By Don Vitale
Are you with me on this? Can you possibly believe the odds that two Founding Fathers would die on the Fourth of July. To be precise…on July 4th, 1826. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Both men on the same day…in the same year.
And not just any July 4th. Nosiree my good friends, it was the July 4th celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The two Founders were John Adams, America’s second President, and Thomas
Jefferson who served as the country’s third President.
What happened not only stretches the imagination, it bogles the mind.
Even more so as these two Founders played a crucial role in creating
the Declaration of Independence. If you remember your history, you’ll
recall that both men worked with each other to draft that historic
document, published on July 4th, 1776.
As I said, friends, how do you explain both men dying hours apart
on the same day? Hundreds of miles away. At the very least many days of overland travel. Adams died at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jefferson
died at his home in Monticello, Virginia.
Are we talking coincidence?
By all accounts both men had health problems.
Both were elderly. Adams was 90, Jefferson 83.
But if you asked me, I’d have to say No, if only because I personally don’t believe in “coincidences”.
Because their deaths occurred almost simultaneously, some talked about
“Divine Intervention.” Noted members of the clergy as well as
prominent politicians at the time felt that it was a sign that America and its
people were exceptional, blessed by God. Eulogies and heartfelt
speeches abounded attributing the extraordinary event to divine
You should know that the record shows that both men were aware that the
50th anniversary of the 4th of July was at hand. You have to assume that both
were enfeebled but just hanging on. At 90 you aren’t exactly looking forward
to a Grand Tour of Europe to see the sights. Rather, more like waiting for
your last moments.
Which brings us to another explanation: John Tyler, a lawmaker from Virginia who eventually would become America’s 10th President, claimed that Jefferson had often expressed the wish that he die on the Fourth of July.
In a letter to Adams Jefferson described a mutual friend’s debilities:
“It is at most but the life of a cabbage, surely not worth a wish
When all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one,
sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasure is closed,
and athumy, debility and malaise left in their places, when
the friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us who we not know, is death an evil?”
Adams in his last year of life replied to Jefferson:
“I answer your question, is Death an Evil. It is not
an Evil. It is a blessing to the individual, and to
the world. Yet we ought not to wish for it till
life becomes insupportable; we must wait the
the pleasure and convenience of this great teacher.”
Those on the edge of death can withhold medicine that is fatal.
That was the Death on Purpose explanation.
This possibility was talked about by those who knew the men,
that both Jefferson and Adams held on to life until the 50th
anniversary of the July Fourth.
Did that happen? Did any of the other reasons held by friends
explain the extraordinary event: two of the most high-profile
Founding Fathers dying on the Fourth of July in the same year.
Adams’ niece Louisa Smith was in the room when he died. At 1 p.m. she heard Adams say ‘Thomas Jefferson survives.’ There is a debate as to what Adams said exactly….but it indicates that Adams (and most probably Jefferson) was aware that it was the ‘Fourth of July’.
As I said before, I myself– well, I don’t buy into “coincidence.” Doesn’t mean their deaths just happened for no other reason except that they were both at an elderly age.
Nor am I able to even proffer a guess.
This story has lots of background that I had to ignore in order to
accommodate the metrics of this blog. Do some research on the
subject, decide on an opinion…until such time when we shall
revisit this fascinating, though perplexing, event.–dv