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Two Presidents Died on the Same July 4: Coincidence or Something More?


On July 4, 1826, America celebrated 50 years of independence as, just a few hours apart, two of its Presidents took their final breaths. At the time of his death, Thomas Jefferson was 83, while John Adams had turned 90 the year before. Though both were unwell, their deaths came as a surprise to many—particularly as they coincided with one another on this very striking date.

In the weeks that followed, Americans offered a variety of explanations for the sudden loss of these two presidents. Though some likely wrote it off as coincidence, many saw evidence of divine design at work. In a eulogy delivered the following month, for instance, Daniel Webster wondered what this “striking and extraordinary” coincidence might suggest. The men’s lives had been gifts from Providence to the United States, he said. So too were their length and “happy termination,” which he saw as “proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care.”

But if it wasn’t a coincidence or divine intervention, what other explanations might there be? Modern scholars have sometimes attempted to pinpoint why such a statistically unlikely event might have taken place. After all, Jefferson and Adams didn’t only die on the same day, with an already low probability of 1 in 365. They died on the same significant date and historic anniversary. “When appeals to coincidence are insufficient,” writes Margaret P. Battin in a 2005 Bulletin of the Historic Society report, “we must look for explanations in common circumstance or common cause, or for causation from one case to the other.”

One possible explanation proposes that Jefferson and Adams deliberately “held on” for the anniversary. The phenomenon of people keeping themselves alive until they’ve said goodbye to a loved one or experienced a significant anniversary is well-documented: It’s entirely possible that Adams and Jefferson’s “will to live” kept them going through those final days ahead of July 4th—but wasn’t enough to keep them alive after that.

In fact, even contemporary observers thought this might have been a conscious decision. In a eulogy for Jefferson delivered in New York in mid-July, the businessman and politician Churchill C. Cambreleng observed: “The body had wasted away—but the energies of a powerful mind, struggling with expiring nature, kept the vital spark alive till the meridian sun shone on our 50th Anniversary—then content to die—the illustrious Jefferson gave to the world his last declaration.”

Jefferson is also said to have refused his usual laudanum on the night before he died, which might have affected his ability to cope with the pain. In a separate eulogy, in fact, John Tyler described Jefferson’s often-expressed desire to die on the Fourth of July, adding even more credence to the theory that their deaths on that providential date may not have been entirely accidental.
Conspiracy theories about their concurrent deaths have also circulated, both at the time and in the centuries since. Battin suggests a possible “silent conspiracy among physicians, family members and other caregivers to help their patient ‘make it’ to the 4th,” where the effort came to an end once the day had been reached. Adams’ granddaughter, she observed, reported their doctor giving her grandfather an experimental medicine which he said would either prolong his life by as much as two weeks, or bring it to a close before 24 hours were up. Even those quite unconnected to the deaths wondered if something more sinister, or planned, had been afoot.

In a letter, John Randolph, of Roanoke decried Adams’ death as “Euthenasia, indeed.” What’s more, he added, “They have killed Mr. Jefferson, too, on the same day, but I don’t believe it.”

But all of these explanations have limitations of one sort or another, particularly as the historical evidence is so scarce. Whatever the reason behind it, these deaths, and their date, were a remarkable concurrence—and one made even more striking five years later, with the death of James Monroe on that same auspicious date. A few days after Monroe passed away, the Boston Traveler was not the only newspaper to observe, “Again our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance.”


Three Presidents Die on July 4th: Just a Coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three of the five Founding Father Presidents died on the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three Founding Father Presidents—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe—died on July 4, the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

On July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth President, died at the age of 73 at his son-in-law’s home in New York City. Monroe had been ill for some time and newspapers had reported on Monroe’s illness before his passing.

Local and national newspapers were also quick to report after Monroe’s death that they thought his July 4 passing was a “remarkable” coincidence, at the least, since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had both also died on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The oddness of the events wasn’t lost on the New York Evening Post in 1831, when the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton called it a “coincidence that has no parallel”: “ Three of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,” the Post reported on July 5, 1831.

The New York Commercial Advertiser wrote on July 5, 1831: “It would be difficult to find a parallel in history, three of them have been called away in a good all age, on the same proud anniversary.”

And then the Boston Traveler wondered about the coincidence on July 8. “Again our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance.”

Then the Frederick, Maryland Town Herald marked Monroe’s passing on July 9, 1831 by also noting the “presidential coincidence”: “This have three of our revolutionary presidents departed this life on the anniversary of our independence presenting the most remarkable tissue of coincidences that have marked the history of nations,” the newspaper said.

