John Adams Essays

John Adams Essays

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John Adams, who became the second president of the
United States, has been accused by some historians of being
the closest thing America ever had to a dictator or monarch
(Onuf, 1993). Such strong accusations should be examined
in the context of the era in which Mr. Adams lived and
served. A closer examination of the historical events
occurring during his vice presidency and his term as
president, strongly suggests that Adams was not, in fact, a
dictator. Indeed, except for his lack of charisma and political
charm, Adams had a very successful political career before
joining the new national government. He was, moreover,
highly sought after as a public servant during the early
formation of the new federal power (Ferling, 1992). Adams
was a well educated, seasoned patriot, and experienced
diplomat. He was the runner-up in the election in which
George Washington was selected the first United States
President. According to the electoral-college system of that
time, the second candidate with the most electoral votes
became the Vice President (Smelser & Gundersen, 1975).
As president, Washington appointed, among others, two
influential political leaders to his original cabinet; Thomas
Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson, a veteran
politician became the Secretary of State and Hamiliton, a
young, outspoken New Yorker lawyer, became the
Secretary of the Treasury (Ferling, 1992). Jefferson, like
Adams, had also signed the Declaration of Independence.
Hamilton, however, was the only cabinet member relatively
unknown to Adams (Ferling, 1992). It was Hamilton,
nonetheless, who excelled during this new administration by
initiating numerous, innovative, and often controversial
programs, many of which were quite successful. Adams and
Hamilton were both Federalists. Unlike Hamiliton, Adams
was more moderate (Smelser & Gundersen, 1975). During
this first administration, Adams and Hamilton quarreled
(Washington Retires, 1995), and Adams contemptuously
began referring to Hamilton as “his puppyhood” (DeCarolis,
1995). This created a rift in the administration, for
Washington generally favored Hamiliton (Smelser &
Gundersen, 1975), and disregarded Adams (Ferling, 1992).
Hamilton also went to great lengths to drive Jefferson out of
the cabinet (Allison, 1966). Jefferson did finally, indeed,
resign from the cabinet. The Federalists “party,” of which
Hamiliton w...


... middle of paper ...


...larity in the
latter part of his term. It should also be pointed out that
though the Sedition Act was anti-democratic in practice,
Thomas Jefferson, who defeated Adams, used it against the
Federalists in 1803 (People v. Croswell) and indicted a
publisher (DeCarolis, 1995). Jefferson was not accused of
being a dictator for such non-democratic actions. Adams
was neither dictatorial in his conduct, or imperial in his
policies. He appeared to have had the interest of the
common people at heart. The conflict with France, the high
taxes needed to keep the army and navy operating, and the
poor legislative faux pas Congress made during period time,
all cast a negative reflection on President Adams. This
provided his opponents, like Hamilton, Burr, and even
Jefferson, with political leverage to use against him, just as
politicians and political parties do in our own modern era. If
Adams were a dictator, then one must ask would the citizens
elect his son to be the future president, twenty-four years
later? Or, how his grandson, Charles Francis Adams,
became America’s minister to London. Apparently the
citizenry remembered President Adams in a positive,
democratic way, and not as a dictator.

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