Why Were the Alien and Sedition Acts Bad Laws

In one of the first tests of free speech, the House of Representatives passed the Sedition Act, which allows the deportation, fine, or detention of anyone deemed a threat or publishing “false, scandalous, or malicious writings” against the U.S. government. The Federalists campaigned for legislation because they feared an impending war with the France and wanted to keep the majority in Congress and keep the White House, then occupied by Federalist John Adams. At a time when newspapers were the main outlets for political parties, the Republican press was particularly vicious in its attacks on Federalist politics and the Adams administration. The extensive wording of the law on incitement to hatred made it illegal, inter alia, “to write, print, express or publish. Everything written false, scandalous and malicious. with the intention of using the. ” or “to stir up turmoil in the United States.” Lynch, Jack. “The Aliens and Sedition Acts.” The Colonial Williamsburg Journal (2007).

Electronics. . The laws were very controversial at the time, especially the incentive law. The Sedition Act, signed into law by Adams on July 14, 1798,[33] was hotly debated in the Federalist-controlled Congress and passed only after several amendments that weakened its terms, such as allowing defendants to argue in their defense that their statements were true. However, it was only passed by the House of Representatives after three votes and another amendment, which automatically expired in March 1801. [31] They continued to be the subject of strong protests and were a major political issue in the 1800 elections. Opposition to these resolutions led to the equally controversial Virginia and Kentucky resolutions written by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. After taking office, Thomas Jefferson pardoned those still serving sentences under the Sedition Act,[21]:231 and Congress promptly reimbursed their fines. [34] The Alien Friends Act allowed the president to detain or deport aliens deemed “dangerous to the peace and security of the United States” at any time, while the Alien Enemies Act authorized the president to do the same with any male citizen of an enemy nation over the age of fourteen in time of war. These laws gave the president the power to deport these foreigners without trial or due process.

With the Naturalization Act, Congress increased residency requirements for U.S. citizenship from five years to 14. (Many new immigrants and citizens favored Republicans, so Federalists sought to exclude as many of them from the vote as possible.) The Aliens and Sedition Acts, passed by Congress under the Adams administration, were seen by many, then as now, as an attempt by Federalists to restrict and control foreigners entering and living in this country. In addition, many argued that they should also limit criticism of the Adams Federalist administration and its policies. While these may have been some of the reasons to push for these laws, from the perspective of the Adams administration, there were other reasons that were critical to the security of the newly formed United States. In 1794, President Washington negotiated a treaty with England to settle outstanding disputes between the two countries. The resulting improvement in U.S.-English relations angered the French revolutionary leaders, who were enemies of the British. In general, sedition means inciting others to resist or rebel against legitimate authority. In England, “seditious slander” virtually forbade any criticism of the king or his officials. English common law stipulated that any word spoken or written critical of the king`s government undermined the people`s respect for their authority.

Amid rising tensions, Federalists accused the Democratic-Republican Party of colluding with the France against their own country`s government. In June 1798, in the United States Gazette, Alexander Hamilton called the Jeffersonians “more French than the Americans” and stated that they were prepared to “destroy the independence and well-being of their country in the sanctuary of France.” Suspected of spying on American society by enemy spies, the Federalist majority in Congress passed four new laws in June and July 1798, known collectively as the Aliens and Sedition Acts. The Aliens and Sedition Acts were never challenged in the Supreme Court, whose power of judicial review was not extended to Marbury v. Madison in 1803. Subsequent references in mid-20th century Supreme Court opinions assumed that the hate speech law would be found unconstitutional today. [c] Most modern historians view the alien and sedition laws in a negative light and consider them a mistake. [19] [44] The Aliens and Sedition Acts were a series of four laws enacted in 1798 that imposed restrictions on immigration and expression. [a] The Naturalization Act strengthened the requirements for applying for citizenship, the Foreign Friends Act allowed the president to detain and deport non-citizens, the Foreign Enemies Act gave the president additional powers to detain non-citizens in time of war, and the Sedition Act criminalized false and malicious statements about the federal government.

The Foreign Friends Act and the Sedition Act expired after a number of years, and the Naturalization Act was repealed in 1802. The Foreign Enemies Act is still in force. The Aliens and Sedition Acts were four pieces of legislation passed by the Federalist-dominated 5th United States Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. They made it difficult for an immigrant to become a citizen (Naturalization Act), allowed the president to detain and deport non-citizens deemed dangerous (Foreign Friends Act of 1798) or who belonged to an enemy nation (Foreign Enemy Act of 1798), and criminalized false testimony critical of the federal government (Sedition Act of 1798). After the passage of the highly unpopular Aliens and Sedition Acts, protests erupted across the country,[35] with some of Kentucky`s largest crowds filling the streets and the entire square of Lexington. [36] Critics argued that this was primarily an attempt to suppress voters who disagreed with the Federalist Party and its teachings, violating the right to free speech in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. [37] They also expressed concern that the Aliens and Sedition Acts gave disproportionate power to the federal executive branch vis-à-vis state governments and other branches of the federal government. [20] In the face of popular outrage, the Democratic-Republicans made the laws on foreigners and sedition a major issue in the 1800 presidential campaign.

While government authorities prepared lists of aliens to be deported, many aliens fled the country during the debate over the alien and sedition laws, and Adams never signed a deportation order. [21]: 187–93 Thirteen other charges were laid under the Sedition Act, mostly against Republican editors and newspaper publishers.