1797-1825 (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe)

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The Dilemma: Can we be truly a UNITED people? Can we avoid factionalism?

The Party system: No; the left and right emerge.


1797–1801   John Adams

John Adams (October 30, 1735[a] – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain, and also served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history including his wife and adviser, Abigail, and his letters and other papers are an important source of historical information about the era.



1801–1809   Thomas Jefferson (24.19.1)

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743[a] – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

Although regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy and republicanism in the era of the Enlightenment, Jefferson's historical legacy is mixed. Some modern scholarship has been critical of Jefferson's private life, pointing out the contradiction between his ownership of the large numbers of slaves that worked his plantations and his famous declaration that "all men are created equal." Another point of controversy stems from the evidence that after his wife Martha died in 1782, Jefferson fathered children with Martha's half-sister, Sally Hemings, who was his slave. Despite this, presidential scholars and historians generally praise his public achievements, including his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia.  

1809–1817 James Madison

James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751[b] – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the United States Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights. He also co-wrote The Federalist Papers, co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, and served as the fifth United States Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809.

Madison succeeded Jefferson with a victory in the 1808 presidential election. After diplomatic protests and a trade embargo failed to end British attacks against American shipping, he led the United States into the War of 1812. The war was an administrative morass and ended inconclusively, but many Americans saw it as a successful "second war of independence" against Britain. The war convinced Madison of the necessity of a stronger federal government, and he presided over the creation of the Second Bank of the United States and the enactment of the protective Tariff of 1816. He retired from public office in 1817 and died in 1836.

1817–1825    James Monroe (29.89)

James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth U.S. president, oversaw major westward expansion of the U.S. and strengthened American foreign policy in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, a warning to European countries against further colonization and intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Monroe, a Virginia native, fought with the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83) then embarked on a long political career. A protégé of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Monroe was a delegate to the Continental Congress and served as a U.S. senator, governor of Virginia and minister to France and Great Britain. In 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S. As president, he acquired Florida, and also dealt with the contentious issue of slavery in new states joining the Union with the 1820 Missouri Compromise.