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Unit 5-A New Country Lesson 25: John Adams’ Presidency
Review Following the ratification of the Constitution, the United States elected George Washington as the first president. During his presidency, Washington dealt with the foreign affairs and the military, leaving the other national issues to his advisers and Congress. As he completed his second term, the nation began separating into two political parties.
Criticism of Washington George Washington is often considered as the nation’s greatest leader, but he was often criticized during his presidency. Newspapers around the country would sometimes attack his policies and personality. Most of the attacks came from supporters of Thomas Jefferson who were trying to discredit his and Alexander Hamilton’s policies.
Creation of Political Parties By 1796 many Americans began to divide into opposing groups and form political parties. Americans viewed political parties as harmful, and believed they were to be avoided as much as a strong central government. The Constitution did not mention political parties.
Creation of Political Parties Washington was strongly against political parties and warned the people that these groups would divide the nation. Others believed that people were going to have differing beliefs, and that those with similar views should join together for a common cause.
Hamilton vs. Jefferson Hamilton and Jefferson were both members of Washington’s cabinet and often took opposing sides on issues. They disagreed on economic policies, foreign relations, the power of the federal government, and interpretations of the Constitution. Although Washington tried to remain neutral, he usually supported Hamilton.
Federalists Federalists were a group of people who supported the policies of Washington and Hamilton. They wanted a strong federal government. They wanted a British alliance after they lost trust in the French because of the violent changes following the French Revolution.
Federalists Banking and shipping interests were the focus of Federalist policies. Most of the support for the Federalists came from the Northeast, especially in New England, and wealthy plantation owners in the South.
Democratic-Republicans With the help of Thomas Jefferson, Philip Freneau began publishing the National Gazette which questioned the Federalist policies. He would later join James Madison in organizing a group of people who disagreed with Hamilton, called the Democratic-Republicans, also referred to as the Republicans.
Democratic-Republicans The Republicans wanted to limit the powers of government, and feared that a strong federal government would threaten the safety of people’s liberties. They supported the French and were strongly against the pro-British policies of Washington’s administration. A majority of Republicans were small farmers and urban workers, mainly from the Middle Atlantic states and the South.
Interpretations of the Constitution Federalists Hamilton and the Federalists believed the federal government had implied powers, or powers that weren’t written or were forbidden in the Constitution. Hamilton justified a national bank by use of implied powers.
Interpretations of the Constitution Federalists Hamilton argued that the Constitution gave Congress the power to issue currency and regulate trade, and that a national bank would help them complete this task. Because it would help Congress, creating a bank was within the constitutional powers of Congress.
Interpretations of the Constitution Democratic-Republicans The Republicans, including Jefferson and Madison, believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. They accepted the idea of implied powers, but in a very limited sense. They believed implied powers are powers that are “absolutely necessary” to carry out the written powers of government.
Roles of the People Federalists vs. Republicans Federalists believed that public office should be held by honest and educated men of property who would protect everyone’s rights. The Republicans feared strong central government ruled by a wealthy few. Republicans believed that liberty would only be safe if ordinary people participated in government.
Election of 1796 This was the first election that the candidates were members of a political party. Both parties held meetings to prepare for the election called caucuses. At these caucuses members of Congress and other leaders chose their party’s candidate for president.
The Candidates The Federalists nominated the Vice President John Adams as their presidential candidate and Charles Pinckney for vice president. The Republicans nominated Thomas Jefferson for their presidential candidate and Aaron Burr for vice president. Adams and Jefferson had been good friends, but now became rivals.
It was expected that the Federalist John Adams would win the votes in New England, while the Republican Thomas Jefferson would win the South. John Adams had shared views of both parties, which eventually led to his victory by three electoral votes, making him the second president of the United States. Jefferson became the new vice president.
The XYZ Affair John Adams inherited a dispute with France that was due to Jay’s Treaty. The French believed the treaty was an American attempt to help the British in their war with France. In response, the French began to seize American ships that carried cargo to England.
The XYZ Affair To avoid war with France, John Adams sent American diplomats to Paris in the fall of 1797 to resolve the dispute. The French foreign minister Charles de Talleyrand refused to meet with the Americans.
The XYZ Affair Talleyrand sent three French agents to meet the American diplomats and demand a bribe and a loan for France. The Americans refused, and immediately sent a report of the incident to the United States. Adams was upset with the French, and urged congress to prepare for war with France because of the actions of these three agents he referred to as X, Y, and Z.
Undeclared War with France Congress began to strengthen the armed forces by increasing the size of the army and appointing George Washington as commanding general. Congress also created the Navy Department in 1798 and set aside money for building warships.
Undeclared War with France War was never officially declared, but United States and French naval ships fought on many occasions between 1798 and 1800. An agreement was made with France by representatives of Adams in September 1800, to guarantee peace. Most Americans now viewed France as an enemy, but the Republicans hesitated to turn on their friendly relations with France.
Alien and Sedition Acts Many Europeans who came to America in the 1790s supported the ideas of the French Revolution. Some Americans were concerned that these aliens, or immigrants living in the country that were not citizens, would remain loyal if the United States went to war with France. Federalists created four strict laws to protect the nation’s security from aliens.
Alien and Sedition Acts Naturalization Act changed the requirement of living in the country from 5 years to 14 years for an alien to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. Alien Act allowed the president to deport any alien that was considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States."
Alien and Sedition Acts Alien Enemies Act allowed the president to imprison and deport any aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States. Sedition Act made it a crime to speak, write, or publish “false, scandalous, and malicious” criticisms about the government or public official.
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions James Madison and Thomas Jefferson wrote documents of protest towards the Alien and Sedition Acts that were passed by the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures. These resolutions claimed that the Alien and Sedition Acts violated the Constitution.
The Kentucky Resolutions stated that the states had the right to nullify, or legally overturn, federal laws considered unconstitutional. The resolutions affirmed the idea of states’ rights limiting the federal government to those powers clearly stated to it by the Constitution and giving all other powers to the states that were not forbidden of them.
Election of 1800 Following the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Federalists were under attack by many Americans. The Federalist Party told John Adams he needed to go to war with France with hopes to benefit politically from the patriotic feelings that come with war. John Adams refused to go to war for his own political gains, and continued to seek peace with France.
Election of 1800 In 1800 the French agreed to a treaty and to stop attacks on American ships. Although this agreement was in the best interest of the United States, it hurt John Adams’ chances for re-election. Alexander Hamilton and other Federalists now opposed their own president, giving the Republicans a better chance of winning the presidency.
Conclusion Even though George Washington warned the nation about the harm of political parties, the citizens divided into Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. John Adams, a Federalist became the second president of the United States in 1796. Foreign struggles were the main issues during his presidency. Although Adams resolutions were best for the country, it was also the reason for his own party not supporting him.
Assignments Answer the four review questions for this lesson. Using the chart on slide 12 of this PowerPoint, write an essay on which party you believe you would have chosen and explain why. You will have a Unit 5 test after you complete Lesson 32