The Sedition and Alien Acts: A Push Towards Political Parties
A huge amount of domestic turmoil and international crisis existed in America during June and July of 1798. This domestic turmoil and international crisis began with the outbreak of the French Revolution and continued on until Congress passed four bills, known as the Sedition and Alien Acts, which caused much controversy and debate.
There was much disputation in 1798 about how much Freedom of Speech should be given to American colonists and the meaning of the First Amendment. In 1791, the Bill of Rights was adopted, as promised by the Federalists. The First Amendment guaranteed certain rights to American colonists, especially the Anti-Federalists who had been hesitant to adopt the Constitution at first and had refused to support it, until a Bill of Rights was promised. The first Amendment states that Congress must not interfere with freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
Although the Congress was not supposed to interfere with specific freedoms, it was still the duty of every individual to obey the established government, as stated by Alexander Hamilton. However, in 1798, the Sedition Act was enforced, directly conflicting with the Constitution. The "lockjaw" Sedition Act stated that anyone who impeded the policies of the government or falsely defamed its officials, including the President, would be subject to a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. Albert Gallatin, a Democratic-Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, said that if you put the press under a restraint in respect to the members of the government, you are taking away people's ways of getting information. This bill should be seen as a threat used by a party to keep their places. The Supreme Court, which was mostly made up of Federalists, refused to declare this Federalist law unconstitutional. John Allen even stated...