The death of these three presidents on the same day of the year was a long shot. There is an interesting blog post at the Boston University’s History Society that excerpts Margaret P. Battin’s research on the coincidental deaths of Adams and Jefferson.

“Given the insufficient historical evidence available, we can’t know the truth about why Adams and Jefferson died on the same day,” Battin said. (She didn’t include Monroe in her study.) Battin evaluated the circumstances under six different criteria, ranging from mere coincidence and divine intervention, to the men’s willingness or desire to die on the anniversary day.

“We can reflect on whether it would make a difference to us if one or another of these explanations turned out to be true,” she concluded. “After all, the six possibilities these explanations raise are central to the very questions about death and dying that are so controversial today.”

But back in 1826, Daniel Webster’s eulogy for Adams and Jefferson spoke to a point that many people believed: that something other than coincidence was involved.

“The concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence has naturally awakened stronger emotions,” Webster said. “It cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act, that they should complete that year, and that then, on the day which had fast linked forever their own fame with their country's glory, the heavens should open to receive them both at once.”

“As their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?”


Three Presidents Die on July 4th: Just a Coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three of the five Founding Father Presidents died on the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

Back on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth President, died at the age of 73 at his son-in-law’s home in New York City. Monroe had been ill for some time and newspapers had reported on Monroe’s illness before his passing.

Local and national newspapers were also quick to report after Monroe’s death that they thought his July 4 th passing was a “remarkable” coincidence, at the least, since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826 – the 50 th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The oddness of the events wasn’t lost on the New York Evening Post in 1831, when the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton called it a “coincidence that has no parallel.” “Three of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,” the Post reported on July 5, 1831.

The Frederick, Maryland Town Herald marked Monroe’s passing on July 9, 1831 by also noting the “presidential coincidence.” “This have three of our revolutionary presidents departed this life on the anniversary of our independence presenting the most remarkable tissue of coincidences that have marked the history of nations,” the newspaper said.

Likewise, the New York Commercial Advertiser pondered the coincidence on July 5, 1831. “Thus of the six former presidents, by a coincidence for which it would be difficult to find a parallel in history, three of them have been called away in a good all age, on the same proud anniversary,” it said.

And then the Boston Traveler wondered about the coincidence on July 8. “Again our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance.”

New York’s Journal of Commerce noted the coincidence: “Thus three of four ex-presidents have died on the memorable Fourth of July and two of them on the same Fourth of July. A coincidence so extraordinary is scarcely to be found in history.”

We aren’t statisticians, but it is obvious that the death of three presidents, of the seven who had been elected, as of 1831, on the same day of the year was a long shot. There is an interesting blog post at the Boston University’s History Society that excerpts Margaret P. Battin’s research on the coincidental deaths of Adams and Jefferson.

“Given the insufficient historical evidence available, we can’t know the truth about why Adams and Jefferson died on the same day,” Battin said. (She didn’t include Monroe in her study.) Battin evaluated the circumstances under six different criteria, ranging from mere coincidence and divine intervention, to the men’s willingness or desire to die on the anniversary day.

“Given the insufficient historical evidence available, we can’t know the truth about why Adams and Jefferson died on the same day. But we can reflect on whether it would make a difference to us if one or another of these explanations turned out to be true,” she concluded. “After all, the six possibilities these explanations raise are central to the very questions about death and dying that are so controversial today.”

But back in 1826, Daniel Webster’s eulogy for Adams and Jefferson spoke to a point that many people believed: that something other than coincidence was involved.

“The concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence has naturally awakened stronger emotions,” Webster said. “It cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act, that they should complete that year, and that then, on the day which had fast linked forever their own fame with their country’s glory, the heavens should open to receive them both at once.”

“As their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?”


2. Zachary Taylor Ate the Cherries That Killed Him on July 4th

Imagine being the president of the United States on July 4. What a great feeling it must be to watch everyone in America celebrate their freedom. In Washington, D.C., however, it gets swelteringly hot. So it makes sense that President Zachary Taylor, dressed in his finest presidential garb, would stop for heaping bowls of cherries and a "jug" of iced milk to cool down and celebrate the day.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, he ate some bad fruit (allegedly cherries) and contracted a stomach bug. By the time Taylor returned to the White House, he was already sick. A few days later, he was dead. The cause was "cholera morbus" -- 19th century doctor-speak for "I Don't Know, But I'm Pretty Sure It Was Something to Do With His Stomach." A big bowl of fruit did what 82,000 Mexican soldiers couldn't.


