What were the Alien and Sedition Acts?


Quick Answer

The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of four repressive laws that were signed by President John Adams in 1798. According to the Library of Congress, the acts were devised to counter the perceived threat of war with France, as well as to suppress domestic political activity that threatened the Federalist government.

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Full Answer

According to Wikipedia, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed by the Federalist-majority Congress in four parts. The first component of the laws was known as the Naturalization Act. This act raised the residency requirement for individuals seeking citizenship in the United States from five to 14 years. The Alien Friends Act empowered the president to deport or to detain indefinitely any foreign national he suspected of wrongdoing. The Alien Enemies Act extended the same power to cover internment or deportation of the male citizens of any hostile foreign nation, which at the time was primarily France, who were over the age of 14. Finally, the Sedition Act imposed restrictions on the type and content of political speech permitted in the United States. The Sedition Act was primarily intended to stifle criticism of the president and his allies coming from Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican party and to criminalize political speech that ran counter to the Federalist party line. The acts were heavily criticized, and they were all either repealed or allowed to expire during the Jefferson presidency.

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