For those of us who enjoy history there are few tales as compelling as the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The two were at the core of the Declaration of Independence. It was their ideas which would inspire the Constitution. Jefferson would serve as John Adam’s vice president but there were a handful of issues which divided them, and eventually Jefferson would challenge his long time friend for the presidency.
That this was the nastiest of political battles is common knowledge. Jefferson’s people went so far as to accuse Adams of being a hermaphrodite. Adam’s crew would respond with equally unkind accusations. Sadly this set off a tradition of nastiness in our political system that exists today, but what is important to note is that later in life Jefferson and Adams set aside their vague differences and rekindled their friendship.
They became very close once more, writing some of history’s most interesting series of letters, debating religion, morality, and the fate of this country. Much has been said about the content of their letters, how they both saw a time where we would loose the Republic, a time where the original Christianity would be restored by American hands, and a time when the American people would seek to restore their republic and would perfect what they had tried to do and ensure freedom for all.
I love these letters. It is proof that no matter how bad a rift gets torn between you and a political friend turned opponent there is always hope that one day all the garbage can be set aside in exchange for the friendships that had been lost.
It is a remarkable coincidence to say the least that Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other on the 4th of July 1826. Jefferson would be the first to pass, Adams a few hours latter after sitting up in his bed and gazing out into the room at seemingly nothing he uttered the words “Jefferson lives,” as if his dear friend had come through the door to see him one last time.
This Independence Day we should reflect for a moment on the personal sacrifice that countless men and women have made in order to give us the freest and most prosperous nation on earth. We should remember also that at the end of the day, while Jefferson and Adams may have set the unfortunate standard of nastiness in our political process, they also reached out to each other, forgave each other, and embraced each other’s friendship. In the end friendship will always be more valuable than scoring political points. I believe that is the lesson we should learn from the tale of these two presidents.