Three Presidents Die on July 4th: Just a Coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three of the five Founding Father Presidents died on the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three Founding Father Presidents&mdashJohn Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe&mdashdied on July 4, the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

On July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth President, died at the age of 73 at his son-in-law&rsquos home in New York City. Monroe had been ill for some time and newspapers had reported on Monroe&rsquos illness before his passing.

Local and national newspapers were also quick to report after Monroe&rsquos death that they thought his July 4 passing was a &ldquoremarkable&rdquo coincidence, at the least, since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had both also died on July 4, 1826 &ndash the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The oddness of the events wasn&rsquot lost on the New York Evening Post in 1831, when the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton called it a &ldquocoincidence that has no parallel&rdquo: &ldquoThree of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,&rdquo the Post reported on July 5, 1831.

The New York Commercial Advertiser wrote on July 5, 1831: &ldquoIt would be difficult to find a parallel in history, three of them have been called away in a good all age, on the same proud anniversary."

And then the Boston Traveler wondered about the coincidence on July 8. &ldquoAgain our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance.&rdquo

Then the Frederick, Maryland Town Herald marked Monroe&rsquos passing on July 9, 1831 by also noting the &ldquopresidential coincidence&rdquo: &ldquoThis have three of our revolutionary presidents departed this life on the anniversary of our independence presenting the most remarkable tissue of coincidences that have marked the history of nations,&rdquo the newspaper said.

The death of these three presidents on the same day of the year was a long shot. There is an interesting blog post at the Boston University&rsquos History Society that excerpts Margaret P. Battin&rsquos research on the coincidental deaths of Adams and Jefferson.

&ldquoGiven the insufficient historical evidence available, we can&rsquot know the truth about why Adams and Jefferson died on the same day,&rdquo Battin said. (She didn&rsquot include Monroe in her study.) Battin evaluated the circumstances under six different criteria, ranging from mere coincidence and divine intervention, to the men&rsquos willingness or desire to die on the anniversary day.

&ldquoWe can reflect on whether it would make a difference to us if one or another of these explanations turned out to be true,&rdquo she concluded. &ldquoAfter all, the six possibilities these explanations raise are central to the very questions about death and dying that are so controversial today.&rdquo

But back in 1826, Daniel Webster&rsquos eulogy for Adams and Jefferson spoke to a point that many people believed: that something other than coincidence was involved.

&ldquoThe concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence has naturally awakened stronger emotions,&rdquo Webster said. &ldquoIt cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act, that they should complete that year, and that then, on the day which had fast linked forever their own fame with their country's glory, the heavens should open to receive them both at once.&rdquo

&ldquoAs their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?&rdquo

Podcast: The Latest Big Decisions from the Supreme Court

Supreme Court correspondents Jess Bravin and Marcia Coyle join host Jeffrey Rosen to recap recent key decisions from the 2020-21 term.


Bill Clinton - Jeered Then Revered

 In 1988 the Democrats nominated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis for President.  Dukakis eventually lost the election to George Herbert Walker Bush handidly, but it was who gave the nomination Speech at the convention that goes down in History.  As Dukakis was a liberal governor from the Northeast, he chose the little known Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton to deliver the speech nominating Dukakis for President. 

Bill Clinton&aposs speech that night was not well received.  Most found Clinton&aposs speech boring and all thought his 32 minute speech was way too long.  Long time journalist Tom Brokaw remarked, "He droned on and on, and droned on," said Brokaw. "When he finally said &aposIn conclusion,&apos people began to cheer."  Most believed that Clinton&aposs introduction to the nation was so bad that his political career was over.

Oddly, Bill Clinton only four years later accepted the Democratic Nomination for President before a huge crowd in New York City.  He won two terms as President and until Barack Obama came on the scene in 2008 was the most loved Democrat.  He still brings excitement wherever he goes and oddly, people love to hear him speak.

The Booth Family Name Was Tainted By The Lincoln Murder

John Wilkes Booth&aposs older brother Edwin Booth saved Robert Lincoln&aposs Life At A Train Station A Few Years Before His Brother Killed The President


Three Presidents Die on July 4th: Just a Coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three of the five Founding Father Presidents died on the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three Founding Father Presidents&mdashJohn Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe&mdashdied on July 4, the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

On July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth President, died at the age of 73 at his son-in-law&rsquos home in New York City. Monroe had been ill for some time and newspapers had reported on Monroe&rsquos illness before his passing.

