The Greatest Single Thing About John Adams

Hard to imagine Adams as a debauched man!
— Clay


"This was the greatest single thing about John Adams," Clay declares. "We should do a program about this."

He goes on:

There was war fever; it would have been a very popular thing to fight a war against France in 1798-1799. [...] Adams basically pulled the rug out from under the war fever that Hamilton was whipping into greater & greater flame — and when that happened, Hamilton lost it and wrote this anti-Adams pamphlet.
The Federalist party self-destructed. The primary Federalist was Alexander Hamilton, pretending to be a shadow president; the second Federalist was the sitting president John Adams; they could not see eye-to-eye, to put it lightly. Because of the war scare that came with the French Revolution — and the quasi-war of 1798 — and the Alien and Sedition laws and all that followed, the Federalists simply self-destructed. And so Jefferson didn't so much win the election of 1800 as the Federalists self-destructed and lost it.

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Further Reading

Clay & David recommend several books throughout today's 1776 Club broadcast. Clay notes that author "[Joseph] Ellis, at his prime, was maybe the premier historian of the early national period of the United States." Clay speaks highly not only of Ellis' Jefferson biography, but also his biographies of Washington and Adams. However, Clay suggests that if you want to learn more about the early days of Jefferson's presidency, you should reach for the fourth volume of Dumas Malone's Jefferson and His Time: First Term. "The first hundred days are very interestingly exact."

More From the Thomas Jefferson Hour

The image of John Adams in the cover artwork, an engraving by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), appears public domain via the New York Public Library Digital Collections.