Happy 4th of July!
As we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on this 4th of July, there is another July 4th that is worth remembering.
By the summer of 1826, the US had grown from 13 states to 24, expanded west of the Mississippi, and had quintupled in population to over 12 million people. Most of the generation that led the fight for independence had now passed into history. On July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of our Nation’s founding, two of the last remaining signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, our second President, and Thomas Jefferson, our greatest political thinker, were in their final hours. In his correspondence, Adams had vowed to survive until the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration.
Jefferson died at 1pm on the afternoon of the 4th, and Adams at 6pm the same day. Adams, unaware that Jefferson had preceded him, is said to have spoken these last words, “Jefferson survives.”
Although the two men had deep political differences in the early years of the Republic, in 1812, the two began to rekindle their friendship through correspondence. They reconciled, and over the next decade exchanged more than 300 letters on a wide range of subjects and interests.