The John Adams Cabinet

The John Adams Cabinet

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Why John Adams Despised Being Vice President

America's first vice president was not, it seems, all that high on his new No. 2 gig.

"My country has in its wisdom contrived for me," John Adams told his wife, regarding the role of vice president, "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."

The vice presidency has come a long way since Adams reluctantly kicked things off in 1789 under fellow Founding Father (and the nation's first president) George Washington. The office of vice president was originally a sort of consolation prize whoever finished second in the Electoral College voting (as Adams did to Washington in both 1788 and 1792) got the job. And the job (as Adams suggested to his wife, Abigail) was not very exciting. Adams had next to no responsibilities in the executive branch. His main duty was to oversee the Senate.

Since then, both the way the vice president is selected and the role they play has changed.

"The vice president wasn't created to be powerful, certainly. It wasn't created just to succeed the president. It wasn't created just to preside over the Senate. It was created, really, for electoral purposes because of the quirks of the Electoral College," says Christopher Devine, a professor of political science at the University of Dayton and the co-author of a couple of books on the importance of vice presidential candidates in presidential elections. "But after the decision was made to create a vice presidency, then there were some roles that were created for the vice president that would keep him busy day to day and, in some cases, [were] consequential."

The First Vice President

Adams, who was a Federalist, often felt stymied in the fledgling role of vice president, though he did break a couple dozen ties in Senate votes and set the ground rules for the way things were done in the chamber. Still, he was caught between two branches of government, hesitant to step on toes in either the executive or legislative branches.

Even as president of the Senate, he ran into problems. When he signed some legislative documents as "John Adams, Vice President of the United States," some senators objected, citing a problem with a member of the executive branch holding sway over the work of the legislative branch. So Adams soon began signing documents as "John Adams, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate."

Despite the constraints of the position, Adams soldiered on through a second term under Washington to eventually realize his main goal, becoming the first of 14 vice presidents to ascend to the No. 1 spot. He was elected president in 1796.

How the Vice President Was Elected

Because of the quirky Electoral College rules, Adams' vice president turned out to be Thomas Jefferson, who was the head of the Democratic-Republican Party — the opposition. The two men, long familiar with each other and friendly earlier in their lives, spent the next four years at odds, with Adams relying more on the counsel of his wife than on the advice of his vice president. And that was generally fine with Adams, considering the vice presidency still held little power.

But those four years, combined with the mess of Adams' re-election campaign, brought the issue of how the country chooses presidents and vice presidents to a head. In 1800, Adams and Jefferson ran against each other again, this time with "running mates:" Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (a Federalist) with Adams and Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican Party) with Jefferson.

Since electors were required to vote for both president and vice president, Jefferson and Burr received the most electoral votes, but it was a tie. The tied Electoral College threw the decision of who would become president to the House of Representatives, which eventually chose Jefferson. But not after seven contentious days of voting. It took 36 votes by the House of Representatives for Jefferson finally be named third president of the United States and Burr his vice president. Adams was so disgusted with the proceedings that he refused to shake the new president's hand and left town early on inauguration day.

The whole brouhaha prompted the adoption of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in 1804. From the National Constitution Center:

Electors in the Electoral College, remember, are chosen by political parties in each state. In effect, a vote for president is actually a vote for that candidate's electors. In most states and in most cases, when you vote for a president, an elector votes for the presidential candidate from that party and his running mate, the vice president, of the same party ticket. That's all but eliminated the problems that Adams faced with Jefferson as his VP.

The Vice Presidency Today

"The vice presidency has become much more consequential over time. I would say that the vice president actually is a powerful position at this point," Devine says. "We have to make the distinction that vice presidents, by practice, are very powerful these days. There's nothing that has changed about the Constitution in terms of any power of the vice president. But we've had this substantial informal change in powers over time."

