The First Term of the Adams PresidencyEdit
"Then make them exist."
-Vice President Alexander Hamilton on the non-existent US army and navy
The first international crisis to hit Adams was something that had been going on for a decade in Europe and that Washington had tried to distance himself from as far as possible. The French Revolution had toppled King Louis XVI and beheaded him and his family. Europe was engulfed in war as the French tried to imitate their American cousins across the Atlantic, only they added more blood and much, much more beheading. Guilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, French Hero of the War for Independence, had taken it upon himself to be the George Washington of France. He seemed, however, to go off track fairly soon, and after 1790 and the Feast of the Federation (which was the establishment of the constitutional monarchy), lost power to men much more radical men, like Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, who turned around and beheaded Louis.
After Robespierre's own execution, the Committee of Public Safety which had long governed France lost power, and was succeeded by the less-radical Directory. Less-radical or not, the American public loathed the French Republicans and Washington and Adams' diplomats told them that the war debts that were owed were owed to the French Crown, not to the Directory. France became inflamed, and what followed was known as the RST Affair.The RST Affair took its name from the letters R, S, and T, which were used instead of the French ambassadors' real names in documents released by Adams' administration. In the documents, the oily and infamous Monsieur Talleyrand, French Foreign Minister, demanded that America stop following the Madison Treaty of 1794, which made Great Britain America's chief trading partner. France was furious over the treaty, and as French and British ships seized trading vessels dealing with their enemies, 300 American ships were captured or sunk and their crews held for ransom or pressed into service. Talleyrand demanded not only money to pay that ransom, but also money to even begin bargaining in the first place. Adams, thinking the same way as the public, was insulted, and refused to kowtow to the Directory.
Adams was willing to accept the imprisonment of the sailors, thanks to Hamilton discussing it with him. Hamilton promised that the sailors, as neutrals, would remain in prison until the next French government took power and tried to get in the USA's good graces ("and they always do").
However, not agreeing to play Talleyrand's game incensed the Directory even further. On July 4, 1798, off the coast of Florida, the USS Trenton was sunk and the USS Charleston was captured by 12 French Republican Navy warships. The French had killed much of the crews, and among the dead was US Ambassador to France and devout Federalist, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
The American public cried out for war, but Adams hesitated. If he declared war, it would likely entail an Anglo-American Alliance, something which made him and many other people uncomfortable, to say the least. Hamilton was not sure what to do, for once, and simply sent the Directory an order to hand over the hostages and the Pinckney Affair would be forgiven.
Finally, he and the Congress opened discussions with the British Empire for a possible alliance to punish France. King George III, growing more insane every day, suddenly broke the deal, much to the disdain of his ambassadors. They said if he was sane, he would have agreed, but his insanity did not void his orders. Britain was not going to ally itself to the USA, that was now clear to New York. Adams fumbled day after day as public outcry grew against his bungling of the RST and Pinckney Affairs and his own encroaching on their rights, like his imprisoning of Worthington the newspaperman and several other similar incidents.
Hamilton had a new strategy. If America would be preoccupied fighting off the French, the people would be less inclined to quarrel over "petty politics." Adams retorted by saying the US Army and Navy was almost nonexistent. Hamilton replied simply: "Then make them exist." Adams retorted again, saying that there were no young officers to lead them after they "are made to exist." Hamilton answered that old Revolutionary War officers could be called out of retirement, and that France's star general, Napoleone di Buonaparte, was entrenched in Egypt, surrounded by Lord Nelson's British fleet. Hamilton went on, thinking as he spoke, telling Adams that it was now a perfect time to seize Louisiana from the Spanish, allied to France by the Treaty of San Ildefonso. Adams couldn't believe what he was hearing... at first. Then, he brought the elderly Washington out of retirement and told him to prepare to invade Louisiana and told Admiral John Paul Jones to ready the "fleet" to combat the French Republican Navy.
