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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.