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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

John Adams

  • [One of the most prominent advocates of the American War of Independence; born in Braintree, Mass., Oct. 19, 1735; graduated from Harvard College; member of the first Continental Congress, of the committee to prepare the Declaration of Independence; Commissioner to France, 1777; Commissioner to England, 1782, and Minister, 1785; Vice-president, 1789–1797; President of the United States, 1797–1801; died July 4, 1826.]
  • Sink or swim, live or die.

  • In a eulogy upon Adams and Jefferson, Aug. 2, 1826, Daniel Webster introduced a speech, supposed to have been made by Mr. Adams in favor of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, with the words, “Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my heart and my hand to this vote.” The expression was derived from the record of a conversation between Mr. Adams and Jonathan Sewall in 1774: “I answered that the die was now cast; I had passed the Rubicon. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish with my country, was my unalterable determination!” Mr. Webster’s imaginary speech closed with the words, “Independence now, and independence forever!” Being roused by the discharge of cannon on the morning of the last day of his life, President Adams asked the cause; when told that it was Independence Day, he murmured, “Independence forever!” He had on the 30th of June given those words in answer to a request for a toast to be offered in his name on the following 4th of July. He was asked if he would add nothing to it: “Not one word,” was his reply.—Life of John Adams, by J. Q. ADAMS.
  • In a letter to Mrs. Adams, July 3, 1776, Mr. Adams spoke of the passage of the resolution on the previous day in favor of American Independence, the Declaration itself not being agreed to until the 4th. “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”
  • The last words of President Adams were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” His successor in the presidential office had already died on the morning of that day. The last words of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, who was struck with paralysis in the House of Representatives, Feb. 21, 1848, were, “This is the last of earth! I am content.”