John Adams, the second president of the US, hardly lived in the White house, as it was under construction well into the last year of his term. He moved in on November 1, 1800, just 5 months before he had to move out after being defeated for re-election. He and his wife Abigail disliked the residence, as it was hard to heat. They called it “the great castle” and Abigail complained that every fireplace had to be lit in every room to keep it livable. It is unlikely that the Portuguese colonizers living in Brazil at that time suffered heating problems.
Abigail was John Adams’ third cousin, and they had 6 children, one of which, John Quincy Adams, would become the sixth president of the United States. But we’ll get to him at another time. The first John Adams was a Harvard educated lawyer who had served in France, Holland and England during the Revolutionary War. Just to recap, the Revolutionary War, which lasted from 1775-1783, also called the American War of Independence, was the one in which George Washington was the Commander in Chief. It was the war that was mostly fought mostly on the North American continent between Great Britain and its North American colonies and resulted in the independence of United States. At the beginning of the war, only 8 of the 13 colonies supported the idea of independence or the war. Can you imagine the controversies raging in the colonies at that time?
John Adams was more a political philosopher than a politician, and had been George Washington’s vice president, which was an unhappy experience for him. He was a vain man, and disliked serving in what he as an “insignificant office”. Abigail was his key advisor, and very important to history. Both she and her husband were born in Massachusetts and neither had ever owned slaves. They were both outspoken about slave ownership, but especially Abigail, and this brought on violent criticism from those who weren’t. Most people who were against slavery believed that the practice was a violation of Christian principles, and the result of that belief caused those who were pro-slavery to become doubly offended. There was a large free black population on the East Coast at that time, and their home state, Massachusetts, had become the center for the abolition movement by the beginning of the 19th century.
John Adams took office as president in 1797, and Thomas Jefferson, the man who had written most of the Declaration of the Independence in 1776, became his vice president. Adams and Jefferson had been good friends before taking charge of the country, but unfortunately became serious political enemies during the time they served together as president and vice president. Jefferson performed acts to undermine Adams that were so serious that historians today think that he should have been tried for treason. In hindsight, we know that adversity generates growth.
It was around this time that John Adams wrote, “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity” and he became president during the war between the French and the British. It wasn’t a war the new country was involved in, but it was causing great difficulties for America on high seas, and the population of the US was divided about which kingdom the new president should side with. He decided on France, as they had suspended commercial relations and were refusing to receive the Americans who were trying to use diplomacy to solve this problem. After 3 envoys were sent to France without success, the French sent back a message that they were open for negotiations if the Americans would pay a substantial bribe.
Adams was offended and reacted by asking congress for money to build ships and to raise a provisional army. The population came together and approved. Adversity also unites citizens. The congress then passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, and President Adams signed them into law – they were laws intended to frighten foreigners out of the country. The Alien law made it very hard for an immigrant to become a citizen and allowed the president to imprison and deport any non-citizen who was supposedly dangerous or who came from a hostile nation. The Sedition act criminalized making false statements that criticized the federal government. Try applying that in modern political times.
During George Washington’s administration, a schooner named the Betsey had been attacked and captured by pirates. Poor Betsey was the first of many ships to be attacked. During the Adams administration, pirates continued to attack coastal towns as well as ships, hold the crews for ransom, and seize cargo. The pirates mostly came from the four Berber states in North Africa: Algiers, Tunis, Morocco and Tripoli. They especially liked to capture Christian slaves for resale. The pirates did have a scheme in which they would charge countries a tribute that would protect the ships against further attacks. President Adams refused to pay, and the attacks escalated and became a problem that he left for his successor to solve. The loot that the pirates captured was mostly sold in the Ottoman Empire.
The Betsey has an interesting story that shows that people and their business practices haven’t changed much. Less than a year after being captured, the schooner appeared in the New York port, renamed Belen, and owned by a Spaniard. The new owner agreed to sell it to an American, who had some problems registering the stolen ship, and then he sold it to one of her former owners. This buyer was able to register it under its original name, Betsey. He then resold the Betsey back to the first buyer. That was in violation of laws and both men were accused of fraud as they apparently bought and rebought the ship in order to receive fraudulent insurance benefits.
But John and Abigail Adams contributed to American presidential tradition by having some of the most creatively named presidential pets to date. Adams built the first stable on the White House grounds, and we know that two of his carriage horses were named Cleopatra and Caesar. Their dogs were the first to be seen playing on the White House lawn, and two of them were named Juno and Satan. These two dogs were of mixed breed, making the First Couple politically correct way ahead of their time.
