But, as John Patrick Diggins shows, Adams's contributions still resonate today. During his single term he created the Department of the Navy, rallied support for an undeclared war against France, oversaw the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act, and left a solvent Treasury. More important, he identified and fought against two trends that continued to trouble domestic affairs today. Adams was keenly aware of the influence of the rich and famous over the popular imagination. Many of his policies were intended to keep the unofficial aristocracy of celebrity, including that of president, in check. Adams also foresaw the Jefferson's populism, which helped the Republicans win the close election of 1800, was faulty: guaranteeing freedom and the rule of popular opinion could not ensure that citizens would respect one another's inalienable rights. The Civil War, suffrage for women, and the civil rights movement would, generations later, highlight this tension between the will of the people and the rights of minorities.
Diggins' Adams is a man whose reputation for snobbery and failure are wholly undeserved, and whose prescient modernism still holds valuable lessons for us as we strive to fulfill the Founding Fathers' vision of a fair republic and just society. He is, in Diggins' view, the president who comes closest to Plato's ideal of philosopher-king.
Perhaps no U.S. president was less suited for the practice of politics than John Adams. A gifted philosopher who helped lead the movement for American independence from its inception, Adams was unprepared for the realities of party politics that had already begun to dominate the new country before Washington left office. But, as John Patrick Diggins shows, Adams's contributions still resonate today.
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Jefferson described his election to the presidency as a second American Revolution. Historian Joyce Appleby, rigorously explores this claim. She argues that he did, in fact, transform the political landscape of the US by limiting the power of the government and eradicating the elitist practices inherited from the colonial era. His struggle to transfer influence from the upper class to the common citizen while limiting the power of the American government created a powerful vision of liberty and democracy.
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While John Quincy Adams' natural tendencies were toward a contemplative life filled with art and literature, his path was predestined - the law and then public service. It is no wonder that later, as a grown man, accomplished and admired, he was spoken of as cold and austere, even misanthropic.
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The similarities between the controversial elections of 1876 and 2000 have brought Rutherford B. Hayes back into public memory. In 1876, Hayes's opponent, Samuel Tilden, won the popular vote and led the Electoral College, but when the returns in some states were disputed, a special electoral commission handed the presidency to Hayes. Historian Hans L. Trefousse recounts the obstacles, triumphs, and real legacy of Hayes' presidency.
Regular price: $14.60