Alien and Sedition Acts Rhetorical Analysis

Topics: John Adams, United States, Rhetoric Pages: 3 (906 words) Published: October 9, 2013
The United States of America and France’s alliance had badly deteriorated after the French Revolution came to a completion in the late 1790s. In fear of a war with France and political turmoil surfacing in America, the Federal Congress passed four laws in 1798, signed by President John Adams, that came to be known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws became a source of bitter controversy across the country, causing many to be furious and claim that the acts violated their personal liberties such as the right to free speech. Others, however, sought to defend the decrees and prove that they were constitutional, affecting only foreigners and those who were conspiring against the government. President Adams’s secretary of state, Timothy Pickering, argued that the laws would not have an effect on American citizens, so there was no need for concern (as stated in Timothy Pickering Upholds the Representative Laws.) James Madison, who would later become the fourth president of the United States, drafted The Virginia Legislative Protests in 1798, which declared that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional and would be abolished.

Timothy Pickering begins his passionate defense by addressing that the Alien Law would only affect foreigners—i.e. “aliens”—who are conspiring against the country and explains why the act is not dangerous for the nation as a whole. He then proceeds to give reasons for why the United States should not be worried about the Sedition Act either, then concludes his argument with the belief that anyone against the passage of the laws is, frankly, also against the justice system as a whole. Pickering’s usage of his framework and organization from least to greatest importance is a powerful rhetorical tool that leaves the audience asking questions and thinking for themselves. His use of parallel sentence structure throughout the piece, such as “ . . . use our tongues, employ our pens, and carry our cudgels, . . . ” strongly evokes...
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