Sunday, July 4, 2010

july 4, 1810 (wed.)

Mr. Jefferson likes to say, "The only birthday I ever commemorate
is that of our Independance [his spelling], the Fourth of July."

As he watches, through the window, his grandchildren playing, he thinks, "This is why we did it. It was for them, and their children, and their children's children's children ..."

Still, his memories of the of that day thirty-four years ago in Philadelphia are bittersweet. So many of his comrades who struggled to bring about the new nation are now gone. Only thirteen other men who were with him that day are still alive -- none from New Jersey or Delaware, and he himself is the only survivor from Virginia. There ought to be two, he thinks, with a wave of sorrow. The life of his dear friend and mentor, George Wythe, was cut short by murder just four years ago. Dr. Wythe would've been eighty-four years old this year, an advanced age, but not unreasonable.

Of the Declaration Committee, only himself, Robert Livingston, and John Adams remain. Another pang, this time of regret. Mr. Adams had been a good friend, but in recent years that stubborn old fellow has let politics run away with his common sense. Or maybe he's being the stubborn one. They're both out of office now. They struggled side by side in 1776. Mr. Jefferson has no real doubt that deep down Mr. Adams is a man of courage, a true patriot. Why should mere politics stand in the way of such a long friendship? Maybe he should write. But can he be sure his letter would be welcome? Let Adams write first.

Mr. Jefferson idly fingers the corner of a sheet of letter paper on his portable writing desk -- the same desk on which he wrote the first draft of the Declaration. Then he turns and looks out the window again, and smiles.

(Editor's note, 2010: We haven't the foggiest notion what the Jefferson family actually did to celebrate the Fourth.)