John Adams' Administration
During the eight years of Washington's administration, so many important matters had come up that the people, by taking sides in the different discussions, had come to form two political parties. They called themselves Federalists and Republicans just as the political parties to-day call themselves Democrats and Republicans. The Federalists were those who believed in having a Congress, and a President who should stand at the head of the government. The Republicans said that was too much like having a king, and they believe that some time the President would become the king. They wanted each State to govern itself separately, have its own officers, and make its own laws. It would be time enough for the States to unite under one leader, so the Republicans said, when there was war, or when some other such matter of general interest came up.
And so it came about that at the end of Washington's administration, when it became necessary to elect a new president, each party had a candidate of its own. It was agreed that the candidate receiving the largest number of votes should be President, and the other one should be Vice-president.
John Adams was selected as candidate by the Federalists, and Thomas Jefferson by the Republicans.
I hardly think it will pay in a little history like this to go into the particulars of the contest. All we need to know now is, that Adams became the next President, and Jefferson the Vice-president. These two men, although bitterly opposed to each other in their political ideas, were nevertheless strong personal friends. During the Revolution they had stood bravely side by side, and after their terms of office had ended, they again became firm friends. It seems quite remarkable that on the 4th of July, 1826, the day when the "Declaration of Independence" was just fifty years old, both of these men died.
The last words of John Adams were, "My friend, Thomas Jefferson, still lives." He did not know that Jefferson had died only a few hours before in his Virginia home.
The one thing that marks the administration of John Adams, was the passing of the "Alien and Sedition Laws," as they were called. By these laws, the President had a right to expel from the country any foreigner who seemed dangerous to the country, and to fine or imprison any American who libelled the Congress, the President, or the Government.
These laws excited much bitter feeling; for the Republicans at once declared that it was intended to take away their freedom of speech, and that it was but one step towards bringing them all upon their knees before a king. The Federalists, many of them, thought this new law rather too strong, and began to take sides with the Republicans. And so it came about that when Adams's term was out, the Republican party had become so strong that Jefferson was elected the next President.
During the administration of Adams, the country came very near having war with France. Charles Pinckney was sent to France to see what could be done. The French government hinted to Pinckney that if the United States would pay to France a certain amount of money they, the French, would agree to make no trouble for them.
One would suppose the French government would have known better than to make such an offer to a country that had just fought so bravely for her liberty, and had since struggled so hard to meet its honest debts, and make for itself a place among the nations of the world.
Pinckney was very indignant. "No," said he, "millions for defence, but not one cent for tribute," was his bold, manly reply.
What the result might have been we cannot tell, had the threatened war burst upon us; but it happened that matters in Europe took such a turn that France did not carry out its threat against us.
It was during Adams' administration that the capitol was changed from New York to a new city, just laid out on the banks of the Potomac, which had been named Washington.
Here the building for the future presidents of the United States was erected; and President Adams and his good wife went there to begin housekeeping.
Poor Mrs. President had rather a trying time of it. Rough indeed was this new capitol. Except a few public buildings, there was hardly a house in sight. Although wood was plenty, they could hardly find laborers to cut it, and, as Mrs. Adams once wrote to a friend, they were really afraid they could not keep warm enough to drive away the shivers. Such was the Capitol of our country at the beginning of this century.