas Jefferson: [not having seen his wife in six months] Virginia abstains.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: We've no choice, John. The slavery clause has got to go. John Adams: [stunned] Franklin, what are you saying? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: It's a luxury we can't afford. John Adams: [pause, then] 'Luxury?' A half million souls in chains... and Dr. Franklin calls it a 'luxury!' Maybe you should have walked out with the South! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [dangerous] You forget yourself sir. I founded the FIRST anti-slavery society on this continent. John Adams: Oh, don't wave your credentials at me! Maybe it's time you had them renewed! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [angrily] The issue here is independence! Maybe you have forgotten that fact, but I have not! How DARE you jeopardize our cause, when we've come so far? These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about - they are proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. And whether you like them or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation that YOU hope to create. Now, either learn how to live with them, or pack up and go home! [pause, then] Dr. Benjamin Franklin: In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [referring to Martha Jefferson] No wonder the man couldn't write! Who could think of independence being married to her?
[reading George Washington's last letter] Thomson: I can now state, with some certainty, that the eve of battle is upon us. Toward this end, I have ordered the evacuation of Manhattan, and have ordered my men to take up stronger positions along the Brooklyn heights. At this time, my troops consist entirely of Rhode Island militia, and Smallwood's Marylanders, a total of five thousand troops to stand against... twenty-five thousand of the enemy. One personal note to Mr. Lewis Morris, of New York - I must regretfully report that his estates have been totally destroyed, but that I have taken the liberty of transporting Mrs. Morris and eight of the children to Connecticut in safety. The four older boys are now enlisted in the continental army. As I write these words, the enemy is plainly in sight beyond the river, and I begin to notice that many of us are lads under fifteen and old men, none of whom can truly be called soldiers. How it will end, only providence can direct. But dear God, what brave men... I shall lose... before this business... ends. Your humble, and obedient... [drum roll] Thomson: G. Washington.
Hopkins: Well, in all my years I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yeah! I'm for debating anything. Rhode Island says yea!
Hopkins: Ah, Ben! I want you to see some cards I'd gone and had printed up. Oughta save everybody here a lot of time and effort, considering the epidemic of bad disposition that's been going on around here lately. "Dear Sir, you are without any doubt, a rogue, a rascal, a villain, a thief, a scoundrel, and a mean, dirty, stinking, sniveling, sneaking, pimping, pocket-picking, thrice double-damned no-good son of a bitch." and you sign your name - what do you think? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I'll take a dozen, right now.
John Adams: Good God, consider yourselves fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!
John Adams: Now you'll write it, Mr. J. Thomas Jefferson: Who will make me, Mr. A? John Adams: I. Thomas Jefferson: You? John Adams: Yes! [Jefferson steps up, towering over Adams, and looks down at him] Thomas Jefferson: How? [tapping his chest with the quill pen] John Adams: By physical force, if necessary.
John Adams: Franklin, where in God's name have you been? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Right here, John, being preserved for posterity. Do you like it? [John walks around to look at the painting] John Adams: It stinks. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: As ever, the soul of tact. John Adams: Well, the man's no Botticelli. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: And the subject's no Venus. John Adams: Franklin, where were you when I needed you? You should have heard what I suffered in there. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, I heard, all right. Along with the rest of Philadelphia. Lord, your voice is piercing, John. John Adams: Well, I just wish to Heaven my arguments were.
[Adams and Franklin arrive at Jefferson's apartment to check the status of the Declaration, and hear him playing his violin instead] John Adams: What is that racket? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: It's the latest thing from Europe, John. It's called music. John Adams: I came here expecting to hear a pen scratching, not a bow.
John Adams: [singing in the empty hall] Is anybody there?... Does anybody care?... Does anybody see... what I see? Dr. Lyman Hall: Yes, Mr. Adams, I do. John Adams: Dr. Hall, I didn't know anyone was... Dr. Lyman Hall: I'm sorry if I startled you. I couldn't sleep. In trying to resolve my dilemma I remembered something I'd once read, "that a representative owes the People not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion." [He smiles] Dr. Lyman Hall: It was written by Edmund Burke, a member of the British Parliament. [He walks to the tally board and changes his 'nay' vote to 'yea' on independence]
John Dickinson: Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Lee, Mr. Hopkins, Dr. Franklin, why have you joined this... incendiary little man, this BOSTON radical? This demagogue, this MADMAN? John Adams: Are you calling me a madman, you, you... you FRIBBLE! John Adams: You and your Pennsylvania proprietors. Oh, you cool, considerate men. You hang to the rear on every issue so that if we should go under, you'll still remain afloat! John Dickinson: Are you calling me a coward? John Adams: Yes... coward! John Dickinson: Madman! John Adams: Landlord! John Dickinson: LAWYER!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh John, you can dance! John Adams: We still do a few things in Boston, Franklin.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Don't worry, John, the history books will clean it up. John Adams: Hmm... Well, I'll never appear in the history books anyway. Only you. Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damn thing. Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington - fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them, Franklin, Washington and the horse, conducted the entire revolution all by themselves. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [pondering] I like it.
Hancock: Gentlemen, forgive me if I don't join in the merriment, but if we are arrested now, my name is STILL THE ONLY ONE ON THE DAMN THING!
[repeated line] John Adams: Oh, good God.
[Jefferson is arguing about being appointed to the declaration committee] Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Don't worry, Tom. Oh, let me handle it. I'll get Adams to write it. Thomas Jefferson: I don't know. He had a funny look on his face. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: He always does.
Abigail: I never asked for more. After all, I am Mrs. John Adams and that's quite enough for one lifetime. John Adams: Is it, Abby? Abigail: Well, think of it, John, to be married to the man who is always the first in line to be hanged!
Thomson: [calling for a vote] Where's Rhode Island? McNair: Rhode Island's out visiting the necessary. Hancock: Well, after what Rhode Island has consumed, I can't say I'm surprised. We'll come back to him, Mr. Thompson. Thomson: Rhode Island passes. [Roar of laughter from the Congress]
[John Adams volunteers to visit New Brunswick after a report is given of Washington's soldiers being afflicted with venereal disease and alcoholism] John Adams: Wake up, Franklin, you're going to New Brunswick! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [Half asleep] Like hell I am. What for? Hopkins: The whoring and the drinking! [Franklin gets up and marches off right behind Adams]
[Dickinson wants "tyrant" removed from the Declaration] Thomas Jefferson: Just a moment, Mr. Thomson. I do not consent. The king is a tyrant whether we say so or not. We might as well say so. Charles Thomson: But I already scratched it out. Thomas Jefferson: Then scratch it back in! John Hancock: Put it back, Mr. Thomson. The King will remain a tyrant.
Samuel Chase: [to Adams, referring to the Declaration] Answer straight: what would be its purpose? John Adams: [lost for words] Yes, well... [Jefferson stands up] Thomas Jefferson: [slowly and deliberately] To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.
Abigail: Have you forgotten what you used to say to me, I haven't. Commitment, Abby, commitment. There are only two creatures of value on the face of this earth - those with a commitment and those who require the commitment of others. Do you remember John?
Richard Henry Lee: You've come to the one colony that can get job done: Virginia. The land that gave us our glorious commander in chief, George Washington, will now give the congress its proposal on independence. Where Virginia goes the south is bound to follow. And where the south goes, the middle colonies go! Gentlemen, a salute to Virginia, the mother of American independence! John Adams: Incredible, we're free and he hasn't even left yet!
John Hancock: I'm concerned over the continued absence of 1/13th of this Congress. Where is New Jersey? John Dickinson: Somewhere between New York and Pennsylvania.
John Dickinson: Mr. Jefferson, I have very little interest in your paper, as there's no doubt in my mind that we've all but heard the last of it, but I am curious about one thing. Why do you refer to King George as a... tyrant? Thomas Jefferson: Because he *is* a tyrant. John Dickinson: I remind you, Mr. Jefferson, that this "tyrant" is still your king. Thomas Jefferson: When a king becomes a tyrant, he thereby breaks the contract binding his subjects to him. John Dickinson: How so? Thomas Jefferson: By taking away their rights. John Dickinson: Rights that came from him in the first place. Thomas Jefferson: All except one. The right to be free comes from nature. John Dickinson: And are we not free, Mr. Jefferson? Thomas Jefferson: Homes entered without warrant, citizens arrested without charge, and in many places, free assembly itself denied. John Dickinson: No one approves of such things, but these are dangerous times.
John Adams: Well, Franklin, where's that idiot Lee? Is he back yet? I don't see him. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Softly, John. Your voice is hurting my foot. John Adams: One more day, Franklin. That's how long I'll remain silent, not a minute longer. That strutting popinjay was so damn sure of himself. He's had time to bring back a dozen proposals by now.
