I found a gaping inaccuracy that completely destroys the possibilty of two scenes (three?) in John Adams, Episode 3. And this inaccuracy does not appear on wikipedia OR IMDB. Though I am sad that there are inaccuracies, I am reveling in the fact that I was “clever” enough to figure one out without help.

The episode begins with John and Abigail walking the snow-covered Braintree farm, discussing bushels of corn, their marriage, the capture of Philadelphia, and John’s recent arrival. After the opening song, it switches to John and Abigail, in bed. They have the following conversation.

John: Abigail….
Abigail: You are not staying?
*pause*
Where is the Congress to meet?
John: In York, to the west of the city.
*pause*
But it is not to the Congress that I must go.
This war will not be won without French money and French ships.
Abigail: That… is Dr. Franklin’s affair. HE is the commissioner to France.
John: There are some concerns- about Dr. Franklin’s aide.
Abigail (whispering) : No.
John: Congress is asking-
Abigail (vehemently): No, John.
John: I told them I would not go.
Abigail: No. No.
John: It was my intention to return to the bar. That I cannot support my family, my children-
Abigail: You cannot ask this of me.
John: But they would not accept my request.
Abigail: You cannot.
John: I am needed in Paris.
Abigail: You are needed here, John.

That’s enough of the dialogue that is needed (there’s more and it’s a great scene). Abigail obviously did not know previously of John’s appointment to France in the HBO film, whilst in reality, a packet of letters reached Braintree before Abigail knew from John.

Here is an excerpt from McCullough’s book explaining what really happened.

But before leaving York, Adams had been told by Elbridge Gerry that he was to be appointed a commissioner to France, in place of Silas Deane, who was being recalled to answer charges of questionable conduct. According to Adams’s later recollection, he said nothing to Gerry about accepting the post, only that he felt unqualified. Gerry, too, would describe Adams as “silent” on the matter, though Gerry would tell the Congress that knowing Adams as he did, he was sure Adams would not decline the duty. On November 27th, Congress named Adams a commissioner to work with Franklin and Arthur Lee in negotiating a French alliance.
A packet of letters and Adams’s official commission to the Court of France went off to Braintree by post rider.
….
The official packet reached Braintree in mid-December, at about the time Washington’s army was on the march west from Philadelphia to take up winter quarters at Valley Forge. Adams was away at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, representing a client in what was to be his last appearance ever in court as a private attorney. Thinking the packet must be urgent business, Abigail opened it and was stunned by what she read. Furious, she wrote straight away to Lovell, demanding to know how he could contrive to “rob me of all my happiness.”

Abigail’s reaction would have been without John, and their discussion of it would be after her first reaction. This scene could have been equally endearing and hard to watch if they had only changed the first few lines to “You are not staying in the Colonies.” or “When is it that you leave us to France? How is it that you dared send *insert important information, which he often sent her* to me, with British soldiers so near, but could not mention your appointment to France?” If those are too modern, begin with Abigail saying quietly, “You have been appointed to France.” I can imagine this very clearly, and think Linney could have pulled it off. John would begin the next line, “This war will not be won without…”

It would have been much better if they had done this scene accurately, if only because we would have another great scene of Abigail receiving the post and opening the packet. It would have showed her angry, which doesn’t happen much in the first two episodes and comes as a “surprise” later. What do you think?

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