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No LawIntellectual Property in the Image of an Absolute First Amendment$
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David L. Lange and H. Jefferson Powell

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804745789

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804745789.001.0001

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The Sedition Act of 1798 and the First First Amendment Crisis

The Sedition Act of 1798 and the First First Amendment Crisis

(p.212) Chapter 8 The Sedition Act of 1798 and the First First Amendment Crisis
No Law
Stanford University Press

In the summer of 1798 Congress passed and President Adams signed into law a battery of four statutes intended to safeguard domestic security. Three of the statutes dealt with the threats perceived to exist from the immigrant population. This chapter is concerned with the fourth, the Sedition Act passed on 4 July 1798. Section 2 of the Sedition Act made it a crime for any person to “write, print, utter or publish, or … cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or … knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States….” Unlike other parts of the Act, this provision sparked the first great debate in American history over the meaning of the First Amendment. The chapter examines the debates over what the Sedition Act says about the First Amendment and its interpretation.

Keywords:   Sedition Act, First Amendment, Congress, President Adams, United States

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