Devine, citing the work of one of the country's foremost experts on the vice presidency, St. Louis University law professor Joel K. Goldstein, points to several steps for vice presidents on the road to relevance:

  • Thomas Marshall (1913-1921 under Woodrow Wilson) presided over cabinet meetings while Woodrow Wilson was in Europe during World War I. Marshall was reluctant to do so, though, because he worried about having a foot in both the legislative branch and the executive branch. Marshall was concerned, too, when Wilson fell ill late in his term that a move to assume Wilson's duties would appear as if he were taking over.
  • In 1947, Congress passed the National Security Act, explicitly giving the vice president a role in the executive branch's National Security Council.
  • Spiro Agnew (1969-73 under Richard Nixon) became the first veep to be given a budget line under the executive branch.
  • Jimmy Carter gave his veep, Walter Mondale, unprecedented power during his term in the White House (1977-1981), including access to all intelligence briefings and standing invitations to all Oval Office meetings.

"The insight that Mondale had was that, 'Look, I'm the only person besides [the president] that's getting elected by the nation as a whole,'" Devine says. "So the vice president could serve as really this across-the-board adviser, this general adviser to the president, who wasn't representing the Treasury Department, or the Defense Department, or something like that. The only loyalty he had was to the president."

Since then, vice presidents often are deployed strategically as representatives of the president both domestically and abroad.

Veeps in Modern Presidential Elections

Unlike in Adams' day when the role of vice president was little more than runner up, the modern vice president has become so important that it's carefully considered when political candidates run for president. The choice of a running mate is one of the most anticipated decisions a presidential candidate makes.

Whether that can change how people vote, though, is another matter and the subject of Devine's recent work. In their upcoming book "Do Running Mates Matter? The Influence of Vice Presidential Candidates in Presidential Elections," Devine and his co-author, Elizabethtown College political scientist Kyle Kopko, suggest that the choice of a running mate is important, but maybe not in the manner that many people think.

"They certainly matter, I think that's safe to say," Devine says. "The question is really how they matter."

Where most pundits believe that a good choice of vice president helps the ticket electorally — bringing in, say, more votes from women, or from Midwesterners, or from evangelicals, or whatever group that the potential vice president can attract — that's not always the case.

"Where do they matter?" Devine asks. "A running mate can matter in terms of changing how you think about the presidential candidate."

According to their research, Devine and Kopko say it's not about the vice president, specifically, but more about what the choice of veep says about the would-be president. "When John McCain picked someone in Sarah Palin, who raises questions about her level of experience, that causes voters to question McCain's judgment. Or at least makes them more likely to do so," Devine says.

In that 2008 election, McCain's young and relatively inexperienced opponent, first-term Senator Barack Obama, chose a savvy Washington veteran, then-Senator Joseph Biden, as his running mate. Even if many disagreed with Biden's stances as a politician, his experience navigating the ins and outs of Beltway politics was seen as a plus and, therefore, a wise choice by Obama.

"The running mate's effect on how people think about the presidential candidate has a much greater effect on their vote choice than how positively people evaluate the running mate," Devine says.

What started as a consolation prize to the presidency has indeed come a long way. Now, a vice presidential candidate can help his (or her) running mate look good enough to get elected. And once voted into office, a new veep enjoys significant power and influence

It's now role that John Adams would have loved.

Adams and his one-time pal and VP Jefferson had a falling out after the election of 1800, and neither spoke nor wrote to the other for 12 years. But they reconciled, penning a series of more than 150 letters to one another (some excerpted here) over the next 14 years. They died within hours of each other July 4, 1826, 50 years after signing the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams

JOHN ADAMS was born in the North Precinct of Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts , on 30 October 1735, the eldest son of John and Susanna (Boylston) Adams. He graduated from Harvard College in 1755 and for the next two years taught school and studied law under the direction of James Putnam in Worcester , Mass . He returned to Braintree to launch his law practice and married Abigail Smith of Weymouth on 25 October 1764. For several years the Adamses moved their household between Braintree and Boston as warranted by John&rsquos successful law practice and the demands of the circuit court system. Adams and Josiah Quincy, Jr. defended the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre Trials, successfully winning acquittals for seven of the defendants and reduced sentences of manslaughter for the remaining two.

