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Historical Glossary

There are 80 entries in this glossary.
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Dakota Indians

This name is the preferred title used by the group commonly called Sioux Indians. 

Dartmouth College [Trustees of] v. Woodward

On 2 February 1819, the Supreme Court overruled (5–1) a N.H. law revoking Dartmouth's 1769 charter to transform the school from a private to a public college. The Court held that corporation charters were contracts enjoying constitutional protection, and thus were inviolable. The decision forbade state interference with charters of existing corporations, but most states countered by granting subsequent charters that could be selectively amended by their legislatures in special cases. The Supreme Court further addressed this issue in Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge.


Davenport, John

(b. Coventry, England, 1597; d. Boston, Mass., March 1670)    When Davenport emigrated to Boston in 1637, he was esteemed one of New England's most learned Puritan ministers. He founded Quinnipiac in 1638 and was the principal organizer of New Haven Colony. Under his influence, New Haven based its legal code on Mosaic Law, which did not recognize inconveniences to righteous justice like jury trials. 

Davis Resolutions

On 2 February 1860, Jefferson Davis introduced resolutions into the Senate for congressional action to protect slavery. To implement Abelman v. Booth, Congress would forbid legislatures from frustrating enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850). To prevent the Freeport Doctrine from undermining Dred Scott v. Sandford, Congress would forbid territorial citizens from outlawing slavery before ratifying a state constitution, and also would enact a federal slave code for all territories. To protect slavery from abolitionism, Congress would declare interference with state laws protecting slavery to be unconstitutional. Adopted by the Senate on 24 May, but not the House, these positions split the northern and southern wings of the Democratic party. When the 1860 Democratic convention would not endorse the resolutions, southern delegates left and nominated John Breckinridge as their candidate. 

Davis, Jefferson

(b. Todd County, Ky., 3 June 1808; d. New Orleans, La., 6 December 1889)    Raised in Miss., Davis graduated from West Point in 1828, served in the Black Hawk War, was wounded at Buena Vista in the Mexican War, and was offered the rank of brigadier general, but returned to his Miss. plantation. As Miss. senator, he opposed the Compromise of 1850. He was secretary of war (1853–7); then again as senator he offered the Davis Resolutions. He left Congress after the secession of Miss. on 21 January 1861. He was inaugurated as the Confederacy's president on 18 February 1861. His administration was crippled by a lack of cooperation from state governors and squabbling within Congress, neither of which Davis had the political skills to solve nor the executive authority to surmount. He convened his last cabinet session on 24 April 1865, was captured at Irwinville, Ga., on 10 May, indicted for treason in 1867, and released from Fort Monroe, Va., in 1867 without being tried. He spent his last years writing The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. Davis has been criticized unduly for the Confederacy's defeat, which largely stemmed from its decentralized structure, its parochial governors, and the north's numerical advantage. 

Davyes' Uprising

On 3 September 1676, in Calvert County, Md., about 60 men met under William Davyes and John Pate to criticize taxes owed to the proprietary government, voting qualifications, and a loyalty oath owed to Lord Baltimore. Although little more than an emotional venting of political anger, the government tried Davyes and Pate for inciting rebellion, and hanged them. 

Dawes Severalty Act

(8 February 1887)This law's purpose was to break up the reservation system into private holdings, integrate Indians into Anglo-American culture, and make them citizens. The law authorized the US to survey reservations into plots for farming (160 acres for a family, 80 acres for single adults over 18, and 40 acres for dependent minors—to be doubled for grazing land). An Indian became a citizen upon accepting land. To prevent exploitation by unscrupulous whites, Indians could not sell or rent their grants for 25 years. Because whites could buy excess reservation lands, Indian landholdings declined from 138,000,000 to 47,000,000 acres between 1887 and 1934.  

daylight saving time

By a law of 30 March 1918, Congress mandated that the day begin one hour earlier on the last Sunday of March and have that hour restored on the last Sunday in October, but popular opposition led to its repeal on 20 August 1919. Daylight saving time was left to state option until World War II, and then Congress reimposed it from 6 February 1942 to 30 September 1945, when it again became subject to state option. The Uniform Time Act (1966) instituted daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, but allowed states to exempt themselves. This exemption was eliminated on 15 December 1973 during the oil embargo, but restored a year later. In 1987 Congress shifted the start of daylight saving time to the first Sunday in April. 

de facto segregation

This refers to racial segregation that has not resulted from compliance with laws requiring racial separation in housing or education, as opposed to de jure segregation. 

