The relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was one of the most iconic and symbolic relationships in American history not only for its many ups and downs, but also for its great effects on the founding and governing of America.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met for the first time in 1775 and almost immediately developed a friendly liking toward each other. For the first two decades of their friendship, Jefferson and Adams constantly exchanged praises and affection to one another. Jefferson described Adams as “so amiable” that anyone would “love him if becoming acquainted.” Adams also wrote to Jefferson that “intimate correspondence with you is one of the most agreeable events in my life.”
The two men worked together in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and also traveled together to France for diplomatic service. When drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, both agreed that America should not merge into one national government but should try to establish a confederacy of states instead, in which each state would have a separate government. Adams and Jefferson shared the same view in advocating for reconciliation and calling for Americans to stand up for their independence because they both believed that the country could not be able to progress under ruling of Britain. Adams and Jefferson also together supported the bill of rights in order to protect citizens and other government’s members from presidents’ having limitless power and becoming “tyrants.” The many common political views shared between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were one of the main reasons that helped tighten the bonding of their friendship during the first two decades.
Early 1790s, Adams and Jefferson showed major different views in politics, which started to negatively affect their friendship. In 1793, John Adams wrote about Jefferson: “His soul is poisoned with ambition.” Conflicts between them became obvious during the election in 1796, in which both of them were presidential candidates. John Adams represented the Federalists and Jefferson represented the Republicans. John Adams won the election by only three electoral votes, leaving Thomas Jefferson to vice president position. John Adams did not feel comfortable communicating with people, especially those who were non-elites. This social and behavioral illness of John Adams made him not well-suited for being a president. Jefferson later wrote about this matter: “[Adam] is vain, irritable, and a bad calculator of the force and probable effect of the motives which govern men.”
Another difference between Adams and Jefferson’s views was about religious liberty. In 1779, Jefferson advocated for freedom of religious exercise through Bill for the Establishment of Religious Freedom in Virginia. At the same time, Adams advocated for one public religion. Although Adams did believe that too little religious freedom could lead to hypocrisy, he also believed that too much religious freedom could lead to depravity. This case was not fully closed until 1940s when Supreme Court decided to go with Jefferson’s religious liberty.
Despite their different political views and bitter comments toward each other, Adams and Jefferson’s friendship didn’t completely cut off until after the 1800 election and Judiciary Act of 1801. After the French crisis in 1798-1799 and all the damages that Federalists had caused during this time, Federalism was no longer favored by the majority of Americans. Citizens were furious and blamed Federalists and President Adams of adding $10 million to the national debt. Taking advantage of this situation, Republicans put extra effort into making vice president Thomas Jefferson the winner of the 1800 election. Result was that Adams lost by only eight electoral votes, and Jefferson became new president. Right before the bitter loss of presidency to Jefferson, Adams had authorized...