From 1774 to 1777, Adams served in the Continental Congress. He passionately urged independence for the colonies, and in 1776 the &ldquoAtlas of Independence&rdquo was appointed to the committee to draft a declaration of independence. His copy of Thomas Jefferson&rsquos draft of the Declaration of Independence is the earliest known draft in existence.

Appointed by Congress a joint commissioner (with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee) to France , John Adams sailed from Boston with his son John Quincy in February 1778. In the summer of 1779, father and son returned to Massachusetts where Adams was elected to represent Braintree at the convention to frame a state constitution. The Constitution of 1780, drafted by John Adams, is the oldest written constitution in the world still in effect.

Elected by Congress to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain , Adams returned to Europe in November 1779 accompanied by his two eldest sons, John Quincy and Charles. Additional commissions to negotiate a Dutch loan and a treaty of amity and commerce with the Netherlands and election as a joint commissioner (with Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and Thomas Jefferson) to treat for peace with Great Britain soon followed.

1782 was a banner year for John Adams&mdashhe secured recognition of the United States in the Netherlands , contracted the first of four loans from Amsterdam bankers to provide crucial financial aid for the United States , and signed a treaty of amity and commerce with the Netherlands . In September 1783, after nearly a year of negotiation, Adams and his fellow commissioners signed the Definitive Peace Treaty with Great Britain . From 1785 to 1788 John Adams served as the first American minister to the Court of St. James&rsquos in London . After eight years abroad, in France , the Netherlands , and Great Britain , where Abigail had joined him in 1784, Adams returned to the United States .

Service abroad was quickly followed by elective office at home&mdasheight years as vice-president under George Washington and, in 1796, president. The successful transfer of power was made on 4 March 1797. Adams &rsquo presidency was fraught with difficulties: The Quasi War with France, the XYZ Affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. American political parties were just taking shape, but Adams was not a party man. He maintained the same cabinet officers appointed by his predecessor and they continued to look to Washington and Federalist party leader Alexander Hamilton for direction instead of Adams , compounding his problems. Adams defied his cabinet, and much of the Federalist party, to conclude peace with France . Toward the end of Adams&rsquo presidency the seat of government was transferred to Washington , D.C. , and he and Abigail became the first presidential couple to live in the Executive Mansion , later called the White House.

After one term in office, Adams was succeeded as president by Thomas Jefferson. Party politics and a strong difference of opinion over national interests divided Adams and Jefferson and temporarily alienated these two men who had formed a close friendship in Europe in the 1780s. John Adams retired from public life to his farm in Quincy . He died on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1826.

To read the correspondence of John and Abigial Adams, visit the Adams Electronic Archive. The published Adams Family Correspondence is available online at the Adams Papers Digital Editions. Papers of John Adams as well as his private diaries are also available at the Adams Papers Digital Edition. A timeline of John's life is viewable through the Adams Family Timeline.

American Experience

Courtesy: Adams National Historical Park

From the moment John Adams entered the presidency in 1797, the United States was in a state of undeclared war with France. The Quasi-War, as it was known, dominated his presidency, monopolizing both foreign policy and domestic policy. Adams inherited the crisis with France from Washington, as well as much of his cabinet. But the former vice president lacked the stature of his predecessor, and the cabinet's loyalties lay elsewhere -- primarily with former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who was still the leader of the Federalist Party. Throughout Adams' administration, they would undermine his authority.

The Problem with France
The seeds of the Quasi-War were sown during Washington's second term, in 1793. With war raging between Britain and France, Washington proclaimed neutrality. He agreed to the Jay Treaty with Britain in 1795, which France perceived as a proclamation of hostility. It began to attack American ships that were trading with Britain. Adams, like Washington before him, knew the new nation could not withstand another war. But Adams was a Federalist, and in 1797, many in the Federalist Party were pro-war. For the Republican Party, headed by vice president Thomas Jefferson, friendly feelings toward France persisted from the successful French-American alliance during the Revolutionary War.

