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John Adams

Important Terms, Names, and Events

Summary

The Adams Family of Braintree

Terms

Anti-Federalists  -   · Anti-federalists, later to be known as the Republicans or Democratic Republicans, rose up as the opponents of the Constitution during the period of ratification. Led by Thomas Jefferson, they wanted a loose governmental structure that granted power primarily to the states.
Alien and Sedition Acts -   · The controversial set of Acts that eventually became synonymous with Adams' administration and helped bring about the downfall of the Federalist Party. Initially meant to secure the Federalist party and quash opposition, the Acts were composed of four laws, supposedly dealing with the protection of national security: the Alien Enemies Act, the Alien Friends Act, the Naturalization Act, and the Sedition Act. The Alien Enemies Act defined how the government could determine whether foreigners posed a threat in wartime–this Act was not used in 1812. The second, the Alien Friends Act, allowed the president to deport any foreigner–in peacetime and in war–whom he deemed a threat to the country. The third, the Naturalization Act, lengthened the time it took become a citizen of the US from five to fourteen years. The fourth and final act, also the most controversial and unconstitutional, the Sedition Act, forbade any individual to oppose "any measure or measures of the United States," or to speak, write or print anything about the president that caused him "contempt or disrepute." The Sedition Act expired in 1801, but not before four of the five major Republican newspapers had been charged with sedition and several foreign- born writers threatened with expulsion. Of the seventeen people charged under the Act, ten were convicted. The acts were meant to help solidify the Federalists hold on power in the 1798 and 1800 elections. Although Adams never vigorously enforced these laws, they quickly became synonymous with the Federalist Party and Adams in particular. Far from helping the Federalists, however, the Alien and Sedition Acts turned much of the country against them.
Declaration of Rights and Grievances -   · The most important document to come out of the Continental Congress before the Declaration of Independence, this laid out the complaints of the American colonists. King George III largely disregarded it, not understanding its significance.
Federalists  -   · To support the Constitution, the Federalist Party rose to early power. Led by Alexander Hamilton, and to some extent by John Adams, they wanted a strong centralized national government.
Jay's Treaty -   · The treaty, signed by John Jay to prevent a war with Britain, provided for the removal of British troops from American land. While successful in preventing another war with Britain, the treaty was seen as hostile to the French, who saw it as an alliance with the British. The treaty was partially responsible for the XYZ Affair.
Townshend Acts -   · The work of Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend, Parliament passed the Revenue Act of 1767 on July 2, 1767. It established taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea entering the colonies–marking a departure from earlier taxation schemes that had been primarily for regulating trade. The Townshend Acts were unmistakably for raising revenue.
Stamp Act -   · The Stamp Act required colonists to buy special watermarked paper for newspapers and all legal documents. The Act marked a departure from Britain's previous policy of not taxing the colonies internally. It was one of the major precipitating events of the Revolution.
Sons of Liberty -   · A secret patriotic society organized in Boston by John Adams' cousin Samuel Adams to oppose the Stamp Act, other chapters followed around the colonies. The Sons of Liberty served as the primary means of communication and organization for the patriotic movement before the war. The Sons of Liberty also served as Adams' enforcers, ensuring adherence to the non-importation agreements, harassing Royal appointees, and participating in the Boston Tea Party. John Adams was invited several times to address their gatherings.

Names

Abigail Adams -  John Adams' wife. Born to a rich Boston family, Abigail Smith remained an important figure in John's life for over fifty years, constantly exchanging letters, encouraging and pushing him. Her letters show her to be a strong, confident, politically-adept woman.
Charles Adams  -  Adams' second oldest son, he traveled extensively with his father and studied law under Alexander Hamilton. A drunkard, he died in New York just days before his father left the presidency.
John Quincy Adams  -  Ambassador and noted Harvard professor, John Quincy was Adams' oldest son, and the sixth president of the United States. John Quincy traveled with his father from an early age and began a very successful diplomatic and political career with a trip as a personal secretary to the minister to Russia in his teenage years.
Samuel Adams -  John Adams' cousin and one of the major proponents and fomentors of the Revolutionary War. Samuel led the Sons of Liberty.
Alexander Hamilton -  The leader of the Federalists and the first secretary of the treasury. Hamilton split with Adams during Adams' presidency but retained broad authority over the cabinet until Adams cleared his cabinet of Hamiltonian Federalists. Adams saw Hamilton as being largely responsible for everything that went wrong during his administration.
Thomas Hutchinson -  Adams's long-time opponent in Boston politics and one of the strongest Tories in the colony. He served as chief justice of the supreme judicial court, as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts during the Stamp Act crisis, and finally, as the royal governor.
James Otis -  John Adams' close friend and legislative ally, Otis was a strong patriot. As the Stamp Act crisis passed, Otis fell out of favor with the patriots. However, he worked closely with Adams in the drafting of several letters of complaint to the Crown governors.
Francis Bernard  -  Royally-appointed governor of Massachusetts in the early days of the unrest in Boston. Sided with Thomas Hutchinson early in his term but was forced out of his post by the patriots and the Sons of Liberty after the Stamp Act crisis.

Events

Boston Massacre -  The Boston Massacre began innocently with boys throwing snowballs at a British sentry on March 5, 1770. However, thanks to much agitation by Adams' men in the days prior to the incident, a large crowd soon formed outside the guardhouse and more British soldiers reinforced the sentry. When a British officer tried to disperse the crowd, he and his men were bombarded with rocks and were dared to shoot by the unruly mob. After being knocked to the ground, one soldier finally did shoot, and others followed. Five civilians were killed in the gunfire. John Adams was called upon to defend the accused soldier while they stood trial, which he did mostly successfully.
First Continental Congress -  The First Continental Congress convened on September 5, 1774, with all colonies but Georgia sending delegates chosen by the Committees of Correspondence. John Adams and his cousin Samuel Adams were among the Massachusetts delegates. The Congress voted to institute non-importation agreements with Britain.
Second Continental Congress -  After fighting had broken out in Massachusetts, the Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775. Most delegates still opposed the drastic move of calling for independence, despite the outbreak of violence. In an effort to reach a reconciliation with the King, John Dickinson penned the last-ditch Olive Branch Petition.
XYZ Affair -  The major crisis of John Adams' administration. His peace envoys to France were met by three agents purporting to represent Foreign Minister Charles Talleyrand. The Frenchmen offered to meet with the delegation only in exchange for the payment of a bribe. The publication of the reports back in America, with the French agents referred to only as X, Y, and Z, prompted insulted Americans to the brink of war with France.

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