Since 2016, the “deep state” has become a term synonymous with liberal bureaucrats who have hijacked the federal government in an attempt to thwart President Trump and his policies, and remove him from office. Whether it’s the Russia hoax or the Ukranian call, unelected government workers have helped fuel a corrosive and divisive political atmosphere.
What is the deep state by definition?
The deep state can be defined as “a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.”
In 1797, there was not a big government bureaucracy and issues of liberty and constraint on government were still important in the shadow of the Revolutionary War.
In the election of 1796, John Adams (a Federalist) was elected as the 2nd President of the United States. His rival was Republican Thomas Jefferson. As the person who came in 2nd place, Jefferson automatically became vice-president.
The two men had been extremely close throughout the Revolutionary War. They wrote the Declaration of Independence together and served several years in France on a diplomatic mission to secure France’s help in defeating the British. Not only were the two men close, but so were their families.
Partisan Politics and the Deep State of the late 1790s
Adams and Jefferson are known to have been the founders of the party system and Federalists and Republicans were at odds with one another about virtually everything.
After the campaign of 1796, a deep animosity developed between Adams and Jefferson — especially over the issue of aiding the French in their own independence. Adams and the Federalists felt strongly that the new nation could not afford to get in the middle of France’s internal issues or their ongoing feud with England. However, Jefferson felt as strongly that America must come to France’s aid – we owed that to them due to their support in helping secure America’s independence.
Of Jefferson, Adams once said, “He (Jefferson) will have too many French about him to flatter him, but I hope we can keep him steady.”
That was easier said than done.
As Vice-President to George Washington, Adams was extremely loyal to the president. However, due to their extreme political differences, he quickly realized Jefferson would not be loyal to him.
Jefferson Undermines Adams
By May of 1797, America was involved in an “Undeclared War” at sea with France. Adams was doing all he could to avoid war but was also willing to prepare for it if need be.
This infuriated Jefferson.
The vice-president began working behind the scenes to undermine Adams and became the leader of the opposition. He wrote letters and offered support to the Republican press to smear Adams. In private letters, Jefferson accused Adams of “willfully endangering the peace.” Many federalists suspected Jefferson of treason.
To make matters worse, Jefferson met privately with the French charge͐ d’affaires (Ambassador) Philippe-Henry-Joseph de Letombe and encouraged the French to “drag out the negotiations at length.” He reminded the French that Adams’ term was only four years and that things would change.
In a separate letter to Letombe, undermining Adams, even more, Jefferson said, “Mr. Adams is vain, irritable, stubborn, endowed with excessive self-love, and still suffering pique at the preference accorded (Benjamin) Franklin over him in Paris.”
To us, this sounds like nothing. However, in their time it was quite uncommon and considered extremely rude for a man of enlightenment.
Jefferson Set the Example of the Deep State
At one point in Adams’ presidency, the two men did not talk for nearly a year. Partisan politics destroyed their friendship and if they had talked as they once did they would have found they had much more in agreement than either knew. In fact, Jefferson would have been shocked at Adams’ thoughts about the entire matter of war and peace.
Neither wanted war with France. Ultimately, Adams’ policies were right and a war was averted.
Unfortunately, Jefferson met the very definition of the “deep state” as he secretly and purposely sought manipulation and control of government policy when it was not his place to do so in the Constitution. The president sets foreign policy, not the vice-president.
Ultimately, the issue and partisanship setup the dirtiest and one of the most contentious elections in American history in 1800. Jefferson succeeded in undermining and manipulating the situation to his advantage and defeated Adams soundly to become the 3rd President of the United States.
Would that have happened if Jefferson had been cooperative?
Jefferson set many positive examples for Americans throughout all generations to appreciate and admire.
But, he also set a terrible precedent that one can manipulate a situation to achieve a political outcome if it’s believed to be right even when the process for doing so is wrong.
Yet, at the end of their lives, Adams and Jefferson would rekindle their friendship. Of Jefferson, Adams wrote, “I do not believe that Mr. Jefferson ever hated me… but he detested Hamilton and my whole administration… Then he wished to be President of the United States, and I stood in his way. So he did everything he could to pull me down… I forgive all my enemies… we are upon our ancient terms of goodwill.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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