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The American Leader Considered Dictator, John Adams

The American Leader Considered Dictator, John Adams
John Adams, who became the second president of the United States, has been accused by some historians of being the closest thing America ever had to a dictator or monarch (Onuf, 1993). Such strong accusations should be examined in the context of the era in which Mr. Adams lived and served. A closer examination of the historical events occurring during his vice presidency and his term as president, strongly suggests that Adams was not, in fact, a dictator. Indeed, except for his lack of charisma and political charm, Adams had a very successful political career before joining the new national government. He was, moreover, highly sought after as a public servant during the early formation of the new federal power (Ferling, 1992). Adams was a well educated, seasoned patriot, and experienced diplomat. He was the runner-up in the election in which George Washington was selected the first United States President. According to the electoral-college system of that time, the second candidate with the most electoral votes became the Vice President (Smelser & Gundersen, 1975). As president, Washington appointed, among others, two influential political leaders to his original cabinet; Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson, a veteran politician became the Secretary of State and Hamiliton, a young, outspoken New Yorker lawyer, became the Secretary of the Treasury (Ferling, 1992). Jefferson, like Adams, had also signed the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton, however, was the only cabinet member relatively unknown to Adams (Ferling, 1992). It was Hamilton, nonetheless, who excelled during this new administration by initiating numerous, innovative, and often controversial programs, many of which were quite successful. Adams and Hamilton were both Federalists. Unlike Hamiliton, Adams was more moderate (Smelser & Gundersen, 1975). During this first administration, Adams and Hamilton quarreled (Washington Retires, 1995), and Adams contemptuously began referring to Hamilton as “his puppyhood” (DeCarolis, 1995). This created a rift in the administration, for Washington generally favored Hamiliton (Smelser & Gundersen, 1975), and disregarded Adams (Ferling, 1992). Hamilton also went to great lengths to drive Jefferson out of the cabinet (Allison, 1966). Jefferson did finally, indeed, resign from the cabinet. The Federalists “party,” of which Hamiliton was the leader (DeCarolis, 1995) was greatly divided and even violent, at times, under his leadership (Allison, 1966). This is significant in assessing Hamilton’s and others’ arguments of Adams being a dictator after his presidential victory in 1796 A.D. There...

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