Clerk: Mr. Adams! Mr. Adams! There you are. Didn't you hear me call you, Mr. Adams? You could've shouted down something, saved me climbing up four flights. A man that likes to talk as much as you do, I'd think... What do you keep coming up here for, Mr. Adams? Afraid someone's going to steal our bell? Well, don't worry. Been here more than 14 years, and ain't been carried off once. Better get yourself back down to Congress, Mr. Adams. Getting ready to vote, and they said they couldn't settle such an important question without Massachusetts being there.
Adams: I can just imagine. All right, what burning issue are we voting on this time?
Clerk: On whether or not to grant General Washington's request that all members of the Rhode Island Militia be required to wear matching uniforms.
Adams: Oh, good God. I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress. And, by God, I have had this Congress. For 10 years, King George and his parliament have gulled, cullied and diddled these colonies with their illegal taxes. Stamp Acts, Townshend Acts, Sugar Acts, Tea Acts. And when we dared stand up like men, they have stopped our trade, seized our ships, blockaded our ports, burned our towns, and spilled our blood. And still this Congress refuses to grant any of my proposals on independence even so much as the courtesy of open debate. Good God, what in the hell are you waiting for?
Adams: Good God. Consider yourselves fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it.
Adams: Dear God. For one solid year they have been sitting here. A whole year! Doing nothing!
Abigail: John, John Is that you carrying on, John?
Adams: Oh, Abigail, Abigail, I have such a desire to knock heads together.
Abigail: Then why in heaven's name do you stay there? Come home to Boston, John. It's only 300 miles. If you left tonight, you could be here in only eight days.
Adams: How can I do that, Abigail? I'm no further along now than I was when I first came here.
Abigail: I know, my dearest. I know. But that's because you make everything so complicated. It's all quite simple, really.
Adams: Abigail, in my last letter, I wrote you that the king had collected 12,000 German mercenaries to send against us. I asked you to organize the ladies to make saltpeter for gunpowder. Now, have you done as I asked?
Abigail: No, John, I have not.
Adams: Well, why have you not?
Abigail: Because you neglected to tell us how saltpeter is made.
Adams: By treating sodium nitrate with potassium chloride, of course.
Abigail: Oh, yes, of course.
Adams: Will it be done, then?
Abigail: John, I'm afraid we have a more urgent problem.
Adams: More urgent, madam?
Abigail: Hurry home, John.
Adams: As soon as I'm able.
Abigail: Don't stop writing. It's all I have.
Adams: Every day, my dearest friend.
Adams: Franklin! Franklin! Where in hell are you? Franklin! I see you hiding behind that tree. It won't do you any good. Damn it, this is no time for playing games. Franklin, I have been looking everywhere for you. Where in God's name have you been?
Franklin: Right here, John, being preserved for posterity. Do you like it?
Adams: It stinks.
Franklin: As ever, the soul of tact.
Adams: Well, the man's no Botticelli.
Franklin: And the subject's no Venus.
Adams: Franklin, where were you last night when I needed you? You should have heard what I suffered in there.
Franklin: I heard, all right. Along with the rest of Philadelphia. Lord, your voice is piercing, John.
Adams: Well, I wish to heaven my arguments were. My God, Franklin, when are they going to make up their minds? With one hand they can raise an army, dispatch one of their own to lead it, and cheer the news from Bunker's Hill. And with the other, they wave the olive branch, begging the king for a happy and permanent reconciliation. Fat George has declared us in rebellion. Why in bloody hell can't they?
Franklin: John, really? You talk as if independence were the rule. It's never been done before. No colony has ever broken from the parent stem in the history of the world.
Adams: Damn it, Franklin, you make us sound treasonous.
Franklin: Do I? Treason, eh? Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers.
Adams: I have more to do than stand here, listening to you quote yourself.
Franklin: No, that was a new one.
Adams: Damn it, Franklin, we're at war.
Franklin: To defend ourselves, nothing more. We expressed our displeasure, the English moved against us, and we in turn have resisted. Now our fellow congressmen want to effect a reconciliation before it becomes a war.
Adams: Reconciliation, my ass. The people want independence.
Franklin: The people have read Mr. Paine's Common Sense. I doubt very much Congress has.
Adams: That's true.
Franklin: John, why don't you give it up? Nobody listens to you. You're obnoxious and disliked.
Adams: I'm not promoting John Adams. I'm promoting independence.
Franklin: Evidently, they cannot help connecting the two. Even your own cousin. And if Sam Adams can't put up with you, nobody can.
Adams: You're getting at something.
Franklin: How can you tell?
Adams: All right, out with it, Franklin. What new intrigue are you cooking up?
Franklin: Let someone else in Congress propose.
Adams: Never! Why? Who did you have in mind?
Franklin: I don't know. I really haven't given it much thought.
Lee: You sent for me, Benjamin?
Lee: Hello, Johnny!
Franklin: Uh, Johnny and I need some advice.
Lee: If it's mine to give, it's yours, you know that.
Franklin: Thank you, Richard. As you know, the cause that we support has come to a complete standstill. Now why do you suppose that is?
Lee: Simple. Johnny here is obnoxious and disliked.
Franklin: That's true. Now, what's the solution, I wonder?
Lee: Get somebody else in Congress to propose.
Franklin: Oh, Richard, that's brilliant. Wasn't that brilliant, John?
Franklin: Yes. Now the question remains, who can it be? The man that we need must belong to a delegation publicly committed to support independence. And at the present time, only Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Delaware have declared our way.
Lee: And Virginia. Don't forget Virginia, Benjy.
Franklin: Oh, Richard, I haven't. How could I? But strictly speaking, while Virginia's views on independence are well known, your legislature in Williamsburg has never formally authorized its delegation here in Congress to support the cause. Now, if we could think of a Virginian with enough influence to go down there and persuade the House of Burgesses...
Lee: Damn me if I haven't thought of someone!
Franklin: Oh, why didn't I think of that?
Lee: I'll leave tonight. Why, hell, I'll leave right now, if you like. I'll just stop off in Stratford long enough to refresh the missus, and then straight to the matter. Yes, sir. I really have to compliment you on your judgment, Johnny. Whoa, boy. Steady. You've come to the one colony that can get the job done. Virginia, the land that gave us our glorious Commander in Chief, George Washington, will now give the continent its proposal on independence. And when Virginia proposes, the South is bound to follow. And where the South goes, the middle colonies go. Gentlemen, a salute. To Virginia, the mother of American independence.
Adams: Incredible. We're free, and he hasn't even left yet. What makes you so sure you can do it?
Adams: God help us.
Franklin: He will, John. He will.
Hall: Uh, excuse me.
Hall: I'm Dr. Lyman Hall, the new delegate from Georgia.
Clerk: I'm Andrew McNair, congressional custodian. If you'll be wanting anything at all, just holler out "McNair" as all the others do and there won't be too long to wait.
Hall: Where does the Georgia delegation belong?
Clerk: Oh, they mill about over there in that corner, near the two Carolinas.
Hall: It's after 10:00. I was told Congress convenes at 10:00.
Clerk: Well, they'll be wandering in any time now, sir, with Old Grape and Guts leading the pack.
Hall: Old who?
Clerk: Grape and Guts.
Hopkins: 'Nair! Fetch me a rum.
Clerk: Mr. Hopkins, you'll be pleased to meet Dr. Lyman Hall.
Hopkins: I don't need a doctor, damn it.
Clerk: New delegate from Georgia.
Hopkins: Well, why didn't you say so? I'm Stephen Hopkins, old delegate from Rhode Island. McNair, fetch two rums.
Hall: Oh, I fear it's a little early in the day.
Hopkins: Nonsense. It's a medicinal fact that rum gets a man's heart started in the morning. I'm surprised you didn't know that. Speaking as the oldest man in the Congress, I can tell you...
Clerk: Uh-uh. Ben Franklin is older by almost a year.
Hopkins: Rum! Tell me, Doctor. Where does Georgia stand on the question of independence?
Rutledge: With South Carolina, of course.
Hopkins: Neddy, good morning. Neddy, come over here and shake the hand of Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia. Dr. Hall, this here is Edward Rutledge from... Whichever Carolina he says he's from. God knows I can't keep them straight.
Rutledge: It's a pleasure, Dr. Hall.
Hall: Your servant, Mr. Rutledge.
Hopkins: You've met the long and the short of it now, Doctor. Neddy here is just a lad. He's the youngest of us.
Rutledge: Except for Ben Franklin.
Clerk: Your rum!
Hopkins: Well, where did you go for it, man? Jamaica?
Rutledge: Well, now, come along, Dr. Hall. I know you must be anxious to meet your colleagues from the South. Doctor, may I present to you Joseph Hewes. This is Dr. Lyman Hall, the new delegate from Georgia.
Hall: An honor and a pleasure, gentlemen.
Hewes: Uh, where do you stand on independence, Dr. Hall?
Hall: I'm here without instructions, Mr. Hewes, able to vote my own personal convictions.
Rutledge: And they are?
Rutledge: Now, Dr. Hall, the Deep South speaks with one voice. It's traditional. Even more, it is historical. Enter Delaware. Three juncto in uno.
McKean: Speak plain, Rutledge. You know I can't follow a word of your damn French.
Rutledge: It's Latin, Colonel McKean, a tribute to the eternal peace and harmony of the Delaware delegation.
McKean: What are you saying, man? You know perfectly well that neither Rodney nor I can stand the sight of this louse.
Rodney: Now, Thomas...
Rutledge: Gentlemen, please. This is Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia. Caesar Rodney.
Rodney: An honor, sir.
Rutledge: George Read and Colonel Thomas McKean.
Read: Dr. Hall...Your servant.
Rodney: I wonder if I might speak to you for a moment in private.
