Not every Founding Father was always a perfect role model for Conservatives, and this is truest in the case of John Adams who was elected to the office of president in 1797 for a single term. So contentious was John Adams’s single term as president, in fact, that Alexander Hamilton, a member of John Adams’s own political party, wrote in a letter to a colleague:
“For my individual part my mind is made up. I will never more be responsible for [John Adams] by my direct support—even though the consequence should be the election of Jefferson. If we must have an enemy at the head of the Government, let it be one whom we can oppose & for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures. Under Adams as under Jefferson the government will sink.“
Keep in mind that John Adams succeeded George Washington as president of the United States by virtue of election by the Electoral College. George Washington could have run for another term and achieved it, without question, but he chose to retire from public life. John Adams, at the time the Vice President and most popular candidate, won the presidency, which brings us unfortunately to the “disgrace of his foolish and bad measures“.
After the French Revolution, the radical French government had become openly hostile to the United States, and tensions between the two newly minted Republics rose rapidly. The Federalist faction sought to provide more executive discretion in order to deal with the possible threats of French nationals living in the United States. With the power of these acts collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts, John Adams almost single handedly destroyed the nascent American Republic.
John Adams shut down immigration, deported hundreds of legal immigrants, and effectively removed voting privileges for immigrants, which was, more or less, the intended purpose of the acts. He then turned the power of the Act upon to his Republican party rivals, who were critical of his administration, including members of Congress and the press. The most famous of which being Vermont Representative Matthew Lyon, a frequent and vocal critic of John Adams, who wrote that President John Adams had an “unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and self avarice“.
Matthew Lyon and many others who had published similar opinions of the Adams administration were not only fined but actually imprisoned under the Sedition Act. Thomas Jefferson, then Vice President, and James Madison viewed Adams’s behavior to be utterly contrary to the character and principles of the First Amendment, and they began to quietly foment political resistance to John Adams’s administration among the states. And they were not alone, as members of John Adams’s own party turned against him, including, obviously, the very influential Alexander Hamilton.
Suffice to say, Matthew Lyon’s description of John Adams should sound more than a little familiar to anyone paying attention to the present political affairs, and much of the nature and purpose of the Alien and Sedition Acts should also sound dangerously familiar to the strident political language of one of the candidates this year. The Republic has been through this fire before and need not go through it again.
It should be obvious now why we must heed the words of Hamilton and have a president “whom we can oppose & for whom we are not responsible“, because should we survive this dark season at all, we must, at least, retain our political legitimacy. We cannot allow our political identity to be confused with this nightmarish Nationalist pseudo-ideology.
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