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
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
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
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.
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.
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.