Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Sedition Act 14 July 1798 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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The Sedition Act 14 July 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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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… .