On July 4, 1826, 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other. It’s said that George Washington’s retirement after two terms in office ensured democratic order, but the American experiment was truly vindicated in 1801 when Adams, the nation’s second president, ceded power peaceably to Jefferson, America’s third.
To a world familiar with the failures of monarchism and the convulsions of the French Revolution, the orderly transition between bitter political rivals proved that democracy was tenable.
“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” Jefferson said about the chief parties of his day. It is a message worth repeating during our own fractious times.