28 August 2011

For Love and Country: John and Abigail Adams and the United States of America, part 13

1801 - 1826

The worthy President always appeared as the friend, who had lived himself into one with the wife of his bosom.”
--An obituary for John Adams

            Following his defeat for the Presidency, John retired from politics to spend time with his family.  He and Abigail stayed in their home, where they frequently hosted their family and friends.  They kept up with politics and current events, especially because their son, John Quincy, was a diplomat.  John also picked up his pen and resumed his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson in 1812.  They wrote about their present lives and the past service they had both performed for their country.  They had not written to each other in nearly a decade, but with both men out of politics, the friendship resumed and continued to their deaths. 

In October 1818, Abigail fell ill once more.  John wrote to Jefferson, on October 20th, “The dear Partner of my Life for fifty Years as a Wife and for many Years more as a Lover, now lyes in extremis, forbidden to speak or be spoken to” (Cappon, II. 529).  On Monday, October 26, Abigail spoke for the first time in nearly a month.  She told John that if it was the will of Heaven she was ready to die.  She was only living for John.  After John came down the stairs from the room where Abigail had died, he said, “I wish I could lie down beside her and die too” (qtd. in McCullough 623).  After her death, John was truly heart-broken.  In November he wrote to his son, John Quincy, “The separation cannot be so long as twenty separations heretofore.  The pangs and anguish have not been so great as when you and I embarked for France in 1778” (qtd. in McCullough 624).  John never missed Abigail more than he did after her death.  While she was alive, he always had the correspondence with her, even if he could not be with her, and he always could go back home to Abigail.  John lost his closest companion and the person who supported him through everything.

In another letter, this one to his granddaughter Caroline, John wrote, “She never by word or look discouraged me from running all hazards for the salvation of my country’s liberties; she was willing to share with me, and that her children should share with us both, in all the dangerous consequences we had to hazard” (qtd. in Gelles 172).  John knew that Abigail could have protested at any time about John being away, but she always accepted it, and shared with John in all of his failures and successes.

            After Abigail’s death, John continued to spend time with family and friends, and he continued to write to Thomas Jefferson, with Adams’ letters outnumbering Jefferson’s about four to one.  In 1825, John was able to congratulate his son John Quincy on his election as the sixth President of the United States.  On July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson lay in his bed at his home in Monticello.  He died around one o’clock in the afternoon.  On the same day, around six o’clock in the afternoon, John Adams awakened from his sleep on his deathbed.  Told that it was the Fourth of July, Adams responded, “It is a great day.  It is a good day.”  In his final breath around six-twenty, Adams spoke, unaware that his friend had died hours earlier: “Thomas Jefferson lives” (McCullough 647).  An obituary for the late second President read, “The worthy President always appeared as the friend, who had lived himself into one with the wife of his bosom” (Withey 315).  At the time of his death, people realized Adams’ commitment to both his wife and his country.  Although recent biographies have reminded the current generations about Adams’ service to his country, his love for his wife has often been overlooked.  It is important for people today to understand the complete portrait of this exceptional man.

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