US History/Napp Name: __________________ Definition: Alien “A foreigner, especially one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living” ~ Oxford Dictionary Definition: Sedition
“Conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch”
~ Oxford Dictionary Historical Context: Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) “In 1798 the United States stood on the brink of war with France. The Federalists believed that Democratic-Republican criticism of Federalist policies was disloyal and feared that aliens living in the United States would sympathize with the French during a war. As a result, a Federalist-controlled Congress passed four laws, known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws raised the residency requirements for citizenship from 5 to 14 years, authorized the President to deport aliens, and permitted their arrest, imprisonment, and deportation during wartime. The Sedition Act made it a crime for American citizens to ‘print, utter, or publish…any false, scandalous, and malicious writing’ about the Government. The laws were directed against Democratic-Republicans, the party typically favored by new citizens, and the only journalists prosecuted under the Sedition Act were editors of Democratic-Republican newspapers. Sedition Act trials, along with the Senate’s use of its contempt powers to suppress dissent, set off a firestorm of criticism against the Federalists and contributed to their defeat in the election of 1800, after which the acts were repealed or allowed to expire. The controversies surrounding them, however, provided for some of the first testings of the limits of freedom of speech and press.” ~ ourdocuments.gov
What was happening in 1798? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did the Federalists believe about the Democratic-Republican Party’s criticisms of Federalist policies? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did the Federalist-controlled Congress pass in response to Federalist concerns? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How did these acts affect immigrants? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did these acts make a crime? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Was the Sedition Act a violation of the First Amendment? Explain your answer. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Who typically favored the Democratic-Republicans? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What happened in the election of 1800 as a result of these acts? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What happened to the acts after the election of 1800? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you believe that the government ever has the right to limit freedom of speech and the press? Explain your answer. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Working with Documents: Alien & Sedition Acts Framing Questions, the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798
What conditions led to the drafting of the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798?
What were the consequences of those acts?
What role did the press play in the drama? What was the role of political parties?
General Background: I. Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798:
A. “Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. (The main argument supporting their passage was that the United States was threatened by the recent events in France which had overthrown the monarchy and established a republic. The Federalists feared the French citizens would provoke unrest here.) These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.” Library of Congress, Alien and Sedition Acts
Document in the Case
The Sedition Act of 1798 SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled. That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty: and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanour, and on conviction before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term of not less than six months, nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court, may be holden to find sureties for his good behaviour, in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct. SECTION 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either House of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States; or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the Constitution of the United States; or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act; or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years. SECTION 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases. SECTION 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, That the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.
In your own words, summarize Section 1 of the Sedition Act.
In your own words, summarize Section 2 of the Sedition Act.
In your own words, summarize Section 3 of the Sedition Act.
In your own words, summarize Section 4 of the Sedition Act.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Define and discuss these First Amendment freedoms.
Do you think there should be any exceptions to the guarantee of these freedoms?
Primary Source: A Response to the Sedition Act Source: Armstrong, John. Poughkeepsie, 1798. [Transcript] To the Senate and Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled. Excerpt I By this law the citizens of these states are prohibited, under the severest penalties, from expressing even their disapprobation of any part of the conduct of the President, or of either house of Congress, through the medium of the press… Excerpt II What stronger, what more precise definition of slavery can be given than this? That we can state no belief, that we can hazard no opinion, that has even a tendency to lessen the public estimation of a public servant. Summarize the Source:
What types of people in the late 1790’s might be found guilty of this crime?
Who is protected under this law? Who is not protected under this law?
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.