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Liberty of Speech, and of the press, January 1799 (litho) Featured Albert Meyering Image

Liberty of Speech, and of the press, January 1799 (litho)

695978 Liberty of Speech, and of the press, January 1799 (litho) by American School, (18th century); 53.2x32.9 cm; Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York, USA; (add.info.: The Alien and Sedition acts were so broadly written that hundreds of foreign refugees fled to Europe fearing detention. It was the Sedition Act, which sought to suppress criticism of the government, that produced the greatest fear within the Republican opposition. Federalist prosecutors secured indictments against 25 people, mainly Republican editors and printers. Ten people were convicted, one a Republican Representative from Vermont. The most notorious use of the law took place in July 1798. Luther Baldwin, the pilot of a garbage scow, was arrested in a Newark, New Jersey tavern, on charges of criminal sedition. While cannons roared to celebrate a presidential visit to the city, Baldwin said "that he did not care if they fired through [the president's] arse." For his drunken remark, Baldwin was locked up for two months and fined. Republicans accused the Federalists of conspiring to subvert fundamental liberties. In Virginia, the state legislature adopted a resolution written by James Madison declaring that states had the right to determine the constitutionality of federal laws, and that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. Kentucky's state legislature went further, adopting a resolution written by Thomas Jefferson that held that the acts were "void and of no force." The Kentucky resolution raised an issue that would grow increasingly important in the years before the Civil War: Did states have the right to declare acts of Congress null and void? In this charge to the grand juries in Pennsylvania's fifth district, Alexander Addison (1759-1807), president of Pennsylvania's county courts, defends the Sedition Act, arguing that it was necessary to restrain demagoguery. ); A© Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History ; American, out of copyright

© © Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History / Bridgeman Images