July the Fourth: Birthday of a Nation and of One President and also Death Day of Three Presidents

by DerdriuMarriner

July the Fourth celebrates the birth of the United States as a nation. It was also President Coolidge's birthday, as well as the day on which three U.S. presidents died.

The Declaration of Independence, which sought to end colonial status for the Thirteen Colonies established by Great Britain on North America's Atlantic coast in the 17th and 18th centuries, received final approval by the Second Continental Congress (Wednesday, May 10, 1775 - Thursday, March 1, 1781) on Thursday, July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The Thirteen Colonies which approved this daring declaration comprised:
• Connecticut,
• Delaware,
• Georgia,
• Maryland,
• Massachusetts Bay,
• New Hampshire,
• New Jersey,
• New York,
• North Carolina,
• Pennsylvania,
• Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,
• South Carolina, and
• Virginia.

Although the American Revolution dragged on for seven more years -- officially ending with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on Wednesday, September 3, 1783 -- the momentous event of declaring independence on July 4, 1776 is recognized as the National Day, the date of nationhood, for the United States of America.

The eventful date, however, has additional historical significance in the lifetimes of four American presidents:
• Calvin Coolidge, 30th U.S. President, was born on July 4th;
• 2nd U.S. President John Adams, 3rd U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, and 5th U.S. President James Monroe all share death dates on July 4th.

Map of territorial growth 1775

Eastern North America in 1775: British Province of Quebec, British 13 colonies on Atlantic coast, and Indian Reserve
Eastern North America in 1775: British Province of Quebec, British 13 colonies on Atlantic coast, and Indian Reserve

United States of America: Nationhood for Thirteen Colonies and Beyond

 

The achievement of nationhood is a monumental event in the history of a geographical area. Binding ties are established which presumably define shared hopes for immediate and future benefits by way of united commitments to a national identity.

The shaping of a nation may entail a wrenching process of separation from an empire via armed conflict. The famous birth of the United States of America in the eighteenth century derives from such a painful process. This eventful birthing is known in history as the American Revolution.

 

stately origins: formation of today's 50 U.S. states

Territorial acquisitions of the United States
Territorial acquisitions of the United States

 

The political formation of the United States traces back to bold concerns over taxation of the Thirteen Colonies without representation overseas in the distant British Parliament, which, as successor to the English Parliament, was established on Sunday, May 1, 1707, by ratification of the Treaty of Union via Acts of Union passed by the Parliament of England in 1706 and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707.

 

"Destruction of Tea in Boston Harbor":

1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier (March 27, 1813 - November 20, 1888)
Currier & Ives Collection, Springfield Museums, Springfield, Hampden County, "Pioneer Valley," southwest Massachusetts
Currier & Ives Collection, Springfield Museums, Springfield, Hampden County, "Pioneer Valley," southwest Massachusetts

*explanatory note: Mohawk

The Kanien'kehá:ka ("People of the Flint Stone Place") belonged to Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois Confederacy comprising Six Nations (Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora) of northeastern Native American peoples. Within the Confederacy, they were known as "The Keepers of the Eastern Door" in recognition of their strategic homeland base in the Mohawk Valley, a natural passageway between the Atlantic Ocean, via the Hudson Valley, and the North American interior, providing access to the Great Lakes Basin by way of the Saint Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

Their English name of Mohawk derives from a Dutch transcription of Maw Unk Lin ("Bear Place People"), the name given to them by their Hudson Valley neighbors, the Mohicans.

 

 

The Destruction of the Tea at Boston Harbor, now known as the Boston Tea Party, serves as the most charismatic symbol of the colonists' concerns over the issue of unrepresented taxation. On Thursday, December 16, 1773, a band of colonists, of whom some were disguised as Mohawk* warriors, famously boarded three East India Company vessels -- BeaverDartmouth, and Eleanor -- and devoted over three hours to dumping a total of 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

 

As Mohawks sided with the British Crown against the colonists, the disguises as Mohawk warriors served as an ironical, albeit transparent, subterfuge.

 

U.S. Constitution: symbol of the United States of America

Constitution of the United States, page 1
Constitution of the United States, page 1

From Declaration of Independence to the United States Constitution

 

The reality of independence was promised at Yorktown, in southeastern Virginia, with the decisive defeat of the British Army by the Americans, under the leadership of the Continental Army's commander-in-chief, General George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799), ably assisted by the French Expeditionary Force (Expédition Particulière) led by General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (July 1, 1725 – May 10, 1807).

The Siege of Yorktown, which began on Friday, September 28, 1781, ended with the waving of the white flag of surrender by the British on Wednesday, October 17, 1781. Terms of surrender were effected, and the Articles of Capitulation were signed on Friday, October 19, 1781.

The American Revolution formally ended on September 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris at Hotel d'York (presently 56 Rue Jacob).

  • John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) , Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 - April 17, 1790, and John Jay  (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) signed as representatives of the United States;
  • As His Britannic Majesty's Minister Plenipotentiary, David Hartley (1732 – December 19, 1813) signed on behalf of King George III (June 4, 1738 – January 29, 1820).

