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John Adams: The American Presidents Series: The 2nd President, 1797-1801 Audio Cassette – Unabridged, June 11, 2003
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 7.7 ounces
- ISBN-10 : 155927879X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1559278799
- Product Dimensions : 4.6 x 1.11 x 6.92 inches
- Publisher : Macmillan Audio; Unabridged Edition (June 11, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #8,063,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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It’s debatable whether or not there would have been an American Revolution without the presence of John Adams at the Second Continental Congress. He berated fellow delegates day and night until they stepped up and declared what they believed in their hearts. It was Adams who picked Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence because, he said, the Virginian was a better writer. It was Adams too, working in conjunction with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, who negotiated peace with England thereby assuring American independence. And it was Adams who negotiated three crucial loans with a consortium of Dutch financiers that kept the young republic financially afloat until the federal government took charge and made provision for the crushing war debt. Among the glittering array of Founding Fathers, we sometimes forget just how popular and well-respected Adams was in his time. In the 1789 election for president, Adams was runner-up to George Washington. Eight years later, in 1796, when Washington stepped down, Adams was elected over Jefferson to the highest office in the land. Ironically, it was as president that Adams’ considerable reputation began to erode.
Why Adams’ reputation did erode is mostly the subject of Diggins’ book. The author places much of the blame on Thomas Jefferson, who secretly orchestrated a savage newspaper campaign against him, labeling Adams a closet monarchist who favored the aristocracy. Jefferson leveled much the same charges against Alexander Hamilton, but the New Yorker orchestrated an equally savage newspaper campaign in retaliation. Adams had no stomach for such a fight, and naively believed that the facts would prevail over an obvious smear campaign. How wrong he was. The author makes the point that politics has no time for facts. “Many of those who voted against him accepted ‘word against evidence’ and thought they were ridding America of a monarchist, when they were actually deposing both a moralist and a modernist.” The author also places a fair amount of blame on Adams himself. Unlike Washington, Adams was not a consensus builder. He preferred working in isolation and rarely asked his cabinet for advice. On occasion he would take off for his home in Braintree, Massachusetts and be gone weeks and months at a time, leaving his cabinet in charge of the government. Adams also bore grudges instead of trying to shed them. He held one of his biggest grudges against Hamilton who, the author points out, had a great deal in common with Adams both politically and philosophically (they both advocated a strong federal government, favored a central bank, were against slavery, and were admirers of Scottish philosopher David Hume). One can’t help but think that had Adams buried his pride and made Hamilton a confidant—as Washington had done— his presidency would have proceeded more smoothly and he would have been reelected. As it was, nothing seemed to go well: the XYZ Affair, the “Quasi War” with France, the Alien and Sedition Acts—all hurt Adams politically. Even so, in the 1800 election, Jefferson barely squeaked out victory.
Years later, after Jefferson had left office, the two buried the hatchet and began exchanging letters. However, Jefferson never could explain why he had labeled Adams a monarchist. In the turbulent 1790s, the Virginian cited Adams’ writings as the source, particularly his “Discourse on Davila.” John’s wife, Abigail, defied Jefferson to provide evidence, to cite exactly where it was Adams had written such nonsense. The Virginian had no answer. Had he been truly candid, Jefferson would have told Adams the election had not been about whether or not he was a monarchist; it had been about power. Adams had the power, and Jefferson wanted it. Five stars.
Adams wanting to install Plato's idea of an aristocracy is nice on paper, but so are all centralized forms of government.
Either way, good take on his life and presidency, just make sure you recognise when the author is defending as opposed to educating.