Adams’ administration faced strong congressional opposition from the beginning. The opposition’s leader was Vice President John C. Calhoun, who took advantage of Senate rules to appoint anti-Adams majorities to major Senate committees. One result was the “Onslow-Patrick Henry” debate, a newspaper exchange between Calhoun and an Adams supporter over Calhoun’s actions.
Besides thwarting the goals Adams laid out in his inaugural, Calhoun also cooperated with Martin Van Buren and Thomas Ritchie to create today’s Democratic Party. As envisioned by Van Buren, the Democratic Party was a Jeffersonian party–devoted to limited government, states’ rights, and strict construction. Among other things, it made Adams a one-term president.
Adams, a former Federalist, was essentially a Federalist in constitutionalism, although not when it came to sociology. Neither Federalists nor Democrats of that period can be equated to either of today’s political parties; each bears some resemblance to each of today’s political parties. This subject is worth an entire lecture.