Washington and Jones couldn't believe what they were hearing either.And so, on January 1, 1799, the US government rang in the New Year by declaring war on the Republic of France and the Kingdom of Spain. The Madness had begun. Thomas Jefferson and his Anti-Federalists said the war was completely and reprehensibly stupid, and that Adams had been brainwashed by Hamilton into thinking the tiny USA was a military giant. As for Hamilton himself, they said he was simply an egotistical incompetent who had lost his mind . Some arrests were made of Jeffersonians for "seditious speech and slander against the President of the United States in Congress Assembled." More outrage followed. Adams just locked himself up in the Presidential Mansion with his advisers and stayed there, far from the public eye. Hamilton continued directing affairs, becoming the real power in the government.
On March 5, the US Army crossed the border into Louisiana, the men eager to fight under the Great Washington, and most expected quick victories. They weren't disappointed when, at what the Americans called the Battle of Alligator Ridge, a "Spanish" force was absolutely dismantled by Washington's "genius." In reality, it had been only a small detachment of scouts, most not even Spanish but Creoles and Indians. Washington marched his men into the mouth of Hell at the Battle of Boggy Swamp (March 20), followed by the Battle of Port Richelieu (March 28) (the Battle of Port Richelieu also entailed a minor naval debacle). If the US generals had had any sense, they would have either attempted a landing near New Orleans, which if conquered would have meant the end of Spanish rule, or would have attacked the sparsely-populated north, which would have eventually resulted in American rule everywhere but New Orleans (which would enable an easy capture of the city at a later date). Instead, as Jefferson put it, it was an unmitigated military disaster, and Washington said they just needed to "show some gumption. If we do that, Louisiana is ours." 2000 American soldiers had been killed. 4000 Louisiana troops had died, mostly militia, and made the formerly friendly, anti-Spanish Francophone population hate the Americans.The final nail in the Louisiana Invasion coffin came in December, 1799, when Washington was shot and killed by an Indian scout. An ironic death, considering Indian scouts in the French and Indian War had shot his commander and deliberately spared him at Braddock's Defeat. The nation wept bitterly as their hero's casket was marched home and buried at Mount Vernon. The Invasion was over, and massacres of several towns by fuming US soldiers exiting the Spanish colony left the Louisianans bitter and wanting revenge.
Meanwhile, Admiral Jones had proven himself a genius... at avoiding sending the pitiful US Navy to the bottom of the drink. A series of naval retreats and then stopping long enough to fire broadsides had harassed the French and saved American ships.
Hamilton was not happy though. He demanded Jones pick an easy target and attack. The Battle of Port Richelieu had just occurred, and the public needed something to cheer about. Protesting, Jones refused to go on a suicide binge. Hamilton had him removed and replaced with the pitiful Admiral Nathanael Butterworth. Butterworth followed orders... and attacked a French fleet south-west of the English Channel and lost half his ships. The US Navy drifted back to New York harbor beaten and bloodied, and it was announced that it wouldn't be a seaworthy fleet in a year. Adams and Hamilton were horrified.
The American public was furious with the Adams Administration and open calls for impeachment became commonplace in everyday life. Thomas Jefferson's support reached new heights, and James Madison began referring to Hamilton as "Alexander the Ungreat." Napoleone di Buonaparte had, on October 9, returned to France and shortly after set himself up as dictator of the country, and he was not pleased with the nascent Americans being a pain in Marianne's rear.
The election of 1801 was fast approaching, and the Federalists were going to lose in an unimaginable landslide. But they would win thanks to voting fraud, said Hamilton, just like the first time. This time, though, the citizens were suspicious. If Adams won, they'd know he'd cheated. Adams sank into a deep depression, and just before the campaigning season announced to friends he was dropping out to make room for Hamilton and Rufus King to run. Hamilton panicked, and barely convinced him to stay on board, as Hamilton was so unpopular that if he won by any percentage, the people would know it was fraud.
The Madness was about to destroy the country...