Historians, who have studied the lives of Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, agree that while the two men were friends, they also had a long history as “frenemies.” It is fairly common with politicians, because each one has definite ideas about how things should be run. So, the two rivals always had a volatile relationship.
Their friendship began in the early days of the nation, despite their vastly different political views. Adams was a strong believer in a strong central government, and Jefferson championed states’ rights. I would imagine that there was a measure of frustration for Adams, as he watched his administration being dismantled in the early years of the Jefferson administration. Nevertheless, as a Conservative, I have to agree with the Thomas Jefferson way of government.
Adams preceded Jefferson as president friend 1797 to 1800. During the Adams presidency, it became very apparent that the two men were very different, and their political views were just as different. The hot-tempered Adams was a firm believer in a strong centralized government, while the genteel Jefferson believed federal government should take a more hands-off approach and defer to individual states’ rights. They clashed loudly and often. As Adams’ vice president, Jefferson was horrified by what he considered to be Adams’ abuse of the presidential power…particularly his passage of the restrictive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Jefferson abandoned Adams and Washington for his estate at Monticello. There, he plotted how to bring his Republican faction back into power in the presidential election of 1800. After an exceptionally bitter campaign, in which both parties engaged in slanderous attacks on each other in print, Jefferson emerged victorious. It appeared the former friends would be eternal enemies. The former revolutionaries went on to resume their friendship over 14 years of correspondence during their golden years.
On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of The Declaration of Independence, these “frenemies” died on the same day and within five hours of each other. Jefferson and Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire and forged a new political system in the former colonies. When Adams died at the age of 90, his last words, as the country celebrated Independence Day were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Adams was wrong. Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.