Fourth Of July Curse: Three Presidents Died On Independence Day

Is there a Fourth of July curse that has caused presidents to die? Many people have asked that question, based upon the coincidental circumstances surrounding three United States presidents who died on Independence Day. Two presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, not only died on the same day, but were also Declaration of Independence signers. The third president who died on the Fourth of July was James Monroe. Together, seven presidents have died in July, making it the month with the most presidential deaths.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826 and James Monroe died five years later on July 4, 1831. What is most notable about Thomas Jefferson’s and John Adams’ deaths is that they were the second and third presidents of the United States and they both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. James Monroe was the fifth president. Thomas Jefferson was 83 years old when he died and John Adams was 90. James Monroe died at 73 years old.

On July 5, 1831, the New York Post reported on the passing of James Monroe and commented on the apparent coincidence of the timing of James Monroe’ death and how it occurred on Independence Day. This shows that people were as puzzled by the timing of the deaths over a century ago just as they are today. The New York Post wrote the following passage after the Fourth of July festivities in 1831.

“One melancholy event occurred in the course of the day to repress the hilarity of the public and mix a decent gravity with their rejoicing. The venerable James Monroe, a man loved for his virtues, respected for his abilities and honored for his services, breathed his last a half past three o’clock at the advanced age of seventy-two years. This event occurred at the house of his son-in-law, Samuel L. Gouverneur, where he had resided for nearly a twelve month past, during a great part of which time his heath was obviously and rapidly sinking under an accumulation of infirmities.

“His death had for several days been hourly expected; but it pleased Providence to prolong the flickering flame of life until the fifty-fifth anniversary of that independence of which he had been one of the principal founders and supporters, and by its extinction then to add another expressive circumstance to those which stamp the Fourth of July as the most memorable day in the history of the world.

“By a coincidence which has no parallel, three of the four Presidents of the United States who have left the scene of their usefulness and their glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday – a day which, of all other, had it been permitted them to choose, they would probably have selected for the termination of their career, and a day which happily thus acquires a more hallowed character by being at once the anniversary of our national independence and the death of the men who stood conspicuous among those whose wisdom planned, whose firmness established, and whose lives and precepts will tend to perpetuate it.”

What do you think about the deaths? The New York Post referred to it as a “coincidence which has no parallel.” Do you think it’s just mere chance or coincidence, or could there be something sinister going on, such as a Fourth of July curse? Many people have described the deaths of three out of five founding fathers on the same day, and two in the same year, as strange at the least. Others have remarked over the years that it could have been divine timing that was behind the death of three presidents on the Fourth of July.

Boston University took a close look at the coincidences in their July/August 2005 issues of Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society. The article is titled “Explaining the Same-day Deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson” and was written by Margaret P. Battin.

The article offers six possible reasons for why the three presidents, Jefferson, Adams, and Monroe, died on the Fourth of July. The possibilities as listed in the article are as follows.

  1. Coincidence
  2. Divine Intervention
  3. Hanging On
  4. Being Allowed or Caused to Die by Others
  5. Allowing Oneself to Die
  6. Causing Oneself to Die

It’s interesting that many of the theories proposed look to a positive cause for the presidents’ deaths. The theory of divine intervention is more along the lines of divine favor, such as God taking the presidents on the historically significant day of July 4. Also, the article points to the possibility that doctors may have helped the presidents live until the Fourth of July, upon which day the presidents simply gave up the will to live and the doctors obliged by not prolonging their deaths. Is it possible the three presidents died on the Fourth of July because they simply gave up the will to live and stopped fighting death?

Whether it was a divine blessing, a curse, or a mere coincidence, everyone can agree that it is a strange fact that three presidents died on July 4.

What are your theories? Do you believe it was a blessing, a curse, or a coincidence that three presidents died on the Fourth of July, or do you think there is a logical explanation tied to medical care and treatment?

[Photo by Marcus Hsieh/Shutterstock]

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