One controversy in particular was the debate over immigration. Some believed that immigration did not need to be encouraged unless to some particular professions or men. George Washington, the President of the United States, was not particularly sure of his position on the immigration issue, although he did not let the public know that. In a letter to friend he wrote, “while the policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for, by so doing, they retain the Language, habits and principles (good and bad) which they bring with them--whereas by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures and laws:--in a word, soon become one people” (Document A). Many were also very supportive of immigration, to give people from other countries the chance to go to the United States to have the same freedom that most of the citizens of the U.S. had gone there in the first place. They believed that every person that had come to the U.S. while it was still under Britain control, and during the time after the U.S. gained their independence from Britain was in a way an immigrant. This was debated much by the citizens and the government.
Another controversy that developed because of the Alien and Sedition Acts was the debates over the Sedition Act. Many people believed that this act, saying that any writings published that were ‘scandalous and malicious’ against the government was unconstitutional because it went against the first amendment, that gave the freedom of speech and press. Others, like Alexander Hamilton, liked the idea because the bill gave the government a kind of security that protected them from being exposed. Hamilton stated in a letter to Oliver Wolcott that, “There are provisions in this bill, which, according to a cursory view, appear to me highly exceptional, and such as, more than anything else, may endanger civil war...” (Document O) Those who opposed the bill in Congress, like Albert Gallatin, a congressman from Pennsylvania, used the argument that, “The only evidences brought by the supporters of this bill [i.e., the Sedition Act] consist of writings expressing an opinion that certain measures of government have been dictated by an unwise policy, or by improper motives, and that some of them are unconstitutional. This bill and its supporters suppose, in fact, that whoever dislikes the measures of administration and of a temporary majority in Congress, and shall, either by speaking or writing, express his disapprobation and his want of confidence in the men now in power, is seditious, is an enemy, not of administration but of the Constitution...” (Document P). This controversy was just one surrounding the Sedition Act.
Anti-Federalism, the idea that the people’s rights should be protected and that they should be in the Constitution to make sure they were protected, was also a huge controversy that developed because of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson was an Anti-federalist. In a letter to a friend in Italy he wrote that, “In place of that noble love of liberty, & republican government which carried us triumphantly thro’ the war, an Anglican monarchial, & aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over us the substance, as they have already done the forms, of the British government. The main body of our citizens, however, remain true to their republican principles; the whole landed interest is republican, and so is a great mass of talents” (Document G). In this quote, he states that the majority of the people are still republican, but the government is turning into Federalists.
There were many controversies that sprung up around and because of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, and the controversies stated in this paper were just few of them. The Alien and Sedition Acts were put in place to give government a little more control over the people residing in the United States. The Acts were passed, though many did disagree with them.