Lately I’ve been reading David McCullough’s John Adams, upon which the recent HBO series was based. Although I won’t write a review yet (I haven’t quite finished it), some interesting observations can be drawn from this era of history.
As I read the comments in letters and writings of individuals like John Adams, Abigail Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Rush and others, I found myself reading sentiments of modern proportions.
Devaluation of money, excessive national debt, wartime alliances, and visions of America for centuries to come and not just as a mere 13 British colonies. After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, men and women worried about America’s acceptance with the British, if we were to be continually their enemy or treat for total peace and recognition. Whether America would be a collection of very loosely confederated, nearly autonomous states, a pure, overwhelming national state with a central government, or united in balance under state and federal establishments.
Policies and Politics
Mud was slung between politicians and between factions. Republicans (at that early stage) stood for continuous revolutions and applauded the bloody, messy French Revolution, while Federalists looked to a strongly central government.
These positions would switch back and forth between liberal and conservative parties through the centuries. Today a less empowered federal government is the aim of conservatives while liberals yearn for a highly centralized, intensively regulated state.
Adams worried about America’s future with dire forebodings about the continual practice of slavery. Constant was his worry about how the new nation would be received in Europe and if it would or should get involved in the wars of that continent.
Past and Present
This is how history affects us. The same worries tie us to an era whose daily life is so very different from our own. The industrial revolution had not yet begun in earnest and everyday life was much as it had been for thousands of years.
You traveled by horse, your house was unplumbed, electricity was a gleam in Benjamin Franklin’s eye, and cooking was done over an open wood fire!
And yet, the human yearning for liberty is not sequestered by physical environment. Despite the differences of our dress, manner, speech, and abode, we all still cling to the hope of freedom – to live a free and virtuous life full of opportunity.
For more on this, please read The Declaration of Independence.
– Amanda Stiver