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  • The entirety of "But Mr. Adams", the song where the Founding Fathers shove the writing of their lame excuse to delay Congress from taking a vote (today more commonly known as The Declaration of Independence) on Thomas Jefferson, but the ending is absolutely hilarious. Also, any production that does not include ludicrous dancing is not doing it right.
    Jefferson: Mr. Adams! Damn you, Mr. Adams!
    You are obnoxious and disliked, that cannot be denied!
    Once again, you stand between me and my lovely bride...
    Franklin, Livingston, and Sherman: Love-lee briiiiiide...
    Jefferson: Ohhh, Mr. Adams!
    You are driving me to homicide!
    Adams: QUIET!!! Jefferson! Mr. Jefferson!
    F, L, & S: We may see murderrr! Yeeee-eeeeeet...!
    • When Adams says that he will make Jefferson write the Declaration, staging often dictates they advance glaring at each other until Adams — who is typically played by an actor much shorter than the actor playing Jefferson — is scowling upwards into Mr. J's face.
      John: Now, you'll write it, Mr. J!
      Jefferson: [six feet three] Who will make me, Mr. A.?
      John: [five feet eight] I!
      Jefferson: [leaning down to look Adams in the eye]: How?
      John: physical force, if necessary.
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  • Richard Henry Lee leaving and coming back to sing his theme song, and Adams and Franklin's reaction to him.
    John Adams: That was the most revolting display I have ever witnessed.
    Benjamin Franklin: They're warm-blooded people, Virginians.
    John Adams: Not him, Franklin, you!
  • This observation after roll call:
    Hancock: I'm concerned over the continual absence of one-thirteenth of this Congress. Where is New Jersey?
    Dickinson: Somewhere between New York and Pennsylvania.
  • Combined moment of Awesome and Funny: "NEVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! NEVAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
  • New York abstains. Courteously.
    Hancock: Mr. Morris. WHAT IN HELL GOES ON IN NEW YORK?!
  • "Are you calling me a madman, fribble?!
    Dickinson: Are you calling me a coward?
    Adams: Yes! Coward!
    Dickinson: Madman!
    Adams: Landlord!
    Dickinson: LAWYER!
    [cane fight ensues]
    • Made funnier by the fact that Adams actually was a lawyer. As was Dickinson.
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    • Also "fribble" is an actual word along with piddle, twiddle, pish posh, gay, and queer.
  • "FIRE WAGON!!" MacNair's delighted face and his trembling with excitement really make the scene. And then nearly the entire congress of grown men races outside like a bunch of children to see what's on fire.
  • Adams' morose worry that for all his effort to make America free, his contributions would never be known (the quote comes straight out of history, too):
    Franklin: Don't worry, John. The history books will clean it up.
    Adams: It doesn't matter. I won't be in the history books anyway — only you. Franklin did this and Franklin did that and Franklin did some other damned thing. Franklin smote the ground, and out sprang... George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod, and the three of them — Franklin, Washington, and the horse — conducted the entire Revolution by themselves.
    Franklin: I like it!
  • Pretty much everything Ben Franklin says. He was pretty much our nation's first Deadpan Snarker.
    Franklin: (to arriving delegate Dr. Lyman Hall) What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a Great Man before?
    • And:
      Adams: Wake up, Franklin, you're going to New Brunswick!
      Franklin: (half asleep) Like hell I am. What for?
      Hopkins: The whoring and the drinking!
      (Franklin gets up and marches off right behind Adams)
      • In the film, Adams even gives a little nod of 'Yeah, that'll definitely get him moving'.
      • For that matter, the New Brunswick dispatch itself.
        Witherspoon: There must be some mistake — I have an aunt who lives in New Brunswick!
        Dickinson: You must tell her to keep up the good work!
    • After Adams and Franklin call back at Jefferson's home after his night with his wife:
      Adams: This is positively indecent!
      Franklin: Oh, John, they're young and they're in love.
      Adams: Not them, Franklin — us! Standing out here — waiting for them to — I mean, what will people think?
      Franklin: Don't worry, John. the history books will clean it up.
    • Franklin's first question, upon learning his son was arrested by Revolutionary forces: "Is he unharmed?" After a yes, his second question: "Tell me, why did they arrest the little bastard?" Also doubles as a Historical In-Joke as his son actually was a bastard (in the "parents are unmarried" sense).
  • Lee's over-Lee enthusiastic attitude.
    Adams: Spoken modest-Lee. God help us!
  • Jefferson's initial failure to write the Declaration.
    Adams: Do you mean to tell me that it is not yet finished?
    Jefferson: No, sir. I mean to say that it is not yet begun.
    Adams: Good God. A whole week! The entire earth was created in a week!
    Jefferson: Someday, you must tell me how you did it.
    Adams: Disgusting. Look at him, Franklin! Virginia's most famous lover!
    Jefferson: Virginia abstains.
