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The passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts highlighted the differences between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. The Alien Act increased the time it would take for an immigrant to become a citizen from five years to fourteen years. Since many immigrants were joining the Democratic-Republican Party, the Federalists wanted to delay citizenship for immigrants to help keep the Federalists in power longer. The Sedition Act made it illegal to falsely or critically speak about the government. The Democratic-Republicans were criticizing the Federalists, and the Federalists tried to stop this from happening.
As a result of these laws, the Democratic-Republicans developed the concept of the states’ rights theory. This concept said that states could nullify or void laws that they didn’t like or support. The Federalists strongly opposed this policy. This raised a big constitutional debate since the Constitution declared that federal laws take priority over state laws. Thus, states couldn’t nullify federal laws. Kentucky and Virginia nullified these laws. However, before this action could be tested in court, the laws were ended when the Democratic-Republicans got power in 1800. This issue of states’ rights would reappear many times and would eventually be one of the causes of the Civil War.
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