Learning Objective Two: Discuss the break-up of the Federalist party and the rise of the Republicans by the election of 1800.
Alexander Hamilton saw America’s future as a metropolitan, commercial, industrial society, in contrast to Thomas Jefferson’s nation of small farmers. While both men had the ear of President Washington, Hamilton’s vision proved most appealing and enduring. John Trumbull, Portrait of Alexander Hamilton, 1806. Wikimedia.
The Federalists were forced to tum to the experienced but ungracious John Adams who had no appeal to the masses and had no desire to cultivate any Adams suffered from several handicaps, one of which was following in the footsteps of Washington. Another problem Adams faced was that Hamilton hated him and secretly plotted with some of Adams' cabinet members against him
First was in foreign policy and involved the X, Y, Z Affair. Foreign affairs immediately occupied Adams' full attention. The French government regarded the Jay Treaty signed by the United States during Washington's administration with the British an affront, particularly after the French effort during the American War for independence.
Relations between the two countries steadily deteriorated and in 1797 French privateers began seizing American ships; and within a year they had captured more than 300 vessels. In order to avoid further conflict Adams sent a three man commission to negotiate with the French. At the start of negotiations the American commissioners were insulted by demands for bribes by the three French commissioners. The American opted to come home.
The diplomatic humiliation suffered by the three commissioners set off a domestic political explosion when Adams presented the commissioners report to Congress. The three Frenchmen were dubbed Mr. X, Y, and Z in the report that spelled out the demand for bribes and lead to the Federalists in Congress to cry for war
Alien and Sedition Acts
The second event which impacted Adams' presidency involved domestic policy and centered around the Alien and Sedition Acts. Because of the results of the X, Y, Z Affair with France, and the undeclared war that followed, the passions of domestic politics became really heated during Adams' (1797-1801) administration. The Federalists had meanwhile capitalized on the anti-French frenzy to drive through Congress a series of laws in 1798 designed to silence their Jeffersonian foes of political criticism.
Under the act, about 25 persons were arrested and 10 convicted, most of them Republican editors who were conveniently got out of the way by heavy fines or jail sentences. A tavern loiterer in Newark, New Jersey, was jailed for expressing the wish that the wadding of the cannon shot fired in the President's honor might ledge in Adams' backside. The Sedition Act made martyrs for the Republican Party an made the Federalists and John Adams very unpopular which helped the Republicans and Jefferson win the election of 1800.