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North Carolina's Signers
Declaration of Independence
Recommended Viewing: John Adams (HBO
Miniseries) (2008) (501 minutes). Description: Based on David McCullough's bestselling
biography, the HBO miniseries John Adams is the furthest thing from a starry-eyed look at America's
founding fathers and the brutal path to independence. Adams (Paul Giamatti), second president of the United States, is portrayed as a skilled orator and principled attorney whose preference
for justice over anti-English passions earns enemies. But he also gains the esteem of the first national government of the
United States, i.e., the Continental Congress, which seeks non-firebrands capable of making a reasoned if powerful case for
America's break from England's monarchy. The first thing one notices about John Adams' dramatizations of congress' proceedings,
and the fervent pro-independence violence in the streets of Boston and elsewhere, is that America's roots don't look pretty
or idealized here. Some horrendous things happen in the name of protest, driving Adams to
push the cause of independence in a legitimate effort to get on with a revolutionary war under the command of George Washington.
But the process isn't easy: not every one of the 13 colonies-turned-states is ready to incur the wrath of England, and behind-the-scenes negotiations prove as much
a part of 18th century congressional sessions as they do today. Continued below...
peek into a less-romanticized version of the past, John Adams is also a story of the man himself. Adams' frustration at being
forgotten or overlooked at critical junctures of America's early development--sent abroad for years instead of helping
to draft the U.S. Constitution--is detailed.
So is his dismay that the truth of what actually transpired leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence has
been slowly forgotten and replaced by a rosier myth. But above all, John Adams is the story of two key ties: Adams'
54-year marriage to Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), every bit her husband's intellectual equal and anchor, and his difficult,
almost symbiotic relationship with Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane) over decades. Giamatti, of course, has to carry much
of the drama, and if he doesn't always seem quite believable in the series' first half, he becomes increasingly excellent
at the point where an aging Adams becomes bitter over his place in history. Linney is marvelous,
as is Dillane, Sarah Polley as daughter Nabby, Danny Huston as cousin Samuel Adams, and above all Tom Wilkinson as a complex
but indispensable Ben Franklin.
Recommended Reading: The Declaration
of Independence: The Story Behind America's
Founding Document and the Men Who Created It (Hardcover). Description: The fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence, the foundation of America's freedom, created a nation and launched a freedom
movement the world had never seen. Today it seems inevitable that the thirteen colonies would declare their independence from
Britain. And yet in 1776 it was not so.
Here is the extraordinary story of drama and daring, sacrifice and selflessness, danger and potential death. The signers concluded
their work with a plea for Providential protection and a selfless vow to sacrifice "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred
honor." Continued below...
Many of them did just that to create a country in which "all men are created equal, . . . endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Award-winning historian
Rod Gragg brings to life the drama of 1776 like no other book. The removable artifacts, including a full-size (24-1/4" x 29-1/2")
replica of the Declaration of Independence, bring to life the events of 1776 like no other presentation.
Recommended Reading: John Adams, by David McCullough
(Simon & Schuster). From Publishers Weekly: Here a preeminent master of narrative
history takes on the most fascinating of our founders to create a benchmark for all Adams
biographers. With a keen eye for telling detail and a master storyteller's instinct for human interest, McCullough (Truman;
Mornings on Horseback) resurrects the great Federalist (1735-1826), revealing in particular his restrained, sometimes off-putting
disposition, as well as his political guile. The events McCullough recounts are well-known, but with his astute marshaling
of facts, the author surpasses previous biographers in depicting Adams's years at Harvard, his early public life in Boston and his role in the first Continental Congress, where he helped
shape the philosophical basis for the Revolution. McCullough also makes vivid Adams's actions
in the second Congress, during which he was the first to propose George Washington to command the new Continental Army. Continued
Later on, we
see Adams bickering with Tom Paine's plan for government as suggested in Common Sense, helping push through the draft for
the Declaration of Independence penned by his longtime friend and frequent rival, Thomas Jefferson, and serving as commissioner
to France and envoy to the Court of St. James's. The author is likewise brilliant
in portraying Adams's complex relationship with Jefferson, who ousted him from the White
House in 1800 and with whom he would share a remarkable death date 26 years later: July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after
the signing of the Declaration. (June) Forecast: Joseph Ellis has shown us the Founding Fathers can be bestsellers, and S&S
knows it has a winner: first printing is 350,000 copies, and McCullough will go on a 15-city tour; both Book-of-the-Month
Club and the History Book Club have taken this book as a selection.
1776, by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster). Description:
Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and
a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a
turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated
until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including
an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold
off the world's greatest army. Continued below...
He also effectively
explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short
of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was
particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton
was magnified despite its limited strategic importance. Some of the strongest passages in 1776 are the revealing and well-rounded
portraits of the Georges on both sides of the Atlantic. King George III, so often portrayed
as a bumbling, arrogant fool, is given a more thoughtful treatment by McCullough, who shows that the king considered the colonists
to be petulant subjects without legitimate grievances--an attitude that led him to underestimate the will and capabilities
of the Americans. At times he seems shocked that war was even necessary. The great Washington lives up to his considerable
reputation in these pages, and McCullough relies on private correspondence to balance the man and the myth, revealing how
deeply concerned Washington was about the Americans' chances for victory, despite his public optimism. Perhaps more than any
other man, he realized how fortunate they were to merely survive the year, and he willingly lays the responsibility for their
good fortune in the hands of God rather than his own. Enthralling and superbly written, 1776 is the work of a master historian.
