The House of Burgesses

Hurrah for democracy! On July 30, 1619, the House of Burgesses met for the first time in Jamestown, Virginia. It was the first assembly of English colonists in North America and would eventually become the Virginia House of Delegates, the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly. The House of Burgesses was formed after the Virginia Company made some major changes to the colony. Namely, … Continue reading The House of Burgesses

John Adams: Unite or Die

Previously on John Adams: John and Abigail reunited and spent a few years in Europe, then returned home to find their oldest son in a relationship they don’t approve of and their second son well on his way to having a drinking problem. And then John got elected Vice President.

John is with the congress, trying to decide how Washington will be addressed. He thinks just calling him ‘president’ isn’t impressive enough. The congress is impatient but John won’t yield the floor. He proposes several methods of addressing Washington, almost all of them royalty related, aside from the last, “his excellency, the supreme commander in chief.” One of the congressmen (actually, I guess they’re senators and John’s acting in his capacity as president of the senate) reminds John that their constitution explicitly forbids the granting of titles of nobility. John says this is no such thing, it’s just a title that goes along with an elected position. They call for a vote, and only one guy is in favor of the president being referred to as “his highness.” Motion failed. One of the senators rudely pokes fun at John as they get up to leave and he just looks frustrated and defeated. Vice president is such a thankless job, isn’t it?

Continue reading “John Adams: Unite or Die”

John Adams: Reunion

Previously on John Adams: John was sent abroad to try and get money and support for the war, which he failed pretty spectacularly at, though he put in a good effort. Then, while he was in the Netherlands, the war ended.

John’s still in his sickbed, but he’s well enough to stumble to the door when someone knocks. His visitor happily tells him the British have surrendered, which amazes John, though he doesn’t seem to have the energy to get excited about it. After the news sinks in, he starts to cry and kisses the messenger’s hand.

Once he’s up and about, he meets with two of the businessmen from the last episode, who are now happy to lend $2 million to the new United States, at a 5% interest rate. John’s pleased with that and thanks them excitedly. One of the men exposits that John will be leaving soon, and he picks up the thread and explains he’ll be heading back to Paris to oversee the wording of their treaty with the British.

Continue reading “John Adams: Reunion”

John Adams: Don’t Tread on Me

Previously on John Adams: The colonies banded together and started to produce a real army, under Washington’s charge. John decided it was time to cut the cord with the mother country and declare independence, and with Franklin’s and Jefferson’s help, he managed to convince the other delegates to go along with him. On the homefront, in an attempt to protect the kids from smallpox, Abigail…nearly killed one of them with smallpox.

The Adams farm is buried under snow. John and Abigail stroll through, chatting. She exposits that the British have taken Philadelphia and that they’ve been married 14 years, only half of which they’ve actually spent living together. That sucks. Or maybe it’s the key to a successful marriage, who knows? It definitely led to some great extent letters between these two.

It’s now 1777. That night, John gently breaks the news to Abby that he’s leaving, meeting with the congress in New York. Well, that’s a little closer to Massachusetts than Philadelphia, isn’t it? You know what isn’t closer? France, which is where he’s likely to go next, to help Franklin secure French aid in the American cause. Abigail is not on board with that idea at all. She forcefully tells him he’s needed at home, because his kids need a dad and she needs a husband. Fair enough. But she knows there are bigger issues at stake, so after a tearful interlude, she asks him how long he’ll be gone. He has no idea. Bad sign.

Continue reading “John Adams: Don’t Tread on Me”

John Adams: Independence

I realize I should have had this up yesterday, but the thing is, my husband and I just spent the weekend moving from New Jersey to Georgia, and I was just too knackered to sit down and fight with our new cable setup and get a recap up. I’m sorry. I’ll try to be less lazy in the future.

Anyway, previously on John Adams: Boston lawyer John Adams just wanted to run his law practice and enjoy his family, but then the British started making trouble and treating the colonies like an endless ATM, so he reluctantly agreed to join the Continental Congress gathering in Philadelphia.

