An Honest Man
The Inimitable Presidency of John Adams
Lindsay M Chervinsky
John Adams’s presidency hasn’t gotten a lot of respect. He is admired for other accomplishments, but his term as the second president tends to be treated as an exception. It would have been difficult for anyone to follow George Washington, and Adams’s various foibles, and some decisions he made in office, have consigned him to being remembered as one of the least effective presidents.
But as presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky argues in An Honest Man: The Inimitable Presidency of John Adams, Adams’s presidency served to save a divided nation. He took office with little guidance from his predecessor, and was soon faced with an intense partisan divide, debates over immigration and citizenship, fears of political violence, potential for foreign conflict, and a citizenry unconvinced that the presidency could even function without Washington.
Adams would keep the nation on an even keel domestically and in world affairs. He defended the integrity of elections, helped to define the role of the president for future administrations, and participated in a peaceful transition of power from one party to another even when it cost him his political future.
Every once and so often there is a chance to refurbish a president’s reputation and it is past time to reconsider Adams’s term as president, which has largely been considered the low point of his political career. An Honest Man challenges that perception, suggesting that it was Adams’s ability to lead the country through disorder and disruption – and his determined actions to protect the executive branch and establish its authority – that preserved the presidency for posterity.