Hall: By all means.
Clerk: I'm coming! I'm coming!
Chase: Help me. I'm stuck.
Rodney: Tell me, sir, would you be a doctor of medicine or theology?
Hall: Both, Mr. Rodney. Which one can be of service?
Rodney: By all means, the physician first. Then we shall see about the other.
Hall: I shall call at your convenience, sir.
Dickinson: I trust, Caesar, when you're through converting the poor fellow to independency that you'll give the opposition a fair crack at him.
Rodney: You're too late, John. Once I get them, they're got. Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia, Mr. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania.
Hall: An honor, sir.
Dickinson: Your servant, sir. Tell me, Doctor. Where do you stand on the question of...
Hall: I've no stomach for it.
Dickinson: Ah! Then be careful not to dine with John Adams. Between the fish and the souffle, you'll find yourself hanging from an English rope. Your servant, sir.
Rodney: Oh, Judge Wilson, forgive me, but how can anyone see you if you insist on standing in Mr. Dickinson's shadow? James Wilson, also of Pennsylvania.
Hall: An honor, sir.
Franklin: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning, ladies. Good morning. Steady, steady. Make gangway, sir. Make gangway! Good morning, Mr. Wilson. Good morning. Watch where you're going, damn it. Over there. McNair, get me out of this thing. Watch out for my foot. Good morning, all. Here you are. Two coppers apiece. Now, straight back to jail with you. Good morning, Stephen.
Hopkins: All right, Benjamin.
Franklin: Dear God. What are you staring at? Haven't you ever seen a great man before?
Hall: Good Lord, sir. Do you have the honor to be Dr. Franklin?
Franklin: Yes, I have that honor. Unfortunately, the gout accompanies the honor.
Hopkins: Been living too high again, eh, pappy?
Franklin: Oh, Stephen, I only wish King George felt like my big toe all over.
Hopkins: McNair! Fetch a pillow and two more rums.
Adams: Well, Franklin, where's that idiot Lee? Is he back yet? I don't see him.
Franklin: Softly, John. Your voice is hurting my foot.
Adams: One more day, Franklin. That's how long I'll remain silent, not a minute longer. That strutting popinjay was so damn sure of himself. He's had time to bring back a dozen proposals by now.
Dickinson: Tell me, James. How do you explain the strange, monumental quietude that Congress has been treated to these past 30 days? Has the ill wind of independence finally blown itself out?
Wilson: Well, if you ask me...
Dickinson: For myself, I must confess that a month free from New England noise is more therapeutic than a month in the country. Don't you agree, James?
Wilson: Well, I feel...
Dickinson: Mr. Adams, pray look for your voice, sir. It cannot be far, and God knows we need the entertainment in Congress.
Franklin: Congratulations, John. You just made your greatest contribution to independence. You kept your flap shut.
Adams: One more day, Franklin. Then I shall do the proposing.
Hancock: Gentlemen, the usual morning festivities concluded, I will now call Congress to order. Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: The Second Continental Congress meeting in the city of Philadelphia is now in session. 7 June, 1776, the 380th meeting.
Clerk: Sweet Jesus!
Thomson: The Honorable John Hancock of Massachusetts Bay, president.
Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Thomson. Mr. McNair. The stores of rum and other drinking spirits are hereby closed to the colony of Rhode Island for a period of three days.
Clerk: Yes, sir.
Hopkins: Johnny, you can't do that.
Hancock: Sit down, Mr. Hopkins. You've abused the privilege. The chair would like to take this opportunity to welcome Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia to this Congress, and hopes he will make the best of it. My God, it's hot. The secretary will read the roll.
Thomson: All members present with the following exceptions. "Mr. Paine, Mr. Gerry, Mr. Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, "Mr. Morton of Pennsylvania, "Mr. Wythe and Mr. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia." And the entire delegation of New Jersey.
Hancock: I'm concerned over the continual absence of one-thirteenth of this Congress. Where is New Jersey?
Dickinson: Somewhere between New York and Pennsylvania.
Hancock: Thank you very much. Dr. Franklin, have you heard anything? Your son resides there.
Franklin: Son, sir? What son?
Hancock: The royal governor of New Jersey, sir.
Hancock: As that title might suggest, sir, we are not in touch at the present time.
Hancock: Yes. Well... Now for the weather report, Mr. Jefferson of Virginia. Mr. Jefferson!
Jefferson: Present, sir.
Hancock: May we hear about the weather? As if it weren't speaking for itself.
Jefferson: Eighty-seven degrees of temperature, thirty-point-aught-six inches of mercury. Wind... From the southwest for the rest of the day. And tonight... Tonight I'm leaving for home.
Hancock: On business?
Jefferson: Family business.
Hopkins: Give her a flourish for me, young feller.
Thomson: "From the Commander, army of the United Colonies to New York, "dispatch number 1, 137."
Clerk: Ah, sweet Jesus!
Thomson: "To the Honorable Congress, John Hancock, president. Dear sir, it is with grave apprehension that I have learned this day of the sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, of a considerable force of British troops in the company of foreign mercenaries and under the command of General Sir William Howe. There can be no doubt that their destination is New York, for to take and hold this city and the Hudson Valley beyond would serve to separate New England from the rest of the colonies, permitting both sections to be crushed in turn. Sadly, I see no way of stopping them at the present time, as my army is absolutely falling apart. My military chest is totally exhausted. My commissary general has strained his credit to the last. My quartermaster has no food, no arms, no ammunition, and my troops are in a state of near mutiny. I pray God some relief arrives "before the armada, but fear it will not. Your obedient, G. Washington."
McKean: Mr. President!
Hancock: Colonel McKean.
McKean: Surely we have managed to promote the gloomiest man on this continent to the head of our troops. Those dispatches are the most depressing accumulation of disaster, doom and despair in the entire annals of military history.
Hancock: Colonel McKean, please!
Hancock: It's too hot.
McKean: Well, I suppose so.
Hancock: General Washington will continue wording his dispatches as he sees fit. And I'm sure we all pray he finds happier thoughts to convey in the near future. Are there any resolutions?
Bartlett: "Resolved, that for the duration of the present hostilities, the Congress discourage every type of extravagance and dissipation, elaborate funerals and other expensive diversions, especially all horse racing, gambling, and other forms of sinful activity, which..."
Clerk: Fire wagon!
Congressmen: Where's the fire? Can anybody tell? Looks like the Pemberton House. It couldn't be. It's brand new.
Sherman: It might be the city tavern.
Hopkins: Bite your tongue, man.
Lee: Whoo-hoo! Benjy, I'm back! I'm back, Johnny!
Franklin: Richard, lad, welcome back.
Adams: Lee, is it done?
Lee: First things first. Tom! Tom! Tom, your little bride wants to know, "When's he coming home?"
Jefferson: I leave tonight.
Adams: Never mind that, man. Is it done?
Lee: Done? Why, certain-Lee. Mr. President, I have returned from Virginia with the following resolution, "Resolved, that these united colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
Adams: Mr. President, I second the proposal.
Hancock: The resolution has been proposed and seconded. The chair will now entertain debate. Mr. Dickinson.
Dickinson: Mr. President. Pennsylvania moves, as always, that the question of independence be postponed indefinitely.
Wilson: I second the motion.
Hancock: Judge Wilson, in your eagerness to be loved, you seem to have forgotten that Pennsylvania cannot second its own motion.
Read: Delaware seconds.
McKean: You would, you lousy wart.
Hancock: The motion to postpone has been moved and seconded. Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: On the motion to postpone indefinitely the resolution on independency or proceed with the debate, all those in favor of debate say "yea," all those for postponement say "nay." New Hampshire?
Bartlett: New Hampshire favors debate, and says yea.
Thomson: New Hampshire says yea. Massachusetts?
Adams: Massachusetts, having borne the brunt of the King's tyranny... Yes, I said tyranny! Massachusetts now, and for all time, says yea.
Clerk: Rhode Island is out visiting the necessary.
Hancock: After what Rhode Island's consumed, I can't say I'm surprised. We'll come back to him, Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: Rhode Island passes. Connecticut?
Sherman: While Connecticut has, till now, been against this proposal, our legislature has instructed me that in the event it is introduced by any colony outside of New England, we could not any longer withhold our support. Connecticut says yea.
Thomson: Connecticut says yea. New York?
Morris: New York abstains courteously.
Thomson: New York abstains.
Thomson: New Jersey?
Hancock: Absent, Mr. Secretary.
Thomson: New Jersey's absent. Pennsylvania?
Dickinson: Pennsylvania, for the 24th time, says nay.
Thomson: Pennsylvania says nay. Delaware?
Rodney: Delaware, as ever for independence, says yea.
Thomson: Delaware says yea. Maryland?
Chase: Maryland would welcome independence if it were given, but is highly skeptical that it can be taken. Maryland says nay.
Thomson: Maryland says nay. Virginia?
Lee: Virginia, the first colony, says yea!
Thomson: Virginia says yea. North Carolina?
Hewes: North Carolina respectfully yields to South Carolina.
Thomson: South Carolina?
Rutledge: Mr. President, although we of South Carolina have never seriously considered the question of independence, when a gentleman proposes it, attention must be paid. However, we in the Deep South, unlike our friends in New England, have no cause for impatience at the present time. If at some future date it becomes the wish of all our sister colonies, to effect a separation, we will not stand in the way. But for the time being, South Carolina will wait and watch. The vote is nay.
Hewes: North Carolina...
Thomson: Says nay. Yes, Mr. Hewes. I know. Georgia.
Hall: Mr. President, Georgia seems to be split right down the middle on this issue. The people are against it, and I'm for it. However, I'm afraid I'm not quite certain whether representing the people means relying on their judgment or on my own. In all fairness, until I can figure that out, I'd better lean a little on their side. Georgia says nay.
