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1776 (1972) Poster

(1972)

Goofs

Factual errors 

John Dickinson was a pacifistic Quaker who objected to revolution, not a Tory leading the resistance to declaring independence.
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Anachronisms 

At the Congress, John Adams says "Benjamin Franklin smote the ground, and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified them with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them - Franklin, Washington, and the horse - conducted the entire Revolution all by themselves". John Adams made that speech in April 1790 at Franklin's funeral.
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John Adams and Martha Jefferson waltz during "He Plays the Violin". The waltz did not become popular until 1780, when it became the rage at the Hapsburg court in Vienna. It spread to other countries several years later.
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Visible through the open door of the Assembly Room is the Supreme Court Room and on the wall is the coat of arms of Pennsylvania. This replaced King George's coat of arms which was torn down shortly after the first reading of the Declaration on Independence.
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In the song "Lees of Old Virginia" Richard Henry Lee mentions General Lighthorse Harry Lee. In fact Henry Lee III, in 1776, was neither a General, nor had he yet become known as "Lighthorse Harry," a moniker that he would only earn after taking command of "Lee's Legion" in 1778.
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Southern delegates sing about "moving to the right", but "right/left" political labels originated in the French Revolutionary Assembly of 1789.
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Adams and Franklin talk about Botticelli painting Venus. At his death in 1510, Botticelli had lapsed into obscurity and was all but completely forgotten until a revival of interest in his works in the mid-19th century. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin would probably not have been familiar with him and his art.
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Audio/visual unsynchronised 

Richard Henry Lee talks as he mounts his horse, yet his mouth is closed.
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At one point in "The Lees of Old Virginia," you can hear Adams singing but his mouth is clearly not moving.
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Character error 

During "Sit Down, John", a Southern delegate knocks over a lit candle when he stands up to sing.
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Lewis Morris of New York had only 10 children, not 12 and the 3 oldest boys fought in the Revolution - not 4 as stated in the movie.
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During the song "The Egg" they sing "on this humid Monday morning", yet the date is shown as June 28, 1776, which was a Friday.
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The insult that sparks the hand-to-hand brawl between Dickinson and Adams is "Lawyer!" One of the first lines is "One useless man is called a disgrace, two become a law firm, and three or more become a Congress." Yet 90% of Congress, including John Dickinson and John Adams themselves, were lawyers, so that seems a strange insult to use against somebody in the same profession.
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Continuity 

Position of Col. McKean's hands when he fires the musket.
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When John Adams and Benjamin Franklin are in the park, Franklin is holding a cane in his outstretched arm. In the next shot, his arm is against his body.
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When Adams and Samuel Chase talk about visiting the Continental Army, Adams asks Chase if he would support independence by saying, "Would you or wouldn't you?" When Adams says, "wouldn't you" his hand is clearly above the notepad on the desk (as evidenced by the shadow below his hand). In the next shot from behind Adams, his hand is resting on the notepad.
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Factual errors 

The circumstances of Caesar Rodney's ride are historically inaccurate. Rodney suffered from asthma and skin cancer, but he had not returned to Delaware because he was dying. As a brigadier general in the Delaware militia, he was in Sussex County monitoring Tory activity when he received word that the vote on independence was about to take place. Changing horses several times, he rode all night, eighty miles through a thunderstorm, to reach Philadelphia in time to cast his vote. He remained almost continuously in public service until his death in 1784.
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John Hancock was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. The others waited until August 2nd. One signed it in 1781. (Dramatic license, see trivia.)
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Stephen Hopkins' statement "The Colonies are rotting for want of independence," should actually be attributed to Rev. John Witherspoon.
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Contrary to what is portrayed in the Broadway musical and the film, John Adams and Richard Henry Lee had a healthy admiration and respect for one another.
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There was no direct requirement for unanimity, only the understanding that a less than unanimous vote would indicate a divided America to potential allies.
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Martha comes to Philadelphia to see Tom, as they have not been together "for 6 months" - a common refrain by Tom. While Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, Martha stayed in Virginia, recovering from a miscarriage - there is no record of such a "conjugal visitation." This is creative license on the part of the writers, who desired to show something of the Jeffersons' personal lives, while simultaneously keeping the story contained to one location.
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When the Declaration is signed, John Dickinson leaves the Congress without signing the document. Though he was a non-signer, he did not resign. At the time the Declaration of Independence was passed, he was on the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation (part of Richard Henry Lee's resolution).
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Caesar Rodney is depicted as a short man, but he was famously tall and thin.
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

While attempting to write the Declaration in his apartment, Jefferson throws the paper about and finally tosses his quill and picks up the violin. As Adams and Franklin enter the apartment, the quill has reappeared in the inkwell on the desk in front of Jefferson. But the change in lighting (from darkness to broad daylight) indicates that many hours have passed between the two moments.
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After the song "Cool Considerate Men," McNair remarks that he could not borrow a dollar from any of those men. Although American dollars were not minted until 1792, Spanish reales were recognized as international currency, and called dollars by English colonists.
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Several times, Benjamin Franklin mocks John Adams for coming from Boston. Franklin himself was born and raised in Boston, leaving only in his late teens, but this part of his life was very unhappy, so it makes sense that he would distance himself from it.
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Plot holes 

After the Declaration is approved Hancock asks the secretary if it is ready to be signed. The secretary replies that it is. This is not possible, as a deletion was made to the text only moments before, so no printed copy could yet exist.
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A few characters want to retrieve the ailing Caesar Rodney from his home so Delaware will vote for independence. As Colonel McKean explicitly states in one of the restored scenes, the delegation is tied without him and would abstain. New York abstains on every vote, and no one worries about them. If unanimity is required, one abstention or two would have the same effect.
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Revealing mistakes 

The beginning of the film takes place in early June, 1776 in Philadelphia. There are several references to the heat, and several delegates are clearly sweating. After a squabble breaks out during the debate, John Hancock orders McNair to remove a dog from the room because it smells bad. As McNair complies, Hancock shouts, "Christ! It's hot!" and Thomas Jefferson sits on a sill by an open window to read a book. In the next scene, the dog is out on the sidewalk. It barks twice, and you can see its breath.
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In the close-up of Franklin's portrait, the painter's brush is clearly not making any changes; no paint is added and none is removed.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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