Something else to remember on this day in July –
On this day in 1826, fifty years after the Declaration of Independence from England, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries, die on the same day within five hours of each other.
On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives”. He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 82.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire and forged a new political system in the former colonies. However, while they both believed in democracy, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their opinions on how to achieve these ideals diverged over time.
The differences of opinion and the bitter 1800 campaign for president led these two men to never again speak directly to each other. After many years they exchanged letters and reconciled. There was always great respect each for the other. We carry on the differences over which they argued in our governance today. Let’s not forget that despite the differences and opinions they argued, they were able to found a new government and a country which has endured more than two centuries.
We must carry on a commitment to the new form of governance they created, with civil discourse and heated debate, But each side must at least attempt to reconcile and find a way forward beyond the vitriol as these two men did.