What was the point of fighting the Brits back in 1776 if they were just going to re-invade American TV sets so that they could portray Founding Fathers such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock?
That’s right, in the three-part History Channel mini-series, Sons of Liberty, which debuted this week, Adams (Ben Barnes) and Hancock (Rafe Spall) are played by British actors. Throw in two Irish cast members, Jason O’Mara (playing George Washington) and Kevin Ryan (John Pitcairn) and it seems like you’re watching the revolution that unfolded in 1916, rather than in 1776.
But the sneaky British and Irish casting may not be the biggest problem when it comes to Sons of Liberty.
The series focuses closely on Samuel Adams, a man many Americans believe invented micro-brewed beer in Boston sometime in the 1980s.
But the truth is, Sam Adams was a real-life revolutionary who played a key role in kicking the Brits out of Colonial America.
Adams was “one of the Independence movement’s most celebrated leaders and statesmen,” the Sons of Liberty press material notes, adding that he also “conceived of the Boston Committee of Correspondence and coordinated Boston’s resistance to the Tea Act, which climaxed in the famous Tea Party.”
To Irish American folks, Samuel Adams (the beer, not the man) is also notorious for diving into the fray over gays marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston.
Both Samuel Adams and Guinness were prominent beer sponsors of the Boston and New York City parades, but dropped out in 2014 when parade organizers once again refused to allow gays and lesbians to march under their own banner.
The really interesting thing here is that Samuel Adams never should have been a sponsor of the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade in the first place. Especially if you believe that the parade, ultimately, is a Catholic one, rather than one that celebrates Irish heritage
That’s because, though you’re not likely see anything about this on the History Channel, Samuel Adams was one of the most notoriously anti-Catholic figures from the Revolutionary era.
In other words, the real-life Sam Adams probably would have grabbed for his musket if he heard that a company bearing his name ever had anything to do with a parade celebrating popery.
Indeed, while the History Channel has stressed Adams’ anger towards the British as a key spark of the American Revolution, there was actually one thing Adams’ despised even more than those taxes the Brits levied -- Catholics!
"I did verily believe, as I do still, that much more is to be dreaded from the growth of popery in America, than from the Stamp Act, or any other acts destructive of civil rights,” Adams once said.
In his 2011 book Imperial Republicans, historian Edward Andrew describes Adams as “strongly anti-Catholic,” who wrote a host of articles for the Boston Gazette, about issues of the day which were part of a “fanatical barrage of anti-popery missives.”
In Discovering a Lost Heritage: The Catholic Origins of America, Adam S. Miller describes “the anti-Catholic character that belonged to this new young nation.” Miller adds: “Samuel Adams wanted laws specifically directed against Catholics everywhere.”
This doesn’t sound like a guy who would want much to do with a big parade named after a saint.
But maybe that’s the glory of America: where hunky British and Irish actors team up with Americans to (kind of) explore the roots of the U.S. Revolution.
Then they can all go to the pub and have a pint afterwards. Just don’t bring up religion.
(Contact Sidewalks at tdeignan.blogspot.com)