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Adams Presidency
Mr. Harrington Ch. 6 U.S. History
Election of 1796
First openly contested election in U.S.
Each selected at a party caucus
(meeting of party leaders)
Federalist Party ticket - Vice President
John Adams of Massachusetts
Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina
Former Secretary of
State Thomas Jefferson of
Virginia & Senator Aaron
Burr of New York on the
ticket - each man from
any party ran alone
Top 2 vote getters became
President & Vice
Election of 1796
Unlike the previous election where
the outcome had been a foregone
conclusion, Democratic-Republicans
campaigned heavily for Jefferson,
and Federalists campaigned heavily
for Adams.
Hamilton wanted to be influential in
the new gov’t and did not trust
Adams – threw his support behind
Pinckney almost costing Adams the
However the sectionalism was
evident – Adams received all
Northern votes except PA &
Jefferson won all the South
Presidents Chart Per. 3 - Google Drive (Fries)
XYZ Affair
The “XYZ Affair” was a diplomatic
episode between the U.S.& France that
became a major political scandal in its day.
President John Adams sent 3
representatives from the United States to
the new French Republic to negotiate with
French foreign minister Charles Talleyrand.
They were sent to protest the seizure 300
Three French agents, called X, Y and Z by
President Adams, met with the three
Americans. The agents demanded a $10
million dollar loan for France, a personal
bribe of $250,000 for Talleyrand, and a
formal apology from President Adams for
insults to France. The American delegates
were outraged and replied, “Millions for
defense, sir, but not one cent for tribute!”
“Cease bawling, monster!
We will not give you six-pence!”
XYZ Affair
Pinckney and Marshall were
Federalists - Alexander Hamilton,
wanted to start a war with France and
they returned to the US. Jeffersonian
Republican Gerry continued meeting
in secret, but with little success.
President Adams then made public
the French demands. The “XYZ
Affair” caused intense bitterness in
the United States, and led to further
problems between the countries
However it was responsible for
the start of the build-up of the
United States Navy. The need
for naval strength became
increasingly apparent, and
the new US began to prepare itself.
Quasi War 
Presidents Chart Per. 3 - Google Drive (War)
XYZ Affair unleashed a wave of anti-French sentiment across the country.
Congress authorized Adams to expand the navy as French privateers continued to
capture American merchant ships.
On July 7, 1798, Congress rescinded all treaties with France and the US Navy was
ordered to seek out and destroy French warships and privateers operating against
American commerce. Consisting of approximately thirty ships, the US Navy began
patrols along the southern coast and throughout the Caribbean.
Over the next two years, American vessels posted an incredible record against enemy
privateers and warship - the USS Enterprise alone captured eight privateers and
liberated eleven American merchant ships
In late 1800, the independent operations of the US Navy and the British Royal Navy
were able to force a reduction in the activities of French privateers and warships. This
coupled with changing attitudes in the French revolutionary government, opened the
door for renewed negotiations. Signed on September 30, 1800, the Treaty of
Mortefontaine ended hostilities between the US and France,
The Quasi War pushed the United States into a serious debate about the nature and
extent of neutrality, the limits of presidential power, and the role of the military in
Mr. Harrington Ch. 6 U.S. History
The Alien and Sedition Acts
The Federalists passed 4 laws in the summer of
1798 known as the Alien & Sedition Acts
3 of the acts were aimed at immigrants
(who tended to vote Democratic-Republican)
The Alien Enemies Act – president could deport
foreigners from countries we were at war with
Alien Friends Act – President could expel any
Alien resident suspected of subversive
The Naturalization Act – extended residency
5-14 years for voting rights
The Sedition Act (most controversial) –
federal crime to utter or print anything
“false, scandalous and malicious”
25 indicted and 10 convicted –
Matthew Lyon a Republican Congressman
The VA & KY Resolutions
The resolutions argued that the federal
government had no authority to exercise
power not specifically delegated to it in the
The Virginia Resolution (Madison) said that
by enacting the Alien and Sedition Acts,
Congress was exercising “a power not
delegated by the Constitution.” Madison
hoped that other states would register their
opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts as
beyond the powers given to Congress.
The Kentucky Resolutions (Jefferson) went
further than Madison’s Virginia Resolution
and introduced the idea of Nullification –
render null and void a national law it
deemed unconstitutional.
GW Death & End of Adams
The VA & KY Resolutions did
not lead to other states to adopt
resolutions however the
balance of power between the
states and federal government
remained a controversial issue
GW had remained active
throughout 1799 –
corresponding with generals in
preparation for a possible war
with France
On December 14, 1799 GW
died after catching a severe
cold – this actually worked to
sooth tensions between
America & France
Presidents Chart Per. 3 - Google Drive
As his last act as president, Adams sought to reform
the federal court system by increasing the number of
district courts from three to six. Even though the
reform plan (Judicial Act of 1801) had been devised
before the election, implementation of the act would
inevitably lead to issues
Nonetheless, he went ahead as quickly as possible to
develop a nominations list for the 23 new judges (all
federalists), submitting them to the Senate on
December 8, 1800.
The Senate delayed confirmation actions until
February 1801 and was still at work on Adams's list
when the Electoral College met and named Jefferson
as Adams's successor. Some confirmations had been
made in February, and Adams had signed their
commissions; but the Senate did not complete its
work until the last day of Adams's presidency. The
confirmations reached Adams late in the day of March
3, 1801 and it is these for whom Adams signed
commissions—for five-year terms—during the evening
before his early morning exodus for New York