Renewed Nationalism
Perhaps it was natural that Adams, a former diplomat, would seek a peaceful resolution to the Quasi-War, but he also recognized that trade and security were in jeopardy. With envoys dispatched to Paris, Adams called for a military buildup in the event that the United States was forced to defend its neutrality. In 1798, the French foreign minister, Talleyrand, refused to meet with the Americans and audaciously demanded bribes for himself and the French government before diplomatic relations could resume. Adams refused. When details of the incident, known as the XYZ Affair, surfaced, a wave of nationalist hysteria swept the United States, Adams experienced an uncharacteristic level of popularity.

Infamous Acts
With the French refusing to negotiate, Adams' speeches took on a more militaristic tone. He began to appear in public in full military uniform he was, after all, the commander in chief. Everything achieved during the Revolutionary War, he said, would be in grave danger if the country didn't go to war. "It would be cowardly not to take up arms." To the delight of the High Federalists, war preparations were under way. The Republican Party and press battered Adams for his stance. In 1798, with war hysteria peaking, the majority Federalist Congress pushed through the Alien and Sedition Acts, which put severe limits on civil liberties, including freedom of speech and press. Adams signed them into law and his administration vigorously enforced the Sedition Act against Republican writers and newspaper editors.

Courting Peace
In spite of his public pronouncements, Adams privately clung to the notion of a peaceful solution. His cabinet advised him to give up on the idea of sending another peace delegation to France why court the humiliation of rejection a second time? But Adams believed that evidence existed that France wanted to end the crisis. He also knew that support for the war was waning. Taxation to cover military costs was not only unpopular, but reminiscent of British taxation the colonists had fought against 20 years before.

Fleeting Support
Adams decided to solve matters in the way he had previously been accustomed: independently. On February 18, 1799, he revealed to his cabinet and congress that he would send another envoy to France. He concealed the fact that John Quincy Adams, then minister to Prussia, had indicated that France was inching toward negotiations. By this time, many Federalists had forsaken their pro-war position, and Adams enjoyed a level of support within his own party. Unfortunately, people were weary of high taxes and the quashing of civil liberties, and the Republicans had grown more popular than ever.

Victory Too Late
In a case of stunningly bad timing, the election of 1800 came before news of Adams' successful diplomacy reached America. John Adams lost the election. Republicans Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied the House of Representative would later break the tie in Jefferson's favor. Just days later, Adams got more devastating news: His second son, Charles, only 30 years old, had died of liver failure. Good news arrived soon after, but too late to save Adams' presidency: In October the Convention of 1800 had been signed between France and the United States. Peace had been achieved through diplomacy. The Quasi-War was over, but so was Adams' presidency.

The Great Hall: History and Design

The Great Hall serves as a ceremonial space, an exhibition space, and a grand internal corridor linking Pemberton Square and Government Center to Ashburton Place and the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. Albert Haberstroh, of the Boston firm of L. Haberstoh & Son, designed the mural decorations in the Great Hall.

Bands of classical coffers with rosettes demarcate the barrel vaulted ceiling of the Great Hall. The ceiling's central painted panel features the seal of the Commonwealth, which depicts a Native American holding an arrow pointed downward in a gesture of peace. A blue ribbon surrounding the figure contains the Latin phrase, "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietam" ("By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty").

Sculptor Domingo Mora

The Spanish sculptor, Domingo Mora (1840-1911), created sixteen life-sized allegorical figures for the Great Hall. Beginning with the figure closest to the North Elevator, these figures represent Law, Temperance, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Punishment, Guilt, Equity, Right, Innocence, Reward, Wisdom, Religion, Virtue, Reason, and Legislation.

Rufus Choate

Also in the Great Hall is a bronze statue of the noted Massachusetts attorney and statesman Rufus Choate (1799-1859). Choate was regarded as Boston's finest trial attorney of his time and served in the United States House of Representatives (1830-1834) and the United States Senate (1841-1845). He was also a great defender of the institution of an independent judiciary as envisioned by John Adams and spoke eloquently in its defense at the state constitutional convention of 1853.

Accomplishments in Office

The relations among the United States, Great Britain and France became the key issue of the Adams Presidency. Adams started his administration with a conciliatory posture.

