How did John Adams address the national debt?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Adams most specifically answered this issue in his "First Annual Message" to Congress in 1797. Speaking directly to the House of Representatives (because they are constitutionally responsible for beginning appropriations bills) he spoke against excessive loans to meet the national defense needs of the nation. While he acknowledged the need for what he euphemistically called "funding systems." Adams essentially argued that national defense, and the other (at the time relatively minuscule) functions of government, should be financed by taxation to the extent possible. Generally, Adams thought that issues like the finances of the nation were the purview of Congress and he focused much of his energy on the foreign policy crisis involving France. Generally, the Federalists in government during Adams' presidency advocated the policies of Alexander Hamilton, which included maintaining a limited federal debt as a means of stimulating economic activity. Thomas Jefferson's election in 1800 marked a sharp reversal for this way of thinking, as he slashed spending in a number of areas, including by eliminating some of the government offices that had emerged under Adams and by limiting (for a while) military spending.

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