Over the July 4th weekend I celebrated by watching a lot of Founding-Fathery patriotic television shows. This was more disturbing than entertaining, as one particular show – which I shall forebear to mention here – set me off on a Rumpelstilskin-esque fit of rage. I actually yelled at my television as it, in all earnestness, told me the story of the “Unknown Patriot,” a mysterious figure who appeared at the Continental Congress and exhorted the members to Sign the Declaration! (Because they never would have, if some guy at the back of the room that nobody had ever seen before hadn’t told them to.) There was all sorts of discussion on the television of who this mysterious figure might have been, and astral planes and so forth.
Of course, there’s just one problem. The story of the “Unknown Patriot” is a piece of historical fiction, written by a nineteenth-century novelist named George Lippard. Seriously. What if, 100 years from now, people thought that Sam Spade was a real person, and his adventures in pursuit of the Maltese Falcon actually happened? You get my point.
Immediately following this was a segment on Thomas Jefferson and His Love for Hemp. Apparently he loved hemp. He wrote the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. He brought back hemp from Europe. He invented a new method of separating hemp fibers. (They didn’t actually say that he smoked it, but you know they probably hoped he did.)
Oh, Television! You are wrong again:
- The Declaration of Independence was not written on hemp paper. (Lots of hemp aficionado sites in the Internets will tell you it was, but they would say that, wouldn’t they?)
- I haven’t found any specific mention of bringing hemp back from Europe, at least in raw or seed form.
- Jefferson did not invent a new method of separating hemp fibers; they are probably talking about his hemp break, but he certainly didn’t invent that.
So: don’t believe everything the television tells you. In fact, it’s probably best to assume the television is wrong.