I alluded to Adam's desire before to be loved by history but loathed by the people and nothing speaks to this more than his refusal to take action against Britain or France during his term when both countries were slapping the young republic around.
"If virtue was to be rewarded by wealth, it would not be virtue. If virtue was to be rewarded with fame, it would not be virtue of the sublimest kind."
Neither country was treating America with much respect.
The New England delegation of Adam's own party- the Federalists were pushing for warmer relations with Britain while the Jeffersonians wanted better relations with France.
As the French grew more bold and insulting towards America, many were screaming for the country to declare war on France. At this point, French privateers were seizing American commercial ships.
When an American peace delegation went to Paris, they were literally asked for a bribe. Adams however, refused to give in to the gut reaction of declaring war and continued to press for peace.
He built up the Navy as a way to form a 'wooden wall' around the country, protect commercial vessels and prevent foreign invasions while not provoking war. He recognized that either an alliance with France or Britain would force the young country to war against the other and the best options was to remain as Switzerland would in the 20th century.
As a man who was offended so easily, it's surprising that Adams had such a 'humble' foreign policy.
I wonder what he would think of the 'War on Terror' we're fighting today?