By this time, two political parties had already been formed, the Federalist Party and its rival the Democratic-Republican Party. John Adams was a Federalist and his party dominated in congress. He did not declare war, but his administration began hostilities at sea. In the beginning, the Americans were defeated, causing loud criticism on the part of the Democratic-Republican Party, but by 1800 the American warships were clearing the seas for trade, causing loud praise for Adams on the part of the Federalists. The French sent word that they were open for negotiations. Politicians flip flop all the time, but so does public opinion.
The Federalist Party split around this time, and the Hamiltonian Party was formed; it was fiercely against any peace negotiations with the French. Long negotiations began, and strong and violent criticism broke out in most of the United States. John Adams began a campaign for re-election against Thomas Jefferson, his vice president, and it was dirty and nasty. Jefferson believed that Adams had been abusing his power, especially in regard to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and at one time was so angry that he abandoned his job as vice president and simply went home.
During his presidency, Adams had fired his Secretary of State and his Secretary of War for failing to support his foreign policy, and this act also made him a lot of enemies. His party had split and was badly divided. His former supporter and one of his worst enemies was Alexander Hamilton, a member of his own party. Hamilton published a pamphlet during the presidential campaign that Adams should not be re-elected because he was godless, impulsive, unstable, and unable to co-exist with his advisors and given to irrational decisions. Does that kind of slander sound familiar? During the campaign, Adams was also accused of plotting one of his sons marry one of the daughters of King George III to establish a dynasty to unit England and the United States. Thomas Jefferson, his vice president and his opposing candidate for re-election, was the informal leader of the nation’s first opposition political party, the Democratic-Republicans.
The candidates’ personal attacks on each other had no bounds, and Thomas Jefferson, among other things, was accused of experimenting with vivisection and also of practicing ritualistic rites at Monticello, his home in Virginia. John Adams said, “Power always thinks . . . that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.” But when election time came, Adams won a few less electoral votes than Jefferson, who became President in 1800.
Abigail was very happy to leave Washington, and John Adams did not even stay long enough to attend Jefferson’s swearing-in ceremony. They retired to their farm in Quincy, Massachusetts and lived out their lives in a relatively quiet way. Years later, Jefferson and Adams put their political differences aside, and maintained a steady correspondence with each other, much of which is available today to show us how feelings and opinions were passionate (and often untruthful) even in those days.
On Independence Day in 1826, John Adams died at home. He was 90. This was not too long after Pedro I had proclaimed Brazilian independence and was crowned as constitutional emperor. John Adams’s last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” and he was probably remembering the days when they were both Patriots fighting for the independence of the United States, and not about their divergent times. But his last words were incorrect. Thomas Jefferson had died five hours earlier in his own home.
If you want see their correspondence or get a further feel for history, you can visit the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts between April and November. His 3 homes are located inside the park. There sits the 1681 home that Adams was born in, still in its original location. The park also maintains the nearby house that his father later bought to expand their property. John Adams inherited this second house, and lived there as a newly wed, while practicing law and fathering the sixth president of the United States. There is also a third house known as Peacefield, which is where Adams lived after he became more affluent, where he visited during his presidency, and where he lived after he retired. This home contains objects that Adams brought back from his trips to Europe as a diplomat. And there is the later-built the Stone Library that John Quincy requested to be built in his will, that holds papers and books of both the father and son.
John Adams was the first president to try to pass laws that would keep immigrants and supposedly dangerous people out of the United States. He was the second president to leave serious problems for his successor. He took office in contentious times and left office in contentious times. But he certainly did his best to make America great.
Stay tuned for yet another chapter; it will be even shorter because you have just acquired even more of a feeling for the time and the mood of the developing country, not to mention more historical background.
FYI is an acronym, and an acronym is a word formed by combining the first letters of each word of a name, such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) that is frequently seen in the news. Another one you probably know is AIDS, which is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Sometimes acronyms are pronounced as a word as in NATO and AIDS, and sometimes the letters are pronounced individually, such as FYI (for your information). And most of the time they are not even pronounced, as they are used mostly in social media, business communication and Internet. But we do hear CNN (Cable News Network) reporters saying ASAP frequently, which means As Soon As Possible and is hard to pronounce.
Sometimes acronyms become words, such as the word scuba. Everybody knows that word, but few know it started out as an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Another acronym that became a word is laser, which began as the acronym Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Most of us are very pleased that these two words became acronyms.
For now, try to incorporate FYI and ASAP into your daily communications, and don’t spend too much time remembering what AIDS and LASER and SCUBA really mean. But you should be able to recognize NATO as it has become a big issue in North America and Europe.
Here are six business acronyms that you should know if you are a businessperson, and maybe aspire to if you are in middle management. Which one would be the lowest stress and the highest salary?