Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4, 1826: Famous Last Words

On July 4 of each year, we celebrate our independence. Of course, the Declaration of Independence is dated July 4, 1776 (although, contrary to popular belief, that's not the date it was actually signed). But July 4 also marks another important anniversary pertaining to our founding fathers and the birth of this nation. On July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both passed away.

Their last words are particularly interesting. Before Jefferson died, he awoke and asked, "This is the Fourth?" It was actually only the third at the time, but he did make it to the fourth - fifty years to the day from the date of the Declaration of Independence (some accounts claim he spoke after this, though it's not clear what was said).

Later that day, John Adams lay dying at the age of 92 when he spoke his final words, "Thomas Jefferson still survives." Despite some bitter feuding in their political careers, the two had become penpals by the end of their lives. They appeared to recognize, to some extent, their places in history. Adams, however, was obviously unaware that he was the last to go... just hours after Thomas Jefferson... on July 4, 1826.

For previous Independence Day fun on Lawffice Space, see America's First Employment Law, and my Philadelphia photo album (including pics of Independence Hall).

Images: Public domain from federal government, showing John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.