Originally Posted by gwsat
Have you read McCullough’s book? It certainly seems that the author of the referenced piece, Jack Rakove, has not. McCullough did a great job, it seemed to me, of showing Adams, warts and all. As Adams himself admitted, he was obnoxious and disliked. He was in many ways a self-aggrandizing, and self-pitying, fool but in an equal number of ways he was a great man. After all, the Founding Fathers were merely men, despite the magnitude of their achievements.
I do agree with Rakove on one point, though, which is that the TV series did take some pretty jarring liberties with the historical facts. But it got a lot of them right and did a good job as popular entertainment. In short, I saw no glaring misrepresentations of Adams’ character, although some, maybe many, of the details were misstated in the interest of creating a more compelling narrative. If that sort of thing bothered me overly much, though, I would never again watch a based-on-fact drama. Such productions always, always, always go heavy on the drama but a lot lighter on the facts.
Without the benefit of any kind of electronic recording device I think many facts, or at least the interpretation of spoken word - indeed the written word - is subject to misrepresentation. Only if we could have been a fly on the wall during the Continental Congress and not only heard what was said, but the context, the emphasis and facial expression of the speaker and everything else related to correct interpretation. And even then it is still possible and indeed likely that two different people would hear two different things. One only has to look to todays environment and see and hear how statements are misrepresented - all the time and we do have the benefit of accurate recording devices! Just look how the 2nd Amendment has been mis-used and misrepresented. The context is usually completely thrown out the window when a discussion ensues. And the context is set, not paragraphs away, but a mere sentence away.
Remember, Adams was a lawyer, and we all know how lawyers can obfuscate the facts. I'm not saying he did so intentional, just that whatever emphasis he wanted to put on his message would have a definitive Adam's spin. There's just no way of denying it.
So, the question remains... How do historians interpret the past - correctly - without the benefit of being there...? Newspaper accounts? Hum.. Legal journals of the day? Speaker memoirs? Other people's accounts? The sum total of the available body of information writ large? No doubt McCullough added his own 'spin' to it, as well as the screen writer. How could they not? And so, can we say with any certainty that McCullough's account is accurate, and if so, how accurate?
Food for thought..
BTW... I enjoyed the series and looked forward to watching on Sunday nights. I thought Paul and Laura were outstanding with their craft. Awards anyone? I even got my wife caught up in it. She too thought it was great. But, enjoyment not withstanding, how can we be sure what was represented was fact and what was fiction?