In his last letter Thomas Jefferson declined for reasons of ill health to attend a celebration in Washington on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and
exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the
remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in
the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country,
between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the
consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of
experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.
May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts
sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing
men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and
superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the
blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have
substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of
reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to
the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has
already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of
mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored
few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace
of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let
the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of
these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.