July 4th is the most significant national holiday in the United States of America. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence from Great Britain. Meeting in Philadelphia, the Congress comprised delegates from the Atlantic Coast’s Thirteen Colonies of Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, South Carolina, and Virginia.
The Committee of Five, under Thomas Jefferson’s leadership, drafted the formal document of separation, known as the Declaration of Independence, in June 1776. The Committee’s other four delegates were John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. The document was adopted on July 4th and published on July 5th. Independence became reality with the signing of the Treaty of Paris by U.S. Representatives John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay and by King George III’s representative David Hartley at Paris’ Hotel d’York on September 3, 1783.
Two U.S. presidents were culled from the Declaration’s signers. John Adams was elected as 2nd U.S. President. But he lost his re-election bid to his Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, who enjoyed two terms as the third U.S. President. The friendship which the two had valued as Founding Fathers suffered during Adams’ presidency. Nevertheless, three years after Jefferson left office, their friendship was rekindled. For the next 14 years the two engaged in friendly correspondences.
It is one of history’s fascinating facts that Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, fifty years after the Declaration’s adoption. Bedridden since the end of June and fading in and out of consciousness since July 2nd, Jefferson expressed on July 3rd the wish to survive into the next day. His last words questioned if it was the 4th yet. A combination of ailments, including long-term diarrhea, kidney infection, and pneumonia, may have caused his death; also prostate cancer is suspected. Jefferson passed away at age 83 around 12:50 p.m. at his home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, in central Virginia.
Meanwhile, John Adams lay on his deathbed at his home, Peacefield, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Debilitated by old age, Adams was three months shy of his 91st birthday. Around 1:00 p.m., Adams uttered his last words, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Unaware that his friend had preceded him in death, Adams passed away in the early evening.
Five years later, July 4th marked the death of another U.S. President. A distinguished Revolutionary War officer, James Monroe was elected to two terms as the 5th U.S. President. Finances and his wife’s ill health troubled his retirement. Widowed in September 1830, Monroe uprooted from Oak Hill, his mansion near Leesburg in northern Virginia, to live with his younger daughter, Maria, and her husband, Samuel Gouverneur, in New York City. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 73.
These three Presidents played important roles in America’s birth. For them, July 4th was an honorable day to die. Thus far, no other president has died on Independence Day.
“American President: James Monroe (1758-1831).” Essays on James Monroe and his Administration. Miller Center University of Virginia. millercenter.org/president/monroe.
Benton, Michael. “John Adams Death.” Updated August 14, 2012. johnadamsinfo.com.
“Jefferson’s Cause of Death.” Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. monticello.org