Local and national newspapers were also quick to report after Monroe&rsquos death that they thought his July 4 passing was a &ldquoremarkable&rdquo coincidence, at the least, since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had both also died on July 4, 1826 &ndash the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The oddness of the events wasn&rsquot lost on the New York Evening Post in 1831, when the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton called it a &ldquocoincidence that has no parallel&rdquo: &ldquoThree of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,&rdquo the Post reported on July 5, 1831.

The New York Commercial Advertiser wrote on July 5, 1831: &ldquoIt would be difficult to find a parallel in history, three of them have been called away in a good all age, on the same proud anniversary."

And then the Boston Traveler wondered about the coincidence on July 8. &ldquoAgain our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance.&rdquo

Then the Frederick, Maryland Town Herald marked Monroe&rsquos passing on July 9, 1831 by also noting the &ldquopresidential coincidence&rdquo: &ldquoThis have three of our revolutionary presidents departed this life on the anniversary of our independence presenting the most remarkable tissue of coincidences that have marked the history of nations,&rdquo the newspaper said.

The death of these three presidents on the same day of the year was a long shot. There is an interesting blog post at the Boston University&rsquos History Society that excerpts Margaret P. Battin&rsquos research on the coincidental deaths of Adams and Jefferson.

&ldquoGiven the insufficient historical evidence available, we can&rsquot know the truth about why Adams and Jefferson died on the same day,&rdquo Battin said. (She didn&rsquot include Monroe in her study.) Battin evaluated the circumstances under six different criteria, ranging from mere coincidence and divine intervention, to the men&rsquos willingness or desire to die on the anniversary day.

&ldquoWe can reflect on whether it would make a difference to us if one or another of these explanations turned out to be true,&rdquo she concluded. &ldquoAfter all, the six possibilities these explanations raise are central to the very questions about death and dying that are so controversial today.&rdquo

But back in 1826, Daniel Webster&rsquos eulogy for Adams and Jefferson spoke to a point that many people believed: that something other than coincidence was involved.

&ldquoThe concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence has naturally awakened stronger emotions,&rdquo Webster said. &ldquoIt cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act, that they should complete that year, and that then, on the day which had fast linked forever their own fame with their country's glory, the heavens should open to receive them both at once.&rdquo

&ldquoAs their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?&rdquo


Constitution Daily

It is a fact of American history that three of the five Founding Father Presidents died on the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

It is a fact of American history that three Founding Father Presidents&mdashJohn Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe&mdashdied on July 4, the Independence Day anniversary. But was it just a coincidence?

On July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth President, died at the age of 73 at his son-in-law&rsquos home in New York City. Monroe had been ill for some time and newspapers had reported on Monroe&rsquos illness before his passing.

Local and national newspapers were also quick to report after Monroe&rsquos death that they thought his July 4 passing was a &ldquoremarkable&rdquo coincidence, at the least, since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had both also died on July 4, 1826 &ndash the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The oddness of the events wasn&rsquot lost on the New York Evening Post in 1831, when the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton called it a &ldquocoincidence that has no parallel&rdquo: &ldquoThree of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,&rdquo the Post reported on July 5, 1831.

The New York Commercial Advertiser wrote on July 5, 1831: &ldquoIt would be difficult to find a parallel in history, three of them have been called away in a good all age, on the same proud anniversary."

And then the Boston Traveler wondered about the coincidence on July 8. &ldquoAgain our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance.&rdquo

Then the Frederick, Maryland Town Herald marked Monroe&rsquos passing on July 9, 1831 by also noting the &ldquopresidential coincidence&rdquo: &ldquoThis have three of our revolutionary presidents departed this life on the anniversary of our independence presenting the most remarkable tissue of coincidences that have marked the history of nations,&rdquo the newspaper said.

The death of these three presidents on the same day of the year was a long shot. There is an interesting blog post at the Boston University&rsquos History Society that excerpts Margaret P. Battin&rsquos research on the coincidental deaths of Adams and Jefferson.

&ldquoGiven the insufficient historical evidence available, we can&rsquot know the truth about why Adams and Jefferson died on the same day,&rdquo Battin said. (She didn&rsquot include Monroe in her study.) Battin evaluated the circumstances under six different criteria, ranging from mere coincidence and divine intervention, to the men&rsquos willingness or desire to die on the anniversary day.

