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Historical Glossary

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Habeas Corpus

 n. Law A writ issued to bring a party before a court to prevent unlawful restraint. [

The basic premise behind habeas corpus is that you cannot be held against your will without just cause. To put it another way, you cannot be jailed if there are no charges against you. If you are being held, and you demand it, the courts must issue a writ of habeas corpus, which forces those holding you to answer as to why. If there is no good or compelling reason, the court must set you free. It is important to note that of all the civil liberties we take for granted today as a part of the Bill of Rights, the importance of habeas corpus is illustrated by the fact that it was the sole liberty thought important enough to be included in the original text of the Constitution.

During wartime or periods of civil insurrection, Presidents can suspend habeas corpus.

The Constitution protects it under Article I, Section 9. Union authorities denied habeas corpus to over 14,000 persons arrested in the Civil War in actions judged illegal by Ex Parte Merryman and Ex Parte Milligan. The Ku Klux Klan Act suspended habeas corpus in nine S.C. counties in 1871.



Habeas Corpus Act, 1679

British law had traditionally provided a procedure that allowed a person whohad been arrested to challenge the legality of his arrest or confinement,called the Writ of Habeus Corpus, or the Great Writ. The Act imposed strictpenalties on judges who refused to issue a writ of habeus corpus when therewas good cause, and on officers who refused to comply with the writ. 

Haitian immigration

Sizeable Haitian immigration first gained attention in 1957, and from then to 1977, the Immigration Service apprehended about 7,000 Haitians illegally entering the US. Arrests rose to 3,900 in 1978, 4,450 in 1979, 25,000 in 1980, and 15,000 through June 1981. Most Haitians settled in New York City or southern Fla. Political unrest in Haiti led the US to deploy the Coast Guard and Navy to prevent a mass exodus to Fla. in 1991–3. An estimated 281,803 Haitians entered the US through 1991. The 1990 census counted 290,000 persons (0.1 percent of the US population) who reported themselves of Haitian birth or background. 


This name refers to a political faction during the Gilded Age, that struggled with the stalwarts to control the Republican Party. Their acknowledged leader was James Blaine. The chief issue dividing the two factions was civil service reform, which stalwarts opposed and half-breeds grudgingly supported as means of weakening their opponents. Both groups were opposed by the mugwumps. 

Half-way Covenant

After 1650, a large—and growing—proportion of New England's young adults failed to meet full standards for membership in Congregational churches because they had not been born again, although they had been baptized. A synod met in 1662 to clarify the status of these individuals and their families. The synod abandoned the long-standing Puritan practice of restricting infant baptism to children of full members (i.e. those who could testify to having received saving grace); it instead permitted any child to be baptized so long as one of its parents had been baptized, even if neither parent was saved. This compromise ended the danger of Congregationalism becoming a minority church in New England. 

Hamilton, Alexander

(b. Nevis Island, 11 January 1755; d. New York, N.Y., 11 July 1804)    He came to the US as a student to attend King's College (Columbia). He entered the Continental army as an artillery officer in March 1776 and was promoted to George Washington's staff (as lieutenant colonel) in March 1777. He left the army in December 1783 and became a lawyer in New York City. He attended the Constitutional Convention and co-authored the Federalist Papers. As first secretary of the treasury, he established national finances on a sound basis by his Report on the Public Credit and Report on a National Bank (see Bank of the United States, first). Congress ignored his Report on Manufactures' call for a protective tariff. After resigning from the treasury in 1795, he was a leading figure in the Federalist party. His rival for control of N.Y. politics, Aaron Burr, killed him in a duel. 

Hammer v. Dagenhart

On 3 June 1918, the Supreme Court struck down (5–4) the Keating–Owen Child Labor Act's clauses that outlawed interstate transportation of goods made by child labor. It ruled these provisions unconstitutional in accordance with United States v. E. C. Knight Company, because they concerned intrastate manufacturing rather than interstate commerce; it also held that Congress had no power to prohibit shipments of products unless they were harmful, and goods made by children were not inherently dangerous. The Court reaffirmed Hammer in Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Company before reversing it in United States v. Darby Lumber Company. 

Hancock, John

(b. North Braintree, Mass., 12 January 1737; d. Quincy, Mass., 8 October 1793)    He inherited a fortune (including a mercantile firm) from a bachelor uncle at the age of 27 and was soon considered New England's wealthiest man. After Samuel Adams and James Otis, he was the third most important Bostonian involved in the protests against unconstitutional Parliamentary measures. The Liberty riot concerned one of his sloops and he chaired the town committee investigating the Boston massacre. He became president of the Massachusetts provincial congress created by the Suffolk Resolves in 1774, and president of the second Continental Congress in 1775. He served as Massachusetts governor (1780–5 and 1787–93). 

Hancock, Winfield Scott

(b. Montgomery Square, Pa., 14 February 1824; d. Governors Island, N.Y., 9 February 1886)    In 1840 Hancock graduated 18th of 25 cadets from West Point. He served in the Seminole War, Mexican War, and Bleeding Kansas. He commanded a corps in the Army of the Potomac, rose to major general and was cited for gallantry at Gettysburg (where he was badly wounded) and Spotsylvania Court House. As Democratic candidate for president in 1880, he polled just 39,213 ballots less than Republican James Garfield. 

