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Historical Glossary

There are 48 entries in this glossary.
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Jackson, Andrew

(b. Waxhaw, S.C., 15 March 1767; d. near Nashville, Tenn., 8 June 1845)    He was wounded and captured in the Revolutionary War. In 1788 he moved to Tenn., where he opened a law practice and participated in the Spanish Conspiracy. He was elected the first Tenn. congressman (1796) and was sent to the Senate (1797). He became a national military hero for his victories in the Creek War, the first battle of New Orleans, and first Seminole War. In the 1824 election, he ranked first among the four candidates (with 43.1 percent of the ballots and 99 electoral votes), but was denied the presidency by the “ corrupt bargain.” Jackson beat Adams in 1828 with 56.0 percent of the popular vote, and defeated Clay in 1832 with 54.5 percent of the ballots. Jackson's enemies accused him of making appointments by the spoils system and ridiculed his advisors as a kitchen cabinet. As president, Jackson gave the Maysville road veto, resolved the nullification crisis, vetoed the second Bank of the United States's charter, issued the Specie Circular, and implemented Indian removal. 

Jackson, Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall)

(b. Clarksburg, W.Va., 21 January 1824; d. Guiney's Station, Va., 10 May 1863)    Having graduated from West Point in 1846, Jackson was cited for gallantry in the Mexican War, and left the army to teach at Va. Military Institute in 1852. Appointed CSA brigadier general in the Civil War, he earned the nickname “Stonewall” at the first battle of Bull Run, where he turned USA victory into defeat by holding firm long enough to allow CSA troops to counter-attack the advancing Federals. Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign was critical in forcing USA abandonment of the Peninsular campaign. His brigade figured prominently in the CSA victory at the second battle of Bull Run, and made the crucial attack that broke Union lines at Chancellorsville, where Jackson was accidentally killed by one of his own sentries. 

Jacksonian democracy

Also called Jacksonianism, this was a set of attitudes about representative democracy associated with Andrew Jackson. It exalted egalitarianism and equal opportunity to an extreme degree, and made them the standard for measuring candidates and issues. By idealizing the common man as the republic's bedrock, it encouraged political reforms that widened the franchise, made more offices elective, and stimulated an increase in voter turnout. 

Jackson’s victory at New Orleans

January, 1815 - A large British invasion force was repelled by Andrew Jackson’s troops at New Orleans. Jackson had been given the details of the British army’s battle plans by the French pirate, Jean Laffite. About 2500 British soldiers were killed or captured, while in the American army only 8 men were killed. Neither side knew that the Treaty of Ghent had ended theWar of 1812 two weeks before the battle. This victory inspired American nationalism.

James I

(b. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, 19 June 1566; d. Theobalds, Middlesex, England, 27 March 1625)    He chartered the Virginia Companies of London and Plymouth to colonize Virginia, where Jamestown was named for him. 

James II

(b. St James's Palace, Middlesex, England, 14 October 1633; d. St Germain, France, 6 September 1701)    As Duke of York, James had been the proprietor of New York, which was named for him. His conversion to Catholicism (ca. 1671) turned most Englishmen and colonists against him well before he became king in 1685. He fled to France after the Revolution of 1688, which set off rebellions against his governors in the colonies. 

Jamestown (Va.)

On 20 December 1606, the Virginia Company of London dispatched 144 settlers under Captain Christopher Newport to settle Va. Newport chose a site on the lower James River and landed the voyage's 105 survivors on 24 May at Jamestown. Disease and malnutrition had cut the settlers' number to 38 by January 1608, when a relief expedition brought 120 new colonists. Unable to become self-sufficient in food (except under John Smith's command, September 1608 to July 1609), the colony experienced an 80 percent death rate during the 1609–10 winter, and was on the verge of being abandoned in May 1610 when a relief expedition arrived with reinforcements and food. A system of military discipline then brought order to the settlement and prevented the occurrence of any more “starving times.” Jamestown was the only settlement in Va. until 1611, when the present area of Richmond was occupied. It remained the capital to 1699. 

Japanese immigration

Japanese immigrants replaced Chinese workers barred by the Chinese Exclusion Act. Hawaii's Japanese population rose from 116 in 1884 to 61,111 in 1900, while on the west coast their numbers rose from 148 in 1880 to 24,326 in 1900. Japan agreed to limit emigration voluntarily by refusing to issue passports to laborers in the Gentlemen's Agreements of August 1900 and 1907–8. The National Origins Act (1924) excluded all Japanese entrants because they would be ineligible for citizenship under the Naturalization Act (1790) until 1952. The Japanese became Hawaii's largest ethnic group, with about 30 percent of its population in 1960. By 1991, 467,844 Japanese had migrated to the US. The 1990 census counted 1,005,000 Japanese Americans, 0.4 percent of the population.

