TWO

John Adams
1797-1801

It was not easy being the second President of the United States; George Washington was a hard act to follow. At his inauguration in March 1797, John Adams ( 1735-1826) could not help noticing that people were looking at his predecessor, who was sitting quietly on one side of the dais, with tears in their eyes, rather than at him. Washington, moreover, seemed "to enjoy a triumph over me," Adams told his wife Abigail afterward. "Me-thought I heard him say, 'Ay, I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest!' " 1

Adams's Presidency was not a happy one, and it lasted only one term. A Federalist, Adams not only clashed with the Jeffersonian Republicans but was also at odds with members of his own party a great deal of the time. He did show wisdom and courage in keeping an undeclared war with France from escalating into a full-fledged shooting war, but he also signed the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 which the Federalists pushed through Congress in order to stifle all criticism of Federalist policies. His Presidency did him an injustice; for if he was not a great President, he was undoubtedly a great patriot. During the American Revolution he served on ninety committees in the Continental Congress, pushed incessantly for bold measures, and came to be called the "Atlas of Independence." 2 "In Congress," he once complained impatiently, "nibbling and quibbling-as usual. There is no greater Mortification than to sit with half a dozen Witts, deliberating upon a Petition, Address or Memo

-24-

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