Why Sedition Acts Shouldn't Have Been Passed by U.S. Congress
George Hay was a legislator in Virginia who was known for not liking the Sedition Act of 1798. The Sedition Act started off as part of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were passed at the anticipation of war that’s between our nation and the French. These acts, mainly the Alien act were aimed at the French immigrants who were waiting for their citizenships. Americans didn’t really seem to care about those laws except for the Sedition Act. A lot of Republicans, like George Hay opposed this law because they thought it was violating the rights of Americans to have a freedom of speech and of the press. So, as a way of giving his own opinion, George Hay wrote an essay that’s called “Liberty of the Press,” which would show his displeasure to the Sedition Act and the Federalists. At the first part of the excerpt, Hay started his argument with a strong opinion about the limitation that the Sedition Act of 1798 had on the Americans to freely give their opinions about the government. He said that according to the constitution, it stated that as a citizen of the United States, people can have freedom of the press to be used when needed, and how this Sedition Act was “unconstitutionally” limiting this freedom. He also said how no one should ever have the power to restrain this right, because freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment, since it wasn’t clearly written where the freedom stopped, it made sense to not allow anyone to make laws that would stop freedom of speech and the press.
George Hay believed that the authors of the First Amendment intended to get rid of any laws trying to restrict freedom of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly. He also said how there shouldn’t be any difference in free and malicious speech, because he believed that any kind of speech should be gone from any kind of restrictions enforced by the government. Also, he stated how it was going to be difficult to distinguish between the two, so it made more sense to not have anything that would set boundaries if a person was spreading anything or even just expressing their own opinion. Since there wasn’t anything written in the constitution that says it is okay to practice freedom in malicious acts, he acknowledged that the practice of freedom should be used for something we consider as morally right. However, it’s also bad to put a restrain on opinions that would only carry facts, because he believed that there is “truth in every opinion, as well as fact.” On the other hand, George Hay didn’t agree with the idea of giving the government the right to put a restrain in only giving the truth, because he thought that if this law was enforced then it wasn’t hard for the government to do that with all kinds of opinions, whether it’s true or false, and if they even happened, he thought it could harm society. This is because the government would just keep information from people, and the truth would be hidden by the government. This is one of the reasons why George Hay didn’t like this act. He couldn’t get over the fact that this law was taking away the nation’s rights to express their opinions of the citizens against the government freely, and the idea of sharing ideas within their own little society wasn’t allowed either. Hay also felt the same way about the Congress as President Wilson.
He believed that the citizens of the United States should have the right to freely practice freedom of the press, and by that, he wanted society to have the ability to go over everything about the government. George Hay thought if we didn’t have this freedom, then the government could just hide and change the truth and keep the info from the public. George Hay thought that if the government had enforced these laws and actually limit the freedom of speech and of the press, it could cause issues within the US, like a revolt against the government. He believed that the Sedition Act was unconstitutional, because it was prohibiting the freedom of citizens from freely expressing their own opinion, giving ideas to others, and most importantly to go over every aspect of the government. Based off Excerpts from the Sedition Act, 1918, I think everyone in the US is allowed to say how they feel about the government, but that doesn’t mean people should do it like that in a mean way, and it shouldn’t be held against anyone if it’s their opinion. A big problem is criticism and insult, and that’s probably where a lot of problems come from. Criticizing the government is okay, as long as it’s done the right way. Like you should be able to show things they need improvement on and how we actually want to make it better. Insulting, is another story. It’s literally doing that but not doing anything about it and just trash talking the country pretty much. I dont think it is good for the the country and the government, because you’re kinda just pointing out imperfections and not technically trying to make it better. People should always be heard, both the positive and negative stuff.
Also, based off the constitution under the First Amendment, everyone in the country has a right for freedom of speech and press. People can’t just make false claims about the government, because it’s being disloyal. Therefore, not only is it bad to press charges on people, it’s also unconstitutional to stop them from voicing out their opinion. On the other hand, if there ever comes a time that accusations made by the people were proven that it’s false, like spreading rumors that could maybe harm or endanger someone’s life, or worse like the nation’s security, then yes, it’s okay to press some charges, but not to an extent where whoever it is can get executed, but the point of expressing peoples opinion on the government should be freely expressed. President Wilson was talking about freedom and how he urged people to enact the laws at the earliest moment possible. He believes this will save the honor and self respect of the nation. I don’t think that criticism should be limited during a declared war or some other national emergency cause how are people gonna voice their opinion on the problem if they have limited freedom? People should be able to give opinions at all times, because it helps them to be more involved in what the nation is facing. Also, if there is a restriction on how we would express our concerns about the government, then there’d be limited opportunities for the system to improve and support everybody. Criticism against the government during war or other national emergency is good because it gives a balanced side to each issue concerning the nation. With that being said, we now need to keep in mind that people interpret things differently. One person could be saying that he/she was just stating an opinion, and the other person could take it as an insult. Each individual has their own way on how they would take in the information given to them. So just like what Wilson said, it’s hard to come between a free and malicious speech, but the government should be able to come up with something that could resolve this kind of issues, because it would be unjust for people who were being harassed or bullied by people through the use of this law. Each individual has their own way on how they would take in the information given to them.
With that being said, I think that the US congress shouldn’t have passed the sedition act, even though some people like it. I think that people should always be able to vote and do things that anyone else can do because all people are equal no matter what they look like or where they come from and shouldn’t be deported or criticized based off of some act that doesn’t even seem ethical. Document 8 says how people are still to this day being terrorized by these rights by people who are supposed to help. What ever happened to freedom of speech? According to document 8, it’s saying how people are literally thrown into jail and being unlawfully arrested for days, to then be discharged without having to go to court, because they committed no crime. These poor people had to go through that when no one even takes a second to just try to figure out if they actually did or not. They’re too quick to judge. It says everyone’s constitutional rights are being violated, and this is why I think the congress was dumb when they decided to make the Sedition Act during WWI.
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