The Alien and Sedition Acts Summary The Federalists, now controlling both the Senate and the House of Representatives, argued that the possibility of open war with France and the publicized attempts at espionage by French agents in the United States required Congress to take drastic action to guard against breaches in national security. To this end Congress passed a series of four measures, known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts. John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts during June and Julybut it was only with the gravest misgivings that he did so, for the acts asserted the power of the central government to an unprecedented extent.
Congressrestricting aliens and curtailing the excesses of an unrestrained pressin anticipation of an expected war with France. Federalistsaware that French military successes in Europe had been greatly facilitated by political dissidents in invaded countries, sought to prevent such subversion in the United States and adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts as part of a series of military preparedness measures.
Frenchmen plunder female "America," while five figures lower right representing other European countries look on. John Bull England sits laughing on "Shakespeare's Cliff. These laws raised the waiting period for naturalization from 5 to 14 years, permitted the detention of subjects of an enemy nation, and authorized the chief executive to expel any alien he considered dangerous.
The Sedition Act July 14 banned the publishing of false or malicious writings against the government and the inciting of opposition to any act of Congress or the president —practices already forbidden in some cases by state libel statutes and the common law but not by federal law.
The federal act reduced the oppressiveness of procedures in prosecuting such offenses but provided for federal enforcement. The acts were mild compared with later wartime security measures in the United States, and they were not unpopular in some places.
Jeffersonian Republicans vigorously opposed them, however, as drastic curtailments of liberty in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutionswhich the other state legislatures either ignored or denounced as subversive. No aliens were deported, but there were 25 prosecutions, resulting in 10 convictionsunder the Sedition Act.
With the war threat passing and the Republicans winning control of the federal government inall the Alien and Sedition Acts expired or were repealed during the next two years, except for the Alien Enemies Act, which remained in effect and was amended in to include women.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles: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 , after which the acts were repealed or allowed to expire.
The final line of a law is usually how long it's intended to exist, like an expiration date for milk. The Alien Friends Act only lasted until , and the Sedition Act only lasted until A summary of The Alien and Sedition Acts in 's The First Years of the Union ().
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The First Years of the Union () and what it .
Alien and Sedition Acts, (), four internal security laws passed by the U.S. Congress, restricting aliens and curtailing the excesses of an unrestrained press, . In and , the Kentucky and Virginia assemblies passed resolutions condemning the federal laws known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Representative John Breckinridge introduced Kentucky's version of the declaration, a document he had received from his friend Thomas Jefferson and which he had slightly modified. Three of them, the Naturalization Act, the Alien Friends Act, and the Alien Enemies Act, go after immigrants.
The Sedition Act goes after specific forms of protest that .