The first Growing Pains of the Constitutional Election Process

George Washington decided that eight years were enough for any man to be President of the United States; he said that he wanted the country to recognize that the President of the United States was not a permanent lifetime position. This opened the door for someone else to be elected. John Adams was therefore elected president.

    Because of Adams’ stellar contributions during the Revolutionary War as a Statesman, he had secured two terms as George Washington's vice president. Therefore he seemed the logical choice in 1796 as the second president. However, this Presidency brought about the first indications that the way presidents were elected needed to be tweaked in order for the system to work.

      His term in office was difficult to say the least.  Thomas Jefferson, his Vice President, was a Democrat-Republican, not a member of the Federalists party to which Adams was a member.

 The Democrat-Republican party ideology was that state’s rights were a priority, and wanted a strict Constitutional interpretation. The Federalists believed that a strong central government was necessary for the unity and protection of the nation. They preferred a more lenient Constitutional interpretation, and believed that the Constitution should evolve as the country grew.

     Not only was Adams attacked by Jefferson, but his own Federalist Party was led by Alexander Hamilton a man who bitterly opposed Adams every step of the way. The bitter conflict centered on Adams decision to sign the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts.  Members of both parties criticized Adams for building an army and navy to fight an undeclared naval war (termed "Quasi War") in 1798-1800 with France. By the time his term as President ended, however, he created a peaceful resolution to the conflict, despite Hamilton’s opposition.

     On November 1, 1800, a few days before the election, Adams took up residency in the White House as its first inhabitant. However, he wouldn’t stay there long, because Alexander Hamilton’s opposition to Adams divided their political party. Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams in that election by just a few electoral votes. After leaving office, Adams retired to his home in Quincy, Massachusetts with his wife Abigail.

John Adams, Second President of the United States

John Adam's Election as Second President