John Adams: The Congress is waiting on you, Chase! America is waiting! The whole world is waiting! [taking a morsel of food] John Adams: What's that, kidney? Samuel Chase: [slapping his hand away] Leave me alone, Mr. Adams! You're wasting your time. If I thought we could win this war, I'd be at the front of your ranks, but you must know it's impossible. You've heard General Washington's dispatches. His army has fallen to pieces. John Adams: Washington is exaggerating the situation in order to arouse this torpid Congress into action. Why, as chairman of the war committee, I can state for a fact that the army has never been in better shape. Never have troops been more... cheerful. Never have soldiers been more resolute. Never have training and discipline been more spirited! [Washington's courier enters with a new message] John Adams: Oh, good God.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: What do you think, Doctor? Democracy. What Plato called "A charming form of government, full of variety and disorder. I never knew Plato had been to Philadelphia.
Richard Henry Lee: Therefore I must decline. Respectful..."lee".
Edward Rutledge: [In the final vote for Independence, Rutledge wants the slavery clause removed from the Declaration, or else he will vote against independence] Well, Mr. Adams? John Adams: Well, Mr. Rutledge. Edward Rutledge: [stands] Mr. Adams, you must believe that I *will* do what I promised to do. John Adams: [stands and approaches him] What is it you want, Rutledge? Edward Rutledge: Remove the offending passage from your Declaration. John Adams: If we did that, we would be guilty of what we ourselves are rebelling against. Edward Rutledge: Nevertheless... remove it, or South Carolina will bury, now and forever, your dream of independence. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: John? I beg you consider what you're doing. John Adams: Mark me, Franklin... if we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: That's probably true, but we won't hear a thing, we'll be long gone. Besides, what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We're men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence; America. If we don't secure that, what difference will the rest make? John Adams: [long pause] Jefferson, say something. Thomas Jefferson: What else is there to do? John Adams: Well, man, you're the one that wrote it. Thomas Jefferson: I *wrote* ALL of it, Mr. Adams. [stands and goes to the Declaration, crosses out the clause] John Adams: [snatches the paper from Jefferson and takes it to Rutledge] There you are, Rutlege, you have your slavery; little good may it do you, now VOTE, damn you! Edward Rutledge: [takes the paper] Mr. President, the fair colony of South Carolina... [looks at Adams] Edward Rutledge: ... says yea.
Rev. John Witherspoon: Dr. Franklin? I'm afraid I must be the bearer of unhappy tidings. Your son, the royal governor of New Jersey, has been arrested, and has been moved to the colony of Connecticut for safekeeping. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Is he unharmed, sir? Rev. John Witherspoon: When last I heard, he was. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Well then, why the long face? I hear Connecticut's a excellent location. Tell me... why did they arrest the little bastard?
John Adams: Thomas, I want you to ride back down to Delaware and fetch back Caesar Rodney. Col. Thomas McKean: John, are ya mad? It's eighty miles, and he's a dyin' man... John Adams: No, he's a patriot! Col. Thomas McKean: John, what good will it do? The South's done us in... John Adams: And suppose they change their minds! Can we get Delaware without Rodney? Col. Thomas McKean: God, what a bastardly bunch we are.
John Adams: God help us. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, he will, John. He will.
Thomson: The count, being twelve to none, with one abstention, the resolution on independence [pause, then in surprise] Thomson: *is* adopted.
John Adams: [the vote on independence has come down to James Wilson] It would be a pity for a man who's handed down hundreds of wise decisions from the bench to be remembered only for the one unwise decision he made in Congress.
John Dickinson: [James Wilson is about to vote for independence in defiance of John Dickinson] And is that how new nations are formed? By a nonentity seeking to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Revolutions, Mr. Dickinson, come into this world like bastard children... half improvised and half compromised. Our side has provided the compromise. Judge Wilson is now supplying the rest.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [watching Martha, mesmerized] Oh, John, look at her. Just look at her. John Adams: Oh, I am. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: She's even more magnificent than I remember. Of course, we didn't see much of her front last night.
Lewis Morris: [as John Hancock is about to swat a fly] Mr. Secretary, New York abstains, courteously. [Hancock raises his fly swatter at Morris, then draws back] John Hancock: Mr. Morris, [pause, then shouts] John Hancock: WHAT IN HELL GOES ON IN NEW YORK? Lewis Morris: I'm sorry Mr. President, but the simple fact is that our legislature has never sent us explicit instructions on anything! John Hancock: NEVER? [slams fly swatter onto his desk] John Hancock: That's impossible! Lewis Morris: Mr. President, have you ever been present at a meeting of the New York legislature? [Hancock shakes his head "No"] Lewis Morris: They speak very fast and very loud, and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done. [turns to the Congress as he returns to his seat] Lewis Morris: I beg the Congress's pardon. John Hancock: [grimly] My sympathies, Mr. Morris.
James Wilson: I'm different from you, John. I'm different from most of the men here. I don't want to be remembered.
Hopkins: That's quite a large signature, Johnny. Hancock: So fat George can read it in London without his reading glasses!
[first lines] McNair: [Adams stands with the Liberty Bell, lost in thought] Mr. Adams? Mr. Adams? Mr. Adams! Well, there you are. Didn't you hear me calling, Mr. Adams? You could have shouted down something, save me climbing up four flights. A man that likes to talk as much as you do, I think... [Adams turns and gives McNair a hard stare] McNair: What do you keep coming up here for, Mr. Adams? Afraid someone's gonna steal our bell? [he chortles] McNair: Well, no worry. Been here more than fourteen years and it ain't been carried off once. [he laughs, but Adams is not in the mood] McNair: You'd better get yourself back down to Congress, Mr. Adams. They're getting ready to vote, and they said they couldn't settle such an important question without Massachusetts being there. John Adams: [sarcastic] I can just imagine. All right, what burning issue are we voting on this time? McNair: On whether or not to grant General Washington's request that all members of the Rhode Island militia be required to wear matching uniforms. John Adams: Oh, good god.
John Adams: By God, Franklin! When are they going to make up their minds? With one hand, they can raise an army, dispatch one of their own to lead it, and cheer the news from Bunker's Hill; and with the other, they wave the olive branch, begging the king for a happy and permanent reconciliation! Fat George has declared us in rebellion, why in bloody hell can't they?
Joseph Hewes: Your clock is fast, Mr. Adams. I say we're not yet ripe for independence. Stephen Hopkins: Not ripe? Hell, we're rotting for want of it! Samuel Chase: Gentlemen, please, what in God's name is the infernal hurry? Why must this question be settled now? Caesar Rodney: What's wrong with now, Mr. Chase? Samuel Chase: General Washington is in the field. If he's defeated, as it now appears, we'll be inviting the hangman. But if, by some miracle, he should actually win, we can then declare anything we damn please. Joseph Hewes: The sentiments of North Carolina precisely. John Adams: Has it ever occured to either of you that an army needs something to fight *for* in order *to* win? A goal, a purpose, a flag of its own?
Martha Jefferson: [singing] Oh, he never speaks his passions, he never speaks his views. Whereas other men speak volumes, the man I love is mute. In truth, I can't recall being wooed with words at all. Even now... John Adams: Oh, don't stop, madam. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: No, tell us. How did he win you? And how does he hold on to a bounty such as you? Martha Jefferson: [speaking] Well, surely you've noticed that Tom is a man of many accomplishments. Author, lawyer, statesman, architect, farmer. And still one more that a hesitate to mention. John Adams: Don't hesitate, madam. Don't hesitate. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: No, tell us. What else can that red-headed tombstone do? Martha Jefferson: [coyly beckoning them closer; singing] He plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. And he bows, oh, he bows, for he knows, yes, he knows, that's heigh, heigh, heigh diddle-diddle. 'Twixt my heart, Tom and his fiddle. My strings are unstrung. Heigh, heigh, heigh, heigh. I am undone. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The violin, madam? Martha Jefferson: I hear his violin, and I get that feeling within. And I sigh, oh, I sigh. He draws near, very near. And it's heigh, heigh, heigh diddle-diddle, and goodbye to the fiddle, my strings are unstrung. Heigh, heigh, heigh, heigh. I'm always undone. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: That settles it, John. We're taking up the violin.
Joseph Hewes: Mr. Jefferson, nowhere do you mention deep sea fishing rights. [Everyone in Congress groans in frustration] John Adams: Oh good God! Fishing rights? How long is this piddling to go on? We have been here for three solid days! We have endured, by my count, more than eighty-five separate changes and the removal of close to four hundred words. Now, would you whip it and beat it 'til you break its spirit? I tell you, that document is a masterful expression of the American mind!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: If Sam Adams can't put up with you, no one can. John Adams: You're getting at something. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: How can you tell?
Dr. Josiah Bartlett: Mr. Jefferson, I beg you to remember that we still have friends in England. I see no purpose in antagonizing them with such phrases as "unfeeling brethren" and "enemies at war." Our quarrel is with the British king, not the British people. John Adams: Oh, be sensible Bartlett, remove those phrases and the entire paragraph becomes meaningless! And it so happens that it's one of the most stirring and poetic of any passage in the entire document. Dr. Josiah Bartlett: We're a congress, Mr. Adams, not a literary society. I ask that the entire paragraph be stricken. Hancock: Mr. Jefferson? [Jefferson nods] John Adams: Good God, Jefferson when are you going to speak up for your own work? Thomas Jefferson: I had hoped that the work would speak for itself.
