John Adams Political Party


Michael Benton, Contributor

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john adams political partyBefore the advent of political parties in the United States, John Adams was a leading proponent of republicanism and a strong, central government. In a pamphlet published by Richard Henry Lee in April, 1776 of John Adams' "Thoughts on Government" summary of a framework for state and federal governments with separate branches as we know them today. It quickly became the reference piece for committees in each colony tasked with writing a new constitution for their potential state. When he helped author the Massachusetts State Constitution in 1780, John Adams' political beliefs became reality. He designed a government based on a strong executive over a bicameral legislature with a branch for the courts. In "Thoughts on Government," John Adams had explained that two houses were needed in the legislature so that the well-off would not be able to dominate the lower class masses. John Adams political career began as a member of the Continental Congress and an envoy to Europe, but after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, he was elected as the first Vice President of the United States.

During his time as Vice President, Adams held little sway over administrative decisions but played a major role in the legislature as head of the Senate. He cast 29 tie-breaking votes, a record that stands to this day. John Adams' political party was the Federalists and they opposed the Democratic-Republicans who were led by Thomas Jefferson, his former friend. In the election of 1796, Adams led the Federalist party to victory over Jefferson by a very slim margin to become the second President of the United States. John Adams' political views would now dominate the nation, and John Adams' domestic policies demonstrated his belief in the strength of the executive branch and the authority of the federal government. During the administration of John Adams, domestic issues included the Alien and Sedition Acts which severely restricted public dissent and free speech in an effort to contain rebellious sentiment stirred up during the Quasi-War with France. John Adams' domestic policy was tested during a 1799 revolt of Pennsylvania Dutch against taxes raised to support the Quasi-War with France. After the leaders were arrested and tried for treason, Adams restored order by pardoning the men for their actions and declaring that they had been used by his political opponents.

John Adams lost the election of 1800 to his rival, Thomas Jefferson. He had faced opposition within his own Federalist party from a faction led by Alexander Hamilton. John Adams' political cartoons appeared in many newspapers lampooning his weight and pomposity. Adams' last act as President was to appoint a number of conservative federal judges in the final hours of his administration. They were known as the Midnight Judges and it was a move that frustrated the incoming President Jefferson immensely. Adams retired from politics after his failure to win a second term. In 1824, his eldest son, John Quincy Adams, would win the election to become the sixth President of the United States.