September 22, 1813 – November 14, 1813
Sentiments like these begin to creep in:
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson: “Could the quiveration of my nerves and the inflammation of my Eyes be cured and my Age diminished by 20 or 30 years: I would attend you in these researches, with infinitely more Pleasure, than I would be George the 4th. Napoleone, Alexander, or Madison. But only a few Hours; a few minutes remain for Your Old Friend.”
TJ to JA: “I have thus stated my opinion on a point on which we differ, not with a view to controversy, for we are both too old to change opinions which are the result of a long life of inquiry and reflection; but on the suggestion of a former letter of yours, that we ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.”
JA is 78, TJ is 70. They both have a good 13 years left in them, which feels crude for me to say, as if I’m an angel of death hovering above their gray (or white) heads as their quills tremble and scurry across the page. This reminds me that biographies are a problem, because the ending is always the same. The hero dies. No matter how inspired I feel by reading the life of a great historical person, I’m haunted by a touch of sadness and discomfort. You can’t read a biography without confronting your own mortality. This is frightening.
And that’s gotta be a joke about Madison.