John Adams Presidency


Michael Benton, Contributor

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john adams presidencyEvents during John Adams' presidency led him to be both praised and heavily criticized by both his contemporaries and historians. Major events during John Adams' presidency include the Quasi-War with France (also known as the XYZ War) and the subsequent passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts. The presidency of John Adams began after his victory over Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1796. Adams was one of the leaders of the Federalist Party while Jefferson headed the Democratic-Republican Party who opposed Adams' vision of a powerful, centralized government. When a naval conflict broke out with France, a country that had just undergone complete upheaval through violent revolution, paranoia broke out in the United States government that new immigrants and liberal-minded opposition would foment a similar revolution in the nascent American nation. And so John Adams, during presidency, signed into law four acts that came to be known as the Alien and Sedition Acts which severely restricted dissent and free speech under alleged emergency conditions. Of all the important events during John Adams presidency, the passing of these acts is probably the most controversial one.

John Adams' life before presidency began as a young lawyer in Massachusetts who opposed the oppressive policies of the British. His first widely published essays were attacks on the Stamp Act of 1765 and the questionable legality of colonial taxation without representation. Adams was chosen as one of the five representatives from Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress and became an early proponent of full independence. In 1776, he delivered a speech in support of Richard Henry Lee's motion to declare independence from Britain and in the following months Adams would play an advisory role while his friend Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. During the war, Adams would travel to Europe as part of a diplomatic team seeking support for the Americans and eventually winning peace on favorable terms with the British through the Treaty of Paris in 1783. This was the greatest success for John Adams before presidency.

John Adams vice presidency began under George Washington's administration in 1789. Although this position officially offered very little power, Adams managed to assert himself by making a record 29 tie-breaking votes in the Senate. After two terms as the Vice President, Adams won the election of 1796 and became the second President of the United States. After he lost in his bid for re-election to rival Thomas Jefferson in 1800, John Adams life after presidency began. Although the two men had long shared letters on politics and family, Adams would not renew his friendship with Jefferson until 1812. Only a year before John Adams passed away, his son John Q Adams' presidency began. Of all presidents, John Adams 90 years of life was the longest until Ronald Reagan. There is no John Adams presidential library, but the Stone Library of Quincy, Massachusetts has been dedicated to his son and sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams.