Thomas Jefferson wrote well but spoke so softly that it was extremely difficult to understand him. Many times during the Continental Congress, men would call out to “Speak up man.” John Adams however, was a most eloquent speaker and consequently, along with Benjamin Franklin the two were asked to collaborate on the Declaration of Independence . Jefferson was to write it and Adams was to present the paper for ratification by the states. As is well known, the document was accepted and sent to the King of England . That simple act began the American Revolution and ultimately led to the establishment of the United States of America . July 4th would henceforth be known as the birthday of America .
Said Adams ; “But the Day is past. The Forth Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America . - I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfire and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
The two men, Adams the older and Jefferson the younger formed a deep and loving bond like father to son.
Once the Revolution was finished, it was the law of the land that men running for the presidency would not have a running mate as is done today. Instead, the man with the most votes became president and the one with the next most would be vice president. Although this first was thought to be a grand idea, it became apparent there was an inherent flaw to this idea. The president’s chief opponent was now in his administration.
This was the case when John Adams became the second president of the United States : Jefferson was his vice president. However, by this time the two men had grown apart politically and this seriously affected their relationship. Adams believed in a firm federal government that could help control the spread of America across the continent. He thought a central banking system would stabilize the new economy and provide for a national army. Jefferson however was staunchly opposed to any attempts to centralize the government. He felt that a people’s democracy free of government intervention was what was needed and soon, the two men were locked in a bitter quarrel. It ultimately led to a presidential campaign still considered one of the most hateful in American history.
Jefferson defeated Adams to become the third president of the United States and Adams returned home to Quincy, Massachusetts a very angry man. After his two terms in office, Jefferson returned to Monticello , Virginia . Neither man would speak to the other.
Yet, after many years had passed and the passions of politics began to fade, Adams who missed his old friend Tom, sent a letter to Jefferson . Jefferson felt the same and what followed was a series of letters which rank amongst the most magnificent documents in all of American literature. These great men of the Enlightenment wrote about philosophy, religion, art, architecture, agriculture as well as other topics.
Given the distances and the mode of travel in those days, the two men never saw each other again.
Thomas Jefferson passed away July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the ratification of his now world famous document and the establishment of the United States . John Adams died shortly after on the same day...his last words were “Thomas survives.” Jeffersonian democracy had triumphed.
The two men who had brought a nation into existence died fifty years to the date of that nation’s birth. People across the land were now certain that the United States was a creation protected by God Himself.