Alien and Sedition Act

Alien and Secdition Act

The Alien and Sedition Acts marked an attempt by Federalists to suppress opposition at home. These acts gave the President the power to arrest and deport any alien suspected of having "treasonable or secret leanings."

The Alien and Seditions Acts were four separate laws. The first was the Naturalization Act. This act extended the time it was required to establish US citizenship for new immigrants. That time was extended from five years to fourteen. The Federalists were afraid that new immigrants were more likely to support the Democratic Party instead of the Federalist Party.

The second act was the Alien Act. This act gave the President power to imprison or deport any foreigner. The authors of the act hoped this would silence French refugees who opposed Federalist calls for war with France.

The third part of the laws was the Alien Enemies Act.  This act allowed the government to arrest and deport any foreigners who were citizens of nations at war with the United States. The fourth act was the Sedition Act. This act was the most controversial, giving the government the power to arrest anyone who wrote critically of the President, the Congress, or the government. This law seemed to directly undermine the protection of the First Amendment, which guaranteed free speech.

All parts of the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed. No one was ever deported based on the laws, but 25 newspapers editors were arrested and 10 were convicted and jailed.

Text of the Act