Alien and Sedition Acts

(1798)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

An Act Concerning Aliens

This act, also known as the Alien Friends Act, dealt with all aliens resident in the United States. Most had come to the nation hoping to make it their home. The act had a sunset provision: It would continue in force for only two years after June 25, 1798, the date it was passed.

The text of the Alien Friends Act gives the president broad power over aliens. He is enabled to order the removal of such aliens “as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States, or shall have reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government.” Aliens who failed to depart from the nation when ordered or who failed to abide by the terms of a license by which the president allowed them to remain could be imprisoned for three years and could never thereafter become citizens. The act allows aliens who are ordered to depart to appear before persons selected...

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John Adams (Library of Congress)

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