Testing The Constitution: The Alien And Sedition Acts

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In 1798 as the United States and France engaged in a naval conflict known as the Quasi-War, Federalists, led by Harrison Gray Otis in the U.S. House of Representatives, enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts to defend the nation against domestic and foreign threats. Through these laws, Federalists attempted to define patriotism by marking the boundaries of political debate, deciding who could live in the country and limiting who could become an American. Little more than twenty years after Americans declared independence, and less than ten since the ratification of a new constitution and a bill of rights, Americans robustly debated the meaning of independence, the powers of government, and the rights embodied in their founding documents.

Join author Terri Diane Halperin for this virtual program discussing the passage and furor over these laws, the difficulties of enforcement, and the debates that erupted between partisan opponents, revealing the dangers of partisan excess throughout history.

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