Legislation and Persecution

  • William J. WatkinsJr.


The crisis of the Alien and Sedition Acts capped off the turmoil of the 1790s. Crafted in the summer of 1798, the Acts were the most illiberal legislation passed during the early national period. Ostensibly aimed at securing the home front as the Federalists braced for French invasion, the Acts served the much broader purpose of Federalist political hegemony. Through this legislation, the Federalists sought to restrain democratic-minded foreigners and silence all criticism of the national government. Procrustean conformity became the cardinal principle of Federalist politics.


National Government Federal Court Guilty Verdict AMERICAN Revolution Cardinal Principle 
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    For a comparison of the British and American laws, see Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1953) pp. 157–9.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See 1 Stat. 566 (1798). The Naturalization Act as well as the other three Acts discussed in this chapter are reprinted in full in James Morton Smith, Freedoms Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties (New York: Cornell University Press, 1956) pp. 435–42.Google Scholar
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    This reaction to the sudden rise in immigration supports the conclusion that the American tradition has not been immigration, but intermittent immigration. See Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster (New York: Random House, 1995) pp. 30–1.Google Scholar
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© The Independent Institute 2004

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  • William J. WatkinsJr.

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