The Presidency of John Adams: The Collapse of Federalism, 1795-1800

By Stephen G. Kurtz | Go to book overview

15
A Just and Politic Peace

THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF JOHN ADAMS' POLITICAL career are marked by two great decisions. In 1776 he was foremost among the handful of radicals who openly called for independence and a declaration of war against Great Britain, while in 1799 he dramatically broke with the Hamiltonians, lost their support for the presidency in 1800, and made peace with France. Historians in general have had far greater regard for Adams the revolutionary radical than for Adams the President and peace-maker.

John Adams' nomination of a new peace envoy in February, 1799, brought the wrath of the Hamiltonian faction down upon him, because it put an end to their dreams of political preponderance and military glory. It seemed to the Hamiltonians that Adams had deliberately cut them off from his thinking on this important decision and had committed political suicide by allowing the Republicans to come out of their eclipse to campaign actively for Jefferson's election in 1800. It has seemed as simple as this to most historians since.

The standard pro-Hamiltonian viewpoint is that Adams had little reason to reopen negotiations at the moment he did. The French government had not made a direct approach or any announcement concerning the XYZ affair that expressed regret or willingness to make amends. Talleyrand, in an injured tone, had stated that the American envoys had been taken in by a band of thieves and had left France before checking with his office on the standing of the three agents

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The Presidency of John Adams: The Collapse of Federalism, 1795-1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 13
  • Illustrations 15
  • 1 - Bright Hopes for Mr. Jefferson 19
  • 2 - The Republican Challenge 39
  • 3 - Popular Federalism 59
  • 4 - The Candidates of 1796 78
  • 5 - Adams and Hamilton 96
  • 6 - Imported and Domestic Designs for Victory 114
  • 7 - The States and the Presidency 145
  • 8 - A Political Revolution in Pennsylvania 177
  • 9 - Discontent with Hamilton 192
  • 10 - Adams and Jefferson: Friendship and Politics 209
  • 11 - The Patronage Crisis and the Decline In Federal Status 239
  • 12 - The President and His Secretaries 261
  • 13 - Political Consequences of the Xyz Papers 284
  • 15 - A Just and Politic Peace 334
  • 16 - Politics and Peace, 1799 354
  • 17 - Independence 374
  • Appendixes 409
  • Bibliography 417
  • Index 441
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