Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The rays of ravishing light and glory....

Every 4th of July, I'm drawn again to John Adams. While all of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence deserve our eternal gratitude, Adams earned a slightly larger portion.

It was Adams who pushed for the resolution on independence, Adams who convinced Jefferson to write it and Adams who pushed and prodded and advocated for independence so strongly and eloquently. He suggested the forming of the Continental Army, and pushed for George Washington to be named commander.

And when the work was over, and the Declaration was written, approved and published, Adams looked at what had been done, and the inevitable war that lay ahead, and wrote:

I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

He never did rue it, the end was worth all the means and we all live free today because of his vision. Enjoy your parades, picnics, family times and fireworks today, America, and take a moment to remember the men at Philadelphia that made it all possible.

(The best telling of Adams' remarkable life is found in David McCullough's book, John Adams, which was later made into an  HBO miniseries. Through a fortuitous connection, I am able to have a first edition of the book, inscribed to me by McCullough, in my bookcase. Needless to say, it's one of my most prized possessions.)

Bonus story: I had the privilege once, on a trip to Boston, to get down to Quincy and visit the church where John and his equally remarkable wife, Abigail, are buried next to their son, John Quincy Adams, and his wife, Louisa. The church is still in operation, and while it is open for tourists Memorial Day to Labor Day, I was there in October and the sign on the door said "Closed." However, I knocked on the church door, and when the church secretary answered, I begged my way into a quick tour.

She took me downstairs, then down a hallway and through a narrow door into the crypt, where John's and Abigail's tombs look like this:

After standing over John's resting place for a few moments - and not wanting to impose any more on this kind woman's time - I began to walk out. "No," she said. "You have to say something to Abigail." She explained that "Abigail gets cross" if she doesn't receive adequate attention, and that the church will find books tossed on the floor, windows left open and other supernatural occurrences when Abigail felt snubbed. I don't know if she really believed it, or it was just a fun tale to tell a rube from Minnesota, but she seemed quite sincere about it. So I said a couple of complimentary things, and we headed out. If you're ever in Boston in the summer, I highly recommend the jaunt down to Quincy where you can also see Adams' home.

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