Friendship is a Priceless Gift

Tip – Why not reconcile with someone this Holiday Season?

I have always been intrigued by the story of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Here is the story as told by the History Channel.

Former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams—who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries—died on the same day, July 4, 1826, within five hours of each other.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire and forged a new political system in the former colonies. However, while they both believed in democracy and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, their opinions on how to achieve these ideals diverged over time.

Adams preceded Jefferson as president (1797-1800); it was during this time that their ideas about policymaking became as distinct as their personalities. The irascible and hot-tempered Adams was a firm believer in a strong centralized government, while the erudite and genteel Jefferson believed federal government should take a more hands-off approach and defer to individual states’ rights. As
Adam’s vice president, Jefferson was so horrified by what he considered to be Adam’s abuse of the presidency—particularly his passage of the restrictive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798—that he abandoned Adams and Washington for his estate at Monticello, Virginia. There, he plotted how to bring his Republican faction back into power in the presidential election of 1800. After an exceptionally bitter campaign, in which Jefferson and Adams engaged in slanderous attacks on each
other in print, Jefferson emerged victorious. It appeared the former friends would be eternal enemies.

After Jefferson’s two presidential terms (1801-1809), Jefferson and Adams each expressed to third parties their respect for the other, and their desire to renew their friendship. Adams was the first to break the silence; he sent Jefferson a letter dated January 1, 1812, in which he wished Jefferson many happy new years to come. Jefferson responded with a note, in which he fondly recalled when they were fellow laborers in the same cause. The former revolutionaries went on to resume their friendship over 14 years of correspondence during their golden years.

On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.

Epicurus said, “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make life entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.” This Holiday Season may we mend a quarrel and remember a forgotten friend.

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November 2022