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A John Adams Story


This morning, I came across an interesting little interview of the Republican Presidential Hopefuls, where the question was posed, “Who should be the fifth president on Mount Rushmore?” I’d have to say I’m with Perry on this one — there are enough Presidents on Mount Rushmore; why add another? But I also expected to hear a few “Ronald Reagans” mentioned, which I did… what I didn’t expect was for the name of a VEEP to come up. Was it Truman? Silent Cal?

Not quite…

Mitt Romney feels JOHN ADAMS would make a great addition to Mount Rushmore!

… Really?! Anyone with a clear idea of history would find it EXTREMELY curious that Adams deserves such a prominent memorial. Let’s start with his vice presidency. In his opinion, this position was “laborious” and “wholly insignificant.” He took great pride in lecturing the senate until members were bored to tears. Even Benjamin Franklin confessed that Adams was wise and honest, but “sometimes, in some things, absolutely out of his senses.”

john adams

What A Snoot…

Adams was one of those annoying founding fathers who longed for more traces of royalty in the American presidency. He thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have “His Majesty The President” or “His Mighty Benign Highness” in America? Few agreed and he soon became known as “His Royal Rotundity” behind his back. Adams didn’t quite find the humor in their sentiment, which sparked him to come up with the famous quote: “I have reached the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, two are called a law firm, and three or more become a Congress.”

Gross, Dude…

Not only was he notoriously snobbish, obstinate, curmudgeonly and difficult to get along with, but Adams was also a little bit gross. He smoked, drank and ate to excess, which gave him a frumpy, swine-like demeanor. He refused to wear false teeth after losing his own and spoke with a particularly horrid lisp. His health was poor and he was constantly depressed. He was, however, very self aware, admitting, “I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular.”

second vp

The Presidency

Say what you will, but somehow this crank became the president. You’d think he’d finally be happy to have the #1 spot in the land — an aspiration of all VEEPs, to be fair — but alas… John Adams wanted to be King of America. He is frequently characterized as independent-minded and power-hungry. He was emotional, insecure and ungracious in defeat. The controversial Alien & Sedition Acts were passed during his presidency to limit any criticism of his administration and deport anyone he didn’t quite care for. He was also criticized for appointing “midnight judges” right before Jefferson’s election to undermine the new Democrat-Republican executive branch with his Federalist judge friends. To his credit, he did build up our Navy and avoid war with France through diplomacy (although this was a very unpopular position at the time).

So one has to wonder… what was Romney thinking when he recommended a carving of John Adams on Mount Rushmore? Did he just like the fact that he, too, is from Massachusetts? Or was he impressed that no major personal scandal overshadowed the Adams reign?

As John Adams himself said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

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