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Alien and Sedition Acts: Primary Documents in American History

Passed in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts were four laws regulating aliens and restricting criticism of public officials. This guide provides access to digital materials at the Library of Congress, links to external websites, and a print bibliography.

Introduction

Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.

Alien and Sedition Acts

The following digitized acts are from the "Statutes at Large, 5th Congress, 2nd Session," A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 -1875.