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Frenchmen plunder female "America," while five figures (lower right) representing other European countries look on.John Bull (England) sits laughing on "Shakespeare's Cliff."The three alien laws, passed in June and July, were aimed at French and Irish immigrants, who were mostly pro-French.
The federal act reduced the oppressiveness of procedures in prosecuting such offenses but provided for federal enforcement.
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which the other state legislatures either ignored or denounced as subversive.
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XYZ Affair (1797), war with France had appeared inevitable.
The Democratic-Republicans, with whom Thomas Jefferson was numbered were heavily fearful of a strong central government.
HE was willing to allow the law to be used to his political advantage.
In November and December 1798, shortly after the passage of the acts, both Kentucky and Virginia endorsed manifestos on states' rights, written anonymously by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, respectively.
These resolutions stated that state legislatures maintained the power of interposition, which allowed them to judge the constitutionality of acts of Congress.
John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts during June and July 1798, but it was only with the gravest misgivings that he did so, for the acts asserted the power of the central government to an unprecedented extent.
The first, and least controversial, act was the Alien Enemies Act.