De Jonge v. Oregon

On 4 January 1937, the Supreme Court (8–0) ruled that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment obliged state courts to uphold First Amendment protections of free assembly and petition. The Court threw out a conviction for organizing and speaking at the meeting of an organization that advocated the US government's violent overthrow. The Court ruled that the Bill of Rights protected gatherings at which no unlawful activities were discussed, and required that prosecutions be based on evidence that a “clear and present danger” of public harm might ensue from the speaker's words. 

de jure segregation

This refers to legally enforced racial segregation that set apart whites from minorities in housing, education, or public accommodations, as opposed to de facto segregation. 

De Leon, Daniel

 (b. Curaçao, 14 December 1852; d. New York, N.Y., 11 May 1914)    In 1874 De Leon emigrated to the US. He joined the Socialist Labor Party in 1890 and became its dominant leader, but his dogmatic Marxism led to a schism that produced the rival Socialist party of America in 1901. He tried to convert the AFL's politically conservative craft unions to socialism, but found them entirely unreceptive. In 1905 he helped found the Industrial Workers of the World, but his doctrinaire attitudes proved so disruptive that he was later expelled. De Leon's career showed that even among socialists and labor radicals, an uncompromising adherence to Marxist ideology had limited attraction in the US. 

De Lima v. Bidwell

On 27 May 1901, the Supreme Court ruled (5–4) that Puerto Rico's status as a foreign nation ceased with the end of the Spanish-American War; it consequently held that customs could not be collected on the island's imports unless Congress approved them. On the same day, the Court ruled that US merchandise shipped to the island was duty-free, in Dooley v. United States. The Court further clarified Puerto Rico's constitutional status in Downes v. Bidwell and Dorr v. United States. 


A certificate issued by a person or business entity for the purpose of acknowledging indebtedness. Debentures are usually not backed by security instruments, such as mortgages, but by the credit worthiness of the debtor.From the Latin phrase debentur mihi, meaning there are owing to me, that appeared as the first words early loan agreements.  

Debs, Eugene Victor

 (b. Terre Haute, Ind., 5 November 1855; d. Elmhurst, Ill., 20 October 1926)    After serving as a Democratic legislator in Ind. (1884–6), Debs devoted himself to the labor movement. He was first president of the American Railway Union in 1893. Convicted for his role in the Pullman strike, he spent six months in prison after In Re Debs affirmed his conviction for conspiracy to obstruct the mails. He helped organize the Social Democratic Party in 1897 and the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. Debs endorsed William Jennings Bryan for president in 1896, but ran as Socialist candidate in 1900 and polled 0.7 percent of the ballots. As nominee of the Socialist party of America, he won 3.0 percent of the vote in 1904, 2.8 percent in 1908, 6.0 percent in 1912, and 3.4 percent in 1920. He was imprisoned for agitating against the Espionage Act (1918–21). Stripped of his citizenship, he ended his days editing socialist newspapers. 

Declaration of Independence

On 12 April 1776, N.C. became the first state to authorize its congressmen to vote for independence. On 7 June, Richard Henry Lee resolved that the thirteen colonies declare independence. The second Continental Congress debated Lee's resolves until 2 July, when 12 delegations voted for independence and N.Y. abstained. On 4 July, a preamble written by Thomas Jefferson was approved as a statement of principles, but without any legal force in US law. 

Declaratory Act (18 March 1766)

Parliament passed this law simultaneously with its repeal of the Stamp Act. Modeled after a Declaratory Act for Ireland (1719), it proclaimed Parliament's authority to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” Although a denial of American claims to be exempt from taxes passed in Britain, it was ignored in the thirteen colonies, and so did not emerge as a major issue contributing to the Declaration of Independence. 


A term associated with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, referring to the declining zeal of later generations or movement away from the utopian ideals of those Puritan leaders, such as John Winthrop, who founded the colony. 

Deerfield, raids on (Mass.)

In 1676 Indians almost wiped out Deerfield and the survivors abandoned the settlement. In 1694 the town repulsed a French and Indian raiding party. On 29 February 1704, Hertel de Rouville's 50 French and 200 Indians captured half the townspeople and burned 17 of the 41 houses, but failed to take 140 people who held out in fortified houses. English losses: 48 killed, 112 captured (of whom 16 were killed and 2 starved en route to Canada). French losses: 3 French and 8 Indians killed in the attack, and 30 casualties under pursuit by Mass. militia. The captives returned after their relatives paid ransom. Deerfield was the worst civilian massacre of Queen Anne's War, and its loss of civilian lives was exceeded only by the Schenectady raid during the French and Indian Wars. 