Handsome Lake

(b. N.Y. ca. 1749; d. Onondaga, N.Y., 10 August 1815)    A Seneca warrior, tribal leader, and shaman, Handsome Lake experienced a vision while recovering from a bout of heavy drinking on 15 June 1799. This vision and other revelations formed the basis for the Longhouse religion, for which Handsome Lake became the principal prophet and apostle, spreading its beliefs among the Iroquois. 

Hard Labor, treaty of (S.C.)

The first instance of adjusting the Proclamation Line west occurred on 18 October 1768, when the Cherokee Indians sold 2,700 square miles in southwestern Va., including an area along the New River that had been settled since the 1750s. 

Harding, Warren Gamaliel

(b. Corsica, Ohio, 2 November 1865; d. San Francisco, Calif., 2 August 1923)    He was a Marion, Ohio, newspaper editor who entered Republican politics. He was state senator (1900–4), lieutenant governor (1904–6), losing candidate for governor (1910), and US senator (1915–21). An excellent orator and keynote speaker at the 1916 Republican convention, he was a dark horse candidate for president in 1920, when the Republicans chose him after deadlocking between Leonard Wood and Frank Lowden. He pledged a “return to normalcy” (and virtually nothing else) and won in a landslide with 60.4 percent of the ballots. Credit for his administration's major accomplishment, the Washington naval conference, was due to Charles Evans Hughes, and Andrew Mellon directed his fiscal policy. He was personally honest, but surrounded himself with the Ohio gang, whose corruption was exposed in the Alien Property Custodian scandal, the Teapot Dome scandal, and Harry Daugherty's malfeasance. He died of ptomaine poisoning contracted from tainted Japanese crabmeat. 

Harlan, John Marshall

(b. Boyle County, Ky., 1 June 1833; d. Washington, D.C., 14 October 1911)    Although a slaveowner, Harlan commanded the Union 10th Ky. Infantry. At the 1876 Republican presidential convention, he was critical in swinging victory toward Rutherford Hayes, who put him on the Supreme Court in 1877. Nicknamed “the last of the tobacco-spitting judges,” he wrote 380 dissents in 33 years, more than any other justice. History has vindicated his firm opposition to his fellow justices' narrow interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, especially his lone dissent from Plessy v. Ferguson that declared “our Constitution is color-blind.” 

Harlem Heights, battle of (N.Y.)

On 16 September 1776, three British regiments (later reinforced to 5,000 men) patrolling Washington's front lines retreated with heavy casualties under US attack. US losses: 20 killed, 40 wounded. British losses: 14 killed, 154 wounded. The action marked the first US victory in the fight for New York, raised American morale, and relieved enemy pressure on Washington by delaying the next major British assault for a month. 

Harmar's Defeat

Between 30 September and 3 November 1790, Brigadier General Josiah Harmar led 320 regulars, 1,133 militia, and a pack train of 578 horses against Little Turtle's Indian confederacy. After two of his patrols took heavy losses on 20–1 October near modern Fort Wayne, Ind., he returned to Fort Washington, Ohio, without having fought a major battle. US losses: 75 regulars and 108 militia killed, 3 regulars and 28 militia wounded. Indian losses: minor casualties, 5 villages (184 cabins) burned, 20,000 bushels of corn plundered. 

Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections

On 24 March 1966, the Supreme Court decided that the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause prohibited states from imposing poll tax es or otherwise using taxes to discourage citizens from voting. 

Harris v. McRae

On 30 June 1980, the Supreme Court ruled (5–4) that the Hyde amendment neither exceeded Congress's powers nor transgressed on due process, equal protection of the laws, or free exercise of religion; it also held that the Social Security Act (see Social Security administration did not make states responsible for financing abortions essential for maternal health in the absence of federal funding. 

Harris v. New York

On 24 February 1971, the Supreme Court modified Miranda v. Arizona by ruling (5–4) that if police failed to warn a person in custody that he could remain silent and have a lawyer, and the suspect made statements contradicting testimony later given by him in court, then his earlier words could be used to discredit his trial testimony, even though he was not properly apprised of his legal rights when he gave them. 

Harrison, Benjamin

(b. North Bend, Ohio, 20 August 1833; d. Indianapolis, Ind., 20 August 1901)    Grandson of William Henry Harrison, he moved to Ind. to practice law in 1854 and rose to brigadier general in the Civil War. As Republican senator from Ind. (1881–7), he supported higher veterans' pensions and civil service reform. He became president by defeating Grover Cleveland in 1888, despite polling 60,728 votes less than the Democrat. He signed the McKinley Tariff and Sherman Silver Purchase Act, liberalized pension laws, and backed US expansion into the Pacific. He lost reelection to Cleveland, who outpolled him 46.1 percent to 43.0 percent, and retired to practicing law. 