Thomson: Rhode Island? Second call, Rhode Island!
Clerk: Rhode Island!
Hopkins: I'm coming! I'm coming! Hold your damn horses.
Thomson: We're waiting on you, Mr. Hopkins.
Hopkins: Well, it won't kill you. You'd think the Congress would have its own privy. All right, where does she stand?
Thomson: Five for debate, five for postponement, one abstention and one absence.
Hopkins: So it's up to me, huh? Well, I'll tell you. In all my years, I never seen, heard nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell, yes! I'm for debating anything. Rhode Island says yea.
Hancock: McNair, get Mr. Hopkins a rum.
Clerk: But you said...
Hancock: Get him the whole damn barrel if he wants. The chair now declares this Congress a committee of the whole for the purpose of debating Virginia's resolution on independence. Mr. Dickinson.
Dickinson: Well, now, you've got your way at last, Mr. Adams. The matter may now be discussed. I confess I'm almost relieved. There's a question I've been fairly itching to ask you. Why?
Adams: Why what, Mr. Dickinson?
Dickinson: Well, why independence, Mr. Adams?
Adams: Well, for the obvious reason that our continued association with Great Britain has grown intolerable.
Dickinson: Well, to whom, Mr. Adams? To you? Well, then I suggest you sever your ties immediately. But please be kind enough to leave the rest of us where we are. For myself, I have no objection at all to being part of the greatest empire on Earth, to enjoying its protection and sharing its benefits.
Adams: Benefits? What benefits? Crippling taxes? Cruel repressions? Abolished rights?
Dickinson: Is that all England means to you, sir? Is that all the pride and affection you can muster for the nation that bore you? For the noblest, most civilized nation on the face of this planet? Well, would you have us forsake Hastings and Magna Carta, Strongbow and Lionheart, Drake and Marlborough, Tudors, Stuarts and Plantagenets? For what, sir? Well, tell me. For what? For you? Some men are patriots, like General Washington, and some are anarchists, like Mr. Paine. Some even are internationalists, like Dr. Franklin. But you, sir... You are merely an agitator, disturbing the peace, creating disorder, endangering the public welfare. And for what? Your petty little personal complaints. Your taxes are too high. Well, sir, so are mine. Come, come, Mr. Adams. If you have grievances, and I'm sure you have, our present system must provide a gentler means of redressing them short of revolution. Yes, that's what he wants. Nothing less will satisfy him. Violence, rebellion, treason. Now, Mr. Adams, are these the acts of Englishmen?
Adams: Not Englishmen, Dickinson. Americans.
Dickinson: No, sir. Englishmen!
Franklin: Please, Mr. Dickinson, must you start banging? How is a man to sleep?
Dickinson: Forgive me, Dr. Franklin, but must you start speaking? How is a man to stay awake? We'll promise to be quiet, sir. I'm sure everyone prefers that you remain asleep.
Franklin: If I'm to hear myself called an Englishman, sir, I assure you I prefer I'd remained asleep.
Dickinson: Oh, now, what's so terrible about being called an Englishman? The English don't seem to mind.
Franklin: Nor would I, were I given the full rights of an Englishman. But to call me one without those rights is like calling an ox a bull. He's thankful for the honor, but he'd much rather have restored what's rightfully his.
Dickinson: When did you first notice they were missing, sir? Fortunately, the people of these colonies maintain a higher regard for their mother country.
Franklin: Higher, certainly, than she feels for them. Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and so recklessly managed than this entire continent by the British Crown. Our industry discouraged, our resources pillaged. Worst of all, our very character stifled. We've spawned a new race here, Mr. Dickinson. Rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, less refined. We're a new nationality. We require a new nation.
Dickinson: Well, that may be your opinion, Dr. Franklin, but, as I said, the people feel quite differently.
Adams: Now, what do you know about the people, Dickinson? You don't speak for the people. You represent only yourself. And that precious status quo you keep imploring the people to preserve for their own good is nothing more than the eternal preservation of your own property.
Dickinson: Mr. Adams, you have an annoying talent for making such delightful words as "property" sound quite distasteful. In heaven's name, what's wrong with property? Perhaps you've forgotten that many of us first came to these shores in order to secure rights to property, and that we hold these rights no less dear than the rights you speak of.
Adams: Yes. So safe, so fat, so comfortable in Pennsylvania.
Dickinson: And what is this independence of yours except the private grievance of Massachusetts? Why is it always Boston that breaks the King's peace? My dear Congress, you must not adopt this evil measure. It is the work of the devil. Leave it where it belongs. In New England.
Sherman: Brother Dickinson, New England has been fighting the devil for more than 100 years.
Dickinson: And as of now, Brother Sherman, the devil has been winning hands down. Why, at this very moment, he's sitting right here in this Congress. Don't let him deceive you. This proposal is entirely his doing. It may bear Virginia's name, but it reeks of Adams, Adams and more Adams. Look at him. Ready to lead this continent down the fiery path of total destruction.
Adams: Oh, good God! Why can't you acknowledge what already exists? It has been more than a year since Concord and Lexington. Damn it, man, we're at war, right now!
Dickinson: You may be at war. You, Boston and John Adams. But you will never speak for Pennsylvania.
Read: Nor for Delaware.
Rodney: Mr. Read, you represent only one-third of Delaware.
Read: The sensible third, Mr. Rodney.
McKean: Sit down, you scurvy dog, or I'll knock you down.
Hancock: Sit down, all three of you! McNair Do something about these flies!
Hopkins: McNair!! Fetch me a rum
Hancock: Get rid of the dog.
Clerk: I only got two hands
Hancock: Christ, it's hot! Please do go on, gentlemen. You're making the only breeze in Philadelphia.
Rutledge: Mr. Adams, perhaps you could clear up something for me? After we have achieved independence, who do you propose would govern in South Carolina?
Adams: The people, of course.
Rutledge: Which people, sir? The people of South Carolina or the people of Massachusetts?
Hopkins: Why don't you admit it, Neddy? You're against independence now and you always will be.
Rutledge: Gentlemen, you refuse to understand us. We desire independence. Yes. For South Carolina. That is our country. And as such, we don't wish to belong to anyone. Not to England and not to you.
Adams: We intend to have one nation, Rutledge.
Rutledge: A nation of sovereign states, Mr. Adams. United for our mutual protection, but separate for our individual pursuits. Now, that is what we have understood it to be, and that is what we will support. As soon as everyone supports it.
Wilson: Well, there you are, Mr. Adams. You must see that we need time. Time to make certain who we are and where we stand in regard to one another. For if we do not determine the nature of the beast before we set it free, it will end by consuming us all.
Adams: For once in your life, Wilson, take a chance. I say the time is now. It may never come again.
Hewes: Your clock is fast, Mr. Adams. I say we're not yet ripe for independence.
Hopkins: Not ripe? Hell, we're rotting for want of it.
Chase: Gentlemen, please, what in God's name is the infernal hurry? Why must this question be settled now?
Rodney: What's wrong with now, Mr. Chase?
Chase: General Washington is in the field. If he's defeated, as it now appears, we'll be inviting the hangman. But if, by some miracle, he should actually win, we can then declare anything we damn please.
Hewes: The sentiments of North Carolina precisely.
Adams: Has it ever occurred to either of you that an army needs something to fight for in order to win? A purpose? A goal? A flag of its own?
Chase: Mr. Adams, how can a nation of only 2 million souls stand up to an empire of 10 million? Think of it. 10 million. How do we compensate for that shortage?
Franklin: It's simple, Mr. Chase. Increase and multiply.
Chase: How's that?
Adams: We will more than compensate with spirit. I tell you, there is a spirit out there among the people that is sadly lacking in this Congress.
Dickinson: Yes, of course. Now it's spirit. Well, why didn't I think of that? No army, no navy, no arms, no ammunition, no treasury, no friends, but, bless our soul, spirit. Mr. Lee, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Rodney, Colonel McKean, Dr. Franklin. Why have you joined this incendiary little man, this Boston radical, this agitator, this demagogue, this madman?
Adams: Are you calling me a madman, you... You fribble! You and your Pennsylvania proprietors, oh, you cool, considerate men, you hang to the rear on every issue, so that if we should go under, you'll still remain afloat.
Dickinson: Are you calling me a coward?
Adams: Yes. Coward!
Rodney: Stop it! Stop it! This is the Congress. Stop it, I say! The enemy's out there.
Dickinson: No, Mr. Rodney, the enemy is here.
Rodney: No. I say he's out there. England. England closing in, cutting off our air. There's no time! No air.
McKean: Dr. Hall.
Hall: Colonel McKean.
McKean: Aye. It's the cancer.
Hall: But he should go home.
Rodney: A man should die in his own bed. John. John Adams.
Adams: I'm here, Caesar.
Rodney: I leave you a divided Delaware. Forgive me.
McKean: I'll take you home, Caesar. I'll be back within the week.
Rutledge: Mr. President, South Carolina calls the question.
Hancock: What's that, Mr. Rutledge?
Rutledge: I said, Mr. President, South Carolina desires to end the debate and calls the question of independence.
Read: Delaware seconds.
Supporters of Independence: No You can’t do that
Hancock: Gentlemen, please! The question has been called and seconded. The secretary will record the vote.
Adams: Franklin, do something. Think.
Franklin: I'm thinking, but nothing's coming.
Thomson: All those in favor of the resolution on independence as proposed by the colony of Virginia, signify by saying...
Franklin: Mr. Secretary. Will you please read the resolution again? I've forgotten it.
Thomson: "Resolved, that these united colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent..."
Witherspoon: Excuse me. Is this the Continental Congress? Yes, I can see that it must be. It's all right. We found it. We've been looking for you everywhere, you see. Someone told us that you might be at Carpenters' Hall and someone else suggested Library Hall, and... So, finally, we asked a constable...