&ldquoWe can reflect on whether it would make a difference to us if one or another of these explanations turned out to be true,&rdquo she concluded. &ldquoAfter all, the six possibilities these explanations raise are central to the very questions about death and dying that are so controversial today.&rdquo

But back in 1826, Daniel Webster&rsquos eulogy for Adams and Jefferson spoke to a point that many people believed: that something other than coincidence was involved.

&ldquoThe concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence has naturally awakened stronger emotions,&rdquo Webster said. &ldquoIt cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act, that they should complete that year, and that then, on the day which had fast linked forever their own fame with their country's glory, the heavens should open to receive them both at once.&rdquo

&ldquoAs their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?&rdquo

Podcast: The Latest Big Decisions from the Supreme Court

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4 The Civil War Keeps Finding Wilmer McLean

When the American Civil War erupted in 1861, Wilmer McLean of Virginia was too old and "whatever" for warfighting. Unfortunately, he also happened to live smack dab on the road between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA, the respective capitals of the Union and Confederacy.

The first battle of the Civil War pretty much happened at this guy's place. The Battle of Bull Run, broke out on July 21, 1861 near Manassas, Virginia--McLean's hometown. Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard needed a building to serve as headquarters for his staff and many initials, and when he saw Wilmer McLean's cozy house, he figured "what the fuck. " and camped there.

This immediately subjected the building to artillery fire, and one cannonball somehow found its way down the poor bastard's chimney. The entire building should have gone up like the Death Star, yet miraculously no one was hurt.

But, hey, an insane amount of fighting occurred along that road. A lot of people between Richmond and DC could say a battle happened on their front lawn. And, after this narrow escape with the Reaper in his very own home, McLean figured that moving his family out of No Man's Land would be a smart bet.

However, the man took so long to skip town that when 1862 rolled around, a battle nearly twice as large and four times as bloody exploded just outside his front door again--the Second Battle of Bull Run. After dodging this second bullet the size of Civil War battlefield, McLean finally sold and moved his family as far away as he could afford.

Where it Gets Even Weirder:

When Wilmer settled on a cottage in Clover Hill, Virginia, the town that later changed its name to Appomattox Court House. By 1865, Robert E. Lee's "invincible" Army of North Virginia was too busy having the ever-loving shit kicked out of it by General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union Army to defend Richmond. So after abandoning their capital, Lee's sorry-excuse-for-an-army was chased by Grant all across Virginia to. fucking Appomattox Court House.

On April 9, 1865, General Lee officially surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. The site for his surrender: the parlor of Wilmer McLean's new home.

Once the two armies left (and helped themselves to some furniture as souvenirs), the now-bankrupt McLean remarked: "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor," which is probably the classiest way a man can handle the single most shit-luck in American history.

Related: Did Some Litter Win the Civil War for the Union?


Jefferson and Adams die hours apart, July 4, 1826

On this day in 1826, which marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died within hours of each other. Adams was 90 Jefferson was 83.

Both while they worked together to forge the successful American Revolution and, subsequently, as political rivals, they had helped shape the nation’s early years. Adams went on to serve a term as the second U.S. president Jefferson followed him into the Executive Mansion with two terms.

Adams was a New England Federalist who believed in a strong central government. Jefferson was an agrarian Virginia aristocrat. Adams was a political animal to the core. Jefferson remained uncomfortable in the new capital along the Potomac he would much rather spend his days at Monticello, the classically proportioned mansion that he had designed. And yet, as historian Joseph Ellis has observed, they each in their way “came to embody the American dialogue.”

Abagail Adams, who had died in 1818, had intervened to break their estrangement. Now, well into their retirement years, they resumed writing to each other. “You and I ought not to die,” Adams wrote Jefferson, “before we have explained ourselves to each other.”

Adams, the more loquacious statesmen of the two, did more explaining, writing two letters to every one of Jefferson’s. Both of them worried about the country’s future, noting the growing divide between the slave-owning South and the commerce-minded North.

“I look back with rapture on those golden days when Virginia and Massachusetts lived and acted together like a band of brothers,” Adams had written Jefferson in 1825.

Jefferson had been asked to prepare a speech for July 4, 1826, but ill health prevented him from delivering in person what became his valedictory. In the draft, he would observe: “May [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it to be, the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.”

Adams, too, was asked to help celebrate the occasion in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. Likewise, illness prevented him from traveling. He died at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon on the Fourth. His last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” He was mistaken by about five hours.


Watch the video: 1901 President William McKinley Assassinated (December 2021).