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John Adams and Politics

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					John Adams got the biggest vote next to Washington's, and was elected the
first vice-president of the United States. At this time, Adams was fifty-
three years old. He was a courteous man in his speech, and very polished
in his manner. But he was irritable, and was also called "imperious"-that
is, he liked to have his own way, and thought his opinion was better than
anyone else's. This did not win him a great many friends, though he was
admired for his courage and ability. Washington remained president for
two terms, and both times Adams was vice-president. In 1797, when
Washington decided he did not want a third term, John Adams got the most
votes and was elected president, and Thomas Jefferson got next to the
most votes and was elected vice-president. As president, John Adams had a
stormy time. It was a difficult period, and tempers were running high.The
French Revolution was under way, and all the kings of Europe were afraid
for their crowns, fearing that the revolution would spread to their
countries. In the United States, there was argument as to whether the
rich people only, or all the people, rich and poor alike, should rule the
country. The most tactful of presidents would have had trouble keeping
everyone satisfied. John Adams, with his habit of being outspoken and
courageous in the face of possible unpopularity, was sure to make
enemies-and he did.Adams had never approved of the French Revolution. He
thought it went too far, especially when the revolutionists there killed
the French king and queen. The American government, he believed, should
have titles of nobility, such as were used in European countries, and it
should have a senate made up of "the aristocracy"-that is, the families
that were richest and most prominent. This idea was unpopular with the
majority of Americans, and Adams was ac cused even of favoring the
establishment of a king in the United States, though this was not so.
Then came the "XYZ Affair." The revolutionary government of France was
doing a great many things that seemed unfriendly to the United States.
American ships were being captured on the high seas by French privateers
(that is, pirates acting with the consent of their government), and the
French government would not stop them. Some private representatives of
the French government proposed that the United States should pay a large
amount of money, perhaps $250,000, to have the attacks stopped.The French
representatives who made this proposal refused to sign their names, and
used only initials; that is why they were called X, Y and Z, and the
whole thing was called the XYZ Affair. The American people were greatly
angered by this. Their slogan was, "Millions for defense, but not one
cent for tribute." Many of them wanted to go to war against France if
necessary. But President Adams was unwilling to risk another war. All
this happened in 1797 and 179H, the first year that Adams was president,
and it made him very unpopular. The Alien and Sedition Acts also hurt his
popularity. Under these laws, passed by Congress, foreign-born persons,
or those who criticized the government, could be arrested and
punished.This violated rights that had been guaranteed to the people by
the Constitution. The Alien and Sedition Laws were so hated by Americans
that they did not last very long, but people did not soon forget that
Adams had been in favor of them. Thomas Jefferson, who liked the most
republican form of government, with no king and no nobility, and who
opposed the Alien and Sedition Laws, became the country's most popular
man. When John Adams ran for re-election as president in 1800, Jefferson
beat him easily.

				
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