On This Day, July 4, 1826 – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams Die Within Hours of Each Other

jefferson and adams

1826 – Former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die on the same day within five hours of each other.

Jefferson and 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 and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their opinions on how to achieve these ideals diverged over time.

Adams preceded Jefferson as president (1797-1800); it was during this time that their ideas about policy-making became as distinct as their personalities. The irascible and hot-tempered Adams was a firm believer in a strong centralized government, while the erudite and gentile Jefferson believed federal government should take a more hands-off approach and defer to individual states’ rights. As Adams’ vice president, Jefferson was so horrified by what he considered to be Adams’ abuse of the presidency – particularly his passage of the restrictive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 – that he abandoned Adams and Washington for his estate at Monticello. There, he plotted how to bring his Republican faction back into power in the presidential election of 1800. After an exceptionally bitter campaign, in which both parties engaged in slanderous attacks on each other in print, Jefferson emerged victorious. It appeared the former friends would be eternal enemies.

After serving two presidential terms (1801-1809), Jefferson and Adams each expressed to third parties their respect the other and their desire to renew their friendship. Adams was the first to break the silence; he sent Jefferson a letter dated January 1, 1812, in which he wished Jefferson many happy new years to come. Jefferson responded with a note in which he fondly recalled when they were fellow laborers in the same cause. The former revolutionaries went on to resume their friendship over 14 years of correspondence during their golden years.

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.

1776 – In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually involve France’s intervention on behalf of the Americans.

1802 – The U.S. Military Academy officially opened at West Point, NY.

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase was announced in newspapers. The property was purchased, by the U.S. from France, was for $15 million (or 3 cents an acre). The “Corps of Discovery,” led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, began the exploration of the territory on May 14, 1804.

1817 – Construction began on the Erie Canal, to connect Lake Erie and the Hudson River.

1845 – American writer Henry David Thoreau began his two-year experiment in simple living at Walden Pond, near Concord, MA.

1848 – In Washington, DC, the cornerstone for the Washington Monument was laid.

1855 – The first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” by Walt Whitman, was published in Brooklyn, NY.

1863 – The Confederate town of Vicksburg, MS, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.

1881 – Tuskegee Institute opened in Alabama.

1884 – Bullfighting was introduced in the U.S. in Dodge City, KS.

1886 – The first rodeo in America was held at Prescott, AZ.

1892 – The first double-decked street car service was inaugurated in San Diego, CA.

1894 – After seizing power, Judge Stanford B. Dole declared Hawaii a republic.

1901 – William H. Taft became the American governor of the Philippines.

1910 – Race riots broke out all over the United States after African-American Jack Johnson knocked out Jim Jeffries in a heavyweight boxing match.

1934 – Boxer Joe Louis won his first professional fight.

1934 – At Mount Rushmore, George Washington’s face was dedicated.

1939 – Lou Gehrig retired from major league baseball.

1946 – The Philippines achieved full independence for the first time in over four hundred years.

1959 – The 49-star U.S. flag became official.

1960 – The 50-star U.S. flag made its debut in Philadelphia, PA.

1966 – U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act, which went into effect the following year.

1987 – Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo chief known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” was convicted by a French court of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

1997 – The Mars Pathfinder, an unmanned spacecraft, landed on Mars. A rover named Sojourner was deployed to gather data about the surface of the planet.

2004 – In New York, the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) was laid on the former World Trade Center site.

2009 – The Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened to visitors. It had been closed to the public since 2001.


Source: History.com; On-This-Day.com


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