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John Admas


John Adams was criticized during his presidency by his
enemies as well as his colleagues. Obviously, his
reputation as president doesn't really bring a positive
thought to ones head. But does John Adams deserve a better
reputation as the president of the United States? Steven G.
Kurtz will argue that Mr. Adams was a good president. He
just did not do a very good job when it came to picking his
cabinet. His colleagues messed up his reputation. On the
other hand, a newspaper called the Aurora, which was
publicized in Philadelphia during his presidency,
continually heaped abuse upon Adams. They claimed that he
was all words, but no action. Most of the country felt this
way about him when it came to the issue with the war with
France. John Adams was not a very popular president of his
time. John Adams was born in the village of Braintree near
Boston on October 19, 1735. Who would have thought that
this farm boy would grow up to one day become president.
John Adams first ran for presidency in 1789, but he lost to
George Washington, whom by far was the unanimous choice.
Adams received thirty four electoral votes and became
vice-president. Adams ran for the second time in 1797, and
this time he came out the victor. He defeated Thomas
Jefferson by only three electoral votes. The country did
not really have confidence in John Adams. On March 4, 1797,
John Adams delivered his inaugural address and became the
second president of the United States.
 Being the president, Adams was allowed to choose his own
cabinet. He replaced Washington's cabinet which consisted
of Edmund Randolph, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and
William Bradford. Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts was
appointed the secretary of state, Oliver Welcott of
Connecticut became the secretary of treasury, James McHenry
of Maryland became the secretary of war, and Charles Lee of
Virginia was appointed the attorney general. It is quite
obvious that George Washington had a much better cabinet
than Adams did. John Adam's cabinet was not nearly as witty
or as intelligent than the one of Washington. Obviously,
Mr. Adams did not do too good of a job on choosing his
 During John Adam's presidency, hi ran into the biggest
problem in foreign policy. The French were attacking
American shipping. Hoping to resolve the problem, Adams
sent Charles Pinckney, who was the United States minister
to France, John Marshall, A Virginian federalist, and
Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. The mission was a total
disaster. Charles Maurice de Tolleyrand-Perigod, the French
foreign minister, sent three agents who demanded a bribe of
250,000 dollars as the price for making a deal. The
Americans went ballistic. "No, no, not a sixpence" was
Charles Pinckney's response to the agents. This later
became known as the XYZ affair. The talks of negotiations
disappeared and all of a sudden there was the possibility
of war. "Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute"
had become the national slogan. Just three months after
Adams had become president, he called in congress together
for measures of defense to be taken immediately. He did not
want to wait any longer. He had asked for a provisional
army. He also asked for the officers to be commissioned and
for recruiting to begin. However, he did not call for an
establishment of a large, professional army. Throughout the
two years that the possibility of a war had existed, Adams
had made it clear to everyone that he put he put his faith
in a strong navy. He did not want to use the army as an
instrument for defense. Adams believed that the only way
France could be brought around to treat with American
envoys on an even basis is if it was made clear that the
Americans were prepared to fight and that they would not
submit to any further humiliation. He wanted France to see
that the Americans were not backing down and that they were
not afraid to go to war with the nation of France.
 In 1798, President Adams signed into law the Alien and
Sedition Acts.
These acts were four bills which were designed to crush the
opposition. The Naturalization Act made it more difficult
for immigrants to become citizens. It raised the amount of
years required for naturalization from four to fifteen.
This act was repealed in 1802. The Alien Act empowered the
president to arrest and deport any alien who is considered
to be dangerous. This act expired in 1800.
The Alien Enemies Act was directed at French immigrants. It
authorized the president to round up and imprison enemy
aliens during war time. This act expired in 1801. The
Naturalization and Alien Acts were aimed largely at Irish
immigrants and French refugees who had participated in
political activities critical to the Adams administration.
 In a severe blow to the freedom of the press, the sedition
act threatened with fine and imprisonment anyone who "shall
write, print, utter or publish...scandalous and malicious
writing or writings against the government of the
government of the United States, or either House of the
Congress...or the President...with intent to defame...or to
bring them...into contempt or disrepute;
or to excite against them...the hatred of the good people
of the United States."