Japanese relocation

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, 112,000 Japanese lived on the Pacific coast, including 40,000 Issei (first or immigrant generation) and 72,000 Nissei (second or native-born generation). An executive order of 19 February 1942 authorized the secretary of war to evacuate them from the coast, where a Japanese attack seemed possible, to ten interior camps. No relocation of Japanese was undertaken in Hawaii. The Supreme Court upheld US actions in Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States. On 10 August 1988, the US created a $1,250,000,000 trust fund to compensate surviving internees for their financial losses. 

Jay's Treaty

Between 19 April and 19 November 1794, John Jay negotiated an agreement to resolve US–British foreign policy controversies. Britain refused to grant US shippers full neutral rights while trading with French ports or to pay restitution for US slaves it had freed in the Revolution, but agreed to: (1) withdraw all armed forces from US soil by 1 June 1796; (2) establish arbitration panels to assess damages for US shipping seized by its navy, and to obtain payment for British merchants who had been unable to collect debts from Americans during the Revolution; (3) to permit US ships under 70 tons full trading rights with its West Indian colonies, so long as they did not re-export sugar, molasses, cotton, coffee or cocoa. The Senate expunged the article allowing US ships restricted access to West Indian ports, and ratified the treaty on 24 June 1795. Although widely unpopular in the US, Jay's Treaty defused the risk of war, resulted in Britain compensating US merchants $10,345,000 for seized cargoes (compared to $2,750,000 paid by the US to settle pre-Revolutionary debts to British merchants), and led Britain to countenance an unofficial opening of its West Indian trade for Yankee shippers. By creating better relations with Britain, the treaty indirectly led to a tripling of US exports to British ports from 1795 to 1800. It nevertheless alienated, and helped precipitate an undeclared naval war with, France.

Jay, John

(b. New York, N.Y., 12 December 1745; Bedford, N.Y., 17 May 1829)    He became N.Y.'s chief justice in 1777, president of the Continental Congress in 1778, envoy to Spain in 1780, and a US negotiator for the treaty of Paris (1783). As secretary for foreign affairs, he negotiated the abortive Jay–Gardoqui Treaty. He wrote five of the Federalist Papers. He declined to be George Washington's first secretary of state, and instead was confirmed as the Supreme Court's first chief justice on 26 September 1789. He authored Chisholm v. Georgia and negotiated Jay's Treaty with Britain, then left the Court in 1795 to be N.Y. governor. Renominated as chief justice on 18 December 1800 and confirmed the next day, Jay refused the appointment (made without his knowledge), and retired from politics at the age of 55. 


 This term was used in Bleeding Kansas when referring to antislavery guerrillas, and was applied in the Civil War to Kans. Unionists who plundered Mo. communities indiscriminately. 

Jay–Gardoqui Treaty

On 20 July 1785, Congress directed John Jay to negotiate a treaty with Spain's minister to win trading rights at Spanish harbors, recognition of the 31st parallel as the US–Florida boundary, and reinstatement of the right of deposit. Gardoqui resisted Jay for a year, then offered to grant export privileges if the US ceased demanding the right of deposit. On 29 August 1785, Congress voted 7–5 for such a compromise, two states less than was necessary for ratifying a treaty. Negotiations then ended, but the vote embittered the West and South at the North's readiness to win new markets for its exports by surrendering the right of deposit. The treaty of San Lorenzo resolved US disputes with Spain. 

Jefferson, Thomas

(b. Albemarle County, Va., 13 April 1743; d. Monticello, Va., 4 July 1826)    He was a planter and lawyer who became a firm opponent of unconstitutional Parliamentary taxes while sitting in the House of Burgesses (1769–75). He drafted the Declaration of Independence. In his home state, he fought for the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, abolition of entail and primogeniture, and state-funded universal education. He was Va. governor (1779–81), ambassador to France (1785–9), and US secretary of state (1789–93). As second vice-president (1797–1801), he authored the first Kentucky Resolutions. As third president, he made the Louisiana Purchase, dispatched the Lewis and Clark expedition, stopped depredations by the Barbary pirates, and imposed the embargo (see Embargo Act). He was mainly responsible for founding the University of Virginia in 1819. 

Jeffersonian democracy

Also called Jeffersonianism, this is a set of assumptions about republican government associated with Thomas Jefferson and Albert Gallatin. Jeffersonianism derived from Enlightenment criticism of European states that centralized authority through large bureaucracies, wielded power by standing armies, rewarded political supporters with titles of nobility or profitable offices, and financed themselves by heavy taxation. Jeffersonianism espoused limited, frugal government that treated all citizens equally and allowed them maximum liberty to improve themselves. It affirmed that republics best upheld the public interest by setting strict limits on the use of political power, discountenancing special-interest legislation, and taxing nonessentials at modest rates. 