Hancock: Excuse me, sir, but, if you don't mind, the Congress is about to decide the question of American independence.
Witherspoon: Oh, how splendid. That means we're not too late. These gentlemen are Mr. Francis Hopkinson, Mr. Richard Stockton, and I'm the Reverend John Witherspoon. We're the new delegates from New Jersey. Dr. Franklin, I regret that I must be the bearer of unhappy tidings, sir, but your son, the royal governor of New Jersey, has been taken prisoner and has been moved under guard to the colony of Connecticut for safekeeping.
Franklin: Is he unharmed, sir?
Witherspoon: When last I heard, he was. Yes, sir.
Franklin: Well, then why the long face? I hear Connecticut is an excellent location. Tell me. Why did they arrest the little bastard?
Witherspoon: Our, uh... New Jersey legislature has recalled the old delegation to this Congress and has sent a new one.
Adams: Quickly, man, where do you stand on independence?
Witherspoon: Well, haven't I made that clear? No. Well, I suppose I haven't. But that's the reason for the change. See, we've been instructed to vote for independence.
Adams: Mr. President! Massachusetts is now ready for the vote on independence, and reminds the chair of its privilege to decide all votes that are deadlocked.
Hancock: I won't forget, Mr. Adams. The chair takes this opportunity to welcome the New Jersey delegation and appoints the Reverend Witherspoon congressional chaplain if he will accept the post.
Witherspoon: With much pleasure, sir.
Hancock: Very well. Mr. Thomson, you may now proceed with the vote on independence.
Thomson: All in favor of the resolution on independence as proposed by the colony of Virginia, signify by saying...
Dickinson: Mr. President. Pennsylvania moves that any vote in favor of independence must be unanimous.
Wilson: I second the motion.
Hancock: Judge Wilson!
Wilson: Oh, my God.
Read: Delaware seconds, Mr. President.
Adams: No vote has ever had to be unanimous, Dickinson, and you know it.
Dickinson: Yes, but this one must be.
Adams: On what grounds?
Dickinson: That no colony be torn from its mother country without its own consent.
Rutledge: Hear! Hear!
Adams: But it will never be unanimous, damn it.
Dickinson: If you say so, Mr. Adams.
Thomson: It has been moved and seconded, that the vote on independence must be unanimous in order to carry. All those in favor, signify by saying yea. One, two, three, four, five, six. Six colonies say yea. Against? One, two, three, four, five, six. Six colonies say nay.
Morris: Mr. Secretary, New York abstains courteously.
Hancock: Mr. Morris, why does New York constantly abstain? Why doesn't New York simply stay in New York? Very well. The vote is tied. The principles of independence have no greater advocate in Congress than its president. That is why I must join those who vote for unanimity.
Adams: Good God, John! What are you doing? You've sunk us.
Hancock: Now, hear me out. Don't you see that any colony who opposes independence will be forced to fight on the side of England? That we'll be setting brother against brother, that our new nation will carry as its emblem the mark of Cain. I can see no other way. Either we all walk together, or together we must stay where we are.
Adams: The man's from Massachusetts.
Hancock: Very well. Proceed, Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: A unanimous vote being necessary to carry, if any be opposed to the resolution on independence as proposed by the colony of Virginia, signify by...
Adams: Mr. President.
Thomson: Oh, for heaven's sake, let me get through it once.
Adams: Mr. President. I move for a postponement.
Dickinson: I wish you the same luck I had with it.
Franklin: Mr. Adams is right. We need a postponement.
Hancock: On what grounds?
Adams: Mr. President, how can this Congress vote on independence without a written declaration of some sort defining it?
Hancock: What sort of declaration?
Adams: Ah, well, you know, listing the reasons for the separation, our purposes, goals, so forth, so on.
Franklin: Ditto, Ditto.
Adams: Ditto, ditto, et cetera, et cetera.
Hancock: We know those, don't we?
Adams: Oh, yes, good God, we know them, but what about the rest of the world? Certainly we require the assistance of a powerful nation such as France or Spain. And such a written declaration would be consistent with European delicacy.
Chase: Come now, Mr. Adams. You'll have to do better than that. Answer straight. What would be its purpose?
Adams: Yes. Well...
Jefferson: To place before mankind the common sense of the subject in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.
Dickinson: Mr. Jefferson, are you seriously suggesting that we publish a paper declaring to all the world that an illegal rebellion is, in reality, a legal one?
Franklin: Mr. Dickinson, I'm surprised at you. You should know that rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as "our rebellion." It's only in the third person, "their rebellion," that it is illegal.
Franklin: Mr. President, I second the motion to postpone the vote on independence for a period of time sufficient for the writing of a declaration.
Hancock: It has been moved and seconded. Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: All those in favor of the motion to postpone, signify by saying yea. One, two, three, four, five, six. Six colonies say yea. Against? One, two, three, four, five, six. Six colonies say nay.
Morris: Mr. Secretary, New York abstains courteously.
Hancock: Mr. Morris, what in hell goes on in New York?
Morris: I'm sorry, Mr. President, but the simple fact is that our legislature has never sent us explicit instructions on anything.
Hancock: Never? That's impossible.
Morris: Mr. President, have you ever been present at a meeting of the New York legislature? They speak very fast and very loud, and nobody listens to anybody else with the result that nothing ever gets done. I beg the Congress' pardon.
Hancock: My sympathies, Mr. Morris. The vote again being tied, the chair decides in favor of postponement. So ruled. A committee will now be formed to manage the declaration. Said document to be written, debated, approved by the beginning of July, some three weeks hence. At which time, Virginia's resolution on independence will finally be voted. Is that clear? Very well. Will the following gentlemen serve on the Declaration Committee, Dr. Franklin?
Hancock: Mr. John Adams?
Hancock: Mr. Sherman? Mr. Livingston?
Hancock: And, of course, Mr. Lee.
Lee: Oh, excuse me, but I must be returning to the sovereign colony of Virginia as I have been asked to serve as governor. And therefore I must decline respectful-Lee.
Hancock: Very well, Mr. Lee, you're excused then. I suppose we could leave it a four-man committee.
Adams: Just a moment. This business needs a Virginian. Therefore I propose a replacement. Mr. Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson: No. Mr. Adams...
Hancock: Very well, Mr. Adams. Mr. Jefferson will serve.
Jefferson: I'm going home, too, to my wife.
Hancock: Move to adjourn!
Adams: I second.
Jefferson: Mr. Hancock, I haven't seen her for six months.
Hancock: Moved and seconded. Any objections?
Jefferson: I have objections. I have lots of objections.
Hancock: So ruled! Congress stands adjourned!
Jefferson: John, I need to see my wife.
Franklin: It's all right. Come along, come along.
Jefferson: No. I'm going home tonight.
Franklin: Of course you are. Of course. McNair, some rum up to my office. Oh, don't worry, Tom. Let me handle it. I'll get Adams to write it.
Jefferson: I don't know. He had a funny look on his face.
Franklin: He always does.
Adams: All right, gentlemen, let's get on with it. Which of us will write our Declaration of Independence?
Jefferson: Damn the man. God damn the man.
Franklin: Sorry. Pardon me, sir.
Adams: Step aside. Step aside.
Franklin: How are you?
Adams: Franklin. Jefferson! What is that racket?
Franklin: Latest thing from Europe, John. It's called music.
Adams: I came here hoping to hear a pen scratching, not a bow. Jefferson! I know you're in there! Ah! Jefferson, are you finished? Well, is it written yet? Well, you've had a whole week, man. Is it done? Can I see it? "There comes a time in the lives of men when it becomes necessary to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto..." This is terrible. Where's the rest of it? Do you mean to say that it is not yet finished?
Jefferson: No, sir. I mean to say that it's not yet begun.
Adams: Good God! A whole week. The entire Earth was created in a week.
Jefferson: Someday you must tell me how you did it.
Adams: Disgusting. Look at him, Franklin. Virginia's most famous lover.
Jefferson: Virginia abstains.
Adams: Well, cheer up, Jefferson. Get out of the dumps. It'll come out all right, I assure you. Now, get back to work. Franklin, tell him to get back to work.
Jefferson: I think he's asleep.
Adams: Wake up, Franklin!
Franklin: Hello! And whose little girl are you? John, who is she?
Adams: His wife. I hope.
Franklin: What makes you think so?
Adams: Because I sent for her.
Franklin: You what?
Adams: Well, it simply occurred to me that the sooner his problem was solved, the sooner our problem is solved.
Franklin: That's good thinking, John. Good thinking.
Adams: Madam, may I present myself? John Adams. Adams. John Adams. Oh, and Dr. Franklin. The inventor of the stove. Jefferson, kindly present me to your wife. She is your wife, isn't she?
Franklin: Well, of course she is. Look at the way they fit. Come along, John, come along.
Adams: Franklin, where are you going?
Franklin: Come along, John.
Adams: Come along where? There's work to be done.
Adams: Good God. You don't mean to say that... I mean, they're not going to... In the middle of the afternoon?
Franklin: Not everybody's from Boston, John.
Franklin: Well, goodbye, John.
Adams: Uh... Uh... Franklin? Have you eaten?
Franklin: Not yet, but...
Adams: I understand the turkey's fresh at Bunch of Grapes.
Franklin: Well, the fact is I have a rendezvous, John. I'd ask you along, but talking makes her nervous.
Adams: Yes, of course. Incredible. Abigail? I'm very lonely, Abigail.
Abigail: Are you, John? As long as you were sending for wives, why didn't you send for your own?
Adams: Oh, now, don't be unreasonable, Abigail.
Abigail: Now I'm unreasonable. You must add that to your list.
Abigail: The catalog of my faults you included in your last letter.