John Hancock: The principles of independence have no greater advocate in Congress than its president. And that is why I must join those who vote for unanimity. John Adams: Good God, John! What are you doing? You've sunk us! John Hancock: Now, hear me out! Don't you see that any colony who opposes independence will be forced to fight on the side of England? That we'll be setting brother against brother. That our new nation will carry as its emblem the mark of Cain. I can see no other way. Either we all walk together, or together we must stay where we are. John Adams: [throwing up his arm in frustration] The man's from Massachusetts.
John Adams: Why, Abby? You must tell me what it is. I've always been dissatisfied, I know that. But lately I find that I reek of discontentment. It fills my throat, and it floods my brain. And sometimes I fear there is no longer a dream, but only the discontentment. Abigail: Oh, John, can you really know so little about yourself? And can you really think so little of me that you believe I'd marry the man you've described?
[repeated line] McNair: Awww Sweet Jesus!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Tell me, Mr. Wilson, when you were a judge, how in hell did you ever make a decision? James Wilson: The decisions I made were based on legality and precedent. But there is no legality here, and certainly no precedent. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [losing his temper] Because, it's a new idea, you CLOD! We'll be making our own precedent!
[During the vote to debate the resolution on independence] Dr. Lyman Hall: Mr. President, Georgia seems to be split right down the middle on this issue - the people are against it, and I'm for it. [laughter] Dr. Lyman Hall: However, I'm afraid I'm not quite certain whether representing the people means relying on their judgment or on my own. In all fairness, until I can figure that out, I'd better lean a little on their side. Georgia says nay.
John Adams: Oh, Abigail, Abigail, I have such a desire to knock heads together!
John Dickinson: I trust, Caesar, when you're through converting the poor fellow to independency, you'll give the opposition a fair crack at him. Caesar Rodney: [chuckling] You're too late, John. Once I get 'em, they're got.
Abigail: [sung] Compliments of the Concord Ladies Coffee Club, / And the Sisterhood of the Truro Synagogue, / And the Friday Evening Baptist Sewing Circle, / And the Holy Christian Sisters of St. Claire. / All for you, John. / I am as I ever was and ever shall be./ Yours, yours, yours! John Adams: [spoken] Abigail, what's in these kegs? Abigail: [sung] Saltpetre, John!
John Hancock: I'm still from Massachusetts, John. You know where I stand. I'll do whatever you say. John Adams: No. No, you're the president of Congress. You're a fair man, Hancock. Stay that way.
Caesar Rodney: [a brawl has broken out] Stop it! Stop it! This is the Congress! Stop it I say! The enemy's out there! John Dickinson: No, Mr Rodney, the enemy is here! Caesar Rodney: No! I say he's out there! England! England closing in, cutting off our air! There's no time! [suddenly very weak] Caesar Rodney: No air...
Richard Henry Lee: I'll leave tonight! Why, hell, I'll leave right now if you like! I'll just stop off in Stratford long enough to refresh the missus, and then straight to the matter!
John Adams: Mr. Jefferson? It so happens that the word is UN-alienable, not IN-alienable. Thomas Jefferson: I'm sorry, Mr. Adams, but "Inalienable" is correct. John Adams: I happen to be a Harvard graduate, Mr. Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson: Well, I attended William & Mary. Hancock: Mr. Jefferson, will you concede to Mr. Adams' request? Thomas Jefferson: No, sir, I will not. [grins] John Adams: Oh, very well, I withdraw it! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, good for you, John! John Adams: I'll speak to the printer about it later.
John Adams: [Franklin, Adams and Jefferson start to sing "The Egg"] It's a masterpiece, I say, They will cheer every word, every letter, Thomas Jefferson: I wish I felt that way, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I believe I can put it better,/ Now then, attend, as friend to friend, our declaration committee, / For us I see, immortality, John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson: [as a three part barbershop melody] In Philadelphia city... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [Franklin glances at Jefferson, then Adams] A farmer, a lawyer, and a sage... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [the Liberty Bell rings in the background] A bit gouty in the leg... / You know, it's quite bizarre, to think that here we are, playing midwives to an egg... John Adams: Egg? What egg? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: America, the birth of a new nation. Thomas Jefferson: If only we could be sure of what kind of a bird it's going to be. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Tom has a point: what sort of bird shall we choose as the symbol of our new America? John Adams: The eagle. Thomas Jefferson: The dove. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The turkey. John Adams: The eagle. John Adams: The dove. John Adams: [more insistently] The eagle! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [Jefferson yields to Adams's suggestion] The eagle. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The turkey. John Adams: The eagle is a majestic bird. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The eagle is a scavenger, a thief, and a coward! A symbol of over 10 centuries of European mischief. Thomas Jefferson: [astonished] The turkey? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The turkey is a truly noble bird - Native American, source of sustenance of our original settlers. An incredibly brave fellow who will not flinch at attacking a regiment of Englishmen single-handedly. Therefore, the national bird of America is going to be... John Adams: [with insistent finalitly] The eagle! John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson: [Franklin resignedly agrees to Adams's suggestion, with a confused look on his face afterwards] The eagle!
John Adams: There's nothing to fear; it's a masterpiece. I'm to be congratulated. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: You? John Adams: For making him write it. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [chuckling] Oh, of course.
John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson: [Adams starts off singing 'The Egg', with Franklin and Jefferson joining in] We're waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born, / Waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, on this humid Monday morning, in this... Congressional incubator, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: God knows the temperature's hot enough, to hatch a stone, let alone an egg. John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson: We're waiting for the scratch, scratch, scratch, of that tiny, little fellow, / Waiting for the egg to hatch, on this humid Monday morning in this... Congressional incubator, John Adams: God knows the temperature's hot enough, to hatch a stone... Thomas Jefferson: But will it hatch an egg? John Adams: [spoken] The Declaration will be a triumph, I tell you, a triumph! If I was ever sure of anything, I'm sure of that - a triumph; and if isn't, we've still got four days left to think of something else. John Adams: The eagle's going to crack the shell, of the egg that England laid, John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson: Yes sir, we can tell, tell, tell, / On this humid Monday morning, in this... Congressional incubator, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: And just as Tom here has written, though the shell may belong to Great Britain, / The eagle inside, belongs to us! John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: And just as Tom here has written, John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson: We say "To hell with Great Britain"! / The eagle inside... belongs to us!
John Adams: Abigail, what am I going to do? Abigail: Do, John? John Adams: I need your help. Abigail: You don't usually ask my advice. John Adams: Yes, well, there doesn't appear to be anyone else right now. Abigail: Very well, John. What is it? John Adams: The entire South has just walked out of this Congress. George Washington is on the verge of total annihilation. And the precious cause for which I have labored these several years has come to nothing. And it seems that I'm obnoxious and disliked. Abigail: Nonsense, John. John Adams: That I'm unwilling to face reality. Abigail: Foolishness, John. John Adams: That I'm pigheaded. Abigail: Ah, well, there you have me, John. I'm afraid you are pigheaded. John Adams: Well, yes.
John Dickinson: Well, now... you've got your way at last, Mr. Adams. The matter may now be discussed. I confess, I'm almost relieved. There's a question I've been fairly itching to ask you. [crosses the room and stands directly over Adams] John Dickinson: Why? John Adams: Why what, Mr. Dickinson? John Dickinson: Well, why independence, Mr. Adams? John Adams: Well, for the obvious reason that our continued association with Great Britain has grown intolerable. John Dickinson: Well, to whom, Mr. Adams? To you? Well, then I suggest you sever your ties immediately. But please, be kind enough to leave the rest of us where we are. For myself, I have no objection of all to being part of the greatest empire on Earth, to enjoying its protections and sharing its benefits. John Adams: Benefits? What benefits? Crippling taxes? Cruel repressions? Abolished rights? John Dickinson: Is that all England means to you, sir? Is that all the pride and affection you can muster for the nation that bore you? For the noblest, most civilized nation on the face of this planet? Well, would you have us forsake Hastings and Magna Carta, Strongbow and Lionheart, Drake and Marlborough, Tudors, Stuarts and Plantagenets? For what, sir? Well, tell me. For what? For you? Some men are patriots, like General Washington, and some are anarchists, like Mr. Paine. Some even are internationalists, like Dr. Franklin. But you, sir... you are merely an agitator, disturbing the peace, endangering the public welfare. And for what? Your petty little personal complaints. Your taxes are too high. Well, sir, so are mine. Come, come, Mr. Adams, if you have grievances - and I'm sure you have - our present system must provide a gentler means of redressing them short of revolution. Yes, that's what he wants. Nothing less will satisfy him. Violence. Rebellion. *Treason*. Now, Mr. Adams, are these the acts of Englishmen? John Adams: Not Englishmen, Dickinson. Americans.
