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  1. #1 Opinions of the Alien and Sedition Acts? 
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    I wanted to ask your opinion on them. I find them interesting since they were passed by the Founding Fathers, and supported by quite a few including Adams and Washington, while they were opposed by Jefferson and others.

    Four separate laws constituted what is commonly referred to as the "Alien and Sedition Acts":

    The Naturalization Act (officially An Act to Establish a Uniform Rule of Naturalization; ch. 54, 1 Stat. 566) extended the duration of residence required for aliens to become citizens of the United States from five years to fourteen years.

    The Alien Act (officially An Act Concerning Aliens; ch. 58, 1 Stat. 570) authorized the president to deport any resident alien considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States." It was activated June 25, 1798, with a two year expiration date.

    The Alien Enemies Act (officially An Act Respecting Alien Enemies; ch. 66, 1 Stat. 577) authorized the president to apprehend and deport resident aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States of America. Enacted July 6, 1798, and providing no sunset provision, the act remains intact today as 50 U.S.C. §§ 21–24. At the time, war was considered likely between the U.S. and France.

    The Sedition Act (officially An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States; ch. 74, 1 Stat. 596) made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or its officials. It was enacted July 14, 1798, with an expiration date of March 3, 1801 (the day before Adams' presidential term was to end).

    Basically making it illegal to criticize the government. I read about one senator who was against the Sedition Act, and decided to test it by calling President Adams fat, and he was JAILED. I mean think about all the talk about Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama, and imagine if such a law was still in effect.

    I think it's kind of amazing that guys who had just won a war against tyranny a little over ten years before were already passing laws which brought a form of tyranny. You can argue our relations were strained and nearly at war with France in that time but war is no excuse for legal tyranny.
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  2. #2  
    Sonnabend
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    Criticism of the government covered under the 1st amendment.

    Deport undesirable aliens? Why not?
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    Best Bounty Hunter in the Forums fettpett's Avatar
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    Needed to be found Unconstitutional as it was. This law was the beginning of the end not only for Adams, but also for the Federalist party
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sonnabend View Post
    Criticism of the government covered under the 1st amendment.

    Deport undesirable aliens? Why not?
    The Sedition Act basically undermined the First amendment.

    Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was editor of the Aurora, a Democratic-Republican newspaper. Bache had accused George Washington of incompetence and financial irregularities, and "the blind, bald, crippled, toothless, querulous ADAMS" of nepotism and monarchical ambition. The Adams administration did not wait for the passage of the Sedition Act but arrested Bache on common law libel charges two weeks on June 27, 1798, two weeks before the Act was signed by the President. Bache died of yellow fever in 1798 while awaiting trial.[4]


    James Thomson Callender, a Scottish citizen, had been expelled from Great Britain for his political writings. Living first in Philadelphia, then seeking refuge close to Jefferson in Democratic- Republican Virginia, he wrote a book entitled "The Prospect Before Us" (read and approved by Jefferson before publication) in which he called the Adams administration a "continual tempest of malignant passions" and the President a repulsive pedant, a gross hypocrite and an unprincipled oppressor". Callender, already residing in Virginia and writing for the Richmond Examiner, was indicted under the Sedition Act. Justice Samuel Chase of the Supreme Court presided at Callender's trial. Callender's counsel attempted to argue the unconstitutionality of the Sedition law, but Chase refused to permit the jury to determine the constitutionality of a federal statute. Callender was convicted, and Chase fined him $200 and sentenced him to nine months in jail. Jefferson pardoned Callender when he became President, as he did the others convicted under the Sedition Act, and also gave him fifty dollars towards his fine, the last in a series of payments he made to support the journalist. Callender however, enraged by what he perceived as a slight by the new President, wrote a series of attacks on Jefferson similar to those earlier launched against Adams, and which included the assertion that Jefferson had fathered children by a slave woman.[5]


    Matthew Lyon, born in Ireland, was a congressman from Vermont. He was indicted under the Sedition Act for an essay he had written in the Vermont Journal accusing the administration of "ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice". While awaiting trial, Lyon commenced publication of Lyon's Republican Magazine, subtitled "The Scourge of Aristocracy". Supreme Court justice Paterson presiding at trial, denied Lyon's defense of unconstitutionality of the statute, fined Lyon $1,000 and sentenced him to four months in prison. While in prison, Lyon continued to write, and also won re-election. After his release, he returned to Congress. [6].[7]
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaughtintheMiddle1990 View Post
    The Naturalization Act (officially An Act to Establish a Uniform Rule of Naturalization; ch. 54, 1 Stat. 566) extended the duration of residence required for aliens to become citizens of the United States from five years to fourteen years.
    This seems perfectly reasonable to me. The Constitution grants the Congress the power to determine naturalization processes as the Congress sees fit.

