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|Does Thomas Jefferson survive?|
On July 4, 1826, the day the nation marked 50 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two elder statesman—both former presidents of the United States— lay on their death-beds.
Separated by over 500 miles, they were united by a bond that trumped the distance and years between them.
A half century earlier, they had stood with 54 others to pledge their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" at the signing of a document that would change the world.
Much had changed for them since that day and both knew their time was short.
Since 1776, they had watched the nation they had helped birth wage two bloody wars
with Great Britain —the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
The United States had won both and now stretched its holdings from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
As stars were being sewn on the flag from newly incorporated states of the west, they were sad to see political divisions—the followers of Andrew Jackson and the emerging Whig Party— ripping the fabric of the fledging nation.
The two men had seen their own friendship severed by factional strife in a different era, but happily had been able to put aside differences and, through letters, rekindle their friendship.
As John Adams lay dying at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, his mind was fixed on the summer of 1776 and the man to whom he had deferred the task of writing the Declaration of Independence —Thomas Jefferson.
It had been suggested by others that Adams pen the document, but he refused, telling Jefferson,
"I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Besides, you can write 10 times better than I."
Jefferson responded by saying he would do the best he could. History marks that he did well.
Breathing his last, Adams comforted himself by declaring "Thomas Jefferson survives," and shut his eyes for the last time.
What Adams didn't know is that Jefferson had passed away at Monticello, his stately home near Charlottesville, Virginia, a few hours earlier.
Adams was wrong, but does Thomas Jefferson survive today?
This year we celebrate 234 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and we see that the world, as Jefferson observed, is still divided into two parties, "Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes and those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests."
We are not the same country we were in 1776, but mankind is essentially the same. That's why the Declaration of Independence is as important as it ever was.
We can put it on the shelf as an antiquated relic and let it collect dust or take it down, blow the dust from it, and let Jefferson live.
The self-evident truth that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. — That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness," is still the life-blood of this republic, no matter how many have tried to extinguish it over the years.
As it was in the days of Jefferson and Adams, those who fear and distrust the people are still at work usurping power of the governed.
It's good to know that this doesn't happen in this country without the national convulsion that we have seen embodied in the Tea Party Movement.
These patriots who are standing up to political leaders who are robbing this generation— as well as future generations—of hard-earned freedoms and prosperity are the heirs to the dream of Jefferson and Adams of a free people able to map their own destiny, unencumbered by an out of control government.
If you are looking for something to do this Fourth of July, you might want to join An American Patriot Tea Party for a patriotic rally at Davis Park in Winnsboro this Saturday, July 3, starting at 4 p.m.
You might discover that Adams' dying words weren't really that off the mark.