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I am surprised at the suddenness as well as the greatness of this revolution… It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.
–John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776 in The Works of John Adams, vol. 1, p. 230 (C.F. Adams ed. 1856).
Watching the first two episodes of the HBO special “John Adams” on Sunday night, I was surprised to hear this passage, which I had set up to run this week, being quoted (it is temporally displaced, though only slightly, in the HBO narrative). Most Hollywood treatments of historical subjects are shlocky nonsense. But this miniseries, or at least what I have seen of it so far, shows a sort of gritty realism that allows the words and deeds of the Founding Fathers to transcend their circumstances in a still more compelling fashion. HBO offers us a lot of calorie-free entertainment, but with “John Adams” it is offering food for the mind and the soul, and the offering could not be better timed.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:
Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.
A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”