Harrison, William Henry

(b. Charles City County, Va., 9 February 1773; d. Washington, D.C., 4 April 1841)    He served in the army ( 1791–8), during which time he fought at Fallen Timbers. He became the Northwest Territory's first delegate to Congress in 1799 and was governor of Ind. Territory (1801–12), during which time he won the battle of Tippecanoe Creek. He was the most successful US general in the War of 1812. He established an estate near Cincinnati, sat in Congress (1817–18) and the Senate (1826–8). He won 36.5 percent of the ballots for president in 1836 and carried seven states for the Whig party. He died soon after his election as president in the [1840] log cabin campaign with 53.1 percent of the ballots and all but seven states. 

Hartford convention (Conn.)

Between 15 December 1814 and 5 January 1815, delegates from every New England state held a convention to propose constitutional amendments. The convention passed resolutions to reduce federal control over state militias in wartime, to cease counting slaves for congressional representation, to prohibit any Embargo Act exceeding 60 days, to forbid naturalized citizens from holding high federal office, to limit presidents to one term, and to require a two-thirds vote by Congress for restricting overseas commerce, declaring war, and admitting new states. The convention's report declared that interposition might be necessary to protect the sovereignty of New England's states. Because the convention deliberated in secrecy, and New England had opposed entry into the War of 1812, false rumors circulated that the members were plotting secession or disloyal actions. These unfounded charges were widely believed and badly discredited the Federalist party, to which most delegates belonged, and hastened its disintegration. 

Hat Act

(1 June 1732)    Parliament amended the Woolen Act by forbidding the export of hats made in one colony, either overseas or to another colony. It required American hatters to have served a seven-year apprenticeship before setting up shop and prohibited them from using more than two apprentices or slaves. 

Hatch Act (1939–40)

The provisions of two federal statutes forbidding political activities by government workers were collectively referred to as the Hatch Act. The first law (2 August 1939) was a reaction to the use of political pressure upon Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers during the 1938 elections to reelect candidates favorable to the New Deal in Ky., Md., and Tenn. The law was intended to prevent the rise of a national political machine. A second statute (19 July 1940) applied the 1939 act's restrictions to state and local employees in positions that were subsidized by federal funds. The Hatch Act excluded political appointees and elected officials, but it forbade all other employees from seeking elective office, speaking at political rallies, leading political meetings, seeking contributions or votes in an election, serving as an officer for a political organization, and acting as a delegate to a party nominating convention.
The Supreme Court held it constitutional (4–3) on 10 February 1947 in United Public Workers v. Mitchell. The initial statutes required that violators be fired, but amendments allowed transgressions to be punished by suspensions without pay. Labor unions lobbied repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, for its repeal until 6 October 1993, when President William Clinton signed legislation ending most political restrictions on all federal employees except the most senior 85,000 positions in law enforcement and national security. Federal workers could then endorse candidates for office, distribute campaign literature, and engage in most volunteer partisan activity, but still could not run for office. 

Hatch Act (2 March 1887)

This law appropriated federal funds to finance state-operated experimental stations for agriculture to promote and publicize scientific advances in farming. It was Congress's only major farm legislation between the second Homestead Act and the Carey act. 


On 18 January 1778, Captain James Cook of England made the first European contact with Hawaii. The onslaught of European diseases unknown to the Hawaiians probably reduced their population from 300,000 in 1778 to 135,000 in 1819. The islands became a way station for Yankee ships en route to China. US missionaries arrived in 1820 and stimulated interest by American investors in developing the islands. US sugar plantations came to dominate the islands' economy after 1854. The continuing decline in the Hawaiian population (to 40,000 by 1890), led US businessmen to seek field laborers through Japanese and Chinese immigration.
On 30 January 1875, Hawaii negotiated a treaty that allowed its sugar to enter the US duty-free and obliged it to refrain from giving territorial or economic concessions to foreign powers. The US became the best market for Hawaiian sugar until the McKinley Tariff imposed heavy duties, which led American sugar planters to favor US annexation. On 20 January 1887, the US obtained the exclusive right to build a navy base at Pearl Harbor. In 1887, US expatriates helped engineer a revolt that instituted a constitutional monarchy. Queen Liliuokalani rescinded the constitution in 1891 and assumed autocratic powers. US citizens overthrew the monarchy on 16 January 1894, with assistance from US marines, and proclaimed a republic, which the US recognized on 7 August 1894 and annexed on 7 July 1898.
When the islands were made a territory on 14 June 1900, they had 154,001 inhabitants (26 percent Hawaiian, 17 percent white, 40 percent Japanese, 17 percent Chinese), of whom 75 percent were rural and 59 percent foreign-born. They ranked 47th in population, 40th in the value of agricultural goods, and 40th in manufactures. Pineapple cultivation started in 1903.
Hawaii became the navy's Pacific headquarters, where World War II began at Pearl Harbor. Hawaii became the 50th state on 21 August 1959. Tourism emerged as its major industry. The population doubled from 1950 to 1990, when it ranked 39th among states, with 1,108,229 people (approx. 58 percent Asian, 32 percent white, 7 percent Hispanic, 2 percent black), of whom 76 percent were urban and 14.7 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 14 percent of workers. 

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