Adams sent the delegation for three reasons. The first reason
centered on Hamilton, who in 1798 pressed hard for the creation of a vastly expanded Provisional Army (“New Army”) of 10,000 - 30,000 men to be ready for war against France. Adams was more-than-fine with an expanded Navy, but he saw an expanded Army as dangerous, expensive, and utterly unnecessary/useless against France. Adams came to realize that Hamilton was trying to become an American Caesar with the New Army, with the ultimate goal of installing himself as a military dictator. So, if there was no war with France, there would be no need for the New Army, which would then de-fang Hamilton. Secondly, JQA had even more intelligence than Gerry, telling his father that Talleyrand himself was eager for peace with the US, which meant that the peace delegation would ultimately be successful. Thirdly, Adams found great personal satisfaction in succeeding in the face of what both rival parties wanted, and that his decision must have been the right one since both parties railed against his action. Like President Jimmy Carter, Adams valued long-term national interest over short-term politics.
Where Adams saw problems that needed to be solved for the good of the nation, Jefferson and Madison saw opportunities to advance the Republican cause at the expense of the Federalists, a political party that they believed was the enemy to the principles of the Revolution. To Jefferson and Madison, it was a Zero Sum Game, in that if the Republicans gained, the Federalists lost. Even though Adams alienated himself from the Federalists, Jefferson and Madison targeted Adams in the Republican newspapers nonetheless. Jefferson and Madison had talked themselves into believing that Adams actually wanted war with France, and they also believed that Adams had fabricated the entire XYZ Affair in order to mobilize public opinion for war (Interestingly, Jefferson knew better, since he knew that Washington had endorsed Adams’ decision, but he went along with Madison). Adams did his best to isolate himself from the ideological warfare between the two parties, while Jefferson and Madison focused on building momentum at the expense of Adams and the Federalists for the Election of 1800.
The capstone of Jefferson’s and Madison’s opposition to the Federalists were the
Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 - 1799. Jefferson visited Madison at Montpelier on 2 & 3 July 1798 in order to discuss strategy. The Alien and Sedition Acts passed on 4 July 1798; to the Federalists, it was the perfect day-and-way to celebrate the nation’s independence. During August/September 1798, Jefferson worked alone at Monticello in order to write the Kentucky Resolutions (in effect, Jefferson was a ghostwriter using the Kentucky state legislature as his publisher). Jefferson took what would become the classic states’ rights position, arguing that a state had the right to interpret, and then if desired, nullify an Act of Congress (and if ultimately necessary . . . secede). Fortunately for Jefferson, the Kentucky state legislature removed the passages concerning overt nullification and secession, in that such open defiance of federal authority was deemed too risky given the current political landscape.
The desire to project a unified Republican front against the Federalists trumped any differences Jefferson and Madison had over the question of where sovereignty should be located in the new republic. Jefferson and Madison had the extra advantage in that they didn’t have to do too much to tear down the Federalists, since the Federalists were doing a nice job of going down the road to ruin enforcing the Alien and Sedition Acts. Had the Election of 1800 in the Electoral College occurred a week or two later, Adams may have defeated Jefferson in that the news of the treaty that ended the quasi-war with France arrived after the election, and too late to help Adams.
In the end, the maneuverings/shenanigans of Aaron Burr in New York that gave Jefferson 12 Electoral Votes proved to be the difference in the Election of 1800 (Jefferson 73; Adams 65). Too late to have made a difference in the election as Hamilton’s 54 page diatribe against Adams in a pamphlet (Hamilton saw Adams as the villain that denied him glory as an American Caesar). Hamilton showed the deep divisions within the Federalists, and that he was out of his mind; writing that pamphlet was just as reckless as deciding to face Burr in The Duel.
Jefferson saw his victory as a recovery (renewal) of the principles of the Revolutionary War. It turned out that Adams had it wrong, in that he could have separated the long-term collective national interest from partisan politics if he had chosen to do so, which in effect lost him re-election. Now that Jefferson was President, he no could no longer claim to be above the (political) fray. Meanwhile, Adams had to move to the new Presidential mansion in the new capital while the House of Representatives tried to sort out the tie in the Electoral College
between Jefferson and Burr (each received 73 Electoral Votes). Adams and Jefferson didn’t exchange another word for twelve years . . .