John Quincy Adams's Presidency Questions and Answers

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What problems did John Adams face during his presidency?  

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the main problems Adams faced during his presidency was the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800). While most Americans were pro-French in the ongoing power struggle between France and Britain, Adams was alarmed by the French seizure of American merchant ships. The French believed that the United States was in support of Great Britain. However, most Americans still supported the French (as the French had supported the American Revolution) until the so-called XYZ Affair of 1797 in which three American envoys to Talleyrand's government in Revolutionary France were asked to pay a large bribe before they could negotiate. After that incident, popular sentiment in the United States turned against France.

Adams attempted to build up the army and navy in defense of the threat he felt France posed, and, to do so, he instituted a tax in 1798 that was highly unpopular and that sparked rebellions in rural Pennsylvania. He also passed the highly unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it illegal to publish "malicious writing" against the government and that imposed fines and prison sentences for doing so. The acts also lengthened the time it took for immigrants to become citizens. Whether or not these acts were widely used is still debated among historians, but the unpopularity of the acts helped lead to Jefferson's election from the Democratic-Republican party in 1800.

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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John Adams faced several problems while he was president. For the first time, we had political parties in an election. Thus, while Adams won, he had political opposition. In fact, his Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, was from the political party opposed to Adam’s political party. Adams represented the Federalist Party while Jefferson represented the Democratic-Republican Party.

We had issues with France. The French were seizing our ships and interfering with our right to trade. When we sent representatives to France to discuss this, the French wouldn’t meet with them for several weeks. When they eventually met our representatives, they demanded a loan and a bribe. Americans were outraged at this treatment, in what became known as the XYZ Affair. They wanted Adams to go to war. Adams knew going to war was not in our best interests, so even though it hurt him politically, he used diplomacy to end the crisis.

At home, the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts hurt President Adams. The Sedition Act made it illegal to criticize the government. That conflicted with our right to free speech. The Alien Act made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen by lengthening the waiting period from five to fourteen years before a foreigner could become a citizen. It also made it easier to deport an immigrant. The Alien Act was clearly aimed at hurting the Democratic-Republican Party since many immigrants were joining that party. The passage of this law helped to make Adams and his party unpopular.

Partially as a result of the growing unhappiness with President Adams and the Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans won the election of 1800.

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user5641089 | Student

John Adams had to get comfortable being the president and living in the white hous.