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Historical Glossary

There are 116 entries in this glossary.
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Adams, John

 (b. Quincy, Mass., 19 October 1735; d. Quincy, Mass., 4 July 1826)    In 1768 Adams opened a law office in Boston, where he was the political lieutenant of his second cousin, Samuel Adams. He successfully defended the British troops tried for the Boston massacre. At the first and second Continental Congresses, he molded support for the Declaration of Independence. He was the principal author of the Massachusetts Constitution (1780), which influenced the federal Constitution's structure. He helped negotiate the treaty of Paris (1783), was minister to Britain (1785–8), and as first vice-president, decided the fate of legislation in 20 tie-votes during his term. His term as president, representing the Federalist party (1797–1801) was dominated by extremists from that party who controlled Congress, and after Adams broke with them in 1800, he lacked sufficient support for reelection. He then left politics.

Adams, John Quincy

(b. Quincy, Mass., 11 July 1767; d. Washington, D.C., 23 February 1848)    Son of John Adams, he was envoy to the Netherlands (1794–6) and Prussia (1797–1801). Elected to the Senate in 1803, he resigned in 1808 under pressure from his Mass. constituents for having supported the embargo (see Embargo Act). He headed the US delegation at the negotiations for the treaty of Ghent and was ambassador to Britain (1815–17). He negotiated the Adams–Onis Treaty. Running for president in 1824 as a Democrat, he gained just 30.5 percent of the ballots but won through the “ corrupt bargain.”
His domestic agenda was the boldest yet proposed by a president, and included federal funding of internal improvements, scientific explorations, an astronomical observatory, a national university, and an Interior Department, but Congress enacted little of his program. Adams suffered another major defeat when Ga. forced him to accept the treaty of Indian Springs. It was Adams and Henry Clay around whom the National Republicans formed. In part because he refused on principle to use patronage to build a political machine, he took only 44.0 percent of the popular vote against Jackson in 1828. While in Congress (1831–48), he opposed the annexation of Texas and the extension of slavery to the territories. He was known as “Old Man Eloquent” for his efforts to overturn the Gag Rule.

Adams, Samuel

(b. Boston, Mass., 27 September 1722; d. Boston, Mass., 2 October 1803)    By 1764, Adams had become the dominant influence over Boston's town meeting. By his shrewd use of demonstrations and written propaganda, he made Boston the principal center of resistance to unconstitutional parliamentary measures. He helped found the Sons of Liberty, created the committees of correspondence and published the inflammatory account of Boston's occupation by British troops, A Journal of the Times. Recognizing before any other major colonial leader that American rights would never be assured under British rule, he pressed resolutely for the Declaration of Independence at the first and second Continental Congresses. He was governor of Mass. (1794–7).

Adamson [Eight-hour] Act

(3 September 1916)    In 1916 the largest railway unions threatened to strike on 4 September unless an eight-hour workday was instituted. Urged by Woodrow Wilson to avoid nationwide transportation disruption, a day before the strike date Congress set an eight-hour workday, plus time-and-a-half pay after that, for interstate railroad workers. Wilson v. New upheld the law.

Adams–Onis Treaty

To end tensions caused by the first Seminole War and establish the Louisiana Purchase's precise southern line, John Q. Adams negotiated this treaty with Luis de Onis, Spain's ambassador at Washington. Spain agreed to cede both East and West Florida to the US. The US gave up its claim to much of east and central Tex. under the Louisiana Purchase, and accepted the Sabine River as La.'s border. Spain and the US fixed their western boundary as the Red and Arkansas rivers, north along the Rockies' eastern slope, and then west along the 42nd parallel to the Pacific. The US gained 72,000 square miles, including Fla. and most of the Santa Fe Trail; it also reinforced the US claim to Oregon. Adams and Onis signed the agreement on 22 February 1819. The Senate ratified it on 19 February 1821, and the treaty went into effect three days later.