John Adams

Presidency

In the United States once more, he was chosen Vice President and served throughout George Washington's administration (1789–97). Although he inclined to conservative policies, he functioned somewhat as a balance wheel in the partisan contest between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. In the 1796 election Adams was chosen to succeed Washington as President despite the surreptitious opposition of Hamilton.

The Adams administration was one of crisis and conflict, in which the President showed an honest and stubborn integrity, and though allied with Hamilton and the conservative property-respecting Federalists, he was not dominated by them in their struggle against the vigorously rising, more broadly democratic forces led by Jefferson. Though the Federalists were pro-British and strongly opposed to post-Revolutionary France, Adams by conciliation prevented the near war of 1798 (see XYZ Affair) from developing into a real war between France and the United States. Nor did the President wholeheartedly endorse the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), aimed at the Anti-Federalists. He was, however, detested by his Jeffersonian enemies, and in the election of 1800 he and Hamilton were both overwhelmed by the tide of Jeffersonian democracy. By the end of his term, Adams had proved to be a generally unpopular president, deeply respected but not beloved.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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