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John Adams fiery speech in HBO's 1776 version of C-SPAN
Published: Monday March 17, 2008

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The second episode of HBO's miniseries John Adam centers on the debate for independence in the Second Continental Congress. In the following video clip, John Adams delivers a passionate speech arguing for independence from England.

This video is from HBO's John Adams, broadcast March 16, 2008.

Transcript via closed captions

there lies our battle. the others may yet come around, but pennsylvania and new york are too self-interested, too tory. mr. dickinson is too unbending. and too effective.

most effective, mr. adams, most effective.

and rutledge.

well, good luck to you, sir.

( gavel banging )

hancock: congress will take into consideration the resolution concerning independence.

mr. dickinson?

gentlemen. the consequences involved in the motion now lying before us are of such magnitude that i tremble at the oppressive honor of sharing in its determination. my conduct this day, i expect, will give the finishing blow to my once great and now much-diminished popularity.

yet i had rather forfeit popularity forever than vote away the blood and happiness of my countrymen. independence will not strengthen us by one man nor by the least supply. but it may expose our soldiers to additional cruelties and outrages. the full fury of british wrath will be unleashed. indians will be loosed on the frontier. negroes will rise up to slaughter us. new york may well be destroyed.

by their own admission, the advocates of separation say foreign assistance will be necessary. at what cost? let us imagine a war without victors. when the guns fall silent, many will have bled and sacrificed, only to have exchanged the light yolk of great britain for the heavy dominion of an alien power.

hear, hear.

dickinson: some have argued that america will become one great commonwealth. but what is to keep 13 unwieldy colonies from splitting asunder? i have a strong impression in my mind that this will take place. no, gentlemen. to escape the protection of great britain by declaring independence, unprepared as we are... would be to brave a storm in a skiff made of paper.

( men banging tables )

hancock: president recognizes mr. adams of massachusetts.

( thunder rumbles )

objects of the most stupendous magnitude... measures which will affect the lives of millions, born and unborn... are now before us. we must expect a great expense of blood to obtain them. but we must always remember that a free constitution of civil government cannot be purchased at too dear a rate, as there is nothing on this side of jerusalem of greater importance to mankind.

my worthy colleague from pennsylvania has spoken with great ingenuity and eloquence. he has given you a grim prognostication of our national future. but where he foresees apocalypse, i see hope. i see a new nation ready to take its place in the world. not an empire, but a republic. and a republic of laws, not men.

gentlemen, we are in the very midst of revolution the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of the world. how few of the human race have ever had an opportunity of choosing a system of government for themselves? and their children?

i am not without apprehensions, gentlemen. but the end we have in sight is more than worth all the means.

i believe, sirs, that the hour has come. my judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. all that i have, all that i am and all that i hope in this life, i am now ready to stake upon it. while i live, let me have a country-- a free country.

( thunder rumbles )

( banging )

  • well done.
  • well done.