Despite rising passion against France, he sent three representatives to France to try to work out differences between the French and the US government. His emissaries were met by three French representatives demanding a bribe.

When word of this outrage reached Adams, he decided that this was tantamount to war. He requested that the US make preparations for a war with France. The republican opposition demanded that Adams release the contents of the correspondence with France. They believed he had exaggerated the affair.

Adams at first refused, citing executive privilege. (This is the doctrine that activities of the executive branch need not be released to Congress). Eventually, after he was convinced by his Federalist supporters, Adams released the documents, but withheld the names of the Frenchmen involved.

The release of the documents brought the cry for war against the French to a fever pitch. The United States armed its merchantmen and proceeded to successful combat the French in repeated naval encounters. Adams never asked for a Declaration of War. Soon the French came to realize that they had nothing to gain by pursuing a war with the United States. They soon expressed their willingness to receive a new envoy from the United States to work out their differences.

Adams' pursuit of peace was roundly condemned by the Federalists. Adams lost his bid for re-election to Jefferson, due largely to the disarray of the Federalist party.

Selected Bibliography for Further Reading

A Traveled First Lady: Writings of Louisa Catherine Adams, ed. Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor, Cambridge, 2014.

Catherine Allgor, Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government, Charlottesville, Va., 2000.

Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy, New York, 1949.

Charles N. Edel, Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic, Cambridge, 2016.

Robert Pierce Forbes, The Missouri Compromise and its Aftermath, Chapel Hill, N.C., 2007.

“The History of the Columbia Mills,” Smithsonian Institution: Preservation,

Fred Kaplan, John Quincy Adams: American Visionary, New York, 2014.

James E. Lewis, Jr., John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union, Wilmington, Del., 2001.

Ernest R. May, The Making of the Monroe Doctrine, Cambridge, 1975.

Paul Nagel, John Quincy Adams, New York, 1997.

Lynn Hudson Parsons, John Quincy Adams, Madison, Wis., 1998.

“Presidential Election of 1824: A Resource Guide,” The Library of Congress: Web Guides,

James Traub, John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit, New York, 2016.

John Quincy Adams and the Politics of Slavery, ed. David Waldstreicher and Matthew Mason, New York, 2017.

What's Inaccurate About the New HBO Series on John Adams

The opening installment of the new HBO miniseries on John Adams, first aired on March 16, skillfully depicts the difficulties and controversies leading to American independence, and often &ndash though not always &ndash does so accurately. If students watch it, they will very likely understand more about the period than they did before. The physical depiction of Revolutionary-era Massachusetts is impressive, and as a drama the series is well acted and well produced. But there are already some very troubling problems. The first episode especially is fundamentally marred by an all-too-familiar and depressingly resilient prejudice against the early Revolutionaries, one that stretches back to late nineteenth-century scholarship and its depiction of the early protests as disingenuous tax riots. Too many scholars still mark the &lsquoreal&rsquo Revolution from 1774 or later, writing off the earlier opposition movement &ndash in which most of the Revolution&rsquos crucial ideas actually emerged &ndash as violent and crude, an embarrassment to the later high-minded cause.

The HBO drama unfortunately begins with inaccuracy. By his own later account, John Adams was not at his Boston home but with friends elsewhere in town when the shots were fired on March 5, 1770. By the time he reached the scene of the massacre in King Street, both the soldiers and the bodies were gone. The scenes in which he agrees to represent Captain Preston and his men largely follow the account in Adams&rsquos autobiography, but with a significant deviation: Adams gave no suggestion that Forrest, the merchant who approached him on behalf of the accused, had been molested or injured by the townspeople. Preston and his men were actually tried separately: the program compresses both trials into one. Adams&rsquos old friend Jonathan Sewall is shown attending the trial throughout in fact, he had removed himself from Boston for several months to avoid having, as attorney-general, to lead the prosecution against the military. More seriously, the verdict in the soldiers&rsquo trial is falsified: not all were acquitted, as the drama insists. Two of the soldiers, who were specifically proven to have fired, were convicted of manslaughter. The other six were acquitted because only five had fired, and it was not known which of them was innocent (at least technically so &ndash witnesses suggested the sixth pulled his trigger, but his powder flashed in the pan).

