The First Amendment, Luther Baldwin and the Alien and Sedition Acts

December 21, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, Home, journalism education.

Luther Baldwin and the Alien and Sedition Acts from Jim Stovall on Vimeo.

University of Tennessee professor Dwight Teeter discusses the case of Luther Baldwin, a New Jersey man who was prosecuted under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Baldwin became a symbol of Federalist intolerance during the 1800 presidential election.

This video is part of the Tennessee Journalism Series and was produced and edited by Jim Stovall.

The Alien and Sedition Acts

Here’s what the Library of Congress website page on the Alien and Sedition Acts says (in part):

Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire. (quoted material)

Other discussions of the First Amendment on

John Adams (Library of Congress)

John Adams (Library of Congress)

Other discussions of the First Amendment on

  • Does anything that Dr. Teeter says about the First Amendment surprise you?
  • Who was Luther Baldwin?
  • What did James Madison, who authored the First Amendment, have to say about the Alien and Sedition Acts? (See the Library of Congress collection of James Madison’s papers for this.)
  • Why is John Adams important to the discussion of the Alien and Sedition Acts?
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