Samuel Chase: Mr. Adams, how can a nation of only two million souls stand up to an empire of ten million? Think of it. Ten million! How do we compensate for that shortage? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: It's simple, Mr. Chase. Increase and multiply.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [finding Adams asleep outside the Jeffersons'] John? John! John Adams: [jerking awake] Hmm? What? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: What are you doing down here? I thought you'd be up there, cracking the whip. John Adams: Oh, well, uh, the, uh, shutters are still closed. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: My word! So they are. Well, as the French say... John Adams: Oh, please, Franklin! Spare me your bawdy mind first thing in the morning.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Tell us about yourself. We've heard precious little. What's your first name? Martha Jefferson: Martha. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Martha. He might at least have told us that. Your husband doesn't say very much. John Adams: Most silent man in Congress. I've never heard him utter three sentences together. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Not every man's a talker, John.
McNair: Mr. Hopkins, you'll be pleased to meet Dr. Lyman Hall. Hopkins: I don't need a doctor, damn it. McNair: [whispering] New delegate from Georgia! Hopkins: [whispering] Well why didn't you say so?
John Dickinson: Tell me, Doctor, where do you stand on the question of... Dr. Lyman Hall: Independence? John Dickinson: Treason. Dr. Lyman Hall: I've no stomach for it. John Dickinson: Ahh, then be careful not to dine with John Adams. Between the fish and the soufflé, you'll find yourself hanging from an English rope. Your servant, sir.
Edward Rutledge: Mr. Adams, perhaps you could clear up something for me. After we have achieved independence, who do you propose would govern in South Carolina? John Adams: The people, of course. Edward Rutledge: Which people, sir? The people of South Carolina, or the people of Massachusetts? Hopkins: Ah, why don't you admit it, Neddy? You're against independence now and you always will be. Col. Thomas McKean: [heavy sigh] Aye. Edward Rutledge: Now, gentlemen, you refuse to understand us. We desire independence, yes. For South Carolina. That is our country. And as such, we don't wish to belong to anyone. Not to England, and not to you. John Adams: We intend to have one nation, Rutledge. Edward Rutledge: A nation of sovereign states, Mr. Adams. United for our mutual protection, but... separate for our individual pursuits. Now, that is what we have understood it to be. And that is what we will support. [Adams starts to speak] Edward Rutledge: As soon as everyone supports it. James Wilson: [standing up] Well, there you are, Mr. Adams. You must see that we need time. Time to make certain who we are and where we stand in regard to one another. For if we do not determine the nature of the beast before we set it free, it will end by consuming us all. John Adams: For once in your life, Wilson... take a chance. I say the time is now. It may never come again.
John Adams: [singing] 'For I have crossed the Rubicon, let the bridge be burned behind me, come what may, come what may! [shouted] John Adams: Commitment!
John Adams: Tell me, Mr. Thomson, out of curiosity. Do you stand with Mr. Dickinson, or do you stand with me? Thomson: I stand with the General. Well, lately, I've had the oddest feeling that he's been writing to me. Thomson: [reading from Washington's letter] I have been in expectation of receiving a reply on the subject of my last fifteen dispatches. Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody care?
Thomson: [reading Washington's letter] The situation is most desperate at the New Jersey training ground in New Brunswick, where every able bodied whore in the co... "WHORE?"... in the colonies has assembled. There are constant reports of drunkenness, desertion, foul language, naked bathing in the Raritan river, and an epidemic of the "French disease." I have placed this town off limits to all military personnel with the exception of officers. I beseech the congress to dispatch the War Committee to this place, in the hope of restoring some of the order and discipline we need to survive. Your obedient... [drumroll] Thomson: G. Washington. Col. Thomas McKean: That man would depress a hyena. Hancock: Well, Mr. Adams, you're chairman of the war committee. Do you feel up to whoring, drinking, deserting, and New Brunswick? Rev. John Witherspoon: There must be some mistake, I have an aunt who lives in New Brunswick. John Dickinson: You must tell her to keep up the good work.
John Adams: Abigail, I'm very lonely. Abigail: Are you, John? As long as you're sending for wives, why not send for your own? John Adams: Oh, don't be unreasonable, Madam! Abigail: Oh, now I'm unreasonable? You must add that to your list. John Adams: List? What list? Abigail: The catalogue of my faults you included in your last letter. John Adams: They were fondly intended, Madam! Abigail: Indeed? That I play at cards badly? John Adams: An endearment. Abigail: That my posture is crooked? John Adams: A complement. Abigail: That I read, talk and think too much? John Adams: An irony. Abigail: That I am pigeon-toed? John Adams: Ah, well there you have me. I'm afraid you are pigeon toed.
Hancock: Very well, gentlemen. We are about to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper.
John Dickinson: Mr. President, Pennsylvania moves, as always, that the question of independence be postponed. Indefinitely. James Wilson: [standing up] I second the motion. John Hancock: Judge Wilson, in your eagerness to be loved, you seem to have forgotten that Pennsylvania cannot second its own motion!
[on the anti-slavery clause] John Adams: That little paper there deals with freedom for Americans! Edward Rutledge: Oh, really. Mr. Adams is now calling our black slaves "Americans!" Are they, now? John Adams: Yes, they are. They are people, and they are here. If there's any other requirement, I haven't heard it. Edward Rutledge: They are here, yes, but they are not people sir, they are property. Thomas Jefferson: No, sir they are people who are being treated as property! I tell you, the rights of human nature are deeply wounded by this infamous practice! Edward Rutledge: Then see to your own wounds Mr. Jefferson, for you are a practitioner are you not? Thomas Jefferson: I have already resolved to release my slaves. Edward Rutledge: Oh. Then I'm sorry, for you've also resolved the ruination of your own personal economy. John Adams: Economy. Always economy. There's more to this than a filthy purse-string, Rutledge! It is an offense against man and God! Hopkins: It's a stinking business, Mr. Rutledge, a stinking business! Edward Rutledge: Is it really now, Mr. Hopkins? Then what's that I smell floating down from the North? Could it be the aroma of hy-pocrisy? For who holds the other end of that filthy purse-string, Mr. Adams? Our northern brethren are feeling a bit tender toward our black slaves. They don't keep slaves! Oh, no. But they are willing to be considerable carriers of slaves to others. They're willin'! For the shillin'. Or haven't you heard, Mr. Adams? Clink, clink.
John Adams: Franklin, do something, think! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I'm thinking, but nothing's coming.
John Adams: Dear God! For one solid year, they have been sitting here! A whole year, doing nothing! [singing] John Adams: I do believe you've laid a curse on North America / A curse that we here now rehearse in Philadelphia! / A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake I'd accept with some despair / But no, you sent us Congress. / Good God, sir, was that fair? / You see, we piddle, twiddle, and resolve, not one damn thing do we solve / Piddle, twiddle, and resolve / Nothing's ever solved / In foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia!
Thomas Jefferson: ["But, Mr. Adams" continues as John Adams is about to hand the quill pen to Jefferson] Mr. Adams, leave me alo-one! John Adams: [the chorus chants in the background; spoken] Mr. Jefferson... Thomas Jefferson: Mr. Adams, I beg of you, I've not seen my wife these past six months. John Adams: "And we solemnly declare that we will preserve our liberties, being with one mind resolved to die free men rather than British slaves." - Thomas Jefferson, "On the Necessity of Taking up Arms", 1775. Magnificent. John Adams: Why, you write 10 times better than any man in Congress, including me. For a man of only 33 years, you possess a happy talent for composition, and a remarkable felicity of expression. Now then, sir: will you be a patriot... or a lover? Thomas Jefferson: A lover.
Rev. John Witherspoon: Our, uh... New Jersey legislature has recalled the old delegation to this Congress and has sent a new one. John Adams: Quickly, man: where do you stand on independence? Rev. John Witherspoon: Why, haven't I made that clear? John Adams: No. Rev. John Witherspoon: Well, I suppose I hadn't, but that's the reason for the change. See, we've been instructed to vote for independence. John Adams: Mr. President, Massachusetts is now ready to vote for the vote on independence, and reminds the chair of its privilege to decide all votes that are deadlocked. John Hancock (MA): [wearily] I won't forget, Mr. Adams. John Hancock (MA): The chair takes this opportunity to welcome the New Jersey delegation, and appoints the Reverend Witherspoon to Congressional chaplain, if he will accept the post. Rev. John Witherspoon: With much pleasure, sir. [Hancock bangs the desk with his gavel] John Hancock (MA): Very well. Mr, Thompson, you er, uh... may now proceed with the vote on independence. Charles Thomson: All in favor of the resolution on independence, as proposed by the colony of Virginia, signify by... John Dickinson: [stands up] Mr. President, Pennsylvania moves that any votes in favor of independence... must be unanimous. John Adams: [rises] What? James Wilson: [stands up] I second the motion. John Hancock (MA): Judge Wilson! James Wilson: Oh, my God... [Wilson sits back down] George Read: Delaware seconds, Mr. President.
John Adams: [after the South's walkout] Stephen, I want you to... Stephen Hopkins: I'm going to the tavern, Johnny. If there's anything I can do for you there, let me know. John Adams: [the others start to leave, too] Chase. Bartlett! Dr. Josiah Bartlett: What's the use, John? The vote's tomorrow morning. Samuel Chase: There's left than a full day left. John Adams: Roger. Roger Sherman: Face facts, John. It's finished. Rev. John Witherspoon: I'm sorry, John.
