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1776
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1776 (1972) More at IMDbPro »

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John Adams complains about the taxes that King George and the British Parliament have imposed upon the American Colonies for over ten years. For example, the Sugar Act of 1764 was the first attempt to raise money in the colonies for the British Crown. The Townshend Acts of 1767, named after Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend, levied import duties on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. The British saw this as a means of raising funds needed to maintain their army in the colonies; the colonists, however, objected to "taxation without representation."

As the colonists resisted paying the taxes, the British imposed other indignities on the colonists, such as blank search warrants (known as Writs of Assistance), courts that operated without juries, and even the suspension of the New York assembly for not complying with the Quartering Act of 1765. Hostilities between Britain and the American Colonies continued to escalate until in 1774, twelve of the colonies (Georgia was the lone exception) sent representatives to Philadelphia in what became known as the First Continental Congress to consider ways of dealing with what the colonists now called the "Intolerable" Acts. Radical delegates swayed the congress to endorse civil disobedience.

Latin for "three joined into one," the motto of the Order of the Bath. This was an ancient order in the British Isles, dating back to at least the 11th century. In 1725 King George I revived it as a reward for military service. The honoree could wear a red riband and star upon which were three crowns surrounded by the Latin motto.

Of course, the phrase is used ironically of the very divided three-man Delaware delegation.

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) was an Italian painter of the early Renaissance. Two of his most famous paintings are The Adoration of the Magi, a Christian scene, and The Birth of Venus, depicting a naked Venus rising out of the sea. While the dialogue between Adams and Franklin is witty, it is, alas, an anachronism, as Botticelli was largely unknown until his paintings were rediscovered in the late nineteenth century.

With his common-law wife Deborah, Benjamin Franklin had a daughter (Sara or "Sally") and a son (Francis or "Franky"). Franky died of smallpox in his fifth year, a devastating blow to his parents. Before Franklin married Deborah, he had conceived an illegitimate son (William) with a woman whose name is lost to history. Deborah agreed to raise William in her household, although apparently she had no particular maternal feelings towards William, especially after the death of her own son. Franklin, however, was quite close to "Billy" throughout most of his life, until, that is, the trouble started with Great Britain. Franklin eventually came to side with those who wanted to break from Britain, while Billy remained a loyalist. This created a schism between father and son that lasted the rest of Franklin's life, although after the war Billy made some futile efforts at reconciliation. So Franklin's reference a little bit later to "the little bastard" probably is an accurate presentation of his feelings.

Fribble: a frivolous person; a fop.

In 1775 the Continental Congress had Thomas Jefferson draft a statement as to why the British Colonies were taking up arms against the mother country. Jefferson's draft was considered too inflammatory, so John Dickinson was enlisted to tone the language down. The passage Adams quotes here does not appear in the final draft, so possibly it was one of the passages deemed too inflammatory.

Matthew 16:26: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Hopkins was really called "Old Grape and Guts" because of his fondness for distilled refreshment. However, as to whether he was a drunk, it is hard to say because people did drink a lot of distilled drinks back then.

Rodney did suffer from skin cancer, did walk around with a green scarf on his face, and was roused from his bed to ride to Philadelphia to vote, as seen in the movie. However, he didn't die until 1784, at the age of 55. Rodney was Brigadier General of the Delaware militia and had returned there to deal with recurring violent episodes between Patriots and Loyalists in Kent and Sussex counties. Word reached Rodney that his presence was required in Congress to break the tie between Delaware's other two candidates: Thomas McKean, who favored independence, and George Read, who opposed it. Rodney made the 80 mile trek from Dover to Philadelphia in a thunderstorm, arriving just as voting began to tip the scales in favor of independence.

No. Franklin's illegitimate son, William Franklin, was governor of New Jersey and he was arrested in June 1776 and exiled to Connecticut. I can imagine with the Royal Governor out of the way, the new New Jersey government could send a delegation to support independence. They were not really late; a delegation would have been appointed by the Royal government, but, as seen in the movie, they never showed up. With the new government in place, Witherspoon and the others were sent.

The New York delegation did abstain on many motions, including the "final" one on independence. Historically, there were actually two votes: one on the resolution on independence as proposed by Lee (taking place on July 2) and then the vote approving the Declaration of Independence (on July 4). New York abstained from both, but the New York legislature did approve it after the fact.

1776 is drawn from the Congressional Record, biographical journals, family accounts, personal letters, et cetera. Though delegates did not periodically break into song, it was known to happen at least once that a representative did climb onto a table to make a point. History is stranger than fiction. Adams remarks on the matter of slavery, "Mark me, Franklin. If we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us." What Adams actually said was "Mark me, Franklin. If we give in on this issue, there will be trouble one hundred years hence. Posterity will never forgive us." How could the film possibly come out and say that Adams foresaw that slavery would not fall until 100 years later?

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