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The Alien and Sedition Acts

The Alien and Sedition Acts
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.9

     challenging words:    best, expire, deport, previous, strengthen, silence, imprison, campaign, platform, fines, series, provided, writing, public, leadership, editor
     content words:    Sedition Acts, Naturalization Act, Alien Act, Alien Enemies Act, Sedition Act, United States, Enemies Act, Republican Party, Federalist Party, Benjamin Franklin

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The Alien and Sedition Acts
By Sharon Fabian

1     In 1798, it looked like we might be going to war with France. So, Congress passed a series of laws known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. Some people thought that these acts were needed to strengthen the national government in a time of war. Other people thought that the acts were passed to silence opposition to the war. As you can imagine, the Alien and Sedition Acts caused a lot of controversy.
2     The Alien and Sedition Acts were actually four separate acts: the Naturalization Act, the Alien Act, The Alien Enemies Act, and the Sedition Act. The Naturalization Act decreed that a person from another country would have to wait fourteen years to become a citizen instead of the previous five years. The Alien Act gave the president broad power over citizens of foreign countries living in the United States. It authorized the president to imprison or deport citizens of foreign countries, known as aliens, if they were suspected of being a threat to the United States. The Alien Enemies Act said that the president could imprison or deport any citizen of a country with which we were at war. Since we were about to go to war with France, this meant that once the war started, the president could put any French citizens who were living in our country in jail, or he could deport them back to France. The Sedition Act made it illegal to criticize the government, either in writing or by speaking.
3     All four of the acts were controversial. Since most immigrants who entered the U.S. at that time supported Thomas Jefferson's Republican Party, many people saw the Alien and Sedition Acts as attacks on Jefferson's party by the party in power, the Federalists. If the Alien and Sedition Acts kept the Republican Party from growing, it would mean less competition for the Federalist Party.

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