John Adams: Mr. President, how can this Congress vote on independence without a written declaration of some sort defining it? John Hancock: What sort of declaration? John Adams: Ah. Well, you know. Listing the reasons for the separation, our purposes, goals, so forth, so on. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Ditto, ditto. John Adams: Ditto, ditto, et cetera, et cetera. John Hancock: We know those, don't we? John Adams: Oh, well, yes, good God, we know them. Uh, but what about the rest of the world? Certainly we require the assistance of a powerful nation such as France or Spain, and such a written declaration would be consistent with European delicacy.
Martha Jefferson: I beg your pardon, gentlemen. My husband is not yet up. It is indeed an honor to meet the two greatest men in America. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Certainly the greatest within earshot, anyway. Martha Jefferson: I'm not an idle flatterer, Dr. Franklin. My husband admires you both greatly. John Adams: Uh, did you sleep well, madam? Martha Jefferson: Hmm? John Adams: Oh, uh... well, I mean, uh, did you lie comfortably? Damn it, you know what I mean. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Yes, John, we know what you mean.
John Adams: Come to Philadelphia. Please come. Abigail: Oh, thank you, John. I do want to, but you know now it's not possible. The children have the measles. John Adams: So you wrote. Tom and little Abby. Abigail: Only now it's Quincy and Charles. And it appears the farm here in Braintree is failing, John. The chickens and the geese have all died. And the apples never survive the late frost. How do you suppose she managed to get away? John Adams: Well, the winters are softer in Virginia. Abigail: And their women, John? John Adams: Fit for Virginians, madam, but pale, puny things beside New England girls.
John Adams: Very well, madam, you have us playing the violin. What happens next? Martha Jefferson: Next, Mr. Adams? John Adams: Yes. What does Tom do now? Martha Jefferson: Why, just what you'd expect. We dance. John Adams: Dance? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Dance? Incredible!
John Adams: All right, Franklin, enough socializing. There's work to be done. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Good morning, John. John Adams: What? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [indicating Dr. Hall and Hopkins with him] Good morning. John Adams: [waving it off] Oh, good morning, good morning. [pulling Franklin away] John Adams: Now then, let's get to it. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Get to what? John Adams: Unanimity, of course. Look at that board. Six "nays" to win over in less than a week.
Samuel Chase: Face facts, Mr. Adams. A group of drunk and disorderly recruits against the entire British army, the finest musketmen on Earth. How can we win? How can we even hope to survive? John Adams: Answer me straight, Chase: if you thought we *could* beat the Redcoats, would Maryland say yea to independence? Samuel Chase: Well, I suppose... John Adams: No supposing. Would you or wouldn't you? Samuel Chase: Very well, Mr. Adams. Yes, we would. John Adams: Then come with me to New Brunswick and see for yourself. Col. Thomas McKean: John, are you mad? Dr. Josiah Bartlett: You heard what Washington said. It's a shambles. Stephen Hopkins: They're pushing you into it, Johnny! John Adams: [waving their concerns off] What do you say, Chase? Dr. Josiah Bartlett: Go ahead, Sam. It sounds lively as hell up there. Samuel Chase: All right, why not? And maybe it'll be John Adams who comes to his senses.
John Adams: Jefferson, we're back, and we've got Maryland. That is we will, as soon as Chase gets through telling the Maryland Assembly what we saw in New Brunswick, huh? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: He's in Annapolis right now, describing a ragtag collection of provincial militiamen who couldn't drill together, train together, or march together. But when a flock of ducks flew over, and they saw their first meal in three full days, sweet Jesus, could they shoot together. It was a slaughter. John Adams: A slaughter.
John Dickinson: Mr. Hancock, you're a man of property, one of us. Why don't you join us in our minuet? Why do you persist on dancing with John Adams? Good Lord, sir, you don't even like him! Hancock: [singing] That is true, he annoys me quite a lot. But still I'd rather trot to Mr. Adams' new gavotte. John Dickinson: Why? For personal glory? For a place in history? Be careful, sir. History will brand him and his followers as traitors. Hancock: Traitors, Mr. Dickinson? To what? The British crown or the British half-crown? Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy. John Dickinson: Perhaps not. But don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.
Thomson: If any be opposed to the resolution on independence as proposed by the Colony of Virginia signify by saying... John Adams: Mr. President? Thomson: Oh, for heaven's sake, let me get through it once.
Thomas Jefferson: They're reading the Declaration. John Adams: Good God. How far have they gotten? Thomas Jefferson: "... to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power." [John opens the door to the Chamber] Thomson: "... independent of and superior to-" [John closes the door]
[repeated lines] Lewis Morris: New York abstains, courteously. Charles Thomson: [recording vote] New York abstains. Lewis Morris: Courteously.
Hopkins: McNair! McNair: [behind him] Your rum! Hopkins: Where'd you go for it, man - Jamaica?
Thomas Jefferson: Tonight, I'm leaving for home. Hancock: On business? Thomas Jefferson: Family business. Hopkins: Give her a flourish for me, young feller! [congress laughs]
McNair: Seen any fighting? Courier: Sure did. I seen my two best friends get shot dead on the very same day. And at Lexington it was, too. Right on the village green it was. And when they didn't come home for supper their mamas went out looking for 'em. Mrs. Lowell, she found Timothy right off. But Mrs. Pickett looked near half the night for William. Seems he crawled off the green before he died.
[sung] Edward Rutledge: Molasses to rum/ to slaves/ Who sails the ships back to Boston/ laden with gold, see it gleam? Whose fortunes are made/ in the triangle trade/ hail slavery! The New England dream. Mr. Adams, I give you a toast: Hail Boston! Hail Charleston! Who stinketh... the most?
Col. Thomas McKean: [to Read] Sit down ya scurvy louse or I'll knock ya down! Hancock: [to the Delaware delagates] Sit down all three of you! [dog starts barking] Hancock: McNair! Do something about that damn dog! Hopkins: McNair, fetch me a rum! Hancock: Get the dog first! Hopkins: No! A rum! [both start shouting at once] McNair: I only got two hands! Hancock: [screaming] Christ, it's hot! [silence] Hancock: Do go on, gentlemen, you're making the only breeze in Philadelphia.
George Read: No, no, no! Col. Thomas McKean: Damn your eyes, Read! You come into this world screamin' no, and yer determined to leave it the same way! Ya slimy worm!
Hancock: Mr. Thomson, is the Declaration ready to be signed? Charles Thomson: It is. Hancock: Then I suggest we do so. And the chair further proposes, for our mutual security and protection, that no man be allowed to sit in this Congress without attaching his name to it. John Dickinson: I'm sorry, Mr. President. I cannot, in good conscience, sign such a document. I will never stop hoping for our eventual reconciliation with England, but... because, in my own way, I regard America no less than does Mr. Adams, I will join the army and fight in her defense, even though I believe that fight to be hopeless.
Hopkins: [Franklin's gout is acting up] Been living too high again, eh, pappy? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, Stephen, I only wish King George felt like my big toe, all over.
Hopkins: [Running out to watch a fire down the street] What's afire? Can anybody tell? Robert Livingston: Looks like the Pemberton house! George Read: It couldn't be, it's brand new! Roger Sherman: Might be the city tavern. Hopkins: [grabs Sherman] You bite your tongue, man.
Edward Rutledge: Enter Delaware, tria juncti in uno. Col. Thomas McKean: Speak plain, Rutledge. Ya Know I can't follow a word of your damn French. Edward Rutledge: It's Latin, Colonel McKean, a tribute to the eternal peace and harmony of the Delaware delegation. Col. Thomas McKean: What're ya sayin', man? Ya know perfectly well neither Rodney nor I can stand the sight of this louse!
McNair: I can't say I'm very fond of the United States of America as a name for a new country.
George Read: Among your charges against the King, Mr. Jefferson, you accuse him of depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury. This is untrue, sir. In Delaware, we've always had trial by jury. John Adams: In Massachusetts, we have not. George Read: Well, then I suggest that the words "in many cases" be added. Charles Thomson: Mr. Jefferson? [Jefferson indicates his approval] Col. Thomas McKean: "In many cases"? Ach, brilliant! I suppose every time you see those three words, your puny chest will swell with pride over your great historical contribution. George Read: It's more memorable than your unprincipled whitewash of that race of barbarians! Col. Thomas McKean: [insulted] Race of barbarians? Why, I'll have you... John Hancock: [pounding his gavel] Colonel McKean, Mr. Read, that's enough!
[Congress is suggesting alterations to the Declaration] Hancock: Mr. Hopkins? Hopkins: I've no objections, Johnny. I'm just trying to get a drink. Hancock: [throwing his gavel onto the table] I should have known. McNair, get him a rum.
