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A Community Built on WordsThe Constitution in History and Politics$
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H. Jefferson Powell

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226677231

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.001.0001

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1798 (2): How to Think about the Sedition Act

1798 (2): How to Think about the Sedition Act

Chapter:
(p.55) VI. 1798 (2): How to Think about the Sedition Act
Source:
A Community Built on Words
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.003.0007

The central point of contention in national politics during 1798 involved foreign policy. Revolutionary France's overbearing and erratic behavior had brought Franco-American relations to the breaking point, with the generally Francophile Republicans divided and disheartened, and many of the Federalists convinced that the Republic was in mortal peril of a French invasion or subversion from within. In the spring and summer following Calder, the Federalist-controlled Congress took under consideration a battery of laws intended, as Federalists saw it, to put the country in an appropriate state of defense. Among the bills eventually enacted was the famous (or infamous) Sedition Act of July 14, 1798, which prompted the first great debate over the interpretation of the first amendment. (Collectively the statutes were known as the Alien and Sedition Acts and one of the other laws, the Alien Act of June 25, also evoked significant constitutional discussions.)

Keywords:   Sedition Act, foreign policy, Franco-American relations, French invasion, subversion, first amendment

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