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Historical Glossary

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"King Cotton"

Expression used by Southern authors and orators before the Civil War to indicate the economic dominance of the Southern cotton industry, and that the North needed the South's cotton. In a speech to the Senate in 1858, James Hammond declared, "You daren't make war against cotton! ...Cotton is king!".

1780's Depression

Caused by a post-war decrease in production and increase in unemployment,and also caused by tough interstate commerce rules which decreased trade.

54º40' or Fight!

An aggressive slogan adopted in the Oregon boundary dispute, a dispute over where the border between Canada and Oregon should be drawn. This was also Polk's slogan - the Democrats wanted the U.S. border drawn at the54º40' latitude. Polk settled for the 49º latitude in 1846.

Abelman v. Booth

On 7 March 1859, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Constitution's supremacy over state law preempts state courts from serving writs of habeas corpus on federal courts and their officials, or from otherwise interfering with the enforcement of US laws. The ruling blocked northern abolitionists from using state courts or personal liberty laws to nullify the Fugitive Slave Law (1850), whose constitutionality was also (improperly) affirmed.

Abington Township v. Schempp

On 17 June 1963, the Supreme Court (8–1) extended Engel v. Vitale by overturning a Pa. law mandating that school days start with the Lord's Prayer and a Bible reading.