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Historical Glossary

There are 2249 entries in this glossary.
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Barenblatt v. United States

n 8 June 1959, the Supreme Court modified (5–4) Watkins v. United States by extending the scope of questions that a congressional committee might force an unwilling witness to answer. The Court upheld the contempt conviction of a witness for refusing to give evidence about subversive activity to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, because conflicts between government and private interests may be decided in the public's favor concerning vital matters such as preventing the overthrow of the Constitution.

Barron v. Baltimore

n 1833 the Supreme Court unanimously held that the Bill of Rights was intended only to prevent abuses by the US government, and was not obligatory upon state courts; it denied a claim under the Fifth Amendment that Baltimore pay restitution for a city policy that reduced a wharf's value. The Court reversed this ruling in Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad v. Chicago, which also concerned eminent domain; it later extended the entire Bill of Rights piecemeal, starting with Gitlow v. New York.

Bayard v. Singleton

1787 - First court decision in which a law was found unconstitutional based on a written constitution.

Bayonne Decree

On 17 April 1800, Napoleon reacted to the Embargo Act by ordering the confiscation of all US ships in ports under French control; he justified the seizures by claiming that since the embargo ordered the US merchant marine to remain at home, any vessels flying the US flag in Europe must be British ships with falsified US papers. American merchants suffered over $10,000,000 in losses of shipping and cargoes.

Bear Flag Revolt

Tensions created by the impending Mexican War led US citizens to attack Mexican authorities they believed were preparing to arrest them on 10 June 1846 near John Sutter's fort in Calif. On 14 June US insurgents occupied Sonoma, where they soon declared Calif. a republic and designed a flag with a grizzly bear facing a red star, from which the rebellion took its name. Army explorer John Frémont took command of the rebels on 25 June and occupied San Francisco on 1 July, but the Bear Flag Republic lost its legitimacy on 7 July when US Commander John Sloat occupied Monterey and declared Calif. to be under US control. Military activities then merged into the Mexican War.

Beard, Charles Austin

b. Knightstown, Ind., 27 November 1874; d. New Haven, Conn., 1 September 1948)    After earning his Ph.D. in history from Columbia (1904), Beard taught there and then helped found the New School for Social Research in 1919. Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution (1913) profoundly influenced his generation's scholarship. By arguing that issues of financial self-interest shaped the Constitution's structure, Beard emerged as the historian most responsible for popularizing economic determinism and social conflict as the perspectives that would dominate his discipline until after 1945. By appropriating the techniques of Marxist analysis, without endorsing the Communist ideology behind them, Beard made it possible for the mainstream of US scholars to investigate class conflict without subscribing to Marxism itself. Other major works included Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915), The Economic Basis of Politics (1919), The Republic (1943), and—with wife Mary Ritter Beard—The Rise of American Civilization (1927).

Beard, Charles Austin

b. Knightstown, Ind., 27 November 1874; d. New Haven, Conn., 1 September 1948)    After earning his Ph.D. in history from Columbia (1904), Beard taught there and then helped found the New School for Social Research in 1919. Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution (1913) profoundly influenced his generation's scholarship. By arguing that issues of financial self-interest shaped the Constitution's structure, Beard emerged as the historian most responsible for popularizing economic determinism and social conflict as the perspectives that would dominate his discipline until after 1945. By appropriating the techniques of Marxist analysis, without endorsing the Communist ideology behind them, Beard made it possible for the mainstream of US scholars to investigate class conflict without subscribing to Marxism itself. Other major works included Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915), The Economic Basis of Politics (1919), The Republic (1943), and—with wife Mary Ritter Beard—The Rise of American Civilization (1927).