Defense, Department of

On 26 July 1947, Congress appointed a secretary of defense, with cabinet status, to oversee the affairs of all the military services. On 10 August 1949, the National Security Act created the Department of Defense to replace the War and Navy departments; under the secretary of defense were separate (civilian) secretaries for the army, navy, and air force, and the (military) chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. 

Deficit spending

FDR's admnistration was based on this concept. It involved stimulating consumer buying power, business enterprise, and ultimately employment by pouring billions of dollars of federal money into the economy even if the government didn't have the funds, and had to borrow money.  As of 2012 this policy has been largely responsible for the United States' fifteen (15) trillion dollars in federal debt. ($15,000,000,000,000)


The religion of the Enlightenment (1700s). Followers believed that Godexisted and had created the world, but that afterwards He left it to run by itsown natural laws. Denied that God communicated to man or in any wayinfluenced his life. 

Delaney clause

In 1958 Representative James J. Delaney (Democrat, N.Y.) amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to forbid the sale of any additive found to cause cancer in laboratory animals, even if the experiments used doses far in excess of any rate that would be consumed by a human. The clause has been the Food and Drug Administration's major weapon in preventing distribution of products deemed carcinogenic, but has been criticized as imposing an unnecessarily restrictive standard. 


In April 1631, the Dutch made the first European settlement in Del. (near Lewes) at Swanendael, which was destroyed by Indians a year later. In March 1638, the first Swedes landed near Lewes and claimed the area as New Sweden; they placed their capital at Fort Christina (near Wilmington). They competed for control of the local fur trade with New Netherland, which annexed the colony (then about 350 persons) on 26 September 1655. England acquired Del. by its conquest of New Netherland in 1664. In 1681 William Penn was awarded Del. as part of Pennsylvania. In 1701 Del. resumed its standing as a separate colony when Penn agreed to let it elect its own legislature, which first met on 22 November 1704. The governor of Pa. also sat as chief executive of Del., which was properly termed the Three Lower Counties on the Delaware.
Del. was the smallest colony in 1775 and provided just one of the Continental army's 80 regiments. It was the site of 20 land and 17 sea engagements during the Revolutionary War. It was the first state to ratify the Constitution, on 7 December 1787. In 1800 it was the smallest state and had 64,273 inhabitants, of which 78 percent were white (of these 69 percent were English or Welsh) and 22 percent were black.
Del. had poor soil for grains, but it emerged as an early center for manufacturing after 1800, with flour milling and the Du Pont family's gunpowder factories. It was the only state north of Md. that preserved slavery after 1820. In 1860 2 percent of its 112,216 residents were slaves, 18 percent were free blacks, and 8 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 34th among the states in size, 28th in the value of farmland and livestock, and 28th in manufactures.
In the Civil War, Del. furnished 12,284 USA troops (including 954 blacks). It refused to either free its slaves by state law or to ratify the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, or Fifteenth amendments. The state deliberately made it hard for blacks to vote and exercise their civil rights, and did not appropriate money for black education until 1875. The Democratic Party remained dominant until 1897, when a new constitution reapportioned a fair share of legislative seats to the Republican districts of Wilmington and its suburbs.
In 1900 Del. was 54 percent rural and had 184,735 inhabitants, of whom 83 percent were white and 8 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 45th among states in size, 47th in the value of its agricultural goods, and 36th in manufactures. The state's economy grew moderately until the period from 1950 to 1970, when it gained 101,000 new residents by inmigration. In 1990 Del. was 66 percent urban and had 666,168 people (approx. 79 percent white, 17 percent black, 2 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian), of whom 3.3 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing or mining employed 27 percent of workers.


Delaware Indians

Speakers of one of the Algonquian languages, the Delawares may have numbered 8,000 in N.J., northern Del., and eastern Pa. in 1600. They enjoyed peace with the Quaker settlers there (see Quakers), but sold large quantities of land and declined in population due to European diseases. They became badly alienated from Anglo-Americans in 1737, when they were tricked into selling 1,200 square miles of their best Pa. lands by the Walking Purchase. They drifted west toward the Ohio valley, raided English settlements in the Seven Years' War and Pontiac's War, and relocated in Ohio during the 1760s. As British allies in the Revolutionary War, they raided Pa., Va., and Ky., and continued fighting Anglo-American expansion until 1794. They ceded most of their Ohio lands by the first Treaty of Greenville. They were British allies in the War of 1812. They accepted relocation to Kans. in 1835, and went to Okla. in 1867. Delaware reservations now exist at Bowler, Wis., Andarko, Okla., Bothwell and Muncey, Ontario. 

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