PRESIDENT JOHN ADAMS
*During Washington’s administration, people in the country, especially political leaders, begin to disagree over a number of issues.
*There are two parties, and their names
can be a bit confusing. The Federalists are not quite the same as
the old federalists who supported the Constitution--many are, but some
of the old-time federalists are now Democratic Republicans, also know as
|*Loose construction (If it doesn’t
say you can’t, then you can)
*Like national debt
*For standing armies
|*Strict construction (If it doesn’t
say you can, then you can’t)
*Would pay off debt
*Introduce Hamilton’s programme:
1. A strong national government because the people cannot be trusted
2. Assuming state debts (left over from the Revolutionary War) to improve America’s credit by making her financially stable and to make America secure by ensuring that no-one who was owed money would want anything bad to happen to the US before they were paid off—this was unpopular in the south, where many states had paid off their debts and where no-one wanted to pay for Yankee debt (the South was placated with a Southern capital)
3. Hamilton will pay Federal salaries and expenses, and slowly pay off the national debt, through tariffs and an excise tax (an internal tax imposed on the production, sale, or consumption of a commodity or the use of a service within a country), called the whiskey tax
*Many people did not like this programme, because it meant new taxes and a stronger national government that would interfere in local affairs.
*The US are divided over the French Revolution. The Federalists fear its excesses, while the Republicans admire its commitment to Liberty, although they eventually turn away from its Reign of Terror as well. Furthermore, the British begin impressing American sailors and still maintain forts in the Northwest, from which they send out Indians.
*To stop this, Jay signs a treaty with Britain that is ratified in 1795. This (supposedly) gets the British out of the Northwest, but does not stop impressments. It also helps trade. Many people, who dislike the British, feel that Jay sold out.
*In Western Pennsylvania, farmers resent the Whiskey Tax. Like the Sons of Liberty and Daniel Shays before them, they resist the tax with violence, closing courts and attacking tax collectors. To show the power of the national government, Washington gathers an army of over 12,000 men and sends them to crush the rebellion.
*Due to this partisan bickering, Washington is convinced to be president a second time, but he won’t do it a third.
*1796: VP John Adams becomes President by a narrow margin, but Mr Jefferson is his Vice-President. Because the two disagree on many things, Jefferson works hard to undercut Adams, in order (as he sees it) to save the nation.
*Just as important, Tennessee becomes a state in this year. We should, based on our size, have had two Senators (Blount and Cocke) and two Representatives, but the Federalists, knowing we’d vote Republican, only let us have one representative (Andrew Jackson), so we’d have less power in Congress and in electing the President.
*Angry and feeling betrayed by the Jay Treaty, the French begin attacking American ships.
*Hoping to avoid war, Adams sends officials to Paris, where they meet secretly with French officials only known as X, Y, and Z. They demand a huge bribe and a larger loan before they will even discuss the matter or let the Americans see the French Foreign Minister. Although this is just how business is done in Europe, it disgusts the Americans, and becomes a scandal (known as the X Y Z Affair).
*In defiance, America says ‘Millions for defence, but not one cent for tribute,’ and the Americans fight back. Because war has not been declared and neither nation really wants it, this is called the Quasi-War, and lasts from 1798-1801. Many Americans would like a full war, but Adams won’t do it, because he knows we can’t afford a war with a big power like France. Initially his tough stand makes him popular, but when he won’t go farther, doing the right thing makes Americans despise him—both the other Federalists, who hate France, and the Republicans, who hate Adams for being a Federalist.
*While the Federalists are still popular right after the anger at the XYZ Affair, they push a new set of laws through Congress called the Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws make it illegal to criticise the government or its officials, and lets the government imprison deport any non-Citizen it wants, while making it harder to become a citizen. This was mostly used to silence Republican newspaper editors.
*What part of the Bill of Rights might this violate? Consider how recent laws after 11 September, 2001 might resemble this. Always be alert! The price of peace is eternal vigilance.
*Jefferson and Madison feel this violates the right to freedom of speech, and write (and get state legislatures to pass) the Virginia Resolutions and the Kentucky Resolutions.
*These both express opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and they do so in part by suggesting the idea of nullification. According to this theory, each state can and should decide if federal laws are constitutional or not and, if they are not, should declare them null and void, and not follow them. Although Virginia and Kentucky never test this, the idea is still defiant of the national government—and will be tried again later.
*The election of 1800 was an unpleasant one. John Adams had to be part of it, both out of pride and because he didn’t trust anyone else. Hamilton and many other Federalists hated him because he wouldn’t declare war on France, so they secretly plotted against him. Jefferson also plotted against him, and the Federalists plotted against Jefferson. Adams was portrayed as a monarchist, and Jefferson as a friend of the common man (or as a godless anarchist ready to plunge the country into bloody chaos like that in France).
*In 1800, Jefferson and Burr, both Republicans, get an equal number of votes, followed by Adams, Charles Pinckney, and (distantly) John Jay, all Federalists. The issue goes (like all presidential electoral ties) to the House of Representatives, where the Republicans and the Federalists (who dislike Burr even more than they dislike Jefferson) agree to make Jefferson President and Burr VP.
*At the last minute, Adams uses his power to appoint a bunch of judges to the courts before Jefferson can take over. One of these men, Chief Justice John Marshal, swears Jefferson in as President.
*The 1800 election is sometimes known as the Jeffersonian Revolution or the Revolution of 1800, in part because the triumph over the Federalists, with their central government, was presented by the Republicans as a re-fighting of the American Revolution. It is especially important because it showed to America and the whole world that Americans could have a peaceful shift of power between opposing factions.
BACK TO SYLLABUS
This page last updated 4 September, 2003.