Dr. Lyman Hall: Excuse me. McNair: Uh, yes? Dr. Lyman Hall: I'm Dr. Lyman Hall, the new delegate from Georgia. McNair: I'm Andrew McNair, Congressional custodian. If you'll be wanting anything at all, just holler out "McNair" as all the others do, and there won't be too long to wait. Dr. Lyman Hall: Uh, where does the Georgia delegation belong? McNair: Oh, they mill about over in that corner, near the two Carolinas.
Stephen Hopkins: [meeting Dr. Hall] Tell me, doctor, where does Georgia stand on the question of independence? Edward Rutledge: [off screen] With South Carolina, of course. Stephen Hopkins: Ha, ha, ha! Neddy, good morning. Neddy, come over here and shake the hand of Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia. Dr. Hall, this here is Edward Rutledge from... whichever Carolina he says he's from. God knows I can't keep 'em straight.
Col. Thomas McKean: [after hearing another gloomy letter from George Washington] That man would depress a hyena.
Caesar Rodney: Tell me, sir, would you be a doctor of medicine or theology? Dr. Lyman Hall: Both, Mr. Rodney. Which one can be of service? Caesar Rodney: By all means, the physician first. Then we shall see about the other. Dr. Lyman Hall: [laughs] I shall call at your convenience, sir.
Charles Thomson: Rhode Island. Second call Rhode Island. McNair: Rhode Island! Hopkins: I'm coming, I'm coming, hold your damn horses. Charles Thomson: We're waiting on you, Mr. Hopkins. Hopkins: Well, it won't kill you. You'd think the Congress would have its own privy. All right, where's she stand? Charles Thomson: Five for debate, five for postponement, one abstention and one absence. Hopkins: So it's up to me, huh? Well, I'll tell you, in all my years, I never seen, heard, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yes, I'm for debating anything! Rhode Island says yea. [Indistinguishable cheers and shouts] John Hancock: McNair, get Mr. Hopkins a rum. McNair: But you said... John Hancock: Get him a whole damned barrel if he wants.
Lewis Morris: Mr. President? Hancock: Mr. Morris? Lewis Morris: [after abstaining throughout the whole movie] To hell with New York. I'll sign it anyway. Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Morris.
Caesar Rodney: [Wilson taps his cane] Oh, Judge Wilson, forgive me, but how can anyone see you if you insist on standing in Mr. Dickinson's shadow? Caesar Rodney: [Caesar Rodney introduces Wilson to Dr. Hall] James Wilson, also of Pennsylvania. James Wilson: Sir. Dr. Lyman Hall: An honor, sir.
Richard Henry Lee: [starts singing "The Lees of Old Virginia"] My name is Richard Henry Lee, Virginia is my home, My name is Richard Henry Lee, Virginia is my ho-ome, / And may my horses turn to glue, if I can't deliver up to you, the resolution on indepdendency! / For I am F.F.V., the First Family, in the sovereign colony of Virginia, / Yes the F.F.V., the oldest family, in the oldest colony in America, / And may the British burn my land, if I can't deliver to your hand, the resolution on independency! / You see, it's here a Lee, there a Lee, and everywhere a Lee, a Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Social... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Political... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Financial... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Natural... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Internal... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: External... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Fraternal... Richard Henry Lee: Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Eternal... Richard Henry Lee: Lee! Richard Henry Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The F.F.V., the first family, in the sovereign colony of Virginia, / Richard Henry Lee: And may my wife refuse the bed, if I can't deliver as I said, the resolution on independency! John Adams: Spoken modest-Lee, God help us! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, He will, John, He will.
Richard Henry Lee: [continues singing "The Lees of Old Virginia"] They say that God in Heaven is everybody's God, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Amen! Richard Henry Lee: [sung] I'll admit that God in Heaven is everybody's God, / But I tell you John, with pride, God leans a little on the side, of the Lees, the Lees of old Virginia! / You see, it's here a Lee, there a Lee, and everywhere a Lee, a Lee, / Here a Lee, there a Lee, and everywhere a Lee - Look out! Richard Henry Lee: There's Papa Lee, Mama Lee, General Lighthorse Harry Lee, Willie Lee, Jesse Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: And Richard H. Richard Henry Lee: That's me! Richard Henry Lee: [sung] And may my blood stop running blue, if I can't deliver up to you, the resolution on independency! / Yes sir, by God, it's here a Lee, there a Lee, come on boys, join in with me! Richard Henry Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams: Here a Lee, there a Lee... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: When do you leave? Richard Henry Lee: Immediate-Lee! Richard Henry Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams: Here a Lee, there a Lee... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: When will you return? Richard Henry Lee: Short-Lee! Richard Henry Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams: Here a Lee, there a Lee... Richard Henry Lee: And I'll come back triumphant-Lee! Richard Henry Lee, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams: [Lee backs up near the fountain, then walks away and gets on his horse] Here a Lee, there a Lee, everywhere a Lee, a Lee... Richard Henry Lee: Forward... hooo! [Lee rides away on his horse as the song ends]
John Adams: All right, gentlemen. Let's get on with it. Which of us will write our Declaration of Independence? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [singing] Mr. Adams, I say you should write it. To your legal mind and brilliance we defer. John Adams: Is that so? Well, if I'm the one to do it, they'll run their quill pens through it. I'm obnoxious and disliked, you know that, sir. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Yes, I know. John Adams: But I say you should write it, Franklin. Yes, you. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Hell no! John Adams: Yes, you, Dr. Franklin, you... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: But... John Adams: You... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: But... John Adams: You... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: But... Mr. Adams, but, Mr. Adams, the things I write are only light extemporania. I won't put politics on paper, it's a mania. So I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania. Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman: Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania. Refuse to use the pen!
John Adams: Why, you write 10 times better than any man in Congress, including me. For a man of only 33 years, you possess a happy talent for composition, and a remarkable felicity of expression. Now then, sir: will you be a patriot... or a lover? Thomas Jefferson: A lover. John Adams: No. Thomas Jefferson: But I burn, Mr. A. John Adams: So do I, Mr. J. Robert Livingston: [surprisedly] You? Roger Sherman: You do? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: John, who'd have thought it? John Adams: [Adams resumes singing] Mr. Jefferson, dear Mr. Jefferson, I'm only 41, I still have my virility, / And I can romp through Cupid's grove with great agility, / But life is more than sexual combustibility, John Adams: [spoken quickly as Adams abruptly stops singing to call after Jefferson] Jefferson, stop right there! Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman: [sung as a chorus] Combustibility, combustibility, combustibili... John Adams: [Adams abruptly stops the chorus, ending the song] Quiet!
John Adams: Now, what do you know about the people, Dickinson? You don't speak for the people; you represent only yourself. And that precious status quo you keep imploring the people to preserve for their own good is nothing more than the eternal preservation of your own property. John Dickinson: Mr. Adams, you have an annoying talent for making such delightful words as "property" sound quite distasteful. In heaven's name, what's wrong with property? Perhaps you've forgotten that many of us first came to these shores in order to security rights to property, and that we hold these rights no less dear than the rights you speak of. John Adams: Yes. So safe, so fat, so comfortable in Pennsylvania. John Dickinson: And what is this independence of yours except the private grievance of Massachusetts? Why is always Boston that breaks the King's peace? My dear Congress, you must not adopt this evil measure. It is the work of the devil. Leave it where it belongs: in New England.
John Adams: Thomas, how did you leave Caesar? Is he still alive? Col. Thomas McKean: Aye, but the journey to Dover was fearful hard on him. He never complained, but I could see the poor man was sufferin' terrbile. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: But you got him safely home. Col. Thomas McKean: I did, but I doubt he'll ever set foot out of it again. John Adams: That leaves you and Read split down the middle. Will he come over? Col. Thomas McKean: I don't know. He's a stubborn ignoramus. John Adams: Work on him. Keep after him 'til you wear him down. Col. Thomas McKean: Look, John, face facts, will ya? If it were just Read standing in our way, it wouldn't be so bad, but look for yourself, man. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the entire South. It's impossible! John Adams: Well, it's impossible if we all stand around complaining about it. To work, McKean! One foot in front of the other! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I believe I put it a better way: never leave off until tomorrow that which... John Adams: Shut up, Franklin.
John Dickinson: [after one of Washington's dispatches] Come, come, Mr. Adams. You must see that it's hopeless. Let us recall General Washington and disband the Continental Army before we're overwhelmed. John Adams: [dryly] Oh, yes, indeed. The English would like that, now, wouldn't they? John Dickinson: Why not ask them yourself? They ought to be here any minute. Edward Rutledge: And when they hang you, Mr. Adams, I hope you will put in a good word for the rest of us.
John Adams: Franklin, Jefferson, what are you all sitting around for? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Didn't you hear a word I said before? John Adams: Oh, never mind about that. Now, here's what I want you to do. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: John, I'm not even speaking to you. John Adams: It's too late for that, damn it. There's work to be done. Jefferson, go find Rutledge. Don't come back until you've worn him down. Now, you're both Southern aristocrats. If he'll listen to anybody, he'll listen to you. Franklin, out of that chair! [ushering them out] John Adams: What good is the South if you can't deliver Pennsylvania, hmm? Talk to Wilson. Get him away from Dickinson. That's the only way to do it. Go on, now. Both of you. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: John? John Adams: Time's running out, damn it. Now move.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [as Congress suggests changes to the Declaration] John, you'll give yourself an attack of apoplexy if you're not careful. John Adams: Have you heard what they're doing to it? Have you heard? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I heard. John Adams: And so far, that's just our friends. Can you imagine what our enemies will do?
