Ever since the earliest Colonial settlements, the so-called New World had been a haven for people whose ideas or religions had been distasteful to the existing authorities. But then, in the latter half of the 1700’s, the hospitality began to wear thin. The Naturalization Act passed by Congress in 1795, although for the most part liberal enough, within a few years all sorts of fears swept through the states—fears that the country was being subverted and that all sorts of conspiracies were being laid against the new nation. France in particular was suspected of meddling in the sovereign affairs of the United States. Meanwhile, accusations of disloyalty were being thrown around and a profound uneasiness settled over the nation. Within a two-month period—June and July, 1798—four acts were passed that were designed to strengthen the internal security of the country but that actually had the effect of adding to the tensions and confusions. Under these acts, visitors or new settlers were under almost constant suspicion and pressure. The president was given arbitrary power of detention or deportation. The image of America suffered abroad. Meanwhile, men that questioned the orthodox view of Christianity, such as the two English scientists and thinkers Dr. Joseph Priesley and Dr. Thomas Cooper, who had come to the United States to take part in a great adventure of ideas, became uneasy and uncertain; though their presents here was viewed as an important gain for America by many, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the men were caught in the conflict of one controversy after another. Their unorthodox religious opinions produced a storm of opposition, as was indicated by letters written by Jefferson during this time.
Reference: ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’, The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, Copyright 1958 by Norman Cousins