Today in History: July 4

…[A]ll eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger Weightman, June 24, 1826

Two of America’s founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died 190 years ago on this date. For each man it was a remarkable date to leave this life: Adams had pushed the legislation to declare independence from Great Britain, and he enlisted Jefferson to write the document that acted as the vehicle for independence.

July 4, 1826, was the fiftieth anniversary of independence. Adams was 90 and Jefferson was 83. They had continued their correspondence with one another and their final letters to each other date from the anniversary year. Neither man was able to attend festivities in honor of the event or his role in it.

Adams received visitors on June 30 and was asked if he would like to share some words that could be brought to the celebrations to be held in a few days in Quincy, Massachusetts. “I will give you, ‘Independence forever!'” He was asked if that was all, if he didn’t want to add to it. He shook his head and said, “Not a word.”

Jefferson had been invited to Washington, DC, and in June he declined in a reply that includes the words at the top: “All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man.”

Jefferson died in the early afternoon of that fiftieth anniversary Fourth of July, and Adams died a few hours later. Adams’ last words were: “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

News of each man’s death—and the coincidence of the date and its importance in both of their lives and in the life of the nation—did not become widely known across the country for about ten days or so. When it did become generally known, the nation came to appreciate that rarest of things: history delivering a sort of poetry.

(In all, fifty-six delegates to the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence; Charles Carroll of Carrollton outlived them all and died in November 1832 at the age of 95, a full fifty-six years after the signing.)

* * * *
The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, but the document itself was adopted on July 4 and inscribed with this date at the top; Americans thus do not celebrate July 2 as Independence Day.

* * * *
The first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was published on this date in 1855. It held 12 poems, including “Song of Myself.” He continued to add poems to the work and published subsequent editions until the end of his life; the final edition contained more than 400 poems.

* * * *
Henry David Thoreau moved to Walden Pond on this date in 1845.

* * * *
James Joyce and Nora Barnacle officially wed on this date in 1931; it was 27 years after their first date, a date Joyce memorialized as the date the events of his masterpiece Ulysses take place on.

* * * *
President James Monroe died on this date in 1831.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on this date in 1804. Giuseppe Garibaldi was born on this date in 1807. Stephen Foster was born on this date in 1826. President Calvin Coolidge was born on this date in 1872. Rube Goldberg was born on this date in 1883. Gloria Stuart was born on this date in 1910. Mitch Miller was born in 1911 on this date. George Steinbrenner was born on this date in 1930.

* * * *
Eva Marie Saint is 92 today. Gina Lollobrigida is 89. Neil Simon is 89. Bill Withers is 78. Michael Milken is 70. Ron Kovic (Born on the 4th of July) is 70 today.

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  1. loisajay · July 4, 2016

    Eva and Gina…..two acting icons. Happy Fourth to you and Jen, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tosha Michelle · July 4, 2016

    Wonderful post. Happy 4th

    Liked by 1 person

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