    Quote Originally Posted by CaughtintheMiddle1990 View Post
    The Alien Act (officially An Act Concerning Aliens; ch. 58, 1 Stat. 570) authorized the president to deport any resident alien considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States." It was activated June 25, 1798, with a two year expiration date.
    This is perfectly reasonable as well. A resident alien is not a citizen and is not extended all the rights and privileges as a citizen, but is here only as a guest. When guests cause trouble you put them out.

    Quote Originally Posted by CaughtintheMiddle1990 View Post
    The Alien Enemies Act (officially An Act Respecting Alien Enemies; ch. 66, 1 Stat. 577) authorized the president to apprehend and deport resident aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States of America. Enacted July 6, 1798, and providing no sunset provision, the act remains intact today as 50 U.S.C. §§ 21–24. At the time, war was considered likely between the U.S. and France.
    This is also perfectly reasonable as the President was not authorized to deport citizens. He was only authorized to deport resident aliens, which were here on visas that could be revoked without due process. During these times, sedition was a viable and widely used warfare tactic. If we were at war with the French, for example, you could guarantee men would start popping up in areas likely to be sympathetic to the French Crown and giving speeches, and putting on all sorts of theatrics in an effort to undermine recruiting, damage wartime production, or outright civil unrest.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaughtintheMiddle1990 View Post
    The Sedition Act (officially An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States; ch. 74, 1 Stat. 596) made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or its officials. It was enacted July 14, 1798, with an expiration date of March 3, 1801 (the day before Adams' presidential term was to end).

    Basically making it illegal to criticize the government. I read about one senator who was against the Sedition Act, and decided to test it by calling President Adams fat, and he was JAILED. I mean think about all the talk about Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama, and imagine if such a law was still in effect.

    I think it's kind of amazing that guys who had just won a war against tyranny a little over ten years before were already passing laws which brought a form of tyranny. You can argue our relations were strained and nearly at war with France in that time but war is no excuse for legal tyranny.
    I'm not too sure about this one, that would depend if said Senator was convicted, or merely arrested. One can be arrested for anything, but conviction requires a legal test, and that is why we have the right to a speedy trial. However the language of law, with the 'and' means that the Senator's statements would have to be malicious AND scandalous AND false, not just one of the three.
    "In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."
    —Thomas Paine, Common Sense
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    actually, the Aliens Act wasn't really a big deal, but the Seditions Act really poisoned peoples opinions on it. There were several newspapers that were closed down and the owners lives ruined because of this act, many times they were dragged out of their houses in broad daylight. People didn't want either of them after that, it was one of the biggest reasons that Jefferson crushed Adams in the next election
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    Quote Originally Posted by malloc View Post
    I'm not too sure about this one, that would depend if said Senator was convicted, or merely arrested. One can be arrested for anything, but conviction requires a legal test, and that is why we have the right to a speedy trial. However the language of law, with the 'and' means that the Senator's statements would have to be malicious AND scandalous AND false, not just one of the three.
    That sets up a dangerous precedent.
    Say for example this law was still in effect and you were to say, "George Bush is an ugly bastard, who is evil, fathered children out of wedlock, cheats on his wife, and hates America", technically your claims would be scandalous, malicious, and false.

    Or let's say you said you said, "Obama is a big eared, Socialist, who hates America, and kills kittens for pleasure". You could be arrested under that law, for your claims would be (in the eyes of the government, perhaps) fitting those three categories.

    The point is, such a law opens the door to essentially shutting up criticism, whether valid, or invalid of the President and government in general--And all criticism, whether it's based in fact or simply belief, should be allowed under the law. The danger of this law was seen during Adams' own Presidency when it was in effect, in that people who simply bashed the government/President were fined and even sent to prison.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaughtintheMiddle1990 View Post
    That sets up a dangerous precedent.
    Say for example this law was still in effect and you were to say, "George Bush is an ugly bastard, who is evil, fathered children out of wedlock, cheats on his wife, and hates America", technically your claims would be scandalous, malicious, and false.

    Or let's say you said you said, "Obama is a big eared, Socialist, who hates America, and kills kittens for pleasure". You could be arrested under that law, for your claims would be (in the eyes of the government, perhaps) fitting those three categories.

    The point is, such a law opens the door to essentially shutting up criticism, whether valid, or invalid of the President and government in general--And all criticism, whether it's based in fact or simply belief, should be allowed under the law. The danger of this law was seen during Adams' own Presidency when it was in effect, in that people who simply bashed the government/President were fined and even sent to prison.
    An 'or' clause would have been a more dangerous precedent. Like I said, I don't necessarily agree with the law and the legislative intent could have been completely different than it's application. It's hard to judge such things because the language used is so old and common words have different meaning than they do today. Just look at all the amicus curiae that went into the Heller decision just to try and shed light on the common uses of 'well regulated'. With the 20/20 vision of history, it's really easy to look back on the way a law was applied and judge it a bad lad, when the legislative intent could have been completely different yet poorly implemented. With all that being said, I tend to side more with Jefferson.
    "In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."
    —Thomas Paine, Common Sense
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