El Numero Dos. The second in our on-going series to get to know our Prezzies.
The Father of the American Navy.
The Duke of Braintree.
His Superfluous Excellency.
The Atlas of Independence
Old Sink or Swim
Bonny Johnny Adams
John Adams (1797-1801).
VP: Thomas Jefferson.
What do you know about Adams. Generally, not a lot, right? I mean compared to the phenomenal men that bookended him (or, the bread to his mostly-meatless sandwich), Washington and Jefferson; Adams seems a little neglected. Right?
(Yeah, I know his cousin, Sam makes decent beer).
Adams was a sponsor of the American Revolution in Massachusetts and a driving force for our nation’s independence. Jefferson called him “The Colossus of Independence” (which would have been on his campaign bumper stickers, if, you know…). Adams, of course was selected as one of the members of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence (along with Jefferson and Franklin among others)
I remember the XYZ Affair from some history class in high school (Thanks, Phil Ratliff!). It boils down to something along the lines of: France had backed the US in the American Revolution, then they were angry when trading resumed between the US and Great Britain. The French seized nearly 300 ships bound for British ports. Hamilton and other Federalists called for war. Adams wanted to handle the situation diplomatically and sent 3 emissaries to France to negotiate. The French wanted a large cash bribe and an apology from Adams to begin talks. Adams said no-go. The three emissaries returned to America and Jefferson (a Democratic-Republican) blamed Adams for the breakdown and demanded to see the reports. Adams released the reports, referring to the 3 Frenchmen who had demanded the bribe only as X, Y and Z. Therefore, this was known as the XYZ Affair and consequently soured alot of Americans’ view of the French. (Relations cooled).
But Adams broke with his own Federalist party to avert a major conflict with France. There was a two year undeclared war known as the Quasi War which was fought at sea (in the Caribbean and of the Eastern coast of the US) with France. (Also known as the Undeclared War with France (not creative enough, guys!), or The Half War, or the most evocative name for a conflict in our nation’s history, The Pirate War!). Adams began building up our nation’s navy.
The major blight on Adams’ record came when he created the Alien and Sedition Acts (set to expire after 2 years) which allowed the president to deport any resident alien dangerous to the ”peace and safety of the United States” or to deport any resident aliens if their home countries were at war. It also disallowed any speech that could be seen as seditious or “false, scandalous or malicious writing” against the government or its officials. Needless to say, many objected to these since they were fairly unconstitutional.
In 1799, George Logan tried to make a treaty by himself (without the backing of the government or the president) which resulted in Adams passing the Logan Act, which stated that no unauthorized citizen could go into another country and make a treaty for the United States. (A no brainer, right?).
Adams did succeed at reaching a treaty with France, sacrificing his chance at reelection, at the Convention of 1800.
Adams died on Independence Day (July 4) 1826, famously uttering the last words, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” which was untrue as Jefferson died the same day, only hours earlier. The two had a very public falling out but had regained a friendship through correspondence later in life. They were the only two presidents to sign the Declaration of Independence and both had struggled to survive to that 50th anniversary.
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