Courier: Hey, who sits here? McNair: Caesar Rodney of Delaware. Where are you from, General? Courier: Watertown. McNair: Where's that? Courier: Massachusetts. McNair: [indicating Adams' seat] Well, then you belong over there. [the Courier moves to said seat] McNair: But be careful. There's something about that chair that makes a man awful noisy.
Edward Rutledge: I wonder if we might prevail upon Mr. Thomson to read again a small portion of Mr. Jefferson's Declaration. The one beginning "he has waged cruel war." Charles Thomson: [searching] Uh... "he has affected", "he's combined", "he's abdicated", "he's plundered". "He's constrained", "he's excited", "he's incited", "he's waged cruel war"! Here it is. "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating them and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold. He has prostituted his..." Edward Rutledge: That will suffice, Mr. Thomson. I thank you, sir. Mr. Jefferson, I can't quite make out what it is you're talking about. Thomas Jefferson: Slavery, Mr. Rutledge. Edward Rutledge: Oh, yes. You're referring to us as slaves of the King. Thomas Jefferson: No, sir. I'm referring to our slaves. Black slaves. Edward Rutledge: Oh. Black slaves. Why didn't you say so, sir? Were you trying to hide your meaning? Thomas Jefferson: No, sir. Edward Rutledge: Just another literary license, then. Thomas Jefferson: If you like. Edward Rutledge: I don't like at all, Mr. Jefferson. To us in South Carolina, black slavery is our peculiar institution, and a cherished way of life. Thomas Jefferson: Nevertheless, we must abolish it. Nothing is more certainly written in the Book of Fate than that this people shall be free.
John Adams: [leaving the Jeffersons] Have you eaten? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Not yet, but... John Adams: I understand the turkey's fresh at Bunch o' Grapes. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Well, the fact is, I have a rendezvous, John. John Adams: Oh. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I'd ask you along, but talking makes her nervous.
Dr. Lyman Hall: Good lord, sir, do you have the honor to be Dr. Franklin? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Yes, I have that honor. Unfortunately, the gout accompanies the honor.
John Adams: No vote has ever had to be unanimous, Dickinson, and you know it. John Dickinson: Yes, but this one must be. John Adams: On what grounds? John Dickinson: That no colony be torn from its mother country without its own consent. Edward Rutledge: Hear, hear! John Adams: It will never be unanimous, damn it. John Dickinson: If you say so, Mr. Adams.
Dr. Lyman Hall: It's after 10:00. I was told Congress convenes at ten. McNair: Well, they'll be wandering in any time now, sir, with old Grape 'n' Guts leading the pack. Dr. Lyman Hall: Old who? Stephen Hopkins: [offscreen] McNair! McNair: Grape 'n' Guts. Stephen Hopkins: [entering] 'Nair, fetch me a rum.
Congressional President John Hancock (MA): I suppose we could leave it a four-man committee. John Adams (MA): Uh, just a moment. This business needs a Virginian; therefore I propose a replacement, Mr. Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson (VA): No, Mr. Adams. Congressional President John Hancock (MA): Very well, Mr. Adams. Mr. Jefferson will serve. Thomas Jefferson (VA): I'm going home, too. To my wife. John Adams (MA): Move to adjourn! Thomas Jefferson (VA): Wait. Dr. Benjamin Franklin (PA): I second! Congressional President John Hancock (MA): Moved and seconded. Any objections? Thomas Jefferson (VA): Yes, I have objections! I have lots of objections! John, I need to see my wife. I haven't seen her in six months. Congressional President John Hancock (MA): [gaveling] So ruled. Congress stands adjourned.
Roger Sherman: [Sherman stands up] Brother Dickinson, New England has been fighting the Devil for more than 100 years. John Dickinson: And as of now, *Brother Sherman*, the Devil has been winning hands down. John Dickinson: [the delegates murmur] Why, at this very moment, he's sitting right here, in this Congress. Don't let him deceive you, this proposal is entirely his doing! Oh, it may bear Virginia's name, but it reeks of Adams, Adams, and more Adams. Look at him, ready to lead this continent down the fiery path of total destruction! John Adams: [Adams stands up] Oh, good God! Why can't you acknowledge what already exists? It has been more than a year since Concord and Lexington! Damn it, man, we're at war! Right now... John Dickinson: *You* may be at war - you, Boston and John Adams, but you will never speak for Pennsylvania! George Read: [Read stands up] Nor for Delaware! Caesar Rodney: [Caesar Rodney stands] Mr. Read, you represent only one third of Delaware! George Read: The sensible third, Mr. Rodney! Col. Thomas McKean: Sit down, you scurvy dog, or I'll knock you down! John Hancock: [Hancock bangs his gavel on the desk] Sit down, all three of you!
John Hancock: [Hancock hits the desk with his gavel] A resolve, that these united colonies are, and have a right ought to be, free and independent... Rev. John Witherspoon: [Witherspoon knocks on the door and opens it] Excuse me, is- is this the Continental Congress? Well, yes, I- I can see that it must be. Rev. John Witherspoon: [to the New Jersey delegates off-screen] It's all right, we've found it! Rev. John Witherspoon: [the delegates enter] We've been looking for you everywhere, you see. Someone told us that you might be at Carpenter's Hall, and someone else suggested Library Hall, and so finally, we asked a constable. John Hancock: Excuse me, sir, but, um... if you don't mind, the, uh... Congress is about to decide the question of American independence. Rev. John Witherspoon: Oh, how splendid, that means we're not too late. Oh, these gentlemen are Mr. Francis Hopkinson, Dr. Richard Stockton, and I am the Reverend John Witherspoon. [the Continental Congress is silent] Rev. John Witherspoon: We're the new delegates from New Jersey. [the Continental Congress greets them enthusiastically]
Chorus: [starts singing "Sit Down, John"] Sit down, John, sit down, John, For God's sake, John, sit down! / Sit down, John, sit down, John, For God's sake, John, sit down! John Adams: Listen... Samuel Chase: Someone ought to open up a window... Chorus: It's 90 degrees, have mercy, John please, it's hot as hell in Philadelphia, Samuel Chase: Someone ought to open up a window... John Adams: I say vote yes, vote yes, vote for independency Chorus: Someone ought to open up a window John Adams: I say vote yes... Chorus: Sit down, John! John Adams: Vote for independency! Richard Henry Lee: Someone ought to open up a window... Chorus: No, no, no! Too many flies, too many flies, / But it's hot as hell in Philadelphia / Are you going to open up a window? / Can't we compromise here? John Adams: Vote yes... Chorus: No, too many flies here John Adams: Vote yes... Chorus: Oh, for God's sake, John, sit down! [the song pauses] John Adams: Good God! Consider yourselves fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it! Chorus: [the song resumes] John, you're a bore, we've heard this before, / Now for God's sake, John, sit down! John Adams: I say vote yes... Chorus: No! John Adams: Vote yes... Chorus: No! John Adams: Vote for independency!
John Adams: Good God! Consider yourselves fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it! Chorus: John, you're a bore, We've heard this before, Now for God's sake, John, sit down! John Adams: I say vote yes... Chorus: No! John Adams: Vote yes... Chorus: No! John Adams: Vote for independency! Chorus: Someone ought to open up a window... John Adams: I say vote yes... Chorus: Sit down, John! John Adams: Vote for independency! George Walton (GA): Will someone shut that man up? John Adams: [storming out] Never! Never!
Richard Henry Lee: [Richard Lee comes riding into the courtyard] You sent for me, Benjamin? John Adams: Never. Richard Henry Lee: Helloooo, Johnny! [Lee stops his horse and dismounts] Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Richard, uh... Johnny and I need some advice. Richard Henry Lee: If it's mine to give, it's yours, you know that! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Thank you, Richard, thank you. You know, the cause that we support has come to a complete standstill. Now why do you suppose that is? Richard Henry Lee: Simple: Johnny here's obnoxious and disliked. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: That's true. Now what's the solution, I wonder? Richard Henry Lee: Get somebody else in Congress to propose! Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, Richard, that's brilliant! Wasn't that brilliant, John? John Adams: Brilliant. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Yes, now, the question remains: who can it be? The man we need must belong to a delegation publicly committed to support independence. At the present time, only Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Delaware declared our way. Richard Henry Lee: Virginia. Don't forget Virginia, Benjy. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh Richard, I haven't. How could I? But strictly speaking, Virginia's views on independence are well-known. Your legislature in Williamsburg has never formally authorized its delegation here in Congress to support the cause. Now, if we could think of a Virginian with enough influence to go down there and persuade the House of Burgesses... Richard Henry Lee: Damn me if I haven't thought of someone! John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Who? Richard Henry Lee: Me. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, why didn't I think of that? Richard Henry Lee: [Lee mounts his horse] I'll leave tonight. Why hell, I'll leave right now, if you like! I'll just stop off in Stratford long enough to refresh the missus, and then straight to the matter! Yes sir, I really have to complement you on your judgment, Johnny. Whoa boy, steady! You've come to the one colony that can get the job done: Virginia! Richard Henry Lee: [a drumroll and pause is heard before George Washington's name is mentioned] The land that gave us our glorious commander-in-chief... George Washington, will now give the continent its proposal on independence! And when Virginia proposes, the South is bound to follow! And where the South goes, the middle colonies go! Gentlemen, a salute to Virginia, the mother of American independence!
