John Adams faced the difficult challenge of following a president who was successful, beloved, and, most importantly, first to hold his position. In many ways, even before it began, the Adams administration was doomed to fail in living up to the Washingtonian legacy. The election of the second president of the United States serves as a telling metaphor for his entire term in office as chief executive.
By the time of the election, the factions Washington had feared had developed into full-fledged political parties. Federalists such as the Anglophilic John Adams and Alexander Hamilton supported a strong, centralized national government, protectionism, commercialism, and a loose construction of the U.S. Constitution. Democratic-Republicans such as the Francophilic Thomas Jefferson and James Madison supported states rights, decentralization, laissez-faire economics, agriculturalism, and a narrow construction of the U.S. Constitution. Partisanship among Federalists and Democratic-Republicans alike influenced the election and most everything that followed after it. Factions within the parties added complexity—and potential danger—to every decision.
Unlike George Washington, who was elected to his position unanimously by the Electoral College, John Adams won his presidency by only a three-vote margin, seventy-one to sixty-eight. If the former vice president barely won a majority for himself, then he also lost the opportunity to serve with the man he hoped would be his vice president, Thomas Pinckney. Fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton supported Pinckney over Adams for the presidency. Hamilton’s quiet campaign behind the