John Adams • 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-Americandiplomatic 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 shipswere 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 payFrance 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 UnitedStates. • 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 VirginiaResolutions 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.