Jenkins' Ear, war of

Incensed by the testimony of Captain Robert Jenkins—who displayed one of his ears that Spain's Latin-American Coast Guard had once cut off—the House of Commons demanded revenge, and George II declared war on 23 October 1739. The thirteen colonies provided 3,500 troops for Admiral Edward Vernon's (1684–1757) futile siege of Cartagena (Colombia) (March–April 1741), of whom 50–80 percent died of disease. In January–May 1740, Ga. governor James Oglethorpe invaded Fla. and captured Forts San Francisco de Pupo, Picolata, San Diego, and Moosa; he besieged St Augustine unsuccessfully in June–July. Oglethorpe repulsed a Spanish invasion of Ga. in 1742 at the battle of Bloody Swamp, and again attacked St Augustine in March 1743. Fighting on the Ga. frontier lapsed into small-scale raids after King George's War commenced. The treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle restored peace. 


This was a genre of sermons developed by 17th-century New England Puritanism. Named in reference to the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, it indicted society as a whole for spiritual languor and for permitting a variety of social evils, and then called for repentance. The jeremiad became the most common sermon type delivered at public occasions after 1660, and was the primary means by which the clergy preached the theme that New England had declined from the religious standards of its founding generation. The jeremiad has endured as the basic format for revivalistic preaching. 

Jewish immigration

The earliest known Jewish colonist, Elias Legardo, came to Va. in 1621. In September 1654, 23 Portuguese Sephardim founded the first Jewish community at New Amsterdam. Until 1775, most Jewish newcomers were Sephardic. An estimated 180,000 Jews, mostly German-speaking Ashkenazim, immigrated from 1800 to 1880, when there were 250,000 US Jews, and by 1900, there were 1,000,000. Between 1882 and 1924, about 2,300,000 Jews entered the country, primarily from Poland and Russia, and raised the group's population to 4,200,000. Because the Russian Revolution cut off a major source of immigration and the National Origins Act allowed few eastern Europeans (of any religion) into the US, only 576,000 Jews entered the US from 1925 to 1975. In 1990 the 3,416 US synagogues included 5,944,000 practicing Jews (2.4 percent of the population). 

Jim Crow laws

These laws were the South's statutes imposing segregation. “Jim Crow” became a synonym for Negro after Thomas D. Rice wrote a minstrel dance tune by that name in 1832. The term “Jim Crow laws” first appeared in the 1890s when the South began legislating a formal code to ostracize blacks from white society. 


A highly belligerent patriotism. Chauvinism. Originated in 19th century Britain when a popular song criticized government restraint during an international crisis:

We don't want to fight,
Yet by jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men,
And got the money, too! 

John Locke, Fundamental Constitution

Locke was a British political theorist who wrote the Fundamental Constitution for the Carolinas colony, but it was never put into effect. The constitution would have set up a feudalistic government headed by an aristocracy whichowned most of the land. 

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

He wrote that all human beings have a right to life, liberty, and property and that governments exist to protect those rights. He believed that a contract existed between a government and its people, and if the government failed to uphold its end of the contract, the people could rebel and institute a new government.

Johnson Debt Default Act (13 April 1934)

After the failure of European nations to honor their World War I debts to the US after the Hoover debt moratorium, Congress forbade government loans to any foreign country delinquent in its war obligations. By 15 June 1934, when the US was owed over $22 billion (including future interest charges) all foreign countries had defaulted on their loans except Finland, which later paid in full. The Johnson Act was an expression of US isolationism, which failed to recognize that a major reason why Europeans could not honor their debts was the Hawley–Smoot Tariff's exclusion of their exports from US markets. 

Johnson v. De Grandy

On 30 June 1994, the Supreme Court ruled (7–2) that states could gerrymander election districts according to race without violating the Voting Rights Act, if the purpose was to increase the chances of electing minority candidates to office (as earlier held in Shaw v. Reno, 1993). It denied the plaintiff's argument that the law compelled states to create the maximum number of minority-dominated districts possible, and held instead that states are only required to redistrict so that minorities have adequate opportunity to elect candidates of their own race roughly proportional to their share of population. 

Johnson v. Zerbst

On 23 May 1938, the Supreme Court held (6–2) that the Sixth Amendment guarantees assistance by a lawyer to defendants in federal courts facing criminal charges, unless that right is voluntarily waived. 

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