The depiction of the trial itself is more deeply flawed, rooted in the persistent stereotype of Revolutionary-era Boston as a den of snarling mobs. The anarchy shown in the courtroom is almost certainly inaccurate, unattested even by staunch pro-government men who branded almost any gathering an incipient riot: Massachusetts had great respect for jury trials. The alleged reluctance, even fear, of defense witnesses to testify is contradicted by the fact that there were, in reality, quite a few who testified for the defendants with every sign of freedom. The behavior of the crowd before the shots were fired was indeed much argued over, but the daring of the troops to fire was openly and frequently mentioned, not boldly extracted from a fearful witness in a crucial &ldquoaha!&rdquo moment. (These dares were rooted in a legal opinion, well known in Boston, that soldiers could not fire on civilians without orders from a civil magistrate.) The drama seeks to portray all participants in the King Street crowd as a rabble. Richard Palmes, indeed a crucial defense witness, was not a coarse laborer reluctantly persuaded to appear, but a merchant of substance who had, as a solid citizen, approached Preston before the shots were fired to ask his intentions and warn him of potential consequences. He had not come from the rope walks where the original quarrel with the soldiers had begun some days before, but had been drawn by the noise from the nearby British Coffee House.

Most egregious, however, is the all-too-typical depiction of Samuel Adams, often a symbol for these mistrusted early years of the Revolution, as a leering, ranting, even dangerous fanatic. Samuel may be the most misunderstood figure of the Revolutionary generation, still generally regarded as a disingenuous, scheming, unprincipled and Machiavellian rabble-rouser, manipulating the mobs and fomenting disorder for sinister purposes &ndash the very image of the corrupt urban politician. It is an image straight from the words of his enemies, fostered and perpetuated by neo-Tory historians such as Hiller Zobel, and so deeply ingrained in the assumptions of scholars that few have even questioned it. (The notable exception is Pauline Maier, whose 1976 article, &ldquoComing to Terms with Samuel Adams,&rdquo in the American Historical Review and 1980 book, The Old Revolutionaries: Political lives in the age of Samuel Adams, should have thoroughly discredited these distortions decades ago, had her arguments received the attention they deserve.)

In reality, none other than John Adams, notorious for rarely praising anyone, wrote of his cousin Samuel with frank admiration &ndash except to note his own superior legal knowledge &ndash and was particularly aware of Samuel&rsquos distaste for violence: &ldquo[Samuel] Adams is zealous, ardent and keen in the Cause, is always for Softness, and Delicacy, and Prudence where they will do, but is stanch and stiff and strict and rigid and inflexible, in the Cause &hellip. Adams I believe has the most thourough Understanding of Liberty, and her Resources, in the Temper and Character of the People, tho not in the Law and Constitution, as well as the most habitual, radical Love of it, of any of them &ndash as well as the most correct, genteel and artful Pen. He is a Man of refined Policy, stedfast Integrity, exquisite Humanity, genteel Erudition, obliging, engaging Manners, real as well as professed Piety, and a universal good Character, unless it should be admitted that he is too attentive to the Public and not enough so, to himself and his family&rdquo (in John Adams&rsquos diary, Dec. 23, 1765). Certainly, this testimony to Samuel&rsquos &lsquogentility&rsquo is absent from the HBO program, which shows him practically as a dockyard thug &ndash and yet at the same time ironically suggests that he is rich, and thus at leisure to pursue his devious wiles. This contradictory claim ignores John&rsquos actual worry about Samuel&rsquos neglect of himself and his own: Samuel was in fact in constant financial trouble, often dependent on the charity of his friends. Praise for Samuel&rsquos character went beyond Massachusetts. In 1819, Thomas Jefferson, who had no reason to polish Samuel&rsquos record, wrote almost as fulsome a tribute: &ldquoI can say that he was truly a great man, wise in council, fertile in resources, immoveable in his purposes.&rdquo

In the first episode of the series, Samuel Adams and others are shown repeatedly expressing their opposition to &ldquothe Crown&rdquo and their contempt for those who support it, implying a determined plot to bring about independence as early as 1770. This is a serious, ahistorical distortion: Samuel Adams and his allies were fiercely determined to prove their loyalty to the King, blaming the imperial crisis principally on Crown officers in Massachusetts, and, much more reluctantly, on the Parliament and royal ministers in Britain. The King was not significantly implicated until fighting erupted in 1775.

