Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
The “Year of Jubilee” was the fiftieth anniversary of the new nation. It had been half a century since the colonies had declared independence, and the nation was celebrating. The entire nation was so excited that they began celebrating two years before the actual anniversary year with pomp and pageantry.(1) During the actual celebrations in 1826, the nation couldn’t help but think on the past from the days of war to the future that was before them as July 4, 1826 had John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passing away on the same day amidst the celebrations. These were the two remaining men who stood the highest in the public eye as representatives of the nation’s past. They were the “founding fathers whose lives and legacies had shaped the country’s history”. (2) Their deaths marked the salute to the brave past but also closed the door on that past as the determination of the future. The passing of the men were seen as a “sign of divine favor” by John Quincy Adams and an acknowledgement that their “work was done.” (3) The beginning of America had been in the hands of the Founding Fathers. The future of America was in the hands of the ones left to celebrate the anniversary of its beginnings. Americans were standing on a threshold of leaving a “receding heroic past” and entering a “wonderful future just beginning to unfold.” (4) In a sense, the nation could not continue on in glory as long as it hung too tight to the past. The Marquis de Lafayette’s tour of America was almost a farewell tour of the past while the passings of the other two were a beacon to the future which the ones left behind embraced and took to heart. The nation would never be the same. A new era was before them, and Americans were determined to enter it with all the energy they could muster. The future was waiting for them and it was looking brght.
(1) Daniel Feller, The Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815-1840, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University, 1995), 1.
(2) Ibid, 3.
(3) Ibid, 3.
(4) Ibid, 4.
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