This is a Document Based Question for an Advanced Placement United States History class on the topic of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.
The Alien and Sedition Acts played an important role in the conflicts between the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties. It had a strong affect on the Franco-American alliance, the election of 1800, and ultimately, the fall of the Federalist Party as Jefferson was elected.
The most commonly associated conflict linked to the Alien and Sedition Acts is the XYZ Affair, an incident of bribery to begin foreign affairs with France. When America refused to pay these bribes, an undeclared naval war began, and the information (possibly incorrect, even) seeped into the public’s ears, shocking both Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, as shown in Document L, as Thomas Jefferson conveyed in a letter to Madison what he thought was the startled reactions of Republicans. Federalist John Adams, president at the time, 1798, called for the Alien and Sedition Acts which federalize government further to avert the undeclared war and end Republicanism, Adams’s underlying intent. The irony of this reasoning was that it actually led to the downfall of the Federalist Party, not the Republican. In Document K, Theodore Sedgwick, a Federalist, even believed that the outcome of the XYZ Affair and its relations to the Alien and Sedition Acts would destroy political factions, as it seemed to do with the Federalist Party.
The Republicans were particularly hurt by one of the first acts, the Naturalization Act, which changed the number of years of residence required for citizenship from five to fourteen years. Because many immigrants, especially those from France, were stalwarts of the Jeffersonian Democracy, due to the Democratic-Republicans’ empathy rather than the Federalist’s aristocratic scorn, turned many of the votes to the Federalist Party. In Document A, George Washington wrote to Vice-President John Adams regarding immigrants. His point was that, while he did not condone immigration to the United States, the importance was that once they have settled here, they will adapt to American customs instead of holding close to their own. The Naturalization Act backs up his convictions, with increasing required time of residence, to gain a more American aspect of politics before being looked at as an American citizen. From a Democratic-Republican’s vantage point, in Document B, Thomas Jefferson writes about the use of Federal government to create a strong bias in the American vote. This is to say that any law imposing on one group will skew the political system, as this did.
The Alien Act and the Alien Enemies Act gave the president the right to deport immigrants suspected of activities posing a threat to the national government during peacetime and arrest, imprison, and deport any immigrant subject to an enemy power during wartime. Though because of their partiality towards the Democratic-Republican Party, the terms of this law could be expanded to define crimes such as treason in looser terms, as said by Alexander Hamilton in Document O. Many of the immigrants deported with Irish or French refugees who participated in political activities considered critical of the Adams administration. This drove to shaky terms with many nations.
The Sedition Act was another milestone in the Federalist’s plan to debase the Republican Party. The strong point of many Republicans and the newspaper editors that supported them was the critical remarks they slapped on Federalists in the media. This act had a large involvement with the Election of 1800, trying to shortside the Republican candidates, Jefferson and Burr. In Document P, Albert Gallatin, a Democratic-Republican from Pennsylvania, provided his opinion that not only was the Sedition Act unconstitutional, but it also restrained the people from having a just system of beliefs. In heavy relation to speeches given like this, Adams nullified the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, creating a national conflict. But also, in Document I, Alexander Hamilton spoke on behalf of the violators of this act, and was bold enough to refer to them as traitors and madmen. He strongly believed that those who were guilty of this infraction were committing a crime against their own nation.
This brought Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to create the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, two sets of resolutions written to protest primarily the Sedition Act. The Kentucky Resolutions were written in question of the Tenth Amendment and strict constructionalism. The Virginia Resolutions stated that states should have the rights to interfere with an act that is deemed unconstitutional. These resolutions were overlooked by other states’ legislatures but were still considered popular as a rebellion of the acts.
The Alien and Sedition Acts, with the exception of the Naturalization Act that was repealed in 1802, eventually expired in the beginning of Jefferson’s Term. Document Q is support that many political opinions were not set to the two parties, and some Democratic-Republicans may have supported the acts, not seeing their weak attempts at stabbing the Republican party. These are inconsequential to the overall affect of the Acts, which came to mean nothing.
This is actually very poorly written for a DBQ, due to its lack of strong analysis of the documents referenced in the paper.