This week in history: Sedition Act tested American liberties

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  • Lanny Bountiful, UT
    July 21, 2013 1:42 p.m.

    There are 2 facts that should have been added:

    1) U.S. President Thomas Jefferson was in FAVOR of states having sedition acts, and the states prosecuting violators of those acts. One instance of his stated belief in states' sedition acts was in his 1804 series of letters with John Adams' wife Abigail.

    The state constitutions at that time - like the First Amendment - had clauses protecting freedom of speech. If the national Sedition Acts violated the First Amendment, then state sedition acts violated their state constitutions. Jefferson was aware that at least some state constitutions - including his own state Virginia constitution - had such clauses. They were popular clauses to include in constitutions.

    Then what is Jefferson's real attitude toward Adams' sedition acts? Jefferson was against Hamilton/Federalist sedition acts but not against other sedition acts when he was in power

    2) What's the 2nd act that should have been added? Subsequent Supreme Courts have found Sedition Acts constitutional during war time as they did the 1918 Sedition Act that you referred to.

  • Eliot Santaquin, UT
    July 17, 2013 5:17 p.m.

    The Alien and Sedition Act ultimately led to the complete demise of the federalist party. Of course, the political parties of that day were nothing compared to what we have today. Federalists believed that there were those who were naturally gifted and chosen to rule in the government. For them, the criticism leveled against them brought into question their honor, something they held very sacred. The populist republicans of the day were repulsed by the arrogance and aristocratic ways of the federalists and they sought to pull them down, primarily by means of the popular press. Newspapers proliferated in that era, many with very partisan editorial slants in favor of popular government and republicanism. The Alien and Sedition Act was designed to neutralize that criticism and it largely backfired. For those who think partisan politics are ugly today, you need only look at our country in the immediate aftermath of George Washington's presidency to see just how good we have it now.