Beard, Charles Austin

b. Knightstown, Ind., 27 November 1874; d. New Haven, Conn., 1 September 1948)    After earning his Ph.D. in history from Columbia (1904), Beard taught there and then helped found the New School for Social Research in 1919. Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution (1913) profoundly influenced his generation's scholarship. By arguing that issues of financial self-interest shaped the Constitution's structure, Beard emerged as the historian most responsible for popularizing economic determinism and social conflict as the perspectives that would dominate his discipline until after 1945. By appropriating the techniques of Marxist analysis, without endorsing the Communist ideology behind them, Beard made it possible for the mainstream of US scholars to investigate class conflict without subscribing to Marxism itself. Other major works included Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915), The Economic Basis of Politics (1919), The Republic (1943), and—with wife Mary Ritter Beard—The Rise of American Civilization (1927).

beaver wars

The Iroquois Confederacy waged five campaigns against rivals for the fur trade. (1) Iroquois robbed Huron Indian fur convoys along the St Lawrence valley and Great Lakes, August 1642 to 14 July 1645, when they agreed to a truce. Warfare resumed in October 1646. In March 1649, 1,000 Iroquois raided Hurons in Ontario, killed 300 warriors, and drove their enemies into the wilderness, where 10,000 may have starved; in December Iroquois devastated the Petuns, who sheltered many Huron refugees. In 1651 the Iroquois dispersed the Neutrals of Ontario. Having set three tribes toward extinction, the Iroquois made peace with the French on 5 November 1653. (2) From mid-1654 to 1656, Iroquois dispersed the Eries of Ohio, who soon disappeared. (3) In 1656 the Iroquois attacked various Algonquian Indians along Lake Huron and French on the St Lawrence. French armies ravaged Iroquois towns in 1666 and forced peace on them in June 1667. (4) From April 1663 to 1675, Iroquois fought the Susquehannock Indians of Pa., who fled south and dispersed in the late 1670s. (5) In September 1680, Iroquois attacked the Illinois Indians, took several hundred captives, and plundered two Miami Indian towns. In 1683 they raided the Ottawa Indians near Mackinac, Mich. Iroquois unsuccessfully besieged the French at Fort St Louis on the Illinois River (21–7 March 1684), and attacked the Illinois nation.

Bellamy, Edward

(b. Chicopee Falls, Mass., 26 March 1850; d. Chicopee Falls, Mass., 22 May 1898)    He was a journalist who wrote Looking Backward: 2000–1887 (1888), which sold over 500,000 copes in its first two years and was the most influential utopian novel ever printed in the US. Bellamy's futuristic social order contained collective ownership of industry, no labor strife, free education, high cultural attainment, equal opportunity for women, no pollution, enlightened programs to rehabilitate criminals, and credit cards instead of money. Bellamy's ideas affected the way that virtually every intellectual, author, and social critic of the Progressive Era viewed American society. Somr consider his greatest legacy was to provide American thinkers with an indigenous alternative to Marxism for use in critiquing urban-industrial society.

Bemis Heights, battle of (N.Y.)

On 7 October 1777, two brigades of Continental infantry (about 2,500) under Brigadier General Benedict Arnold repulsed an assault by 2,000 of Major General John Burgoyne's troops on Major General Horatio Gates's army. US losses: 30 killed, 100 wounded. Estimated British losses: 600. Burgoyne's defeat forced his surrender at nearby Saratoga on 17 October.

Bennington, battle of (Vt.)

 On 17 August 1777 Brigadier General John Stark's 2,600 N.H. militia destroyed Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum's foraging party of 800 Hessians, and then defeated Lieutenant Colonel Francis Breymann's relief force of 600 Hessians. US losses: 30 killed, 50 wounded. Hessian losses: 200 killed, 696 captured (including wounded). The defeat cost Major General John Burgoyne a tenth of his expeditionary force invading N.Y.

Benton v. Maryland

On 23 June 1969, the Supreme Court extended (6–2) the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against double jeopardy to state courts through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; it reversed Palko v. Connecticut (6 December 1937), in which the justices held (8–1) that states might try persons twice.

Benton, Thomas Hart

(b. near Hillsboro, N.C., 14 March 1782; d. Washington, D.C., 10 April 1858)    He settled in Tenn., where he opened a law practice in 1806, but left for Mo. after a bar room brawl in which he shot Andrew Jackson and was stabbed five times by Jackson's friends. He was the first US senator to serve thirty consecutive years (1821–51). The antebellum era's fourth-greatest orator (behind Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun), Benton was the voice of the west. He anticipated the first Homestead Act by proposing annual reductions in the price of public land to 25 cents per acre, until the national domain could be given away free. He was an expansionist who wanted to build national highways and railroads for moving American pioneers west, but opposed taking new territories by war. He became reconciled with Jackson, whom he supported on the Second Bank of the United States and Indian removal. Benton owned slaves, but his failure to defend slavery vigorously was unpopular in Mo. and he lost his Senate seat in 1851.

