American History: President John Adams 1797 – 1801

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President John Adams came into office in 1797. John Adams’ presidency was marred with controversies and disputes within his own party. By his own admission, Adams was not a good politician. He did not have the tact required in his speech and his strong opinions often ruffled feathers.

Most historians believe that President John Adams’ biggest mistake was keeping the same cabinet of George Washington. Washington’s cabinet was all Hamilton’s men and they continually tried to force Adams’ into making their decisions. However, Adams was never the submissive type. He often voiced his opinions and ruffled the feathers of his own party which in turn caused his own party to turn on him. Alexander Hamilton controlled the Federalist party.

The other controversy that surrounded Adams’ presidency was the war between England and France. France was the more popular country in the United States due to their help in the American Revolution. However, the monarchy that was there in power during the American Revolution was replaced during the French Revolution. This same war had begun under Washington and Washington had successfully navigated around it. Adams tried to continue the neutral policies, however it would be much harder for him than it was for Washington. After the Jay Treaty the French became angry and started capturing American ships. This caused Adams to fight a Quasi-War with France. Eventually Napoleon signed a peace treaty with America and President John Adams was able to avoid war. He wisely followed Washington’s advice in his farewell speech when Washington advised to “avoid entangling alliances.” Although he was able to avoid war it split his own party.

Under Adams The United States began building a national army. Adams made a poor decision when choosing the leader of the army. He chose Washington to lead the army. George Washington was much too old to lead an army and when he accepted he accepted under the condition that Alexander Hamilton be his second in command. This was unfortunate. At the time Hamilton was a very ambitious man and did not necessarily care about the country’s well-being but rather his own. This causes a huge rift between his own party and also the democratic-republicans.

American History: President John Adams 1797   1801

The Alien and Sedition acts were signed into law when President John Adams’ signed them. He did not write them, in fact they were being written when Washington was still president, but he did sign them. The four acts within these were:

1. The Naturalization Act

2. The Alien Act

3. The Alien Enemies Act

4. The Sedition Act

All of these acts were controversial, however the most controversial and the one that caused the most fear was the sedition act. The sedition act criminalized anyone who publicly spoke out against the federal government. This caused fear throughout the states. It was mainly stirred up by the Democratic-Republicans. Adams merely signed them, but he received the blame for them.

Once Washington died in 1799 the Federalist party began to lose popularity. Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans emerged as the most popular party while the ambitious Hamilton fought to hold onto power. However, Hamilton’s efforts only split the party further. He backed Thomas Pinckney who then split the vote with Adams and allowed Jefferson to win.

President John Adams was so angry with the result that he did not attend the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson.