Alien and Sedition Acts

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Alien and Sedition Acts,

1798, four laws enacted by the Federalist-controlled U.S. Congress, allegedly in response to the hostile actions of the French Revolutionary government on the seas and in the councils of diplomacy (see XYZ AffairXYZ Affair,
name usually given to an incident (1797–98) in Franco-American diplomatic relations. The United States had in 1778 entered into an alliance with France, but after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars was both unable and unwilling to lend aid.
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), but actually designed to destroy Thomas Jefferson's Republican party, which had openly expressed its sympathies for the French Revolutionaries. Depending on recent arrivals from Europe for much of their voting strength, the Republicans were adversely affected by the Naturalization Act, which postponed citizenship, and thus voting privileges, until the completion of 14 (rather than 5) years of residence, and by the Alien Act and the Alien Enemies Act, which gave the President the power to imprison or deport aliens suspected of activities posing a threat to the national government. President John Adams made no use of the alien acts. Most controversial, however, was the Sedition Act, devised to silence Republican criticism of the Federalists. Its broad proscription of spoken or written criticism of the government, the Congress, or the President virtually nullified the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press. Prominent Jeffersonians, most of them journalists, such as John Daly Burk, James T. Callender, Thomas CooperCooper, Thomas,
1759–1839, American scientist, educator, and political philosopher, b. London, educated at Oxford. His important works include Political Essays (1799); the appendixes to the Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley (2 vol.
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, William DuaneDuane, William,
1760–1835, American journalist, b. near Lake Champlain, N.Y., of Irish parentage. He learned the printer's trade in Ireland and in 1787 went to Calcutta (now Kolkata), where he edited the Indian World.
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 (1760–1835), and Matthew LyonLyon, Matthew,
1750–1822, American political leader and pioneer, b. Co. Wicklow, Ireland. He emigrated to America in 1765, settling eventually in Vermont. During the American Revolution he served with Ethan Allen. After the war he moved (1783) to the town of Fair Haven, Vt.
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 were tried, and some were convicted, in sedition proceedings. The Alien and Sedition Acts provoked the Kentucky and Virginia ResolutionsKentucky and Virginia Resolutions,
in U.S. history, resolutions passed in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were enacted by the Federalists in 1798. The Jeffersonian Republicans first replied in the Kentucky Resolutions, adopted by the Kentucky legislature in Nov.
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 and did much to unify the Republican party and to foster Republican victory in the election of 1800. The Republican-controlled Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802; the others were allowed to expire (1800–1801).


See J. C. Miller, Crisis in Freedom (1951, repr. 1964); J. M. Smith, Freedom's Fetters (1956); L. Levy, Legacy of Suppression (1960).

References in periodicals archive ?
7) He secretly drafted a set of resolutions for adoption by the North Carolina legislature, which he sought to use as a vehicle for voicing opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Republicans who defend the trampling of the Bill of Rights in the name of "national security" or "the war on terror" would do well to remember how the infamous alien and sedition acts brought down the Federalist Party after the administration of John Adams.
From the Alien and Sedition Acts to Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and his imprisonment of anti-war editors, from the suppression of speech during World War I and the Palmer Raids to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the repression of the McCarthy days, the government has seized upon times of peril to scapegoat immigrants and to suppress liberties.
The Alien and Sedition Acts were devised by the Federalist-controlled Congress mainly as an attempt to deprive Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party of a portion of its voting strength by postponing citizenship from five years to 14.
McCullough criticizes Adams only once, taking him to task for signing the tyrannical Alien and Sedition acts.
First, considering John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts, there is a very important word that Kennedy included that causes me concern.
The last straw for Jefferson and his followers was the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 by the Federalists.
Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798: Prompted by concern over the threat of war, it made people from "enemy" nations ineligible for citizenship and authorized deportations of those deemed dangerous.
Madison also led the opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts and served as Jefferson's secretary of state.
Back during the 1790s under the Alien and Sedition Acts, then during the Civil War and again in World War I, the government prosecuted editors.
Supported the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 when war with France looked imminent.