SDMB Retrospective US Presidential Elections 1796,_1796

Voting for John Adams

Voting for Adams, but I know I’m gonna regret it . . .

If you are gonna regret it then why do it?

Sometimes I think it’s funny when people complain about having no candidates to vote FOR these days. Here is the first contested presidential election and the candidates stink. Jefferson and Adams made great contributions to founding the nation but that didn’t make them good presidents. Both dithered and had glaring blind spots which would cost their administrations dearly. Jefferson (and nearly all Republicans) didn’t understand trade and Adams (and nearly all Federalists) didn’t understand popular opinion or the importance of it. I think that as individuals it’s a wash.

So we have two parties. The Federalists see themselves not as a party but the wise caretakers elected to run the new federal government after which the common people should politely step aside while the leaders got on with things. They deem themselves perceptive enough to pick winners and losers (credit being rightly restricted to gentlemen) and are wistful about the good old days before the nasty newspaper wars when politics was largely a discussion the elite held behind closed doors. They see their opponents as Antis who are against the newly empowered federal government just because and also because they control the patronage of state jobs. They also see them as democrats who cater to popular opinion to gain power.

The Republicans (the term Democratic-Republican, though widely used even by scholars, is anachronistic) also do not see themselves as a party. They see themselves as the virtuous opposition to the centralizing forces of Federalism. Their leaders certainly don’t think of themselves as democrats but as Southerners they feel less threatened by levelling impulses and rhetoric because of the stark differences between the planter class and their white neighbors. (And because they completely deny any connection of equality to the condition of slavery, of course.) The Jeffersonians believe themselves to be fully aware of of the political and economic condition of the United States but with few exceptions this is laughably optimistic. They see their opponents as monarchists who are looking to ingrain aristocratic privilege into American culture culminating with the devolution of the Republic into a new monarchy.

Of the two I tend to favor the Republicans. Their worldview certainly sucked for the slaves though so on that basis I can understand opposition to them. I think an early Jefferson Administration might be better timed. There would be no quasi-war with France and while given their single-minded pursuit of some discrimination against British goods, despite the million-pound shithammer that this would bring down upon American commerce, they weren’t likely to be friendly with Great Britain at least the newly worked out Jay Treaty would forestall an immediate confrontation.

Basically haven’t all the benefits of Federalism already occured? The centralization of political power was solidified by the demonstration of military force in the Whiskey Rebellion and the co-opting the support of the capitalists by assuming all of the debt. Relations with the mother country were normalized. Everyone was for neutrality and the nation stood to gain commercially by supplying the belligerents. Almost all that Adams adds are negatives. He doesn’t take the nation to war against France and he doesn’t resort to arms to keep the presidency after the election of 1800. Other than that there is only the legacy of John Marshal. The Chief Justice was masterful to be sure but given the rigid nature of the political branches the likely outcome is for power to accrue to the judicial branch as has happened. Why not bring in Jefferson now before Federalism forever taints itself with the Alien and Sedition Acts? Leave it as a viable national movement with a chance to recover from its aristocratic arrogance.

I’m assuming that 1796 Brainglutton doesn’t know that the Adams administration is going to be passing the Alien and Sedition Acts, while his 2014 counterpart does.

Becaus the D-Rs are nutjobs. Because I know Hamilton’s vision for America is better than Jefferson’s.

What leads you to the conclusion that Jefferson “didn’t understand trade”? Is it his praise of The Wealth of Nations, his relationship with economists such as J.B. Say, or his effort in translating multiple works of the laissez-faire Destutt de Tracy such as his Treatise on Political Economy?

Perhaps what you meant is he didn’t support mercantilism? Well, yes, he was ahead of his time when it came to the embrace of capitalist thought. He understood trade better than the economically illiterate historians who parrot this nonsense.

Adams also praised de Tracy’s treatise. So if Jefferson didn’t understand trade, how have historians somehow not attributed economic bumpkinism to Adams as well? Simply because they are largely frauds who enjoy a good yarn over the truth.

A tight race so far.

I dunno about trade, but his views on banks were pure crankery.

What specifically?

Specifically that he was against the whole “system of banking.”

That, sir, is pure crankery, with schizo sauce and a side of dumbth. And a distinctly and traditionally American form of it. Essentially, it is an aspect of the pseudoeconomic fallacy known as producerism – the idea that only people who make things you can hold in your hands are producers of “real” wealth and all others are parasitic on them.

This kind of nonsense is actually very old in American populist thought. British conservative Paul Johnson commented in his A History of the American People:

Adams. If the Democratic Republicans had won out over the Federalists we’d have a very different looking country. As a specific example, without John Adams as president we wouldn’t have John Marshall as Chief Justice, and without Marshall we’d have a very different legal system and relationship between the federal government and the states. Without Marshall we’d have no Marbury v. Madison, Fletcher v. Peck, McCulloch v. Maryland, Cohens v. Virginia, Gibbons v. Ogden, Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, and so on. Imagine no judicial review over state or federal legislation, no assertion of U.S Supreme Court authority over criminal and civil matters in state courts, etcetera…

Far from certain that we wouldn’t have gotten at least judicial review–I believe Thomas Jefferson himself was appalled by it, but it wasn’t like it was a novel concept. I voted for Jefferson, incidentally, holding my nose at plenty of things. If John Adams had a weekly podcast, it’s possible I might’ve gone the other way.

I’m talking about the Embargo of course. From the very first Congress the Republicans had been trying for punative tariffs on British manufactured items despite the fact that Great Britain was in large part the only source for these goods and the dominant naval power. While the Federalists were in charge they were able to squash these misguided impulses. What I’m arguing here is that moving Jefferson’s term up by four years putting it just after Jay’s Treaty (which pulled the rug out from under the tariff idea) and leaving the Federalists as a viable opposition might have avoided both the Embargo and even the War of 1812.

You continue to post this quote with no citation of Jefferson to back up your claims. Johnson doesn’t back it up in his screed either. I’ve mentioned the economists Jefferson was influenced by. I’ve also pointed out that Adams was on the same page as Jefferson, especially about banking. You show ignorance of the nature of money and banking during this period. It was marked by banks creating scrip out of nowhere until the inevitable bust set in. Jefferson and Adams saw the danger of these inflationary schemes and saw even clearer who they benefited.

That’s an interesting theory,but it’s a bit of a stretch to claim the embargo is proof Jefferson didn’t u understand trade. He didn’t enforce the embargo to help the economy, he enforced the embargo as an act of economic warfare. Jefferson viewed it as an alternative to war. You could say Jefferson didn’t understand how to handle the crisis, but to say he didn’t understand trade is repeating a common misconception that he was economically backward. In fact he was at the forefront of advancing capitalist thought in the US.

What are you talking about? I posted a quote of Jefferson’s expressing hostility to the very existence of banks.

Certainly not; he was an agrarian. His archrival Hamilton was the industrialist. See his Report on Manufactures and his Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. He was at the forefront.

It’s a real quote…it’s a letter from him to John Taylor, from May 28, 1816, expressing his agreement with Taylor’s book:

Let me add, here’s Taylor’s book, which Jefferson was responding to: