I’d always thought of myself as a good and even occasionally passionate student of history, and I spent the majority of my schooled life—all thirteen grades, that is—in the state of New York (Saratoga Springs public schools, to be precise). So why did I have to learn that New York didn’t actually vote for independence on July 2nd, or to adopt the Declaration on July 4th, from HBO’s “John Adams” miniseries? Pictured above: sweaty, arrogant New York, who, when everyone else voted for independence, would instead say, “Abstain!”
I suppose in school we were always skipping ahead, to the Battle of Saratoga—that’s us! Turning point of the war! (Though I do remember spending an inordinate amount of time talking about Paul Revere.) And then in college, studying the British Empire, we were always looking at the colonies from the other side (with disdain!). But I was curious: why don’t we talk about the New York depicted here, in bed with the British, too nervous about losing trading partners or the ships closing in on New York Harbor to man up and just do it?
So I googled it. And apparently the miniseries’ writers took some major liberties here. From Jeremy Stern, a PhD candidate in history when “John Adams” aired (so probably a professor by now?): “The New York delegation—shown here violently hostile to Adams and his opinions—actually supported independence, though they still lacked authorization to vote for it.” So we’re not as awful as I thought? They did vote for it, a few weeks later. I suppose making New York look like a big, scared bully is better television than the glacially slow pace of communication in the late eighteenth century.
Happy Fourth of July, all! I’m off to be a vegetarian at a BBQ. Wish me luck.