Here’s one for July 4th: What were the religious beliefs of the three founding presidents of the United States, George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson?
THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:
The Fourth of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of American independence, was the date when both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died.
What were the odds?! The two served on the five-man Continental Congress committee responsible for the Declaration of Independence, and Adams, who recognized Jefferson’s golden pen, ensured that his younger colleague would be the author.
The immortal prose had a distinctively religious flavor, with non-sectarian affirmation of peoples’ unalienable human rights that were “endowed by their Creator,” citation of the laws bestowed by “nature’s God,” appeal to “the Supreme Judge of the world,” and with “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” during the improbable and risky rebellion against mighty Britain.
These two Founders coincided otherwise in life, as in death. Adams was the nation’s first vice president and Jefferson its first secretary of state in the administration of the first president, George Washington. Adams was then elected president in 1796 with runner-up Jefferson as his vice president. After the nasty 1800 campaign, during which Jefferson was assailed as a religious infidel, he turned the tables and defeated the incumbent Adams.
Adams was so furious he even boycotted Jefferson’s inauguration. Though these allies of independence had become fierce rivals, they reconciled later in life and exchanged fascinating letters that enrich the recent book “Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson” (Penguin) by prize-winning Brown University historian Gordon S. Wood.