John Adams

The Presidency of John Adams

While Washington was President he refused to join one of the
fledgling political parties. In fact, he thought, as did Hamilton,
that political parties were potentially dangerous. The difference was
that Washington never joined one and Hamilton ended up founding one!
Our second President, John Adams, would find that political parties
would impact greatly upon his presidency.

I. The Presidency of John Adams

A. The Election of 1796

1. Jefferson (Democrat -Republican) ran against Adams
(Federalist). Aaron Burr was the Dem candidate for vice-pres.

2. Adams received 71 electoral votes and Jefferson 68. The
Constitution stated that the runner up for pres. should become
vice-pres. This is very important because a Republican President had
to serve under a Federalist Vice-President. This presented a problem
that would later be solve by the twelfth amendment.

3. Washington was disappointed that the election had broken down
into support for the South (Democrat – Republicans) and support from
the North (Federalists). Washington disapproved of
sectionalism–placing the interests of one region ahead of the
welfare of the nation as a whole.

B. The Differences Between The Two Parties


Democrat Republicans

Strong Central Gov

Favored Tariffs

Loose Constructionists

Opposed Nullification

Favored States Rights

Opposed Tariffs

Strict Constructionists

Favored Nullification

C. The Federalists Strike Out

1. The high federalists decided to crush the criticism
that Adams was receiving from the Republican press.

2. The Alien Act–gave the president power to in peacetime to
order any alien out of the country

3. The Enemies Act–permitted the president in wartime to jail
aliens at his pleasure. (No arrests were made under either act but
many frightened French refugees left the country)

4. The Sedition Act–provided fines and jail penalties for anyone
guilty of sedition–speaking or writing “with the intent to defame…or
bring into contempt or disrepute” the president other members of the

5. The Midnight judges are appointed as Adams leaves the

D. The Election of 1800

1. Republicans accused Adams of being the “tool of the
wealthy. Federalists accused Jefferson of being a friend of France
and of revolutionary disorder. None of these charges were accurate.

2. Adams received 65 votes and Jefferson received 73 but Burr, who
was also running, received 73 too. This meant that the House of
Representatives, which was dominated by Federalists, would have to
break the tie between two Republicans.

3. Hamilton intervened and persuaded enough Federalists to cast
blank ballots to give Jefferson the majority. Burr became the nations
third Vice President. This is ironic considering that Hamilton and
Jefferson battled throughout their careers and had totally contrary
political views. The fact of the matter was that Hamilton did not
trust Burr. He saw Burr as an opportunist and a power monger. He
respected Jefferson as a patriot and despite the fact that he
disagreed with Jefferson’s politics he felt that Jefferson would
always act in the best interests of the nation. Needless to say Burr
felt that Hamilton, the leader of his political party, stabbed him in
the back.

(It should be noted that Burr later shot and killed Hamilton
in a duel. 8 years later, as Burr ran for governor of New York,
Hamilton campaigned against him. Burr, lost and challenged him to a
duel. Hamilton, who had publicly resolved not to fire, was shot and

4. Most politicians now recognized the need to change the system
of voting in the Electoral College. The next Congress drafted the
twelfth amendment.

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