Commentary: The History Channel’s “Sons of Liberty” Series Teaches Good Lessons

By Francisco Gonzalez

I recently finished  watching  “Sons of Liberty,” a three-part saga on the History Channel. I absolutely loved it, and I hope every American has the chance to watch it.

Although it’s not 100% historically accurate — it does have a lot of Hollywood drama infused into it — I do think the entertainment value of the film gets people interested in history. That’s a net plus and something we should applaud. Let me reiterate: As someone with an M.A. in History, I  am a big believer that you shouldn’t necessarily let facts get in the way of a good story.

With that said, I noticed something else that stuck out for me while I was watching this series: the contrasting figures of Sam Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock. These three men were all coming from very different perspectives.

Sam Adams is at the center of this revolutionary tale because he was the rabble rouser, the patriot, the guy willing to put everything on the line with his political courage. John Adams was more the intellect, emphasizing the rule of law. He comes from a more philosophical (and perhaps politically practical) perspective. And then there was the wealthy John Hancock, who arguably had more to lose and wasn’t quite willing to take all the risks. But he stands out as the great philanthropist of this movement; without him it wouldn’t have happened. And later, as we know, he would be the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. His large and bold signature atop the list of signers of that revolutionary document also sent the British crown a clear message: Men of substantial means and influence were signing on to this independence movement.

So there you have it. All great movements needs at least those three things: philanthropists, philosophers, and popularizers. In fact, historian and biographer Dr. Lee Edwards has previously articulated this point about the modern American conservative movement.

But to replicate Dr. Edwards’ presentation, there’s one more “P” to be added: politicians. In the final episode of this series, a certain politician’s role is elevated. That is the role Ben Franklin plays in diplomacy with the British crown and parliament. When his diplomatic efforts went downhill – mostly because he realized that the American colonists weren’t being treated as full English subjects – he came back to the colonies and helped put together a political plan for a true independence movement.

This plan by Franklin would not have been possible had it not been for the initial courage and growing popularity of Sam Adams and his revolutionary patriots in Boston; or without the philosophy and intellect provided by John Adams; or without the philanthropic efforts of people such as  John Hancock. Each put something on the line, and all were brought together by a shared goal: the protection of their liberty. Once they were united and pressed forward, it finally allowed a politician such as Ben Franklin to come their way and advance their ideas politically.

When I reflect on this, I am reminded that the spirit of the Sons of Liberty is still with us. Once these elements come together like threads forming a fabric, it creates the opportunity for courageous leaders to advance the cause in the political arena.

Even with a little Hollywood drama infused into “Sons of Liberty,”  I was glad to see the History Channel remind Americans – including myself – of that fierce independent spirit our forefathers taught us about: the need to protect the liberty we too often take for granted today.

Image Credit: Sean Nash/Flickr