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John Adams
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XYZ Affair
Naturalization Act
Alien Act
Sedition Act
VA & Kentucky Resolution
XYZ Affair
• XYZ Affair, name usually given to an incident
(1797–98) in Franco-American diplomatic
relations.
• The United States had in 1778 entered into an
alliance with France, but after the outbreak of
the French Revolutionary Wars was both
unable and unwilling to lend aid.
• The conclusion (1795) of Jay's Treaty with
England aroused French anger, aroused
French anger. Numerous American ships were
seized by French privateers, and the countries
drifted into a mutually hostile attitude.
• President John Adams sent Marshall , Gerry ,
and Pinckney on a peace mission to France.
• This three-man commission was immediately
confronted by the refusal of French foreign
minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand to
receive it officially.
• Indirect suggestions of loans and bribes to
France were made to the commissioners.
• Negotiations were carried on through Jean
Conrad Hottinguer and Lucien Hauteval, both
Swiss, and a Mr. Bellamy, an American banker
in Hamburg; the three were called X, Y, and Z
in the mission's dispatches to the United
States.
• The proposal that the Americans pay France
about $250,000 before the French government
would even deal with them created an uproar
when it was released in the United States, where
the pro-British party welcomed the chance to
worsen Franco-American relations.
• Meanwhile, an undeclared naval war ensued
between France and the United States.
• In 1799, Adams, again sent three men to
France to negotiate.
• The result was the Treaty of Mortefontaine
(Sept.30, 1800), known as the Convention of
1800, a commercial agreement that improved
relations between the two countries
Naturalization Act
• The Naturalization Act, raising from 5 to 14
the number of years of United States
residence required for naturalization.
Alien Act
• Alien Act, 1798, four laws enacted by the
Federalist-controlled U.S. Congress, allegedly
in response to the hostile actions of the
French Revolutionary government on the seas
and in the councils of diplomacy, but actually
designed to destroy Thomas Jefferson's
Republican party, which had openly expressed
its sympathies for the French Revolutionaries.
• Depending on recent arrivals from Europe for
much of their voting strength, the
Republicans were adversely affected by the
Naturalization Act, and by the Alien Act and
the Alien Enemies Act, which gave the
President the power to imprison or deport
aliens suspected of activities posing a threat
to the national government.
Sedition Act
• Most controversial, however, was the Sedition
Act, devised to silence Republican criticism of the
Federalists.
• Its broad proscription of spoken or written
criticism of the government, the Congress, or the
President virtually nullified the First Amendment
freedoms of speech and the press.
• Prominent Jeffersonians, most of them
journalists, were tried, and some were
convicted, in sedition proceedings.
• The Alien and Sedition Acts provoked the
Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and did
much to unify the Republican party and to
foster Republican victory in the election of
1800.
VA & Kentucky Resolution
• Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, resolutions
passed in opposition to the Alien and Sedition
Acts, which were enacted by the Federalists in
1798.
• Written by Thomas Jefferson himself, they
were a severe attack on the Federalists' broad
interpretation of the Constitution, which
would have extended the powers of the
national government over the states.
• The resolutions declared that the Constitution
merely established a compact between the states
and that the federal government had no right to
exercise powers not specifically delegated to it
under the terms of the compact; should the
federal government assume such powers, its acts
under them would be un-authoritative and
therefore void.
• It was the right of the states and not the federal
government to decide as to the constitutionality
of such acts. A further resolution, adopted in
Feb., 1799, provided a means by which the states
could enforce their decisions by formal
nullification of the objectionable laws.
• The resolutions were submitted to the other
states for approval with no real result; their
chief importance lies in the fact that they
were later considered to be the first notable
statements of the states' rights theory of
government, a theory that opened the way
for the nullification controversy and ultimately
for secession.