Adams: Oh, they were fondly intended, madam.
Abigail: That I play at cards badly?
Adams: A compliment.
Abigail: That my posture is crooked?
Adams: An endearment.
Abigail: That I read, write and think too much?
Adams: An irony.
Abigail: That I'm pigeon-toed?
Adams: Well, now there you have me, Abby. I'm afraid you are pigeon-toed. Please. Come to Philadelphia. Please come.
Abigail: Oh, thank you, John. I do want to, but you know now it's not possible. The children have the measles. So you wrote. Tom and little Abby.
Abigail: Only now it's Quincy and Charles. And it appears the farm here in Braintree is failing, John. The chickens and the geese have all died. The apples never survived the late frost. How do you suppose she managed to get away?
Adams: Well, the winters are softer in Virginia.
Abigail: And their women, John?
Adams: Fit for Virginians, madam, but pale, puny things beside New England girls.
Abigail: I thank you for that.
Franklin: John? John!
Adams: Hmm? What?
Franklin: What are you doing down here? I thought you'd be up there, cracking the whip.
Adams: Oh, well, the shutters are still closed.
Franklin: My word! So they are. Well, as the French say...
Adams: Oh, please, Franklin! Spare me your bawdy mind first thing in the morning. Dare we call?
Franklin: A congressman dares anything. Go ahead.
Adams: Me? Your voice is more piercing. Oh, John, look at her. Just look at her.
Adams: I am.
Franklin: She's even more magnificent than I remember. Of course, we didn't see much of her front last night. Good morrow, madam.
Adams: Good morrow.
Martha: Is it the habit in Philadelphia for strangers to shout at ladies from the street?
Franklin: Not really, but...
Martha: And for men of your age it is not only unseemly, it is unsightly.
Adams: Uh, excuse me, madam, but we met last evening.
Martha: I spoke to no one last evening.
Franklin: Indeed, you did not. Nonetheless, we did present ourselves. This is Mr. John Adams. I'm Dr. Benjamin Franklin. The inventor of the stove.
Martha: Please! I know your names very well, but... Well, you said you presented yourselves last night?
Franklin: It's of no matter. Your thoughts were well-taken elsewhere.
Martha: Oh. My husband is not yet up.
Franklin: Well, then shall we start over again? Won't you join us?
Martha: Yes, of course.
Franklin: Well, no wonder the man couldn't write. Who would think of independence married to her?
Adams: I feel an absolute fool.
Franklin: That's good for you, John.
Adams: I tell you, Franklin, it's positively indecent.
Franklin: John, they're young and they're in love.
Adams: Not them, Franklin. Us. Standing down here, waiting for them to, uh... Well, what will people think?
Franklin: Don't worry, John. The history books will clean it up.
Adams: Well, it doesn't matter. I'll not appear in the history books anyway. Only you. Franklin did this and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damned thing. Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod then the three of them, Franklin, Washington and the horse, conducted the entire revolution all by themselves.
Franklin: I like it.
Martha: I beg your pardon, gentlemen. It is indeed an honor to meet the two greatest men in America.
Franklin: Certainly the greatest within earshot anyway.
Martha: I'm not an idle flatterer, Dr. Franklin. My husband admires you both greatly.
Franklin: Then we are doubly flattered, for we admire very much that what your husband admires.
Adams: Uh, did you sleep well, madam?
Adams: Oh. Uh... Well, I mean, did you lie comfortably ... Damn it, you know what I mean.
Franklin: Yes, John, we know what you mean. Tell us about yourself. We've heard precious little. What's your first name?
Franklin: Martha! He might at least have told us that. Your husband doesn't say very much.
Adams: Most silent man in Congress. I have never heard him utter three sentences together.
Franklin: Not every man's a talker, John.
Adams: Look! Look, Franklin, he's done it. He's written it. "Dear Mr. Adams, I am taking my wife back to bed. Kindly go away. Your obedient, T. Jefferson." Incredible!
Franklin: You know, perhaps I should have written the declaration after all. At my age, there's little doubt the pen is mightier than the sword. For it's hi-hi-hi-diddle diddle And God bless a man who can fiddle
Adams: And independency
Adams and Franklin: Hi-hi-hi Hi-hi-hi Hi Hi Ya-da-da-da-da Ya-da-da-da-da Through eternity Through eternity He plays the violin He plays the violin
Thomson: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia's absent, and North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. And what follows is a complete and up-to-date list of all the committees of this Congress, now sitting, about to sit or just having sat. “A committee formed to investigate a complaint made against the quality of yeast manufactured by Mr. Henry Pendleton's mill designated as the Yeast Committee. A committee formed to consider the most effective method of dealing with spies "designated as the Spies Committee. A committee formed to think, perhaps to do, but in any case, to gather, to meet, to confer, to talk, and perhaps even to resolve that each rifle regiment be allowed at least one drum and one fife attached to each company, designated as the Drum and Fife Committee. A committee formed to”... Where is that committee?
Franklin: What do you think of it, Doctor? Democracy? What Plato called "a charming form of government "full of variety and disorder." I never knew Plato had been to Philadelphia.
Hopkins: Ben, I want you to see some cards I've gone and had printed up. Ought to save everybody here a lot of time and effort, considering the epidemic of bad disposition that's been going on around here lately "Dear sir, you are, without any doubt, a rogue, a rascal, a villain, a thief, a scoundrel and a mean, dirty, stinking, sniveling, sneaking, pimping, pocket-picking, thrice double-damned no-good son-of-a-bitch." And you sign your name. What do you think?
Franklin: I'll take a dozen right now.
Thomson: A-ha! Here it is. "A committee formed to answer all congressional correspondence, designated as the Congressional Correspondence Committee."
Adams: All right, Franklin, enough socializing. There's work to be done.
Franklin: Good morning, John.
Adams: What? Oh. Good morning, good morning. Now then, let's get to it.
Franklin: Get to what?
Adams: Unanimity, of course. Look at that board. Six nays to win over in little more than a week.
Thomson: "A committee formed to consider the problem of counterfeit money designated as the Counterfeit Money Committee."
Adams: Oh, God! What...
Franklin: All right, John, all right. Where shall we start?
Adams: Well, what about Delaware? Sad thing to see them on the wrong side after all this time. Any news of Rodney?
Franklin: Yes. McKean's back.
Thomson: "A committee formed to study the causes "of our military defeat in Canada."
Adams: Thomas, how did you leave Caesar? Is he still alive?
McKean: Aye, but the journey to Dover was fearful hard on him. He never complained, but I could see the poor man was suffering terrible.
Franklin: But you got him safely home.
McKean: I did, but I doubt he'll ever set foot out of it again.
Adams: That leaves you and Read split down the middle. Will he come over?
McKean: I don't know. He's a stubborn ignoramus.
Adams: Work on him. Keep after him till you wear him down.
McKean: Look, John, face facts, will you? If it were just Read standing in our way, it wouldn't be so bad, but look for yourself, man. Maryland, Pennsylvania and the entire South. It's impossible!
Adams: Well, it's impossible if we all stand around complaining about it. To work, McKean! One foot in front of the other!
Franklin: I believe I put it a better way. Never leave off until tomorrow...
Adams: Shut up, Franklin.
McKean: But what good will it do? You know Dickinson. He'll never give in. And you haven't heard the last of Rutledge either.
Adams: Never mind about them. Your job is George Read. Talk him deaf if you have to, but bring us back Delaware.
McKean: There's a simpler way.
McKean: This'll break the tie.
Franklin: All right, John, who's next?
Thomson: "A committee formed to keep secrets designated as the Secrets Committee."
Adams: Pennsylvania and Maryland. Now, I suggest you try to get your own house into order and I'll take a crack at old bacon-face. Lord, look at him stuff himself. Ah, Mr. Chase! How about it, Chase? When are you coming to your senses, man?
Chase: Please, Mr. Adams, not while I'm eating.
Franklin: Mr. Wilson, sir? It's time to assert yourself. Tell me something. When you were a judge, how in hell did you ever make a decision?
Wilson: The decisions I made were all based on legality and precedence. But there is no legality here and certainly no precedent.
Franklin: Because it's a new idea, you klotz! We'll be setting our own precedent!
Read: No, Mr. McKean. No, no, no!
McKean: Damn your eyes, Read! You come into this world screaming "no," and you're determined to leave it the same way, you slimy worm!
Adams: The Congress is waiting on you, Chase! America is waiting! The whole world is waiting! What's that? Kidney?
Chase: Leave me alone, Mr. Adams! You're wasting your time. If I thought we could win this war, I'd be at the front of your ranks. But you must know it's impossible. You've heard General Washington's dispatches. His army has fallen to pieces.
Adams: Washington is exaggerating the situation in order to arouse this torpid Congress into action. Why, as chairman of the War Committee, I can state for a fact that the army has never been in better shape. Never have troops been more cheerful. Never have soldiers been more resolute. Never have training and discipline been more spirited. Oh, good God.
Hancock: May we have your ears, gentlemen? Mr. Thomson has a dispatch.
Thomson: "From the Commander, army of the United Colonies in New York, dispatch number 1, 157, to the Honorable Congress, John Hancock, president. Dear sir, it is with the utmost despair that I must report to you the disorder and confusion that reign in every department."
Clerk: Oh, sweet Jesus!
Thomson: "The Continental soldier is as nothing ever seen in this or any other century. He is a misfit, ignorant of hygiene, destructive, disorderly and totally disrespectful of rank. Only this last is understandable, as there is an incredible reek of stupidity amongst the officers. The situation is most desperate at the New Jersey training ground in New Brunswick where every able-bodied whore in the...Whore? "In the colonies has assembled. There are constant reports of drunkenness, desertion, foul language, naked bathing in the Raritan River, and an epidemic of the French disease. I have placed this town off-limits to all military personnel with the exception of officers. I beseech the Congress to dispatch the War Committee to this place in the hope of restoring some of the order and discipline we need to survive. Your obedient, G. Washington."
