Tuesday, November 6, 2012
History: John Adams and the U.S. Navy
In the popular mind, the memory of John Adams has been poisoned to a large degree by false remembrance. His support of - and even insistence on - the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts has made him persona non grata among those who would embrace all comers as part of the U.S. melting pot. It's a slippery slope to trust that everyone - absolutely everyone - that comes to your country comes with a bag full of hope and good intentions. Adams knew that very well. Having traveled more than any of the other founding fathers by the time he was elected to the highest office, he knew how much other countries coveted all that America had.
Adams, however, was a visionary who understood long before Teddy Roosevelt that to "walk softly and carry a big stick" was the best strategy in the treacherous world of international politics. He knew England, France and Spain - all superpowers whose grip on the New World was slipping - wanted America back. He knew that the only way they could achieve that was to send men and arms here by ship. He knew that a strong, capably manned and well equipped Navy was the one sure way to stop that from happening.
I had planned to discuss John Adams' pioneering advocacy for the U.S. Navy and for privateering as well but there is no reason for me to reinvent the wheel. Click over to Naval History Blog to read historian David McCullough's brilliant lecture on just that subject. His focus on the importance of "the war that never was" - America's entirely nautical Quasi-War with France - is a fascinating evaluation of a time that Americans have largely chosen to forget but that was so very important to the shaping of the country and indeed the world that we know today.
The French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, once said of John Adams that his "pedantry, stubbornness, and self-importance will give rise to a thousand vexations."
Adams, in reply, said simply: "Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right." Spoken like a true Yankee.
Header: America by David Armstrong via American Gallery ~ U.S. citizens, get out and vote today; it matters!