The Significant Relationship between Alien, Sedition, and Naturalization Laws and the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

Date for all: 1798
  • As a result of the Federalist anti-French frenzy (after Adams' Convention of 1800 severing all ties with France), the Federalist Congress put three laws into effect to muffle/minimize Jeffersonians.
  • Naturalization Law: Raised residence requirements for aliens who wanted to become citizens from 5 years to 14. (Most immigrants were poor Europeans, who would side with Jeffersonians and give power to the Democratic-Republican party).
  • Alien Laws: The president was empowered to deport dangerous foreigners in peacetime and deport or imprison them in time of hostility. (Too much power for president)
  • Sedition Act: Anyone who tried to hinder government policies or falsely defamed gov. officials (including the president), would be liable to a heavy fine and even imprisonment. This went against the bill of rights (freedom of speech and the press in 1st amendment). Federalists thought this was necessary because of all the verbal violence against the government. The Federalist supreme court didn't declare it unconstitutional. Got converts to Dem-Rep. party.
  • Democratic-Republicans, Jefferson and Madison, feared that these laws could set a precedent to take away other constitutional rights, and eventually wipe out the Dem-Rep. party, making America into a one-party dictatorship. Jeferson wrote the Kentucky Resolution and Madison wrote the Virgina Resolution (adopted by legistatures in 1798). They stressed the compact theory (the national government was a creation of the states, so states were the final judges of whether federal government was overstepping its boundaries). Virginia & Kentucky Resolutions concluded that government had exceeded its constitutional power and that the Alien and Sedition Acts should be nullified (or refused to be accepted).
  • Kentucky & Virginia Resolutions were a direct reaction to the Federalist Alien & Sedition Laws, and displayed the need for the balance of power in the government. They raised the question on who could decide if something was constitutional or not (it was decided that the Supreme Court would decide in 1803), but Jefferson & Madison asserted that it was the states.

1 comment:

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