The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

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The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798


The debate of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 revealed bitter controversies on a number of issues. Most of the controversies had, however, arose even before these acts; as far back as the penning of the Constitution. The writers of the Constitution knew that as time proceeded, the needs and demands of the nation and of the people would change, leading to controversy. By not assigning specific powers to specific groups/parties, governments, they unintentionally created a vast problem in the years to come.

Subsequently following the ratification of the constitution, two leading groups formed; the Federalists and the Antifederalists, each believing in exact opposite interpretations of the Constitution. The Federalist Party was headed by the newly appointed Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who thought the interpretation of the Constitution should be very loose. Hamilton believed the Constitution encompassed powers other than those authorized or enumerated. These hidden powers, claimed Hamilton, were implied powers. Hamilton stated it would be essential that the federal government should gain control over any later added account to the nation. Significantly, Hamilton aspired to put these implied powers to use in requisition to build a powerful and domineering central government.

In opposition to Hamilton?s Federalist Party, Jefferson who believed in strict interpretation of the Constitution. Jefferson anticipated that everything should be done through strict evaluation and a laws should abide by what is written. Although Jefferson was not a Federalist, he was also not an Antifederalist; he was a Democratic-Republican, a composite of the two. Jefferson vindicated that all powers not enumerated by the Constitution are obtained by the States. Issues between the two groups lead to the imperative question: should a strong central government be established or should each individual state have control? The attacks of the succeeding debate and public scurrility led to the Sedition Act. This act prohibited intermingling and conspiracy against the America government and the correspondence of scandalous and malicious writings against the government or its officials, under penalty of a fine or imprisonment. Succeeding the Sedition Act, the Republicans turned to the states arguing that federal government had strode past their powers; the powers delegated to it by the states through the Constitution. Therefore the states acquired the right to repeal the act.

Another issue was what to do about the problem of immigration that rapidly increased after the Revolution.

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President Washington at the time had addressed this issue, but nine years prior to that, John Adams had proposed the very same question. It was Adams credence that ?nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies.? As immigrants from countries such as these progressively journeyed to the United States , Washington predicted that they would bring to the country those very characteristics and ideals. Jefferson stipulated that despite if whether the immigrants municipally professed their beliefs on government, they would most definitely ?transmit these principles to the children.? Furthermore, by being Americans, they would also have a fixture in government, and would ?infuse into that spirit, warp and bias its directions, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.? In 1797 John Adams addressed that people originating from foreign countries were enemies of the United States; reason being that their leaders had taught them and impressed upon them the undemocratic principles. Such apprehension led to the out breaking of the Alien Act of 1798. The Alien Act committed a fourteen-year residency period for aliens foregoing naturalization, as a citizen yielded a restraint and removal in time of war of resident adult aliens of the antagonistic nations, and authorized the President the power to deport ?all such aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety and the United States.? This led to a prodigious controversies over whether the Judicial branch was allowed too much power. The Republicans perceived this as an attempt to fortify the federal government and relinquish the power of the states. To nullify this act, the Sedition Act was created, as previously stated.

Throughout these years, in the years to follow, and even in present day government, problems will arise. They may not all be equivalent to what these discussed issues, but wherever there is government, there are controversies. The problem I talked about in the paper essentially tested the strength and solidity of the tentative United States. By getting through these demanding issues so promiscuously, it has been proven that we, as a unified nation can get through any obstacle thrown our way.
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