    • The scene where he's trying to write: writes a little, then crumples up the paper. Then he writes even less on the next sheet before crumpling it, and finally, he just stares at the next one before crumpling it.
      Jefferson: Damn the man. God damn the man.
  • Adams realizing that Jefferson and his wife were having the 18th century equivalent of a booty call:
    Adams: Good God! Y'mean they — They're going to — In the middle of the afternoon??
    Franklin: Not everybody's from Boston, John!
  • "This is a REVOLUTION, dammit! We're going to have to offend SOMEBODY!"
  • Adams finally brings up one last quibble about the Declaration: arguing that the word is "unalienable", not "inalienable":
    Jefferson: I'm sorry, Mr. Adams, inalienable is correct.
    Adams: I happen to be a Harvard graduate, Mr. Jefferson. (Some laughs from Congress)
    Jefferson: Well, I attended William & Mary, Mr. Adams. (Some delegates cheer)
    Hancock: Gentlemen, please! Mr. Jefferson, will you yield to Mr. Adams' request?
    Jefferson: (Relishing the moment) No, sir, I will not.
    (Adams attempts to object, only to realize he can't win. A grin creeps across Jefferson's face)
    Adams: Oh, very well, I'll withdraw it!
    Franklin: Oh, good for you, John!
    • Adams mutters under his breath he'll talk to the printer later and change it then. (He did, too!)
  • Adams being a combination of extremely awkward and irritated when Martha arrives and she and Jefferson start kissing so passionately they become oblivious to anything else.
    John: [pointedly looking away from the scene] Jefferson, kindly present me to your wife! [looks back at them] She is your wife, isn't she?
    • The slightly more worldly Franklin, meanwhile, has the kind of "aww, how sweet" look on his face normally reserved for newborn kittens.
      Franklin: Of course she is — look at the way they fit!
  • John and Abigail's first song in "Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve", both of them completely unimpressed with the other's problems:
    • In response to the long list of various illnesses their children are afflicted with, Adams replies "Madam, what else is new?"
    • When John demands to know why the ladies aren't making saltpeter, Abigail points out that he neglected to tell them how.
      John: By treating sodium nitrate with potassium chloride, of course!
      Abigail: Oh yes, of course.
      (The stage directions for these lines in the play are "Impatiently" and "A woman", respectively)
    • That this is met with Abigail's "more urgent" problem: a pin shortage in Massachusetts, which she demands that John resolve before she sends him saltpeter — and wins.
    • John's lament at God. He lists all the different disasters and plagues that might have afflicted the American continent, concluding with: "But no, you've sent us Congress! Good God, sir, was that fair?"
  • "The Lees of Old Virginia." Franklin's wheedling, Lee serving a large helping of ham along with a Hurricane of Puns quite generous-Lee, and Adams as a wholly unwilling participant in the entire number. After it's over, he calls in "the most revolting display I ever witnessed." Not Lee, Franklin, for inciting it. It gets even better in the movie: when Lee returns for his unexpected reprise, Adams winds up falling into the fountain.
  • The argument over whether the national bird is going to be an eagle, a dove... or a turkey.note 
  • Jefferson sings along with the delegates during "But Mr. Adams", happily helping support the other committee members' reasons not to be the drafter, until he realizes that only leaves Adams, who's "obnoxious and disliked," and himself, meaning he couldn't leave for Virginia.
    Jefferson: Mr. Adams!
    Leave me aloooooone!
  • "Sit Down, John," where Congress goes between telling Adams to shut up and trying desperately to ignore him.
    Chase: "Someone oughta ooooooopen up a window!"
    Adams: "Will you listen to me and forget the window?!"
    Congress: "It's ninety degrees, have mercy, John, please! It's hot as hell, in Philadel-phia!"
  • At the beginning of the movie:
    MacNair: Better get yourself back down to Congress, Mister Adams. Gettin' ready to vote, and they said they can't settle such an important question without Massachusetts bein' there.
    Adams: (bored) I can just imagine. All right, what burning issue are we voting on this time?
    MacNair: (earnest) On whether or not to grant General Washington's request... that all members of the Rhode Island Militia be required to wear matchin' uniforms.
    Adams: ... oh, good God.
  • If you ever believe that shows like South Park are corrupting Americans, take some twisted comfort in the fact that our founding fathers were finding amusement in comparing themselves to castrated bulls.
  • This exchange between Franklin and Adams:
    Franklin: Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers.
    Adams: I have more to do than stand here listening to you quote yourself.
    Franklin: No, that was a new one!
  • "Judge Wilson, in your eagerness to be loved you seem to have forgotten that Pennsylvania CANNOT SECOND ITS OWN MOTION!"
  • "I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress!"
  • Thomas Jefferson's finally written the Declaration! Great! Now, once Congress has heard it, comes the editing process. Poor Thomas gets more unhappy as his writing is criticized and trimmed.


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