Monday, January 9, 2012

The Year of Knowledge: President John Adams

It's Presidential Monday again! We continue our American history lesson with the second president of the United States, John Adams.

"People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity," President John Adams.

Born in Massachusetts in 1735, Adams, a highly politically passionate man, became first a patriot and then a Federalist. Often thought of to be a better political philosopher than actual politician, he was incredibly passionate about the state of affairs of this country. He began his political career as the Vice-President of George Washington - something he felt was utterly beneath him. He felt the post was "the most insignificant office that ever then invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." His frustration notwithstanding, he still proceeded to fight for the Federalist cause.

When he became president in 1797, he turned his attention to the war between France and England. While George Washington had decided to maintain a point of neutrality, Adams decided to side and work with France. He sent three emissaries to negotiate trade, but received word that France would only comply if they were supplied with a substantial bribe.

This response led to a slew of changes and laws, including the Alien and Sedition Acts, allowing the United States to defend itself on the soil of other nations. He increased our Naval presence and began a quasi-war with the French out on open sea. France decided they were unhappy with this turn of events and extended the olive branch.

Despite several significant victories, the Federalist party was incredibly divided. This division led to Adams defeat for a second term in 1800 to the Democratic Republicans front-runner, Thomas Jefferson. Adams and Jefferson were always on opposite sides of an issue, a point that carried through to the end of Adams' life. When he died on July 4, 1826, his last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives," not knowing that Jefferson had died at Monticello just a few hours earlier.

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