I’m back after a long absence… My family’s issues appear to be resolving, freeing me to focus on my own goals and passions.
Today, I’m celebrating two men in American history – men whose lives became intertwined and who were alternately friends, enemies, and colleagues for more than fifty years.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were, in many ways, differentiated by geography. They were from different parts of the Colonies; Adams was a Boston lawyer and Jefferson a lawyer, landowner, and Burgess in Virginia. Each was a man of great intellectual curiosity. Each believed passionately in the Rights of Man.
Together with Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston, Jefferson and Adams were appointed to a Committee by the Continental Congress on June 11, 1776 to draft a Declaration to explain the reasons for the Colonies’ separation from the King and Parliament. Adams lobbied within the committee for Jefferson to write the first draft, which he subsequently produced. There were some changes made by the committee as a whole, and then the document was submitted to the Congress on June 28,1776. Congress debated Jefferson’s Declaration and made many alterations, striking entire sections and heavily editing others.
What they agreed upon became, as Jeffersonian biographer John Ferling called it, the “majestic document that inspired both contemporaries and posterity.”
The vote for Independence was taken and carried on July 2, 1776. The document proclaiming and explaining this radical move was first read to the assembled crowds in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. And the world changed forever.
This document came to life under the pen of Thomas Jefferson, but it owes every bit as much to Adams, Franklin, and the others. These are the founding fathers, the men who transformed the ideals of the Enlightenment into a nation.
In the ensuing thirty years, the two men’s conflicting views and ways of life made them adversaries. Jefferson unseated Adams to become the third President of the United States. However, as they aged, they found fewer and fewer minds to match their own, and they began a long correspondence. The men whose shared ideals and conflicts had formed a nation became friends once more, brothers in experience and purpose.
On the morning of July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson breathed his last at Monticello. That afternoon, as the Nation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the first reading of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams died in Quincy, Massachusetts. His last words, fittingly, were “Thomas Jefferson survives.”
He does, indeed. They both do.