When most people are asked for whom their favorite founding father might be, many Americans lurch for George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin, for all of his wit, is my close second. As for moral consistency, I have always liked the cantankerous John Adams, a man who knew he was the smartest guy in the room and had a time of keeping it to himself. Adams walked the walk when it came to freedom. He didn’t own slaves. He was a master organizer, bringing Washington to the Army and Jefferson to pen the Declaration. Adams also knew a thing or two about how well his foot tasted, squarely placed in his mouth.
Americans celebrate July 4th as the founding of the nation. Adams thought differently, as expressed to his wife, Abigail (my favorite founding mother):
“Philadelphia July 3d. 1776
… The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished. — Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act. — This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago. But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” [emphasis added]
Call me a purist, but I fondly look to July 2nd to tipple a toast to American Independency. Firstly, because I am pedantic. Secondly, because I can have the monuments and fireworks all to myself.
Happy belated birthday, you old coot.
John Adams Photo credit: John Trumbull / Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0
Uncle Sam Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / Foter.com / CC BY