Front Page Titles (by Subject) Addresses to the President, with His Replies April–August 1798 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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Addresses to the President, with His Replies April–August 1798 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Addresses to the President, with His Replies April–August 1798
Through the spring and summer of 1798, as Congress moved to authorize a quasi-war with France, addresses praising the administration poured into Philadelphia, where many were reprinted in the papers. Adams’s replies did much to fan the patriotic fever, to further popular suspicion of the friends of France, and thus to lay the groundwork for repressive legislation.
Address of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia to the President of the United States April 1798
At a moment when dangers threaten the peace and prosperity of the United States, when foreign violence and rapine have deeply wounded our national honor and injured our lawful commerce, it is presumed the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of the city of Philadelphia will not be unwelcome when they come forward to assure you of their perfect approbation of your administration and their entire confidence in your wisdom, integrity, and patriotism. While we admire the prudence and moderation with which our government has received the unprovoked aggressions of France and the sincerity and equity of your endeavors to conciliate her friendship, we feel the independent pride of Americans in your dignity and firmness. As we are satisfied that nothing has been wanting on your part to preserve to us the blessings of peace and safety, we prepare to meet with fortitude the consequences that may follow the failure of your exertions. Confident that our government has been just and impartial in her dealings with all nations, and grateful for the happiness we have enjoyed under it in the days of tranquility, we do not hesitate to promise it our utmost assistance in the time of difficulty and need. Presiding over the councils of your country in a most eventful crisis, we hope and trust you will find a fixed and energetic support in the people of America.—Permit us to congratulate you on the prospects of unanimity that now presents itself to the hopes of every American, and on the spirit of independent patriotism that is rapidly rising into active exertion—and to offer a sincere prayer that while you continue to serve your country with wisdom and fidelity, you may never find her ungrateful.
… At a time when all the old republics of Europe are crumbling into dust, and others forming whose destinies are dubious; when the monarchies of the old world are, some of them, fallen, and others are trembling to their foundations; when our own infant republic has scarcely had time to cement its strength or decide its own practi-cable form; when these agitations of the human species have affected our people, and produced a spirit of party which scruples not to go all lengths of profligacy, falsehood, and malignity in defaming our government; your approbation and confidence are to me a great consolation. Under your immediate observation and inspection the principal operations of the government are directed; and to you, both characters and conduct must be intimately known.
I am but one of the American people, and my fate and fortunes must be decided with theirs. As far as the forces of nature may remain to me, I will not be wanting in my duties to them, nor will I harbor a suspicion that they will fail to afford me all necessary aid and support.
While with the greatest pleasure I reciprocate your congratulations “on the prospect of unanimity that now presents itself to the hopes of every American, and on that spirit of patriotism and independence that is rising into active exertion” in opposition to seduction, domination, and rapine, I offer a sincere prayer that the citizens of Philadelphia may persevere in the virtuous course, maintain the honorable character of their ancestors, and be protected from every calamity physical, moral, and political.
Address of the Young Men of the City of Philadelphia, the District of Southwark, and the Northern Liberties May 1798
At a period so interesting to the United States, permit us to believe that an address from the youth of Philadelphia, anxious to preserve the honor and independence of their country, will not be unwelcome to their chief magistrate.
Actuated by the same principles on which our forefathers achieved their Independence, the recent attempts of a foreign power to derogate from the dignity and rights of our country awaken our liveliest sensibility and our strongest indignation.
The executive of the United States, filled with a spirit of friendship towards the whole world, has resorted to every just and honorable means of conciliating the affections of the French Republic, who have received their propositions of peace with determined hostility and contempt, have wounded our national independence by insulting its representatives, and calumniated the honor and virtue of our citizens by insinuating that we were a divided, insubordi-nate people.
The youth of the American nation will claim some share of the difficulty, danger, and glory of its defense; and although we do not hold ourselves competent to form an opinion respecting the tendency of every measure, yet we have no hesitation in declaring that we place the most entire confidence in your wisdom, integrity, and patriotism; that we regard our liberty and independence as the richest portion given to us by our ancestors; that we perceive no difference between the illegal and oppressive measures of one government and the insolent attempts now made to usurp our rights by another; that as our ancestors have magnanimously resisted the encroachments of the one, we will no less vigorously oppose the attacks of the other; that at the call of our country we will assemble with promptitude, obey the orders of the constituted authorities with alacrity, and on every occasion act with all the exertion of which we are capable; and for this we pledge ourselves to you, to our country, and to the world.
Answer 7 May 1798
Nothing of the kind could be more welcome to me than this address from the ingenuous youth of Philadelphia in their virtuous anxiety to preserve the honor and independence of their country.
For a long course of years, my amiable young friends, before the birth of the oldest of you, I was called to act with your fathers in concerting measures the most disagreeable and dangerous, not from a desire of innovation, not from discontent with the government under which we were born and bred, but to preserve the honor of our country and vindicate the immemorial liberties of our ancestors. In pursuit of these measures, it became, not an object of predilection and choice, but of indispensable necessity to assert our independence, which, with many difficulties and much suffering, was at length secured. I have long flattered myself that I might be gathered to the ashes of my fathers leaving unimpaired and unassailed the liberties so dearly purchased; and that I should never be summoned a second time to act in such scenes of anxiety, perplexity, and danger as war of any kind always exhibits. If my good fortune should not correspond with my earnest wishes and I should be obliged to act with you, as with your ancestors, in defense of the honor and independence of our country, I sincerely wish that none of you may ever have your constancy of mind and strength of body put to so severe a trial as to be compelled, again, in your advanced age to the contemplation and near prospect of any war of offense or defense.
