When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
July 4, 1798 Aliens and Sedition Acts
The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of four laws passed by the U.S. Congress in 1798 amid widespread fear that war with France was imminent. The four laws–which remain controversial to this day–restricted the activities of foreign residents in the country and limited freedom of speech and of the press.
Naturalization Act — Congress increased residency requirements for U.S. citizenship to 14 years from five.
Alien Enemies Act— Permitted the government to arrest and deport all male citizens of an enemy nation in the event of war.
Alien Friends Act — Allowed the president to deport any non-citizen suspected of plotting against the government, even in peacetime.
Sedition Act — outlawed any “false, scandalous and malicious writing” against Congress or the president, and made it illegal to conspire “to oppose any measure or measures of the government.”
In Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were passed by the legislatures of their respective states in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts. James Madison authored the Virginia Resolution in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson, who also authored the Kentucky Resolution. Both argued that the federal government did not have the authority to enact laws not specified in the constitution. Jefferson wrote: “[T]he several states who formed that instrument [the Constitution], being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those [states], of all unauthorized acts….is the rightful remedy.”
By 1802, all of the Alien and Sedition Acts had been repealed or expired, save for the Alien Enemies Act, which has stayed on the books. In 1918, Congress amended that act to include women.
IMAGE A PRESIDENT WHO FEAR OUTSIDERS SO MUCH THEY WOULD WANT THESE LAWS…. Wait.. Oh, s#$ maybe you don’t have to use that imagination, just watch today’s news.