John Adams, the second president of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, were instrumental in laying the foundation of this great nation. They were friends before they were enemies.

Jefferson and Adams became acquainted in 1775 during the Continental Congress. In 1776, history tells us Adams personally chose Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. The men definitely had differing opinions on how the country should be run. Adams believed in a central government, while Jefferson supported states’ rights. One can only imagine the explosive debates that were conducted behind closed doors. Sound familiar? Today the explosive debates take place in public and across our media outlets and devices daily.

Both Adams and Jefferson grew and maintained a close friendship with both serving as diplomats in Europe. Their friendship began to diminish once they both returned to the U.S. At the time, John Adams was the first vice-president of the U.S. and was still a supporter of central government. Jefferson was concerned states were slowly having their power stripped from them. Adams was a member of the Federalist Party while Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican (precursor to the Democrat Party today).

As time marched on, the relationship between Adams and Jefferson eroded. The two became fierce enemies. After President George Washington chose not to run for a third term, Adams and Jefferson ran against each other. Adams won the presidency with Jefferson coming in second place and due to the law became the vice-president to Adams. However, a rematch took place in 1800 where the campaign spewed vitriol and became quite ugly. Each candidate plotted to discredit each other through the spreading of rumors and stories to destroy each other’s reputations. In the end, neither one had the majority of electoral votes, so Congress had to decide the winner. Jefferson sought Alexander Hamilton’s endorsement, and he received it. Jefferson was elected as our third president with Adams leaving Washington. Adams and Jefferson didn’t speak for the next 12 years.

In 1812, while not changing their political views, they began writing to each other rekindling their friendship. On the 50th anniversary July 4, 1826, of the Declaration of Independence, within four hours of each other, Jefferson and Adams died. Daniel Webster was called upon to deliver a joint eulogy.

“Adams and Jefferson are no more. On our 50th anniversary, the great day of national jubilee, in the very hour of public rejoicing, in the midst of echoing and re-echoing voices of thanksgiving, while their own names were on all tongues, they took their flight together to the world of spirits.”

The polarization between Jefferson and Adams is not too different than what we are experiencing in our political environment today. Perhaps it is time to take a page from the life of “frenemies,” put our differences aside and work on relationships that will foster communication with respect. If not for ourselves then for our next generation.

Joanne Poplar was born and raised in Virginia and a proud resident of Shenandoah County. She has a passion and commitment to preserve the rich historical gifts and heritage that make the valley a treasure without equal.

(1) comment

Brad Skipper

Let me start by commending the author on her desire to have all of us use a more conciliatory tone when discussing how our respective political parties and members interact with each other, This is happening daily in our houses of worship, our workplaces, and our groups that members of both parties belong to regarding our shared interests, like Rotary, the Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce, etc... Politics rarely comes up in these settings between friends, and these discussions are generally cordial and sometimes productive.

I would urge the author to use the correct term in describing us. Democrat is a noun, not an adjective. We are Democrats that belong to the Democratic Party. We have Democratic policies, Democratic ideas, Democratic candidates, etc... For comparison, we refer to Republicans as just that, not Republics. Please do the same in the future.

Welcome to the discussion.

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