When John Adams was elected president the population of the United States was 4’900,000. The presidential election was the first contested election in the United States. When the final tabulation of votes arrived at the senate, ironically it was Adams who opened the envelope as he was President of the Senate. John Adams won with seventy one votes and Thomas Jefferson received sixty eight therefore becoming Vice President. As expected Adams received every Electoral College vote from New England while Jefferson controlled the South. Adams served for one term from 1797 to 1801 and was succeeded by Thomas Jefferson.


Adams victory over Jefferson

The country wished for a continuation of peace and prosperity that the eight years of Washington’s government brought. As Washington’s Vice President it was natural that Adams would maintain the same policies. In addition, Adams had built a reputation over the years, as a lawyer, a politician and a man of integrity, which gave him all the Electoral College votes in New England. Residents felt that after eight years of southern rule, it was their turn to control the executive branch.

Adams was supported by merchants and industrialists in the South, Jefferson’s stronghold. Another valid reason for Jefferson’s defeat over Adams was that the war between France and Britain divided the nation in factions and partisanship. It is believed that Francophile support hurt Jefferson’s election to the highest office.


John Adam’s Administration

Adams was not a popular president. His independent mind and inflexibility led to his own political isolation, even his cabinet opposed his policies most of the time. He distrusted the partisan style and factionalism and distrusted public opinion. He was a more outstanding political philosopher than a politician.

His party, the Federalist, was divided between the conservatives led by Hamilton and the moderates led by Adams. In addition to increasing problems in his own party, Adams faced the first major international crisis of the nation. France perceived the Jay’s Treaty, a treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, as an alliance between the US and Britain. France reacted by suspending diplomatic relations with the U.S.

His administration focused on France, Adams was determined to avoid a war with France and had to battle with his own party to keep the peace which cost him the reelection to a second term as president.


Members of the Cabinet

Secretary of State: Timothy Pickering (1797-1800), John Marshall (1800-1801)

Secretary of the Treasury: Oliver Wolcott, Jr. (1797-1801), Samuel Dexter (1801)

Secretary of War: James McHenry (1797-1800), Samuel Dexter (1800-1801)

Attorney General: Charles Lee (1797-1801)

Secretary of the Navy: Benjamin Stoddert (1797-1801)


Timeline of events during John Adams’ Presidency

1797 – The XYZ Affair.

1798 – The 11th Amendment was proclaimed, it limited the power of federal courts.

1798 – Department of the Navy was created.

1798 – Alien and Sedition Acts

1798 – 1799 – Kentucky and Virginia declared that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional.

1800 – The Capital of the nation was moved to Washington DC.

1800 – Establishment of the Library of Congress.


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