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July 4th: A Bad Day for Ex-Presidents

Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Print Collector

July 4th: A Bad Day for Ex-Presidents

President John AdamsOne hot summer day nearly 200 years ago, John Adams lay in bed at his Peacefield farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. The former president of the United States was 90 and gravely ill. Upon being told it was July 4th, the same day that the Declaration of Independence had been enacted 50 years prior, he remarked, "It is a great day. It is a good day."

Hours later, John Adams was dead.

In his final moments, he inquired after Thomas Jefferson, a one-time rival and later friend who'd succeeded Adams to become the third U.S. president. Jefferson was one of only three remaining signatories of the Constitution still living.

Except he wasn't.

Unbeknownst to Adams, the 83-year-old Jefferson had died earlier that day on his farm in Virginia from what scholars think could have been pneumonia, kidney disease or possibly prostate cancer.

Strange coincidence? There's more. On July 4, four years later, America's fifth president, James Monroe, died in New York City from heart failure and tuberculosis.

That this day of celebration should've been so lethal for our early leaders is surely a statistical fluke. But we still think there's a Nicolas Cage movie somewhere in there.