Library of Congress

TPS Quarterly

The Library of Congress > Teachers > TPS Program > Learning Activity (Sec.)

Should the Freedom of Speech and the Press Ever Be Limited?


Using the Sedition Act of 1798 as a historical case study, students analyze several text-based primary sources. They discuss their findings to better understand the term “sedition” and the historical context of the late 1790s. Students consider the question, “Should the freedom of speech and the press ever be limited?” and then write responses using evidence from the primary sources. The activity offers techniques to help students, especially English Language Learners (ELLs), analyze text-based primary sources.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • define the term “sedition;”
  • analyze a text-based primary source;
  • describe the domestic debate around the Sedition Act; and,
  • develop a written response to the question, “Should the freedom of speech and the press ever be limited?”

Time Required

Two 45-minute class periods

Recommended Grade Range



Government, Law; Presidents


U.S. History


Standards & Benchmarks

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective

United States History

Standard 8. Understands the institutions and practices of government created during the Revolution and how these elements were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


Nicole Gilbertson, Ph.D., Director of the University of California, Irvine History Project.

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