Jack Van Ens did a column for July 4th devoted in part to the death of Thomas Jefferson on that date. A few additions to that subject:
John Adams also died on that day. Traditionally, his last words were: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Actually, he mentioned Jefferson but whether that is exactly what he said is in question. In any case, Jefferson had died a few hours earlier.
Those two had quite a history. They were both there at the creation — the Continental Congress. Adams, Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin formed a subcommittee to draw up the Declaration of Independence. Adams nominated Jefferson for various reasons, including the latter’s ability as a writer.
John and Abigail Adams were on friendly terms with Jefferson, including the time when his wife died. They were able to have frequent contact when both served in Europe on diplomatic posts.
Later, things went sour when Adams was president and Jefferson opposed the strong central government promoted by Adams. There was a bitter re-election contest in 1800, when Adams lost and Jefferson became president.
Around 1825, Adams sent Jefferson a letter which began a correspondence that lasted over 14 years — two older men, one in Massachusetts, the other in Virginia. They covered a wide range of topics. Adams said: “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.”