McKean: That man would depress a hyena.
Hancock: Well, Mr. Adams, you're chairman of the War Committee. Do you feel up to whoring, drinking, deserting and New Brunswick?
Witherspoon: There must be some mistake. I have an aunt who lives in New Brunswick.
Dickinson: You must tell her to keep up the good work. Come, come, Mr. Adams. You must see that it's hopeless. Let us recall General Washington and disband the Continental Army before we're overwhelmed.
Adams: Yes, indeed. The English would like that, now, wouldn't they?
Dickinson: Why not ask them yourself? They ought to be here any minute.
Rutledge: And when they hang you, Mr. Adams, I hope you will put in a good word for the rest of us.
Chase: Face facts, Mr. Adams. A handful of drunk and disorderly recruits against the entire British Army, the finest musket men on Earth. How can we win? How can we even hope to survive?
Adams: Answer me straight, Chase. If you thought we could beat the Redcoats, would Maryland say yea to independence?
Chase: Well, I suppose...
Adams: No supposing. Would you or wouldn't you?
Chase: Very well, Mr. Adams. Yes, we would.
Adams: Then come with me to New Brunswick and see for yourself.
McKean: John, are you mad?
Bartlett: You heard what Washington said. It's a shambles.
Hopkins: They're pushing you into it, Johnny!
Adams: What do you say, Chase?
Dickinson: Go ahead, Sam. It sounds lively as hell up there.
Chase: All right. Why not? And maybe it'll be John Adams who comes to his senses.
Adams: Mr. President, the War Committee will heed General Washington's request. A party consisting of Mr. Chase, Dr. Franklin and myself will leave immediately.
Hancock: Is that... Is that satisfactory with you, Dr. Franklin?
Adams: Wake up, Franklin! You're going to New Brunswick.
Franklin: Like hell I am. What for?
Hopkins: The whoring and the drinking.
Adams: All right, Chase! Move all that lard. Not a moment to lose. Left, right, left, right. Left, right, left, right. Left, right, left!
Dickinson: Mr. McNair, all this talk of independence has left a certain foulness in the air. My friends and I would appreciate it if you could open some windows.
Clerk: Well, what about the flies?
Dickinson: The windows, Mr. McNair.
Clerk: Open the windows, close the windows. Sweet Jesus!
Thomson: I have a new dispatch "From the Commander, army of the United Colonies in New York, dispatch number 1, 158, to the Honorable Congress, John Hancock, president. Dear sir, I awoke this morning to find that General Howe has landed 25,000 British regulars and Hessian mercenaries on Staten Island, and that the fleet, under the command of his brother, Admiral Lord Howe, controls not only the Hudson and the east rivers, but New York Harbor, which now looks like all of London afloat. I can no longer, in good conscience, withhold from the Congress my certainty that the British military object at this time is Philadelphia. Happy should I be if I could see the means of preventing them, but, at present, I confess I do not. How I wish I had never seen the Continental Army. I would have done better to retire to the back country, and to live in a wigwam. Your obedient, G. Washington."
Clerk: How'd you like to try and borrow a dollar from one of them? You want some more rum, General? General?
Courier: Lord, I ain't even a corporal.
Clerk: Yeah, well, what's the army know? Here, son. There you go. Sit down, gentlemen. The chair rules it's too damn hot to work. Well, General, what's it like out there?
Courier: You probably know more than me.
Clerk: Sitting here? Sweet Jesus, this is the last place to find out what's going on.
Helper: I'm aiming to join up.
Clerk: What are you talking about? You don't have to join up. You're in Congress.
Helper: What's that got to do with it?
Clerk: Well, you don't see them rushing off to get killed, do you? They sure are great ones for sending others, I can tell you that.
Courier: Hey, who sits here?
Clerk: Caesar Rodney of Delaware. Where are you from, General?
Clerk: Now where's that?
Clerk: Well, then you belong over there. But be careful. There's something about that chair that makes a man awful noisy.
Helper: You seen any fighting?
Courier: Sure did. I see's my two best friends get shot dead on the very same day. And at Lexington it was, too. Right on the village green. When they didn't come home for supper, their mamas went down the hill looking for them. Mrs. Lowell, she found Timothy. Right off. But Mrs. Pickett... She looked near half the night for William. He went and crawled off the green before he died.
Hancock: The secretary will now read the report of the Declaration Committee. Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: "A declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the Earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. They're endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights..."
Adams: Jefferson! We're back, and we've got Maryland. That is, we will, as soon as Chase gets through telling the Maryland assembly what we saw in New Brunswick.
Franklin: He's in Annapolis right now, describing a ragtag collection of provincial militiamen who couldn't drill together, train together or march together. But when a flock of ducks flew over and they saw their first meal in three full days, sweet Jesus, could they shoot together! It was a slaughter.
Jefferson: They're reading the declaration.
Adams: Good God! How far have they gotten?
Jefferson: "To render the military independent of and superior to the civil power."
Thomson: "independent of and superior to..."
Adams: Nothing to fear. It's a masterpiece. I'm to be congratulated.
Adams: For making him write it.
Franklin: Oh, of course.
Adams: The eagle is a majestic bird.
Franklin: The eagle is a scavenger, a thief and a coward. A symbol of over 10 centuries of European mischief.
Adams: A turkey?
Franklin: The turkey is a truly noble bird. Native American. Source of sustenance of our original settlers. An incredibly brave fellow who will not flinch at attacking a regiment of Englishmen single-handedly! Therefore, the national bird of America is going to be... The eagle!
Adams: The declaration will be a triumph. I tell you, a triumph. If I was ever sure of anything, I'm sure of that. A triumph. And if it isn't, we've still got four days left to think of something else.
Thomson: "and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Thomson. The Congress has heard the report of the Declaration Committee. Are there any here who wish to offer alterations, deletions, amendments to this declaration?
Congress: Mr. President!
Hancock: Gentlemen! Gentlemen, please! Colonel McKean, I saw your hand first.
McKean: Mr. Jefferson, it's a bonny paper you've written, Tom, but somewhere in it, you mention Scottish and foreign mercenaries sent to destroy us. Scottish, Tom?
Adams: That is in reference to a Highland regiment which stood against us at Boston.
McKean: It's more likely Germans wearing kilts to disguise their being there. I ask you to remove the word and avoid giving offense to a good people.
Thomson: Mr. Jefferson?
Hancock: The Reverend... Witherspoon.
Witherspoon: Mr. Jefferson, nowhere do you mention the Supreme Being. Now, surely this was an oversight, for how could we hope to achieve a victory without His help? Therefore, I most humbly suggest the following addition to your final sentence. "With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence."
Thomson: Mr. Jefferson?
Hancock: Mr. Read.
Read: Among your charges against the king, Mr. Jefferson, you accuse him of depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury. This is untrue, sir. In Delaware, we've always had trial by jury.
Adams: In Massachusetts, we have not.
Read: Well, then I suggest that the words "in many cases" be added.
Thomson: Mr. Jefferson?
McKean: "In many cases"? Brilliant! I suppose every time you see those three words, your puny chest will swell with pride over your great historical contribution.
Read: It's more memorable than your unprincipled whitewash of that race of barbarians!
McKean: Race of barbarians? Why, I'll have you...
Hancock: Colonel McKean, Mr. Read, that's enough! Mr. Hopkins.
Hopkins: I've no objections, Johnny. I'm just trying to get a drink.
Hancock: I should've known. McNair, get him a rum. Mr. Bartlett.
Bartlett: Mr. Jefferson. I beg you to remember that we still have friends in England. I see no purpose in antagonizing them with such phrases as... "Unfeeling brethren" and "enemies at war." Our quarrel is with the British king, not the British people.
Adams: Be sensible, Bartlett. Remove those phrases, and the entire paragraph becomes meaningless. And it so happens that it's one of the most stirring and poetic of any passage in the entire document. Now...
Bartlett: We're a Congress, Mr. Adams, not a literary society. I ask that the entire paragraph be stricken.
Thomson: Mr. Jefferson?
Adams: Good God. Jefferson, when are you going to speak up for your own work?
Jefferson: I had hoped that the work would speak for itself.
Clerk: Mr. Hancock?
Hancock: What is it, Mr. McNair?
Clerk: I can't say I'm very fond of "The United States of America" as a name for a new country.
Hancock: I don't care what you're fond of, Mr. McNair. You're not a member of this Congress! Mr. Sherman.
Sherman: Brother Jefferson, I noted at least two distinct and direct references to the British Parliament in your declaration. Do you think it's wise to alienate that august body in light of our contention that they've never had any authority over us anyway?
Adams: This is a revolution, damn it! We're going to have to offend somebody.
Sherman: Brother Hancock!
Franklin: John. John. You'll give yourself an attack of apoplexy if you're not careful.
Adams: Have you heard what they're doing to it? Have you heard?
Franklin: I heard.
Adams: And, so far, that's just our friends. Can you imagine what our enemies will do?
Hancock: The word "parliament" will be removed wherever it occurs.
Adams: They won't be satisfied till they remove one of the "F's" from Jefferson's name.
Franklin: Courage, John. It won't last much longer.
Hancock: Mr. Dickinson.
Dickinson: Mr. Jefferson, I have very little interest in your paper, as there's no doubt in my mind that we've all but heard the last of it. But I am curious about one thing. Why do you refer to King George as a tyrant?
Jefferson: Because he is a tyrant.
Dickinson: I remind you, Mr. Jefferson, that this tyrant is still your king.
Jefferson: When a king becomes a tyrant, he thereby breaks the contract binding his subjects to him.
