Onward ‘through the storm’: Rival founding fathers became close; Both died on July 4, 1826

by WorldTribune Staff, July 4, 2023

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were political adversaries who became great friends in their later years. The nation’s second and third Presidents respectively, both passed away on the within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

Presidents John Adams, left, and Thomas Jefferson

Adams lived to the age of 90 while Jefferson was 83.

Jefferson actually passed away shortly after noon. Hours later, Adams, unaware of the news, uttered his last words: “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

“It carries me back,” Jefferson wrote about correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, “to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless . . . we rowed through the storm with heart and hand . . . .”

The presidential election of 1800, which some call the Second American Revolution saw Jefferson defeat Adams after what newspapermen of the day called a bitter campaign. Adams had narrowly defeated Jefferson in the 1796 election.

The 1800 election brought forth the current two-party dominance in U.S. presidential elections and is often cited as the first example of a “modern” election, replete with regional divisions and smear campaigns created by both parties.

Adams would eventually pen a letter to Jefferson on Jan. 1, 1812, and the two would go on to correspond with each other up until their deaths.

On July 4, 1986, President Ronald Reagan honored Adams and Jefferson in his own Independence Day address to the nation:

Membership . . . . Intelligence . . . . Publish