John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry were sent to join C.C. Pickney, the ambassador to France, in Paris.
French foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand impeded the American diplomacy mission for weeks.
He sent agents, who the Americans would refer to as X, Y, and Z in correspondence, to demand a bribe.
Basically the French wanted a bribe of a $12 million loan to begin negotiations.
The delegates were ordered home and Adams started a naval buildup to prepare for outright war with the French.
Federalists called for a 30,000 man army and Adams reluctantly agreed.
Adams could have declared war in 1798 and gained widespread popularity
Instead he chose to send another peace delegation to France.
This time it was successful, but the move ruined Adams politically.
He prevented a costly war that America was not fit to fight at the time no matter how unpopular the move.
Part of two acts they were signed to restore domestic tranquility and preserve the Union, the Acts were pushed through Congress by the Federalist Party in 1798.
The goal of the legislation was to tighten control over immigrants as well as those who criticized the government.
It permitted the deportation of foreign-born residents and the indictment of newspaper editors or writers who published criticism against the government.
Alien and sedition acts
Specifically the act allowed wartime arrest, imprisonment, and deportation of any alien subject to an enemy power.
“…a removal of such alien out of the territory of the United States,” is quoted in the actual act, referring to immigrants or aliens who had been convicted of being a “…danger of the public peace or safety.”
The Alien Act was for the expulsion of aliens considered dangerous during peacetime
The Alien Enemies was for the further expulsion of imprisonment of aliens during wartime and while never enforced it caused many immigrants to leave the country.
Alien enemies act
Described as “An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,” the Sedition Act
The Act declared any treasonable activity as well as “any false, scandalous and malicious writing,” as punishable by imprisonment.
25 Republican newspaper writers were actually arrested under enforcement of this law and were forced to shut down.
One of whom was actually Benjamin Franklin’s grandson.
Americans questioned the constitutionality of the laws and public outcry over their enforcement followed. The sedition act
Adams played no part in the forming of the acts and also took no steps to enforce them, however he was held responsible for the unpopular measures.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison created the Republican Party’s opposition to the Acts using the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.
Outlined “states’ rights” and “compact theory” of the Constitution.
Adams went along with measures taken following the passing of the law, such as the arrests of the newspaper editors, but for the most part not much action was taken in respect to enforcing the Acts.
Adams’ participation and responce
After riding the Federalist vote in 1796, there was there was obvious disparity between him as president and the Democratic-Republicans or Republicans.
During Adams’ tenure as president there were crises in foreign policy that affected domestic affairs that Republicans criticized him for, such as the opposition to France.
The passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts by Federalists and Adams were directed toward immigrants who primarily became Republicans so the Acts were seen as an attack to the party.
It was after all the Republicans who responded with the Kentucky and Virginia Resolution, which went directly against Adams and federal authority over states.
Adams was the first president to move into the newly built White House on November 1, 1800 just before the 1800 elections. (This was the same White House set ablaze by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812.)
Originally called the Executive Mansion the White House would come to house all presidents from Adams on.
He is famously known as saying in the White House “"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."
End of presidency
Adams had lost almost all of his public favor due to the combination of not declaring war with France and the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
He ran against Thomas Jefferson and his running mates Aaron Burr and George Clinton.
Hamilton played a large part in trying to push Adams out of office after their numerous disagreements throughout Adams’ presidency.
Hamilton was a Federalist, but still held a grudge from the undeclared war with the French and never forgave Adams.
Jefferson enjoyed full backing from the Republican Party while the Federalists were on the fence with Adams thanks to Hamilton. 1800 election
When Jefferson and the Republican Party were victorious in the 1800 election Adams truly believed that it would spell trouble for the United States and that the party would unravel what the founding fathers had established.
His Republican views objected to the the Republican ideal for state rights and Adams thought that an increase in state rights would hinder the nation.
An important occurrence near the end of his presidency was the Judiciary Act passed by Congress that increased the number of judges in federal courts to 16. End of presidency
Led by a Federalist majority in Congress the Judiciary Act gave Adams an opportunity to appoint some final Federalists.
Adams actually worked up to the late evening in his final day in office signing the commissions of new judges.
The most notable appointment was that of John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Jefferson, the President-Elect considered Adams’ “Midnight Appointments,” as the act of a sore loser.
Adams and judiciary act
The two founding fathers saw their once close friendship decay over the years to the point where Adams chose not to attend Jefferson’s inauguration.
Instead Adams returned to his estate in Quincy, Mass. on March 4, 1801.
It is thought that Adams came to regret the falling out he had with his old friend, but Adams felt he had done what was best for the nation.
With recommendation from Dr. Benjamin Rush the two started a correspondence of letters after 1812 where they shared their views for the future of America.
The two actually died on the same day July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence and Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” ironically he had died only a few hours earlier. (Very eerie)
John Adams is not a name particularly remembered amongst the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but he was arguably more passionate in his tenure as President.
The decisions that made him lose his popularity were actually made with the well-being of America in mind and Adams did not sacrifice his own beliefs to garner popularity for reelection.
While Adams is credited historically with the Alien and Sedition Acts, he did not personally advocate their passage or personally implement them and he actually pardoned the instigators of the Fries’s Rebellion against who were moving against the Acts.
Adams’ presidency in review
Adams’s legacy can be characterized with being one of reason, compassion, moral leadership, and one where he did not back down on his foreign policy.
Adams was in fact stubborn and that caused the disparity with his political party and left him isolated at the end of his political career.
His elite republicanism would also be replaced in history by Jeffersonian democracy so while Adams did make his mark during his tenure his political views are not echoed much after Jefferson’s term.
Review Questions What was unique about Adams’ cabinet when coming into office? Why did Adams lose so much favor by not declaring war with France? What would have likely been the outcome of war with France at the time? Were the Alien and Sedition Acts necessary to combat the threat of war with France? What could have been an alternative purpose behind the Acts?
Review Questions Does it seem as if Adams was a full-fledged Federalist or was slightly reluctant in his association with the party? What did Adams’ do with the Midnight Appointments that undercut the Democratic-Republicans? What was the main point of argument between Jefferson and Adams? Did Adams bend to the will of the public during his presidency? In the end were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson able to overcome their polar opposite political associations?
"Alien and Sedition Acts." United States American History. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. The Alien Enemies Act, §§ 1-3 (1798). Print. "American President: John Adams: A Life in Brief." Miller Center. University of Viriginia. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. Ellis, Joseph J. "John Adams Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story - Biography.com." Famous Biographies & TV Shows - Biography.com. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. Bibliography
"John Adams Biography Page 2." National Historical Park. Nps.gov. Web. Library Company of Philadelphia, comp. "The Providential Detection." Cartoon. Sanity Sentinel Blogspot. 31 Aug. 2010. Web. "Too Drastic Sedition Legislation." Cartoon. Mr.Beam's Website. Web. "XYZ Affair." United States American History. US History Pages. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. Bibliography