Dickinson: How so?
Jefferson: By taking away their rights.
Dickinson: Rights that came from him in the first place?
Jefferson: All except one. The right to be free comes from nature.
Dickinson: And are we not free, Mr. Jefferson?
Jefferson: Homes entered without warrant. Citizens arrested without charge. And in many places, free assembly itself denied.
Dickinson: No one approves of such things, but these are dangerous times.
Franklin: Be careful, Mr. Dickinson. Those who give up some of their liberty in order to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Dickinson: Mr. Wilson. Do we in Pennsylvania consider King George a tyrant?
Wilson: Well, I don't know. He... Oh. Uh... No. No, we don't. He's not a tyrant. In Pennsylvania.
Dickinson: There you are, Mr. Jefferson. Your declaration does not speak for us all. I demand the word "tyrant" be removed.
Thomson: Very well.
Jefferson: Just a moment, Mr. Thomson. I do not consent. The king is a tyrant whether we say so or not. We might as well say so.
Thomson: But I already scratched it out.
Jefferson: Then scratch it back in.
Hancock: Put it back, Mr. Thomson. The king will remain a tyrant. Mr. Hewes.
Hewes: Mr. Jefferson. Nowhere do you mention deep-sea fishing rights.
Adams: Oh, good God! Fishing rights! How long is this piddling to go on? We have been here for three full days. We have endured, by my count, 85 separate changes, and the removal of close to 400 words. Now, would you whip it and beat it till you break its spirit? I tell you that document is a masterful expression of the American mind!
Hancock: If there are no more changes, then I can assume the report of the Declaration Committee has been...
Rutledge: Just a moment, Mr. President.
Franklin: Look out.
Rutledge: I wonder if we might prevail upon Mr. Thomson to read again a small portion of Mr. Jefferson's declaration. The one beginning "He has waged cruel war."
Thomson: "He has affected... He's combined... He's abdicated... He's plundered... He's constrained... He's excited... He's incited... He's waged cruel war." Here it is. "He's waged cruel war against human nature itself in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his..."
Rutledge: That will suffice, Mr. Thomson. I thank you, sir. Mr. Jefferson, I can't quite make out what it is you're talking about.
Jefferson: Slavery, Mr. Rutledge.
Rutledge: Oh, yes. You're referring to us as slaves of the king.
Jefferson: No, sir. I'm referring to our slaves. Black slaves.
Rutledge: Why didn't you say so, sir? Were you trying to hide your meaning?
Jefferson: No, sir.
Rutledge: Just another literary license, then.
Jefferson: If you like.
Rutledge: I don't like at all, Mr. Jefferson. To us, in South Carolina, black slavery is our peculiar institution, and a cherished way of life.
Jefferson: Nevertheless, we must abolish it. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people shall be free.
Rutledge: I am not concerned with the book of fate right now, Mr. Jefferson. I'm more concerned with what is written in that little paper there.
Adams: That little paper there deals with freedom for Americans.
Rutledge: Oh, really? Mr. Adams is now calling our black slaves "Americans." Are they, now?
Adams: Yes, they are. They're people and they're here. If there's any other requirement, I've never heard of it.
Rutledge: They are here, yes, but they are not people, sir. They are property.
Jefferson: No, sir. They are people who are being treated as property. I tell you, the rights of human nature are deeply wounded by this infamous practice.
Rutledge: Then see to your own wounds, Mr. Jefferson, for you are a practitioner! Are you not?
Jefferson: I have already resolved to release my slaves.
Rutledge: Then I'm sorry, for you've also resolved the ruination of your personal economy.
Adams: Economy. Always economy. There's more to this than a filthy purse string, Rutledge. It's an offense against man and God.
Hopkins: It's a stinking business, Mr. Rutledge. A stinking business.
Rutledge: Is it really, Mr. Hopkins? Then what is that I smell floating down from the North? Could that be the aroma of hypocrisy? For who holds the other end of that filthy purse string, Mr. Adams? Our Northern brethren feeling a bit tender toward our slaves. They don't keep slaves. Oh, no. But they're willing to be considerable carriers of slaves to others. They're willing. For the shilling. Or haven't you heard, Mr. Adams? Clink, clink.
Bartlett: For the love of God, Mr. Rutledge, please.
Adams: Mr. Rutledge, please! Mr. Hewes. Dr. Hall.
Witherspoon: Don't worry, John. They'll be back.
McKean: Aye, to vote us down.
Chase: Adams! Franklin! It's done. I have it. And the Maryland Assembly's approved it. I told them about one of the greatest military engagements in history against a flock of... What's wrong? I thought...
Dickinson: You'll have to forgive them, Mr. Chase. They just suffered a slight setback. And after all, "What is a man profited "if he shall gain Maryland and lose the entire South?" Matthew, Chapter 16, Verse 26.
Clerk: Oh, I know. The flies.
Hancock: No. The rum.
Adams: Well, what are we all sitting around for, hmm? We're wasting time. Precious time. Thomas, I want you to ride down into Delaware and fetch back Caesar Rodney.
McKean: John, are you mad? It's 80 miles, and he's a dying man.
Adams: No, he's a patriot.
McKean: John, what good will it do? The South's done us in.
Adams: And suppose they change their minds? Can we get Delaware without Rodney?
McKean: God! What a bastardy bunch we are.
Adams: Stephen, I want you to...
Hopkins: I'm going to the tavern, Johnny. If there's anything I can do for you there, let me know.
Adams: Chase. Bartlett!
Bartlett: What's the use, John? The vote's tomorrow morning. There's less than a full day left.
Sherman: Face facts, John. It's finished.
Witherspoon: I'm sorry, John.
Franklin: We have no choice, John. The slavery clause has got to go.
Adams: Franklin, what are you saying?
Franklin: It's a luxury we can't afford.
Adams: A luxury? A half million souls in chains, and Dr. Franklin calls it a luxury. Maybe you should've walked out with the South.
Franklin: You forget yourself, sir. I founded the first anti-slavery society on this continent.
Adams: Don't wave your credentials at me. Perhaps it's time you had them renewed.
Franklin: The issue here is independence. Perhaps you've forgotten that fact, but I have not. How dare you jeopardize our cause when we've come so far! These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about. They're proud, accomplished men. The cream of their colonies. And whether you like it or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation you hope to create. Now either learn how to live with them or pack up and go home. In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife.
Adams: Good God. What's happened to me? John Adams. The great John Adams. What have I come to? Law practice down the pipe. Farm mortgaged to the hilt. At a stage in life when other men prosper, I'm reduced to living in Philadelphia. Philadelphia. Abigail, what am I going to do?
Abigail: Do, John?
Adams: I need your help.
Abigail: You don't usually ask my advice.
Adams: Yes, well, there doesn't appear to be anyone else right now.
Abigail: Very well, John. What is it?
Adams: The entire South has just walked out of this Congress, George Washington is on the verge of total annihilation, and the precious cause for which I have labored these several years has come to nothing. And it seems that I'm obnoxious and disliked.
Abigail: Nonsense, John.
Adams: That I am unwilling to face reality.
Abigail: Foolishness, John.
Adams: That I'm pigheaded.
Abigail: Ah, well, there you have me, John. I'm afraid you are pigheaded.
Adams: Well, yes. Oh, Abby. Has it been any kind of a life for you? God knows I haven't given you very much.
Abigail: I never asked for more. After all, I am Mrs. John Adams. That's quite a lot for one lifetime.
Adams: Is it, Abby?
Adams: Well, think of it, John. To be married to the man who is always the first in line to be hanged...
Adams: Yes. The agitator. Why, Abby? You must tell me what it is. l... Well, I have always been dissatisfied. I know that. But lately, I find that I reek of discontentment. It fills my throat and it floods my brain. Sometimes I fear there is no longer a dream, but only the discontentment.
Abigail: Oh, John. Can you really know so little about yourself? Can you think so little of me that you'd believe I'd marry the man you've described? Have you forgotten what you used to say to me? I haven't. "Commitment, Abby. "Commitment. "There are only two creatures of value on the face of this Earth. "Those with a commitment, "and those who require the commitment of others." Do you remember, John?
Adams: Yes, I remember.
Clerk: Mr. Adams!
Clerk: Are you up there, Mr. Adams?
Adams: What do you want?
Clerk: There's a delivery down here for you.
Adams: What is it? Where did it come from? Who sent it?
Adams: McNair! McNair, go out and buy every damned pin you can find in Philadelphia.
Clerk: Pin? What sort of pin?
Adams: Well, I don't know. Whatever the ladies use for their sewing. Franklin, Jefferson, what are you all sitting around for?
Franklin: Didn't you hear a word I said before?
Adams: Oh, never mind about that. Now, here's what I want you to do.
Franklin: John, I'm not even speaking to you.
Adams: It's too late for that, damn it. There's work to be done. Jefferson, go find Rutledge. Don't come back until you've worn him down. Now, you're both Southern aristocrats. If he'll listen to anybody, he'll listen to you. Franklin, out of that chair! What good is the South if you can't deliver Pennsylvania, hmm? Talk to Wilson. Get him away from Dickinson. That's the only way to do it. Go on, now, both of you.
Adams: Time's running out, damn it. Now move.
Hancock: I'm still from Massachusetts, John. You know where I stand. I'll do whatever you say.
Adams: No. No, you're the president of Congress. You're a fair man, Hancock. Stay that way. Tell me, Mr. Thomson, out of curiosity, do you stand with Mr. Dickinson, or do you stand with me?
Thomson: I stand with the General. Well, lately, I've had the oddest feeling that he's been writing to me
Hall: Yes, Mr. Adams. I do.
Adams: Dr. Hall. I didn't know anyone was...
