Alien and Sedition Laws.

June, 1798.

Mr. LIVINGSTON. By this act the President alone is empowered to make the law; to fix in his own mind what acts, what words, what thoughts, or looks, shall constitute the crime contemplated by the bill; that is, the crime of being "suspected to be dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States." This comes completely within the definition of despotism -- a union of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. My opinions on this subject are explicit: they are, that wherever our laws manifestly infringe the Constitution under which they were made, the people {441} ought not to hesitate which to obey. If we exceed our powers, we become tyrants, and our acts have no effect.

Mr. TAZEWELL opposed the bill. He knew but of one power, given to Congress by the Constitution, which could exclusively apply to aliens; and that was the power of naturalization. Whether this was a power which excluded the states from its exercise, or gave to Congress only a concurrent authority over the subjects, he would not now pretend to say. It neither authorized Congress to prohibit the migration of foreigners to any state, nor to banish them when admitted. It was a power which could only authorize Congress to give or withhold citizenship. The states, notwithstanding this power of naturalization, could impart to aliens the rights of suffrage, the right to purchase and hold lands. There were, in this respect, no restraints upon the states. The states, Mr. T. said, had not parted from their power of admitting foreigners to their society, nor with that of preserving the benefit which their admission gave them in the general government, otherwise than that by which they would be deprived of a citizen. [The bill passed the Senate by yeas, 16; nays, 7.]