Thomas Jefferson Would be in Jail
by bernardpliers, Sun Jul 16, 2006 at 03:59:29 PM EDT
Read this a few times. Jefferson would definitely be in prison today for writing anything like the Kentucky Resolutions (1798), regards the Alien and Sedition Act, and his distrust of the President and the majority in congress.
Jeffersonians denounced the Sedition Act as a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, which protected the right of free speech. The First Amendment clearly states that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." Subsequent mentions of the Sedition Act in particular in Supreme Court opinions have assumed that it would be unconstitutional today. For example, in the seminal Free Speech case of New York Times v. Sullivan, the Court declared, "Although the Sedition Act was never tested in this Court, the attack upon its validity has carried the day in the court of history." 376 U.S. 254, 276 (1964).
Ultimately the Acts backfired against the Federalists ........Twenty-five people, primarily prominent newspaper editors but also Congressman Matthew Lyon, were arrested. Of them eleven were tried (one died while awaiting trial), and ten were convicted of sedition, often in trials before openly partisan Federalist judges. Federalists at all levels, however, were turned out of power in 1800, and over the following years Congress repeatedly apologized for, or voted recompense to victims of, the Alien and Sedition Acts.
From The KentuckY Resolutions (Oct 1798)
"....that the General Government may place any act they think proper on the list of crimes, and punish it themselves whether enumerated or not enumerated by the Constitution as cognizable by them: that they may transfer its cognizance to the President, or any other person, who may himself be the accuser, counsel, judge and jury, whose suspicions may be the evidence, his order the sentence, his officer the executioner, and his breast the sole record of the transaction: that a very numerous and valuable description of the inhabitants of these States being, by this precedent, reduced, as outlaws, to the absolute dominion of one man, and the barrier of the Constitution thus swept away from us all, no rampart now remains against the passions and the powers of a majority in Congress to protect from a like exportation, or other more grievous punishment, the minority of the same body, the legislatures, judges, governors, and counsellors of the States, nor their other peaceable inhabitants, who may venture to reclaim the constitutional rights and liberties of the States and people, or who for other causes, good or bad, may be obnoxious to the views, or marked by the suspicions of the President, or be thought dangerous to his or their election, or other interests, public or personal: that the friendless alien has indeed been selected as the safest subject of a first experiment; but the citizen will soon follow, or rather, has already followed, for already has a sedition act marked him as its prey: that these and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested at the threshold, necessarily drive these States into revolution and blood, and will furnish new calumnies against republican government, and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron: that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the (elected) men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism -- free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go; and let the honest advocate of confidence read the alien and sedition acts, and say if the Constitution has not been wise in fixing limits to the government it created, and whether we should be wise in destroying those limits.