Charles Thomson: All those in favor of the resolution on independence as proposed by the colony of Virginia, signify by saying... Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Mr. Secretary? Would you please read the resolution again? South Carolina Delegate: What? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I've forgotten it. [the Congress groans and starts to have a discussion] Charles Thomson: [Hancock hits the desk with his gavel] Uh, resolved: that these united colonies are, and have a right ought to be, free and independent.
John Hancock: [the courier enters Independence Hall with a report from Washington; Thomson rings a bell to call the delegates to order] From the Commander, Army of the United Colonies, New York, dispatch number 1,137... McNair: Aw, sweet Jesus! John Hancock: [Hancock resumes reading] The honorable Congress, John Hancock president. "Dear Sirs: It is with great apprehension that I have learned this day of the sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, of a considerable force of British troops in the company of foreign mercenaries and under the command of General Sir William Howe. There can be no doubt that their destination is New York; for to take and hold this city and the Hudson Valley beyond would seriously separate New England from the rest of the colonies, permitting both sections to be crushed in turn. Sadly, I see no way of stopping them at the present time, as my army's absolutely falling apart. My military chest is totally exhausted. My commissary general has strained his credit to the last. My quartermaster has no food, no arms, no ammunition, and my troops are in a state of near mutiny. I pray God some relief arrives before the Armada but fear it will not. Your obedient..." John Hancock: [drumroll] "G. Washington." McNair: [bangs his desk and stands up] Mister President! John Hancock: Colonel McKean. Col. Thomas McKean: Sure, we have managed to promote the gloomiest man on this continent to the head of our troops. Those dispatches are the most depr-ressing accumulation of disaster, doom, and despair in the entire annals of human history! John Hancock: [Hancock hits his desk with the gavel] Colonel McKean, please! Col. Thomas McKean: What? John Hancock: It's too hot. Col. Thomas McKean: Okay, I suppose so. John Hancock: [McKean sits down] General Washington will continue wording his dispatches as he sees fit; and I'm sure we he finds happier thoughts to convey in the near... future.
John Adams: [Adams resumes singing "But, Mr. Adams"] Mr. Jefferson, dear Mr. Jefferson, I'm only 41, I still have my virility, / And I can romp through Cupid's grove with great agility, / But life is more than sexual combustility, John Adams: [spoken rapidly] Jefferson, stop right there! Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston: [sung] Combustibility, combustibility, combustibili... John Adams: [Adams glares angrily at Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston] Quiet! John Adams: Now, you'll write it, Mr. J. Thomas Jefferson: Who will make me, Mr. A.? John Adams: I. Thomas Jefferson: You? John Adams: Yes. Thomas Jefferson: [Jefferson looks down at Adams] How? John Adams: By physical force, if necessary. It's your duty, damnit, your duty! Thomas Jefferson: [Jefferson resumes singing "But, Mr. Adams"] Mr. Adams, damn you, Mr. Adams, / You're obnoxious and disliked, that cannot be denied, / Once again, you stand between me and my lovely bride, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston: [sung] Lovely bride, Thomas Jefferson: [sung] Oh, Mr. Adams, you are driving me to homicide, John Adams: [Jefferson walks away] Jefferson, stop! Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston: [sung] Homicide, homicide... John Adams: Quiet! John Adams: [Adams runs down the stairs, and hands the pen to Jefferson] The decision is yours, Jefferson, do as you like with it! Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston: [Jefferson takes the pen from Adams; Franklin, Sherman and Livingston resume singing, concluding the song] We may see murder yet!
Edward Rutledge: [starts singing "Molasses to Rum to Slaves"] Molasses to rum to sla-aves... / Oh, what a beautiful waltz... / You dance with us, we dance with you, / In molasses and rum and sla-aves... / Who'll sail the ships out of Boston, laden with Bibles and rum? / Who drinks a toast, to the Ivory Coast? / Hail, Africa, the slavers have come, / New England, with Bibles and rum...! / Then it's off with the rum and the Bibles, / Take on the slaves, clink, clink, / Then hail and farewell to the smell... / Of the African coast... Edward Rutledge: Molassses to rum to sla-aves... / 'Tisn't morals, 'tis money that saves... / Shall we dance to the sound, of the profitable pound, / In molasses and rum and sla-aves...? Edward Rutledge: Who'll sail the ships out of Guinea, laden with Bibles and slaves...? / 'Tis Boston can boast, to the West Indies coast, / "Jamaica, we brung what you craves!" / "Antigua, Barbados, we brung Bibles and sla-aves!" / Edward Rutledge: [spoken] Gentlemen, you mustn't think that our Northern friends here see our black slaves as merely figures in a ledger. Oh no, they see them as figures on a block! Look at the faces at the auctions, gentlemen: white faces on African wharves, seafaring faces, New England faces. Put them in the ships, cram them in the ships! Stuff them in the ships! Hurry, gentlemen, let the auction begin! Edward Rutledge: [sung] Yo-ho, yo ho-maa kundah! Edward Rutledge: Gentlemen, can you hear? That's the cry of the auctioneer! Edward Rutledge: [sung] Yo-ho, yo ho-maa kundah! Slaves, gentlemen, black go-old! Living gold! Gold from Angola, guinea, guinea, guinea! Blackbirds for sale! Ashanti! Ibo, ibo, ibo! Blackbirds for sale! Ha-andle them! Fondle them! But don't finger them! They're fine, they're prime! Yo-ho, yo ho-maa kundah! Dr. Josiah Bartlett: [stands up in outrage] For the love of God, Mr. Rutledge, please!
John Dickinson, Edward Rutledge, John Hancock: [Dickinson and theconservative anti-independence candidates dance a minuet and sing "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men"] What we do, we do rationally, John Dickinson: We never, ever go off half-cocked, not we, John Dickinson, Edward Rutledge, John Hancock: Why begin, till we know that we can win, John Dickinson: And if we cannot win, why bother to begin? Edward Rutledge: We say this game's not of our choosing, why should we risk losing? John Dickinson, Edward Rutledge, John Hancock: We are cool men... John Dickinson: [the song pauses] Mr. Hancock, you're a man of property, one of us, why don't you join us in our minuet? Why do you persist in dancing with John Adams? Good Lord, sir, you don't even like him! John Hancock: [Hancock stands up and sings] That is true, he annoys me quite a lot, / But still, I'd rather trot to Adams' new gavotte John Dickinson: [spoken] Why? For personal glory? For a place in history? Be careful, sir, history will brand him and his followers as traitors. Edward Rutledge: Traitors, Mr. Dickinson, to what: The British Crown, or the British half-crown? Fortunately, there's not enough men with property in America to dictate policy. John Dickinson: Perhaps not, but don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. And that is why they will follow us... John Dickinson, Edward Rutledge, Chorus: [singing resumes] To the right, ever to the right, never to the left, forever to the right, / We have gold, a market that will hold, tradition that is old, reluctance to be bold... John Dickinson: [Dickinson leads the conservatives as they leave] I sing Hosanna, Ho-san-na, John Dickinson: [angrily raises his voice] In a sane and lucid manner, we are cool! John Dickinson, Edward Rutledge, Chorus: [Dickinson and the conservatives walk out to their carriages] Come ye cool, cool, considerate men, whose likes may never, ever be seen again, / With our land, cash in hand, self-command, future planned, / And we'll hold to our gold, tradition that is old, reluctant to be bold, / We say this game's not of our choosing, why should we risk losing? / We cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool men! McNair: [McNair and his companions are watching the conservatives' carriages pass by as the song ends] How'd you like to try and borrow a dollar from one of them? You want some more rum, general?
John Adams: Mr. President, I move for a postponement. John Dickinson: Postponement? Ha! I wish you the same luck I had with it. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Mr. Adams is right. We need a postponement. John Dickinson: On what grounds? Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [to Adams] On what grounds?
Joseph Hewes (NC): Tell me, Doctor, where does Georgia stand on the question of independence? Dr. Lyman Hall (GA): I'm here without instruction, Mr. Hewes, able to vote my own personal convictions. Edward Rutledge (SC): And they are? Dr. Lyman Hall (GA): [seeing them all looking at him] Personal.
Col. Thomas McKean (DE): Well, in my case hangin' won't be so bad. [patting his stomach] Col. Thomas McKean (DE): One snap, and it'll be done with. [points at George Read who is half his size] Col. Thomas McKean (DE): But look at Read here - he'll be dancin' a jig long after I'm gone!