Ranking John Adams (5 = excellent and 1 = poor)
John Adams admitted, unlike George Washington, that he would not have monuments commemorating his service to the United States. I believe, Adams could be easily overlooked among the dominant personalities of the era. Ironically- people in today’s United States are not much different than the French in mistaking John Adams for his cousin Samuel Adams- albeit for several different reasons. However, without further ado, let’s take a look at John Adams!
Contribution before Presidency– John Adams was considered to be the Voice of the Declaration of Independence. He served on multiple councils at the Continental Congress, served as Ambassador to France and England, and secured the first loan for America from the Netherlands. No different than many of the founding fathers and earlier presidents, Adams made a major contribution to the history of his country prior to becoming Chief Executive. Points- 5.
Integrity– Adams never compromised his integrity to better his position in history. He defended the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre so well that they were acquitted of murdering colonials. He stood his ground against his own party by not going to war against the French. This decision may have cost him a second term, but was the best way forward for a weak United States. Points- 5.
Scandals– I did not see a hint of scandal in Adams or his administration during my research. This is a credit to the man and his integrity. Points- 5.
Military Service– Adams did not actively participate in the field during the American Revolution. He did head the war board, so was behind the scenes contributing to the war effort. Adams is considered the Father of the Navy and a proponent of “wooden walls” providing protection to his country. Points- 4.
Popularity– The popularity of John Adams was up and down. He was a respected, if not popular leader in the revolutionary days. However, during his presidency, Adams was not popular with the Republicans due to his alleged views in support of installing a monarch and signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. Adams was not popular with his own party because he did not go to war with France. I believe Adams was respected for his integrity, but this did not contribute to his popularity. Points- 3
Party Leadership– Alexander Hamilton undermined Adams at every opportunity leaving Adams unable to exert much influence over the Federalist party. With the election of Jefferson, the Federalists were essentially done as a formidable entity. Points- 2
Legacy– The legacy of John Adams continues to improve over time. His actions to prevent war with France saved the young country from a conflict that could have destroyed it. The recent book and HBO mini-series contribute to his greater appreciation from historians and Americans. The election of John Quincy Adams and his letter exchange with Jefferson also benefit his legacy as a man. Points- 4
Foreign Policy– Like George Washington, Adams had to negotiate a tightrope between England and France. Each country had support in the United States and the factions were vocal in Congress and the press. Adams portrayed himself as belligerent towards France before eventually signing a peace treaty. The peaceful agenda ensured the country did not give way to emotion and find itself in an unwinnable war. The peace with France laid the foundation for the Louisiana Purchase by Jefferson. Points- 5
Domestic Agenda– Adams left the management of domestic affairs to Congress, which resulted in his signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws destroyed freedom of the press and could be used as a weapon against political enemies. Each are genuinely un-American and his hands off approach to domestic affairs is a black mark on his presidency. Points- 2
Economic Agenda– The United States continued to grow and Adams supported manufacturing in the country. He did not hamper business in the late 1700’s leaving business owners to chart their own success. Points- 4
Following the Constitution– Adams benefited from Washington’s use of implied powers throughout his term in office. Even when signing the Alien and Sedition Acts, he followed the role of president by signing the bills into laws when he could have vetoed the bill. Points- 4
Supreme Court Appointments– Under Adams, John Marshall was named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Marshall court set the base for judicial review in Marbury vs. Madison. Marshall is recognized as one of the great Chief Justices of all time. The selection of Marshall stabilized the new nation and reflects on Adams’s judgement of other leaders. Points- 5
Cabinet Selections– Adams failed in his selection of the Cabinet. In actuality, he did no selecting, but kept Washington’s cabinet members. The men in charge took their marching orders from Hamilton affecting Adams’s ability to be president. Although understandable as Adams was only the second president, this decision negatively affected his entire presidency. Points- 1
Executive Ability– Adams did well as an executive. Although he did spend time outside of Washington DC, he was a very capable administrator. He executed the duties of his office well during his term. Points- 4
Overall View– Adams was a successful president. He kept the United States free of war with France and continued the peaceful transition of power to Jefferson. The country stabilized itself under Adams after the loss of the great George Washington. If another had been elected President to follow Washington, the future of the country may have been very different. Adams’ always displayed an integrity in every decision and always placed the country’s needs before his own. However, the Alien and Sedition Acts were a serious attack on civil rights and he must be accountable for signing them into law. Points- 4
Overall- 57 total points out of 75. Currently, John Adams ranks as the second greatest President next to Washington. We will see how this holds up over time!