The Story of July 4, 1826

The Story of July 4, 1826

By: Carl H. Block, Esq.

July 4, 2022

This weekend we celebrate the 246th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of independence on July 4th 1776.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both attended the second Continental Congress. During the Second Continental Congress, John Adams organized a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Adams selected Thomas Jefferson to be on the committee. Jefferson thought that Adams should write the declaration, while Adams thought that Jefferson could write better, and that Jefferson should write the declaration. Adams eventually convinced other committee members that Jefferson be the primary drafter of the declaration. The Declaration of Independence signed on July 4th, 1776.

Adams served as vice president to George Washington. Thomas Jefferson served as the Secretary of State for George Washington. Both Adams and Jefferson ran for president after George Washington. Jefferson lost the electoral college to Adams, by a vote of 71 to 68. Thus, Adams became the second president of the United States, but under the laws at the time, Jefferson, his opponent in the election, became Adams’ vice president.

Adams and Jefferson had significantly different views of the direction the United States should go on a wide variety of issues. Although they were president and vice president, their relationship spiraled downward on a number of levels where each believed the other wanted to take the country in the wrong direction.

Jefferson ran against Adams in the next election. The election was hard fought and bitter, causing additional degradation in their relationship. Jefferson won and became the third president of the United States in 1801, but the relationship was so bad that Adams refused to attend the inauguration. They did not speak for about 12 years.

In 1812, Adams sent a friendly note to Jefferson and a gift of two books. Jefferson wrote a cordial letter back to Adams. By 1813, their relationship through letters had healed to the point where they were able to discuss more difficult issues. In the summer of 1813, Adams wrote “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.” Their correspondence continued as they aged. In 1823, Jefferson wrote “crippled wrists and fingers make writing slow and laborious. But while writing to you, I lose the sense of these things, in the recollection of ancient times, when youth and health made happiness out of everything.” They wrote back and forth for 14 years, with over 100 letters from Adams and almost 50 from Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826, at 12:50 pm, fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His last significant words were “Is it the Fourth?” John Adams died the same day, on July 4th, 1826, at 6:20 pm. Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives,” unaware that Jefferson had died earlier in the day.

Reflecting on this story, it is a story of two leaders, having different views, but both trying to do what they believed as right for the United States. Although their relationship became bitter, they were able to overcome the bitterness, eventually rebuild a relationship, and learn to understand each other.

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