Berger, Victor Louis

(b. Nieder-Rehbach, Austria, 28 February 1860; d. Milwaukee, Wis., 7 August 1929)    In 1878 Berger emigrated to the US and came to Milwaukee, where he became a journalist. He helped found the Socialist party of America in 1901, and in 1911 became the first Socialist congressman. After being convicted under the Espionage Act, he was twice denied a seat in Congress, but later served six years after the Supreme Court reversed his conviction.

Berle, Adolph Augustus

 (b. Boston, Mass., 29 January 1895; d. New York, N.Y., 17 February 1971)    He was an original member of the brains trust. He influenced the First New Deal by arguing that antitrust laws were an outdated approach to preventing abuses of corporate power and that federal programs were needed to institute a managed national economy. Berle resisted joining Roosevelt in Washington, except for a short stint at the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, but remained influential through his writings and finally served as assistant secretary of state (1938–44). In 1961 he chaired the commission that proposed the Alliance for Progress.

Berlin airlift

On 24 June 1949, as tensions grew over the imminent establishment of a constitutional government in West Germany, the Soviet Union closed its German occupation zone to US, British, and French ground travel. The western allies refused to abandon West Berlin to the Soviets and initiated an airlift to supply their sectors' 2,100,000 residents with food, fuel, and other essential materials. At its height in September 1949, it was transporting 4,000 tons of cargo daily, and had created a 300-day reserve of food. After 321 days, the Soviets ended the blockade and allowed land transport to West Berlin on 5 May 1949.

Berlin airlift

On 24 June 1949, as tensions grew over the imminent establishment of a constitutional government in West Germany, the Soviet Union closed its German occupation zone to US, British, and French ground travel. The western allies refused to abandon West Berlin to the Soviets and initiated an airlift to supply their sectors' 2,100,000 residents with food, fuel, and other essential materials. At its height in September 1949, it was transporting 4,000 tons of cargo daily, and had created a 300-day reserve of food. After 321 days, the Soviets ended the blockade and allowed land transport to West Berlin on 5 May 1949.

Berlin, treaty of

After rejecting the treaty of Versailles, Congress passed a joint resolution on 2 July 1921 ending the state of hostilities with Germany. On 25 August 1921, the US and Germany signed a treaty that formally reestablished peace and agreed that German property confiscated by the US would count toward reducing Germany's reparations debt. The Senate ratified it on 18 October.

bicameral

Consisting of two legislative branches, like the US Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
 

bicameral legislatures

Like the House of Burgesses and Mass. General Court, most of the thirteen colonies ' assemblies began as unicameral bodies and did not divide into two houses until a decade or more had passed. All colonies but Pa. had bicameral assemblies. Every state established a bicameral legislature but Nebr.

Big Four

This term applied to the four leading Allied statesmen who conducted negotiations for the treaty of Versailles : Georges Clemenceau (France), David Lloyd George (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy), and Woodrow Wilson (US).Big Four

big stick diplomacy

During Theodore Roosevelt's administration, the US adopted a greater willingness to threaten (and in extreme cases employ) armed force to win foreign policy goals, such as in the Roosevelt corollary. The policy's title came from an African saying paraphrased by Roosevelt in 1900: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.”

bill of attainder

A bill of attainder is a legislative enactment pronouncing a person, absent benefit of a trial, to be guilty of some crime, and prescribing punishment accordingly. The Constitution (Article I, Section 9) forbids Congress from enacting bills of attainder (laws declaring persons guilty of treason or other offenses and imposing punishment without any trial or conviction). The Supreme Court ruled on this issue in Garner v. Board of Public Works.

Bill of Credit

A bill of credit is some sort of paper medium by which value is exchanged between the government and individuals. Money is a bill of credit, but a bill of credit need not be money. An interest-bearing certificate that was issued by Missouri, and usable in the payment of taxes, was thus ruled to be an unconstitutional bill of credit.

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