  

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, designed to serve as the first constitution of the United States of America, were approved by the Second Continental Congress (May 10, 1775 - March 1, 1781) on Saturday, November 15, 1777. Final ratification by the individual states occurred on Thursday, March 1, 1781.

In the first decade of sovereignty, the new nation's governing body, the Congress of the Confederation (formally entitled as United States in Congress Assembled) recognized the necessity of revising the Articles of Confederation in order to refine the framework of the federal government.

  • Deliberations began on Friday, May 25, 1787.
  • On Monday, September 17, 1787, thirty-nine delegates of the Constitutional Convention signed the newly created constitution.

Ratification by a two-thirds majority of the states -- nine out of 13 -- was required for implementation of the new constitution.

  • On Saturday, June 21, 1788, ratification was achieved with the approval of the significant document by New Hampshire as the ninth consenting state.
  • The Constitution became effective on Wednesday, March 4, 1789.
  • Consensus was obtained on Saturday, May 29, 1790, with approval by Rhode Island's state convention.

 

Since ratification, the seven articles of the U.S. Constitution have been amplified by way of 27 amendments.

  • The latest amendment, the 27th Amendment, was certified on Monday, May 18, 1992, by Archivist of the United States Don W. Wilson (born 1942) as having achieved ratification.
  • The 27th Amendment was printed in the Federal Register, the U.S. federal government's official journal, the next day, Tuesday, May 19, 1992.
  • Amendment XXVII requires that any law affecting compensation of members of Congress wait until after the next election to take effect.

 

 

In the first decade and a half of the twenty-first century, the United States celebrates over two and one-third centuries of nationhood. 

 

Calvin Coolidge in 1923, the year he assumed the Presidency of the United States

photographic portrait by John H. Garo (1875 - 1939)
photographic portrait by John H. Garo (1875 - 1939)

Calvin Coolidge: born on the Fourth of July

 

On Thursday, July 4, 1872, ninety-six years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Victoria Josephine Moor Coolidge (March 14, 1846 - March 14, 1885) gave birth to a male child in Plymouth Notch, a minuscule town in Windsor County in east central Vermont. As a firstborn male, he was named after his father, John Calvin Coolidge, Sr. (March 31, 1845 – March 18, 1926).

In the year of young Cal's birth, his father was elected to his first of three successive terms (1872 - 1878) in the Vermont House of Representatives. Politics, therefore, became an early interest for Cal Jr.

Respected for his taciturn integrity, Calvin Coolidge Jr. enjoyed a stellar political career which encompassed public service in all levels of government: city, county, state, and federal.

In his acceptance speech as President of the Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday, January 7, 1914, Calvin presented his philosophy of government. Known as "Have Faith in Massachusetts," the speech notes:

"Don't hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don't hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don't hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation. We need a broader, firmer, deeper faith in the people; A faith that men desire to do right, that the Commonwealth is founded upon a righteousness which will endure, a reconstructed faith that the final approval of the people is given not to demagogues, slavishly pandering to their selfishness, merchandising with the clamor of the hour, but to statesmen, ministering to their welfare, representing their deep, silent, abiding convictions."

The popular speech was included in Have Faith in Massachusetts, a compilation of 33 speeches given by Calvin from January 7, 1914 to September 3, 1919. The first edition of the eponymous collection was published in September 1919, nine months after Calvin began serving as the 48th Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Six and a half years later, at the 1920 Republican Convention, memories of Calvin's stirring speech motivated Oregon delegate Wallace McCamant (September 22, 1867 – December 17, 1944) to lead a stunning upset over party favorite Irvine Luther Lenroot (January 31, 1869 – January 26, 1949) by successfully proposing Calvin as the vice-presidential running mate of Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 - August 2, 1923).

The Republican ticket achieved a landslide of over 60 percent of the popular vote on Tuesday, November 2, 1920.

Sworn in as 29th Vice President on Friday, March 4, 1921, Calvin transitioned to 30th President of the United States on Thursday, August 2, 1923, upon the sudden death of Warren Harding in San Francisco, California, during his cross-country Voyage of Understanding, which entailed a demanding schedule of speeches and informal talks.

One and one-third years later, garnering 54 percent of the popular vote, Calvin won election in his own right as President on a ticket with Charles Gates Dawes (August 27, 1865 – April 23, 1951).

Despite eligibility for a second full presidential term, Calvin made the stunning laconic announcement in summer 1927: "I do not choose to run for President in 1928."

True to his word, Calvin exited from the presidency on Monday, March 4, 1929. Sadly, his retirement lasted less than four years.

  • Troubled by attacks of severe indigestion and distressed by the devastating magnitude of the Great Depression since Black Tuesday's stock market crash on October 29, 1929, Calvin had expressed to a friend: "I feel I no longer fit in with these times."
  • Six months shy of his 61st birthday, Calvin succumbed to a massive coronary thrombosis on Thursday, January 5, 1933. 