Viewing: Founding Brothers (A&E)
(200 minutes). Description: The political wrangles
of a fledgling country may sound dull compared to the drama of a war, but the early history of the United States only gets more fascinating as the Revolutionary War is left behind.
Founding Brothers, a documentary from the History Channel, examines the struggle to not only establish democracy, but to give
it the economic strength and governmental structure that will allow it to survive and thrive. George Washington grappled not
only with politics, but with questions of style and propriety--how should a president, as opposed to a king, behave? Understanding
the conflicts between Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson will illuminate ideas that have shaped the government
of the U.S. ever since. Continued below…
provides a wealth of portraits and illustrations from the time, as well as discreet dramatizations, that bring the rise of
party politics to life, humanizing these historical figures with tales of the scandals and squabbles they faced as well as
their political achievements. An excellent introduction to the roots of the American experiment, and a bracing illustration
of what Jefferson
meant when he said of the presidency, "No man will bring out of that office the reputation which carried him into it."
Reading: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Review: In retrospect, it seems as if the American Revolution was inevitable. But was it?
In Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis reveals that many of those truths we hold to be self-evident were actually fiercely
contested in the early days of the republic. Ellis focuses on six crucial moments in the life of the new nation, including
a secret dinner at which the seat of the nation's capital was determined--in exchange for support of Hamilton's
financial plan; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell
Address; and the Hamilton and Burr duel. Most interesting, perhaps, is the debate (still dividing scholars today) over the
meaning of the Revolution. Continued below...
In a fascinating
chapter on the renewed friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at the end of their lives, Ellis points out the
fundamental differences between the Republicans, who saw the Revolution as a liberating act and hold the Declaration of Independence
most sacred, and the Federalists, who saw the revolution as a step in the building of American nationhood and hold the Constitution
most dear. Throughout the text, Ellis explains the personal, face-to-face nature of early American politics--and notes that
the members of the revolutionary generation were conscious of the fact that they were establishing precedents on which future
generations would rely. In Founding Brothers, Ellis (whose American Sphinx won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1997)
has written an elegant and engaging narrative, sure to become a classic. Highly recommended.
Recommended Viewing: Founding Fathers (A&E)
(200 minutes). Description: The four programs from the History Channel in this set profile America's
Founding Fathers, noting right at the outset they were a "mismatched group of quarrelsome aristocrats, merchants, and lawyers."
The story of how these disparate characters fomented rebellion in the colonies, formed the Continental Congress, fought the
Revolutionary War, and wrote the Constitution is told by noted historians, and the production is enhanced with beautifully
photographed reenactments as well as intelligent use of period paintings and engravings. The story begins with Samuel Adams
and John Hancock in Boston, whose protests against British
taxation led to the Boston Tea Party. Moving on to the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia,
the brilliant delegates from the South, particularly George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, appear on the scene, and the
story is told of how an improbable cohesion between the colonies began. Continued below…
characters, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, appear in turn, and each of the major participants is portrayed in
a biographical profile. How these men all came to act together, despite the stark differences in their backgrounds and temperaments,
becomes the main thread of the story. They were all quite human, as the historians who appear in interviews remind us. Some
of them drank too much, some had illegitimate children, some owned slaves, and some could hardly get along with anyone. Yet
these men with complicated private lives worked together and performed heroically. This is an intelligently rendered and captivating
look at the men who formed the American nation.
Recommended Viewing: The History Channel Presents The Revolution (A&E) (600 minutes). Review: They came of age in a new world amid intoxicating and innovative
ideas about human and civil rights diverse economic systems and self-government. In a few short years these men and women
would transform themselves into architects of the future through the building of a new nation – “a nation unlike
any before.” From the roots of the rebellion and the signing of the Declaration of Independence to victory on the battlefield
and the adoption of The United States Constitution, THE REVOLUTION tells the remarkable story of this pivotal era in history.
Venturing beyond the conventional list of generals and politicians, THE HISTORY CHANNEL® introduces the full range of individuals
who helped shape this great conflict including some of the war’s most influential unsung heroes. Continued below...
Through sweeping cinematic recreations intimate biographical investigations and provocative political military
and economic analysis the historic ideas and themes that transformed treasonous acts against the British into noble acts of
courage both on and off the battlefield come to life in this dramatic and captivating program. This TEN HOUR DVD Features:
History in the Making: The Revolution Behind-the-Scenes Featurette; Interactive Menus; Scene Selections.
Recommended Viewing: The American Revolution (History Channel) (482 minutes). Description: Revisit the birth of a nation in this truly definitive look at
America's fight for independence and its world-changing rise to glory. The American
Revolution features ten powerful documentaries--more than eight hours of essential programming by THE HISTORY CHANNEL® and
A&E on DVD for the first time. From the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris, these are the stories and
events surrounding the remarkable achievements of heroic individuals seized by the epic forces of history. Hear the words
of the founding fathers and other key figures, as read by leading actors such as Kelsey Grammar (TV’s Frasier) and Michael
Learned (TV’s The Waltons). Continued below...
Thrilling re-enactments of great battles, compelling period images, rare archival material, and commentary
by leading historians bring the past vividly alive. Between Bunker Hill and Yorktown, from Ben Franklin's masterful diplomacy to Benedict Arnold's deceit and tragedy,
The American Revolution presents a sweeping canvas of historical programming at its comprehensive best.