July 4th 1826

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th in 1826.

It was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration; Adams and Benjamin Franklin were his primary editors.

“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable,” Jefferson wrote in his initial rough draft. Franklin crossed this out with his heavy printer’s pen and changed it to “we hold these truths to be self-evident.” Drawing on the concepts of his friend David Hume, Franklin believed that the truths were grounded in rationality and reason, not in the dictates or dogma of any particular religion.

Similarly, Jefferson originally noted that “from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable.” John Adams, a product of Puritan Massachusetts, appears to be the one who suggested that this be amended to, “they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Adams and Jefferson were colleagues during the Revolution, but fell apart over political differences during their terms as president (Adams 1797-1801, Jefferson 1801-1809). After Jefferson left office they resumed a remarkable correspondence that lasted until their deaths.

Also, on that same July 4th in 1826, Stephen Foster, the first great American songwriter, was born. “His melodies are so much a part of American history and culture that most people think they’re folk tunes. All in all he composed some 200 songs, including ‘Oh! Susanna’ ‘Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,’ and ‘Camptown Races.’” [American Experience]

And “Old Folks at Home (Swanee River),” “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Beautiful Dreamer.”

Block quote regarding Declaration from an excellent piece written in 2004 for The New York Times by Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson. Take the time to read it all — it is our nation’s birthday after all.