(President from 1796-1800)
By Richard E. Noble
John Adams - irascible, argumentative, haughty, aristocratic, demanding, domineering, yet whenever I read about John Adams something makes me smile. If it is possible, his actions speak even louder than his words. He was a pompous, rigid authoritarian but a failure as even a school teacher because of his inability to keep the kids in line. He obviously got no respect - the Rodney Dangerfield of the early presidency.
A lover of the British and a Loyalist at the core, yet he was an avid supporter of the Revolution; active in politics, but yet always threatening to quit; a male, chauvinist pig, but yet marries Abigail Smith, an outspoken, independent, feminist of her day. Not only does he marry her but their love affair and devotion to one another is an inspiration to the romantic novelist. In fact, Irving Stone wrote just such a novel.
The Boston Massacre and John chooses to defend the British soldiers who shot down his countrymen. He truly expected his political career to come to an end with this dastardly deed. But instead the American political constituency admires his courage.
He argues with his wife, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Pain, the French, the British, his fellow colonists, just about everybody around but yet somehow ends up, in my mind, as a guy who basically wants to be liked, himself. He was an intellectual, and nobody ever really knew whose side he was on. He was a tough person to deal with but was somehow recognizable of his own faults. He managed to keep Abigail on his side; he re-established his friendship with political arch rival, Thomas Jefferson; he actually got himself elected president of the United States with this aggravating, superior personality, even if only for one term; and though harboring a profound fear of an early death, lives to be ninety. I can just see him at home arguing with Abigail, and in the middle of it all, like Archie Bunker, falling into his chair while grabbing onto his heart and crying; My heart, my heart! Honey, Honey, I think I’m dying.
The first president to live in the White House and then come the Alien and Sedition Acts; laws which actually make it a crime to even say something derogatory about the president or the country. In 1799 a guy by the name of John Fries speaks out against a new tax and says, “damn the president, damn the congress, damn the Aristokratz.” And along with the women of the neighborhood and pots of boiling water, he chases away the president’s tax collectors.
Fries is then captured, tried and convicted and sentenced to death. Adams, going against his own party, grants Mister Fries a complete pardon. I’m sure he must have been thinking about himself and his own behavior with regards to the British and their Stamp Act. How could he be responsible for putting a man to death for having a big mouth; he being one of the biggest mouths in American History.
During his administration actual fist fights break out in the House of Representatives - Democracy in action. Can’t you just see all the loyalists and aristocrats shaking their heads and saying; “Sure, Democracy; government by the “common” man, yeah right! More like pure anarchy.” I guess that things really haven’t changed that much, have they?