John Adams

Presidential term: March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Vice president: Thomas Jefferson (1797–1801)

It was during Adams’s rule that the government officers left Philadelphia and went to settle in their new quarters at Washington. We are told that both Capitol and White House then stood in a sort of wilderness. Besides, there were so few visitors, and life was so simple, that the lights in the White House were always out before ten, and that Mrs. Adams used what is now the famous East Room to dry clothes in whenever it rained.

Although the Americans knew they were not strong enough to fight France then, they nevertheless felt ready to give every cent they had to uphold the nation’s honor. As it now seemed as if the United States would soon be engaged in war, Congress asked Washington to resume his old place as general in chief. However anxious to rest, Washington could not refuse, but he begged permission to choose the generals he wished to help him, and to remain quietly at home until actual war began. Still, although he staid at Mount Vernon, Washington was now very active in getting ready, for he well knew and wisely said that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

War had already begun on the sea, however, and our small navy was doing wonders, when a sudden change of government in France put an end to all hostilities. The United States had no cause to quarrel with the new government, so the war between our country and France ceased before it reached our shores. It was during this war scare that Joseph Hopkinson wrote the words of “Hail Columbia,” setting them to the famous “President’s March,” composed for Washington’s inauguration. Since then this song has been sung by millions of our countrymen, for it is one of our national airs.

All the preparations made for the war cost so much money that heavier taxes had to be laid upon the people. This made them so angry that a few of them rebelled. Led by Fries, they made a riot, which was quickly put down by President Adams, who firmly insisted that the laws of the country should be obeyed.

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