Hall: I'm sorry if I startled you. I couldn't sleep. And in trying to resolve my dilemma, I remembered something I'd once read. That a representative owes the people not only his industry, but his judgment. And he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion. That was written by Edmund Burke, a member of the British Parliament. Good night, Mr. Adams.
Adams: Good night.
Adams remembering: “It's never been done before. No colony has ever broken from the parent stem in the history of the world.” ”If you have grievances, and I'm sure you have, our present system must provide a gentler means of redressing them short of revolution.” “We've spawned a new race here. Rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, less refined. "My quartermaster has no food, no arms, no ammunition, and my troops are in a state of near mutiny." “No army, no navy...” "I pray God some relief arrives before the armada, but fear it will not." “No arms, no ammunition, no treasury, no friends.” “And when they hang you, Mr. Adams, I do hope you'll put in a good word for the rest of us.” “England closing in, cutting off our air. There's no time!”” To place before mankind the common sense of the subject...” “The issue here is independence. Perhaps you've lost sight of that fact, but I have not.” "We mutually pledge to each other our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor." “Can you really know so little about yourself?”
Hancock: Very well. The Congress will now vote on Virginia's resolution on independence. Thank you for coming, Caesar. God bless you, sir. The secretary will call the roll. And I remind you, gentlemen, that a single "nay" vote will defeat the motion. Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: New Hampshire?
Bartlett: New Hampshire says yea.
Thomson: New Hampshire says yea. Massachusetts?
Adams: Massachusetts says yea.
Thomson: Massachusetts says yea. Rhode Island?
Hopkins: Rhode Island says yea.
Thomson: Rhode Island says yea. Connecticut?
Sherman: Connecticut says yea. Connecticut says yea. New York?
Morris: Mr. Secretary, New York abstains courteously.
Thomson: New York abstains.
Thomson: New Jersey?
Witherspoon: New Jersey says yea.
Thomson: New Jersey says yea. Pennsylvania?
Franklin: Mr. Secretary, Pennsylvania is not ready. Please come back to us later.
Thomson: Pennsylvania passes. Delaware?
Franklin: Just a moment.
Rodney: Delaware, by majority vote...
Rodney: Says yea.
Thomson: Delaware says yea. Maryland?
Chase: Maryland says yea.
Thomson: Maryland says yea. Virginia?
Lee: Virginia says yea.
Thomson: Virginia says yea. North Carolina?
Hewes: North Carolina yields to South Carolina.
Thomson: South Carolina?
Rutledge: Well, Mr. Adams?
Adams: Well, Mr. Rutledge.
Rutledge: Mr. Adams, you must believe that I will do what I promised to do.
Adams: What is it you want, Rutledge?
Rutledge: Remove the offending passage from your declaration.
Adams: If we did that, we would be guilty of what we ourselves are rebelling against.
Rutledge: Nevertheless remove it, or South Carolina will bury now and forever your dream of independence.
Franklin: John, I beg you, consider what you're doing.
Adams: Mark me, Franklin, if we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us.
Franklin: That's probably true, but we won't hear a thing. We'll be long gone. Besides, what will posterity think we were? Demigods? We're men, no more, no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence. America. If we don't secure that, what difference will the rest make?
Adams: Jefferson, say something.
Jefferson: What else is there to do?
Adams: Well, man, you're the one that wrote it.
Jefferson: I wrote all of it, Mr. Adams.
Adams: There. There it is, Rutledge. You have your slavery. Little good may it do you. Now vote, damn you!
Rutledge: Mr. President, the fair colony of South Carolina says yea.
Thomson: South Carolina says yea.
Hewes: North Carolina says yea.
Hall: Georgia says yea.
Thomson: Pennsylvania, second call.
Dickinson: Mr. President, Pennsylvania regrets all of the inconvenience that such distinguished men as Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were put to just now. They might've kept their document intact for all the difference it will make. Mr. President, Pennsylvania says...
Franklin: Just a moment. I ask the delegation be polled.
Dickinson: Dr. Franklin, don't be absurd.
Franklin: A poll, Mr. President. It's a proper request.
Hancock: Yes, it is. Poll the delegation, Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
Thomson: Mr. John Dickinson.
Thomson: Mr. James Wilson. Judge Wilson?
Franklin: There it is, Mr. Wilson. It's all up to you now. The whole question of American independence rests squarely on your shoulders. An entirely new nation ready to be born or to die at birth, all on your say-so. Which will it be, Mr. Wilson? Every mapmaker in the world is waiting for your decision.
Dickinson: Come now, James. Nothing has changed. We mustn't let Dr. Franklin create one of his confusions. The question is clear.
Franklin: Most questions are clear when someone else has to decide them.
Adams: It would be a pity for a man who's handed down hundreds of wise decisions from the bench to be remembered only for the one unwise decision he made in Congress.
Dickinson: James, you're keeping everybody waiting. The secretary has called for your vote.
Wilson: Please. Don't push me, John. I know what you want me to do. But Mr. Adams is correct about one thing. I'm the one who'll be remembered for it.
Dickinson: What do you mean?
Wilson: I'm different from you, John. I'm different from most of the men here. I don't want to be remembered. I just don't want the responsibility.
Dickinson: Yes, well, whether you want it or not, James, there's no way of avoiding it.
Wilson: Not necessarily, John. If I go with them, I'll just be one among dozens. No one will ever remember the name of James Wilson. But if I vote with you, I'll be the man who prevented American independence. I'm sorry, John. I just didn't bargain for that.
Dickinson: And is that how new nations are formed? By a nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves?
Franklin: Revolutions come into this world like bastard children, Mr. Dickinson. Half improvised and half compromised. Our side has provided the compromise. Now Judge Wilson is supplying the rest.
Wilson: I'm sorry, John. My vote is yea
Franklin: Mr. Secretary, Pennsylvania says yea.
Thomson: The count being 12 to none with one abstention, the resolution on independence is adopted.
Adams: It's done.
Hancock: Mr. Thomson, is the declaration ready to be signed?
Thomson: It is.
Hancock: Then I suggest we do so. And the chair further proposes, for our mutual security and protection, that no man be allowed to sit in this Congress without attaching his name to it.
Dickinson: I'm sorry, Mr. President. I cannot, in good conscience, sign such a document. I will never stop hoping for our eventual reconciliation with England. But because, I regard America no less than does Mr. Adams, I will join the army and fight in her defense even though I believe that fight to be hopeless. Goodbye, gentlemen.
Adams: Gentlemen of the Congress, I say yea, John Dickinson.
Hancock: Very well. Are there any objections to the declaration being approved as it now stands?
Adams: I have one, Mr. Hancock.
Hancock: You, Mr. Adams?
Adams: Yes. Uh, Mr. Jefferson, it so happens that the word is "unalienable," not "inalienable."
Jefferson: I'm sorry, Mr. Adams, but "inalienable" is correct.
Adams: I happen to be a Harvard graduate, Mr. Jefferson.
Jefferson: I attended William and Mary, Mr. Adams.
Hancock: Gentlemen, please! Mr. Jefferson, will you yield to Mr. Adams' request?
Jefferson: No, sir. I will not.
Adams: Oh, very well. I withdraw it.
Franklin: Oh, good for you, John.
Adams: I'll speak to the printer about it later on.
Hancock: Very well, gentlemen. We're about to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper. And how it shall end, God only knows.
Hopkins: That's a pretty large signature, Johnny.
Hopkins: So Fat George in London can read it without his glasses. All right, step right up, gentlemen. Don't miss your chance to commit treason.
Franklin: Hancock is right. This paper is our passport to the gallows. But there's no backing out now, for if we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately.
McKean: In my case, hanging won't be so bad. One snap and it'll be all over, just like that. But look at Read there. He'll be dancing a jig long after I'm gone!
Hancock: Gentlemen, forgive me if I don't join in the merriment, but if we are arrested now, my name is still the only one on the damn thing!
Thomson: "From the Commander, army of the United Colonies in... Army of the United States in New York, dispatch number 1,209, to the Honorable Congress, John Hancock, president. Dear sir, I can now report with some certainty that the eve of battle is near at hand. Toward this end, I have ordered the evacuation of Manhattan and directed our defenses to take up stronger positions on the Brooklyn Heights. At the present time, my forces consist entirely of Haslet's Delaware Militia and Smallwood's Marylanders, a total of 5,000 troops to stand against twenty-five thousand of the enemy. And I begin to notice that many of us are lads under 15 and old men, none of whom could truly be called soldiers. One personal note to Mr. Lewis Morris of New York. I must regretfully report that his estates have been totally destroyed, but that I have taken the liberty of transporting Mrs. Morris and eight of the children to Connecticut and safety. The four older boys are now enlisted in the Continental Army. As I write these words, the enemy is plainly in sight beyond the river. How it will end, only Providence can direct. But, dear God, what brave men I shall lose before this business ends. Your obedient, G. Washington."
Hancock: Very well, gentlemen. McNair. Go ring the bell.
Morris: Mr. President.
Hancock: Mr. Morris.
Morris: To hell with New York. I'll sign it anyway.
Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Morris. Stephen, sit down.
Hopkins: No. I want to remember each man's face as he signs.
Hancock: Very well. Mr. Thomson.
Thomson: New Hampshire. Dr. Josiah Bartlett. Massachusetts. Mr. John Adams. Rhode Island. Mr. Stephen Hopkins. Connecticut. Mr. Roger Sherman. New York. Mr. Lewis Morris. New Jersey. The Reverend John Witherspoon. Pennsylvania. Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Delaware. Mr. Caesar Rodney. Maryland. Mr. Samuel Chase. Virginia. Mr. Thomas Jefferson. North Carolina. Mr. Joseph Hewes. South Carolina. Mr. Edward Rutledge. Georgia. Dr. Lyman Hall.