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Background Information

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1 Background Information
John Adams was a Harvard-educated lawyer from Massachusetts. He led in the movement for independence and served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. During the Revolutionary War, he served in France, Holland, and England in diplomatic roles, and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris Adams was elected as the first vice-president under George Washington. During his term as vice-president, he emerged as a leader of the Federalist Party. His wife, Abigail, was an outspoken woman who voiced her opinion in letters about the lack of women’s rights. The Adams family was the first family to live in the White House which at that time was called the Executive Mansion or the President’s House.

2 Presidency In 1796, John Adams, a Federalist, was elected president of the United States. His chief opponent, Jefferson, a leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, was made vice president. During this time, the presidential candidate that received the highest number of votes became president and the second highest vice president regardless of which party they represented. Adams's four years as president were marked by intense disputes between the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties. As a Federalist, Adams was like Alexander Hamilton. He thought the educated and aristocratic should govern. He favored a strong, central government while Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans favored power at the state level. In addition, Adams and the Federalists favored closer ties with England, while Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans favored closer ties with France. Adams’s presidency, , focused on foreign policy issues, which eventually became domestic issues

3 Domestic Policy 1 The major domestic issue that arose under John Adams was the passage by the Federalist Congress of the Alien and Sedition Acts. John Adams agreed with the Federalist Congress and signed the acts into law in England and France were at war and President Adams believed that the acts would protect the government from potentially dangerous individuals and subversive (rebellious) activity. Today the Alien and Sedition Acts would be considered a violation of the First Amendment Rights. The Naturalization Act made it more difficult for foreigners to become U.S. citizens. This act required aliens to be residents for 14 years instead of 5 years before they became eligible to become citizens. The Alien Act and Alien Enemies Act gave the president power to imprison or deport aliens suspected of activities posing a threat to the national government. The Sedition Act allowed for the punishment of those who criticized the government either verbally or in writing. (Sedition means to stir up rebellion against the government.) Many felt these laws were not designed to protect the government, but designed to take governmental control away from the Democratic-Republican Party and keep the Federalist Party strong. Because of the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the fact that the congress was controlled by the Federalists the state legislatures in late 1798, addressed their disapproval of the Alien and Sedition Acts. James Madison prepared the Virginia Resolutions and Thomas Jefferson wrote the Kentucky Resolutions. Both followed a similar argument: The states had the duty to nullify (cancel) within their borders those laws that the states considered unconstitutional, in this case the Alien and Sedition Acts.

4 Domestic Policy 2 In the presidential election of 1800, Adams ran and lost to Thomas Jefferson. Some of the reasons for his defeat were that the Federalists did not trust him, the popular disapproval of the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the popularity of Thomas Jefferson. In his last hours in office, Adams appointed his Secretary of State, John Marshall, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Adams also appointed 42 other Federalists to judiciary positions. These appointees were called the "Midnight Appointments." One such Midnight Appointee was William Marbury. His quest to receive his appointment went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison (1803), resulted in the process of judicial review, which gives the power to the Supreme Court to determine if a law is constitutional.

5 Foreign Policy America’s relationship with France was a major foreign policy issue during the Adams’ administration. As a result of Jay’s Treaty, the French wanted to punish America and they began seizing American ships carrying cargo to England. Adams wanted to follow Washington’s policy of remaining neutral and tried to avoid war with France. In 1797, President Adams attempted to defuse growing tensions by sending two new diplomats, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, to join Charles Pinckney already in Paris. The French foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, kept the American diplomats waiting for weeks, then sent agents (designated X, Y and Z by the Americans) who proposed that the Americans pay Talleyrand a cash amount of $250,000 and a $10 million loan for France. After payment, the French would discuss the matter. Known as the X,Y,Z, Affair, this perceived bribe enraged Americans. “Millions for defense; not one cent for tribute!” became a popular slogan in America. Americans were willing to spend any amount of money to defend our nation, but not one cent for bribes. As a result, Adams and Congress responded by increasing the size of the army and creating a Navy Department. Adams sent new diplomats who successfully negotiated an agreement with France in September 1800 to ensure peace.

6 Legacy Adams’s presidency was a challenging one. During his presidency the conflict between the Federalists, and their desire for a strong central government, and the Democratic-Republicans’ desire for power to be at the state level was reflected in domestic and foreign issues. The major crisis of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the XYZ Affair, as well as his Midnight Appointees stemmed from the current political divisions. Although Adams resolved many of these issues and avoided war, his popularity was diminished and he was unable to be re-elected to a second term. His lasting legacy is seen in using diplomacy to avoid war and to protect the nation.

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