Samuel and his allies are also shown cynically exploiting the Massacre as propaganda to whip up a public frenzy. In fact, though enraged by the shootings, the radical leaders were also deeply concerned: they had sought since 1765 to avoid violence, which would only seem to validate their enemies&rsquo claims that Massachusetts was lawless and disloyal. But they considered the military&rsquos presence in Boston since 1768 unnecessary and illegal inevitable popular resentment, in friction with arrogant and abusive soldiers, had now led to bloodshed. Thus, in addition to condemning the soldiers, the radicals wanted to emphasize that an illegitimate occupation had caused the tragedy: Boston, they stressed, was a law-abiding town, never in need of troops to enforce order. In the television episode, Samuel is shown publicly assailing John Adams for taking the soldiers&rsquo cases, even interrupting the trial with shouted threats. It is true that John met with hostility and anger from some quarters. But he was not opposed by Samuel and other radical leaders. Rising radical lawyer Josiah Quincy, Jr., who joined John Adams in the defense, at first refused to take the case, but changed his mind when urged by a host of radical leaders, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock and the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Samuel, determined to exonerate the crowd for the violence, was certainly not pleased by the acquittals. But he knew it was essential that Massachusetts prove its ability to provide a fair trial. (David McCullough, on whose book the series is based, does note that Samuel never objected to John&rsquos role in the trials.)

The dramatization contrasts John Adams to this distorted image of his cousin Samuel, showing John as initially wary and even antagonistic toward the radicals, keeping largely aloof from the opposition until the Coercive Acts in 1774. John Adams&rsquos doubts about human nature and his concerns about an ungoverned people are accurately suggested, but his fears applied just as strongly to those given unchecked governmental power. He had, in reality, been very active from the time of the Stamp Act in 1765, writing extensively on the opposition side. After the Stamp Act's repeal in 1766, John turned to his private affairs and his law practice, but the 1767 Townshend Acts drew him back into the fight. In the program, he condemns Samuel Adams and &ldquoyour Sons of Liberty.&rdquo John had, in fact, been actively involved with the Boston Sons of Liberty for years, attending gatherings and helping draft letters to British radical John Wilkes in 1768 and 1769. In May 1769, he drafted Boston&rsquos fiery instructions to its representatives in the provincial legislature that August, he attended a massive gathering of liberty men, declaring that none were &ldquomore sincere, and stedfast than I am.&rdquo When a hated customs informer fired into a hostile crowd and killed a boy in February 1770 &ndash just days before the Massacre &ndash John Adams seethed that &ldquothere are many more Lives to spend if wanted in the Service of their Country&rdquo and &ldquothat the Ardor of the People is not to be quelled by the Slaughter of one Child and the Wounding of another.&rdquo That June &ndash before the trials, but after he had accepted the soldiers&rsquo cases &ndash the town of Boston handily elected Adams to the House of Representatives, in which he was highly active. In the drama, it is only after the verdicts that the radical leaders, in grudging admiration, urge Adams to &ldquorun&rdquo for the Council (itself a misleading term, since there were no campaigns for Council seats) his service in the House is not mentioned. But it is a generally inaccurate scene: John also rejoins that the Townshend taxes have now been repealed, when in fact the partial repeal of 1770 had left the tea duty as a statement of Parliament&rsquos right to tax, thus satisfying no one he further objects that he had already served on the Council, which he had not. In 1773, he was elected to the Council, clearly very reluctantly, though he was vetoed by the governor later that year, he actively and publicly fought against royal salaries for Massachusetts judges that would remove them entirely from popular control. He was, in short, deeply involved in the early Revolutionary struggle, before the Massacre and after.

