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History Friday! JQA vs. Jefferson

During the presidency of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson rose to become one of Adam’s chief opponents.  Jefferson, the VP, was the de facto leader of the Republican opposition.  It was a time where politicians were demonized more so than we do our pols today.  The major difference being that the media was split equally between the Federalists and Republicans.

When Thomas Jefferson was revealed to be the author of a letter, degrading President John Adams’s earlier pamphlet.  The letter called the opinions previously espoused by Adams “the political heresies that have sprung among us” among other things.  A series of letters in response were published in Boston’s Columbian Centinelunder the pen name “Publicola.”

Publicola, was none other than the able Federalist and son of the President, John Quincy Adams rising to his father’s defense.  He called Jefferson out for his demonization of those he disagreed with in calling those opinions “heresy.”

Adams wrote:

I am somehat at a loss to determine what this very respectable gentlemen means by political heresies. Does he consider this pamphlet of Mr Paine’s as a canonical book of poitical scripture  As containing the true doctrine of popular infallibility from which it would be heretical to depart in one single point?  …. I have always understood sir, that the citizens of these states were possessed of a full and entire freedom of opinion upon all subjects …. 

Adams went on to make the case that the men could disagree without demonizing one another through Biblical language.  It is interestingly relevant today.  Republicans made good use of this in 2010.  2012 is the Democrat year.  A recent study showed that while Romney was attacking Obama almost exclusively on policy, Obama was attacking Romney personally.

Whether it be Romney’s personal character being called into question through his religion, his tax returns, his tax accounts or his business practices — Obama has been deeply personal.  It is noticeable because Obama is different.  Or, he was suppossed to be.  But he could learn something from John Quincy Adams’ words.  You can disagree without demonizing.

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