Public television could not have chosen a better historical tale for this bicentennial and election year than that of the remarkable Adams family. “The Adams Chronicles,” spanning a century and a half of American history, certainly puts politics into proper perspective.

What with pleas from Thomas Jefferson and the republicans for a presidential candidate who can unite the country and cries from Alexander Hamilton and the federalists for someone with sound economic and foreign policy I became convinced that contemporary campaign speechwriters had copied our nation’s first politicians. The way in which the XYZ Affair was leaked to the public sounded uncomfortably familiar, as did the secret dealings of French and American ambassadors. As American Film noted in its cover story on the series, “In the course of the Watergate hearings no other figure in American history was quoted as often as John Adams, hard-bitten moralist that he was.”

The thirteen-part, $5.2 million series, now half over, not only informs us about our country’s birth but shows us how little politics has changed. Our founding fathers used Christianity for political gain just as some politicians do today. During the continental congress, for example, Ben Franklin wanted a certain pious clergyman to lead a meeting in prayer. His presence was good politics, even if his prayers were long and tedious. John Adams understood and agreed.

The series should go far in correcting the widespread idea that those men who formed our government did so from religious, if not specifically Christian,motivations. The faith of John Adams and his family (his wife Abigail was a minister’s daughter) is not strong or particularly Christian. As we see with the deaths of some of their children, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: