Lesson Plan

Lesson 1: From the President's Lips: The Concerns that Led to the Sedition (and Alien) Act

John Adams
Photo caption

John Adams.

What conditions provided the impetus for the Sedition Act? Partisan animosity was strong during Adams's presidency. The first two political parties in the U.S. were in their infancy—the Federalists, to which the majority of members of Congress belonged, and the Democratic-Republicans, led by former vice-president Thomas Jefferson and four-term Congressman James Madison, who had left the House in 1796. This lesson examines the motives for and consequences of the XYZ Affair and the Alien and Sedition Acts, along with the presidency of John Adams. 

Guiding Questions

What conditions provided the impetus for the Sedition Act?

What is the legacy of the Alien and Sedition Acts?

Learning Objectives

Analyze the international situation during John Adams’s presidency.

Analyze the domestic political situation and the competing perspectives regarding the power to enact Alien and Sedition Acts. 

Evaluate the motives for and results of the Sedition Act.