Not denying to Mr. ADAMS patriotism and integ-
rity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in
candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the
talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that
there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit
him for the office of Chief Magistrate.
—Alexander Hamilton, Letter... Concerning the Conduct and Character of
John Adams, Esq., President of the United States ( 1800)
He [Adams] is liable to gusts of passion little short of
frenzy, which drive him beyond the control of any rational reflec-
tion. I speak of what I have seen. At such moments the interests of
those who support him, or the interests of the nation, would be
outweighed by a single impulse or rage.
- James Bayard to Alexander Hamilton, August 18, 1800
LEGEND HAS IT that John Adams spent his last night in the presidential mansion eventually known as the White House furiously signing appointment letters for Federalist friends and cronies, thereby defying the will of the electorate and the wishes of Thomas Jefferson, his former friend and successor to the presidency. By appointing those "midnight judges" Adams sustained the legacy of Federalism well beyond the time of its time, at least so the story goes, bedevilling Jefferson and subsequent Republican presidents with the judicial opinions of John Marshall and a Federalist-dominated court.
One can easily conjure up the image of a defiant President Adams, hunched over his huge desk in the Oval Office, scratching his signa