Robbin Bruce: I didn't know Ben Franklin could dance

  • Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Well to be honest about myself, I really donít like musicals. Now donít get me wrong, most of them have great stories that they are based on, but the timing just seems to be a little off. Itís like if Marshal Dillon walked out into the street to face off with a gunfighter, and just before they yelled draw, one of them busts out in an opera song. Then Festus would come leaping from the front porch of the Long Branch, singing ďMatthew, Matthew,Ē and I donít know what else. I guess youíre kind of getting the idea. Some times singing and acting just donít mix all that well together. But a few years ago, to be honest, I had a little change of heart.

It was on the Fourth of July one year, and we were in the in-between time, in between rolling out of bed a little late, and getting ready for the festivities. I was flipping the channel and I noticed a movie by the name of ď1776Ē was coming on. Well I figured Iíd give it a shot, and then I noticed it said it was a musical, and I almost flipped on by.

Now if youíve never seen it, itís based on the Second Continental Congressís attempts at deciding whether to give up and go back to being a loyal British colony, or to stand for independence. Sounds real exciting donít it, like watching CSPAN? But I couldnít help myself, being a history nut; I had to check it out. And Iím glad I did, because it helped me realize something I never seemed to understand from the history books, with all the mythical-sounding names like, Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson, they were something else too, they were human. And with it all the frailties that come with being human, like stubbornness, pride, loyalty, and even the tendency to want to pass the buck every chance you get.

It starts out in May of 1776, when the warm breezes of summer are starting to push the temperatures to almost unbearable degrees. And this august body of men who are dressed in their fine clothes and powered wigs, with the war raging for the last year, and another British invasion force bearing down on them from the north, are arguing on a resolution on whether or not to open a window. Half argued for the cool breeze, half argued against it because of the flies! Like I said, kind of reminds me of CSPAN.

Then just by the skin of their teeth they pass a resolution to discuss the possibility to stand for independence, the possibility, just that. Some wanted independence, some wanted to stay with England, and well, some just wanted to go home and fish. All this while George Washington is constantly sending dispatches begging for help. Finally somebody comes up with idea that we need to have a written document stating why, and I would think this would be obvious, why they wanted to be a free and independent country.

Well thatís when the real fun begins. Everybody hates John Adams for his big mouth, Franklin feels even though he is a bit of a writer; his talent is more in the line of funny little quotes; that leaves Jefferson. Now the problem is Jefferson is 33 and just married, and he wants to go home and see his new bride, need I say more?

Well to make a long story short, Jefferson writes it, and they spend the next month tearing it to shreds. Every little word is argued over, even to the point to whether King George is a tyrant or not. Then they come to the point of slavery, whether all men will be free or not. The South refuses to sign if that portion isnít taken out, but in order to get the resolution passed, it is finally agreed to remove it. But the sad thing is, if that one paragraph had been left in, close to eighty more years of sorrow, and a bloody Civil War could have been avoided.

Finally they have a document, our Declaration of Independence, and when it comes time to sign, they surely realized something; they were signing their own death warrant, for if they lost, that was the punishment for treason.

Did you think about that yesterday when you were eating your hamburgers and hot dogs, or when you were watching the fireworks? These were not giants; these were flesh and blood men, just like us, with fears and desires just like us.

But we tend to forget that, even if we remember them at all.

You can reach Robbin Bruce by e-mail at robbinbruce@yahoo.com.

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