Description: The traditional narrative of political party development in the United States of America during the latter half of the 1790s ascribes the decline in popularity of the Federalist Party in the Election of 1800 to that party's passage of controversial legislation, specifically the Sedition Act of 1798, prior to the election. Between the passage of the Sedition Act and the Election of 1800, however, the midterm elections of 1798-1799 transpired and resulted in a significant increase in Federalist popularity in four states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. This study seeks to ascertain why these four states increased their support for the Federalist Party in 1798-1799, despite the passage of the Sedition Act by the Federalist Party. By examining newspapers and election results, this study analyzes the reaction of these four states to the passage of the Sedition Act and finds that generally, these states did not react strongly against the Sedition Act in the immediate aftermath of its passage. Instead, all four states urged national unity and emphasized the need to support the national government because the United States faced the threat of war with France. This study employs a state-by-state formula to determine each state's individual reaction to the Sedition Act and the Quasi-War, finding that ultimately, the Sedition Act did not have as significant of an impact in these states as the popular narrative holds.
Date: December 2017
Creator: Robinson, Sarah Elizabeth