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Home > History > July 4, 1826 - The Deaths of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

July 4, 1826 - The Deaths of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

This article discusses one of the greatest ironies in American history: On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died, just hours apart.
John Adams Thomas Jefferson

July 4, 1826 - the Deaths of Adams and Jefferson

It's the 50th Birthday of the Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1826, was a day full of celebrations, parades, and enthusiastic speeches. After all, it was America’s 50th birthday! Fifty years before, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was published and read. Thomas Jefferson was the document’s primary author and John Adams was part of the famed Committee of Five, which advised Jefferson.

Two of the "Committee of Five" and Most Important Founding Fathers

Adams and Jefferson played prominently in American history. Adams was America’s second president and Jefferson was its third. The two had a complicated relationship. While they both helped shape the new nation, their political beliefs diverged. Adams believed that the United States would thrive with a strong central government and Jefferson believed that power belonged with the states. Jefferson believed in the French Revolution and Adams did not. Over time, the relationship between the two founding fathers soured further, resulting in both parties engaging in attempts to smear the other in public before the election of 1800. When Jefferson won the election, Adams returned to Massachusetts to live in virtual seclusion with Abigail, his wife. Following Jefferson’s presidency, he retired to his estate named Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Letters Between Adams and Jefferson

In 1809, the famous doctor Benjamin Rush urged both Jefferson and Adams to rekindle their friendship. Adams made the first overture and wrote Jefferson a letter on January 1, 1812. Over the next 14 years, the pair wrote 158 letters to each other. The letters discussed their different political views, theories on government, history, the state of the nation, and even the growing threat of slavery to the future of the new nation.

One of the Most Incredible Ironies in American History

On July 3, 1826, just a day before the 50th birthday of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson fell into a coma after suffering from a long, intestinal illness. He died on July 4th. Meanwhile John Adams, who was nearing his 91st birthday, collapsed in his reading chair on July 4th. He lapsed in and out of consciousness for the next few hours before succumbing. His last words were said to be “Jefferson lives.” Little did he know that he had outlived Jefferson by several hours. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same exact day – July 4, 1826. It just so happened that the day marked America’s 50th birthday.  



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