Independence Day, July 4th, is here again with its picnics, parades, baseball games, fireworks and long weekends. Red, white,, and blue decorations can be found in backyards, parks, and wherever celebrations of the day are held.
Although the declaration of independence was prepared on July 2nd, it wasn’t finalized until the 4th, declaring the united states to be independent of British rule.
Two of the signers of this declaration of independence---John Adams and Thomas Jefferson---later became presidents.
John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in Braintree, Norfolk, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1751, and began his career as a lawyer. He married Abigail Smith on October 25, 1764, and they had 6 children.
Adams served as vice-president under President George Washington. From 1797 to 1801, with Thomas Jefferson as his vice-president, Adams became the 2nd president of the U.S.
Although Thomas Jefferson and Adams worked closely for independence from Britian , they became enemies. They developed intense political rivalry when they competed for presidency in 1796 and 1800.
Thomas Jefferson was born at his family home in Albemarle County, Virginia on April 13, 1743. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. On January 1, 1772, he married Martha Skelton, only to have her die within 10 years (1782), at their beloved mansion, Monticello, which he designed. He became the 3rd president, serving two terms, from 1801 to 1809.
After retirement, John Adams headed back to Quincy, Massachusetts and farming, while Jefferson went back to his favorite Monticello. Both had not yet reconciled.
In 1801, Adams did write a brief note to Jefferson that he was retiring to Quincy, but Jefferson didn’t respond. Adam’s wife, Abigail, had a brief correspondence with Jefferson years later, when she send her sympathies to him on the death of his daughter. Perhaps that short correspondence of Abigail’s helped, as well as their mutual friend, Benjamin Rush. Into their retirement years, the two reconciled and corresponded until their death. Adams, in a letter told Jefferson, “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.”
It’s nice to know, these two men, who helped shape our nation, in their last years became friends once again.
Jefferson, at 83, died a few hours before Adams, who died at age 90. Perhaps both were determined to live until July 4, 1826---the 50th anniversary of their beloved United States. Adams last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.”
John Adams, and his son, John Quincy Adams, the 6th president, are both buried side by side with their wives at the First Parish Church in Quincy.
Thomas Jefferson, is buried on the property of his Monticello home. His epitaph, written by himself, reads: Author of Declaration of Independence, the Statute for Religious Freedom, and the Father of the University of Virginia. Yet, not one mention of his presidency.
Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, James Monroe, our 5th president, dropped out of college to fight in the Revolution for the 3rd Virginia Regiment.
After his presidency, he died, at his daughter’s home in New York City, unable to finish the autobiography he had started. His death date---July 4th, 1831---5 years after the deaths of Jefferson and Adams.
James Monroe is buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. He was originally buried in New York City, but was relocated to Richmond for a centennial celebration. It seems Virginia’s Commonwealth wanted all of its presidents buried in their home state.
Our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born in Plymouth, Vermont. He graduated from Amherst College and practiced law in 1897.
After the unexpected death of President Harding, he was administered the oath of office by his father, in the family home in Plymouth on August 3, 1923, in the middle of the night.
He’s been featured on 2 stamps: the 22 cent from 1986 Presidential Commemorative set and the $5 Presidential series stamp issued 1938.
Coolidge’s burial site is on Plymouth Notch Cemetery, in Plymouth. There is no acknowledgement of his presidency, only the presidential seal, his birth and death dates. His last words after leaving office were, “We draw our presidents from the people. I came from them. I wish to be one of them again.
Why did I include Coolidge for this article? He happened to be born on July 4, 1872.
Were these deaths and births of United States presidents on July 4th, just a coincidence? I’ll let you decide.