Alien and Sedition Acts, Summary


The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress in 1798.

John Adams, Portrait, Stuart

John Adams was President when the Alien & Sedition Acts were enacted.


Summary of the Alien and Sedition Acts

Federalists contended that the laws were enacted to protect the United States from subversive aliens and seditious libel at a time when the federal government was preparing for a potential war with France. Other Americans, however, viewed the laws as attempts to stifle political opposition from the Democratic-Republican Party. The laws placed severe restrictions upon aliens, who often supported the Democratic-Republicans, and they made it illegal to utter any statements about the government that were “false, scandalous and malicious” with the “intent to defame” or to bring Congress or the president into “contempt or disrepute.” Ten American citizens, including a U.S. Congressman, were convicted of sedition, but the acts ultimately backfired on the Federalists, playing an instrumental role in their resounding defeats in the Presidential and Congressional election of 1800.


Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Alien and Sedition Acts, Summary
  • Coverage 1798
  • Author
  • Keywords alien and sedition acts
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date January 27, 2023
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 4, 2022

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