John Adams - 1st Vice President
When John Adams returned to the United States from London in 1788, most of the states had approved the United States Constitution, which designated the newly established U.S. Congress as the official head of the national government. Adams was placed on the ballot with George Washington in the first presidential election, which was held in 1789. Washington was unanimously elected president of the United States, and Adams was chosen as vice president. Adams' primary role as vice president was to cast the deciding vote in the Senate to break a tie. He later described the vice presidency as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
Despite his negative view of the vice presidency, Adams was in favor of the major policies and actions of Washington's administration, including the Bank of the United States charter in 1791; the Proclamation of Neutrality in 1793; the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania in 1794; and the management of border disputes with the Native Americans in the west, Great Britain in the north, and Spain in the south. In 1792, Washington was reelected president, with Adams remaining as vice president for another term.
Political parties emerged during Washington's administration, creating a lack of agreement within the government. Adams and Alexander Hamilton, the secretary of the treasury, organized the Federalist party to support their policies. Adams' friend and fellow statesman, Thomas Jefferson, created the Republican party with the help of James Madison. The Federalists favored a strong federally controlled government, while the Republicans preferred the state and local governments to have more control over their respective domains. When war broke out between Great Britain and France in 1793, the Federalists wanted favorable terms with Great Britain, while the Republicans felt obligated to honor the alliance established with France in 1778. The opposing viewpoints of their respective parties strained the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
John Adams - 2nd President of the United States of America
In the presidential election of 1796, John Adams ran as the Federalist candidate against Thomas Jefferson, the Republican candidate. Adams won the election by a narrow margin of electoral votes (71–68) and was sworn into office on March 4, 1797. According to the Constitution, the presidential candidate with the second largest number of votes became vice president making Thomas Jefferson to serve as the vice president of John Adams, even though both men were members of opposing political parties. This law was later changed by the 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ruled that presidential and vice presidential candidates had to be elected by individual ballots, thus increasing the likelihood that both winners would be members of the same party.
Adams' Cabinet selection was less inclined to argue. He retained George Washington's Cabinet members, believing that this would ease the federal government's transition from the previous presidential administration.
When Adams began his presidency, the United States had been involved in a naval conflict with France since 1795. French privateers were attacking U.S. merchant ships in the West Indies. In 1797 Adams sent 3 delegates to Paris to establish a peace settlement with France. When the U.S. delegates arrived, three French officials demanded a bribe of 250,000 dollars payable to France's foreign minister, Talleyrand, before any negotiations could commence. Outraged by France's audacity, Adams ordered his delegates home and began preparing the U.S. military forces for a war with France. Adams referred to the three French officials as X, Y, Z in his correspondence to Congress, and the incident became known as the XYZ Affair.
As war continued between Great Britain and France, Federalists and Republicans continued to debate over which nation to support. The Federalist-controlled Congress was eager for war with France after the XYZ Affair. U.S. naval ships battled the French navy and privateers in the Caribbean Sea for the next two years. Adams, however, was reluctant to declare war and sent another peace delegation to France in 1799. Although his fellow Federalists opposed this tactic, the negotiations with Talleyrand were successful, and the United States was spared from engaging in a costly war.
Alien and Sedition Acts
The XYZ Affair incited the Federalists in Congress to issue the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. To affirm their displeasure with France, Congress persuaded Adams to sign these acts into law. Aimed especially at French-born residents, the Alien Acts increased the waiting period for naturalization from 5 years, to 14 years. The acts also gave the president the authority to imprison or deport immigrants from an enemy nation who were considered to be a threat to the United States. The Sedition Act allowed federal authorities to incriminate anyone who published malevolent criticism directed at the U.S. government. By 1802, however, these acts had been either repealed or allowed to expire.
In anticipation of a war with France in 1798, the United States needed to generate revenue for building the military. Congress placed a federal tax on all private property in the country, an action that caused resentment toward the Adams administration. In 1799 John Fries led a group of farmers in western Pennsylvania who retaliated against the tax by staging an armed rebellion against federal tax collectors. Adams deployed federal militia to suppress the rebellion and arrest the insurgents. Fries was convicted of treason and sentenced to hang, but in 1800 Adams pardoned him.
In November 1800 the United States capital was moved from Philadelphia to its permanent site in the newly created city of Washington, D.C., on the Potomac River. Adams was the first president to reside in the presidential mansion. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, by now bitter political adversaries, ran against each other in the presidential election of 1800. Jefferson won a majority of electoral votes (73–65) and took office on March 4, 1801.
Despite the loss of the executive branch, Adams was determined to maintain his party's control of the judiciary. In January 1801, before his term expired, Adams placed several Federalist judges, clerks, and lawyers into key positions. He also appointed John Marshall as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Adams refused to attend Jefferson's inauguration and instead returned home to Quincy, Mass.