We open with the congress in Philadelphia, and…it’s about as boring as anything you see on CSPAN today, so it’s good to see that some things never change. One of the reps is blathering on while everyone else, John included, struggles to stay awake. The speaker proposes the colonies stop importing or exporting anything from or to Britain and that they prepare a nice little note for the king to read. John and Sam snark away about the futility of these steps and the speaker glares at them before stepping down. The congress is adjourned and John takes a minute to complain to Sam that the congress has achieved nothing, which is pretty much what he anticipated when he joined up, isn’t it?

Continue reading “John Adams: Independence”

John Adams: Join or Die

With Independence Day right around the corner and all, I thought this was a good time to turn my attention to my own country’s history for a change. And since John Adams seems to be pretty much the only founding father with a decent miniseries detailing his involvement in the founding of the United States, that’s who I’m going with.

This miniseries basically had no choice but to be good. It’s got a great cast full of “hey, look who it is!” types, it’s based on the book by David McCullough, backed by Tom Hanks, written by Graham Yost (who did such a great job with Band of Brothers and The Pacific), and directed by Tom Hooper, who most recently helmed The King’s Speech. I think this crew would have been hard pressed to put out a crappy product, and thankfully, they didn’t. The American Revolution has never really been my historical period of choice, but this miniseries might have changed my mind. I loved it. I keep watching it (obviously), and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for one of our crankier founding fathers.

Boston, 1770. We meet our man on the cold, snowy road, riding along, slumped in the saddle, looking tired and cold. He passes a recruitment poster that says “Join or Die”, as well as two skeletons strung up with signs that say “Tory” around their necks. He barely gives them a passing glance.

Continue reading “John Adams: Join or Die”

For Glory, God, and Gold and the Virginia Company

On April 10, 1606, King James I granted a royal charter to the Virginia Company of London, granting the company permission to start colonizing Virginia and the areas surrounding it. It also explicitly granted permission to dig and mine for precious metals, and demanded that 1/5 of any gold or silver and 1/15 of any copper extracted would automatically be given to the crown. Company … Continue reading For Glory, God, and Gold and the Virginia Company

Mildred Pierce: Part II

Welcome back to the wonderful world of Mildred Pierce. We rejoin our leading lady loading up pie plates with rocks in her bedroom so she can practice carrying multiple laden dishes. Smart. The lyrics to the no doubt carefully chosen song are “I’m always chasing rainbows, watching clouds passing by,” for those who are interested in such things.

Mildred’s practice is interrupted by the sound of the front door closing and the kids squealing happily. She goes downstairs and finds Bert, who explains he stopped by to pick up a few things he left in his desk. Mildred smiles and invites him to put his feet up for a while. The girls happily fill him in on their doings, and then Vita asks him if he’d like a Scotch, in that very hoity-toity proper way of hers. Bert seems surprised there’s Scotch to be had, considering it’s illegal and all, but he says he’s cool with a drink, so Mildred, her smile getting tight, goes to fetch it.

Continue reading “Mildred Pierce: Part II”

Mildred Pierce: Part I

Now that they’ve conquered the 1920’s with Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s decided to move on to the ‘30’s, and they made the rather gutsy decision to do Mildred Pierce, a novel that already has a classic movie version starring Joan Crawford, who won an Academy Award for the role. HBO countered that by bringing their own Oscar winner—Kate Winslet, and stuffing the rest of the cast with other highly respected actors (including recent winner Melissa Leo, who plays one of my favorite characters). It’s early days yet, so it’s hard to tell if this version treats the source material better than the 1945 film. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Moody music plays against an art-deco background that looks a bit like stylized sunbeams. Interestingly, the supporting players are all introduced before Winslet and the title. They come at the very end of the credits, in big, bold letters.

Continue reading “Mildred Pierce: Part I”

Leading the Way to Independence

It’s the Ides of March! Aside from being the date Julius Caesar learned who his true friends weren’t, this is also the day South Carolina became the first of the 13 colonies to declare independence from Great Britain and set up its own government, in 1776. South Carolina set up its first government under John Rutledge, and on February 5, 1778 it became the first … Continue reading Leading the Way to Independence