From the desk of Jan Hommel, Museum Director:
Q: Which two U.S. Presidents were Pen Pals?
A: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Nothing but mutual love and respect was evident when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson first met. Their backgrounds could not have been more different: Adams, a Yankee lawyer who abhorred slavery, almost never went into debt and had a modest farm that would never make him rich; Jefferson, a Virginia gentleman, depended on slavery, lived his life grandly, and always-owed money to someone. Despite this, they instantly impressed each other and put their extraordinary heads together on creating a nation. In Europe, while serving as diplomatic envoys, they grew even closer, finding fascination in each other’s company and ideas.
However, in time, such mutual admiration would disappear, a casualty of their vehement, often vicious disagreements over the French Revolution, states’ rights, the limits of executive power, and other issues that typically divided Republicans and Federalists. During Adam’s presidency, their communication essentially ceased, and a silence endured for years – until their mutual friend, Benjamin Rush, got them to start writing each other again. In their final years, Adams and Jefferson kept up a correspondence that remains one of the most extraordinary in the English language, reflecting the thoughts, fears, ideals, and geniuses of two of history’s most outstanding intellects.
They died on the same day – July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of independence. (The Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents)