The bills were presumed to strengthen national security in response to French foreign threat, however many believed they were constructed in order to weaken forces that opposed the Federalist party. Indeed, the laws gave the government power to deport foreigners. They also made it harder for immigrants to vote, as the time of residency was raised to 14 years before eligibility. Which of the four bills was most controversial?
The most controversial bill was the Sedition Act, which prohibited public opposition to the government and was enforced by fines and imprisonment. This Act expired in 1801, as Congress decided that it violated personal freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment in the constitution.
Words of Wisdom
... that if the acts before specified should stand, these conclusions would flow from them; 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 …