Certainly, despite the claims of the program, Crown officials had no illusions after the Massacre cases that John Adams was now on their side. The drama shows Sewall after the trial extending an offer of a royal appointment in the widely detested vice-admiralty court. Adams&rsquos autobiography indicates that this offer was made, but in 1768 &ndash two years before the Massacre, and he refused it then as contrary to his principles. By 1769, some Crown officials still thought Adams might be brought over with a similar offer, but the new acting governor, Thomas Hutchinson, dismissed the idea, declaring &ldquoit very dangerous appointing a man to any post who avows principles inconsistent with a state of government let his talents otherwise be ever so considerable.&rdquo

The program&rsquos tone abruptly changes when it reaches the 1774 watershed: suddenly, the Coercive Acts &ndash closing Boston&rsquos port, reimposing harsh military occupation and altering the system of government &ndash appear as uncontrovertibly oppressive. The more subtle and complex issues of the earlier years, which can make opposition look petulant if the immense gravity of those issues is not explored, are set aside: being a revolutionary suddenly seems more fashionable. The illogic of this abrupt transition is highlighted by a curious turn in the drama: in and after 1774, the darkly drawn Samuel Adams suddenly becomes a sympathetic if not a heroic figure, fighting for a just cause. Perhaps the scriptwriters &ndash and too many historians &ndash should consider that he and his cause had not changed that year. Only their rigid preconceptions seem to shift with the calendar.


1800 presidential election

In 1800, Adams lost his bid for re-election. Because both Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes, the House of Representatives decided who would occupy the presidency. Jefferson won election when he received 10 House votes, Burr received four House votes, and two House votes were blank. Ζ]

U.S. presidential election, 1800
Party Candidate Electoral votes
     Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson 73
     Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr 73
     Federalist John Adams 65
     Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney 64
     Federalist John Jay 1
Total Votes 276
Election results via: 1800 Presidential Election Results

1796 presidential election

In 1796, Adams defeated Democratic-Republican candidates Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and George Clinton, Anti-Federalist candidate Aaron Burr, fellow Federalist candidates Thomas Pinckney, Oliver Ellsworth, James Iredell, and George Washington (who was not seeking re-election), Independent candidate John Henry, and Independent-Federalist candidates John Jay, Samuel Johnston, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Jefferson, who had the second-most electoral votes, was elected vice president. This was the first presidential election to feature candidates from political parties.

U.S. presidential election, 1796
Party Candidate Electoral votes
     Federalist John Adams 71
     Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson 68
     Federalist Thomas Pinckney 59
     Anti-Federalist Aaron Burr 30
     Democratic-Republican Samuel Adams 15
     Federalist Oliver Ellsworth 11
     Democratic-Republican George Clinton 7
     Independent-Federalist John Jay 5
     Federalist James Iredell 3
     Federalist George Washington 2
     Independent John Henry 2
     Independent-Federalist Samuel Johnston 2
     Independent-Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney 1
Total Votes 276
Election results via: Britannica, "United States presidential election of 1796," accessed July 6, 2018

1792 presidential election

Adams once again received the second-most electoral votes and was re-elected as George Washington's vice president.

U.S. presidential election, 1792
Party Candidate Electoral votes
     None George Washington Incumbent 132
     None John Adams 77
     None George Clinton 50
     None Thomas Jefferson 4
     None Aaron Burr 1
Total Votes 264
Election results via: United States Office of the Federal Register - 1792 official election results

1789 presidential election

Adams received the second-most electoral votes and was elected as George Washington's vice president and the first vice president of the United States.

U.S. presidential election, 1789
Party Candidate Electoral votes
     None George Washington 69
     None John Adams 34
     None John Jay 9
     None R.H. Harrison 6
     None John Rutledge 6
     None John Hancock 4
     None George Clinton 3
     None Samuel Huntington 2
     None John Milton 2
     None James Armstrong 1
     None Benjamin Lincoln 1
     None Edward Telfair 1
Total Votes 138
Election results via: United States Office of the Federal Register - 1789 official election results

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