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The US Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776
Today is the Fourth of July, the anniversary (the 236th) of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the Revolutionary War which led to the freedom of the colonies of the United States from Great Britain.On this day in 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing, however, the day was not as joyous, as two United States former presidents died on the same day: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (the second and third presidents, respectively). The story of their friendship, disagreements, renewed friendship and the coincidence of their deaths is an interesting one.In June of 1776, when the American colonies were thinking about revolution, a delegation appointed a five-man team to draft the declaration. Benjamin Franklin was the first choice to write the important document, but he was ill. Adams was the second choice, but he deferred to Jefferson, calling him a ten times better writers. Jefferson drafted the Declaration and read it to the Second Continental Congress on June 28. He was not a great speaker, however, so Adams eloquently promoted it until it was adopted on July 2.Adams wrote, “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival”. However, the Declaration was revised again, and only signed on July 4.After the Revolutionary War, during the presidency of George Washington, Adams and Jefferson began to disagree. Adams (who was Washington’s Vice-President) was a Federalist, and Jefferson (Washington’s Secretary of State and Adams’ Vice-President) formed a separate party, the Democratic-Republican Party and defeated Adams after his first term.They apparently resumed their friendship in later days, starting in 1812 and wrote many letters, at least 158, to each other. While both on their death beds in 1826, they both tried to hang on to life until the Fourth of July. At eight o’clock pm on July 3rd, Jefferson asked his doctor, “Is it the fourth yet?” and his doctor replied, “it soon will be”. Jefferson died 17 hours later. Adams, when asked if he knew what day it was, responded that it was the fourth, “It is a great day. It is a good day”. His last words, according to some, were “Thomas Jefferson survives”, not knowing that Jefferson had died a few hours earlier.Two founding fathers died on the fiftieth anniversary of the country they founded. Photos to commemorate them start on the next page.
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