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JOHN ADAMS

John Adams (1797), the second American president, sent envoys to France to try to solve a disagreement. Angry that the Americans would be agreeing with the British under Jay's Treaty when they should be loyal to the French under the Franco-American Alliance, the French had begun seizing American ships at sea. After an aborted negotiation called the XYZ Affair (1797) for the coded names of three French envoys who tried to extort a bribe from the United States, both sides got over their bad feelings and signed the Convention of 1800, which ended their formal alliance.

Tip

Don't miss the forest for the trees. The AP exam cares about trends, not a whirlwind of treaty names. The individual names are like a bonus round: You get extra points for remembering. The main trend to understand from all the early U.S. diplomacy is that the new nation was wisely avoiding war and slowly gaining respect. If the United States had fought a war with France in 1800, the French surely wouldn't have sold America the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

What with all the international and domestic political tensions, the ruling Federalists in Congress went overboard and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798). These acts made criticizing the president a crime, raised the waiting time for citizenship from 5 to 17 years, and allowed the government to deport any noncitizens it didn't like.

The U.S. appeared to be on the path to becoming a police-state, but Jefferson fought the repressive laws every step of the way, and they expired at the end of Adams's one term as president. Jefferson and James Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (1798), which were passed by these states to protest the repressive Alien and Sedition Acts. In fighting the laws, Jefferson took an extreme turn in the antigovernment direction and introduced the concept of nullification, saying that any state could refuse to follow a federal law it didn't like. This concept would come back to haunt the country in the run up to the Civil War.

Example

Question: What were the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions?

Answer: Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions championed states' rights against the Alien and Sedition Acts.

 
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