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Historical Glossary

There are 133 entries in this glossary.
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Fair Deal

Beginning in September 1945, Harry S Truman had recommended that Congress enact numerous laws concerning employment conditions and social problems, to which he gave the name Fair Deal on 5 January 1949. This agenda was intended as a second-generation New Deal, and included a higher minimum wage, broader coverage for Social Security (see Social Security Administration), pro-labor legislation, federal subsidies for public housing, sponsorship of scientific research, a system of national health care, civil rights legislation, expanded soil conservation programs, agricultural subsidies, federal grants to education, and renewed spending on dams, power-generating stations, and other public works. Republicans took over both houses of Congress in 1946, and so much of the Fair Deal languished until Truman's election triumph in 1948, when Democrats regained Congress. Congress then provided money for the Housing Act (1949), hydroelectric power stations, western land reclamation, farm subsidies, and it created the National Science Foundation. Truman failed to win aid for national health insurance, education, civil rights legislation, and either a fair employment commission or repeal of the Taft–Hartley Act. 

Fair Labor Standards Act

(25 June 1938) Congress set the minimum wage at $0.40 an hour, established the 40-hour workweek with wages of 150 percent for overtime, outlawed gainful employment for children under 16, and excluded anyone under 18 from dangerous work. It affected 63,000,000 full-time and part-time workers, of whom 750,000 received immediate raises. (Domestic help, farm laborers, and certain small businesses were exempted.) The Supreme Court upheld it in United States v. Darby Lumber Company. It was amended to forbid sex discrimination by the Equal Pay Act (1963). 

Fallen Timbers, battle of (Ohio)

On 20 August 1794, Major General Anthony Wayne's 1,000 regulars and 1,400 Ky. militia defeated 1,500 Indians and 60 Canadians two miles from the British Fort Miamis. US losses: 33 killed, 100 wounded. Indian and Canadian losses: 19 killed. Wayne's victory, along with his occupation of Forts Defiance and Recovery in the heart of hostile territory, cowed the Indians into signing the first treaty of Greenville and induced the British to surrender all military posts on US soil by Jay's Treaty. 

Farm Credit Act (16 June 1933)

This law consolidated the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank (see Agricultural Credits Act), Federal Farm Board, Federal Farm Loan Board, and other credit agencies for agricultural production and marketing, into a network of local lending institutions. Its operations were managed by the Farm Credit Administration. 

Farm Credit Administration (FCA)

Created by executive order on 27 March 1933, this agency assumed control of federal programs under the Farm Credit Act and the Farm Mortgage Foreclosure Act. By June 1934, the FCA had refinanced over 20 percent of all farm mortgages. By 31 December 1940, it had lent a total of $6.87 billion, of which over half had been repaid. In 1939 the FCA ceased to have independent status and became a branch of the Department of Agriculture.
farm depression of the 1920s 

Farmer-Labor Party

In 1919 the Labor party was founded as a vehicle for uniting socialistic union members. It was renamed the Farmer-Labor party in 1920 to be competitive in rural states, and ran a presidential ticket with Parley Christiansen for president and Max Hayes for vice-president. Its platform supported a $1.00-an-hour minimum wage, unemployment insurance, business regulation, the end of child labor, tariff reduction, pro-labor legislation, the repeal of the Owen–Glass Act (see Federal Reserve system), and independence for the Philippines. The ticket received 1.0 percent of the vote. After the party fell under the control of the Communist party, an exodus of moderate members led to its demise everywhere but Minn., where it allied with the Democratic party after 1933 and has managed to survive to the present. 

Federal Aid Road Act (1916)

This law provided the first significant federal appropriation for highway construction to accommodate the needs of transportation by automobile. It allocated $75,000,000 in matching funds for state road construction, but required states to establish highway departments to be eligible. It was succeeded by the Federal Highway Act (1922). 