 

Thomas Jefferson: 1821 oil on canvas by Thomas Sully (June 19, 1783 – November 5, 1872)

United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA), West Point, Orange County, southeastern New York
United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA), West Point, Orange County, southeastern New York

July 4th, 1826: Date of death for both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

 

In addition to their shared participation in the birth and development of the United States of America, longtime friends John Adams (born October 30, 1735), 2nd President of the United States (March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801), and Thomas Jefferson (born April 13, 1743), 3rd U.S. President (March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809), died on the same date, Tuesday, July 4, 1826, as their beloved country celebrated 50 years of nationhood.

  • Thomas Jefferson passed away first, succumbing at 12:50 p.m. to a debilitating medley of ailments, including dehydration from long-term diarrhea, pneumonia, toxemia from kidney infection, and uremia from kidney failure. Thomas was 83 years 2+ months old. He died at his home, Monticello, outside of Charlottesville, in west central Virginia's Piedmont (Italian: pie "foot" + monte "mountain") region.
  • Over 550 miles (885 kilometers) to the northeast, at his home, Peacefield, in Quincy, in the southeastern outskirts of Boston in east central Massachusetts, John Adams was unaware of Thomas' death. John expired hours later in the early evening at the age of 90 years 8+ months. John's cause of death was attributed to old-age enfeeblement, medically termed as debility (Latin: de- "from, away" + -bilis "strength").

Thus far, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson comprise an elite group as the only two American presidents to die on the same day.

 

John Adams: 1826 oil on canvas by Gilbert Charles Stuart (December 3, 1755 – July 9, 1828)

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

James Monroe: Third and, thus far, last U.S. President to die on July 4th

 

Although James Monroe (born April 28, 1758), 5th President of the United States (March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825), shared July 4th as his death date with his two presidential friends, his death occurred five years later in 1831.

Whereas both of his friends had enjoyed decades of post-presidential retirement -- 25 years for John Adams and 17 years for Thomas Jefferson -- James survived his exit from the White House by only 6 years 4 months. His short-lived retirement was fraught with stress over financial difficulties and the ill health of his wife, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (born June 30, 1768). After Elizabeth's death from unspecified causes on Thursday, September 23, 1830, James uprooted from their home, Oak Hill, near Leesburg, in northern Virginia's Loudoun County, to settle at 65 Prince Street, the New York City home of his younger daughter Maria Hester (May 20, 1803 - June 20, 1850) and her first-cousin husband,  Samuel L. Gouverneur (1799 – September 29, 1865).

On the 55th anniversary of his country's independence, James succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 73 years 2+ months.

 

James Monroe: ca. 1819 oil on canvas by Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872)

Official White House portrait
Official White House portrait

Conclusion: July 4th and U.S. Presidents

 

Thus far, Calvin Coolidge holds the solitary honor of being the only U.S. President to share his birthday with that of his country.

Only three other presidents have been born in July, but not on the Fourth:

  • John Quincy Adams (died February 23, 1848), 6th U.S. President (March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829), on Saturday, July 11, 1767;
  • Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. (died December 26, 2006), 38th U.S. President (August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977), on Monday, July 14, 1913; and
  • George Walker Bush, 43rd U.S. President (January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009), on Saturday, July 6, 1946.

  

Thus far, James Monroe represents the third, and last, U.S. President to die on Independence Day.

Since James Monroe's death, four other presidents have passed away in the month of July, but not on the Fourth:

  • Zachary Taylor (born November 24, 1784), 12th U.S. President (March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850), on Tuesday, July 9, 1850;
  • Martin Van Buren (born December 5, 1782), 8th U.S. President (March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841), on Thursday, July 24, 1862;
  • Andrew Johnson (born December 29, 1808), 17th U.S. President (April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869), on Saturday, July 31, 1875; and 
  • Ulysses S. Grant (born  April 27, 1822), 18th U.S. President (March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877), on Thursday, July 23, 1885.

 

Flag of the President of the United States: presidential coat of arms on dark blue background.

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present: defined in Executive Order 10860
U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present: defined in Executive Order 10860

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

 

Obverse of Great Seal of the United States also serves as coat of arms of the United States.

obverse of Great Seal of the United States
obverse of Great Seal of the United States

Sources Consulted

 

"Jefferson's Cause of Death." Monticello >  Research & Collections › Research Tools › Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. monticello.org. Web. www.monticello.org

  • Available at: http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/jeffersons-cause-death

Mount, Steve. "The Convention Timeline." USConstitution.net. usconstitution.net. Web. www.usconstitution.net

  • Available at: http://www.usconstitution.net/consttime2.html

 

A Fourth of July fireworks display at the Washington Monument in 1986

Independence Day in D.C.
Independence Day in D.C.
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

USA Watercolor Map: black t-shirt

map of continental United States = "lower 48"
Usa Watercolor Map 3
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Fireworks over the Iwo Jima Memorial for the 4th of July Independence Day celebrations, Arlington, Virginia

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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