Year
1826

Death of the founding fathers

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States, respectively, die on this day, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Both men had been central in the drafting of the historic document; Jefferson had authored it, and Adams, who was known as the “colossus of the debate,” served on the drafting committee and had argued eloquently for the declaration’s passage.

After July 4, 1776, Adams traveled to France as a diplomat, where he proved instrumental in winning French support for the Patriot cause, and Jefferson returned to Virginia, where he served as state governor during the dark days of the American Revolution. After the British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, Adams was one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Paris that ended the war, and with Jefferson he returned to Europe to try to negotiate a U.S.-British trade treaty.

After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Adams was elected vice president to George Washington, and Jefferson was appointed secretary of state. During Washington’s administration, Jefferson, with his democratic ideals and concept of states’ rights, often came into conflict with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who supported a strong federal government and conservative property rights. Adams often arbitrated between Hamilton and his old friend Jefferson, though in politics he was generally allied with Hamilton.

In 1796, Adams defeated Jefferson in the presidential election, but the latter became vice president, because at that time the office was still filled by the candidate who finished second. As president, Adams’ main concern was America’s deteriorating relationship with France, and war was only averted because of his considerable diplomatic talents. In 1800, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans (the forerunner of the Democratic Party) defeated the Federalist party of Adams and Hamilton, and Adams retired to his estate in Quincy, Massachusetts.

As president, Jefferson reduced the power and expenditures of the central government but advocated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, which more than doubled the size of the United States. During his second administration, Jefferson faced renewed conflict with Great Britain, but he left office before the War of 1812 began. Jefferson retired to his estate in Monticello, Virginia, but he often advised his presidential successors and helped establish the University of Virginia. Jefferson also corresponded with John Adams to discuss politics, and these famous letters are regarded as masterpieces of the American enlightenment.

By remarkable coincidence, Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, Independence Day in 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” though his old friend and political adversary had died a few hours before.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Pathfinder lands on Mars

After traveling 120 million miles in seven months, NASA’s Mars Pathfinder becomes the first U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars in more than two decades. In an ingenious, cost-saving landing procedure, Pathfinder used parachutes to slow its approach to the Martian surface and then ...read more

Thieu vows to wipe out corruption

At a formal ceremony inaugurating the formation of a new multiparty pro-government political group, the People’s Alliance for Social Revolution, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu praises the organization as a “major step toward grassroots political activity.” An ...read more

South Vietnamese officers plot coup

Gen. Tran Van Don informs Lucien Conein of the CIA that certain officers are planning a coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem, who had been supported by the Kennedy administration, had refused to make any meaningful reforms and had oppressed the Buddhist ...read more

Dempsey defeats Willard

On this day in 1919, challenger Jack Dempsey defeats heavyweight champion Jess Willard in searing heat in Toledo, Ohio, to win the heavyweight championship of the world.Jack Dempsey was born William Harrison Dempsey on June 24, 1895, in Manassa, Colorado. “The Manassa Mauler” ...read more

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die

On this day in 1826, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries, die on the same day within five hours of each other.Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries ...read more

Lewis and Clark celebrate July 4

Staging the first-ever Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi River, Lewis and Clark fire the expedition cannon and order an extra ration of whiskey for the men.Six weeks earlier, Lewis and Clark left American civilization to depart on their famous journey. Since ...read more

The Clash play their first live gig

Formed as the first shots of the punk revolution were being fired, The Clash storm onto the UK scene with their debut performance on the Fourth of July, 1976, at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England, as the opening act for The Sex Pistols.While America celebrated the bicentennial ...read more

Playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon born

On this day in 1927, Neil Simon, the author of a long list of successful Broadway plays–many of which, including The Odd Couple, became hit movies–is born in the Bronx section of New York City.In one of his earliest jobs, in the 1950s, Simon wrote for Sid Caesar’s live comedy ...read more

Heat wave strikes Northeast

On this day in 1911, record temperatures are set in the northeastern United States as a deadly heat wave hits the area that would go on to kill 380 people. In Nashua, New Hampshire, the mercury peaked at 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Other high-temperature records were set all over ...read more

Soviets rock for peace

A rock concert in Moscow, jointly organized by American promoters and the Soviet government, plays to a crowd of approximately 25,000. The venture was intended to serve as symbol of peace and understanding between the people of the United States and the Soviet Union. The idea of ...read more

Confederates surrender Vicksburg

The Confederacy is torn in two when General John C. Pemberton surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg, Mississippi.The Vicksburg campaign was one of the Union’s most successful of the war. Although Grant’s first attempt to take the city failed in the winter of ...read more

Fiat unveils the “Nuova Cinquecento”

On this day in 1957, the Italian automaker Fiat (short for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) debuts the “Nuova Cinquecento,” a redesigned version of a model that it first released in 1936.Founded in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli, Fiat had dominated the Italian auto industry since ...read more