The Sedition Act was an attempt to curb newspaper editors
who supported the Republican Party and who, in many cases,
were also immigrants and refugees.
Before this act expired, twenty five people were arrested
and about ten were convicted. Some of them were later
pardoned. In 1799, John Adams fixed the war crisis by
reopening negotiations with France. The Federalists did not
agree with him. The country wanted to go to war. They were
insulted, and they wanted revenge. However, President Adams
did not wish to go to war. He did not think that the United
States was ready for a war with a nation such as France. He
was bluffing when he was building the navy. Adams did not
want to kill our nations young men when the situation could
have been settled peacefully. Many people called Adams a
coward after he chose not to go to war with France. Timothy
Pickering said that Adams did not take full advantage of
the anger caused by the XYZ Affair.
 President Adams was criticized intensely. James Otis of
Massachusetts once said: "You will never make a soldier.
You can only talk about it. You have the head for
strategy-but not the heart for fighting.... I have searched
you r heart. Tired with one year's service Representative,
dancing from Boston to Braintree and from Braintree to
Boston. Mopping about the streets of this town as hipped as
Father Flynt at ninety. You don't care for anything but to
get money enough to carry you smoothly through this world!"
 John Adams lost the election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson
most likely
because he did not go to war with France. Adams thought
that he would be praised because he handled the situation
peacefully, but instead, he was harshly criticized and was
told that he does not have what it takes to be the leader
of this country. John Adams was a very proud man and he
took all this directly to the heart. He thought that he
saved many lives by not going to war, and that he deserved
to be the President for another term. Bitter about his
defeat by Jefferson, President Adams spent the final hours
of his administration appointing a slew of Federalists to
the judgeships and lesser court offices created by the
hastily passed Judiciary Act passed in 1801. The Judiciary
Act created six new circuit courts, presided over by
sixteen new federal judges and a small army of attorneys,
marshals, and clerks. The Federalists had filled the
judiciary with the members of their own party. These
midnight appointments were designed to deny the incoming
administration the opportunity to leave it's mark on the
courts, and to guarantee a strong Federalist check On the
Democratic-Republicans. These midnight appointments were
quite useless because President Jefferson removed many of
these. John Adams ended his presidency on a sad note. John
Adams was an unpopular president of his time. However, if
you evaluate his presidency, he was not at all a bad
president. Throughout his presidency, many things had
happened which have left the United States ashamed. The
Sedition Act totally contradicts the First Amendment, which
states that congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble,
or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This act was not a justified act.
 John Adams had made a lot of foolish mistakes during his
However, there were great things which he had done. Those
are the things society seems to forget about. People look
only to criticize. No one wants to praise others. Because
of John Adams, the United States was trading goods with
France. He turned an enemy into a friend without using
violence. The United States did want to go to war because
France had disrespected them. There were a lot of patriots
who were willing to go to war. But could a developing
nation such as the United States defeat a world power? If
Adams had gone to war, many young men would have crawled
into their early graves. "There is no such thing as a good
war or bad peace".
 There were good things said about John Adams. Johnathan
Sewall once said that "Adams has a heart formed for
friendship and susceptible and susceptible of it's fondest
feelings. He is humane, generous, and open; warm in his
friendly attachments, though perhaps rather implacable to
those whom he thinks his enemies. John Adams was not a bad
president. However, because of society's selfish and
impatient needs, he was made out to be the enemy. They
faulted Adams for acting like a coward, but if to think
about it, it's a lot easier to go to war than it is to keep
peace. It's also quite difficult to go against the majority
of ones colleagues who continually pressure you to act.
John Adams may not have been the greatest president because
of his ambition. However, he was a much better president
than what he was given credit for. He was a brave and an
honorable man who gave up re-election by not going to war.
That's real honor. To give up one's own selfish needs for
the good of one's country. John Adams was a much better
president than he was given credit for.


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