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The Department of Justice's chief investigative section began in 1907 as the Bureau of Investigation. It was extensively used in the Palmer raids (see red scare). Appointed as director in 1924, J. Edgar Hoover significantly raised its professionalism and prominence as a crime-fighting and counterespionage force; but he also ignored the rise of national crime syndicates, reluctantly enforced civil rights laws, and sanctioned violations of the FBI charter by wiretaps or other domestic surveillance of citizens with unpopular political views. The agency headquarters is the J. Edgar Hoover Building, located in Washington, D.C.. The agency has fifty-six field offices located in major cities throughout the United States, and more than 400 resident agencies in lesser cities and areas across the nation. More than 50 international offices called "legal attachés" exist in U.S. embassies and consulates general worldwide.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Congress created the FDIC, by the Banking Act (1933), to restore public faith in the banking system, which had suffered over 5,500 bank failures since 1930. Modeled after the Federal Home Loan Bank Act (see Federal Home Loan Bank Board), it wrote insurance coverage for savings or checking accounts and other instruments of deposit to give the confidence needed to avoid runs on banks during financial panics. It became effective on 1 January 1934 and covered deposits up to $2,500, a figure raised to $5,000 later that year. Over 14,400 banks and thrift institutions had FDIC protection by 1935. A requirement that state banks subscribing to the FDIC become Federal Reserve members ended in 1939. Since then, the only bank panics have occurred within the state-insured systems of Ohio and Md. in the 1980s. In the savings and loan crisis, the Resolution Trust Corporation saved the FDIC from insolvency. In 1994 the FDIC insured deposits up to $100,000 at 7,200 banks and thrifts. 

Federal Elections Campaign Act

(7 February 1972)    This law (as amended in 1974, 1976, and 1979) regulates all federal elections and provides public financing for presidential candidates through the Federal Election Commission. Campaign contributions by individuals are limited to $1,000 per candidate per election, and no individual can make total donations exceeding $25,000 in one year. Political action committees (PACs) cannot give over $5,000 to one candidate per election, but have no limit on their total donations. No spending limit exists on candidates for Congress, but presidential candidates cannot spend more than $20,200,000 on primaries and their parties may not spend more than two cents per voter in their behalf (about the total spent in the primaries). Independent or third-party candidates can receive federal matching funds for primaries once they raise over $100,000 in voluntary contributions; they can be reimbursed for general election costs if they win at least 5 percent of the vote. 

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)

On 12 May 1933 the Federal Emergency Relief Act established this agency to operate under the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. It broke with previous practice by funding direct relief to the states (as opposed to loans); it also subsidized state and municipal construction projects by paying 25 percent of their costs. Under Harry Hopkins, it resettled farmers from lands that were hopelessly infertile, developed programs to employ migrant workers, and spent $2 billion putting 2,500,000 men to work on 235,000 projects. Because it became embroiled in acrimonious disputes over the political use of federal funds, FERA was replaced with the Works Progress Administration in 1935. 

Federal Farm Loan Act

(17 July 1916)This law created a Federal Farm Loan Board (chaired by the secretary of the Treasury) to oversee farm loan banks in 12 districts. Each district bank was capitalized at $750,000 and offered long-term, low interest loans or mortgages (at lower rates than commercial banks) to members of national farm loan cooperatives enrolled with the district banks. Woodrow Wilson opposed the bill, but signed it to win the farm vote in 1916. 

Federal Highway Act (1922)

This law succeeded the Federal Aid Road Act and established a significant federal commitment to funding highway improvements. By appropriating grants for state projects to improve road systems, it quadrupled federal highway spending from $19,500,000 in 1920 to $88,000,000 in 1923.
Federal Home Loan Bank Board 

Federal Power Commission

This commission was created on 10 June 1920 by the Water Power Act to place electric utilities under federal regulation; it licensed and set rates for power stations and transmission lines built on the public domain or any navigable waterway. The Public Utility Holding Company Act gave it authority over all interstate transmission of electric power. 

Federal Reserve system

The immediate origins of the Federal Reserve system lay in the panic of 1907, which revealed the inadequacy of the US banking system to prevent a credit crisis from spiraling into a recession. On 30 May 1908, Congress created the National Monetary Commission, chaired by Senator Nelson Aldrich, to suggest reform and reorganization of the banking system. On 17 January 1911, the commission reported its Aldrich Plan, which formed the basis for the Federal Reserve system, except that it recommended the central bank be a private corporation and not a government institution. The Pujo hearings on the money trust, and Woodrow Wilson's opposition, blocked Aldrich's plan for the financial community to control the central bank. On 23 December 1913, the Owen-Glass Act established the Federal Reserve system to oversee all credit and monetary affairs. A six-member Federal Reserve Board (named by the president and confirmed by the Senate) would direct the system through 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, whose capital came from a 6 percent levy on the assets of all national banks and any state banks that voluntarily joined.
The Federal Reserve system provided credit and other banking services to member banks; it also issued a new paper currency, Federal Reserve notes, as part of the circulating money supply. The 12 regional banks were each empowered within their region to: (1) expand or contract the money supply by buying or selling US bonds from member banks; (2) raise or lower interest rates; and (3) expand or contract credit by changing the level of reserves that member banks must maintain as security on their deposits. By 1929, about 80 percent of banks were members. The system's modern structure and centralized authority was established by the Banking Act (1935). 

