The Treaty of Paris

On 3 September 1783, delegates from the United States of America and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the American Revolutionary War. Artist Benjamin West planned to complete a painting of the historic moment, but the British delegation refused to pose, so that gives you an idea of how bitter they were about all this. The treaty ceded all 13 original colonies … Continue reading The Treaty of Paris

Good Christmas, Bad Christmas

In 1777, in the midst of the American Revolution, General George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, PA to camp for the winter. For many of them, it was the worst Christmas ever. Inadequate clothing and supplies, coupled with wet weather, meant the men were underfed, cold, and oftentimes sick. As many as 2,000 men are said to have died … Continue reading Good Christmas, Bad Christmas

Benedict Arnold

Happy birthday to Benedict Arnold! One of history’s most famous turncoats was born on January 14, 1741 into a prominent family in Connecticut. Arnold was originally supposed to take up a career in trade, but in 1757 he joined the provincial militia to fight against the French in the French and Indian Wars. He only served 13 days, though the reasons for him leaving are … Continue reading Benedict Arnold


Oh, it’s on now! On October 26, 1775 King George III stood up in front of Parliament and declared the American colonies in rebellion. He then went on to authorize a military response to squash the nascent American Revolution. Things had been, well, tense between Britain and its colonies for some time before the 1770s. Britain spent nearly the whole 18th century at war, and … Continue reading Rebels

John Adams: Peacefield

Previously on John Adams: John got to be president, which ended up being an exhausting, endless fight, so he more or less willingly handed the position off to Jefferson and headed home, a private citizen once more.

It’s 1803, and John’s at his bucolic home, Peacefield. Dr. Rush arrives and is happily greeted by John, who thanks him for coming as he shows him upstairs to Nabby’s room. Seems the daughter of the house is having a health crisis. Rush sits down with his new patient and John and Abigail excuse themselves, closing the door behind them. Once they’re alone, Rush asks Nabby to tell him what’s bothering her. She informs him she feels a lump in one breast that pains her. Oh, dear God. Early 19th century breast cancer?! Yikes!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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