John Adams:

"Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write!" So reads the promo on the "John Adams" poster advertising the HBO mini-series starting on Sunday.
Give me a break! A better slogan for Adams would be:
"Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write -- though nothing critical of the Government!"
Adams was a really interesting guy, and a giant figure in the early days of the Republic, fully deserving of all the public attention he is getting. But my guess is that the HBO Series (like the David McCullough book on which it is based) is not going to come to grips with the central fact of Adams' legacy: that the Sedition Act, passed by the Federalist Congress and signed by President Adams, would have destroyed the United States before it had a chance to become the United States. Lest we forget, the Sedition Act, simply stated, made it a federal crime to "write, print, utter, or publish," any "malicious writings against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President," or anything that would "bring them into disrepute." Violations were punishable by up to two years in prison. Look out, Jon Stewart! Dozens of U.S. newspaper editors and pamphleteers had been rounded up and tossed in jail under its terms.
It is simply impossible to imagine democratic government, or meaningful elections, where people are thrown in jail for criticizing the government, and it is therefore impossible to imagine the United States of the 19th and 20th centuries had the Sedition Act remained in place -- which, thanks only to Jefferson's election in 1800, it did not.