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A Safety Net Preserving State Power:


A direct result of the passing of this law, according to a correspondence by George Washington as recorded in the George Washington Papers Series 2 Letterbooks, were resolutions proposed by Kentucky in November, 1798 and Virginia in December 1798 drafted by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison respectively. The basic matter of law, according to the Papers, was that a state had the right to "nullify an act of Congress to which it did not accede." On the surface this might be thought that the passing of these resolutions was meant to be purely objectionable to the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

George Washington himself, while not outright condemning the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts, also did not sanction them. In a response to the General Assembly of Rhode Island, recorded in the Letterbooks, Washington did caution that it George Washingtonwould have to be seen whether Congress would "play out the ethical applications to of these laws." The logical assumption that can be made here is that in Washington's eyes, the laws were proper if ethically applied. It would only be in their unethical application that their existence would become improper.

President Adams can be credited at attempting to prepare the nation for a potential military conflict with France which had its beginning with the "XYZ Affair." As a part of these preparations President Adams sought to put experience at the command of the armed forces.

According to Messages and Papers of the Presidents Adams was industriously devoted to the work of the Nation. During the year leading up to the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts Adams accomplished several tasks that can only be interpreted as those of a man whose judgements were not clouded by political considerations. On July 17th, 1798 Adams appointed General George Washington Lieutenant-General and Commander in Chief of the Army, which he first privately pursued with Washington and waited for Washington's response on July 13th.

The implication here is another reason, other than political motivations, for passing the Sedition Act of 1798. The law passed, and ethically prosecuted, was a valid consideration for a nation preparing for war.

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