The Best of Friends

But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”   John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”  Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

A Pathway

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the best of friends, even though their ideas and political viewpoints were not in sync.  From their first meeting at the 1775 Continental Congress in Philadelphia, they formed a strong affinity, respect and liking for each other.  In 1776, they worked together on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Eight years later, they were both in France on diplomatic service.  Throughout their long friendship they continued a lively dialogue through letters.  They had a falling out during the transition of presidency in 1801, when John Adams made some last-minute political appointments that displeased Thomas Jefferson.   The letters stopped for a time and then resumed in 1811 after a welcomed reconciliation.

John Adam’s last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” unaware that his dear friend had died only a few hours before.  They were friends until the last, both dying on July 4th, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

This is the letter, dated November 13, 1818, from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, upon hearing of the death of Abigail Adams:

MONTICELLO, November 13, 1818.

The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medi­cine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

Thomas Jefferson

37 thoughts on “The Best of Friends

  1. Beautiful, beautiful , beautiful: the friendship, love, warmth and language in that letter would make me want to take it and wrap it round my heart like a dear comforting shawl.

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  2. What moving, noble, beautiful words… if only we had politicians like that now…what wonderful men they were…lovely post Rebecca…
    Yes, we are agreed as ever about the tragic Marie Antoinette !
    We walk side by side, seeing the same things and agreeing !!!!

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    • These were men of letters and of education, which allowed them to anticipate the future based on their understanding of the past. If only our generation could learn from their example, I think that our decisions would be more in keeping with creating a world that embraces diversity and seeks peaceful outcomes. Consider this quote by Thomas Jefferson, which has great relevance in our time.

      “I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

      It is most wonderful to walk side by side – it gives joy and peace to my day…

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    • I have never believed in coincidence or randomness! The “universe” has an interesting way of connecting the dots…and adding a touch of humour to our timelines!🙂 Always a joy to read your comments!

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  3. I think friendship can come from shared trials or experience – and for their differences these two understood a weight few had known. How often do new states rise without bondage to the past. A deep shared experience.

    Maybe the extreme of Frost’s “Mending Wall”

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    • I agree wholeheartedly – friendships come through times that require courage and commitment. As J.R.R Tolkien said, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”

      “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
      That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
      And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
      And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
      The work of hunters is another thing:”

      Robert Frost – Mending Wall

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      • Why don’t we ask them? They had an uncanny way of seeing into the future….🙂

        “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
        ― John Adams

        “Governments constantly choose between telling lies and fighting wars, with the end result always being the same. One will always lead to the other.”
        ― Thomas Jefferson

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      • Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!

        “And you, Ringbearer’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said,’ is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

        Frodo took the phial, and for a moment as it shone between them, he saw her again standing like a queen, great and beautiful.”
        ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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      • The Lorien passages are written with great care. Some of my favorite scenes occur there, Aragorn resting peacefully – Galadriel saying, “I pass the test, I will diminish and go into the west, and remain Galadirel… to GImli’s request for a single strand of her hair.

        And last but not least… sam sleeping in the tree like a log, if logs could be content.

        ( sorry for the misquotes, doing memory here )

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  4. One of the all time greatest friendships. Love love love their story, through their meeting to their schism during their presidential campaigns and terms and into the letters where they came to realize the value of their friendship and deep love that they had for each other. That they died, both on the very same day, 100 years to the date, of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, is remarkable. This post is a gem. Thank you for staring my day off with a big dose of heart.

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    • Oh, you always make my day.❤. This is one of those moments that symbolize the power of friendship. I believe that their letters were the glue that cemented their connection over the time. They had one great love – freedom for their nation. They may have come from different points of view, but their hearts and resolve where of one mind. When we work together, we can accomplish much.

      “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
      Thomas Jefferson

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    • I find that the universe has an interesting way of smiling down on our beautiful earth. There are so many connections that come into being, simply because of serendipity and magic carpet rides… 🙂

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  5. That was so uplifting and inspiring. So emotional, genuine and deeply felt, it brought me to tears. I am sad to say that men certainly do not communicate in such a fashion today. Those were interesting times, were they not? A brand-new country; such passion for life and liberty, and I love the way Thomas Jefferson included the prospect of death and a reunion in the afterlife as a part of his letter. We have lost a lot of that, I think, due to political correctness, which seems to have robbed everyone of their connection to God/Spirit, whatever you call the Supreme Deity.

    I loved finding this in my Reader today; it’s so uplifting! Thanks for posting!

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    • It did me too!!! I marvel at those first years of nation-building. It seems history produces the men and women that are required to accomplish a specific task. Gives me pause…

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  6. In life, there are so many coincidences, or are they? The stories of these to men and Abigail, whom I admire more than I can say, are more interesting than any fiction I have ever read. Imagine both of these great men died on the same day and on July 4. It would seem to me more than chance.

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    • I agree! There are no coincidences. While I like fiction, I find that I am turning more and more to non-fiction. The stories, ideas, philosophies are exciting, challenging and thoroughly entertaining. There are so many good books, and so little time….but that is the best part!!! Always something new to learn, experience and share.🙂

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