A New Revolution
After eight years as president, George Washington retired. His successor was his vice president, John Adams of Massachusetts; he was the man who had helped convince Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. When Adams was younger, and the country needed help breaking away from England, he was a strong leader and a fine thinker. Then he went off to Europe, where he served his country well as a diplomat. But some said that he grew to love European ceremony and European ways too much. He believed in representative government, but he didn't think much of democracy. Like Alexander Hamilton, he thought that only the educated should govern; he didn't trust the mass of people.
In 1798, with the country on the verge of war with France, Congress introduced bills called the Alien and Sedition Acts; President Adams signed them into law . The Alien Act made it difficult for foreigners to become United States citizens and allowed the president to throw any alien he wanted out of the country. Given the atmosphere of the times it may have been understandable, but the Sedition Act was something else. It made it a crime for Americans to criticize the government; some people got arrested for doing just that. One was Congressman Matthew Lyon of Vermont. Lyon was an independent guywild, with a real temper. He said that President Adams was trying to act like a king and should be sent "to a mad house." Well, because of the Sedition law, it was Lyon who got sent awayto jail. Thomas Jefferson was shocked. He said, "I know not which mortifies me most, that I should fear to write what I think, or my country bear such a state of things."