It would neither be consistent with my character nor yours, on this occasion, to read lessons to gentlemen of your education, conduct, and character; if, however, I might be indulged the privilege of a father, I should with the tenderest affection recommend to your serious and constant consideration that science and morals are the great pillars on which this country has been raised to its present population, opulence, and prosperity, and that these alone can advance, support, and preserve it.
Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researches, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions, or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.
No prospect or spectacle could excite a stronger sensibility in my bosom than this which now presents itself before me. I wish you all the pure joys, the sanguine hopes, and bright prospects which are decent at your age, and that your lives may be long, honorable, and prosperous in the constant practice of benevolence to men and reverence to the divinity, in a country preserving in liberty and increasing in virtue, power, and glory.
The sentiments of this address, everywhere expressed in language as chaste and modest as it is elegant and masterly, which would do honor to the youth of any country, have raised a monument to your fame more durable than brass or marble. The youth of all America must exult in this early sample, at the seat of government, of their talents, genius, and virtues.
America and the world will look to our youth as one of our firmest bulwarks. The generous claim which you now present of sharing in the difficulty, danger, and glory of our defense is to me and to your country a sure and pleasing pledge that your birthrights will never be ignobly bartered or surrendered, but that you will in your turn transmit to future generations the fair inheritance obtained by the unconquerable spirit of your fathers.
Address of the Officers and Soldiers of the Chester Light Infantry Company of Volunteers in the County of Delaware and State of Pennsylvania 25 August 1798
In the present eventful crisis of public affairs, we beg leave to approach you with affection and confidence: With affection because we believe its constituted authorities have done all that could be done, consistent with national honor and independence, to preserve peace. Believing with you that “a free republic is the best of governments and the greatest blessing to which mortals can aspire,” it is our fixed determination to give it every support in our power, and we trust that under chiefs who have hitherto so ably conducted our country to independence, there will be no doubt of maintaining it against a foe who has left no arts untried to rob us of it. Averse to war, both as Americans and Christians, we should have been happy to have spent our lives in the enjoyment of peace, but when peace is to be the price of national degradation, and the enjoyment of it, if so purchased, wholly insecure, we have no hesitation in choosing the alternative with a confident reliance on that Providence which on more than one occasion has manifestly interfered for the safety and happiness of the American people.
Under these impressions we offer our best services to our country and beg you to accept of this tender of them, with an assurance that as soon as circumstances require it we are ready to take the field. In the presence of the “God of Armies,” we make the offer and pledge ourselves to fulfill it.
Accept, Sir, our best wishes for your happiness; may you have the felicity of seeing our country permanently placed in that situation of peace and independence which your ardent patriotism and unwearied exertions in the cause of genuine freedom lead us to suppose is the prime wish of your heart.
Answer 17 September 1798
The affection and confidence expressed in your obliging address of the twenty-fifth of August is very satisfactory to me. Although there is no truth of which I am more fully convinced than this, which you approve, that “a free republic is the best government and the greatest blessing to which mortals can aspire,” it is too apparent from history and experience that such a government has always too many enemies, both within and without, to be ever secure for any long period of time without a constant preparation and readiness for war. Such a government has always within itself its worst enemies in those who are most clamorous and boisterous in its praise.
The Sedition Act 14 July 1798
French and Irish immigrants usually sympathized with revolutionary France in its war with Britain and voted for Republican opponents of what they perceived as the pro-British policies of the Federalist administrations. On 18 June 1798, Congress passed a new Naturalization Act, extending from five to fourteen years the period of residence required for naturalization. On 25 June, it followed with the Alien Act, which gave the president power to summarily deport any alien whose residence he considered dangerous to the United States. (A nonpartisan Alien Enemies Act, passed on 6 July, authorized the president, in the event of a declared war, to arrest, imprison, or deport the citizens of an enemy power.) Within Congress and without, Republicans would insist that the Alien Act unconstitutionally deprived alien friends of a right to a judicial determination of their fates. Even sharper protests would greet the Sedition Act, which was aimed squarely at American citizens who criticized federal officials and programs.
Section 1. Be it enacted … That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty; and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and on conviction before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term not less than six months nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court, may be holden to find sureties for his good behavior in such sum and for such time as the said court may direct.
Section 2. That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law or of the powers in him vested by the Constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.
Section 3. That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defense, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.
Section 4. That this act shall continue to be in force until March 3, 1801, and no longer… .
The Sedition Act was not a laughing matter. It was enforced by a partisan judiciary and a vigilant, High-Federalist secretary of state—all the more rigorously, in fact, once the crisis with France began to ease. Under its provisions or under the common law of seditious libel, all of the most important Republican newspapers in the country and several of the party’s most influential pamphleteers felt the sting of prosecutions. The Argus and the Time Piece, the only Republican newspapers in New York City, were driven out of business. Men were prosecuted under the Sedition Act for offenses as diverse and as trivial as erecting a liberty pole, advocating the act’s repeal, and expressing a drunken wish that cannon firing a salute were shooting at the president’s “arse.” Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, whose Philadelphia paper, the General-Advertiser, had added the title Aurora to its masthead and replaced the National Gazette as the leading opposition newspaper when the latter went out of business in 1793, was another of its victims. William Duane, the assistant who succeeded Bache at the Aurora after the latter died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1798, was harried by common law proceedings. Neither ever relented in his condemnations of the Federalist regime, starting with this squib: