Crisis in Freedom: The Alien and Sedition Acts

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by John C. Miller
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"'Crisis in Freedom' covers the years 1798-1800 when the Federalists were taking advantage of our undeclared war with France to brand the Jeffersonian Republicans as 'pro-French traitors'. Under cover of a war-emergency program, they attempted to proscribe their political enemies as enemies of the country. The fruits of this hysteria were the Alien and Sedition Laws which the Federalists rammed through Congress and which John Adams signed, forgetting his earlier announcements on the virtues of Constitutional liberties. The Alien Act gave the President authority to deport all aliens as he judged dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States. The Sedition Act was designed to protect sober, right-thinking men - that is to say, Federalists - from attacks in the press. Thus the administration had 'fashioned a weapon that could strike at the very heart of American Freedom', and it appeared likely it would stay in power as long as the two laws remained on the books. Then, when Talleyrand proved conciliatory, the whole program backfired on the Federalists and aided in sweeping them out of power.

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