— John Adams, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Adams was 91 years old when civic leaders from Boston asked the Sage of Quincy for words of wisdom to commemorate America’s fiftieth birthday. During the Second Continental Congress, Adams had chaired the committee that drafted the Declaration, and he’d been the one to cajole Jefferson into doing the actual writing. On the floor on the Congress, Adams served as the lead sponsor and most vocal supporter of the document, eventually shepherding it through to passage. He was one of the seminal Founders, and in 1826, one of only three signers of the Declaration still alive (Jefferson was one of the others).
Both men would live to see the country they helped create turn fifty—but in a coincidence no modern fiction writer would dare to engineer, Adams and Jefferson passed away within hours of each other on that very Fourth of July.
Days earlier, when Boston’s civic leaders asked Adams to share his thoughts, they were shocked at his brevity. The normally verbose Adams had never been known to be short for words. When they asked if he wanted to elaborate, Adams said, “Not one word more!”
Independence, Adams believed, spoke for itself.