Federal Securities Act (27 May 1933)

This law required full disclosure of material facts concerning any initial public offering of corporate stock by the issuing company and its underwriters. (Not covered were government and railroad bonds.) Any false or misleading information could be punished by imprisonment and fines. All reports had to be made available in writing to prospective purchasers 20 days ahead of the sale date. The Federal Trade Commission enforced these regulations until the Securities Exchange Act. 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (26 September 1914)

Congress established this five-member body to investigate complaints that trusts were violating the Sherman Antitrust Act or Clayton Antitrust Act. The commission could demand that corporations provide reports on their financial operations, and then either publish their findings or issue a cease-and-desist order halting any unfair trade practices. Objections to cease-and-desist orders could be appealed in federal court, where a judge would decide their validity. Courts may punish violations of cease-and-desist orders with fines for each offense. The Robinson–Patman Act authorized it to abolish unreasonably low price discounting (primarily by chain retailers), intended to destroy competition. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1938) empowered it to forbid misleading advertising that harmed consumers or competitors. 

Federal Works Agency (FWA)

The Administrative Reorganization Act (3 April 1939) consolidated the Works Progress Administration, Public Works Administration, Bureau of Public Roads, and US Housing Agency into the FWA under John Carmody. It established the Public Buildings Administration. On 1 July 1949, it was disbanded and the General Services Administration assumed its duties. 


This is the Constitution's system of sharing authority between the national and state governments. Although the Constitution, congressional statutes, and foreign treaties are the supreme law of the land, states enjoy full latitude to legislate on local issues or criminal behavior, so long as no conflict exists with federal law or the Bill of Rights. The national government likewise is forbidden to encroach on essential elements of each state's sovereignty, such as the right to keep a militia, the right to be exempt from civil suits filed by citizens of other states in federal court, and the right to issue state bonds or other financial instruments exempt from federal taxation. 

Federalist opposition to the War of 1812

The Federalist party was mainly composed of New England merchants, who wanted good relations with Britain and free trade. New England merchants met at the Hartford Convention in protest of the war and the U.S.government’s restrictions on trade.

Federalist Papers

During the ratification struggle over the federal Constitution, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote 85 essays (175,000 words) between 27 October 1787 and 28 May 1788 in order to swing public opinion in N.Y. toward the new government. Hamilton authored 51, Madison 26, and Jay 5, while 3 were co-authored by Hamilton and Madison. Copies of the first collected edition were sent to Va. and were used at that state's ratifying convention. The Papers are the classic exposition of the political theories that underlay the Constitution's creation. 

Federalist party

This party coalesced around those members of George Washington's administration who favored a pro-British foreign policy, especially Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. Federalists dominated New England and were very strong in N.Y., N.J., Del., and eastern Pa. In domestic politics, they generally supported loose constructionism and a strong national government vis-à-vis the states. Federalists controlled the presidency under Adams, the Senate (1791–1800), and the House (1791–2, 1797–1800). After being decisively defeated in 1800, the Federalists never again challenged the Democratic party for the national government's control. The embargo (see Embargo Act) revived their popularity, but Federalists essentially remained a N.Y.–New England party to 1816, the last year they nominated a candidate for president. 


Supporters of the federal Constitution were called by this name during the ratification struggle. They were strongest in small states, which ratified quickly. The Federalist Papers provide the most sophisticated summary of Federalist philosophy. 

Fendall's revolts

 (1) In March 1660, the Md. assembly, with Governor Josias Fendall's encouragement, resolved to deny Lord Baltimore's authority to veto its laws or dissolve a session without the speaker's agreement to end its deliberations. Fendall's “pigmie Rebellion” fizzled out when Charles II fully recognized Lord Baltimore's right to govern. Fendall was dismissed, but pardoned for rebellion.
(2) In April 1681, Fendall and John Coode attempted to instigate an uprising in Charles County against proprietary authority, but were arrested, fined, and banished in November. 

Fenian invasions

On 31 May 1866, several hundred Fenians (members of an Irish revolutionary society) invaded Canada near Buffalo, N.Y., engaged Canadian forces at Limestone Ridge, and retreated to N.Y. The US Army broke up attacks in 1866 from Campo Bello Island and other locations, before they were launched. On 25 May 1870, Fenians invaded Canada from Franklin, Vt. US marshals then arrested their leaders and the army dispersed their bands. 

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