Alien and Sedition Acts Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Were the Alien and Sedition Acts a plan against freedom or a necessary evil during a time of instability? With this lesson plan, your students will be able to make up their own minds.

Lesson Objectives

  • define the Alien and Sedition Acts
  • analyze their significance on the development of the separation of powers


  • 40-60 minutes for the lesson
  • 40 minutes for the activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Terms

  • Alien Act
  • Sedition Act
  • Naturalization Act
  • Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions


  • Start the lesson by reviewing Washington's stance to remain neutral and trade with all nations. Also review that France and England were at war following the French Revolution.
  • As a class, watch the video lesson What is the Alien Act of 1798? - Definition & Overview, pausing for the following questions:
    • 1:48 - Why was there animosity between the French and Americans?
    • 2:44 - What European power did the Democratic Republicans side with? What about the Federalists?
    • 5:13 - How could the Alien Act be used to target political opponents of the Federalists?
  • Now watch the video lesson Sedition Act of 1798: Definition and Summary, pausing again for these discussion points:
    • 2:38 - Compare and contrast the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists.
    • 5:14 - How was the Sedition Act used to target opposition in the press?
    • 6:13 - How did the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions add to the growing debate about states' rights?

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