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?
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 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 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?
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?
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.
John Dickinson: When did you first notice they were missing, sir?
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!
[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!
John Adams: At a stage in life when other men prosper, I'm reduced to living in Philadelphia.
[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: [to John Hancock] Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.
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.
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: Thomas, I want you to ride back to Delaware and bring back Caesar.
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: Good God, what a bastardly bunch we are.
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.
[Standing awkwardly nearby as Jefferson and Martha embrace]
John Adams: Jefferson, kindly introduce me to your wife.
John Adams: She is your wife, isn't she?
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Of course she is. Look at the way they fit.
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]
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [to Dr. Hall] What are you staring at? Haven't you ever seen a great man before?
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?
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 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.
[as they stand on the sidewalk below Jefferson's apartment]
John Adams: This is positively indecent!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh, John, they're young and they're in love.
John Adams: Not them, Franklin. Us! Standing out here, waiting for them to... I mean, what will people think?
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Don't worry, John. The history books will clean it up.
John Adams: It doesn't matter. I won't be 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 by themselves.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: I like it.
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."
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]
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: Therefore I must decline. Respectful..."lee".
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.
[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.
[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]
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!
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!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: As 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 is obnoxious and disliked!
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?
John Adams: Good God, consider yourselves fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!
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!
Hopkins: That's quite a large signature, Johnny.
Hancock: So fat George can read it in London without his reading glasses!
[debating on America's national bird]
John Adams: The eagle.
Thomas Jefferson: The dove.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The turkey.
John Adams: The eagle.
Thomas Jefferson: The dove.
John Adams: The eagle!
Thomas Jefferson: [considers] 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 coward. A symbol of over ten centuries of European mischief.
John Adams: [confused] The turkey?
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: A truly noble bird. Native American, a source of sustenance to our original settlers, and an incredibly brave fellow who wouldn't flinch from attacking a whole regiment of Englishmen single-handedly! Therefore, the national bird of America is going to be...
John Adams: [insistently] The eagle!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The eagle.
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?
[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, Eddie, 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'.
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!
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.
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.
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!
[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.
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.
James Wilson: I'm different from you, John. I'm different from most of the men here. I don't want to be remembered.
John Adams: Oh, Abigail, Abigail, I have such a desire to knock heads together!
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.
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.
[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.
John Adams: As chairman of the war committee, I can assure you, never have training and discipline gone more smoothly! Never have soldiers been more cheerful! Never have...
[Washington's courier enters with a new message]
John Adams: Oh, good God!
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?
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.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [referring to Martha Jefferson] No wonder the man couldn't write! Who could think of independence being married to her?
[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.
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 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.
[Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson wait outside the Chamber, while Thomson is reading the Declaration to Congress]
John Adams: There's nothing to fear; it's a masterpiece. I'm to be congratulated.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [surprised] You?
John Adams: [waving at Jefferson] For making him write it.
[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.
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...
John Adams: It would be a pity for a man who's handed down hundreds of wise decisions from the bench to be remembered for the one unwise decision he made in Congress.
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?
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!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Easy John.
John Adams: 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!
[a brawl breaks out]
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Oh John, you can dance!
John Adams: We still do a few things in Boston, Franklin.
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. Then I shall propose to Congress. That strutting popinjay was so damn sure of himself. He's had time to come back with a dozen proposals by now!
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: That is true, he annoys me quite a lot, but still I'd rather trot to Mr. Adams' new gavotte.
John Dickinson: But 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 without property 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.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately!
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!
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?
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.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Congratulations, John. You just made your greatest contribution to Independence: you kept your flap shut.
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]
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.
Lewis Morris: New York abstains, courteously.
Charles Thomson: [recording vote] New York abstains.
Lewis Morris: Courteously.
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.
John Adams: Look at him, Franklin. Virginia's most famous lover!
Thomas Jefferson: [not having seen his wife in six months] Virginia abstains.
John Adams: Now, will you be a lover or a patriot?
Thomas Jefferson: A lover.
John Adams: No!
Thomas Jefferson: But I burn, Mr. A.
John Adams: [emphasized] So do I, Mr. J!
Thomas Jefferson: [astonished] You?
Roger Sherman: [astonished] You do?
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: [astonished] John!
Robert Livingston: [Pondering] Who'd have thought it?
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 Adams: [singing] 'For I have crossed the Rubicon, let the bridge be burned behind me, come what may, come what may!
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: The count, being twelve to none, with one abstention, the resolution on independence
[pause, then in surprise]
Thomson: *is* adopted.
Thomas Jefferson: Tonight, I'm leaving for home.
Hancock: On business?
Thomas Jefferson: Family business.
Hopkins: Give her a flourish for me, young feller!
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!
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife.
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...
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.
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.
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.
[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 smallwoods 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...
Thomson: G. Washington.
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?
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.
Col. Thomas McKean: [to Read] Sit down ya scurvy dog 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!
Hancock: Do go on, gentlemen, you're making the only breeze in Philadelphia.
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.
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.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Revolutions, Mr. Dickinson, come into this world like bastard children - half improvised and half compromised.
John Adams: This is a revolution, dammit! We're going to have to offend SOMEbody!
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.
[speaking of Congress]
John Adams: Fat George has declared us in rebellion! Why in bloody hell can't they?
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!
John Dickinson: Do you expect us to forget Hastings and Magna Carta, Strongbow and Lionheart, Drake and Marlborough?
Hopkins: 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 damn no good son of a bitch.
Col. Thomas McKean: Mr. President!
Hancock: Colonel McKean.
Col. Thomas McKean: Surely, we have managed to promote the gloomiest man on this continent to the head of our troops! Those dispatches are the most deprrrr-essing accumulation of disaster, doom and despair in the entire annals of military history! And furthermore...
Hancock: Colonel McKean, *please!*
Col. Thomas McKean: What?
Hancock: It's too hot.
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 have 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.
Edward Rutledge: Enter Delaware, tria juncta 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!
Dr. Lyman Hall: Georgia seems to be split right down the middle on this issue. The people are against it, and I'm for it.
[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.
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: 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!
Col. Thomas McKean: [after hearing another gloomy letter from George Washington] That man would depress a hyena.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hancock: Very well, gentlemen. We are about to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper.
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.
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 will posterity think we were, demigods? 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?
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.