During the Conflict with France, the Federalists Congress passed and President Adams signed several bills aimed at strengthening the Federal government by:
1) making it illegal to criticize government officials (including the President)
2) making it more difficult for foreigners to become citizens of the United States.

During the XYZ affair, President Adams and Federalists were harshly criticized by Democrat-Republicans for preparing for war. In addition, there was a major increase in immigration from France during this time period due to the French Revolution. Federalists were concerned some of the French could be spies, and that when they become citizens they would vote for Democrat-Republicans.

The Alien-Sedition Acts were criticized by Democrat-Republicans as being:
1) a violation of the 1st amendment of the Constitution
2) for being a purely political attempt to prevent immigrants who would likely vote for the D-R from voting.

The Four Alien and Sedition Acts were:
  • Naturalization Act--This act required that aliens be residents for 14 years instead of 5 years before they became eligible for U.S. citizenship.
  • Alien Act--Authorized the President to deport aliens "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" during peacetime.
  • Alien Enemies Act--This act allowed the wartime arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien subject to an enemy power.
  • Sedition Act--declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of "any false, scandalous and malicious writing," was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. Twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

Vice President Jefferson's response was to write the Kentucky-Virginia Resolutions, which argued that individual States should have the right to nullify, or cancel, any Federal law the State believes is a violation of the Constitution. This principle is known as the Doctrine of Nullification.

Should States have the right to nullify Federal laws?