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Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

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Citation Edit

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (text available here).

Overview Edit

As early as 1798, Congress enacted the Sedition Act, now widely regarded as a violation of the most fundamental principles of freedom of expression.[1]

The Acts consisted of four bills passed by the Federalists in the 5th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798 in the aftermath of the French Revolution and during an undeclared naval war with France, later known as the Quasi-War.

The Acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, and allowed the President to imprison or deport aliens which were considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States." They also restricted speech which was critical of the federal government.

Authored by the Federalists, the laws were designed under the guise of national security but were regarded as an attempt to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. The Acts were met with wide spread disapproval among Democrat-Republicans and ultimately helped their victory in the election of 1800 when Thomas Jefferson became President.

The Sedition Act and the Alien Friends Act were allowed to expire in 1800 and 1801, respectively. The Naturalization Act was repealed in 1802. The Alien Enemies Act remains in effect as 50 U.S.C. §§21–24.

References Edit

  1. Liberty and Security in a Changing World, at 53.

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