A Fourth of July factoid

Many of you probably know this, either because you’re history buffs like me or you’ve seen me mention it here before or you saw it somewhere else today, as this is going to be far from the only place to learn this today.

But!

One of my favorite stupid party tricks is that I can always tell you how old America is without having to do the math. My birthday is tomorrow, and I was born on July 5, 1976, meaning I was born the day after America’s bicentennial. I therefore can determine America’s age by just adding 200 to my own rather than dealing with any piddling subtraction like some sort of heathen.

But I have another trick! I can also, by adding 150 to my age, tell you how many years it has been since both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died. You see, the two men both died on the same day– and not only did they die on the same day, but it was July 4, 1826– in other words, on America’s 50th birthday.

Jefferson’s last words were “Is it the Fourth?”

Adams, who always thought America should celebrate its birthday on July 2 because he was a contrary old bastard like that (hot take: Adams was the Bernie Sanders of the 1700s,) didn’t give a damn about dying on the Fourth, but his last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.” He was wrong. Jefferson had been dead for a few hours, but, y’know, 1826. I don’t know how long it took for the knowledge of Jefferson’s death to make it from Virginia to Massachusetts, but it was probably at least a week or so, and I imagine it took a minute to determine which man had actually passed away first.

And now you know something about what happened 195 years ago today.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

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