On this day — two days later than the day he thought we would celebrate — I like to remind my fellow countrymen that John Adams deserves more credit for the fact of independence than Thomas Jefferson.
Give Jefferson credit for being on the right side. Give him great credit for his talent with words. I place great store upon words, as they have been and are a great source of my living, and I love them. Adams himself recognized Jefferson’s ability in that area, and suggested that he be the one to write out the resolution that had already been decided upon.
But the really hard work had been in bringing the representatives of the 13 colonies to the point of deciding upon independence (a vote dramatized in the clip below). And the man who worked hardest, who poured out his energy in arguing and debating, and pushed and pulled and harried fainter hearts into taking this irrevocable step, was John Adams. Jefferson did not speak during the debates.
Give both men credit for their tremendous, very different, contributions to the establishment of this country. They both meant so much to this young republic, and it meant so much to them. They both died, far apart, on the Fourth of July 50 years later. Their lives were entirely wrapped up in what that celebration was and is all about. But I stress Adams more on this day because, starting in his own lifetime, he was never as recognized for his contribution as Jefferson was for his. And it grieved him.
So on this day, I take particular care to celebrate John Adams.